Traditional Yoga For the Modern Body

In these two short videos physiotherapist and Yoga Synergy Director Simon Borg-Olivier explains how to practice traditional yoga if you have a body that does not have natural features inherent in the bodies of traditional cultures, such as the ability to squat and sit cross legged on the floor. Differences between the traditional body and the modern Western body are significantly worsened in people who spend 5-15 hours a day in chairs. Simon describes methods developed by Yoga Synergy Co-Director and physiotherapist Bianca Machliss and himself of working with your body that enable you to develop strength without feeling tense, improve flexibility without painful or dangerous stretching, and increase blood circulation and overall  fitness without needing to increase heart rate.

In these videos Simon explains how the main principles of ‘simple’ standing postures such a the ‘Standing triangle posture’ (Utthita trikonasana) and the ‘Revolving standing triangle’ (Parivrtta trikonasana) can be more easily understood using even simpler postures that make the role of moving from you core around the base of your spine very easy to see and feel.

Once you really understand how to move from your core rather than lock your core as so many people do in many yoga postures, then balancing on your arms in these two variations of Koundinyasana (Figure 1) feels little different to doing the ‘Standing triangle posture’ (Utthita trikonasana) and the ‘Revolving standing triangle’ (Parivrtta trikonasana).

To master this in its more advanced stages breath-control is very important. The secret involves learning how to initiate breathing diaphragmatically (i.e. to feel like you are breathing into the abdomen) by actually moving your diaphragm towards your spine more than your navel and bring the intra-abdominal pressure of inhalation towards the lower back, then the upper back, then the chest and finally the lower abdomen.

This can be done once the abdominal wall has become firm from spinal movement rather than from using the muscles of forced abdominal exhalation (the abdominal obliques).

Also because the trunk is constricted by bandhas that do not inhibit the diaphragm but do cause a significant decrease in lung volume, you can use ujjayi pranayama in a way that is very calming and almost invisible and inaudible to anyone else but the practitioner themselves.

Photos of Simon Borg-Olivier in Eka pada koundinyasana (top photo) and Parivrtta eka pada koundinyasana (bottom photo) courtesy Alejandro Rolandi.

Figure 1: Photos of Simon Borg-Olivier in Eka pada koundinyasana (top photo) and Parivrtta eka pada koundinyasana (bottom photo) courtesy Alejandro Rolandi.

Triangle from the core

One of the examples of how to use traditional yoga postures in different ways to accommodate the needs of the modern body is to do the triangle and the revolving triangle postures balancing on one leg. In this unusual version of the postures – developed by yoga teachers and physiotherapists Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss – people are ’forced’ to feel how to perform the triangle postures from the core while mobilising the spine.

In the next video below Simon explains what it means to have a natural body, and how the Yoga Synergy method takes into account the difference between the traditional body and the chair-dwelling modern body. He also demonstrates how to put your legs into lotus position while doing Mayurasana with the ease of folding your arms across your chest, and explains how to counter squashing your lower back.


If you want to learn more about posture movement, breathing and your mind please join the live and/or online courses and teacher training with Bianca Machliss and Simon Borg-Olivier at

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