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vivi letsou biography

Vivi Letsou, Abhaya Yoga creator

Director: BASI Pilates Academy—Greece, NYSY Studios
Co-Founder: Avocado Vegetarian Café, Zen Rocks Retreat Center
  • Bachelor’s of Science–Aeronautics, SJSU

  • Master of Arts–Theater Arts & Film, SJSU

  • Asian Healing Arts Diploma, Berkeley Acupuncture Institute

  • Yoga Alliance 500 hours

  • BASI Pilates Certified Teacher

Abhaya Yoga Path

Vivi is a strong and charismatic Yoga teacher and educator, and a passionate creator of visionary projects.  In Greece she is known as “the teacher of teachers” for many wonderful yogins and yoga teachers. Having taught in the traditions of Ashtanga, Anusara, and Vinyasa Yoga, Vivi finally created Abhaya Yoga—a style that combines dynamic asana with strong alignment, vinyasa flow, and an empowering transformational philosophy rooted in Tantra and Buddhism.  Abhaya Yoga is strongly focused on therapeutics, providing effective tools for healing trauma and finding our wholeness as complete and confident human beings. 

Vivi’s greatest joy is to share this empowering path with others, acting as a mirror for people to discover and embody their power, beauty, and hidden potential.  Through Yoga and the intimate environment of a training, Vivi loves to witness this catalytic prosses at work, where the individual and the team are mutually uplifted.

Abhaya Yoga motto: “Empowerment through Yoga. Experience it. Teach it.

Life Background

Vivi’s creativity is a veritable “a tour de force.” Ever since she was a child, she was moved by an insatiable curiosity and a passionate drive to learn, travel, experience, create, and most importantly SHARE the many joys of life with people around her. Born and raised in 3 different cities in Northern Greece, she left her loving family at the age of 17 driven by the urge to study in California and discover her own life path. 

In those 22 years in California, Vivi worked all kinds of odd jobs, studied just about everything from University Engineering, Business, Film and Theater Arts, to Asian healing arts, Afro-Caribbean dance, massage, yoga, meditation, and pursued her creative dreams becoming a yoga-ethnic dance studio owner, a theater actor, director, and filmmaker.  With a day job as a producer for corporate Advertising Videos, Vivi also wrote and directed her own indie film “Skeleton Woman,” and produced John Smihula’ s award winning political documentary, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” featuring Noam Chomsky and acquired by more than 300 Universities in the USA and other countries.

A visionary and activist for positive change, Vivi returned to her homeland, Greece, with her beloved husband, Eraj, in 2004 with a strong impetus to effect positive change through building enlightening communities.  In her life and work she has been trying to integrate Yoga, Zen, and Tantric Philosophy, the spiritual paths she has sought to combine for over 20 years, while a practitioner in California.   

Through her journey of teaching and practicing Yoga, Pilates, and meditation, Vivi has been able to find a way of practice that makes us strong in all levels and helps us to triumph even in challenging circumstances.  Amidst the Greek economic crises, Vivi in loving partnership with Eraj, have managed to create successfully: NYSY Academy for Yoga and Pilates, and Avocado Vegetarian Café—two bright centers in the heart of Athens.  Recently they completed another life-long dream, building Zen Rocks, a stunningly beautiful retreat center in Mani/Southern Greece, dedicated to maximizing our human potential through the healing practices of Zen, Yoga, Tantric meditation, Pilates, Fitness, Art, nutrition, permaculture, and restorative living. 

The Abhaya Yoga Tree of Yoga Studies was inspired by the sturdy olive trees surrounding Zen Rocks.  Studying these trees, she invites practitioners to discover their seed desire or dream–their iccha, to root deeply in their power through yoga practice, and establish a strong trunk for teaching before they branch out to expand and reach their full potential as teachers, communicators, and strong human beings.

Teaching Pilates was a later discovery for Vivi, but she fell in love with the practice, especially through the approach of BASI Pilates. Now she incorporates Pilates core exercises to all her classes and teacher training programs.  Enjoying the close friendship and mentorship of Rael Isacowitz, Vivi is now spearheading the expansion of BASI Pilates Education in Greece. 

What sustains all these projects and work, is Vivi’s deep commitment to meditation practice, with the dedication to studying the way of interbeing and living in a way that supports all beings.

Teamwork: Our Working Philosophy

Vivi’s passion for a brave and upright way of being in the world is contagious. Hundreds of bright yogis and yoga teachers have emerged from her workshops and teacher training programs, now spreading their unique light and making our whole planet brighter!  The same with dozens of team members who have worked for NYSY, Avocado, and Zen Rocks: a common passion for being upright and giving our best is shared by all.

