“It should be a joy!”  Danny Paradise projected across the shala in Soho, as he flitted between us.  This small, humble, bundle of bendy happiness.  If I were to ever make a movie about yoga, I would most certainly cast Dustin Hoffman as Danny.  He would need a wig, an incredibly colourful and mismatched wardrobe, and accentuate those peace, love and happiness character traits from his role as stay-at-home-everyone’s-a-winner-dad in “Meet the Fockers”.

I’d read about him, heard about him, watched youtube videos of him twisting himself up into unrecognizable shapes in remote reaches of the earth.  His reputation is of one of the Ashtanga godfathers.  Teaching since the 70’s, he’s one of the originals that brought ashtanga to the western world.  I guess you can’t help but build up these images of grandeur of awe.  And just like every world-renowned yoga teacher I’ve met thus far, he completely disarmed me with an almost child-like openness.  It’s not naivity…his stories and experiences have reached beyond the grave and back…its inner peace.  There’s not guilt or resentment, or angst, or insecurity shadowing him, there’s no hate in him or anger.  He just exudes love.

I was nervous about going to the weekend workshop.  Since Thailand in April, my yoga experience has been solely self-practice.  I’m sure there are loads of benefits to that.  Its your own journey, you’re your own guide, you have to be the source of your own discipline and energy, and inspiration, and for those very reasons it’s also a bit of a hindrance.

I’ve had a few glitches, and slowed things right down before building my practice back up again.  I’m pretty sure I’ve strayed unconsciously from the pristine, ritualistic path of the Primary series, and god knows what my alignment’s like.  It’s quite common to THINK you look bloody marvelous in a pose, wondering what all the fuss is about, and then for a teacher to put a little bit of pressure here, angle your foot slightly to there, and nudge your hip this way, arm that way…and suddenly your heart rate’s doubled, sweat’s pouring down your back, and your breath is less meditative….more panicked…ego scurrying sheepishly off the mat.  So yeah, 6 months of NOT having that, and I’m a little bit worried about what shape I’m actually in…And I get there, and there are all these beautiful creatures, men and women, prowling about, with their radiant faces, and incredible bodies, and I overhear them talking about all the classes they taught that week, and my trepidation mounts.

And then the crowd milling at the front door parts, as this cloud of hair sweeps through at shoulder height.  Beaming smile, the kindest eyes…he makes a joke, and all the nervousness dissolves as we enter the shala, and roll out our mats.

He says a good teacher barely touches their students…just gently guides.   He laughed.  He made us laugh.  We tried different things.  Experimented, played.  Discussed spirituality and health; shamanic rituals and this yoga explosion in the west.  We shared fears, and questions, stories and advice.  We encouraged each other through the more difficult poses, whatever your experience, whatever your strength….it just doesn’t matter.

Yoga is a joy.  Why do we need to be reminded of that?

He said that some days you will feel like you’ve been hit by a bus and need to modify, modify.  He’s started yoga time and time again, because your body changes.  You restructure.   And when you start from scratch and slowly build your practice back up again, you will see small, but significant changes. 

How reassuring it was to hear him say that.  I stopped my Primary practice for just over a month.  Just couldn’t do it anymore.  I practiced Moon instead, and now I know why.  My body was healing, restructuring.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been integrating Primary series back into my routine, and whilst my arms are weak, there are changes in me that I can’t wait to explore.

I’ve had non-yoga friends say that whilst they respect yoga, it must be such a bore.   Day in, day out, practicing the same routine.  Perhaps at times I’ve agreed, but as I immerse deeper and deeper into my practice, I’m beginning to encounter an entire new world of magic, of creativity, of colour.  Every day, every moment, every practice is different.

Danny’s workshop was an invaluable reminder of that, and what I’ve taken away with me, is not the correct alignment for my nemesis pose…its to have fun with it.

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