YOGA BEATS IN THE COMMUNITY – A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE by Sarah Stephen
Not content with teaching his Yogabeats classes all over the world and training up the next generation of instructors, Yoga Elder, David Sye is on a mission to have Yoga recognized and used as a tool for social change.
The Yogabeats 3 Step Foundation course focuses upon a deepening and expansion within all realms of the Yogabeats methodologies, incorporating every aspect of what it means to become a Yogi rather than just yet another Yoga teacher, and how to utilize Yogabeats as a tool for radical change within society.
Sye,is one of the UK’s most esteemed teachers,and has successfully piloted Yogabeats programs resolving conflict within communities from the UK and across the planet, particularly in the Middle East. His not-for-profit work is supported by his Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Sye explains: ‘Yoga comes from the sanskrit language, meaning to join or unite. Today Yoga is often, mistakenly, perceived as a celebrity fad or a chic workout for white middle classes. Yoga for over 5,000 years has been a means for achieving a state of personal evolution or ‘self realisation’ and as a consequence creates a direct internal link to ‘Source Energy’.
‘Whether it is drugs, crime or war, history has shown that Yoga is highly effective in empowering and transforming the fearful existence of countless peoples into joy and happiness. Collectively this is one of the most underestimated tools for achieving the changes that will endure within our communities.’
Israelis and Palestinians –since 2004 Sye has been working with women, youth and mixed groups in Palestine and Israel. As a unique testimony to the profound benefits of the Yogabeats practice men have been joining Yogabeats in the Middle East in increasing numbers, where yoga is not regarded as a traditional physical male activity !!
Yogabeats possesses the unique abilities of breaking down barriers and changing perceptions, even in the face of the overt conflict of the Middle East.
In October 2006 Sye organised the first Yogabeats meeting between a group of his students from both Palestine and Israel, with special passes being granted by the Israeli army to the Palestinians coming into Israel to take part in this historic event at the American Colony hotel in Jerusalem.It was an event where fear quickly transformed into a loving community, proving once and for all that peace (given the proper tools) can exist right in the middle of a war, and that Yoga could achieve what diplomacy and polotics could not !!!
The daily fluctuations of tensions in the area, varied the frequency of regular visits, but David and his team would return,whenever it was possible. In 2011 our new host in Bethlehem introduced Yogabeats to a small group of students in Bethlehem,and became another truly invaluable member to our team who organised many successful and extensive trips for us throughout the length and breadth of Palestine.
2011 also saw workshops being organised again in Israel ,where YogaBeats quickly became extremely popular.
In 2012 some 6 years later, the meetings between both Palestinians and Israeli yoga students had remained as a “given” dialogue which precipitated at a landmark Yogabeats gathering at the Peres Peace Centre Jaffa, on a beautiful May evening overlooking an endless sea front,it was a validation of the Yogabeats conflict work by the internationally acclaimed centre itself !!
Later in October of that year, the process was again repeated in Beit Jala,(an area In the ‘no man’s land’ territory between Israel and Palestine) where both sides shared an electrifying and historic Yogabeats event for peace ,whilst simultaneously the horrors of the war in Gaza were happening!!!
2013 saw further Yogabeats events in Nazareth with the same mission, of bringing both cultures across the borders together through Yogabeats.
It also saw us increasing our work in the West bank, with a short tour in June, where David and I took Yogabeats to the cities of Nablus and Ramallah, receiving such a warm welcome from all the resident students there. Here we taught separate sessions for the men women and children, and a promise to return, which we of course did !!……..
Later that same year in November we undertook an extensive 10 day tour, where David and I were joined by Davids fellow Yoga Elder Sama Fabian, this allowed us to teach much larger larger groups of men women and children, and in separate sessions (in accordance of Islamic tradition) within the environments of schools, universities, villages, refugee camps, including cancer patients,medical and nursing staff. We visited the cities of NILIN, TUKAREM, BETHLEHEM, NABLUS and JENINE, to name just a few, but also at the heart of the conflict itself HEBRON, where we were to discover that we were the first western Yoga teachers to ever teach at the epicenter of the conflict there. 29 classes were taught to over 1000 students, but to so many more that we just lost count.
