Yoga is a practice in mindfulness. That mindfulness needs to increase when you practice yoga with scoliosis. A recent special little something I added to my bag of yoga tricks is pressing through my heel. Simple, yes, but this little tidbit of engaging my heel has increased my awareness, and control, of muscles contributing to my back pain.
Picture a large rope that looks like it’s attached to an anchor on a pirate ship. That’s what the muscles on the right side of my spine feel like, particularly my Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Now picture a little piece of string your grandmother would use in her sewing machine, that’s what the muscles on the left side of my spine feel like, and again, particularly my QL. From that, you can probably guess which way my spine is curving towards (the ropey right side). My right QL has been the workhorse of my body for a long time while many other muscles were unsure of how to engage and seemingly just along for the ride J. Both sides are in equal need of love and attention, and my heels are helping!
Trikonasana (Triangle) and Virabadrasana (Warrior) III were major players in illuminating this imbalance for me (as well as some legit back pain). I still notice it most in Warrior 3 when standing on my right leg. As I lift my left leg to come into the pose, my core feels weak and out of balance. I can do it, but it’s not mindful (enter blocks). The lifted left leg illuminates the weakness in my left QL because the workhorse, my right QL, is used to doing all the work and doesn’t know how to stop, yet.
Now comes the heel. After going to a weekend Kinesiology workshop with Adam Ballenger I realized that my gluts have just been along for the ride. Those beastly muscles were just riding the back of my right QL! Why wasn’t I utilizing my gluts effectively, because I wasn’t pressing through my heel! Try it. Try it first in Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Press down through your heels with the intent of engaging your gluts, then, release your heels and feel the difference. You can bring this mindfulness into so many poses; Warrior 3 is another good one, and press through the heels of both feet with the intention of waking up your gluts on both sides. Using your lifted glut in this manner is actually a good way to square your hips to the ground as well.
I use my heels now to engage, and disengage, my QL’s as much as I can by making my gluts work harder. I’ve begun to notice other muscles, which I am less familiar with, shifting as well. The best place to start playing with this is with blocks in Warrior 3. It is amazing how much a subtle awareness like this can change your practice and your body. Power to the heel!