Message from the Author
*Scroll down for CHAPTER ONE
It’s A Long Way To The Floor is a true story of how yoga changed the life of a hot dog-eating, sports-loving, weight-lifting, Mr. Corporate America from the inside out.
When my yoga practice became more than a weekly pastime, I began undergoing subtle but incredible physical, mental and spiritual changes. But because I initially didn’t understand those changes, I struggled through them as one would walk in the dark. The exciting thing is, once I realized what was happening to me, not only was my progress and enjoyment elevated to new levels but my stress related illness which had brought me to yoga in the first place, had all but disappeared.
Though writing this book sometimes felt like trying to put smoke in a cage, I’ve strived to capture the true essence of what I’ve learned from my practice and from some of the best teachers of our time. But don’t worry. The book is lighthearted and begins with a summary of my life, just to prove that I’m normal and don’t walk around wrapped in a white robe and talking to myself!
It’s A Long Way To The Floor, covers everything from how to physically and mentally let go and enjoy your practice to detoxification, patience, honesty, stress management, the mental side of stretching, confidence, meditation, contentment, anger, how to address injuries, the conflict between lifting weights and your yoga practice and how these lessons can be applied to everyday life.
You may be wondering what qualifies me to write this book? Quite simply, I’m the guy next door. I’m the guy you see going to work, raising the kids, mowing the lawn and walking the dog. I’m an ordinary guy to whom these wonderful, extraordinary changes are happening. Which means, they can happen to you too.
What Readers Are Saying...
I purchased your book in Mysore, India and read it in a single sitting. I plan to keep it close. A constant reminder of yoga and life's simple lessons.
It reminded me why I fell in love with yoga and how I had forgotten the calming affect my practice used to bring me. I am considering buying a copy for each of my teachers and students. I think my teachers will benefit from reading it as it will remind them that beginners sometimes find the shala as a mysterious place filled with apprehension and anxiety. On the other hand, I am hoping my students will read it and see for themselves the true benefits of yoga and not quit the first time they get frustrated.
Well done David. It IS a long way to the floor.
I read the book over the last couple of days and loved it. I saw my own trials and tribulations on many of the pages. I think you do a great job explaining the process - and benefits - of building a dedicated practice. In a way that is free of pretension and over-mystification. Ashtanga is a form that can appeal to a lot of "regular guys" - - but you deftly handle the manner in which it quietly moves you from exercise to self-reflection and inevitably changes your entire orientation and belief system. I admire the honesty with which you approached the book.
Hope your practice is going well and hopefully I’ll bump into you in some exotic shala somewhere someday.
All the best Roger
You are right, yoga has made a significant impact on my life too. What you wrote resonates a lot with what I have felt. I have a feeling that you and I share similar character as it refers to letting go.
I also appreciate your mentioning the affect of sports and weight lifting and its affects on ones yoga practice. It saved me a 1000 (no, actually a million) nagging words to my son as I told him that weight lifting would interfere with his yoga practice. I guess coming from you, in the way you said it in your book, allowed him to understand it better.
ps: Colin, my husband loves your book a LOT!
By the way, I have bought additional copies today topping it to 5 now! It’ll make good birthday and Xmas gifts.
Blog entry by the co-owner of a writing school in Malaysia:
Friday, August 04, 2006
It’s been a while. I miss reading a really good book. And so I was very happy when our SIP (and now Advanced SIP) graduate David Byck put a really good book in my hands.
And I was ecstatic that it was a copy of his own first book “It’s A Long Way To The Floor” a book about how he started yoga.
It reads just like how he speaks! If you know David, you’ll know what I mean…
It’s a simple, unpretentious book that is rich in meaning. Made me miss my yoga lessons. And also reminded me of some basic, important life lessons. It’s the kind of book I wish I would write one day.
Hello Mr. Byck,
I have started reading your book and I am enjoying the simplicity and truthfulness of it.
Dear Shri Byck,
I am from India and chanced on your book. I appealed because it narrated the journey from the stage of a beginner and I could relate to several parts of the story.
Usually when one sees photographs of masters in asanas I would feel that somewhere they had a head start and I could never reach there. I am still unsure whether I could achieve some degree of flexibility but I slog on. I enjoy my yoga practice sessions, I feel tall at the end of it.
I wish to thank you for a wonderful book.
I am reading your book and thoroughly enjoying it. I even mentioned you and your book in an article I submitted to Spa Asia magazine several days ago.
