Learn Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga & Qigong Exercises With Spyros Kapnias [Interview]

Spyros Kapnias

Yetta: Namaste, Spyros Kapnias, Please say few words about your yoga journey.

Spyros Kapnias: Namaste, My friends on the Yogic Path. I met Yoga for the first time during my childhood, as my first Guru, was my father. When I was younger I used to practice martial arts, for twenty years, but as the passion for the internal search was growing stronger and stronger inside me, eventually I decided to make Yoga my way of living.

Since then I have been training in most of the traditional Yoga systems such as Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Satyananda, Kundalini, Hatha, Patanjali and also in the more recently created Traditions. Now I am E500 Yoga Teacher in Yoga Alliance, teaching for 16 years, without a pause, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Agnisattva Vinyasa and Patanjali Yoga. All these years I have been studying, in parallel with Yoga, Alternative Therapies and managed to get an MD in Yoga Therapy, MD in Acupressure and been certified in Myofascial Therapy, Ayurveda, Thai Yoga Massage, AcuYoga, Chakra Therapy, Reiki etc.

Checkout His profile on LinkedIn: Spyros Kapnias

Yetta: What is your favorite yoga practice and how does it benefit your life?

Spyros Kapnias: I don’t have just one favorite practice but three! In the morning, I practice Ashtanga vinyasa and sometimes for change Agnisattva vinyasa and at the afternoons Patanjali Yoga. I feel that every practice gives to me different benefits. Ashtanga vinyasa, gives me the fire of practice, discipline and courage. Agnisattva vinyasa gives me the happiness of practice and the joy to discover new ways of expressing my being through asanas. Also, Patanjali Yoga gives me the awakening of the divine mother, shakti and the connection of her with the Divine Lover, Shiva, within my being.

Yetta: What in your opinion are the greatest health benefits of doing yoga?

Spyros Kapnias: Our health depends on our own attitude towards daily life. The greatest good that we can produce through Yoga is awareness. The free choice is a product of awareness. When we live unconsciously, we “commit suicide every day.” Our health is directly linked to our self-esteem and our inner strength. Without them any health program, nutrition or diet will not give any results. On the contrary, when we are mindful, we are not becoming self-distractive. We can listen to what it is that our body needs regarding the exercise, what it wants to eat and to think. Our existence is something alive, it vibrates, it is conscious, and if we “listen” to it, we can “hear” its needs with clarity!

Yetta: What’s your mission as a yoga & qigong teacher? Who are you trying to reach and why?

Spyros Kapnias: It is essential for every man in his life to find his own path, his own destiny, his own Dharma. When discovered, then his life flows unhindered. The teacher in every kind of internal tradition should be the example. The examples and the teachings should spur students to seek their own Truth and not “the truth they have been taught.” The teacher should also support the students during their difficult times. Through my teaching I try, without trying, to spread and to implant in my student’s hearts a passion for their personal practice and yogic philosophy.

Spyros Kapnias yoga pose exercise

The teacher must be the “finger pointing to the moon”, a road sign on the Yogic Path. Through Yoga as a teacher, I come in contact with all types and ages of people, with different needs and desires. What I mostly do is to teach them to see, to become aware that their reality is inside them and what happen on the outside are just neutral facts.

Yetta: What is the difference between yoga exercise & qigong exercises?

Spyros Kapnias: I started with Qigong because I wanted to know in depth the part that relates to energy, Prana in Yoga and Qi in the Chinese Tradition. What I got from the practice in both traditions is that one can complement the other, contributing in our understanding and deepening. The Qigong focuses mainly on the movement of energy, while Yoga has a broader field for exploration, as the eighth step of it is Samadhi, Enlightenment.

In Qigong, the practitioner is learning to move his energy, but in Yoga it is not so obvious and sometimes it is even nonexistent, although Kundalini Yoga, is one of the main branches of Yoga. I remember my teacher in Qigong showing me photos of Yoga asanas and telling me imperatively: “Look at this asana and tell me, where their Qi is».

