Introducing Andrey Lappa
Andrey Lappa has been a yoga pioneer since day one.
In 1987, years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when spirituality was still somewhat of a taboo in the Soviet world, Andrey was teaching yoga. By 1991, Andrey’s mission to teach yoga in the former Soviet Union, and around the world, was confirmed when he received his certificate from the Indian embassy in Moscow, granting him the authority to teach yoga professionally. He later went on to found the first yoga center in the post-Soviet space.
In the early 90s, he was invited by the Indian ambassador to Ukraine, to study yoga in India, making Andrey the first Russian speaker to study under the renowned yogi, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore. This life changing invitation was one of the first steps on his journey towards dedicating his life to the path of the yogi and developing his revolutionary style of yoga, Universal Yoga.
Thanks to the devoted work of countless yogis in the 1960s and 70s, yoga has exploded in popularity outside of its birthplace in India. The popularity of yoga in the west had lent millions of people the tools to cure chronic illnesses, cope with everyday stress, and open new doors into their own spirituality. In our all too often splintered society, yoga has also provided a priceless tool for fostering connection between people.
But with yoga available at virtually every gym in America, some begin to only see the physical aspect of the yoga practice. When you hear your friends talking about what a great workout they got at yoga yesterday, it’s easy to forget that behind this multibillion dollar industry is an authentic practice firmly rooted in the spiritual. As much as an asana may challenge your core, it should simultaneously present an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Andrey has studied under some of the most revered yogis, translated yogic texts, and even holds a PhD. His devotion to the authentic, ancient Indian practice can be felt in any of his classes and when it comes to teaching, he doesn’t cut any corners. He insists the practice of yoga should begin first by understanding the meaning of the word yoga. He believes many students don’t understand that the practice of yoga must lead to the state of unification. To Andrey, if yoga doesn’t lead to this understanding, the practice is incomplete, “The practice of yoga must lead to a state of oneness, or something is wrong.”
If you’re one of the many yogis beginning to feel uncomfortable with the trendy side of yoga, you’ll likely find peace and a kindred spirit studying under Andrey. He believes that many forms of yoga popular today, like paddle board yoga, are entertainment, not real yoga. To him these styles of yoga fail to lead the student to the state of oneness that should be central to the yoga practice.
The Birth of Universal Yoga
Andrey’s intimate understanding of yoga comes from decades spent following his devotion to the ancient practice around the world. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the highlands of Tajikistan, Andrey has traveled the world in pursuit of yogic wisdom. After studying under some of the most respected yogis, B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois just to name a few, he developed his own vision for teaching yoga, Universal Yoga.
What makes Universal Yoga unique compared to other popular forms of yoga, is the focus on the consciousness of the student with the ultimate goal of reaching a state of oneness. Yes, through the physical postures, but without becoming obsessed with the physical form as some modern manifestations of yoga in the West have become. For Andrey, Universal Yoga is for the entire being, not just the physical self.
According to Ancient Vedic teaching, humans are not just made of a physical form. Instead, each person is composed of layers, or Koshas. The Five Koshas include: the physical body, the energetic body, the psychic body, the mental body, and the karmic body. Andrey named his practice Universal Yoga because it aims to integrate all the layers, or “shells” as he calls them, of the human being, helping to create that feeling of unification.
Like the human spirit in Vedic tradition, yoga seems to be born again and again in new forms, yet the core remains the same. Although Andrey founded the Universal school of yoga, he insists Universal Yoga is “nothing new compared to traditional, authentic yoga.”
Why Universal Yoga?
In his extensive studies in India and the hours upon hours he spent translating yogic texts into Russian, Andrey sought the most raw, authentic version of yoga.
Universal Yoga is not something you spend an hour of your day on, then quickly forget. He underscores that this practice is revolutionary and fully engrossing, “Universal Yoga is a method of transformation for your life.”
Many yoga students are familiar with the feeling of being seized by the practice. The way you move your body becomes different, your awareness of the outside world is heightened, and you’re willing to go to the ends of the earth to find the transcendent feeling of peace, or Samadhi, you caught sight of in Savasana. For those seeking a yoga practice that constantly awakens the student to new levels understanding of their own being, Universal Yoga is for you.
Transformation through the Asanas
Andrey is concerned that many students of yoga spend years practicing without really understanding how the physical practice can influence their consciousness. It’s often forgotten that each asana builds up a corresponding energy zone. Universal Yoga teaches students how to cultivate and harness this transformative energy.
But just because Universal Yoga focuses heavily on the spiritually and mentally transformative aspects of yoga, don’t expect to get off easy on the physical asanas. Although he believes many schools of yoga focus too much on the physical or entertainment aspect of yoga, Andrey actually thinks many of these school are physically weak. He rightfully points out that the genuine yoga of Patanjali practiced in India is much more physically intense than what is often seen in the West. Universal Yoga seeks to channel the physical, as well as the spiritual intensity of the authentic, historical yoga.
That being said, Universal Yoga offers simplifications and modifications to suit students of all levels of experience. One of the biggest benefits of Universal Yoga is that it’s adaptable, when some styles of yoga just aren’t accessible to many people. Instead, Andrey has designed a style of yoga that is firmly rooted in tradition, yet fluid enough to be customized to any level of expertise, age, or state of health. Yoga should be something accessible, yet challenging, but certainly not exclusive. Universal Yoga is for everyone, from the total beginner to the extremely advanced practitioner of yoga, so long as the student is willing to transform the entire being and experience oneness.
Andrey Lappa will be applying his 38 years of experience studying yoga at Universal Yoga training in Samui from September 24th-November 1st, 2018. Andrey has dedicated his life to the path of yoga and is devoted to sharing this path with his students, especially amid the awe inspiring nature at Vikasa.
Are you ready to step up your yogic game and go back to where it started?
Vikasa Yoga Retreat is hosting one of Andrey Lappa’s Yoga Teacher Trainings in September 2018. Click here for more details.