Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali May 1-5, 2024

Yoga Dance Music Healing

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How to Use Your Legs in Yoga

When Simon Borg Olivier (SBO) bursts on stage as a spiritedly muscular yogi capped by a mop of springy silver hair the first you notice is his eyes. Sharp, piercing and humorous, they were the perfect accompaniment to his sharp, piercing and humorous delivery on use of the legs in yoga.

Far from being a dry exposition on anatomical placement, SBO was all about experiential awareness and the fact that less is more. Less tension, less breathing, less thinking, and even less eating are good indicators of his teachings of traditional yoga for the modern body.

I was prepared for a series of blistering leg exercises which were going to leave me crawling from the class with muscular thighs, taut buttocks, rippling calves, perhaps even a bit more definition in the arches of my feet. And while this is certainly true of SBO, his teachings were much more subtle. We did very few poses for the first half of the class, but in doing so we became familiar with the intricate connections of tension and release, stretching and lengthening, releasing of the lower back and many more distinctions which were embodied in the final, tai chi-like practice in the final 45 minutes.

Another interesting feature of SBO’s class was his demonstration of traditional standing poses while lying on his back. In emulating a standard triangle pose while supine I could see how the abdominal muscles came in to play. I also got a beautiful sense of how to keep the abdominal strong while still allowing the belly to be relaxed. This let me take full, natural breaths while maintaining a strong posture and is a refinement I’m looking forward to taking in to my future yoga practice. 

I did catch myself wondering if we were actually going to do a yoga sequence when SBO launched into a led practice which tied together everything he’d taught us in a seamless weave. Along his theme of ‘less is more’ he invited us to follow along, guiding us with a series of ‘clicks’ and ‘pops’ through his microphone rather than filling our heads with too many words.

Giving subtle references to lengthening the spine and building upon the refinements we had internalised, what followed was a beautifully flowing sequence which was both challenging, strengthening, lengthening and nourishing to the body. At the end I was warm but not breathless, relaxed yet energised and thoroughly inspired to learn more.

I felt that what I learnt was just the tip of the iceberg and I’m keen to learn more about the subtle refinements and intricate knowledge of the body which SBO passes on with great humour and insight.


(All photos by Ulrike Reinhold)

P.S. Continue the conversation on Twitter – include #balispirit in your posts on festival highlights, photos and shares 

(All photos by Ulrike Reinhold)

Written by : Russel Price


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