Blog of the founder of a publishing company and yoga practitioner:
I’ve practiced yoga for over two years, I have a daily one-hour home proactive, I’ve read countless books, my teacher has been generously ‘tutoring’ me in yoga philosophy for the past few weeks, I can chant the entire 24 lines of the opening prayer in Sanskrit by heart… and still, I’m not ready for my first trip to India. Each time I have a bad practice, I asked myself what made me think I could be a yoga teacher. When I have a good practice, I ask myself if it will be good enough for THEM. The students.
I wonder if I’m going to be the only one in the teacher training who can’t nestle my head in my feet in a backbend, stand motionless on my head or stay awake during meditation. Each time these thoughts race through my mind, I could feel my excitement draining faster than KL’s irrigation system. It came to the point where I almost regretted enrolling.
Then, two days ago, I was given the privilege to read a new friend’s manuscript. The author is an Ashtanga practitioner and the book, It’s A Long Way To The Floor, details his yogic journey. I read the book in record time, partly because the writing flowed so well and mostly because it summoned every one of my insecurities to the surface.
Apparently, David had battled with the same issues I did when I first started – competitiveness, pride, frustration and disappointment. Over time, these negative emotions were replaced by the same emotions that spurred me to walk this spiritual path – patience, acceptance, humility, surrender, peace and pure happiness. By the time I reached the tenth chapter, I remembered why I fell in love with yoga in the first place. I fell in love with yoga because of how it made me feel, not because of what it made me do. I realize that I will never be completely ready for this first trip to India and perhaps I’m not supposed to be. After all, I’m going there to learn and if I think I already know everything, then I will miss out on everything.
My excitement has begun slowly creeping back and now, I can’t wait to get on that plane. I am ready now. So thank you David Byck for reminding me of everything I briefly forgot.
Reply to above blog: Is this David Byck of KL? If it is, he used to teach me with is wife, Alina at their yoga studio, Tapas. They are an amazing pair and to this day, when I have no choice but to attend classes taught by inexperienced, lifeless yoga teachers, I fade their voices out and listen to David’s voice in my head. He told us that when he first started yoga, he was so stiff he could barely touch his knees without bending. Look at him now! I have no doubt that India will be an amazing experience for you and I suspect you will find some answers there.
PS. Where can I find his book?
My name is Hari and read your impressive experience which is shared in a beautiful language. I purchased this book in Mysore (India) to where I belong. I didn’t understand Yoga and its affects till I read your book.
IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE FLOOR
The First Years of My Yoga Journey.
By: David R. Byck
After many hours of deliberation, I have finally decided to open this book with a light summary of my life. Hopefully this will prove that I am normal and I don’t walk around town wearing a white robe and talking to myself.
Whether you are practicing yoga now or not, I think a lot of what I have learned can be applied to everyday life. Whether at my job, my family life, or even on the golf course - these lessons have helped me pull through in even the most difficult of times.
When I began taking yoga classes, my stress levels were at the point where I began to show physical signs of illness. Although the stress had built up over the years, it had begun to affect me physically for six grueling months. Coupled with the inability to focus and concentrate at my job or family life, I was headed for disaster. In this book, I try to explain how yoga made all the difference in the world to me - a man who least expected it, but needed it the most.
And now, let’s take a deep breath…………… and begin.
I KNEW YOGA WAS FOR WOMEN ONLY
When I was fifteen years old, all I wanted was a set of weights.
A bench with a barbell and maybe a dumbbell or two. That’s all I wanted. At the time, that was what I thought would make my life complete. Although we didn’t have much money back then, my parents somehow managed to buy a set, wrap them, and place them under the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning when I saw the large box under the tree with my name on it, I suspected my dream had come true. When I tried to pick it up, I knew it had. Little did I know, that this first set of weights would start me out on a path of religiously working out three times a week until I was forty two years old (one year after I started my yoga practice).
When I turned sixteen and began to work part time after school and on weekends, I earned enough money to join a gym. It was one of those private key gyms where they gave you a key to the front door, and you could work out any time you wanted. This one in particular was located in the seedy part of town, where I suspect most of them were. At the time, I assumed the location had been chosen because the rent was low, but now I wonder if the run from your car to the front door, trying to avoid being mugged was intended to be some kind of cardiovascular exercise.
Although there wasn’t a policy against women members, there weren’t any females. This was a real Man’s Gym. There were no fancy chrome machines or treadmills or TV’s tuned to MTV. No, sir, this was a gym where men could swear and scream as they tried to lift impossible weights. The floor was covered with a one-inch thick, dense black rubber mat, perfect for throwing the weights down after an aborted lift. The locker room was always wet, and the floor near the trash can was always cluttered with spent syringes used to inject the latest steroid cocktail.
