The best yoga instructor in the world?

He’s 43 years old and has been named the best yoga instructor in the world.

I was lucky enough to do a yoga retreat on Sri Lanka last month with yoga master Sushant Pandey at Santani health retreat. Pandey is no ordinary yoga instructor. The Indian native has been voted the world’s best several times over.

And he is the real deal in the world of yoga. There are no marketing spins, just authentic softly spoken real-life advice and teaching.

Sushant Pandey, best yoga instructor in the world with Renae Leith-Manos at the award winning Santani Health Retreat Sri Lanka.

Pandey has a western psychology degree, and a masters in yoga psychology, plus he was in an ashram for 8 years, an experience he describes as “the best years of my life.”

Within his yogi journey, Pandey has worked globally with cancer patients, in prisons, in armies and with every day people.

He spoke to me at Santani Health Retreat, where I spent a week in twice daily practise with him, about his yogic journey.

Why yoga?

“In one word, discipline. The life I was leading before was that of a college student, the expected path,” Pandey explained.

“My elder brother was studying in an ashram & I was fascinated with the awareness & discipline they instilled in people.

“The ultimate purpose of all yoga is to find peace with oneself. When you control the breath, you’re affecting the functioning of your autonomic nervous system. Even if you watch your emotions such as when you feel angry or anxious, your breath gets disturbed.

“There’s a relationship directly with your mind, your states of mind & your patterns of breathing. You may not be able to control your state of mind but you can control your breathing.

“When you control your breathing, your level of anxiety drops. Most of the time today, we all have faulty breathing – we don’t breath properly – we breath from the chest because we are holding stress.

“It’s primal. Natural breathing is breathing into your belly and as adults in the western world, we’ve lost it due largely to the pressure to perform. You can see it in newborn children, as they breath from abdomen.

“All yoga practises that advocate breathing deeply into the belly and full yogic breathing can help calm us. Breathing is one physiological activity controlled by autonomic nervous system, which is unconscious,  the primitive instinctive part.”

Pandey said it was the time he spent in the army ( as a yoga teacher) where he saw first hand the effects of deep breathing and the right yoga practise and saw exactly how it can be applied within the modern world.

“During my studies, we had to go and serve (the community). I conducted my study on soldiers in the army. I stayed with one batch of recruits for 34 weeks in their camp.

“Recruits are young boys and they are going through a huge transition  as they come from rural backgrounds and go straight into the army. Many, many recruits can’t complete their study (as they are overwhelmed). Especially in rifle training because of lack of concentration.

“Most of the time today, we all have faulty breathing – we don’t breath properly – we breath from the chest because we are holding stress,” Pandey says.“The level of anger within the army is very high. Recruits are trained to control their emotions, and in many armies, there is no face to face conflict.

“Most of the time the type of conflict armies face is secret,  it’s terrorism and most of time the enemies are locals.

“They’re your own people & you’re fighting against them. The armies have to be very stable, as anxiety & stress levels are high. Sometimes people can start shooting simply out of anxiety.”

Pandey devised a simple experiment to see how yoga and meditation effected the army recruits.

“One group did yoga twice daily, and one group did not. Within the yoga, we did meditation, and breath work in the afternoon and morning yoga.

“To measure the results, we chose certain parameters, including core strength, concentration and flexibility.

“In every single officer who did yoga there was a significant difference. Meditation   and breath work helps a lot.”

Pandey believes more and more people will turn to yoga in the future, as a way of finding meaning within their lives but it is not the western form of yoga he is talking about, and it doesn’t involve a mirror.

“I feel ultimately people will start looking for something authentic with a soul that helps humanity,” he says.

“Yoga in front of a mirror is not it – it should have wider benefits for humanity & that is only possible when one starts pursuing the traditional, and the authentic in the world.

“People need peace of mind. Any material object can bring you to a state of comfort but it won’t last long.”

To stay at Santani Health Retreat who will organise any retreat globally, contact Health and Fitness Travel, 1300 551 353.

You can do yoga with Pandey in Rishikesh in India, click here:

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