Life / Health

Yogi to the stars brings classes to the masses

From musician to yoga guru was not a huge stretch for Danny Paradise, a world-renowned teacher who is hosting a yoga retreat this weekend at Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel.

Paradise — superstar singer Sting’s guru and the man said to have introduced Madonna to yoga — started practising the meditative art while living in Hawaii in 1976, when two Ashtanga yoga teachers invited him to a demonstration. Hooked, Paradise joined their class the next day.

“It’s a fantastic way to strengthen and heal,” Paradise said. “It allows people to really fulfil their destiny.”

He never planned to teach yoga, until one of the instructors asked him to co-teach a class in Maui.

But his nomadic life as a musician soon saw him leaving the island to play gigs around the world, and he started introducing yoga to the people he met.

In England in 1990, a fellow musician, who had practised yoga with Paradise before, introduced him to Sting. “That was the beginning of his exploration into yoga,” Paradise said.

Paradise taught Sting’s wife, friends and band members. Sting introduced him to other celebrity clients including Madonna and Paul Simon.

Now, most of his focus is on teaching the public, he said. The event at the Shangri-La runs on Saturday and Sunday. For three hours each day, Paradise will impart his yogic wisdom to participants before running them through the exercises.

The classes are open to anyone — beginners, masters and teachers.

“Everybody has to start somewhere if they’re going to start yoga,” he said, encouraging beginners not to feel intimidated.

“I try to give people as much information as they personally can handle and inspire them to learn more ... I don’t overdo it with anybody.”

After two days of the yoga lifestyle, Paradise can recommend budding yogis to his network of qualified teachers across the city.

Those keen on continuing with him can join some of the classes he will be teaching in the area over the next few weeks, including a workshop at Fireflow Yoga at Yonge and Eglinton on Nov. 18.

He will also be visiting Cambridge and Ajax.

As for Sting? “We still get together,” Paradise said. “Whenever we get together, we do yoga.”