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Universal Yoga

What styles of yoga do you practice?
Universal Yoga
Iyengar Yoga
Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga
Power Yoga
Vinyasa-Flow Yoga
Kundalini Yoga
Tri Yoga
Ha-Tha Yoga
Vini Yoga
Anusara Yoga
Pure Yoga
Another Style

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Universal Yoga

By Andrey Lappa

Last fall we printed a review of a workshop presented by Ukrainian yoga master, Andrey Lappa. Andrey wrote the following article to clear up misperceptions that students may have about his style of yoga (Universal Yoga) or his methods of teaching, which are somewhat different from those to which yoga students in the U.S. are accustomed.


Andrey LappaThe Universal style of yoga (USY) is based on the knowledge of the structure of the human being and universal rules of modifications of this structure. According to the traditional idea of yoga, a human being consists of seven bodies, called shells or maya koshas. These shells, or forms, are called organic, power, psychic, mental, spiritual, causal and absence of form--or Formlessness. The goal of the USY is to achieve harmony and balance within each shell, between the shells, and between the human being and the outer world. To develop and refine these shells, USY uses a wide choice of practical exercises. One may practice the exercises pertaining to each shell separately; however, to speed up the process, USY combines various elements of different exercises that create a simultaneous impact on several shells.

Knowledge and deep understanding of the universal rules of shell transformation offers us unlimited opportunities to direct our practice toward a specific purpose. Striving for a consciously targeted goal--whether it is therapeutic, experimental or any specific other--practitioners can modify their practice in accordance with their personal motivations, and become healthy, strong and content while achieving their goal.

In USY there is an understanding that each shell of a human being consists of matter and has its own functions. One of the main principles of USY is to consciously control and/or modify the form of the matter and the quality of the functions. Understanding of this process and widening the scope of all practical possible fulfillment of the forms and qualities on the level of each shell leads not only to the evolution and expansion of consciousness, but also to the ability to consciously change the regime and condition of the body, while releasing oneself from stress or any other negative influences.

In USY, special attention is paid to the schemes and structures of the training sequences of asanas and vinyasas. These schemes and structures facilitate balancing and special consciousness modification. In this regard, any careless or unconscious movements of the arms, legs, head or torso between the asanas are not allowed. When only specific, conscious movements are executed, a proper foundation for correct practice is created, leading one toward consciousness in every moment of one's life.

The most simple examples of USY schemes or sequences, emphasizing the influence on joints and the spine are as follows: from legs to head--"ascending flow," from head to legs--"descending flow," by alternating legs, arms and spine and working from the periphery inward--"centripetal star" and from the center to the periphery --"centrifugal star." Other directions within multi-dimensional space (such as in martial arts) also constitute the structure of the sequencing. Most styles of yoga usually use a linear (mat) approach to their practice and the dimensional structure of the sequence is confined to that space. The USY uses linear as well as other dimensional structures, such as two-dimensional longitudinal cross, three-dimensional cross, two-sided cube, four-sided cube and others.

The structure of the training sequences in USY is not limited to the anatomy of the physical body or its dimensional positions. There are also some special series that are widely used to produce an influence on certain chakras or elements. These series are based on the core characteristics of the asanas, which influence the certain zones of chakras or elements. For example, it is possible to create a sequence of asanas, vinyasas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas that will activate the chakras or elements of earth, then elements of water, fire, air or ether.

In USY, the above-mentioned examples of structures and sequences are given to the beginner level students. Later, the individual develops new forms and movements using the already introduced asanas, vinyasas and groups of asanas. As knowledge and practical experience grow, one begins to experience a great improvement in lifestyle.

USY training employs various modifications of the asanas and vinyasas, but transformation of the organic body may take longer than one might imagine. Therefore, it is critical to practice the same problematic asanas and vinyasas repetitiously. Due to the limited physical abilities of some beginners, however, a smaller range of combinations may be used.

The rhythms of breath have a direct connection with the shape of the physical body and the character of each movement. Special types of pranayamas are offered to further the fulfillment of the exercises and correspond correctly to the needs of the body at all times during the training. Pranayama techniques can also be performed before or after the general practice of asanas and vinyasas.

There are special psycho-energetic conditions and qualities (rasas) that are closely connected with the functions of the chakras. While doing certain yoga exercises, the practitioner should hold a special psychic frame of mind to reinforce the successful fulfillment of these exercises. Rasas can also be performed separately from the main practice of asanas, vinyasas and pranayamas. Developing rasas not only creates more effective exercises, but also improves one's social activity and brings general success in life.

