Postural Yoga | A quest for feeling

Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, Yin Yoga; whatever your choice of style is, I’m sure we’d agree that we could also refer to these as ‘Postural Yoga practices’.

To work with a study of posture, raises the question; how do we assess posture in our body?

A common tendency, in a Yoga practice, is to take information and notes on posture from books & magazines, demonstrations from teachers or even imitating our neighbours in the class.

In one of my previous posts on this blog, I try to discuss the reality that each persons body is unique, perhaps only subtly, perhaps greatly. But with this in mind, it suggests to me that taking information and ‘correction’, using external references, means that we are not really ‘connecting with our body’ (one of the fundamentals of an Asana/Postural Yoga practice).

It was only when my wife, Isabel Slingerland (, returned from her ‘Advanced Forrest Yoga Teacher Training’ where I believe I felt a specific shift in focus of the class, to work with ‘feeling’. By ‘feeling’, this means not simply feeling joy, excitement, pain or sadness; rather, I was guided to feels the physical sensations, ‘the gentle release of tension from the muscles’, ‘the zinging in my legs’, ‘the shining of my heart’. Wow! This was a true revelation!

Even as a dancer, an acrobat or a dance teacher; I had never been able to process or understand the ability to ‘feel’ what I was doing. Perhaps I had tried to feel for ‘switching on turn-out’ or, as I often feel in the aforementioned disciplines, ignore the pain, push beyond it!

By ‘tuning in’ and really listening to the subtlest of changes in the tissues, I became much more connected to the mechanisms, the workings of the functioning body.

This ability, to feel-in-practice, arrived to me when I was first training as a Yoga teacher, thanks to the support from Isabel, and have served me well when I began teaching classes; but it has also been of such relevance to my training and work as a bodyworker/therapist.

What should I be doing in practice?

My advice, drawing from the lessons I learnt from the inspiring teaching mentioned above, simply go on a ‘quest for feeling‘. Change the perspective of your practice from one of ‘seeking postural alignment and clarity‘. Instead, try working with a ‘sensual posture’; ask yourself, ‘What does this posture bring me, through sensation?‘ then simply observe that sensation, notice how it may change, its responses to your playful nature in practice. Keep your body moving, changing the pressure in the posture, alter your direction of push or pull; whatever helps you find the most interesting and pleasurable sensation in the body.

Pleasure isn’t something to be avoided in your practice! For those who like rhyming poetry,

‘Pain is NOT gain; pleasure is the treasure!’

Anthony Middleton (the Body Engineer)

If you can hone in on those skills to feel your practice, you inherently become a much more safe and stable practitioner. For me, attaining this is understanding and connection, is the real embodiment of the first limb of Raja yoga, Asana.

Suggestive Anatomy Sketch from ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’

Your unique body, requires unique treatment

In an age where personal identity is of great importance, we surely find great comfort in recognising those aspects of our anatomy that make us ‘unique’. The very idea to strive or aim for a ‘norm’ would be time spent searching for the impossible.

As a therapist, as well as a Yoga teacher, it is my goal (in my opinion it is our collective duty, as teachers & therapists), to give the guidance but also space, for clients to really uncover and explore their own unique body.

It is a central crux to my practices, but it comes with great difficulty. When training as a Yoga teacher, when practicing in classes and when receiving bodywork, I have often found that we still work with an unconscious connection to a ‘universal ideal’ of posture and alignment.

Why is it that we presume to have the same muscular structures, boney structures, fascial system, chemical make up and an ‘ideal’ state of mind/consciousness/psychology, however we term it? When I was completing my training with LSSM (London School of Sports & Remedial Massage), I was thrilled by this consistent mindset that we were given, to always be ready to learn something new from your clients body. This mindset keeps me constantly thinking, questioning; what does this technique achieve in this persons body, how does a Yoga-pose manifest in this persons unique body, and more importantly, ‘what am I trying to achieve by offering this posture to the body?’

Gil Hedley, an anatomist & bodyworker, whose writings and lectures I truly admire says,

Hold your good practices dearly and your theories very lightly”

Gil Hedley (creator of ‘Integral Anatomy‘)

It is this questioning, this contemplation about my practices, keeping the focus on ‘the treatment of the client’, that keeps me hungry to learn more. I believe that the best therapists, the best Yoga teachers, are those that keep asking questions. If we remain in a perpetual state of experiencing and learning, we can only ever expand our potential to understand and to empathise with our clients.

How can I keep this mindset, this approach, when I teach group classes?

This was a question that I still continue to wrestle with. But I feel that the solution doesn’t lie within an answer, but instead redirecting that question to those very people on my couch or on their Yoga mat. “Ask yourself why are you doing this pose? What do you want from this treatment? For what reason are you searching for change? Or are you joining us all on this simple-yet-complex quest; to get a better grasp and knowledge of your own unique body.

Prevent pain in your practice
Your unique body, require unique attention and treatment

If you’d like to dive further into your own Yoga practice, or to have some guidance on how to alter your practice to suit your own body. Perhaps book a session, with ‘the Body Engineer’ with ‘the Yoga Clinic‘; a private consultation service, to help you with this practice.

