Simon Borg-Olivier: Souls Singing in Balaclava

The Workshop

Simon Borg-Olivier embodies and indeed quotes Sri B.K.S Iyengar:

‘Yoga is when you make every cell in your body sing the song of the soul’

Although I love the imagery of the cells singing not all my cells were singing throughout Simon’s workshop ‘Internal Health, External Power’. Yet I can say that I felt ‘sthira steadiness’ and ‘sukha ease’ in all the yoga synergy postures he offered to participants. This is the first time I have felt both sthira and sukha consistently in my practice and I’ve been enjoying sharing the spinal flex series with students at the beginning of classes in the hope that we may take the sensation of this gentle flow throughout our class. Thank you Roman of Southside Yoga for bringing Simon into our neighbourhood.


The Mind

My problem was thinking too much not allowing the mind to dissolve out of its analytical state as I entered the physical movements and yet even for me there were moments of bliss when my body was completely in the flow reflecting without attempting to ‘copy’ Simon up on the podium. Reaching back into the mind, of course, I asked myself how did my body ‘know’ those movements? The Bhagavad Gita discusses this restlessness and inconsistency of the mind and in many ways the workshop was a practice in the teachings of Krishna to Aruna. A natural undeclared lecture and demonstration of life practices, life challenges and a release from tension to bliss.

Godfrey Miller Sketch
Godfrey Miller Sketch

Indeed the format followed in three hour sections ‘internal energy – mudras’, ‘internal cleansing – shatkriya/shatkarma’, ‘internal stability – bandha’, ‘internal power – pranayam’, ‘internal bliss – dharana, dhyana, samadhi’. The weekend finished with a dynamic to static meditative Yoga Synergy sequence and I can honestly say that this method of practice did not leave me tired or hungry – I walked out each evening well fed.

Less everything

Simon was very fond of repeating: eat less, breathe less, heart beat less, tense less, think less, sleep less. If we bring into our practice a little less of all things imbided, our bodies will respond and carry us toward bliss. The mat is not the place for ‘hyper’ anything the mat or practice place is the place for the dissolution of pain and sorrow…to unite with the divine as Iyengar says ‘it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that yoga presupposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly’.


Little gems I walked away with:

  • Inhale into most postures letting the abdomen rise with the breath because in this way you create spaciousness and when when you settle exhale…inhaling frees the spine. this is particularly wonderful for twists and sit ups
  • Think when approaching a posture if a bandha can be created, that is the coactivation of opposing muscle groups e.g. internally rotate shoulders and round the back activating armpits and shoulder muscles as you move through spinal flexion series
  • From standing when raising a leg a subtle tilt up of the pelvis will let the bent knee float up without effort and then extend out into straight leg rising to your ability
  • Learn lolasana before yogic push ups…in fact take care to prepare the body through preparatory postures before attempting anything prematurely
  • Kechari mudra although traditionally taught as taking the tongue to the back palate and eventually right through nasal passages with focus at the third eye – could be practiced externally tongue to chin, tongue to nose drishti/gaze at the third eye
  • Generally we can all, when in seated positions, check in with ourselves hips back/ribs back and although it feels like we might be rounding we invariably aren’t our spines are now straight!
  • I also walked away feeling like a kindergarten student in the face of the pranyam techniques Simon shared ….that’s a whole other discussion

During intensive workshops such as these it is easy to get disenchanted as a teacher as you realise your journey has barely begun and you have the audacity to TEACH! Yet Simon took care of each and everyone one of us by framing the closing of each day with an emphasis on:

Ahimsa to not bring any suffering while you are learning, to yourself or others

Tapas discipline in your practice

Santosha contentment at the end

…and so with santosha we all walked out inspired into a hot Melbourne sunday afternoon

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