Danny Paradise is one of the early birds of ashtanga yoga. He studied with David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. When I met him in Berlin Danny Paradise taught in a very soft and strong way. He incorporates his experiences with other healing and movement traditions into his teachings. His style is not strict ashtanga anymore, but a non-dogmatic, compassionate and humourous style deeply grounded in the ashtanga tradition. His aim is to help people develop a safe, healing, joyful, and independent personal practice.
What is your focus when teaching yoga?
My aim is to help people become independent. And recognize personal responsibility and personal authority. And also help people recognize that this is a practice that is designed to help create evolutionary consciousness.
What do you mean by that?
These are techniques to help people heal. The techniques of yoga help people’s immune systems. It strengthens people. Shows them how to age with vitality and health, energy and grace. I feel that it does empower people to create their dream and to create independence in their lifes. And hopefully create their dream throught the energy that they gain from the practices and the healing force that takes place. So they can make their dream into a living masterpiece.
In your experience, how does the practice unfolds its power?
This have been practices that have been around for a long time. And people like Krishnamacharya put together different elements of techniques that they recognized through the breath and the creation of heat. The strengthening of all the muscles and ligaments and tendons that create toxic release that help deep elemenations of toxins through the skin in the form of sweat through the heat that is created in the practices. Create balance and harmony in the body, equilibrium. And challenge people to constantly get stronger and more flexible.
And recognize that healing is a lifetime process. I think these techniques automatically lead people back to nature.
Yoga helps people recognizing the power of nature. It comes from nature. It is a transmission from nature to the human race. Showing people how to realize their deepest potential.
Create happiness in their lives be joyful and ecstatic and fulfil their dreams. It has all those elements. It is a science, a technology. When I say it is a science: it is a science of flexibility, a science of strength a science of balance, the science of breath, the science of healing, the science of meditation, the science of peace, the science of happiness, the science of aging, it has all those elements.
And how does yoga help people realizing their dreams on a practical level?
By taking care of yourself on deep levels, prescribed by the spirit. You heal and strengthen and at the same time you gain insight and perception increases, intuition. People become clear on how they want to live their lives as they purify and eat better and eat more simply. They have more insight in how to create their life as a beautiful masterpiece. And they recognize which changes they need to make if they are not happy. Which circumstances to change and I think it gives people the power and responsibility to recognize that they can make the changes. Then more and more, I see people working towards doing what they really want to be doing. Doing things that recognize their gifts, their talents their abilities.
Ashtanga yoga is a quite physical practice and I know some people who get discouraged when they see the sequences, or advanced ashtangis practicing. What is your opinion, can everybody do it?
Yoga is for everybody and some people are more energetic or want deeper practices. But if not they can take softer approaches. It all works in the same way. If you learn the practices from a good teacher and you are taught slowly and carefully then anybody can learn ashtanga yoga. And if sometimes people feel they are too extreme for them they can learn other levels of hatha yoga. Other sequential practices that maybe require less effort or less time.
And may be further down to the road they want to come into a deeper practice. It all has to be taught very slowly and softly at first anyway, whatever age or level or physical experience people have. They still have to learn yoga slowly. A good teacher usually can turn somebody on to the practices. Wheather it is ashtanga yoga or other hatha yoga. I think yoga can suit any energetic level of a person. It can be modified. Anybody can learn elements of it.
You mentioned earlier that it is important to develop a daily practice. But many people have problems to get over the inner temptations that keep you from being disciplined. Do you have any tips to find the discipline?
I think people can recognize: you do only need to do a short amount of practice initially and you will receive great benefit from it.
Even 10 or 15 minutes of yoga a day is going to initiate a healing process in the body. Strenghten people and stimulating the nervous system and blood circulation. And bring some clarity. Danny Paradise
And if time goes by, yoga creates more time, that is what I tell people. If you do a little bit you sleep a little less. You add years of active energy into your life so that is creating more time. And somebody can always go home and turn on the tv and watch a program for half and hour and have a beer. But if you decide to really take care of yourself you can turn the tv off and do 10 or 15 minutes and that will stimulate a whole new different mental and physical process. I also tell people if they are unclear about wether they want to do yoga then just go to an old age home and see what happens to people who have not have the blessings that we have had to learn these practices on any level. So they end up in wheel chairs or in any number in very deteriorated conditions for years and years. You can avoid all that.
You can age with health and vitality and tremendous energy if you take care of yourself. Danny Paradise
Even in a small way. Changing diet, becoming vegetarian, eating more healthfully and consciously organically. Doing a littlebit of yoga you add up years and years of active energy into your life and you will never end up in an old age home.
That is your choice.
Some of your students started yoga at the age of 40 or 50 or even older. A lot of people think as the grow older: Oh, I am too old, I am not flexible enough. What is your experience with that?
It is never too late. Even a person in the 80s can learn all types of movements that will help. Build muscle tissue and increase flexibility and energy but it has to be taught with somebody with experience, so they know how to be very careful. Anybody can learn, any age.
I think people should recognize: it is not about being flexible when you do yoga. Yoga is the way how to learn to be flexible and strong. Danny Paradise
It is the science of flexibility and strength amongst all the other things, science of balance. So you learn techniques to increase flexibility. People start when they are very stiff. I was very stiff when I started but when you learn the science and when you learn how to build heat and correct sequences, flexibility comes very quickly. So it teaches you all that.
You said that the effects of yoga on the body and mind is very intense and many people that practice yoga intensively change their whole life. What is the reason for that?
Essentially you become more aware. It is a meditative practice because it brings you into the present. You have to concentrate on the moment, it is a methaphor on how to live. And I think people become clear. They gain a lot of insights. They have emotional releases when they take care of themselves and healings and as they become more conscious they choose to eat more purely start to drink less and radical alter things because they become more sensitive. And they recognize the damage they do from things that do not serve them. They even change circles of friends. It forces people to make decisions of how to live their life. The people they want to be around, the work they want to do, the relationship they want to be in. So they clearly recognize: it is their choice and when you recognize that you hang around with people who have negative emotional patters, who are angr or, negative all the time, it comes clear that there is a different circle of people you can hang around.
What do you think about the theory that emotions are kept in the body.
You know the nervous system records all negative emotional patterns and any stress or anything negative in the nervous system. There are even charts of which negative emotional patterns impact which organs that is known essentially. As you heal and reach deeply into your system through these practices, these emotions can be released and healed. The emotional imbalances that create disease in the body have to rise to the surface.
If you choose to live your life in a positive way and recording positive emotional responses it brings joy and happiness into your life. Recognizing that you are responsible for happiness and peace and joy and it is not somebody elses responsiblility to create those emotional responses in you. Happiness is something that happens when you decide to be happy and joy is the same thing.
You wanna be joyful you can create it. If it is some kind of a struggle you have to use your will. You have to maybe work a little harder. But you can create those energies and emotions and yoga contributes to that by taking care of yourself on deep levels. That is how I see it.
Danny Paradise offers Workshops and Retreats all over the world.