Most of the time while the practitioners are in the pose, they seem “marbled” or as being “somewhere”. There is not any manifestation of prana, in their look, posture or breath. For me the combination of Traditional Chinese medicine, the Indian and the Tibetan Yogic Tradition, we can have a very comprehensive picture of the energy body and how we can work with it through asanas, mudras, bandhas, pranayama and meditation.

Yetta: Important Yoga props and accessories you recommend for a Yoga learner or beginner.

Spyros Kapnias: I had been training on the Iyengar Tradition for years so my love for props is obvious. Props are for everyone. With them, beginners learn proper alignment and advanced practitioners find ways to evolve and create space in their body. Props for me are not to give comfort, but to contribute to the continuous improvement of an asana. At this point, I would like to highlight a misunderstanding about asana. Often teachers repeat «Sthira Sukham Asanam» and translate it as “Steady and comfortable must be the posture” but this is a “partial” translation. «Shukham»  also means “delighted, happy, cheerful, sweet, blissful.” So from my own approach, asana, should not be too “comfortable”, but “pleasant”. “Pleasure” is a feeling created inside us when we create Space in our Existence, whether it is at the physical, emotional or mental level. So asana is a highly energetic state, where through breathing and posture, we create space.

This creation of Space, makes the “pleasure” spring from the levels of our consciousness. The Rajas (Action) leads to Sattva (Light Awareness), through its counterbalance with the Tamas (Inertia). The Tamas, only leads to deeper darkness. So in asana, be present, be aware, be energetic and in every moment, in every breath, create Space. By creating space, we invite the prana to come effortless. My opinion is that all props must be used, because they give such a variety in practice, different experiences of “openings” and multiple ways of understanding the alignment. Many times teachers stagnate in everyday teaching and the use of yoga props gives them an opportunity to find new paths and ways of teaching.

My beloved props are the Yoga Kurunta & the Yoga Ropes. A practice with them can be varied from a practice for strength, balance and extreme acrobatics, to a passive practice for alignment and opening.

Yetta: What tips can you offer for avoiding injuries in yoga and getting the most health benefits out of it?

Spyros Kapnias: Injuries are something that got out of proportion in the field of Yoga. But only he who remains lying on his couch can avoid injuries. Due to the blooming of Ashtanga Yoga and other dynamic systems, the myth of injuries came to support other traditions and to aid in avoiding a serious practice in asanas.

We now live in a time where many things can be “measured”, at least physically. For example, a serious practitioner of the asanas, has specific levels of fat that he measures, specific breathing range, endurance and fitness. When I was younger and used to practice in and other yogic traditions, I used to always hear from my teachers that I would get injured or that after a few years I would not be able to continue my Ashtanga Practice. To their denial, I’m 56 years old and I do not have any serious injuries although I‘ve been practicing for 16 years on a daily basis. Physical injuries are inevitable and often useful, because they teach us humility and help us to gain a better understanding of the body and the asanas.

To avoid any injuries, it is good for practitioners to follow the instructions below:

  • Practice must always be done in a warm environment. Warm environment is when the practitioner is partially naked and feels comfortable with the temperature.
  • There should not be any air currents in the area of practice.
  • There must be a good warm up before a dynamic practice.
  • There should be no drinking during the practice and if so, the beverage should be in room temperature. Strictly prohibited, is for it to be cold during the practice and it is also prohibited to drink at least half an hour after it.
  • Always use Ujjayi breath.
  • Use locks during asanas, Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandhas.
  • After the practice, keep your body warm and not exposed to wind.
  • Have a hot bath from half to two hours after the practice and never cold baths if possible.
  • When you are sweating, do not assume that you are warmed up, especially in winter time. But try to feel your internal body temperature in order to estimate it.
  • When injured, visit an appropriate doctor. But even before that, respect the principles of RICE Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation, for the first 3 days; and after that, put warm compresses or apply thermal creams on the injured area.
  • The recovery period is not a period of idleness, but a dynamic one. At that time we can work with the surrounding areas, so that blood supply flows through the injured area. It is a time to “work” with the body parts that we have been neglecting. We can practice using the knowledge of myofascial chains. Also, coming out of the period that the injury is at its peak, the exercise of asanas with props can significantly contribute to a faster and better recovery.