Vivi’s gift and passion is to bring excellent talented teachers, artists, and participants together to create opportunities for good working projects, deeper practice, and growth. In California she founded the first Ethnic Dance School with dances from around the world, the San Jose Kinisi Worldance Center, in 1987, and produced Ethnic Dance Festivals and Carnival events for the city of San Jose, raising awareness and appreciation for ethnic arts/dance to the dry Silicon Valley area.  In San Francisco she worked as the director of the Latin Mission Theater, La Mission, and produced/directed several plays, films, documentaries, like the award winning political documentary, “Hidden in Plain Sight” featuring Noam Chomsky, and the feature film “Skeleton Woman” among others.  “The spirit of teamwork is what leaves positive traces behind, once a project vanishes in past tense,” says Vivi about all this experience. 

Through the years with the amazing team of NYSY they have organized successful Yoga and Pilates Conferences, Festivals, in Athens, and Yoga-Pilates-Meditation retreats all over the Greek islands and now at Zen Rocks in Mani. 

Our motto on Teamwork:  «Oμάδα όχι Μονάδα»

Meaning that we work as a team/Omada, not as a singular unit/Monada.              Our goal is to be a great support for each other in our common dream to bring more beauty and happiness unto our world. 

Yoga Roots

Discovering yoga in the 80s, Vivi feels immense gratitude for her first teacher Kali Ray (https://triyoga.com/yogini-kaliji/ ) who illuminated the path of Tri-Yoga, a beautiful flowing vinyasa style of yoga. Ashtanga was the next discovery with senior teacher, Tim Miller (https://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/tim-miller ), being a true inspiration in dynamic practice. Having the good fortune to study with many inspirational yoga teachers, she is blessed to have heard the simply powerful words of her beloved teacher and friend, Rusty Wells (https://rustywells.com ): “Be Kind, Be Love!” and to be taught the grace of Bhakti Vinyasa Flow through the many teacher training courses they have offered jointly in Greece.

Vivi was been greatly motivated by such vibrant teachers as Anusara’s Desiree Rumbaugh (https://desireerumbaugh.com ), who stands firmly for what she believes: “Love is Stronger than fear.”  Vivi’s deep knowledge of precise structural alignment and therapeutics is largely attributed to her practice in Anusara yoga (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anusara_School_of_Hatha_Yoga),  and her erstwhile teacher, John Friend, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Friend_(yogi) ). Vivi was the first certified Anusara Yoga teacher in Greece, pioneering a new way of therapeutic practice in her native land.  She is eternally grateful to her yoga sister and mentor, Sue Elkind, of Dig Yoga (https://www.digyoga.com/about-dig-yoga ), for sharing her wisdom for “walking the walk, and talking the talk” in today’s yoga business and ethics. With Sue she studied also pre-natal yoga, and yoga therapeutics with Sue and her husband, Naime Jezzeny  of Dig(https://www.digyoga.com/about-dig-yoga ). 

Another exceptional teacher and friend on the path has been the wise Ayurvedic therapist and educator, Arun Deva of Rasayana (https://yogarasayana.com ).  Together they have led retreats to India and offered Ayurveda training courses at NYSY in Athens, and retreats in Mani at Zen Rocks.

Vivi is grateful for all these new and old friendships with great teachers and sincere practitioners. It is her joy to invite great minds and spirits to NYSY and Zen Rocks and to share their light, compassion, wisdom and love with the Greek and international community of seekers and practitioners. 

Through the path of Abhaya Yoga Vivi loves to uplift and empower people so they can embody their full potential. 

Her two favorite mottos:

If you are ready for positive change, your life will change positively.”

“Empowerment through Yoga. Experience it. Teach it. 

Zen Meditation Roots

For over 35 years, Vivi has followed her zen teacher Tenshin Reb Anderson (https://www.rebanderson.org ), in meditation retreats at the San Francisco Zen Center (https://www.sfzc.org ), and marveled at the clarity and luminosity of his teachings.  Had she been a better zen student she would have been enlightened by now, but not wanting to miss the opportunity of studying with this rare master, she keeps staring at a blank white wall and trying to open her ears and heart to the Buddhist teachings on wisdom, compassion, and interbeing.  Reb, meanwhile, keeps giving away the secret to Enlightenment: “it is the way we help each other; the intricate way through which we are all inter-connected.” 

