Mark Whitwell: sex, peace, and all that other stuff


I had stopped attending the Midwest Yoga Conference but I went last year for the first time in a long time just to experience Mark Whitwell. I attended every one of his workshops and I drank the Whitwell kool-aid — if I could only study with one person the rest of my life it would be Mark.

This year I registered on the spur of the moment for the pre-conference one day “teacher training” with Mark — here is the abridged description:

“Part 1 – Yoga Is Peace -
Peace is our natural state and it is freely Given. You will learn how to practice your own Yoga, which is your direct intimacy with life in every way. The essence of life is regenerative, nurturing, healing and dependable….

Part 2 – The Yoga of Peace, Intimacy, Sex and Relationship

In this session Mark will go deeper into Method and Understanding that Yoga is relationship and relationship is peace. To be very clear Yoga postures (asana) is hatha Yoga and hatha is tantra, the non-dual understanding. When asana is correctly practiced, actually and naturally, daily but not obsessively it helps intimate relationship of every kind.

You will understand that you live in a powerful regenerative force. Nurturing Source is appearing as the extreme intelligence that is Life, that is you. Mark will guide you to understand how to participate directly in this force and enjoy optimal health, intimacy and sex. You will learn the specifics of hatha yoga practice to make sure any Yoga practice is entirely your own….Mark will help you make use of real Yoga in your real life.”

I was not disappointed.  Mark is so true to the Krishnamacharya lineage that I felt recharged.

It was an intimate group of only 9 people and he started the morning by asking us why we are here and what we would like to get out his teaching for the day. One woman was very interested in the intimacy aspect of his teaching. She said she wanted to learn how to use yoga as a way to enrich the intimacy between her and her husband.

One of the reasons I love Mark’s teaching is that yoga is just yoga. The longer I practice and teach the more tired I become about the different styles. Mark believes that these yoga labels are an American phenomenon. A few people told Mark that they are “doing yoga” more than once a week, running from class to class, from teacher to teacher, and from style to style, but they felt they do not have their own personal yoga….which is Mark teaches — how to make yoga your own.

I know for myself that I am comfortable with MY yoga, and that’s what I say when people ask me what style of yoga I teach. I tell them, “my style. come check it out and if it resonates with you, nice, if not, have a joyFULL day.” I say on my website that I developed my own vinyasa style “in an intuitive and eclectic way based on Krishnamacharya’s method”, integrating elements from other schools that enhance my practice and teachings. It is “Mindful Yoga”, nothing more, nothing less.

As for those different yoga styles and lineages, Mark feels when we are stuck with one style of another, it’s a false identification with another culture and we do not acknowledge other cultures. He said the yoga lineages are not the point — the point of yoga is not to be attached or identified to something so solidly that it blinds you to the full participation in life itself.

He asked us how do we practice asana without wanting to get to the next asana because trying to get somewhere implies that we are not already here. Get it? Yoga is not about “looking for”, it’s about “participating in” the given, i.e., life. Yoga is about our direct experience with life, there should not be a stylized struggle for a future result.

Mark said he was disappointed that Krishnamacharya’s ideas have been absent from modern yoga. He said that while Krishnamacharya taught Iyengar and Jois, they did not fully utilize Krishnamacharya’s practices of non-dual tantric yoga. Mark believes that the Krishnamacharya lineage of viniyoga has become nothing more than physical therapy in this modern yoga age.

At that point I told Mark that it seemed to me that many astanga practitioners are obsessed with perfecting the physical part of the practice (and I’m not dissing any astangi!), doing countless drop backs and jump throughs over and over again until perfection is achieved. Mark said that obsession comes from feeling inadequate; again, it’s that trying to get somewhere else when we are already here. He believes that yoga should be practiced consistently, not obsessively. No time frames, no certain number of asanas, just be your yoga, and in fact, your asana practice may fall away completely when the things that are obstructing you from full participation in life are removed BECAUSE of your yoga practice.

To make your yoga truly yours Mark recommends starting with a daily 7 minute practice, and who doesn’t have 7 minutes a day for asana and pranayama? Don’t obsess, just start with a 7 minute sadhana of asana and pranayama, or even just breathing — embracing your breath, not merely being a witness to it. Mark believes that when asana is our bhakti, i.e., our connection to the divine, then meditation comes as a siddhi.

….to be continued…..

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6 thoughts on “Mark Whitwell: sex, peace, and all that other stuff

  1. The idea of practicing one's own yoga and dismissing the separation of the various schools is one that very much resonates with me. I practiced hatha yoga alone in my home, entirely ignorant of the idea of “styles” of yoga, for nearly two years before I became aware of the apparent obligation to pledge allegiance to a particular school. As a result, I developed my own practice, and even now the creative, expressive element of my practice is one of it's most healing.

  2. Thanks for the updated Mark-bhakti-hit. He makes so, so much sense and his gentle way of teaching and speaking demonstrate exactly what he is talking about. Of course.

    I pretty much tell people that if they get the chance to do any yoga with Mark, then they should! I certainly plan to do more studies with him, maybe next year…

  3. I primarily lead vinyasa and ashtanga classes, subbing an occasional hatha session. I love to attend workshops. Between the two, I am frequently amused and annoyed when someone asks me, “How often do you do yoga?”

    I've learned to smile and reply, simply, “Every day.”

    Because, really, what they want to know is how often I am doing an asana practice.

    I resonated with so many points you brought up in this post, so I'll just leave it at THANK YOU! I agree completely! I look forward to your next post.

    …and my husband only lasted 10 minutes the first time I tried to teach him sun salutations. Part way through I looked back and he had wandered off. :)

  4. Loved this post…..after teaching yoga week after week for years (then stopping due to injury) and since retreating into my cave to do whatever cave-doers are in search for….I can say that my “problem” with yoga has been about what you speak of here. I want to do my yoga non-labeled. I am me. And so, I thank you for this very timely post to make me feel that I am fine, I am good, just where I am. Within.

    Kat

  5. oh Linda,
    I LOVE this post. THANK YOU SO MUCH
    I love what Mark said and you quoted
    “…the point of yoga is not to be attached or identified to something so solidly that it blinds you to the full participation in life itself.”

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