Treating knee problems with yoga therapy

All about Yoga Synergy – Welcome

by Simon Borg-Olivier MSc BAppSc(Physiotherapy) and Bianca Machliss BSc BAppSc(Physiotherapy)

We welcome our new students, both to our schools in Sydney and to our many online students around the world. If you are new to Yoga Synergy, I’d like to take this opportunity to share an overview of our methodology.

The Yoga Synergy style of yoga, also simply known as YogaSynergy, is traditional hatha yoga with an understanding from exercise based physiotherapy. This unique style of yoga is very fluid and dynamic and has been developed in Sydney since the 1980’s by Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss. It incorporates all the postures seen in other popular yoga’s but also includes many novel postures and exercises that do not appear elsewhere. Although strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness can be by-products of practicing YogaSynergy, they are not the main aim. The main aim of yoga is communication and the realisation that we are all connected. The main physical aim of YogaSynergy is the enhancement of the flow of energy and information through the various channels of the body. When this is understood then a YogaSynergy practice can leave you energised yet calm, with a reduced need for food and sleep. In addition, because this system enhances the flow of information though the body it can be used to heal many injuries and illnesses, and can prevent many of the common yoga-based injuries from occurring.

The YogaSynergy System has been developed over a 30 year period based on the teaching we have been lucky enough to receive from our yoga teachers and our understanding of the theory and practice of the yoga anatomy and yoga physiology as research based scientists and physiotherapists. The YogaSynergy System can be adapted to any system of physical exercise, but it is most easily and effectively applied in the five specific sequences designed and refined by Simon and Bianca over a 10 year period during from 1989 to 1999. These specifically designed sequences are named after the elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether and can be practiced by an experienced practitioner over a five day cycle that can also include a single day of long inverted positions and a day of purely meditation and rest to give a weekly cycle. Each sequence is taught and practiced at seven main levels ranging from Beginner to Advanced. Studies in exercise-based physiotherapy have shown that repetition is important for learning, therefore learning a set sequence is important, but because training is specific it is also important to vary the approach to learning something like a sequence of exercises. Initially each sequence is taught progressively over a nine week period and in each class the group level and circumstances such as weather, time of day and general energy at the time of the class taken into account. YogaSynergy encourages practitioners to approach their practice intelligently and use it as a tool to enhance their lives. One of the main methods of doing this is to have variations for each of the postures, ranging from a simple (easy) version to a more complex (difficult) version. All practitioners are taught the simple versions and are encouraged to use those when they are not feeling 100% and thus are still able to practice. As a result many different versions of the basic form of any of the sequences are available and we have classes of people with many different types of bodies and levels of experience enjoying their practice together.

It was never our intention to create a particular style of yoga. Initially we practiced the yoga we were taught our main teachers Natanaga Zhander (Shandor Remete), Sri B.K.S. Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sri T.V.K. Desikarchar. These great masters helped us greatly in our own path of yoga. However, after many years of practice and teaching we realised that we had missed something in our understanding of the body. So we both went back to university and studied to become physiotherapists. This dramatically changed the way we approach our yoga practice and teaching and over the next few years a unique style, YogaSynergy, began to emerge almost by itself. The main features of YogaSynergy are:

  1. Modification of traditional yoga postures and sequences to take account of the modern body and variations between practitioners
  2. Gradation of postures with a personal choice ranging from simple (easy) to complex (difficult) versions of each posture or sequence
  3. Use of active movements to enter each pose
  4. Use of resistance work during each pose
  5. Use of co-activation (simultaneous tensing) of the muscles around the nine main joint complexes of the body in order to stabilise these joints
  6. Use of seven circulatory pumps to aid in the movement of energy and information through the body
  7. Use of special mudras (energy control gestures) that can tension (stretch) nerves and acupuncture meridians
  8. Use of specific breath-control to gradually reduce the amount of air required per minute in order to lessen the need for sleep and food, bring more oxygen to the brain and calm the nervous system

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