How to Relieve Back-pain and Bend Backwards Without Hurting your Lower Back


Effect of Psoas activation from diaphragmatic breathing on spinal extension

When you maintain length in the front of the hips and then breathe into the abdomen during a back arch this helps to ‘open’ your middle back without compressing your lower back (please click to enlarge photo)

How to ‘open’ your mid-spine in back bends and not squash your lower back:

*** Lengthen your Psoas at the hips (hip extension) and immobilse L5-S1
*** Breathe in to your abdomen (use your diaphragm)
*** Breathe out from your chest (ha-uddiyana bandha)
*** Psoas then extends your spine from T12-L5 (and not L5-S1)  because the diaphragm attaches to the psoas, which joins to T12-L5

Most modern adults tend to have very stiff middle backs (usually from about the tenth thoracic vertebra (T10) to the fourth lumbar vertebra (L4). This region (T10-L4) is stuck in a slight forward bend (spinal flexion) in many modern adults. These people usually do most of their bending backwards (spinal extension) from the very lowest part of the mobile spine at junction between the fifth lumbar vertebra and the first sacral vertebra (L5-S1). L5-S1 is usually located about 2 centimetres below the top of your hips (iliac crests). Since this part of your spine is below the top of the hips, it is actually very hard to relieve compression there by bending the spine forward because when most people bend forward, they primarily do so bending forward from the hips, which is something we are very good at doing due to our primarily seated lifestyle in which we are always bending forward from the hips. Once you have the ability to bend from the spine rather than the hips you have the key to relieving back pain and also the key to doing very safe and effective ‘backbends’ (spinal extension postures).

This ‘info-graphic’ put together quite loosely describe the steps you can do in a backward bending (spinal extension) posture. These steps will help you bend backwards where most people tend to be stiff – between T10 and L4 – and bend forward (spinal flexion) where most people tend to be compressed (and often stuck in a permanent backward-bending state (spinal extension)  at L5-S1.

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How to Clean Your Body and Mind: Kriya Yoga

Simon Borg-Oliver Practicing Nauli Kriya

Simon Borg-Oliver Practicing Nauli Kriya

By Simon Borg-Olivier, 1st April 2014

The sat-kriyas of hatha yoga are six kinds of ‘cleansing processes’ for the body and the mind. They have many manifestations. One of the best explanations of these sat-kriyas and their many variations can be found in the Yoga Makaranda of Sri T. Krishnamacharya.

The kriyas are of six types:

1. Dhauti Kriya,

2. Basti Kriya,

3. Neti Kriya,

4. Nauli Kriya,

5. Trataka Kriya, and

6. Kapalabhati Kriya.

There are many variations of each kriya. According to Sri T. Krishnamacharya some kriyas are  as simple as brushing your teeth (Dantamula Dhauti) and some are as complex as pushing out part of your large intestine through your rectum and washing it with your hands (Bahish Kritha Dhauti)!

The sat-kriyas are also ancient yogic cleansing processes that can totally clean the digestive system. One kriya involves swallowing salty water and then passing through your bowels and out of the rectum (Vari Sara Dhauti). Another kriya involves swallowing a long cloth and the stomach is then ‘washed’ with the cloth (Vastra Dhauti).

In this short video filmed at the Yoga Synergy Teacher Training Course in Goa India this year, I demonstrate how to use Nauli Kriya (abdominal churning) as well as external pressure from my hands and by balancing my abdomen on my elbows (Mayurasana) to massage my internal organs. This yields some surprising results.

Please note this video was filmed on the 1st of April 2014.




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What I Learnt From Doing Yoga Underwater

by Simon Borg-Olivier 

What I learnt from doing yoga underwater:

1. How to use my ‘inner body’ to move and enter postures rather than relying on gravity or momentum.

2. How to flow smoothly between postures in curves rather than jagged edges in order to gather energy with each movement rather than just expend energy.

3. How to move in and out of postures while holding your breath in or out.

In my youth I was uncomfortable with swimming on top of the water. My first yoga was taught to me by my father George Borg-Olivier in 1966 in the form of holding my breath underwater. With his help I was able to swim the 50 metres of an Olympic pool underwater before I was able to swim on top of the water. I have since practiced my ‘underwater yoga’ most of my life. In this thick medium where you can not breathe, and gravity is often neutralised, this practice has taught me so much about how yoga can be done on land.

In the following 6 minute video you can see me practice a one-minute version of the Yoga Synergy ‘Yoga Fundamentals’ introductory sequence, some underwater spiral spinal movement ‘lotus’ swimming, some floor postures and an ‘underwater lotus handstand’. Following this, I demonstrate a very similar sequence of spinal movements on land, that is really accessible to most people, and very effective in relieving back pain, improving internal health, enhancing strength and flexibility as well as increasing energy levels.


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Exhale for Pleasure, Strength and Freedom


Simon Borg-Olivier in Kulphasana: The Long Exhalation to Freedom (Photo Courtesy Donatella Parisini)

Simon Borg-Olivier in Kulphasana: The Long Exhalation to Freedom (Photo Courtesy Donatella Parisini)

In this short video below I discuss the seven main ways you can exhale and how by understanding and mastering these ways of exhalation you can stimulate the pleasure centres of your brain, improve core strength, save energy, reduce stress, make your spine more mobile and flexible, and massage your internal organs to improve the function of your digestive system, immune system and reproductive system.

The body can derive benefit from making passive minimal exhalations, which are seemingly effortless and help promote a calm restful state; and complete exhalations, which benefit the body by eliminating toxins from the body in the ‘stale’ air. The seven (7) main ways to exhale shown in this video and some of their applications are as follows:


1. Passive Abdominal Exhale
2. Passive Chest Exhale
3. Passive Postural Exhale
4. Active Postural Exhale
5. Forced Oblique Abdominal Exhale
6. Transverse Abdominis (TA) Exhale
7. Active Chest Exhale

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How to Nourish and Strengthen your Hips with Intelligent Postures and Movements

Yoga Synergy: Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga: Chapter 4: The Hip: Table 4.8a

Yoga Synergy: Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga: Chapter 4: The Hip: Table 4.8a

Hip problems, arthritis and osteoporosis are very prevalent in later life. It is very important to strengthen your hips by carefully applying specifically chosen muscle activations in an intelligent combination of postures and movements. As exercise-based physiotherapists and long standing yoga teachers and practitioners Bianca Machliss and I (Simon Borg-Olivier) have seen over and over again the need to not simply restrict oneself to passive stretching of the hip joint as many exercise and yoga practitioners tend to do. It is important to activate all the major muscles groups around the hip joint complex in both their shortened as well as lengthened (stretched) state. The following Table comes from our book ‘The Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’. When applied correctly these practices will not only improve the strength of the joints, but also increase bone mineral density (thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis) and circulation (thus nourishing your joints and keeping hip cartilage healthy).

Please click on the following pictures to enlarge them.

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