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Photo liberated from Mark's Facebook profile 🙂

[Read part 1 first]

…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…

[Read part 3]


P.S. Once again, all quotes are from Mark Whitwell – things he said, his book and/or his Facebook status updates.