Mark Whitwell…again and again

I’ve written about Mark Whitwell before in these two posts and I’ve now finally had the chance to experience his teaching over the weekend at the Midwest Yoga Conference.

All I will say is that I was blown away. I wish I would have met him 8 years ago when I started teaching but better late than never. Besides, I might not have been in the right head space at that time because all meetings happen at a particular time in our lives when we are ready to receive. My blog pal and fellow KYM-er Nadine also wrote about him, so between the both of us you can decide for yourself whether Mark is your cup of chai. Mark is definitely masala chai.

Mark’s teachings have always resonated with me because he studied with Krishnamacharya and Desikachar and I study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India. His other teacher was U.G Krishnamurti who told Mark, “there is nothing to attain!”

For Mark, and also for me, yoga is yoga. I took four workshops with him where he basically said the same things in each one: yoga is yoga; that all the names and styles given to yoga nowadays is an American invention (and if you’re a regular reader of this blog you know how I feel about Americanized yoga.) Stop labeling yoga as this style or that style — it’s just yoga! I laughed out loud when he said that the yoga demonstrations at yoga conferences are merely exercises in ego and acrobatics — stop the performances because they’re about an inch deep.

Here are some excerpts from my notes:

Yoga — true yoga — is not about getting anywhere: “Yoga is not a means to get SOMEWHERE as if you were not SOMEWHERE already. It is your direct and intimate participation with Life.”

If you are striving to get somewhere in your yoga practice, that only means that you’re not HERE.

Nothing in life is not nurturing (yes I know that’s a double negative.) Pain is nurturing. Sickness is nurturing. Develop a new orientation to your pain because it is the nurturing force of reality.

If we didn’t have pain, we would not be able to change: pain is what tells us to pull our hand out of the fire, pain is what forces us to change our lives.

All our looking and searching for SOME-THING is the problem. If you’re looking for something that means you don’t have IT. If you look for God, that means you don’t already have God.

Can you say that you are the essence of an extreme universal intelligence? If so, then can you say that the unseen force is there, within us, that there is no duality?

We have been habitually taught to look for God and that has caused misery and a denial of life.

The ordinary life is not considered sacred anymore so stop looking for enlightenment because it’s already here.

It is not appropriate to separate meditation from asana (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, MARK!) — so STOP MEDITATING!

That last statement caused a few gasps in the room and what Mark meant was that meditation must be seamless with yoga and life. Stop separating a meditation practice from your yoga practice because if you practice yoga as it was originally meant to be practiced, i.e., body movement is breath movement, the breath starts and ends with your movement, that the BREATH IS GURU TO THE ASANA as Krishnamacharya taught, then meditation is naturally arising.

Don’t require anything from your yoga practice and don’t practice it in any linear or obsessive way because there is no place to get to.

There are only five things to remember for your practice:

1. Body movement is breath movement; the asana is for the breath, not the other way around.

2. Breath starts and ends each movement (as in the KYM way.)

3. The inhale comes down from above as receptivity; the exhale comes up from below as receiving.

4. Asana creates bandhas and bandhas serve the breath.

5. Asana, pranayama, meditation, and life is a seamless process. Don’t separate them.

Mark also has a blog and this is what he says about the essence of yoga:

“The essence of yoga, and I hope I’m teaching yoga, is to allow a person, the practitioner, to be intimate with their life. Right? So, that is the essence, to give practical practices that a person can actually do, that allow that person to feel intimate with their life, with the whole body and the breath of the whole body, which is this magical aspect of our life, as the breath that we have available in the whole body. Right? So, to give those in a way that a person can actually do, not in any linear struggle of trying to get somewhere as if they are not Some Where, capital S and capital W, but allow them to be deeply connected, to feel the Life that is in their living system … in the polarities of above and below, inhale/exhale, left and right, front and back, male and female. And then, of course, comes this great wonder of life, which is the outer polarity, our relationship to our own experience, to each other, especially and including our intimacies with each other.”

Mark is definitely not an “isms” type of teacher — he dissed Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and all other patriarchal traditions equally as being “life denying” -isms. After his last workshop Mark and I talked at length about Buddhism and other things, and I think I got him to see where my own brand of Buddhism is coming from and it’s certainly not “life denying.”

Mark and I connected during the 8 hours we spent together, so much so that he told me about me. All I will say is that I will never again question my teaching abilities or capabilities. It was no accident that we met.

If I wasn’t saving my money to go to India and Africa for two and half months next year, I’d definitely go to Fiji in December with Mark.

Damn it. Attachment feels like this.


addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

9 thoughts on “Mark Whitwell…again and again

  1. W.o.w.

    If I wasn’t at work I would be pumping my fist over my head and shouting YES! YES! YES! As it is I’m doing it very quietly. 😉

    I just told my practitioners last night that we aren’t in a race and there isn’t any finish line in practicing yoga. To enjoy what you they are doing today because then they will enjoy doing it tomorrow (from David Williams).

    I must print this out for myself….and share with as many as I can!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your notes from your time with him. I check out his blog every now and then and usually like what he has to say–if only he would blog more often:)

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  3. This is just fantastic! I'd never heard of Mark, but the quotes you've provided surely are the pith essence of what we need to remember about yoga. Sadly they are also world's removed from most of what passes for yoga in the West. Thank you Linda!

    Kevin

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  4. I'm so jealous, Linda, in the nicest way, Mark spends most of his time in the Northern Hemisphere nowdays. Oh well.

    And.. I slightly altered my post on insularity. Thanks for your comments, though. I want to be very clear – I don't think all Americans are insular. Just some – in the same way that some Australians are insular… so much so, many of them couldn't point to Alice Springs on a map. And it's right in the middle of the continent!

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  5. Lucky, lucky you to have the opportunity to study with Mark. And thank you for posting these notes. No more questioning for you baby — you're got all you need and then some. We (I'm sure I speak for all of your blog readers and students here) love you just as you are. I'm going to try for the workshop Mark is giving at Yoga Works in NYC. I try to catch him whenever he's in NY. Brilliant! Thanks for this awesome post.

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  6. But Krishnamacharya himself was VERY orthodox Hinduist. And last years of his life he spend mostly recites sanscrit scriptures and doing pujas. So Mr. Whithwell takes from Krishnamacharyas heritage only ideas which is comfortable for him (individualisation of asana practice0 but ignores other aspects. Its typical western “consumption” approach. Traditional, “religious” yoga, which founded on Upanishads and Sutras, requires self discipline and respect for yoga shastras authority, western people doesnt like it so much, thay want to stay “free” in spiritual consumptions search for “more comfort” doctrine, thats why they like teachengs like Krishnamurti (both – Jiddu and UG) – talks about @no need to practice, just be”. OK but nothing happens to them finally. Show me western yogi, who attained samadhi? i never met.

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