Elise Miller, M.A. in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of North Carolina, is a Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher from Palo Alto who has been teaching yoga throughout the United States and internationally since 1976. As a founding director of the California Yoga Center in Mountain View and Palo Alto, CA, Elise teaches classes and workshops specializing in back and sports-related injuries and is a faculty member at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. Elise has successfully used yoga to minimize the effects of her own scoliosis and sees clients privately with scoliosis and other back related problems. She has published numerous articles on scoliosis and other yoga related subjects in Yoga Journal and other national magazines. Elise has studied on numerous occasions with B.K.S. Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar in India. She has produced the Yoga for Scoliosis – a Path for Students and Teachers book, Yoga for Scoliosis DVD and booklet, the Yoga for Backcare booklet, Intermediate Yoga in Fiji DVD, and a new edition of her book, Yoga, Anytime, Anywhere. Elise’s joyous personality and ease of communication endear her to students with a teaching style that is down-to-earth, precise, and nurturing.
Living with Scoliosis, my story
At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with a severe structural right thoracic scoliosis of 49 degrees with a compensating left lumbar curve. Surgery was recommended to me. A second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon specializing in scoliosis at the Children’s Hospital in Boston was slightly different. He felt I was at the end of my growth spurt and recommended I be under close observation but hold off with the surgery. If my degree of curvature continued to increase, then he would recommend surgery. He suggested swimming and mentioned that he had just heard of yoga that involved stretching and breathing.
This, to say the least, was a great relief. I was open to anything but surgery. I did not discover yoga until my 20’s when I became motivated by my back pain and bad posture. My right shoulder was higher and more rounded forward with a hump beginning to appear on my right side of my back. Yoga decreased my pain and helped me feel more aligned right away. The more I did yoga, the more balanced I felt and made a decision to make yoga my career.
While doing my own yoga, I was not sure which poses were most helpful and which poses were less effective. Then I met B.K.S. Iyengar who worked with me personally to help correct my scoliosis and gave me more insight in how to work with the lateral curve of my spine. Famous for his book, Light on Yoga, Iyengar is a renowned yoga teacher from India whose system is recognized for its precise attention to alignment and anatomical detail. A therapeutic focus is provided for special physical conditions such as scoliosis.
I continue to work with my own scoliosis, focusing on how to work with the postures therapeutically. Combining physical therapy principles with yoga, I have created a program that helps people of all ages with scoliosis. My focus is on lengthening the spine, stretching muscles that have become tight, and strengthening muscles that have become weak. I also focus on de-rotating the spine and ribs, creating more balance and harmony in the body. I see students privately, teach classes at my center and at yoga conferences, give scoliosis workshops in the US and conduct yoga retreats throughout the world.