Neck & Shoulder Pain from ‘Downward Facing Dog’

One of the most commonly performed postures in a modern Yoga practice, is ‘Downward-facing dog’ (Adho mukha svanasana). It’s is also a position that I have found creates discomfort and even pain in many practitioners.

I often hear, as both a Yoga teacher and a manual therapist, that the shoulders and wrists are areas of greatest suffering. Not too surprising I might add, due to the shifting of weight, even if not on its entirety, into these often fragile structures.

Due to our more sedentary lives, our wrists and shoulders are no longer really functioning, with the same demand, as they may have in times gone by. We rarely place such stress and load bearing into these joint; thus they’re not necessarily strengthened to bear with load.

Unfortunately this isn’t always a consideration in the practice of Yoga, as ‘down-dog’ is often simply seen as a moment to recuperate, to rest between poses; and is often given to people even in their first ever session of practice, regardless of that persons physical history.

How are we to know, without detailed consultation, that our new arrival is ready to receive this posture, how can we know if ANY posture is ‘safe & healthy’ for an individuals anatomy?

I recognise my own hypocrisy in this endeavour, as I often don’t really enter take such care to consider the introduction of a body to the practice of Yoga, it’s so easy to think that this is a pedantic or unnecessary concern; but is it?

As a manual therapist, I’m always considering what techniques, practices and exercises are right for people who experience pain in their lives; perhaps I need to encourage both myself and the Yoga community to also perhaps make a greater commitment, not just to teach yoga, as we know it, but perhaps elevate it into the physical therapeutic practice it perhaps has the potential to be.

Avoiding pain in ‘Downward-Facing dog’

So without going to far away from my focus on ‘Downward-facing dog’; what would my best advice be to escape that pinching, nervy sensation we can find in shoulders and wrists.

Firstly, ensure that you’re distributing your weight into the whole hand and wrist, not just one par of the wrist (a common tendency is to roll into the outer or inner edges of the wrist). This adjustment will ensure a much cleaner line of the wrist structure, letting your weight fall through to the ground better.

Secondly, draw the Soft Tissues away from gravity, and send your bones ‘with Gravity’. This counter four was will stabilise and strengthen the wrist.

Thirdly, into the shoulders, ensure your not pushing so hard that your Scapula (shoulder blades) come towards each other…. try to find space between the blades, by ‘wrapping’ your shoulders around the outsides of your ribs.

Finally, keep the ribs drawn in, not over stretching/flexing the shoulders (allowing arms overhead), this also really weakens the joint. Instead strengthen the joint by keeping the arm pits a little more closed.

If you want to ask questions, or seek a 1-1 consultation, to better work with your body in practice, check out my page on ‘the Yoga Clinic’.

Downward facing dog, spacious shoulders | the Yoga Clinic
Spacious shoulders in ‘Downward-facing Dog’ | the Yoga Clinic

Making the most of lockdown…

These unusual times have, I’m certain, challenged us in ways we never thought imaginable. However I find myself, this evening, contemplating the many things that lockdown has offered me.

The most prominent recognition, it the opportunity to continue exploring and studying the body, in all its wonderment. Reading interesting research and guidance from great folks-of-knowledge; from people of today, such a Tom Myers (@anatomytrains) and Stuart McGill (@backfitpro), to the wonderful illustrious writing and drawing from Leonardo Da Vinci.

One thing for sure, the body fascinates me. Long may this continue!

I was asked by colleagues, noting @balanzs in particular here, to give any advice for their Yogi’s, all longing to come back to the studio and practice.

So, upon reflection, my advice is to use this gift of time to cultivate all those aspects of life that fascinates you, that puzzle you, that intrigue you; and pour your attention into them!

Quoting here from Dante Alighieri (from ‘Inferno’)…

“Put off this sloth,” the master said, “for shame!

Sitting on feather-pillow, lying reclined

Beneath the blanket is no way to fame—

Fame, without which man’s life wastes out of mind,

Leaving on Earth no more memorial

Than form in water or smoke upon the wind.”

Dante Alighieri (‘Inferno’)

Of course take the time to rest; but where you can, pick yourself up and get exploring!

The beautiful complexity of anatomy | Inspired by Da Vinci
inspired by the anatomical sketches of ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’

ONLINE BOOKING for Massage & Soft Tissue Therapy in Rotterdam

It is now possible to book your visit to ‘the Body Engineer’ via the website:

Simply follow the link, follow the easy-to-use booking form to see the available dates and times, simply click and then complete your details and ‘HEY-PRESTO!’


  • Soft Tissue Therapy treatments (60 & 30 mins treatments available)
  • Massage treatments (60 & 30 mins treatments available)
  • the Yoga Clinic (Private Yoga Consultation)

I look forward to working with you soon.

PLEASE NOTE | For information about the ‘Safety measures’ and considerations regarding ‘COVID-19’, please see my post (‘Opening the clinic‘).

the Body Engineer - Clinic SetUp
a clean and hygienic clinical environment.

Re-Opening the Clinic

From the 11th of May 2020, I am very happy to be able to open my clinic doors and resume my Soft Tissue Therapy & Massage treatments.

