It felt very right to return to India this year. The last time I was here was 2010, when I did my first yoga teacher training intensive in the Sivananda ashram in Uttarkashi, far in the north towards the Himalayas. I came this year to the 3rd international training run by the founders of Yoga Synergy, Bianca Machliss and Simon Borg-Olivier. Over the past 3 years, studying with Simon and integrating insights from the Yoga Synergy system have revolutionized my personal practice, making it safer and more effective, and given me tools to understand hatha yoga much more deeply. It’s a considerable investment of time, energy and money to do a teacher training like this, but I can already feel the powerful effect it has had on us all, and how it clarifies the path forward both as yoga practitioners, and as teachers.
Yoga is a complex discipline and if anything, this last month has emphasized just how difficult it can be to practice effectively, let alone communicate that practice successfully to others. It could be likened to learning a new language, if to learn it first you had to unlearn the one you currently speak! When we begin yoga practice we begin to unwind the tensions of a body and mind conditioned by life in the modern world, highlighting the limitations of the sedentary, chair-bound, chronically stressful lifestyles led by many of us in the world today. Overfed but undernourished, overstimulated yet desensitized, we’ve come to a place where our extraordinary material wealth and technological sophistication perversely now create as much unwellness as they do health.
It’s this fundamental insight that brought Yoga Synergy into being: that modern bodies differ significantly from the bodies of people in traditional cultures such as those in India where hatha yoga was initially developed, and therefore this must be taken into account if we are to design a practice for modern people that could fulfill the promise of genuine yoga.
A normal person in a developed nation spends between 5-15 hours a day sitting in chairs, drastically compromising the mobility of their hips and spine. This combines with a lack of upper body strength, considerable tension in the shoulders and wrists, a diet that creates blockage through the digestive system and inflammation in the joints and tissues, and chronic mental stress to create a kind of “perfect storm” of obstacles to vibrant health. Increasingly we’re seeing the problems arising from people attempting to practice yoga in ways that, rather than creating greater internal connection and enhanced energy flow within the body, create overtensing, overstretching, hyperventilation, and damage to the joints (especially lower back, shoulders, knees and wrists).
The training itself illuminated all this through intensive personal practices every morning, which included chanting, meditation, kriyas, pranayama, and asana/vinyasa practices. Then throughout the day we had other sessions focused on teaching methodology and technique, anatomy and physiology, and history and philosophy, all interspersed with personal reflections and vignettes from Simon and Bianca’s considerable experience as teachers, practitioners, lecturers, physiotherapists and researchers.
In future blog posts we’ll be explaining the principles of the Yoga Synergy method and their application to yoga practice more in-depth. We’re very excited to be coming back to Barcelona now to share the foundations of what we’ve found to be a highly intelligent and effective method for yoga practice.
To Simon, Bianca, and all the group who made this training so rich and deep: thank you for sharing with us so openly your insight into what good yoga means, your passion for the practice and the teaching, and your wonderful selves! We are filled with gratitude to have been able to share this time with you – and look forward to the next time we meet![:]