2014 saw us take the Yogabeats foundation course for the first time into Palestine.The hope was that yoga teachers in Palestine could be introduced into the practice and take the knowledge gained from the course into their own communities. This came to fruition in the June, where David held the first foundation course in Bethlehem, 20 students attended men and women joined together to learn the Yogabeats Philosophy. It was truly a joining of like minded special souls, David and I had never experienced any thing quite as unique in all our life !!!…. The students were so overwhelmed that David had shared such a powerful gift, tears of joy were shed by all !!!!…
We had planned to return in November for part two of the course, but sadly the 52 day Gaza conflict started on the day we left Bethlehem so we were unable to return.
‘What happened was that during the four days of the foundation, the course itself quite naturally began to morph into a vehicle that matched the needs of the students ( I never hold to rigid forms in anything, whether postures or thoughts ) and specifically offered up psychological/yogic tools which the students in the West Bank could utilize to cope and internally transcend the enclosures and environmental restrictions of their existence .’ David Sye
This is the Blog David wrote about this once in a life time experience
“What does one say,
how does one choose
Where does one stand
which truth is true
Two partners one dance
and not either or
A spider spins between two points
For spiders spinning is law
For how to make choices
And just realise
That love is a spider
To not spin a lie ,……?”
Above are some words that quantify for me the emotional tearing that one always experiences every time one confront the ridiculous “Wall of Paranoia”that divides the two nations of Israel and Palestine, and how the human heart tries non the less to spin it’s love wherever it can, no matter what the odds against it!,……
Our despair about not being able to return soon turned to joy !!!!…2015 started with a pure act of kindness from Karissa and Jamie Issac, and a donation of their Azul Yoga retreat in Fuerteventura as an environment for the conflict resolution work of Yogabeats, and saw us miraculously raise £12,000 for our largest project to date. We had to secure safe passage for 25 Palestinians to travel to Fuerteventura (which is Spanish territory ), so they could continue their Yogabeats teacher training with David. It was an amazing success, the love created and shared through the week was priceless. We built new relationships and continued our very special bond with some of the group that have been with us since our first visit in 2011, and who have gone on to teach their own yoga classes, setting up community centres, working with women, children and youth projects throughout Palestine.
David’s dream continues, our plans for 2016 are to intensify the training for a core group of 12 Palestinians who want to expand and advance the teaching knowledge they have so far gained, and set up more community projects across Palestine. The group will be meeting again in October in Jericho, so we are now actively raising funds for this project, and know that with the continued financial support of like minded yogis and other altruistic souls, around the world, their training will continue.
2016 has also seen us reconnecting with like minded yogis in Israel itself. David attended a massive International Peace and Transformation Yoga Festival in May,a dream conceived by David and Nir Haim Shakaroff several years ago. The non profit festival, aimed at building a path of peace through yoga, and it turned out to be a truly amazing event, sponsored by the Indian Embassy in Israel, Yogis from across Israel gathered to celebrate, and share humanities dream of PEACE.
This energy remained with us well after we left the festival and crossed over into the Palestine with it, where a Yogabeats roof top event had been organised in the heart of Bethlehem, (an idea conceived by our new Palestinian organisers co founders of Biet Ashams in Bethlehem and who now coordinate the majority of our visits) and it was on that rooftop that the transmission of that same energy was shared with everyone jumping up and down for the eternal ideals of Love n Peace, as the Yogabeats session hit its celebratory apex!!!…… And as a result our Palestinian family just keeps on growing. The energy continued, and we received endless words of joy and thanks, for our return and for “not forgetting them” rang constantly in our ears.Raw emotions that words cannot describe were shared and inscribed forever in our hearts.
The following day saw us meeting with the Indian Ambassador in Ramallah, where future plans and support for the work were discussed, including the possibility of taking YB into Gaza. During the meeting we discovered that Bethlehem was holding an International Yoga festival sponsored by the embassy, a global event conceived by the Indian Prime minister the year previous and was planned to be held for the Mid Summer solstice. David was already booked for yoga festivals in London and Milan, but jumped at the chance to partake in the very first Yoga festival in Palestine, so Bethlehem was factored into the schedule
For five days David rocked the festivals !!!….The London Om Show at Ali Pali to more than 500 yogis, many experiencing the YB practice for the first time, were completely blown away by this truly liberating practice. A big shout was sent out to the Palestinians for their Premier festival, followed again 2 days later in Milan, where 1000 Yogis dressed in Orange T Shirts with the logo ‘Yoga Beats Everything’ filled the city square,with a sea of orange and sent out their love worldwide!
