Elise Browning Miller - served the Peace Corps in Brazil

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 3:13 pm: Edit Post

Elise Browning Miller, author of Yoga for Scoliosis - served the Peace Corps in Brazil

Elise Browning Miller, author of Yoga for Scoliosis - served the Peace Corps in Brazil

From an article, Yoga for Scoliosis, by Elise Browning Miller which originally appeared in The Yoga Journal, May/June 1990, revised November 1999.

Page 2


When I was 15, my family physician informed me that 1 had a severe structural right thoracic scoliosis. He recommended a brace and threatened me with a possible fusion of the spine, an operation in which metal rods are inserted next to the spinal column to prevent the curvature from growing worse. Appalled, I consulted a top orthopedic surgeon, who suggested that instead I try a regimen of exercise and stretching.

I exercised regularly throughout high school and college, but although 1 experienced little discomfort, I noticed that my posture was becoming worse. I was rounding my shoulders, particularly on the right side; and when I wore a bathing suit, I noticed that the right side of my back protruded more than the left. After graduation, while working with the Peace Corps in Brazil, I began to experience spasms and acute pain in my back. Guided by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, I turned to hatha yoga.

When I stretched in the yoga poses, the numbness on the right side of my, back went away, and the pain started to dissolve. To explore this path further, I returned to the United States, where I studied at the Integral Yoga Institute with Swami Satchidananda and learned about the importance of love, service, and balance in life and yoga practice. Then I turned to the Iyengar system to explore in depth the way the therapeutic use of yoga postures could help my scoliosis.

Since that time, I have been exploring and healing my body through the practice of yoga. By teaching students with scoliosis, I have learned how to assist others with their own explorations. I have found that although every scoliosis is different, there are certain philosophical guidelines and practical yoga postures that can be helpful to yoga students with scoliosis.

The decision to do yoga to remediate a scoliosis entails a lifetime commitment to a process of self-discovery and growth. For many people, this kind of commitment is intimidating. It's tempting to turn instead to an orthopedic surgeon, who will "fix" a back by fusing it and get rid of the pain forever. Unfortunately, this operation results in a virtually immobile spine and frequently fails to alleviate the pain. I taught one teenage student with an extreme scoliosis who, weary of struggling with her yoga practice, gave up and had her back fused. To her dismay, her pain persisted, and she had even less mobility than before. When the rod in her back broke, she had it removed rather than replaced, and she returned to her yoga practice with a renewed and deeper commitment.

Choosing the path of self-discovery rather than surgery requires not only commitment but inner awareness. Guidance from a competent teacher is helpful, but awareness of our own bodies is crucial - no famous guru can fix our backs for us, any more than an orthopedic surgeon can. Only through our own constant awareness and loving attention can we transform our discomfort into a guide that helps us to get in touch with our bodies.

The goal of yoga practice should not be to straighten our backs; we must learn to accept them as they are, not deny them or judge them. Instead, we must work to understand our backs and to relate to them with sensitivity and awareness. Healing ismuch more than straightening a scoliosis, or curing a disease. It is learning to love and nurture ourselves and trust our inner knowing to guide us to a vibrant state of being.

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Elise Browning Miller P.O. Box 60746 Palo Alto, CA 94306 650-493-1254 Fax: 650-857-0925 EBMyoga2@aol.com

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By David Daub on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 - 11:18 pm: Edit Post

After all of the articles on the violence of spinal fusion and on the isolation of braces, I feel refreshed to read Elise's on her path with Yoga. Our 13 year old daughter, Ariana, has recently been diagnosed with mild Idiopathic Scoliosis. I practice yoga. This article affirms my feeling that it may provide a path for her healing also. Thanks, David Daub (DWDaub1@aol.com)

By Josey Slater (gw.cityofportmoody.com - on Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - 3:14 pm: Edit Post

Hi, I got your name from a friend in the Vancouver yoga community. Amongst the people I teach yoga to, is a young 15 year old woman, in a youth class, who has been practising asana on her own with videos, and who has what appears to be quite a severe scoliosis. She is expecting to have a rod put in next year. I have spoken with her about yoga perhaps being a better option than a rod, and she is cautiously open to that possibility. Having a relatively mild s-curve in my spine, I have used asana to help, but I am wondering if beyond a solid practice with lots of supine pelvic tilts, laterally curved cobras and spinal twists emphasizing untwisting the curved side, there is anything that I can offer her. If you like, I can let you know how she progresses. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you. Josey

By Angela Roper (dial81-131-27-61.in-addr.btopenworld.com - on Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 3:42 pm: Edit Post

I am a 14 year old girl and i was told last year to wear a boston brace but it caused my spin to progress worse they then told me that i would have to have an operation i have 2 curves 1 a compensatory curve but both are out about the same degrees 1 of about60-70 and the other of 55-60 i went to a scoliosis meeting and met a ladie who does yoga for scoliosis she kindly showed me some excercises to do as she had to go back to japan but i am worried that it might not work I have been told by her that because i am still young the muscles can be changed to a different position as the bones can doing these excercises i have been doing these excercises for about 2 weeks i have been mesuring my height and i have grown about 3 cm in this time i just need to know if i can really make a differnce doing them and if not having an operation will effect me badly in my older life. Thank you for your time

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