Part II: Path of the Yogi
by Ali Valdez
“If we are looking for liberation, we need to investigate the complex of karmic motivations that you have from birth. Babies on their first hour already have character and tendencies, why? They don’t have life experiences but they have a previous life. It is very important to understand karma rules.”
In the first part of the interview, Andrey was discussing yoga as a tool for eliminating suffering or kleshas, as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Universal Yoga system has been designed to create a well-developed state of balance by conditioning each of the mayakoshas, or shells.
For the conditioning of the first shell, ‘hardware’ as Lappa calls it, Universal Yoga employs rigorous asana and vinyasas that work the body multidimensionally in space and are perfectly balanced to put influence on one’s consciousness, or citta. He uses asana as a balance of energies so the inside work of the second shell can be accessed. He believes in working the body in all five dimensions in space and conditioning the physical body in all seven ways, including the oft forgotten coordination and reaction and in the era of lightning-fast vinyasa, endurance.
“We don’t start with sweating right away; first we understand what it is we do, then we begin. In music, just like you need to know how to use all keys on the piano, you also need to work the body in all directions and full mobility of the joints and the spine.”
Another important tenet of Universal Yoga is the importance of sequencing that is also balanced evenly across dimensions in space, planes of the body and types of body conditioning which is why you will see unique in the Universal practice turns on the mat, shoulder stretches created by Andrey to compliment those of the hips, and digital balancing across the composition of the asana and pranayama sequencing. You don’t have to be a geometry major or Rhodes scholar to devise either very simple or stunningly labyrinthine configurations in beautiful harmony, an energetic mandala of movement with the human body.
“You want to leave balanced, not with disbalance. You need to reach the point of internal peace. Karma is surrounding you. We want to impact all seven shells, but we start sending energy signals by getting our muscles moving. We take care of our organic shell by how we eat, how we move our bodies and where we devote our time. 24 hours a day, we are accumulating karma. So one hour per day you do yoga, something very good. But 23 hours per day you don’t. What becomes heavier on the scale?”
Balance across all seven mayakoshas is one of the aims of Universal Yoga. He understands that attention only to the hardware, or body, leaves us unchanged in areas of tendency, habit, and predisposition.
“So if you have American dream: property, children, parents, you are always working hard and staying busy to find happiness. Non-stop civilization, when you finally die then you can relax and be happy. You don’t own things: your things own you. Karmic freedom: either you have it, or you don’t.”
Universal Yoga was designed to aid the practitioner to reign in the monkey mind, the citta running wild, and get to a state of where one’s thoughts are under control.
For the second shell, Universal Yoga employs pranayama combinations and other energy exercises. “Ten minutes of pranayama and meditation is not effective,” he says simply. Lappa typically will lead mandala classes in excess of three hours to allow ample time for all layers of mayakosha to be influenced. Depending on which way Lappa wants to effect the energy through sequencing or pranayamas, either circular, crosses, symmetric, assymetric, visamavritti or samavritti, as much mindfulness is made in the course of the students’ breathwork as in the complexity of the asana.
The remainder of the shells are also influenced accordingly as Lappa teaches how to use rasas, operating from your own personal power to overcome the will, pratyahara techniques to suspend the flux of the five indriyas, or organs of perception in the body, cognitive senses,through yantra and mantra. For the fourth shell, Lappa’s Universal Yoga skillfully weaves in meditations and concentration techniques that are accessible to all students.
“On a mental level, information is our food. Don’t let poison install onto your hard drive by being programmed by TV. Computers, TVs, iphones are all universal installers of ideas onto your mind. Vijnamayakosha is the concept of idea, the intellectual shell organizing our minds into who we are in reality. Our senses are five internet lines always connected to the wall and downloading, and without conscious work, you have no anti-virus software.”
Universal Yoga strives to help the disciplined practitioner overcome the elements of the four previous shells to enter into ananda, creating an authentically blissful state where people can truly be happy and content. Lappa believes on the sixth level, the cittamayakosha, exists samskaras, latent tendencies that play out in your present life from past ones, “if you can overcome any patterns, habits, automisms it will be another state of consciousness.”
From there, we can enter into atmamayakosha, the soul itself, or as the Light on the Yoga Sutras by BKS Iyengar says, “Mastery of contemplation brings the power to extend from the finest particle to the greatest.”
Lappa is the first to admit that although Universal Yoga is available to everyone, not everyone is ready to embrace the depth of what Universal Yoga can be:
“Time in my course will answer whether or not you really want to practice yoga.” When speaking with Lappa, setting aside the strong Ukrainian accent and directness in his speech, he is a humble and gracious man,
“It’s not about me; it’s about the essence of science. If you want to have results, you have to challenge yourself and understand your motivations. Wrong motivation in yoga will lead to wrong result.”
Truly Eastern at heart, with a vast travel, yogic arts, and contemplative repertoire scanning Russia and its former Soviet states, and both southeastern and central Asia, he has been teaching yoga for many decades to different types of students, and certainly embraces the more traditional Eastern view of student and teacher which can sometimes confound the Western minded student.
“Yoga is that related to evolution. I enjoy teaching in Eastern cultures that understand the meaning and purpose of teacher. They respect and they do. It may not always feel ‘good’ but they do it because they trust the teacher has the right result. You must challenge yourself on the physical level just like sports or there is no development. If you can always do 100 percent of the teacher’s practice, you are not pushing yourself. Twenty percent should be undoable so you as a student can have extra goal and grow.”
Part of being a teacher, Lappa also believes, has nothing to do with pushing dogma about yoga, just making sure that as yoga continues to expand in the West, it doesn’t fall prey to shallowness but can evolve with the full intention of what the science of yoga can offer faithful practitioners. He offers freely his wisdom and insights to all that show interest.
“I bring science of yoga. Under the name Universal Yoga, I give people universal laws which can be represented in all styles of yoga, which is basically about yoga itself. All my teaching is only about these principles.”
To see the first part of Path of the Yogi, please click the August 2012 blog post. Space is still available for all interested students, practitioners of Universal Yoga, aspiring yoga teachers, or current teachers. Registration information can be found at our site /andrey-lappa.