AC/DC, anahata, Asana, bandha, bhakti, bhava, Dinacharya, Hanuman, indifference, Intimacy, Krishnamacharya, Love, Mark Whitwell, Mudra, pranayama, strength receiving, sun salutations, Surrender, Valentine’s Day, Yoga
…You are a flower blooming in your own garden. Your first form arrived as one cell known as the heart. A spark of Life, initiated by male female, giving and receiving union of opposites, the catalyst of nurturing, your spirit took form and the source became seen…
Soft hands, suggests Mark as he levered apart my fierce anjali mudra. Soft like the heart, he smiles. His crinkly eyes smile at me, too. Whoah, that right there is a hit of the bhakti that envelopes Mark and all in his immediate vicinity!
We perform a series of sun salutations and the bhava is feeling, sensing, with no mention of strict ideas about alignment. Instead its – feel it, breathe it, and flow with the practice. Mark talks through the principals of Strength Receiving as we move and asks us to do our practice: Without drama or strain.
The end of the first day is full of anticipation of the next. The first six hours have already been so intense, but in a good way. A day of questions and answers, of movement and breath and most definitely, of heart openings. The kind that cause me to melt. This state of openness takes a little getting used to (every time) because my first reaction is always to protect myself. But here we are, ripping our chests open like Hanuman. On purpose. It’s both frightening and utterly glorious.
…For some of you this practice is too much, for others it’s not challenging enough. This is one of the problems with generic yoga classes. You need to find YOUR yoga – the yoga that’s right for you…
…According to the great “teacher’s teacher” T. Krishnamacharya, yoga must be adapted to the individual, not the individual adapted to the style of yoga. For your yoga practice to be most fruitful, it must be in harmony with your body type, age, health, and even cultural background…
Ideas to ruminate over.
I walk up to Mark to thank him for the last six hours but I’m almost speechless. He grins at me and envelopes me in a huge and long-lasting bear hug. ‘Nuff said!
That night on the other side of town, a few of us head out for dinner just down the road from Nadine’s apartment. But not Mark, who instead went with a friend to see AC/DC in concert. Yup, that’s right; he’s a rocker-yogi! Gotta love that!
Sunday afternoon – Valentine’s Day – we started the session with thoughts of a personalised practice, more questions and answers.
Having a yoga practice that is “mine”, and personalised to my body and needs is such an interesting concept. Especially when compared to the mass-market cookie-cutter approach of some of the stuff being sold as yoga out there.
I suspect that one of the reasons I was intimidated by yoga for a while there (many years ago now), is that I didn’t realise I could make it my own in this way, y’know? And then last year while doing yoga teacher training, I understood that on some level but still, no one ever said that explicitly and out loud!
But it makes so much sense! Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and with all levels of mobility. The idea that you need to be flexible or picture perfect, or doing advanced poses to do yoga, is false.
I mean, some people report that they look around a class and find their competitive nature flaring up. Which can cause an attitude of feeling less than other people, OR feeling superior. Both are out of balance. Or perhaps a person will push themselves beyond their current capabilities in competition with themselves, which can easily result in injury. And despite what Mr Choudry might say, competition is not yoga!
Mark spoke about the male/female imbalance prevalent in most yoga classes (and by extension, in our communities). There are so many women in yoga classes, but hardly any men! And how that has to change if we’re going to make positive changes in the world. Generally speaking, men need to work at being more open and receptive, and women need to acknowledge their own power. Yoga is very good at helping people regain their balance in these ways. The surrender of Strength Receiving is both internal (from our Self, to our Self), as well as to between our Self and other people in our day to day lives.
And now that I think about it, “surrender” is a big part of the experience of feeling anahata chakra cracking open. The only way to co-exist with that state is to surrender! Essentially, indifference is a disorder of the heart.
One of Mark’s key teachings is around intimacy – with your Self, your body, your breath and your mind. And coming to terms with this concept as a part of my experience of yoga was interesting. I mean, my entire family for generations on both sides have shown no skill with expressing intimacy. It’s a long held, DNA-deep pattern, so how do you get better at intimacy when your natural pattern is to not really let people in? The answer of course, is that you have to start with yourself. And you have to give it a red hot go!
In yoga there’s a bunch of ways to do this – asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, dinacharya, food etc. Intimacy with the self involves developing a sensitivity and awareness internally and externally and is therefore, inherently physical and sensate.
True intimacy isn’t about getting naked – although there’s nothing wrong with that! Instead, it is a quality that allows us to see, feel, know and realise in a very tangible way that we are but one heart, one organism, interconnected even as we appear separate.
Intimacy really starts to make sense within the context of yoga, as you move through your practice and use the breath to stay completely aware, moment to moment. The trick is that to really understand that, you have to do your practice and keep doing it!
