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.

 


ACTIVE UNDERWATER POSTURES AND MOVEMENTS

Underwater active spinal twist on exhalation retention, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Underwater active spinal twist on exhalation retention, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Underwater active side spine bending for locomotion in lotus posture, by Simon Borg-Olivier
Underwater active side spine bending for locomotion in lotus posture, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Underwater active half bound lotus forward bend on exhalation retention, by Simon Borg-Olivier
Underwater active half bound lotus forward bend on exhalation retention, by Simon Borg-Olivier

 

 

LAND BASED SPINAL MOVEMENTS SEQUENCE – BEGINNER LEVEL

Large intestine meridian mudra, lengthening the back, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Large intestine meridian mudra, lengthening the back, by Simon Borg-Olivier

 

Lung meridian mudra, lengthening the front, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lung meridian mudra, lengthening the front, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the side of the body, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the side of the body, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Twisting the trunk the the hips, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Twisting the trunk the the hips, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the back of the body and the outer shoulders, by Simon Borg-Olivier
Lengthening the back of the body and the outer shoulders, by Simon Borg-Olivier

LAND BASED ONE LEGGED SPINAL MOVEMENTS SEQUENCE – INTEMEDIATE LEVEL

Lengthening the back, actively flexing front of spine and lifting one hip, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the back, actively flexing front of spine and lifting one hip, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the back, actively flexing front of spine and resisting against one leg, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the back, actively flexing front of spine and resisting against one leg, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Lengthening the back, actively flexing front of spine and lifting one hip, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction with, hip flexion and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction with, hip flexion and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active side spinal flexion with hip elevation , by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active side spinal flexion with hip elevation , by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active side spinal flexion with lower limb resistance, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active side spinal flexion with lower limb resistance, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion, hip external rotation and abduction, and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion, hip external rotation and abduction, and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

 

Active spinal extension, hip extension and knee flexion, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal extension, hip extension and knee flexion, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal extension, with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal extension, with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction, with hip extension and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction, with hip extension and knee extension, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), lifting one hip, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), lifting one hip, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal rotation (twisting), with resistance against one lower limb, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction (lengthening) with shoulder elevation, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction (lengthening) with shoulder elevation, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion, by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands (lolasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands (lolasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands (splits handstand), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands (splits handstand), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands with legs in lotus posture (padmasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands with legs in lotus posture (padmasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands with legs in lotus posture (tolasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal flexion (forward bending) plus hip flexion with weight-bearing on hands with legs in lotus posture (tolasana), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction (sitting with the sitting bones anchored down and the trunk and spine lengthening, plus hip flexion, external rotation and knee flexion (cross-legged or lotus posture), by Simon Borg-Olivier

Active spinal traction (sitting with the sitting bones anchored down and the trunk and spine lengthening, plus hip flexion, external rotation and knee flexion (cross-legged or lotus posture), by Simon Borg-Olivier

 

 

 

Here is an old video of teaching my son some underwater yoga when he was three years old – now at 6 years old he can swim about 25 metres underwater and do some pretty fun stuff while looking very much like a relaxed dolphin.

 

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