I will also be launching my NEW ‘Yoga Clinic’; a personal Yoga consultation service. This will be for those beginning of continuing a regular practice, but would like more specific postures or modifications to postures, enabling them to work deeper or make poses more accessible to their own anatomy.

Whilst this excitement is refreshing for me, I must also stay focused on the priority, ensuring SAFE & HYGIENIC practice; particularly in these challenging times.

Please feel assured, every aspect of my treatments, general running of my clinical space, takes into account the measurements from the Government & RIVM.

– All towels will be completely fresh and unused (as usual)

– Floors Will be regularly cleaned

– I will change clothing between each client

– Handles of Doors will be cleaned, between clients

– Antibacterial hand gels will be used regularly, ensuring protection

– Masks are available, where applicable (close proximity to neck & head

So please do rest assured and I hope to see you in a session for treatment soon.

Best wishes and good health to you all,

Anthony Middleton (theBodyEngineer)

Establishing ‘Soft Tissue Therapy’ sessions in Rotterdam

It has been an exciting period for me, as ‘the Body Engineer’, launching myself as a therapist here in Rotterdam, with fantastic support from partners, in particular ‘Balanzs’, allowing me to offer massage at their space in Mariniersweg.

Having treated a lot of wonderful clients, I am excited to be now expanding my practice into other businesses and existing massage centres. More information will follow, particularly through the ‘Soft Tissue Therapy‘ page.

What is ‘Soft Tissue Therapy’

 Soft Tissue Therapy combines many manual therapy techniques  (eg. Sports Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Myofascial Release, Neuromuscular Technique and Muscle Energy Techniques) giving multiple tools to address issues in the soft tissues of the body (muscle, tendon & ligaments). 

Rather than simply giving a general massage, Soft Tissue Therapy is focused upon searching for the root causes of our postural issues, to uncover where we are prone to injury. In this respect, Soft Tissue Therapy is a great tool for all those involved in demanding physical practices (dance,   circus, athletes and those in the fitness industries; particularly as a preventative treatment, lowering risk of injury.) 

This particular approach is also shown to offer an increased rate of recover from injury, and is highly recommended as a method, or a supplement to, rehabilitation from injuries or post surgery.

For those of us in highly stressful jobs, or occupation that involves physical labour, Soft Tissue therapy can also be a great way of treating those minor aches and pains that can limit us.

New beginnings in the Netherlands

Having now arrived in Rotterdam, completing the process of registering as a Self-employed freelancing Yoga teacher and massage therapist, I feel full of excitement and enthusiasm to begin my new career here, in the Netherlands.

It’s already been a ‘hitting the ground running’ situation, with some wonderful meetings with vibrant and entrepreneurial folks, all working in similar industries and I feel really openly welcomed.

I am very excited to be joining a fabulous Yoga practitioner ‘Malou Zuur’ (LouZen Yoga), as part of her ‘Yoga in the Park’ provision, happening in ‘Vroesenpark’, in the Blijdorp district.

On Thursday evenings I will be leading Hatha Yoga practice, in the centre of the park; where we can connect with the beautiful surroundings, the sunshine (hopefully) and the growing Yogi community, here in the city.

Massages |

In the massage front, I have continued to practice both my general body massage, along with my new skills in ‘Thai Yoga Massage’, with family, however I’m now hoping to gradually expand my practicing over the coming weeks. As I’m currently training in ‘Soft Tissue Therapy’, I am unable to provide ‘therapeutic’ massage, working with injury rehab and prevention, until I am much further into the training. So, at present, I am able to offer ‘Full body massage’, for relaxation and general wellbeing, where I can accept donations from clients.

If you’re interested in booking in a session, please do drop me an email at or through the ‘Contact‘ page.

Yogi beginnings in Rotterdam…

It’s Sunday morning, a bit of cold one, here in Rotterdam. The floor shines with a thin layer of rain water, filling me with apprehension as I head towards Vroesenpark, in the Blijdorp area of Rotterdam. This morning I will join in with a Ashtanga/ Vinyasa class in the park, led by the Yogi-entrepreneur Malou (LouZen Yoga).

It will be wonderful to see how Yoga is going, with the Rotterdam communities, and how and what a fellow teacher is sharing the practices of Yoga with them.


Post class |

What a wonderful experience, here in a slightly chilly, yet busy public park space, in the heart of one of Rotterdams up-and-coming districts. Malou leads a fun and engaging practice, embracing the cold and the atmosphere of the space and the group, bringing it into a wonderful and authentic (in my own understanding of Yoga) experience of really connecting with the body and the community.

It was a wonderfully welcoming group, I didn’t once feel like an alien, even though my Dutch is really not yet up to par to talk much; but this didn’t matter.

I am most thrilled as I have now been invited by Malou to lead come Hatha you classes, in the park on Thursday evenings, beginning in a few weeks. It will be my first Yoga class to be taught in the Netherlands, outside of my own personal practice and family and I’m really thrilled to be beginning my journey and building my practice here in the Netherlands.

Details about the upcoming yoga classes will be posted on the site, but also through my social media channels (insta | @anthony_thebodyengineer , twitter | @thebodyenginee1)

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