Our sincere gratitude! at this month edition of "Let's Talk Yoga", we have the opportunity to speak to world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, Danny Paradise.
Danny told us a little bit about his love for Ashtanga Yoga and share his thought about yoga in Indonesia. Let's find out more..
Q. Why did you choose Ashtanga Style of Yoga?
DP: This form of Yoga chose me! I was living in the Hawaiian Islands when David William and Nancy Gilgoff arrived in May, 1976 and began teaching. They gave an amazing demonstration of the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of the practices and everyone who watched showed up the next day to try the class.
They had a group of 35 people and we did Yoga in the morning in a beautiful park by the ocean. They were very gentle, bright, humorous and compassionate. They taught everyone very slowly and carefully with no aggression. The first day we all did about 10 minutes and then each day if we had the strength and inclination they would add on a few minutes of the practice. Because of their careful teaching it was easy to memorize the routine gradually.
After about a month of doing the classes 6 days a week everyone had gone through the primary series. After 3 months it was totally imprinted and we were hooked. They left a few months later to visit and study in India. Everyone continued the practice. When they returned 6 months later most people were ready to learn the 2nd series. This pattern of studying for 5 or 6 months and continuing on our own when they left really instilled the independence and personal responsibility of the practices…Everyone became totally self-disciplined.
The advanced positions are quite difficult but the order is a science that unlocks, heals and strengthens the body, mind and spirit. The results are so profound that it becomes clear that by doing the practices regularly things that at first seemed impossible become accessible.
I also learned that the practice has to be adapted every day according to how I feel. Some days I have much more energy and other days I have to modify my approach. So Ashtanga Yoga is really just Hatha Yoga in a concentrated form. It brings about profound healing and the key is to do the practice according to what is appropriate for the day. That may mean some days I only feel like doing a short practice because of healing processes, energetic levels or concentration.
So anyone from any age group can learn these practices if they are taught slowly and carefully according to a person’s own ability. They can be modified to fit any individual’s situation…
I never intended to teach…David asked me to assist him in 1979 in a new class he was starting. A friend who had studied in that class in Hawaii invited me to Goa, India in 1982 to help him teach an international group of young people from all over the world. That is how I began my Yoga journey….”
Q.Obviously the relation between religion an yoga is in asian cultures stronger than in western cultures. Is it therefore proper to divide the yoga streams in western and asian yoga? Are these differences really so huge?
DP: “True spirituality is of interest to everyone. Yoga and Shamanism are the oldest healing arts and the oldest spiritual traditions. The teachings of Yoga were almost lost in Asia. It was the interest of westerners that created a resurgence of interest in India of this amazing art. Many people in the west have absorbed the teachings of Yoga and are introducing the spiritual essence of recognizing that the human body and mind are gifts from the Great Spirit….on loan to us! "So taking care of your mind and body in the deepest ways prescribed by the Spirit is the same whether you are from the East or the West. In this way true evolution occurs. We’re in the process of evolution anyway, but when you take active responsibility the process speeds up. To handle the changes that are happening around us and that are about to happen requires all our vitaility, health and clarity. Evolution is the process of all human beings…To discover the truth…that we are unlimited, eternal and free, and that happiness, joy, constant creation are our birthrights…is the desire of all humans…East or West!”
3.Q. You are also known as celebrity’s yoga teacher and Madonna was one of them, can you share with us about your experience teaching a big star like her?
DP: She was completely disciplined already when she began Yoga. To work out deeply for a couple of hours was not a new thing for her. Because of her background in dance she learned the practices very quickly and became advanced at them in short while.
Of course she is also is the essence of individual expression, independence, freedom and personal responsibility. She had no interest in having a guru! She understood the messages of Yoga right away. Because of her previous disciplines she recognized good teachers right away as well. Often she told me she would go to a class and discover that she had much more experience than the teacher…
By the way…I ‘m not saying that you didn’t understand the essence of the practices….Just that she was cuter! As a world figure with great humor, self-deprecation and modesty I loved hearing her point of view about the nature of life and her experiences.”
4.Q.What are you going to do when you are retired from teaching yoga?
DP: After I stop teaching Yoga, I’ll really start to travel! I’ll also spend more time in the garden! Maybe when I’m 80 I’ll become a rock star.”
5. Q. You have been to Indonesia for quiet many times, what do you think about yoga in Indonesia?
DP: I have been coming to Indonesia since 1991. I find it an amazingly diverse country with incredible natural beauty. The people I have encountered over the years in Indonesia are gentle, kind, hospitable and full of joy. This goes for the rapidly growing Yoga community as well. Though the exploration of the physical practices of Yoga is relatively new in Indonesia I know the culture has always been deeply aware of meditation, dharma and contemplation on the essence of the Spirit. The physical practices were a natural next step. I have encountered amazing Indonesian practitioners who are dedicated to the practices as well as many excellent Indonesian teachers who are striving to pass on the techniques gently and compassionately. They know these practices empower people to help them fulfill their dreams as well as teach us how to age with vitality and grace. They are also aware of the healing capacities of the practices as well as the necessity to help people eliminate stress and anxiety caused by the swift modernization that has occurred in Indonesia. In your unique country of diverse cultures there is a beautiful, expanding, extended family of Yogis and Yoginis that are connected to the worldwide family of Yoga practitioners. It's been a great honor and pleasure for me to encounter this growing family of friends in Java and Bali.
Thank you so much Danny, it's definitely an honor to have you on Yoga in Indonesia.com :)