We ran a weekend of workshops with Petri and Wambui Räisänen in Brighton. Here are personal accounts from Sarah and Kathryn about the weekend, and some links from a (heavily-pregnant!) Anna about her previous workshops with them. Did you attend in Brighton? Tell us what you thought about the workshop, we would love to hear your stories as well.
Sarah Miles: “I’m still going round with a smile on my face, having hosted and attended the workshop run by Petri and Wambui this weekend. They provided everything I could hope for from an Astanga weekend workshop and I think the whole experience was hard to match as far as I’m concerned.
The days began with practice: Either a choice of Mysore or Led. The space was comfortable, with a clean energy being provided by the lovely lot that attended.
Petri and Wambui worked wonderfully together; gliding around the room like swans…you were never aware of them disturbing your space or concentration. Suddenly they would be there, offering the most beautifully balanced adjustments with hands that gave a real sense of presence and connection. It was almost like receiving a therapeutic massage in a minimal timespan. Their hands going directly to the source of stress and releasing it, with the most magical touch.
In the afternoons Petri talked a lot of sense. He’s Old School and traditional. I loved his evident connection with Guruji — his teaching is pure and straight from the source. I particularly liked the way he sounded like Pattabhi when teaching the led class or leading the chant. When I closed my eyes it was almost like being back in the [Mysore] shala again.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the evident knowledge that, through all his twenty odd years of practice and years of studying with the Guru and interviewing him on a one-to-one basis, he’s still the most grounded man you’re ever going to meet. He’s humble with no ego. He’s honest down to earth and talks a lot of sense….and together with Wambui, they make a great team.
I’m so grateful to them both for taking the time to come to visit us here in Brighton. I really hope they will come again and if they do…don’t miss out!”
Kathryn Duckenfield: “It’s always difficult to express in words, how you feel after you’ve had a really great experience. It’s hard not to sound boastful that you’ve had a wonderful time and that someone else has missed out. As I type this I want you to know, that if you get the opportunity to meet and practice with Petri and Wambui Räisänen, you should! I have been lucky enough to spend time socially with them and also to be taught by them this weekend.
The timetable was simple. Early Mysore style practice or Led Class in the mornings, followed by workshop discussions in the afternoons. Petri has a ‘hands-on’ approach to his teaching and is more than willing to adjust and help in postures, should you wish. He says he developed adjusting techniques from his teachers Derek Ireland, Lino Miele, Eddie Stern and Sri K Pattabhi Jois. From which he has added his own unique style of moving the body with the lightest of touch, but maximum results. He even demonstrated to us how he literally adjusts students with the subtle movements of his mind. We all had a go and were very surprised at what we discovered!
He told stories of his time in the small ‘Shala’ with Guruji back in the 90’s and of his large task of writing his book “Ashtanga Yoga: The Yoga Tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: The Definitive Primary Series Practice Manual”, along with Guruji’s help. He met with Guruji everyday for months in order to cassette-record his words and the traditional vinyasa count that Pattabhi Jois used back then. (It has since changed, in part, by Sharath Jois). He spoke fondly of the past and also encouraged us as present day practitioners to go to Mysore if we could.
As a family, Petri, Wambui (and baby Sesam) travel the world sharing their experiences of Astanga yoga and the method they believe in. Petri said several times:
“Pattabhi Jois’ method was Asana and God (or a higher being). I had the feeling that God was much more important to him. The asana was just the tool to God.”
I had the feeling that Petri has had more than 20 years to discover what his practice means to him and how he maintains that practice. Overcoming injury and pain has been part of the process that leads him to a place where he is looking for the ‘state of meditation’ when he practises. He said, “I still want to progress within the poses I am doing but feel more comfortable, find more peace. I feel amazing when I can breathe more, relax more. The practice feels better than ever. That feels amazing.”
With a wry smile he added, “The human mind is quite weak. Astanga can be dangerous if you don’t stay humble.”
Great advice Petri. Thank you for your wisdom, your adjustments and the time you spent with us in Brighton. Until we meet again. Om Shanti…”
Keen to find out more or keen to travel to see them?
Anna and her partner Tom have been lucky enough to study with them in Thailand, India, Paris, London and Copenhagen, over several years of course! Here are a few handy links: