Yoga is far from being something new, in fact it is about five hundred years old. It’s simple, natural, and an addictive lifestyle choice that is happily, increasingly easy to access, but somewhere between the celebrity endorsements the real genius of its lasting appeal has been lost, so Yoga Elder David Sye explained to Spabreaks.com just what it is that makes yoga so exciting.
“One breath man, that’s how sweet life is.” David Sye, smiles as the waiter offers extra cream on his cake, and with little surprise: this is a man who quite literally marches to the beat of his own drummer … well actually he stretches to it. Sye is the mastermind behind Yogabeats – an experimental form of yoga that tosses aside convention in favour of, well, whatever makes you happy, and in Sye’s case that includes music – preferably of the Cuban Rap variety: “I was always choosing between yoga and going to a club, so I brought the two together!”
But Sye is no local hippie looking for an excuse to party into the daytime: his ethos extends beyond yoga and into the realms of how we look after ourselves. His story is the stuff X Factor voting appeals are made of: Twenty-five years ago, suffering from twelve tumours, ulcerated colitis and a spastic colon he was in a lot of pain, facing serious surgery and accepting the inevitability of a life on painkillers when he read an article about Yogis in Tibet who claimed they could cure him. “I thought it was poppycock, but I had nothing to lose, so I went along for ten sessions, and after each one I felt better and better. By the ninth session I was completely pain free.” Returning for a medical before his proposed surgery, doctors were baffled to find that he was in perfect health: he has never looked back – focusing on the links between mind and body, his story has become ever more intriguing as it spans war zones, disaffected youths, and the perils of Primrose Hill, all with the founding principle of: “I teach unreasonable happiness, it just isn’t something you can be reasonable about.”
Sye’s practice further developed when he found himself trapped in war-torn Serbia: “I ended up teaching soldiers yoga for food. In war you don’t know how long you have to live – you are living on the edge and it’s a horrible, frightening place to be. Yoga was my drug, so I used to turn up the music very loud and practice – it was all about feeling good. The soldiers used to join me, and I ended up in Belgrade on the TV doing yoga.”
What’s particularly interesting about Sye is that he isn’t merely extolling the virtues of yoga, he is interested in how people live their lives: “you have to be very careful how you treat your body, it has memory, and if you give it bad memories it will have them forever. If you get on a treadmill and turn on the TV you are telling it that it’s just functional, but it’s not it’s where you live! The body is where you feel good, so if you beat it up and it can’t feel good healthily it will find another way – most people end up in the pub.”
Sye works with a plethora of different people including paraplegics, drug addicts and professional sports men and women and has great reverence for the body’s own intelligence which he considers infinitely superior to our own: “Look at the animals, they stretch and breathe to stay healthy. People think, ‘now I need to exercise, now I need to deal with my health’ but you are doing it all the time.” When it comes to sports pros, Sye usually finds himself involved in their training when they are injured: “I always start by asking what’s on their mind, and you would not believe the level of cruelty people inflict on themselves – you wouldn’t talk to your friends like that – you wouldn’t have any! You say to yourself, ‘I am going to the gym to beat myself up for a while’, and then you wonder why it gets harder and the body retracts.”
Ultimately Sye makes the point that it doesn’t have to be yoga – it could be Pilates or whatever suits you best, he just happens to believe that with five hundred years of practice, yoga is a tried and tested, far superior form of exercise: “It’s a way of interrupting people’s minds, to stop them thinking about margarine and emails for a while so they can finally be with their bodies” … and with both a professional and personal CV like his, you can’t help but think the man is doing something right.
Amazing things David Sye has achieved with yoga:
– After ten sessions of Tibetan Yoga doctors could find no trace of the twelve tumours, spastic colon and ulcerated colitis that had been crippling his health – he has not been ill since: “I don’t even get colds – it really annoys people!”
– In 2004 he organised eighteen peace passes for Palestinian women to come to Jerusalem to practice yoga with Israeli women: “Peace can exist in the middle of a war – that’s yoga, it makes people happy and magnanimous.”
– Even yoga instructors can miss the point. Sye told one hardened yoga instructor to hold her breath … keep holding it … when she eventually let it go she started to smile and cry with memories and emotions: “You can reduce the pleasure threshold to one breath – life is extraordinary and we miss it – one breath, and you have the whole thing.”
Many spa venues include yoga in their class schedules, to book a spa break visit Spabreaks.com or contact the team on 0800 043 6600.
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