Spinal Movements Sequence (Part 11): Extending the Hips and Lengthening the Spine

This video is Part 11 of a YogaSynergy Spinal Movements Sequence taught by physiotherapist and Director of Yoga Synergy, Simon Borg-Olivier, which he teaches in person in courses throughout the world as well as Online in courses at RMIT University  and Online in courses at YogaSynergy called Yoga Fundamentals and Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga.

Video Transcript and Notes:

Here I am extending mainly at the hips and the spine is smoothing and lengthening at each point. Here it’s important I bend forward first from the neck and then from the spine, allow the knees to bend slightly which puts less stress in my back and taking head and shoulders to the knee. Here I am tractioning the spine; I’ve lengthened the back without shortening the front. Lengthening the back with the neck and the upper back stimulates the sympathetic ganions of the upper back which helps warm my body instantly. I’m taking my left leg in the air and allowing the buttocks to be firm, that releases and relaxes the front of the left hip. So left hip extensor activity, the buttocks muscle, relaxes the front of the hip and then I can sink down. It feels less like a stretch and more like a movement. Lifting the ribs and the upper back helps traction and lengthen the psoas muscle which so often is very stiff and causes lower back pain. As I bring the head downwards not only am I lengthening the front of the hip but the head downwards movement lengthens the femoral nerve. The femoral nerve is an extension of the spinal cord coming down the back of the neck to the front of the groin. Before I stand up I push the sitting bones forward. By pushing the sitting bones forward that firms the front of my spine, and then I stand in a way that does not extend the spine further just lengthens the front of my hip more. Keeping the back of the hands together and close to my body puts less stress on the spine as I take the arms up. Hips and shoulders forward give me firmness and breathing into the abdomen keeps me calm. I bring the fingers close to the heels and then I make a deep lunge, protecting my knees by turning my foot out and my knee out, pointing in the same direction, and then I strongly tighten my knees and my buttocks. Breathing into the abdomen first, then I bring my head down allowing the breath to come out through the pressure of the hips and the armpits. When I lift back up I make a pulling type action from my fingers and my armpits which tractions my spine. But I keep my knee and buttocks firm to protect hip and knee. This firmness around my knee and my buttocks also helps gives a reflex activation of the abdominal muscles, the trunk muscles, the core muscles.

I come back to what sometimes is referred to as the kneeling plank position. This movement, I push my sitting bones to my hands which firms the front of the spine, pushing the armpits towards the hips enhances the firmness in the front of the spine; front is firm but the sides are soft and that ‘front firm, sides soft’ effect causes reciprocal release and lengthening of the back of the spine. That is enhanced when I breathe with the main muscle of inhalation, the diaphragm, which reciprocally relaxes the main muscles of exhalation, the ones that normally tighten our back.Keeping the elbows above the wrists I bend at the elbows, moving the shoulders forward and coming to what we call a kneeling version of the push-up. Keeping the chin in, as I am, allows a reflex activation of the abdomen which makes it strong. So, surprisingly the push up is much harder with the head up and much easier with the head down. I come to a simple extension exercise, called often a simple cobra pose. I keep the lower ribs on the floor and pull with the fingers, pull down with my armpits and in so doing I activate the back of the spine. Here, pulling with the fingers lengthens the front of the body and it firms the back of the body. I push down with my sitting bones, down and forward. This will lengthen the back of the body and firm the front of the body. So the front and back of my trunk are firm. In which case, I don’t need to tighten the sides so I can relax the sides more by breathing diaphragmatically.Bringing the chin inwards to lengthen the back of neck I slide the hands backwards and while still pushing the sitting bones forward and down I come back to the kneeling plank position. Again the front firm, the sides soft – this can be enhanced by breathing diaphragmatically. I pushing the sitting bones down and lifting the knees up I come to the Downward Dog pose and in this position the thighs are pushing backwards. This comes by pushing down on the feet. It’s as if I am trying to raise my heels up which is using the plantar flexor muscles, the calf muscles, but it’s as if someone has glued my heels into the ground. When I have activated those muscles the shin bones push back and lengthen the spine. But, there is always opposition in each exercise. While my thighs are trying to straighten my spine, my spine itself is trying to bend forward – it’s as if my sitting bones are pushing towards my hands and that firms the front of the spine. You can see the front of my spine firm when I exhale fully and hold the breath out and expand the chest as if you are breathing in but not. Having stepped forward I extend the spine like a standing version of the cobra exercise. I look for spinal extension and pulling with the fingers and pushing with the sitting bones just like I was laying on my tummy and then I breathe again into the abdomen. Diaphragmatic breath to keep me calm. A postural movement, fingers and hips pushing towards each other to give a firmness in the spine, a protective grip. Then I flex the spine, flexion and extension of the spine always go together.


You can see a demonstration of the the entire sequence by clicking HERE

You can see Part 10 of the instructional videos of the sequence by clicking here


This video was one of a series filmed by David Samulenok of RMIT University for the course entitled Applied Eastern Anatomy.  This is a low resolution version of video, higher resolution versions are available in the online courses.

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