Praise for the Level 1 Box Set:
"Top Ten Yoga DVDS of All Time"
-- Yoga Journal, Sept. 2006
"Are you ready for 24 hours—yes, hours—of yoga lectures? It's all yoga all the time with Ukrainian teacher Andrey Lappa, president of the Kiev Yoga Federation and founder of Universal Yoga. It's impossible to even scratch the surface of what's covered in these fascinating and perplexing lectures; Lappa has something provocative—and often original—to say about asana, prana and pranayama, mudra, chakras and kundalini, mantras, sense withdrawal (pratyahara) and meditation, internal cleansing exercises (kriyas), yogic powers (siddhis)...
“According to one Internet bio, Lappa was trained as an engineer. It makes sense: Universal Yoga, if nothing else, an impressive edifice, clearly the work of someone trained to think logically and comprehensively. Lappa places a high premium on fortitude and self-reliance and suggests that most of us aren't up to the demands of his system... But if you're an aficionado with a hankering for an intellectual and emotional challenge, you’ll want to tune in.”
-- Yoga Journal
"If you’d like to deepen both your understanding and your practice of yoga, you’ll find this four-hour DVD a good start. And if you really want to dive into it, get the six-DVD set of Andrey Lappa’s Universal Theory of Yoga: Lectures on Self-Realization. Even though this longer version is only Level 1 of his teacher training program, it contains 24 hours of material on asanas, vinyasas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas, chakras, pranas, mantras, kriyas, siddhis and many other aspects of yoga.
Lappa is a highly advanced Ukrainian yogi who has studied with such masters as B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, been blessed by the Dalai Lama and visited Buddhist monasteries and temples, Islamic mosques, Hindu ashrams, the caves of mountain yogis and sacred places in India, Nepal, Tibet and the countries of the former Soviet Union. During his travels he had several powerful spiritual experiences that transformed his consciousness and led him to dedicate his life to exploring the practices and teachings of yoga.
The result is his Universal Theory of Yoga, a comprehensive and systematic approach to spiritual evolution that’s based on the principles and practices he says form the foundation of all schools and styles of yoga. Through it, Lappa shares the insights he’s developed during more than two decades of research, study and practice to support what he says is the fundamental goal of yoga: the liberation of consciousness through a balanced application of physical, energetic and psychic practices to achieve self-realization.
A wealth of information
These DVDs, professionally produced by Pranamaya, introduce the serious student of yoga to Lappa’s wonderfully rich body of knowledge, which he first shared in his book, Yoga: Tradition of Unification, Kiev, 2000. The four-hour version consists of two hours of lectures, excerpted from the 24-hour version, and a balanced two-hour asana practice, which you can play with Lappa’s instructions and music, or just with music.
Even in the abridged version, the lectures convey a wealth of information about such topics as the principles of Universal Yoga, control of attention, groups of asanas, principle vinyasas and the psycho-energetic effects of practice. The six-DVD set, which consists solely of lectures, with no demonstrations (except for one of Vietnamese dynamic yoga), covers many more subjects, including Lappa’s distinctive Dance of Shiva, which he says is the root of the martial arts and other Eastern energetic practices.
(To learn more about this complex set of movements, which reminds me a bit of Balinese dance, get Lappa’s Dance of Shiva DVD, also produced by Pranamaya. In it, he explains the theory behind this dynamic practice and takes you move by move through the first three levels of the Dance, which he says is great to incorporate into yoga practice as a way to develop coordination.)
The guided asana practice, videoed in Nepal with the Himalayas in the background, includes postures and vinyasas familiar to most American yogis, as well as others that Lappa developed or introduces from other sources. It’s quite demanding and probably not something a beginner would want to start with. Lappa is amazingly flexible for someone with such a sturdy kapha build, and I suspect that most people would find many of the poses in this vinyasa beyond them. But everyone can do parts of it, and for experienced practitioners or those with innate flexibility, the practice could be a delightful challenge.
Lappa considers yoga an evolving technology, not something that was perfected centuries ago and can never change. So he has developed asanas and vinyasas that go beyond the canon of the traditional, or “official,” ones to help practitioners free themselves from their habits and limitations. His theories are well thought out, clearly presented, thoroughly explained and generally compelling.
Sometimes they may even be a bit controversial. For example, he disagrees with the standard classification of poses as standing, sitting, forward bends, backbends, twists and inversions. Instead, he thinks poses should be classified as stretching, strengthening, developing coordination, balancing and developing quick reactions. Lappa says traditional yoga does not include practices for enhancing coordination or reaction time, which is why he advocates the Dance of Shiva or martial arts. Also, he says most asanas focus on the legs, not the arms. So he tries to incorporate arm movements from the Dance of Shiva, as well as stretches and exercises for the arms, into his vinyasas.
Lappa’s Universal Theory of Yoga is amazingly thorough and comprehensive. For example, the six-DVD version includes a booklet in which he relates each of the yamas and niyamas to a specific kosha, one of the seven energetic layers that constitute a human being. Lappa also presents a detailed theory of vinyasas, based on the five main body positions: head up, abdomen down, first side up (or other side), abdomen up and head down. And he shows what pranayama practices are safe to combine and which should not be done together.
I found Lappa’s explanations of the koshas and how yoga affects them very informative, and I particularly liked his description of vinyasas as “traps for thoughts.” He says that for many people, especially beginners, controlling thoughts in static poses is very difficult. Vinyasas require so much attention that there’s little time for stray thoughts, so students can focus and gradually learn how to quiet the mind, the ultimate goal of yoga.
A valuable resource
Both DVDs, but especially the longer version, can serve as a resource that serious students can turn to again and again to deepen their understanding of yogic principles and practices. The lectures, which often run at least an hour and sometimes as long as three, are organized into chapters focused on specific topics such as asanas, alignment, vinyasas and energy control. The detailed table of contents in the booklet that comes with the six-DVD set, along with the menus on the DVDs, makes navigating the material easy.
Despite his heavy Eastern European accent, Lappa is an engaging and articulate speaker whose intelligence, knowledge, sincerity and love of yoga shine through the lectures like a warm, friendly light. He’s clearly someone who has gone deep into the heart of yoga and found insight, balance and inspiration. So the wisdom he shares in his Universal Theory of Yoga is definitely worth digging into.
But it’s heady stuff, and unless you’ve taken a workshop with Lappa and are familiar with his approach, or are very serious about studying the more esoteric aspects of yoga, I’d recommend that you start with the four-hour DVD. The full lectures might be bit overwhelming for the average student. However, if you’re looking for a thorough treatment of subjects that are often barely talked about, the longer version may be exactly the kind of comprehensive immersion you’ve been looking for."
-- Tim Noworyta, Yoga Chicago Magazine