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Yoga from the Ukraine - Andrey Lappa Comes to Chicago

By Sharon Steffensen

Ukranian yoga master Andrey Lappa flew into Chicago on a Friday afternoon in February looking for a place to teach classes. He was expected to lead a workshop at Jivamukti in New York on Monday, and wanted to visit Chicago first. Daren Friesen offered him space at Moksha. On Friday night the class was sparsely attended, but by Saturday afternoon, the word was out. Studio 1 at Moksha was filled to capacity with students eager to experience what this charismatic teacher with the intense gaze and heavy Russian accent, wearing billowing, genie-style pants had to offer.

Andrey LappaIn Andrey's class, you need two mats making a "+" shape. Sometimes you're working vertically, at other times horizontally; and, given the long sequences, you need to move easily from one direction to another. Andrey doesn't categorize his style-"it's simply yoga, unconditional Unification with the Unbounded." In asana practice, he draws from ashtanga vinyasa flows, the precision of the Iyengar tradition, the individual sequencing technology of Viniyoga, and other styles. He works one side of the body for several minutes in a strong vinyasa style, and then repeats the sequence on the other side.
Many of the poses were impossible for all but the most flexible of us, especially some of the arm balances with one leg wrapped behind the head while flexing and straightening the arms-pushup style. If a pose proved too advanced, students were encouraged to work the pose in its easier form-attempting to put the leg behind the head. Mostly we stared in awe-at first.
Some poses were brand new to all of us-shoulder openers Andrey had learned from the KGB. After practicing them a few days, we realized they were training, not torture, techniques. One pose begins on the belly with the right arm extended outward at shoulder level. Keeping the arm in place, roll onto your right side with your back moving towards the right arm on the floor. The left hand reaches upward, then back toward the right hand. Hold hands, if possible. Repeat on the other side.

Another shoulder opener seems easy until you realize you've got it wrong. Sitting on the floor, clasp your hands behind your back. Roll the palms inward (not outward) until they are flat on the floor. Slide your hips forward to increase the stretch.

Andrey emphasized that practice must be tailored to the individual and be in balance with their lifestyle, that fixed sequences do not give us an understanding of why we do them. He is also a strong believer in weight training as a complement to yoga. In hatha yoga, "ha," relates to strength and the external energy quality; "tha" relates to stretching and relaxation. Too much "tha" drains into the Spirit and starts to manifest as the "tha of the Spirit," resulting in laziness, says Andrey. On the other hand, muscles, developed by "ha" exercises, build strength, which allow the accumulation of gravitational energy at the physical level; and "tha" exercises (stretching) convert it to a more refined psychic energy structure. Pranayama directs the energy to the brain, expanding one's perception and resulting in the ability to "see outside the limits."

The purpose of practice is not form, but energy, says Andrey. "Yoga is developing our consciousness, otherwise it is exotic gymnastics. Yoga gives you Power of Spirit. You can use it in your work, in your life, everywhere. You will be a good example. You will have endurance to live a good quality life, to be free and happy, to be developed.... If your consciousness does not change, you are not doing yoga."

Dance of Shiva

Andrey LappaOne of the most fascinating aspect of Andrey's work is the "Dance of Shiva," a system for development of consciousness, for breaking up conditioned thinking, leading to what Andrey calls "controlled space" or "controlled chaos." In his book, Yoga; Tradition of Unification, Andrey describes it as "Continuous spiral movements consisting of two complete counter-directional sine curves." The purpose of the Dance of Shiva is to develop the body's "controlling structures," increase the speed of the controlling processes, and form "new algorithms of transcendental links in the consciousness...which increase the power and generation of the bio-processor."
The routine is performed from a standing position with the feet apart, and involves four horizontal arm movements, four vertical arm movements, plus spiraling leg movements. Intense mental concentration is required since each arm is moving into one of the eight movements and one of the legs is moving in a spiral direction. The sequencing of the movements is endless.
The ancient Dance of Shiva was practiced holding cups containing oil and lit wicks. These movements were widely used in early Buddhist practices, and from them, applied martial art techniques were developed.

Soviet background

As a child Andrey trained as a swimmer on the Ukranian combined team. His education is in engineering. He has lived and studied for extensive periods of time in India, Nepal, Tibet and China, learning esoteric techniques both from world renowned teachers and hidden masters. He has visited His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his Dharamsala residence several times and received his blessing. Andrey has studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, Desikachar, Yogacharia Rudra at the Sivananda ashram in the Himalayan foothills, and with several martial arts masters. He has extensive training in various types of meditation.
Andrey has taught yoga continuously since 1987, withdrawing for periods for pilgrimages to the East and collaboration in seminars and conferences on yoga in other cities and countries. He is the owner of a large yoga studio in a sports complex in Kiev with more than 300 students and has been president of Kiev's Yoga Federation since 1999. Andrey is considered to be one of the most qualified and influential masters and professional teachers of yoga in the ex-Soviet territory.

He has succeeded in finding and bringing to the USSR ancient and modern texts on the theory and practice of yoga to be published and translated into Russian. As a result, there has been a real "training-technological" revolution in the former USSR, which has broadened the numbers of practitioners and has raised the level of consciousness within practitioners, trainers and teachers. Andrey regularly trains individuals and conducts intensive seminars in cities of the former USSR, the U.S., Germany, France, and Greece.

Andrey not only is highly mentally and physically disciplined, he has exceptional psychic energy abilities and has experienced profound transformation of consciousness, which he shares in his book. He says, "We must do yoga like a process where we get experience in development for our body, for our energies, for our chakras, for our morality, for our foods we eat. When we start to practice, we start from the form, cleaning, tejas, pranayama, butall these must be directed to the energetic results later. When we have experienced how to direct energy, we direct it to the awakening of the kundalini. Then we can get real knowledge from our experience about understanding ourselves, about our mission in this life, about our reason for being born. It transforms your consciousness, a second birth, in another personality."

Andrey Lappa's book, Yoga, Tradition of Unification, can be purchased through Moksha Yoga Center, 312.942.9642. See also Andrey's website: He returns November 2-11 to Moksha Yoga.

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