In my late teens I was almost six feet tall and my weight was approaching two-hundred pounds. I had a huge chest and a waist so small that it was impossible to purchase a dress shirt that didn’t look as though I borrowed it from my father. Although I can’t imagine weighing that much today, back then, I thought it was a great look.
Due to a nasty bout of pneumonia at the age of twenty-three, I lost twenty pounds within a couple of weeks and another twenty within a year. After many trips to different specialists, they assured me all was fine, but suspected my metabolic rate had somehow sped up, thereby abandoning me at one hundred and sixty pounds.
I continued to lift weights, but also enrolled myself in a Kung Fu school. I attended two to three times a week and practiced every day at home. (No, it never occurred to me that maybe I was increasing my own metabolic rate).
Within eighteen months I had begun competing in Point Sparring competitions. Although I could kick a man six feet backwards, I lost every match I entered for the next year. Finally, I noticed something strange - all the winning competitors practiced Karate. I joined them the following week.
For the next five years I practiced and competed under the Karate flag and didn’t do too badly. In fact, I can remember winning a few fights. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I didn’t really fight to win as much as I fought to hit someone and feel the rush of standing over another man after I had knocked him down. Although this is not the place to discuss it, I guess I had a lot of pent-up anger in me back then, the result of a painful childhood, which I can honestly say, only yoga truly addressed.
At the age of thirty-seven, I somehow wound up in Malaysia, married a beautiful woman, started my own business, and although I continued to carry a lifetime of pent-up anger deep inside, I managed to, or thought I did, conceal those demons from everyone. But with the stress of a new country, a new wife, and the insecurity of my own business, the cracks began to show.
I was working seven days a week, trying to bring the business god to his knees, but I was failing miserably. With the onset of the Asian crises in the late nineties, he won. I quickly closed that business and started another. This time I had some help, which I will never forget, and with this help the business took off. Still working hard, my wife thought I should take up some sport, other than lifting weights at the gym. That way I could meet people and make new friends, or probably what she actually intended was for me to get out of her hair.
Because golf is the sport of choice in Asia, I decided to give it a go. I had an old set of clubs that I had purchased a half a dozen years earlier but I think they were somehow defective. Every time I hit the ball, I would slice it to the right. Of course, there was only one thing to do - buy another set. I purchased a new set, which utilized the latest technology. Oversized heads, perimeter weighting, graphite shafts, you name it. These clubs did everything except hit the ball themselves.
I decided to start things out right, and I hired a professional trainer. I would go to the range twice a week for my lessons where the instructor would video tape my swing and then compare it to the likes of Tiger Woods or Ernie Els and point out how miserable my swing was in comparison, but if I signed up for another two thousand lessons, he was sure we would make some progress. Of course, I thought two thousand lessons where a bit much, so I naturally switched trainers.
My next trainer was the sole professional at a local golf course and didn’t ask me to buy a package. All he said was when I thought I needed some help, I should come in for a lesson. Of course what I understood this to mean was I should have a lesson with him at least twice a week and then practice until the blisters on my hands bled.
At the end of my sixth lesson, I reached into my pocket to pay him and he quietly said, “Please, no need to pay me. I don’t think I can help you. Maybe you should look for another professional.” In other words, Since I am the best in town, and I can’t do anything for you, then you sir, are way beyond help. Next, please.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but all that pent up anger and frustration caused me to abuse that poor little golf ball. Every time I would tee it up, I would hit it with all my might, sending it well over the rear fence but always in a different direction. Business was difficult, life in another country was a strain, and I was so stressed out I became ill.
Every day I would struggle with a bout of volcanic diarrhea. After a week I went to the doctor, who prescribed some medication, which of course constipated me. When I was finished with the prescription, the volcano begun to erupt again. Back to the doctor I went for some tests, but she did not find anything wrong. She said it was possibly due to stress, and like any good doctor, prescribed additional medication and some rehydration salts, because by that time, I was dehydrated.
After six months, that’s right, six long months of volcanic diarrhea every day, I was dehydrated, exhausted, and tired of being sick. About the same time I had fallen ill, my wife had begun taking a Ashtanga yoga class and continually tried to get me to join as well. She said I would feel better and it would help me deal with my stress. But for six months I turned her down - always giving an excuse about being too busy or tired, but the real reason was because I knew, yoga was for women only.
Finally, being too tired and weak to refuse her any longer, I told her the truth, and said, “No man in his right mind would be caught dead taking a yoga class.” However, my wife, being the clever woman she is, proceeded to tell me that two of the men I admired the most, Tiger Woods and Sting, practiced yoga and with these two fine examples of manhood, she signed me up for a private lesson.