Vor ein paar Wochen hatte ich die Gelegenheit mit dem Menschen ein Interview zu führen, der maßgeblich dazu beitrug (Ashtanga) Yoga im Westen bekannt zu machen – Danny Paradise. Der Amerikaner ist weltweit berühmt geworden, da er zahlreiche Prominente wie Madonna, Sting oder John MCEnroe unterrichtete. Zudem blickt er auf eine persönliche Geschichte zurück, wie es nur die wenigsten Yogis aufweisen dürften.
Interview mit Danny Paradise
Mario: „For Yoga beginners some of your ashtanga figures could look a bit extreme. Why have you decided teaching this special type of yoga?“
Danny: „This form of Yoga chose me! I was living in the Hawaiian Islands when David Williams 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….“
Mario: „You consistently emphasize that it´s unimportant to follow a guru. What are the reasons, why yogis call for gurus anyway?“
Danny: „Having a „Guru“ may be from another age. Anyway one definition of „Guru“ is someone who lights your candle…but you hold it yourself!
This is the age of personal responsibility and personal authority leading to understanding of ‚Universal Authority‘. The teachings of Ashtanga Yoga are self-correcting and self-teaching once a person has taken a certain number of classes. Good teachers are looking to create total independence, freedom and Universal authority.
If someone wants to have a group of disciples or followers then they are missing the point of the teachings of true Spritual traditions and all Shamanic practices. Rather than creating independence they are trying to create dependence!
Of course, we need teachers to help inspire us and pass on the details of ancient wisdom traditions and techniques safely and carefully. The original Yogis were anarchists, freedom thinkers, outside the regular order of life…and advisors to the Kings. Only later when the priest classes rose up did the idea appear that you needed a medium to connect to the Spirit and the Great Soul.
In fact the message of Yoga is „there’s as many roads as there’s soul’s of men„! Each individual creates their own way of communication with their soul and the Great Soul.
Some people however, love to be followers and constantly told what to do, think and feel. This is not the understanding I have of Yoga or the essence of true Spritual teachings. A true teacher is not on a power or control trip but rather is looking to create as many masters as possible! Those that appear at their steps are led to a door and encouraged to enter!
Ultimately we are all teachers and students at the same time. We’re all leaders in this age! Everyone has a responsibility to use their voice to create a better world!“
Mario: „To hold yoga retreats, you are traveling around the world. What makes this appeal for you? Why don´t you found a yoga center and become settled like many others too?“
Danny: „When I was 18 years old I became friends with someone who had taken a year off college and travelled around the world. Suddenly this became a wild dream for me. I concentrated all my energy on making some money while I was in my first year of University and I planned on a journey around the earth. I couldn’t see myself going from high school to college to work! I needed something much more. So travelling became my dream in order to find out what was really happening in the world.
David Williams never had an intention of having a Yoga center. This was a beautiful, living example for me. He was perfectly happy being itinerant! Part of the teachings of Yoga are that if you crystalize the forms in one place then you create unending problems. People become dependent upon you. Administration becomes the primary force in your life rather than teaching. Maybe you create an Ashram or a Yoga hotel! I never wanted to be in one place doing one thing! I wanted to be everywhere doing all things! So I travelled the world when I was 19 and 20 for a year.
Later I moved to the amazing Hawaiian Islands and began playing music for a living. I was constantly losing my jobs after a couple of months and I had to keep moving. looking for new places to play. Later I began receiving invitations to come to other countries to teach Yoga. The Yogis always moved from place to place and this fit perfectly into my idea of how I wanted to live.
Don’t get me wrong however…I think those that wish to create Yoga centres are necessary and of course they enjoy for the most part what they are doing. They are involved in a ‚Sacred Trust‘, and are helping spread the teachings in their own communities. If they enjoy what they are doing then they are doing the right thing for themselves. Yoga is a community service! To have a Yoga centre-that’s not my style! Freedom is essential to me!
Anyway, I am settled…on the earth!“
Mario: „Yoga has reached big parts of western societies. A broader population get access to yoga and with all its different styles yoga became a mass movement. What are the reasons for this developement?“
Danny: „The teachings of Yoga work! They help people heal and strengthen. They clarify the mind and spirit and empower individuals. These teachings have spread throughout the world by word of mouth and living examples.
The spread of Yoga has been a grass roots movement. Friends tell friends or family members. After all if you discover something incredible don’t you want to tell everyone you know about it? Anyway, even if you don’t tell people about it, they can see you’re happier, standing tall and full of joy and vitality. The practices help people ‚unseal their personal instructions‘ and re-create their dream as they age with tremendous vitality and health.
Yoga is changing the nature in which people are aging all over the world. If you do these practices you won’t end up in a long process of deterioration being wheeled around in an old age home. These studies show people a different way to age…with total vitality and grace until a short time before you pass to the other worlds…becoming wilder and freer as you get older.
Now Yoga is a career choice with excellent teachers and teacher training programmes worldwide. It is a sacred trust passed on from the Great Spirit through visionary communication with our ancestors. In a desperate, deteriorating world the practices of Yoga have become more essential than ever.
Our environment is filled with chemicals and there is no control. The chemical industry is self-regulated…which means there is no regulation. Every human on earth is carrying anywhere from 80 to 300 industrial chemicals in their bloodstream. That is why cancer, asthma, allergies are occuring in people at younger and younger ages. Yoga centres can become community action networks to spread the ideas of changing our world in a positive way, encouraging 100 percent organic agriculture, the end of chemical pesticides, the truth about the dangers of Genetically Modified foods and getting people free of pharmaceutical medicines!
Personal responsibility and empowerment are necessary for real healing. Healing is an active process taken on by each individual. People learn that through Yoga they can completly eliminate stress, anxiety, fear and all negative emotional memories. Then true healing can take place.
The fact that celebrities have come into the practices of Yoga and reaped the benefits has drawn tremendous interest and opened the door for the massive interest in Yoga.
Now Insurance companies, doctors etc all encourage people to learn the practices. Magazines, newspapers and TV spread the word every day throughout the world about the empowerment that Yoga brings to all age groups. Many influential people are working to bring Yoga into the school systems, old age homes, hospitals… Yoga and related disciplines (like Tai Chi, Qui Gong, Kung Fu etc) are the real health insurance! These arts are the real ways to grow old in grace and health.“
Mario: „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 hugh?“
Danny: „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!“
Mario: „Many people have thousands of wishes what to do when they go into retirement. What do you want to do after you stopped teaching yoga?“
Danny: „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.“
Mario: „What is the difference in teaching Yoga to Madonna and me?“
Danny: „Madonna is much cuter than you! No offence intended. 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.“
Mario: „Danny, thank you very much. Take care!“
Mehr zu Danny:
- http://www.dannyparadise.com – Homepage mit aktuellen Terminen und Infos zu Danny Paradise
- http://www.airyoga.com – Einziger Deutschlandauftritt von Danny am 11./12. Juli 2009 München.
- http:/www.jungleyoga.com – Einzige Retreat (Dschungel von Thailand) das Danny selbst organisiert
- http://www.yogabasics.de – Blogpost über Madonnas Yoga, teached by Danny