Then you can extend what you’ve learned about yourself to how you deal with others. At least that’s the theory I’m working with so far…
…The ancient wisdom of yoga teaches that Life is already given to you, you are completely loved, you are here now. It teaches that we are not separate, cannot be separate from nature, which sustains us in a vast interdependence with everything…
It is true that we don’t have to go anywhere, or seek anything outside of ourselves in order to realise we are one and the same as god. However, I do think that for many people this message is too simple to accept. I know that twenty years ago, perhaps even only ten years ago I would not have been okay with that. Sometimes I think it takes lots of searching in order to realise there’s nowhere to go…
P.S. Once again, all quotes are from Mark Whitwell – things he said, his book and/or his Facebook status updates.
hate to be a pain in the toochis, but which quotes are from the book? from yoga of heart, yes?
@emma – Good question! I don’t have my copy of the book with me (and yes, Yoga of Heart) coz I loaned it to a friend. And I copied that over from the first post, so there may not actually be quotes from the book in this post!
Hi Svasti ~ I find this really interesting. My work is all-absorbing…at least 12 hours per day and usually more. So I don’t really have the time to locate and attend Yoga classes, although I reckon I would benefit from them.
This paragraph really made an impression on me…”I mean, some people report that they look around a class and find their competitive nature flaring up. Which can cause an attitude of feeling less than other people, OR feeling superior. Both are out of balance. Or perhaps a person will push themselves beyond their current capabilities in competition with themselves, which can easily result in injury. And despite what Mr Choudry might say, competition is not yoga!”
I look forward to the next episode
@soulmerlin – All you need in your day is an hour or two (taking into account travel time), even if it’s once a week! Perhaps you should give it a try, huh? I’m sure there are yoga classes near you, and you certainly would benefit from them 🙂
Beautiful post Svasti. I can tell from the flow of your words how open your heart is even remembering this workshop! It sounds amazing.
I think that it’s so important to strive (if that’s the word) to make a yoga practice our own. Which doesn’t mean that we can’t attend classes, or learn from other people’s yoga. It means that if Vinyasa is your thing, rock it! If Ashtanga is your path, follow it! If pranayama is your joy, breathe it in baby. And within each of those styles there is room for endless exploration and personalisation.
However I do think (from personal experience!!) we need to be cautious about having a balanced practice, and this takes some level of maturity, self-awareness (Satya!) and openness. I.e. just because I am obsessed with arm balances doesn’t mean that my whole practice should be devoted to achieving handstand. And just because I don’t like [insert least favourite group of poses here] doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be included in my practice. Personalising a practice doesn’t mean it will be healthy to take only the things you like and put aside those that are hard for you. A personal practice should still be a practice that will help you to grow and bring you into balance – which sometimes means surrender, and sometimes means effort.
Hmmmm… this may be a post!
@LaGitane – There’s more to come on this story! But yeah, you’re right. I’ll make a point of stating that a practice should be balanced in terms of what you do in that personalised yoga. But on the second day of our workshop, we had a really great lesson about what happens in a situation where it isn’t possible for someone to always do everything they “should” do, according to good yoga practice principals. What happens then? Well, then there are no “shoulds”. And that’s coming in the next and final installment! 🙂
And, I look forward to your post…
I just left Mark about 2.5 hours ago. and while I’ve heard it all before in varying words and phrases, I love how what he says always recharges me. especially about finding your own yoga, which is what I’ve been doing for quite some time, and frankly, I really don’t care if anyone “gets” MY yoga.
I love what he said about getting out of your head and bringing it to your heart…which kind of goes along with a book I’ve been reading about how Vivekananda and others at that time brought “head yoga” to the USA, i.e., “karma, jnana, and bhakti yoga”, instead of asana practice, instead of EMBODYING our yoga. which kind of goes with what you and I have been saying about PRACTICE!
ahhhhh….still on the Mark high!
@Linda-Sama – Ah, the Mark high! Yes, he speaks about yoga in ways that make a lot of sense. More to come in the third and final installment of this series!
watch for my synopsis from my notes…..
hey, I have part 2 up on the blog! come visit!
Svasti–I just read both parts of these and they are both wonderful! And I look forward to reading about how the experience plays out when you continue.
It sounds amazing–so healing, energizing, and enchanting to be with other such like-minded people. It’s so incredible to see you in the place you are now after journeying with you for the last couple of years.
@Linda-Sama – Thanks for sharing your Mark stories, too. 🙂
@Melinda – I highly recommend that you do a workshop with Mark if you ever get the chance. I’m sure you’d love him, and the way he teaches yoga!