Martha: There is a difference between heredity, medical and functional scoliosis. Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine. Hereditary scoliosis includes curvatures caused by abnormal bone development in the spinal column or even as a result of leg bone length differences. Medical scoliosis comes from diseases of the muscular or skeletal system like polio. Functional scoliosis involves curvatures caused by imbalanced use of the spine or even predominant use of the left or right hand in repetitive work especially when combined by imbalances of vision and hearing. Some scoliosis may result from injury.
Lesley: How can a BodyMind approach help scoliosis?
Martha: Working with alignment from both the inside and “outside” of the body can bring about deep postural change. As an example: The spine lacks balanced three-dimensional tensile support because of the “s “curve and “c” curve. The breath is diminished because of this misalignment of the spine. Improving breath patterns three dimensionally helps change the spinal uprightness “plumb-line alignment” from the inside.
How do you work with a client with scoliosis in a Pilates session?
Lesley: I usually start an evaluation of their posture from a muscular skeletal point of view. I observe how they do simple actions in standing: • Standing on one leg • Shifting forward on one • Lateral shifts • A roll-down.
From those observations based on Kendall’s muscular testing, I address what is tight and their preferences for moving their bodies in space.
Scoliosis is an uneven rotation of the spine at different places in the spine. If the pelvis is rotated, the rest of the spine will counterbalance the main rotation with opposite rotations in the rest of the spine. If the body didn’t counterbalance poor alignment in one part of the body, the spine would be leaning over in one direction. Look at old barns that are about to fall down.
The body compensates to keep us upright.
I usually have the client move in planes; • Lateral flexion-vertical plane, • Rotation- horizontal plane • Flexion & extension- sagittal plane.
Here the client can get in touch with their preferences of moving. Sometimes I give an uneven warm-up. If a client has a “C” curve to the right, they will side bend with more ease to the right than the left. I might even give homework to the client to practice more side bending to the least favorite side.
After I worked with the tight structures, I will have the client work on developing strength on the tight/weak side. As with the client with the right “C” curve, I will work on developing right-side back strength. Throughout the lesson, I will observe the client’s patterns for stability/mobility. My goal is to get muscular balance from head to toe. This BodyMind or somatic approach sees that scoliosis is an imbalance of the entire body. The Bartenieff Fundamentals exercises teach how to effectively observe the inter-relationships between all parts of the body in stillness and in movement.
How does Hanna somatics work with Scoliosis?
My first encounter with Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) as applied to Scoliosis was with my own body. I had danced all my life with a moderate “S” curve in my spine, which gave considerable problems along the way. I had looked for relief for years via various methods with no lasting results. During my first year of HSE training, I had a session with one of my teachers, and we re-patterned the muscles of my left side, taking away the chronic uncomfortable pressure on my viscera, and bringing my shoulders level for the first time! The increased oxygen intake was noticeable, and my upper back simply ceased to be the problem spot. I continued to use the somatic sequences often to keep my back happy. Although some students with scoliosis attending my workshops report that the movement practice alone has given them some relief and more mobility, I highly recommend trying the hands on work of a private session to manifest accelerated change, and especially in the case of moderate to severe scoliosis.
Lesley: how do you work with clients with scoliosis with Hanna Somatics?
Laura: Here’s how I have approached this issue: I first evaluate the client’s posture from all sides, then observe their walking habits, looking for where movement is missing, such as one arm not swinging, lack of motion in pelvis or shoulder movement in opposition to pelvis. I would then begin with the side most contracted, and focus on the core issues first. With various re-patterning methods, and some unique to Tom Hanna’s work, we would commence a collaborative process of recalibrating the contracted muscle fibers with the brain, resulting in a new resting length in, and more sensation in and voluntary control of the targeted muscles. With each session, we target more layers of muscle, the compensations in other parts of the body, and slowly unravel the riddle. More than half of the results I expect to get with this work are via the client’s explorations on their own in daily practice. The movement sequences I ask them to do, are specific to the muscles repatterned in that session. These sequences not only create new neuropathways and brain habits to replace the old dysfunctional ones, but give the person tools to profoundly increase their sensorial intelligence and continue and expand upon the changes made in the sessions. This work is all about the human re-educating their own SOMA, (the living, thinking body from the 1st person perspective,) with the assistance and guidance of the practitioner/teacher.