Vivi’s gratitude also goes to her long time Zen comrade Bernd Bender(https://www.akazienzendo.de/en/people.html ), of Akazienzendo(https://www.akazienzendo.de ), in Berlin, who has invested so much in sharing his compassionate Zen practice with fellow meditators in Greece.  

Immense love and gratitude goes to respected Zen Master, Koten Roshi from Saikenji Temple (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiken-ji ) in Japan, who generously shares his Zen wisdom with the Greek community through the Athens Zen Center.  (https://www.zencenterathens.com )

Tantric Philosophy & Meditation

After years and years of meditation Vivi discovered in the powerful pithy teachings of her teacher, Sally Kempton, (https://www.sallykempton.com ), an immediate experiential path, a path of direct connection with the highest power of awareness, Shakti.

In Tantric philosophy “everything is a play of consciousness,” and to recognize that this auspicious power of divine awareness imbues every instance and particle of life is simply liberating. To study it through the ancient scriptures of Tantra the way that Sally illuminates their meaning is a rare gift; and to fully embody their meaning through the Tantricmeditation techniques that Sally imparts with deep wisdom and eloquence is no less than miraculous. 

With great joy Vivi shares her understanding of this uplifting philosophy with deep gratitude and love for Sally and the Tantric Path. 

BASI Pilates Path

Vivi’s training in Pilates includes studies with the Physical Mind Institute, Ellie Herman Pilates, and BASI Pilates (https://www.basipilates.com ), a system she has grown to love and teach with great enthusiasm. She teaches classes and privates, and incorporates BASI Pilates exercises in every yoga class. It is a great affirmation to see students grow healthy, aligned, and supported by a strong core.  Vivi believes that the key to great Pilates is great training.  Forming a strong partnership with Rael Isacowitz and BASI Pilates back in 2006, and establishing the first BASI francise in Europe, Vivi and NYSY Academy have spearheaded BASI Pilates Teachers Courses with great diligence and the highest educational standards in Greece for over 16 years now.

Hundreds of excellent BASI Pilates instructors have graduated from these programs and have gone on to establish solid Pilates careers locally and internationally.

In 2022 Vivi and Eraj signed a Perpetual Agreement with Rael and acquired the title and rights for BASI Pilates Academy –Greece in perpetuity, and thus forever  …

BASI Pilates is an international community that really works and feels as a family.  With renewed enthusiasm the NYSY & Greek BASI team continues to organize excellent classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings in Athens, at Zen Rocks, throughout Greece and beyond.  Look us up: www.nysystudios.com and www.basipilatesgreece.com

Vivi also spearheaded the annual Athens Pilates Symposium, a fun, experiential, and highly educational international Pilates conference, one of the first and most successful in Europe.

Looking into the future, Vivi and her team are embarking on a new effort: Organizing the “New Era Pilates Summit” slated to open the curtains to a new Pilates vision for the new millennium. 

Focus on Healing through Breath & Movement

In the last few years, and especially since the Covid crisis Vivi’s main focus naturally turned to the healing aspects of all these practices, yoga, pilates, meditation, dance, free style movement, primarily through conscious breathing and awareness.

In 2021 at the height of the Covid pandemic, Vivi lost most of her bodily faculties, staying in bed almost paralyzed with rheumatoid arthritis for 6 weeks.  She would look at her condition with tenderness and curiosity, receiving it all as a gift.  Gradually over the next 18 months, Vivi recovered most of her mobility, emerging with a new found acceptance of our human limitations and the reality of our mortality.

“Old age, sickness, and death” lies ahead of us all, taught the Buddha, and the key to healing lies in the path of our spiritual practice.   

Through this experience, Vivi came to the realization that the state of disease is the result of deep seated trauma, and involves our pre-existing karmic complexities.  Vivi has come to realize through the depths of her being that healing is the process of extricating and releasing our deep karmic patterns, the trauma that is not just ours to bear, but it may involve familial and generational trauma, even our planetary environmental woundedness.  With great compassion and dedication, we are called to breathe consciously, move with compassion, and look inwardly deeply and with patience, until we can attain a degree of clarity that leads to healing, acceptance, and trauma release. Healing our personal trauma releases our family trauma, and involves taking care of all our connections, starting naturally with ourselves.

It sounds complex, but the process is not difficult; it only requires our attention. It is a call to awareness with an open sense of trust and compassion, with a true willingness to support each other and ourselves to healing and wholeness. 

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