At the end of the session David formed the largest Pagan circle of Love I have ever seen !!… This powerful moment brought many of us to tears, a living truth to our common humanity that was experienced by everyone there that evening.
In the early hours of the morning we left Milan still reeling from the festivals energy, and flew to Tel Aviv for a Television Broadcast about the work of Yogabeats on the Jaffa harbor sea front, and then we crossed over the border into Palestine, for the first Yoga festival ever to be held in Palestine on a large roof top overlooking the city of Bethlehem at the Peace Centre in Nativity Square, ( between the churches and the Mosque ) a very poignant location, Yoga practiced in the centre, with no borders, no religion, just love and the prize of peace, for all beings!
The Mayor of Bethlehem made a very emotional speech also about ‘Peace’ from the City of Peace itself. David’s session was filled to capacity, students from across Palestine attended to experience the pure joy of yoga escaping for just a few hours from the reality of the Occupation and the Conflict that is their everyday reality!
‘Yoga has no sides’ the intention is to reconnect the Palestinians and Israelis, with joint events rebuilding the bridge towards peace again through yoga celebrations of love and peace!!
‘Our hearts and souls and love go out to all our brothers and sisters on both sides of this longest of all conflicts and we will do all we can to actively support an end to these atrocities and the building of bridges of peace’ ! David Sye
“If you choose to walk in the footsteps of the Yogi/The Buddha/
Try to remember this
The truth we FEEL within our own hearts ,…in-spite of what the world may say
Whilst the world around us tell us what is right ,….no matter what we FEEL ,..
( the choice is yours) “
ps ,…my hope is that the Yoga Communities around the world
will now begin to stand up for peace and transformation
so desperately needed amongst the global diversities of humanity
and which spells out the final path left to our own species evolution
from Homo Sapien to Homo Spiritus !!!
2016 was an extremely intense year for Yogabeats culminating with the level 2 foundation course being held in Jericho Palestine, ‘which is one of the most ancient cities still in existence and more appropriately the meeting grounds for the mythic group of sages known as the ESSENES’S, so I felt personally honoured that the course had been granted this awesome setting !!!’ (David sye)… Our group took over a beautiful large house in the leafy suburbs of Jericho, where we all ate slept and studied together everyday, it was an incredibly cathartic and intense period, and one which changed everybody’s lives forever. The house was very kindly donated to us by one of the girls relatives, as the Yogabeats team were again in Palestine to ‘give back’ what we could, In spite of the devastations of the ongoing conflicts, and with the help of some awesome donations from people in the UK, who have never seen conflict, but just wanted to reach out to others less fortunate. A long side our own self funding for our flights and transport costs, so this very generous donation of the residence meant the course could go ahead.
The course was a landmark success, as it created a desire for the students to request the final teacher training module, which is a post graduate teachers training yogabeats course, which will allow them to finally teach as qualified yogabeats teachers. ‘I feel personally so honoured that the Palestinians will gain this qualification first on the planet !’ (David Sye). The work schedule of the level 2 was crazy and intense and although we scheduled clear start and end times to each day, these were never adhered to and some how we all worked from early morning until late into the evening only stopping to eat !!!… ‘I can tell you sarah and I both felt a great aura of love surrounding the entire course during that period and all our relationships with our Palestinian students deepened and grew into one big family, but each day we knew soon enough it would all be over,yet even now our bond with these enlightened souls carries on, and this is the great opportunity of reaching outside of ones comfort zone and thereby meeting members of your family, who you might never have met unless you had stepped outside of the known, and stepped into the unknown !!! ‘ (David Sye)
As we approach the close of 2017 The work continues in spite of all the environmental sociological and political gymnastics of the middle east, we returned in May for a yogabeats workshops in Biet Jala (close to Bethlehem) with our Palestinian students, also holding a celebration of yoga in the grounds of one of the most ancient churches in the region.
