This interview was made for the Zinal Congress of the EUY in 2024

Interview with André Riehl

by Isabelle Daulte

You have already attended the Zinal Congress several times. What are your two best memories or your best memory?

I remember the very first or second congress! It was a bit strange, because it was very far away from my perception of yoga at the time, when I had just emerged from an ascetic way of life in India. The Congress was very posh, and I observed there very conventional, bourgeois behaviour. It was very luxurious, there were women in evening dresses or sexy swimming costumes and the Indian yogis invited by Gérard Blitz couldn’t believe their eyes! At that time it was very very far from my perception of yoga and also much too expensive for my budget.  I only stayed for two days then as I couldn’t afford more.  

My second memory of Zinal comes from about 15 years ago, when I was an honorary member of the FIDHY who had invited me to teach shivaite nidrâ yoga which nobody knew anything about. I was very surprised to realise that it was indeed the case that no one was familiar with nidrā and the sessions were attended by more and more people, and we had to change rooms several times, because they were always too small. That was the beginning of a major expansion of this teaching, because I got several invitations from different federations.

You are going to teach in Zinal this summer: what do this big congress and the fact of being invited to teach there again mean for you?

Zinal is a congress that I really like a lot. The place is magnificent and I’ve formed friendships with several people who return there regularly. A place where friends can meet.  The other aspect that I find touching is that some of the people who come there are looking for the depth and exploration of the sacredness of life, with its simplicity and without the sometimes fantastical imagination that is still often encountered in the international yoga community.  That’s a great quality that many participants have and that I hold very close to my heart.

Being invited to teach in Zinal is the continuation of the instructions I received twenty or so years ago from my spiritual master Chandra Swami Udasin. He said to me: ‘Now it’s time to start transmitting.’ That involved various obligations which it would take too long to explain here, one of them being to always say ‘yes’ to invitations to teach. Since then, the invitations have never stopped coming, and I’ve taught on all five continents.  Zinal has become one of the more or less regular meeting points for which I am very grateful, both to the EUY and to Chandra Swami. He died recently and today, more than ever, I feel the constant necessity to respect his instructions as well as the commitment to keep alive the transmission of nidrā yoga.

Why come to Zinal and attend the congress (as a participant)?

I come to Zinal above all as the delegate of the Federation of Traditional Yogas to help maintain the traditional knowledge which the EUY is trying to adhere to.

As a participant, it affords an opportunity, amongst many others, to sometimes meet people who have devoted their entire lives to a spiritual quest. Not many of us live like that and after over fifty years of living in that way, for me it is always a real joy to meet dharma brothers and sisters.  Few people realise what this way of life, which is not really considered in the West,  means, but for those who follow it, it has greatness and sometimes splendour but also immense solitude.   Meeting other beings inhabited by such a strong aspiration for the sacred outside any religion is an exceptional support and joy.

What will you emphasise in your sessions in Zinal? What can we expect?

The teachings in the two daily sessions, morning and evening, come from the tradition of shivaite  nidrā yoga which is mainly an exploration of the contents of consciousness, the aim being immersion in the state of unity, one translation of the word ‘yoga’. Prana Kriya Sadhana in the morning is an exercise for developing the life force, ‘Prana’ through eight ways of breathing that include mantras, bhavas, visualisations, observation of internal states full of the spiritual energy to which all authentic texts and teachings have constantly referred for centuries. 

Prana Vidya In the evening is one of the exercises that until very recently was kept very secret in ascetic lineages. It consists of a projection of  Prana Maya Kosha, the energetic structure,  outside the Ana Maya Kosha, the material physical structure. The liberation of Prana outside the physical body is both a mystical experience of an objectless state of freedom and preparation for death. When death occurs, what we call ‘energy’ leaves the physical body in order to realise another sort of destiny which is different from the one that is linked to the functioning of the body.  It’s an exercise in paying attention and sustaining concentration which is aimed at  yogis and yoginis who already have experience of sadhana, the practice of yoga.