Yoga can change your life instantly! After a few lessons all of my students come to me and cheerfully talk about major changes in their health and life. Nurturing of awareness is changing their diet habits. The body naturally detoxifies through the asanas. Their breathing becomes deeper and fuller. Gradually, by changing their physicality, they also change their attitude towards life.

Yetta: Any advice for health professionals, body-workers interested in learning more about the intersection of yoga and health & wellness?

Spyros Kapnias: Yoga has all the ways and knowledge to be a complete or complementary treatment modality. It is important for alternative therapists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Body-Workers and conventional doctors, to work in conjunction with Yoga Teachers, for the reason that through such cooperation, we can have great results. Yoga can teach practitioners a proper body posture, it can give them spiritual and mental strength, and also a philosophy of life able to support them during the most difficult moments.

Yoga is not Fitness, but it can be as complement for each athlete. With massage and manual therapy, we can restore a balance in the body. But the imbalances are returning to the body, if you do not practice Yoga Therapy, usually because the imbalances are based on either a wrong posture in everyday life or in a wrong mental or emotional state. A year ago I attended a Myofascial Conference in Germany and it was apparent to me that there was a lack of method in eliminating the causes instead of the results.

The patient seeks both relief, and a permanent relief. Both are equally important. The alternative and the conventional medicine are necessary to relieve and terminate the pain. Yoga comes afterwards, shouldering the track of a deeper understanding and treatment (if possible, with some support as for psychological problems and even the help of psychotherapy) of root of the problem.

Yetta: What advice do you have in order to motivate people who have never tried yoga?

Spyros Kapnias: If you exercise in fitness, through Yoga you can have the opportunity to experience another perception of the movement. Of course every human character fits into different types of Yoga. As a man I have made many western dynamic exercise systems, in Yoga I found the biggest challenge.

If you do not like gyms, in Yoga you will find a way to work out in a more mental way, within your own limits.

For those who want spirituality, yoga can lead you to the biggest inner adventure!

Yetta: Please share some information about your brand, books or about your website.

Spyros Kapnias: The Shiva Yoga Academy is a Yoga teacher training school approved by the Yoga Alliance that began in 2015. When I was in Rishikesh through a transcendent experience, I received the blessing and took the decision to create a school, containing the most important systems. In Shiva Yoga Academy, we teach Vinyasa Krama, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Agnisattva Vinyasa and Traditional Hatha Yoga. Starting next year, we will begin a partnership with Patanjali Yoga Foundation in Rishikesh India and teach there along with Babaji Dr Jitendra Das, 200 hr and 300 hr teacher trainings.

Patanjali Yoga is the ancient style of Hatha Yoga and can lead the seeker to deep levels of awareness and spiritual awakening through the awakening of the Kundalini. The mission of our site Shiva Academy is to give information about our trainings and with new articles every week that contribute in the deeper understanding of Yoga tradition.

Yetta: Say few words for our readers.

Spyros Kapnias: At the beginning of Buddhist Meditation, we repeat the four realizations:

  • Life is temporary. We might leave from this level of existence at any moment, so excessive ambition, vanity, ego, have no value.
  • Life is precious. So every minute is precious too, every moment is an opportunity for awareness.
  • Every time we collect the fruits of our previous actions. Everything that happens to us is an opportunity to understand and feel the fullness of our being.
  • At the present we create the fruits of our future. What tomorrow will manifest in our lives is built today. Let us not live at random, but with Awareness and without causing pain to others.

For the end, I will use the “closure” that we do in each of our practice in Shiva Yoga Academy: “We wish all beings in all universes to be happy and find the way that leads to happiness. We offer the benefits of our practice to them. Namaste

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