David had invited a dear colleague and fellow IYN yoga elder Sama Fabian to join us in Palestine, and that provided a wonderful deepening of the collective experience travelling around together, the hilarity and heart moving experiences will remain deeply etched in all of our hearts forever. So as well as holding the workshops, we were able to visit and teach women’s groups in villages and a refugee camp in and around Bethlehem. We then went on to visit the University in Tulkerum which now wants to place yoga on its curriculum !!
David went on to visit the city of Ramallah and taught youths at a probation hostel the reception these down trodden Palestinian young men gave him was a highlight that is impossible to contain in words, but they went crazy for yogabeats !!…
November’s visit concentrated on the continuing teacher training program, returning to magical Jericho with our core group, and on the second morning we conducting of a very powerful and sacred ceremony to reverence the environment and the earth plus ,our time on the planet, in a Bedouin village garden near the Jordan river.
As well as setting up some very exciting future projects …. Watch this space ….
‘ And finally our aim is that through the consistent Year by Year inclusion of Yogabeats into the Palestinian Territories since 2000, we keep helping to alleviate the terrifying social and emotional stress that the Palestinian’s have to cope with on a daily basis …. and that Yoga can be viewed as a serious sociological support rather than a series of Indian physical exercises … ‘
‘Their only Crime was that they were there first on the land’
In addition to the proposed post graduate Yogabeats teacher training course in Palestine. I felt the intense crisis in Syria now needed ‘yoga beats conflict’ immediate attention, and this was hammered into me when I heard even the Palestinians were also reaching out to those suffering in Syria. So I put out a shout out to everyone in the global yoga communities to pull together to make an active difference to the extreme situation in Syria and not leave that responsibility simply to the political arena, my wish is that the Yoga community at large will put into action its ahimsa philosophies…
So in respect of this Yogabeats is now working with a wonderful fellow activist known as ‘The Toy Smuggler’ Rami, his real name a Syrian living in Finland who takes funds and resources directly into the war zones and the people who are perishing daily due to the heavy shelling …check out the Toy Smuggler on face book and please check out the link and on all our yogabeats social media.
I am over the moon to have found a way to direct resources and funds directly to where they are now needed, without passing through a charity and their admin costs!!! ( so give what you can $1 feeds an adult for one day … and in many places people are eating grass and cats in order to survive!!!)
We are one family of many nations ,when we open our hearts to each other ,we begin the process of a greater evolution ,…much love David x
Past and Ongoing Projects
Brixton 409 project……
Isle of Skye and Glasgow (Easterhouse) project …… “Mark Brown Programs”
Victims of Domestic Violence,. Liverpool project …..
Drug Addiction youth programs Colorado…..
Toronto Canada youth projects ……Bronze-field High Security Women’s Prison …..
High security mens prisons in Milan …..
Southend on Sea “Youth at Risk” …….
History of Yogabeats Community Initiatives
How it all started in The Middle East
I had originally been invited to these lands to teach Israelis in 2004, but had at the outset insisted that unless it could be arranged that I also teach Palestinians I would not go, (as my survival of the Serbian conflict from 1990 till 95 had explicitly shown me that no side in conflict can be any better or more worthy than the other). Finally innate stubbornness won the day and my first class began with 18 traditionally dressed Palestinian women in Jericho.
Looking back now, Yogabeats fired up a natural love affair between both Palestinians and Israelis who spontaneously began sending messages and gifts to each other whenever I crossed over the border into the West Bank and vice a versa and I was their messenger.
The secret love affair became a real item back in 2006, when the idea of a joint class was actualised on the 18th October in Jerusalem at the American Colony Hotel – an extraordinary testimony of humanity that largely went unnoticed by the main stream media smack bang in the middle of some of the worst aggression at that time, where 20 Israelis and 20 Palestinians quietly and joyously met each other for the first time. There was much smiling, hugging and tears ! I stood before both groups and said if nobody recognises this moment and the extraordinary healing implications yoga can create it matters not because none present can say that peace could not exist right in the middle of war,nor requires the interceding of politicians or the UN!
Since 2006, each year permission by Israel to repeat the joint class was refused until May 2012, when the Yogabeats event was given the permits to allow the Palestinians to cross the border and was held at The Peres Peace Centre in Jaffa/Israel (donations to support this ground braking event was donated from all over the UK and Europe).
