yoga for scoliosis

Student Spotlight - Chris

By Chris Schmidt

In August of 2012, a girlfriend invited me to "Free Friend Friday" at the Bikram Yoga AZ Old Town Scottsdale studio. I had taken a class earlier in the year at a different studio after hearing about it on a local radio station, but never returned for one reason or another. My friend's enthusiasm for the practice was contagious, however, so I figured I'd try it again. Something clicked. Maybe it was the energy emanating from the other yoga practitioners around me, or maybe it was the caring, helpful instructors. But I felt like I belonged.

A few days later, I signed up for a month-long package and I've never looked back. In January of this year, I participated in a 30-day challenge conducted by the studio and, following 40 days of uninterrupted daily practice, I dropped my gym membership and made BY my go-to discipline for all things physical fitness (in addition to a few hikes thrown in). But, it is so much more than that. It has become a way of life, an extension of who I am.

When I first started, I figured the yoga would be a great way to improve my flexibility, which was pretty non-existent to begin with. But once I regularly began attending class and listening to the instructors' dialogue, I learned about all of the different benefits BY offers-from regulating the sleep-wake cycle to managing migraine headaches, warding off arthritis, helping with depression and anxiety and maintaining a healthy digestive track (to name a few). And then, when I personally began reaping the benefits of my own practice, it became a no-brainer.

I've written several blogs and articles about the practice of BY and what it has done for me personally. I'm a walking Bikram Yoga advertisement. When the instructors talk about the benefits of BY during their dialogue, they could be describing me. I have scoliosis, high cholesterol, osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis), IBS, migraine headaches, anxiety, mild depression, insomnia and asthma (for starters). Since practicing Bikram Yoga, the curvature in my spine is less pronounced, my cholesterol level has been maintained without medication, my bone density has increased and my digestive issues have been nearly eliminated (no pun intended). I can honestly say that my overall health has improved dramatically.

I believe that BY has literally given me a new lease on life. Physically, I've become more toned and flexible, and my energy and stamina have improved significantly. Mentally, I've used the 90 minutes of moving meditation to work through emotional issues, as well as calm my racing thoughts. Not only have I discovered that I'm stronger than I ever believed possible (both physically and mentally), but I believe BY saved me from an emotional breakdown after a traumatic family event earlier this year. I was able to step into the hot room each day and leave my burdens at the door and, for that hour and a half, I found unconditional acceptance.

I recall one day, when I entered the studio after a particularly challenging morning. One of the instructors immediately saw the tear stains on my face, wrapped me in a hug and whispered in my ear, "The great thing is that in there, everyone will think it's just sweat." And beyond the physical, mental and emotional benefits, I've also made friendships with some wonderful yogis who I'm blessed to share the hot room with. It truly doesn't get any better than that.

The other day one of my friends asked me what my favorite Bikram Yoga pose is. I have three of them. One, Bow Pulling Pose, because when everything comes together in the posture-from my balance to my concentration to the form-I feel very feminine and sexy, a powerful combination. Two, Triangle Pose, because I feel incredibly strong. And three, Cobra Pose, because I used to dread it until I was able to achieve final expression. This taught me that practice, along with discipline, really works.

The biggest piece of advice I would give a new student is not to take yourself too seriously. BY is a practice, not a perfect. This is something I need to remind myself every day. If you want to receive the full benefits of BY, it's important to allow yourself to be broken and vulnerable each time you step into the hot room. This way the BY can build you back up and teach you what you're there to learn that day. It's true what our instructors tell us: our bodies are different each time we practice. Oh, and I would also tell the new student to come back. Speaking from experience, I sometimes struggle with the love-hate relationship I have with the discipline. But I promise, you will not regret it.

If I could submit a quote to be read by my favorite teacher (and this is whoever happens to be teaching when I attend class) in final Savasana, it would be this one by C.S. Lewis: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. Bikram Yoga is the catalyst to keep us young ... so that we can.

You Have The Power To Heal Yourself!

By Amy Serafin When you really think about it, our bodies are a miraculous thing. Your body is designed to heal itself. If you should cut yourself, your body will heal the cut. If you cut yourself too deeply, you may need to go to the ER to get stitches, but after the doctor stitches you up, he/she will send you home to heal.  We often forget that our bodies have this amazing ability or we lack the tools to help our bodies to heal.

To heal yourself is completely within your power and I can personally speak from experience as to how I have healed my body with Bikram yoga.

I have scoliosis with curves in the cervical and lumber part of my spine, but my thoracic isn’t exactly straight either. I have dealt with varying levels of pain every day for the past 10 years, plus many side effects that I will not go into detail about here. However, at the pinnacle of my illness, my neck pain was to the point of debilitating. My C1 and C2 vertebrae were compressed and I suffered from migraines and at times a rather cranky disposition. Sleeping through the night was nearly impossible as my rest was taken in little increments. I couldn’t turn my head at night without severe neck pain waking me up.

To add to my frustration, I thought I was doing everything in my power to take care of myself. I sought out help from masseuses, doctors, dentists (I was treated for TMJ) and chiropractors.  I worked out regularly and ate healthy, but to no avail.  And rather than getting better, I continued to get worse to the point I was starting to lose feeling in my right hand and foot at night when I was sleeping.  I was a mess.

Then two years ago, I had the luckiest day of my life and I walked into a Bikram yoga studio. When I walked into the studio, I was unaware that Bikram had specifically designed his series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises to heal the body. I was just hoping that yoga would help alleviate some of the tension in my back and neck. Wow, was I in for a huge surprise.

Every day that I stepped into that hot yoga room, I slowly learned that I didn’t need anyone else to solve my health problems. I just had to be willing to commit to sweating, compressing, squeezing and stretching in a hot room for 90 minutes every day to heal myself. Once I made that commitment, my body started to change in amazing ways.

I don’t go to a chiropractor three times a week anymore. I actually don’t go at all, only rarely. If I go to a masseuse now, it is because I want to feel better not to relieve pain. I sleep through the night. I cried with joy the morning I woke up and realized I had turned my head in the middle of the night without waking up from the pain. I can sleep on my left side, which I hadn’t been able to do for years because of the curvature in my upper back. Completely gone is the loss of feeling or numbness in my right hand or foot when I sleep. My hips are more level and my right shoulder, which couldn’t even lie flat on the floor while in Savasana, now rests on the floor with ease. The chronic dull pain in my lower back is gone, along with the migraines and headaches. But best of all, my disposition and outlook on life is 120% better. I am happier, more relaxed and my quality of life is off the charts.

I will not lie to you and say that my journey practicing Bikram yoga for the past two years has been easy. I am working on changing my physiology, which is no easy task, but is within my power. There have been great days when I walk out of the room feeling like a million bucks and like I could take on the world. Then there are the days when I feel like I have been hit by a Mack truck and every muscle in my body is sore, tired and aches with fatigue. But I will tell you honestly and sincerely -- it has been completely and utterly worth it.

And even though my recovery is not complete,  my hips and my shoulders are still uneven and I get flare ups in my lower back as my spine realigns that can last a couple of days or weeks, I am not worried. Bikram yoga has given me the tools to heal myself and as long as I keep showing up every day and keep working, I move closer and closer to my goal of being completely healed. And the biggest miracle of all to me is that I did it all on my own. No one gave it to me. I earned it. I healed myself. No surgeries, no pills, just me. I walk into that hot room day after day and give myself the gift of MY life. That is power beyond compare.