Another key role in the practice of USY is control over the thoughts by means of strong will power. The ability of such control totally depends on the Power of Spirit, which usually grows during the process of regular and intentional practice of USY. Overcoming the personal self (ego) and closing the connection with the higher realm of existence takes place in the process of deep meditation and sincere prayer. Advancement in this direction brings feelings of satisfaction, joy, inner peace, consciousness, inspiration and transformation.

Questions and misinterpretations arise due to a lack of theoretical foundation, thorough understanding of the goals of USY and regular attendance of classes.

1. Modern yoga technology, even after thousands of years of development, is still not perfect. Based on the main yoga principles developed through the centuries, USY has absorbed all the universal knowledge and the best qualities provided by all other styles. Striving for the development of methodic exercises of yoga is the foundation of USY. Yoga is a never-ending process, which will continue for thousands of years more.

2. Some yoga practitioners create excuses for their habits, weaknesses and patterns, but others are finding the Power of Spirit in themselves and a means of attaining their goals.

3. Occasionally, the self (ego) of some students reacts badly toward the use of psychic techniques in USY. Somewhere on the subliminal level of their mind their ego tries to defend itself, bringing slamming thoughts and unpleasant emotions, resulting in unconscious negative reactions. Only those students who are able to realize and understand the ongoing process of these transformations with an air of detachment can overcome these reactions. In the long run this psychic training is nothing else but a performance--a play on the level of one of the shells--and one should develop a certain positive attitude towards it.

4. The effectiveness and beauty of these techniques will never come to those who don't feel and pierce deeply into their essence before judging them. The suggested techniques offered are not anything that one could not practice in the back of one's own mind.

5. Liberation (moksha) is one of the main goals in yoga, but how many people can feel released, while being restricted by the threshold of their material shells? True liberation can only be achieved through refinement and perfection of these material shells, as well as transcendental resurrection above them. And the task of overcoming the physical, psychic and mental blocks is not so easy as one might think. That is why moksha doesn't come easy. It is useless to look for something easy and pleasant on the Way of Yoga. If one can practice without any serious efforts or challenges, this means one's evolution is descending or has already stopped.

6. Adjustments from the teacher are not typically recommended for this style of yoga, as assistance is contradictory to the essence of conscious evolution. One of the main goals of yoga is to develop personal realization of any act in our life; however, the student doesn't get a chance to experience personal realization if he/she receives help from the instructor. It is much more useful to not wait for answers or assistance from the teacher, but to strive to realize everything yourself. This process of realization is called Samyama, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. An individual's spiritual growth on the Way of Yoga cannot be achieved by the efforts of other people.

7. The instructors of USY are responsible for providing accurate teaching of the techniques. The instructors are further obligated to explain the basic principles of the exercise modifications so that students are able to simplify or complicate the suggested program in accordance with their own physical abilities. When the students don't take the teachings seriously, inaccurate and unconscious exercising results. It is the students who should be aware that they are the ones to gain the final outcome of the exercising. This self-awareness is very important as it makes everybody bear the responsibility for the quality of the practice as well as realize any possible mistakes that might occur in the future.

8. Practical effectiveness is one of the main criteria in USY. Life is short. That is why any sentimental emotions, idle chatter and numerous doubts that come to our mind should be put off immediately. It is impossible to overcome spiritual downfall without overcoming these habits and negative qualities. The Spirit is favored above the Matter, not vice versa. This principal approach startles only those people who cherish negative habits and qualities and are not willing to make changes, who prefer to adjust the main yoga principles to their own lifestyle. All this explains fairly well why the majority of people prefer only aspects of yoga, such as easy-yoga, yoga-fitness, yoga-therapy or yoga-business, thus identifying themselves with certain shells that are nothing more than the tools for their total spiritual development. This majority is quite satisfied playing this game of practicing fashionable yoga for an hour twice a week and then getting back to their daily habits and patterns.

There are usually only a minority of people on this earth who are born strong in Spirit and who have enough Power of Will to face the challenge of striving toward the essence of yoga. That is why throughout history the true yoga precepts were reserved for the minority of spiritual elite. Yoga has been known for thousands of years, but where are those strong in Spirit Souls, who are ready to follow this Tradition as it is?



Andrey Lappa returns to Moksha Yoga in Chicago, May 11-22. For information, call 312.942.9642, or log on to http://www.mokshayoga.com/. Andrey may be contacted through his website at http://www.yoga.com.ua/




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