For more detailed information
Bosnia – working with British troops in 1994 Sye found that music could be used to focus the soldiers minds on the session and block out the incessant background noise of war enabling them to feels the benefit of Yoga in alleviating the symptoms of stress.
Brixton, London – In 2004 Yogabeats supported the 409 Project, fighting knife and drug crimes on the streets of South London.
Southend-on-Sea , UK – David has been involved with Youth at Risk for over 2 years, using Yogabeats to re-engage youngsters in education and combat severe behavioural problems, namely the ‘Motivate the Estate project’. ‘Many who struggle to engage in activity for more than a few minutes spent a significant amount of time completely absorbed in the session…this can lead to quite radical changes in behaviour.’ says Youth at Risk of the project.
Sye’s father, the legendary performer Frankie Vaughn, undertook a mission to tackle street crime issues over 40 years ago; building a community centre in Easterhouse [which he single handedly financed through his music concerts in Glasgow] so that the youth of that time could live to realise their full potentiality. Yogabeats has supported the local charity appeal for funding [￡2 million] to recreate a community hub for an estate which is often held up as an example of broken urban society.
Changing perceptions through Yoga
And this is where Yogabeats comes in….Sye has already been bringing youths from rival gangs together through a shared passion for – perhaps surprisingly – Yoga. That’s not to say classes are only for the young and fit.
Yogabeats has remained totally without rigid form or restrictions, experimental and spontaneous, just like jazz or any other free form art. It openly encourages the practitioner to deeply explore their own physical and psychological boundaries. What is understood within this practice will directly impact upon the individual’s perception of life itself.
His workshops which consist of breathing, meditation, dynamic ‘asana’ postures and tons of hilarity (a hall-mark of all Yogabeats classes) incorporate modern music like hip hop and dance beats to loosen inhibitions and focus the practitioners’ minds on the joy that arises in the class, rather than niggling thoughts and feelings, the experience dissolves into a mind blowing feast of all the senses.
David makes Yoga relevant in order to pass on its deeper message and many benefits. He has inspired these young people to stay away from trouble.
David’s Passion ….
As time goes by I am even more convinced that in order for Yoga to be the radically transformational tool that it is, it has to be relevant to everything we experience in our world at this time ,whilst simultaneously displaying the paradigm that peace can exist in the middle of a war, and that transformation through individual personal change is the way!
What is going on now in Gaza and throughout the West Bank is what yoga must not run away from.
If the idea of Yoga is to hold any credibility at all in our world, it must be able to cope with the worst of humanities fear propelled Human dramas, and exist and operate as a counter force of higher consciousness.
When I was isolated and blockaded in Serbia, when the entire world community put a unilateral embargo on Serbia, I and others smuggled vital supplies in and out of that country,
Since 2004 I have been going into the West Bank working through situations that others advised me to avoid and turn away from but I could never stop simply because of the extraordinary people and love I encountered along the way and that never failed to inspire me to take yet another step forwards, and so it was obvious that I began to view Yoga in the same light, that if it was not dynamically and truly reflective of our world I personally could not go on with it … and so this gave rise to “Yoga Beats Conflict” ( Yogabeats Charity)
I am very clear that our world does not need any more niche yoga, it is crying out for yoga to grow up and become the radically reflective and transformational tool it always had the potential to become!
And if this all seems a tad too emotional consider this, if Yoga has the potential to change and transform people’s lives, (and there are endless examples and testimonies to this) what do we as Yogis do – just simply stand by with this momentous gift or (like Ostriches with their heads in the sand) and leave our world to the politicians?!?!?!?
Maybe it’s time that the Yoga community sees themselves in a new light!? … David Sye
If you would like further information on how you can become involved and help with the amazing work of Yogabeats, whether through donations or holding a fund raising event for us, sponsor one of our students, there are so many ways to help. Our projects have been able to continue with thanks to everyones generous donations.
“The Yoga Beats Project is dedicated to my master teacher the late Clara Buck” – David Sye
You can help to facilitate these initiatives
THANK YOU WITH LOVE
The Yogabeats Charity’s is not for profit and is fully supported by His Holiness the Dhalai Lama