Student Feature: The Power of Practice

By Autumn Onderko

What better way to celebrate my first anniversary at Dhyana Yoga Arts, than to share my experience with scoliosis. 

I was diagnosed (such a scary word) when I was eight years old with two curves, a left lumbar and a right thoracic (both at a degree in the high teens, low twenties). It wasn’t until my teens that it progressed enough to place me into a nighttime bending brace. As if my teenage years weren’t awkward or difficult enough, I was now spending my nights in a very large, uncomfortable and unwanted back brace.  I remember feeling embarrassed, miserable and alone; there were many nights that I even cried myself to sleep.

I understand now that things could have been much worse, but I wasn’t able to see beyond the brace at the time. I was visiting the orthopedist every six months, anxious that my curves may have progressed, and that the brace wasn’t serving its purpose. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and I was brace-free right before heading off to college (phew!). Throwing that brace away was quite possibly one of the happiest moments of my life.

Throughout college and my early to mid twenties, I stopped visiting the doctor and left my spine unmonitored for about ten years.  Every now and then, I’d feel anxious about its progression; I’d often wonder if people were noticing my asymmetries. For the most part, I wasn't in pain (only when I stood or walked for long periods of time).

It wasn’t until last year that I became curious about the impact yoga might have on scoliosis. I started researching and stumbled upon the Dhyana Yoga Arts website; I wasted no time in reaching out to Deanna. Once joining the studio, I started with private sessions; Deanna created a yoga routine specific to my needs. I started to learn how to work with my curves and how to cultivate new patterns. After a couple of months, I transitioned into group classes and added yoga into my daily routine at home.

Autumn Onderko Scoliosis xrays.jpg

Right before joining the studio, I had x-rays taken to understand what my curves really looked like. My curves had progressed since I had last visited the doctor ten years ago. My right curve had reached 36.6 degrees, and my left, 20.6 degrees.  Just a few weeks ago, I followed up with new x-rays to see if the past year had resulted in any change. Surprisingly enough, my thoracic curve decreased by over nine degrees and my lumbar curve by two degrees. I almost didn't believe my eyes when I saw the updated images. In only a year, and only the addition of a specific daily yoga for scoliosis routine, I've made so much progress (after years of thinking my curves could only get worse).

Joining the Dhyana Yoga Arts family has been a true blessing. In just over a year, I’ve learned to live comfortably and confidently with my curves. I’ve learned to create new patterns and how to treat the pain. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone, that others have a story similar to mine.

#BeyondTheBrace #ScoliosisStrong #BentButNotBroken #yogaforscoliosis