Improvisation on Yoga Synergy’s Nerve Tensioning Exercise

This is an improvisation on Yoga Synergy’s Nerve Tensioning Exercise. Nerve Tensioning is a set of five positions that aims to tension the brachial nervous plexus. These positions are primarily done by internally or externally rotating the shoulders and wrists. Since shoulder movement creates associate movement in the spine, it is possible to “reverse the engineering” as Simon Borg-Olivier calls it and initiate the movement from the core thus appear in a series of forward and backward bendings, the shoulder and arm movement, in turn, becomes “associated”. The original five positions become less visible and are replaced by a figure “8” described by the arms.

Yoga Synergy Spinal Movement

This is Yoga Synergy’s trademark exercise: Spinal Movement, as taught by Simon Borg-Olivier in 2018. Spinal movement is the foundation for Yoga Synergy style of practice. It consists of seven movements that mobilize the spine in seven directions: lengthening, flexing, extending, lateral extending right and left sides, axial rotation to the right and left sides.

It is interesting to point out that these movements rarely happen in our daily life because most of our “spinal movement” is combined with shoulders or(and) hips through associated movement, or a combined spinal movement involving more than one direction at a time (ie. flexion with lateral extension, axial rotation with extension etc). More information about the benefit of spinal movement can be found in my earlier post: “Why Spinal Movement?”

Movements – The Essence of Life

As heavenly bodies maintain vigor through perpetual movements, so does a virtuous man strive unceasingly for self-perfection!
– I Ching

Bhagavad Gita has some of the best discourses on the merit of action as a manifestation of higher principles. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said: 
Perform necessary action;
it is more powerful than inaction;
without action you even fail
to sustain your own body. 2-8

Action imprisons the world
unless it is done as sacrifice;
freed from attachment, Arjuna,
perform action as sacrifice! 2-9

In the three worlds,
there is nothing I must do,
nothing unattainable to be attained,
yet I engage in action. 2-22

All living beings from plants to animals to humans engage in action simply to survive, yet there is more to action than merely “earning one’s living”, for action brings us more aligned with the higher laws. The perpetuate movements of our heart is only but one example of what life means to be. There is strength as well as joy in simply putting our best ideas into action and to exercise our gift through each of our unique being. In the end, this is what matters: “I have done what I can” rather than the regret that ” I could have done more”. And our success or failure is determined by no one but our creator.

This quotation from I Ching is China’s answer to the teaching of Krishna.

Move from the Core

1. What is the core?

The “core” is the area in the lower abdomen, about 1.5 inches below the navel,  also known as “dantian” in China.  In Chinese internal martial arts, dantian is where breathing should initiate and awareness should remain.  The core also corresponds to the enteric nervous system,  our “moving brain” with more neurons (4 times more) than our entire spinal cord.

2. The myth of core stability

The term “core stability” is sometimes mentioned in Pilate and Yoga classes as well as physiotherapy sessions.   In practice “core stability” often translates to “navel to spine” for better protection of the lower back. Although not wrong, this instruction often results in “locking” the spine (and the core)  through engaging the muscles of forced abdominal exhalation. This over tensing of abdomen not only immobilizes the spine but also the diaphragm, our main breathing muscle, causing stress, impeding digestion and the reproductive system. Simon Borg-Olivier of Yoga Synergy speaks about core stability and how it can be achieved by actively moving in and out of a posture while the abdomen remains soft to breathe.

3. Move from the Core

Initiating movements from the core not only helps us regain our natural body movement and enhance the circulation of energy and information within the body. The very idea of moving from the core indicates not only the core engagement but also the freedom of core which allows the diaphragm to work properly, this in itself is an expression of “harmonizing Yin and Yang”. It makes us stronger and more flexible without having to breathe more and increase the heart-rate, which is the main drawback of most gym-style workouts.  In addition, core movements are fluid and often curvy and often form an infinity symbol “∞”, rather than zigzagging, such movements are artistically beautiful and pleasant to the eyes and with practice, it is possible to initiate any movement from the core thus establishing a system particularly useful for performing artists to move more organically, with less affectation.

4. Sthira Sukham Asanam

“Posture should be firm but calm”. This defining quote for asana (posture) from Yoga Sutra has become a moment to moment testimony of one’s yoga practice.  What makes a yoga practice is not a posture that can be named in Sanskrit but whether one can stay relaxed so the fingers and toes are free to move, tummy is soft to breathe while remaining in the posture or movement.  This is a “must” finishing touch even in the most challenging postures, as the tranquility of a lotus blossom is deemed a victory over the struggle to reach above the mud.