We hung with founder and yogi, Engel Pherecydes, who shared with us his vision and intention behind creating Yoga Teacher Training courses on the science and practice of Pranayama.
RYB: Tell us a bit about yourself...where are you from and where do you currently call home?
EP: I'm from Vancouver, BC, Canada. A beautiful city that I feel so grateful to have been brought up in. In this city, in the inner public housing system, in the mountain forests, in the company of ethnic diversity, I have learned so much about myself and the world at large. And I am forever grateful. These days, as a father of one and a husband to a beautiful, loving wife, who inspires me each and every day to pursue my dream, sharing in a way that only I can, and to take that dream to uncharted heights; together as a young family, we call our current home Bali, Indonesia.
RYB: How did you first come to the mat?
EP: I found the truth of yoga at a young age, but not the yoga that we typically find in the studio. Philosophy has always been my initial pursuit in life. And this pursuit has led me upon the path of slowly unraveling the questions that rang most true: who am I, where do I come from, what is my a path, and how can I come to help the world see more clearly. From that inquisitive mind, martial arts was a place most available to my family and I. Through that channel, I discovered my honour and attention. From there, the pursuit of my breath became the focal point, in which to this day, I have no idea how we became so familiar and aquatinted. I would love to say that it was my family or friends who led me to the mat, but I would be lying. What led me to the place where I would pursue my yoga practice, was my own self, which has been a journey through many inner doors of the mind, many personalities, many beliefs, all shed through the light of becoming more than I was told I could be.
RYB: How would you describe your teaching?
EP: I would describe what I share as the pursuit of controlling the mind and ultimately determining the course of our life circumstances through the precise regulation of the breath. But to be more frank and less poetic, what I share is the science of pranayama, which has been described as the hidden jewel of yoga, the very root of yoga. It is said that to experience yoga, one must be sentient. And to be sentient, one must be a living, breathing being. Thus, at the core of yoga; the evenness of mind, is intelligent pursuit of the breath. From asana, chanting, mudra, intellectualism, eating, drinking, speaking, moving... this is all the byproduct of the breath. If I was to share these words though speech, the byproduct of that speech would be me breathing at you while incorporating a slight contraction within the throat, creating a variety of audible tones.
RYB: How has your personal practice/teachings evolved over the years?
EP: Very greatly. Every day am I observing myself, looking into the mirror of my own being. The teachings have never changed, but they have grown. I believe that when the breath is incorporated into our pursuit of life, whether it be words, ideas, or knowledge; it becomes a living matter. A living, existing, pulsating experience. Thanks to a daily personal sadhana and students who so gloriously choose to show up to themselves, I arise into new heights each day.
RYB: Who are some of your biggest influences in your practice?
EP: I really wish I could list off a series of names who have brought me here, but the truth is, there are not. Of course life inspires me. Of course my friends inspire me. From my wife and child, to my dear family, but the truth is...pranayama wades in the darkness of the hidden. It is an unspoken knowledge that is shrouded in mystery. And of the teachings that are spoken of, they really are a byproduct of the current mind, which is topical. So for me, I draw my inspiration from my own practice. I draw my inspiration through the observation of nature, from human behaviour, and terrestrial beauty, to the opulence of the cosmic occurrence. Another great path of inspiration for me is the pursuit of reading the ancient texts of the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the ecstatic poetry of past times which is forever relevant to the current.
RYB: What led you to create Pranayama Sadhana?
EP: Pranayama Sadhana is the byproduct of not following the suit of modern yoga and branding a method. I've always held close to me the trait of honour. Not to honour the seers of ancient times, but to preserve this ancient science. As you can see, pranayama is a practice that has yet to develop traction, not only in the west, but all four directions. Pranayama is demanding utter patience, but patience is a trait that does not necessarily coincide with a capitalist mentality. As a world, we want what we want, now. So as a school, we are looking to provide students with an educational platform that inspires a new mind. A mind that finds freedom in patience, silence, stillness, and a perpetually developing state of awareness.
RYB: What are key components to the course(s)?
EP: To provide students with an ability to observe the mind, no matter what age or condition. To see the mind's inner dwelling. To first handedly experience lasting transcendence through the inner application of respiration. To provide students with a way of finding clarity, where the mind is broadened and perpetually developing. To live the phenomena of yoga. To learn how to voluntarily influence the involuntary field of the body.
RYB: What is the importance of continued education for teachers?
EP: Very important. We are all teachers, but what makes an individual stand out is that they honour themselves and their students by offering from their current seat of knowledge and experience. To not let the capitalist mind, the adolescent mind, get the best of them.
RYB: How is Pranayama Sadhana unique to other teacher trainings?
EP: Maybe that there are no current schools that are solely devoted to the pursuit of pranic knowledge. It takes many years of study and personal practice to become an honest teacher. Not the teacher training. We don't believe in the certification of a teacher. We follow the classical path of ancient yoga, that asks the adept, the student, to be honest with themselves and to very much do the inner work, where the offering is shared from their current seat of knowledge and direct personal experience.
RYB: You have recently relocated to Bali...tell us what you love about it!
EP: Bali is a wonderful place in this world for the yogi. Well, this world is a wonderful place for the yogi, but Bali provides many added benefits that can be difficult to find elsewhere. From fresh affordable local fruit and vegetables, to sustainable, affordable living, to a community of worldly people that are positively engaged in creating global change.
RYB: What has moving to another continent taught you?
EP: To see and witness first handily what it is like to live with a native, indigenous culture and to directly learn from their adaptability and hospitality. Something we miss out on in the west.
RYB: What are your dreams for Pranayama Sadhana in the coming years?
EP: To reach the world on a global scale, where transcendence is found from within, not externally. A huge dream... to inspire all 8 billion people of this world to utilize their respiration daily, in order to influence an exponentially higher quality of life, health, and inner prosperity.