Archive for the ‘Health through Yoga’ Category
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.
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
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.
Bad diet, unfocused mind, stressful practice, not using your diaphragm, holding postures too long, over-tensing muscles, not being able to properly activate muscles and abdominal over-breathing can all make your yoga practice ineffective and impede your progress for a lifetime.
We posted an article about the basic tenets of the Yoga Synergy Method in August, which can make any style of yoga effective and beneficial. Some days after that we received a letter from one of our readers saying that despite her 1-2 hour yoga practice, 4 times a week, she is still gaining weight and is not getting stronger.
Dietary issues, when combined with ineffective yoga practice can be depleting and cause one of the two possibilities: weight gain or the inability to put on weight.
Factors affecting weight gain or loss include how much you breathe, in what manner you breathe, how stressful your practice is, how many calories your practice burns, how effective your digestive system is and how well you can activate and relax your muscles.
Breathing less than normal can calm the nervous system, decrease appetite and cause more oxygen to be transported to the brain. Breathing more than normal can have some beneficial effects too, however it also can make you feel dizzy, jittery and hungry. It is also better to keep breathing exercises and physical exercises separate until one is firmly established in the physical exercises. Once one no longer needs to focus on alignment and can confidently and safely perform the postures, doing simple or more complex breathing exercises can further deepen the physical practice.