Petri “Rähjä” Räisänen
Petri Räisänen (born August 13, 1967) is internationally known and respected Ashtanga Yoga teacher. Petri started practicing Ashtanga yoga in 1989 and teaching in 1991. He is co-owner and director of Ashtanga Yoga Helsinki, Finland, which he found with his friend and colleague, Juva Javanainen, in 1997. Since 2000 Petri has been teaching Ashtanga yoga internationally around the world. He got his teaching authorization from K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois in 2001. For the last 10 years he has been teaching together with his wife Wambui Njuguna-Räisänen.
In his yogic path Petri has studied with many respected Astanga Yoga teachers such as Derek Ireland (his first “guru”), Radha Warrel, Gwendoline Hunt, Lino Miele and Eddie Stern, in addition to R. Sharath Jois and K. Pattabhi Jois.
Petri focuses on integrating healing and therapy with yoga, meeting student’s individual needs and guiding their progress. Petri’s yoga pose adjustments are gentle, effective, therapeutic and, according to some, almost magical, and originate (besides his own practice and teaching) from his past work as a traditional Finnish folk healer and naturopath. His friendly, relaxed behaviour and intuitive perception give an open, energetic and meditative atmosphere to his classes.
To reach the higher states of yoga, the individual, peaceful, disciplined and devotional yoga practice will be needed. The quietness, safe and tolerant environment together with a gentle and therapeutic yoga asana adjustments are giving the students space and opportunity for physical and mental healing and to find a new positive patterns in life.
In 2005, Petri wrote “Ashtanga Yoga – The Yoga Tradition of K. Pattabhi Jois” in collaboration with K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois. The book introduces the primary series (1st series) Astanga Yoga “vinyasa” method and philosophy, as well as its potential as a physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual practice. His intermediate series (2nd series) book “Nadi Sodhana” was released in 2008 and is written from the interviews with K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois in 2006-2007 in Mysore, India. Both books are written as part of Petri’s ongoing pilgrimage into Astanga yoga’s inner word, with a great sense of respect towards the Yoga Tradition.
Petri went to a Finnish-Russian school (1972-1986) which was in his neighbourhood, Kannelmaki, Helsinki. He graduated from high school in 1986. In 1988, Petri studied raw/live food and worked in a raw food restaurant. On the same year he attended Reiki healing workshops and passed the first two levels. From 1989-1991, Petri studied to become a Naturopath and Alternative Beautician while working at ITU OY, the company which imported a biodynamic products to Finland. He finished his studies in 1991 and opened his own Health Center “Afrodite” in Kaivopuisto, Helsinki. Petri has studied various healing methods such as Jäsenkorjaus (Finnish Bone Setting), Hawaiian Kahuna techniques of Shamanic healing, and Swedish Massage. He has studied Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit with different teachers like Dr. M.A. Jayashree, Prof. M.A. Narasimhan (Mysore), Vyaas Houston (NYC) and Shankaranarayana Jois (Mysore).
Folk Healing Petri studied the Finnish Folk Healing tradition called “Jäsenkorjaus” or Bone setting with the biggest Finnish masters of that time, Pentti Penttilä, Olavi Mäkelä and Raimo Holtti. Traditionally, Jäsenkorjaus includes physical, energy and herbal healing as well as intense Shamanic techniques such as “mind twisting”, “energy massage”, “energy bone setting”, “psychic seeing”, moving the body or items with energy, among many others.
From 1989-1991, Petri joined a Folk Healing program held by Raimo Holtti in Kauhajoki, Finland, where he learned many of the techniques mentioned above. Petri continued to study with Raimo until 1997.
It was Raimo Holtti who introduced Petri to Prana, the universal energy which we cannot see with the eyes but what we can move and sense with our mind and heart (or nadis – energy channels). Prana became something which was a natural part of Petri’s Yoga practice, teaching and healing work. Raimo’s teaching pedagogy for Jäsenkorjaus wasn’t systematic, and it looked like her was happy when the student dropped off from the course. As a city boy from Helsinki, the people in the country-side were not open to sharing their knowledge with him. Despite the slow start, Petri was able to gain a deep understanding of the teachings, starting from the purely physical to a more profound and hidden level, typically passed down to family members only. Petri ran his own practice in Kaivopuisto, Helsinki from 1991-1997, while teaching Astanga Yoga. In 1997, the Astanga boom started in Helsinki and Petri had to make a decision. Yoga or Folk healing? He chose Yoga but continues using his Folk Healing techniques in his asana adjustments and teaching.
Sports Petri started playing ice hockey when he was six at Karhu Kissat in Kannelmaki, Helsinki. At 12, he moved to Jokerit, which had one of the best teams in the country. When he was 16, he moved to Kiekko-Espoo in Espoo and played in the A-juniors level. The hard practice, matches and travelling got to be too intense and Petri stopped playing seriously at 17. Petri also played other sports like soccer, tennis, motocross and enduro. Nowadays, Petri enjoys skateboarding, playing soccer and other sports with his sons, Julian, Sesam and Sumu.
