CONVERSATIONS AT THE SANCTUARY: Establishing a safe practice with the Yoga Synergy method
Spinal health forms the backbone of overall wellness.
When one observes a Yoga Synergy sequence in motion, it comes across as a highly fluid dance that mirrors the micro-movements of Pilates and the broad strokes of Tai Chi. Visually, the movements of Yoga Synergy practitioners are difficult to place because it is all at once familiar and unfamiliar.
Yet, the Yoga Synergy method is one that has its roots in traditional hatha yoga. Developed and fine-tuned by founders Bianca Machliss and Simon Borg-Olivier over the past 20 years, the Yoga Synergy method builds upon the foundations of hatha yoga by compounding it with an intimate knowledge of anatomy and physiology.
This unique style isn’t just focused on asanas. Beyond poses and postures, vinyasa elements come into play by combining movement with breathwork, while pranayama and meditation take centre stage as students move through the sequences. Ultimately, it aims to help practitioners develop strength, energy, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and the ability to cope with stress.
While the method in its entirety comprises six dynamic sequences (typically taught over a nine-week period), an upcoming workshop lead by yoga teacher Alyssa Lee will provide students with a basic understanding of this unique practice, along with a special focus on enhancing spinal mobility. Below, Alyssa lets us in on the Yoga Synergy method.
What type of poses can participants experience during the workshop?
While it might come across rather technical at first, it’s not entirely alien. You will see familiar things like lunges, spinal extensions, salutations, standing poses, and more. You’ll notice that familiar poses might be executed in a different manner, but during the class, I’ll explain why it is sequenced as such. Later on, I’ll invite you to play around with the movements and see how you feel. I’ll be giving you pointers and reminders to ensure you have a safe practice.
Tell us more about the emphasis on safety when it comes to the Yoga Synergy method.
The method is very safe because co-founder Simon was a yoga teacher for some years before going back to physiotherapy school. Then he came back to teach again. As such, his method brings a whole knowledge system that helps you to protect yourself and practice yoga in a very safe way.
If we think about approaching asanas with ‘sthira sukham asanam’ (‘steady, calm and steady’) in mind, Simon breaks it down into a very mindful manner and really looks into the various parts for each sequence.
One of the things Simon emphasises with this method is: You can feel free to stay at this pose or move on. Feel your body. Listen to your body. It is always easiest to do natural breathing. So it’s really just about being super mindful.
What are some benefits of the method?
Safety, overall calmness, and really just developing the ability to listen to the body. I wanted to bring this workshop to people so that they could keep some tips with them – even if they were to practise vinyasa, hatha, or any other movement practices.
Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry and only have a certain amount of time to practice, I like to use these simple Yoga Synergy movements from the introductory spinal sequence just to warm-up my body.
Why does this workshop focus on spinal mobility?
To be sure, this is not intended to be a workshop on backbends. It is not structured specifically to deepen your bends or open your chest. Instead, it draws attention to spinal mobility. We use the word spinal because one of the main focuses of hatha yoga across all schools is the movement of energy. Right to the body. And the main conduit of everything is your spine.
The idea of energy pathways is common in all yoga practices. Energy flows as long as you move. Recently, I’ve had to sit in front of a computer to do some work. It has only been about two to three weeks but I’ve already started having backaches. It makes me wonder how people with desk-bound jobs feel.
During the workshop, we’ll learn some things about how it is so important to move from the navel spine and lengthen both your posterior (muscles at the back of the body) and anterior (muscles at the front of the body) chain. This way, you don’t end up compressing the back, for example. Being able to articulate the spine allows you to really extend and lengthen. The workshop will also touch on using your breath and your bandhas.
Who would benefit most from attending this workshop?
I’ve worked with injuries on and off, and I believe in the idea of modifying your own practice so that you can avoid injury. So anyone who has been injured before in a yoga class and wants to develop a safe practice will stand to benefit.
The workshop is also great for anyone keen on learning about a different view of practice; anyone who’s interested in the idea of ‘sthira sukham asanam’ (calm and easy, steady breath, steady mind); and anyone open to trying something new as I don’t think Yoga Synergy has really arrived here in Singapore.