Music Petri bought his first LP, The Hurriganes’ Roadrunner in 1974. There was no music player in Petri’s home, but Petri used to sit in his father’s car and listen to rock’n roll. He wore a Hurriganes t-shirt in his first grade picture which was considered cool at that time. The end of the 70s was a time of raw music. Petri heard from the radio (sävellahja or rockradio) Finnish Punk music…which hit straight to his heart. A short time after the early Punk period, Rockabilly and Rock’n Roll arrived in Finland, and Petri added such artists like Stray Cats, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly to his tape player. Then, in 1982, Punk had its second wave- HC (hardcore punk). Rockabilly and its often racist ideology had to get out of his life. Petri had a mohawk hair style and in 1984-86 and was hanging out in Helsinki punk scenes. He found his first band A-Olut with Niittari (Mika Niinikoski) & Ossi (Ossi Laine). That was 1984-85 and they made one single vinyl. In 1986-87 Petri played drums in Krooninen Erektio (Chronic Erection) with Harri Ahponen and Late Sario. Once Astanga Yoga came into Petri’s life, the next 15 years were devoted almost completely to the practice and study of yoga; his former interests were put on hold for the time being.
In addition to Hawaiian Shamanic techniques Juha Javanainen and Petri got into throat singing and Overtone singing. Petri continued to study the various throat singing techniques with Mongolian and Tuvan masters for many years. In 2001, Petri found Esa & Aija who had a band called HoneyB & the T- bones. They started the process to join the Indian mantras and slokas and Tuvan throat singing together. The new band was called Cosmic Ritual and they travelled to record an album to Auroville, Pondicherry, India in 2003. The album never got completed, but the process is still alive. In 2006 Petri got together with his old friends Timo Kiiskinen and Mika Niinikoski. Timo was Petri’s friend for Honkasyrjä time from 1987-90. Honkasyrjä was a big old commune villa by the sea in Helsinki where the guys lived. Mika Niinikoski was Petri’s friend from the Finnish-Russian school. The guys found each other in 1980 at a house party as they were both into Punk music. So, in 2006, two different bands saw their daylight: Folk music band Korpivaara (with Timo Kiiskinen and Kari “Reiska” Reiman) and revived Punk band A-olut with new members (Niittari, Ana, Aristoteles, Pena and Ile) . Niittari changed the microphone to bass and Petri moved from the drums to the microphone. In 2008, Petri and Timo founded their other band together, called Saarnaaja (Preacher) which became Örgsm in 2020 (with Timo Kiiskinen, Hande Virkki and Sidi Vainio). Between 1996 – 2009 Petri has bought a big number of Indian instruments. Some very rare. The music and playing in bans are still part of Petri’s mindset.
Writings Apart from two published Astanga Yoga books, Petri has been writing several poems and lyrics. He is planning to publish a poetry book with drawings and paintings. Some of his lyrics are already in use by several music groups. Petri has been writing a biography of a Finnish mystic Ior Bock since 2009 and the project is still under process. Petri’s story about the A-olut and his connection to the Finnish punk scene has been published in the book “Punk on kuollut, eläköön Hardcore” as well as in the Läjä Äijälä’s (Terveet Kädet singer) biography “Kulttibändien kuningas”.
Private Petri Räisänen and his wife Wambui Njuguna-Räisänen got married in September 24, 2013. Petri has three sons. The first one Julian Räisänen (born in July 17, 1998) with Kati Rosendahl, then Sesam Räisänen (born in March 11, 2014) and Sumu Räisänen (born in April 28, 2017) with Wambui Njuguna-Räisänen. Sesam and Sumu are living with Petri and Wambui in Helsinki, Finland. Traveling takes a big part of the family’s life. Petri and Wambui are teaching Astanga Yoga nationally and internationally.
Petri’s brief philosophy Petri has always had a critical but positive mind and it’s hard to put him in any boxes or categories. Yoga teacher, punk rocker, folk healer, spiritual anarchist, mystic, free thinker, traveler, dad, co-owner of the several businesses etc. He believes in freedom in any positive life developing field. Freedom with a bit of sense control, not as uncontrolled chaos. Freedom in education, religion, race, sex, spiritual development, thought and our individual acts. He calls himself as a spiritual atheist as he got a sip of a universal prana (energy) nectar.
From the beginning of Petri’s yoga path he has been interested about the body and mind therapies and mysticism. It was first about mysticism why Petri attended his first yoga class and after he reached the understanding the the body, mind and sprit are all deeply interconnected.
The universe is filled with energy layers. Some more subtle, some more material. According to the sensitivity of the seer, one is able to sense these layers of energy. With certain practices (like Yoga or many other forms of spiritual exercises), we are able to clean our body, mind and heart, and open the channels to understand the spirit of the Nature and the Universe. Energy is everywhere, Universe is here.
The names are confusing people and make competition between the religions or belief systems. Most of the religions are carrying a dark history (which hasn’t disappear anywhere) and has a lots or racist ideology in their teachings. Petri believes in Mythologies more than in religion, even if there is a fine line between them. Mythology is more free and playful and the teachings are hidden into story telling and characters. He also believes that we need a teacher, to make progress in our life. It is too hard to try to find everything out by ourselves.“As we spend more time with external objects, the less we know about ourselves. Your internal self dwells inside of you, not outside. The more we blame other people for our mistakes, the further we will be from solving our issues. The more you think that everything is separate, the less you understand that everything is one”.“Don’t lose your pure senses and emotions with being flaky or performing through your life. The pure senses are the pathways for material and spiritual freedom, love, beauty, light, joy..Love is the question and the answer!