Sunday, 25 November 2012

This weekend we had two days of workshop with Mark Whitwell.  Mark Whitwell has been teaching yoga longer than I’ve been alive.  Mark Whitwell trained with T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of T. Krishnamacharya, THE FATHER OF MODERN YOGA.  Mark Whitwell studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi – the people who brought yoga to the West.  So I was really hoping to get a lot out of this weekend.

I should note that I don’t trust men with long hair.  There are, in my opinion, very few men who could ever get away with long hair.  George Harrison and Jesus - that’s about it.  Mark Whitwell probably hasn’t had a haircut since the 80’s.  And he wears skinny jeans, another thing I'm dubious about on men.  AND he’s from New Zealand.  Okay, I know that’s not really a reason to doubt someone, but I have known some crafty Kiwis in my time. 
So, Mark Whitwell walks into the studio, hair flowing, tight blue skinny jeans clinging, pronouncing ‘hey’ in a way that only Kiwis and Canadians could truly appreciate, and I know right off the weekend is going to be… interesting. 

Mark loves to talk.  Mark also likes to talk to people.  Saturday’s mammoth four hour session (no, we didn’t take a break) included at least two hours of Mark picking out individuals in the group and asking them about their yoga journey.  I understood his logic because he would then apply his philosophies about yoga to that person’s experiences, but it also meant that there was a tendency for the rest of us to feel removed from the conversation that was going on, particularly if it was extended.  Mark has a strong voice but some people he was speaking to were more softly spoken, so sometimes half of the conversation got lost. 

The second half of this massive afternoon was committed to a series of simple asanas designed to encourage focus on breath.  Mark’s ideology is;
Breath initiates and encompasses movement (asana); asana allows for pranayama; pranayama allows for meditation. Asana should not be separated from its full Yoga context.

Half of me agrees with Mark that yoga needs to return to this simple idea of breath work in conjunction with asanas; he joked a lot about “LA yoga”, and as someone who has practiced in LA, I know exactly what he means.  The other half of me is bored to death after an hour of Sun Salutations, cobra, bridge and shoulder stand... which is kind of funny, considering Mark states you only need to practice seven minutes a day…

Today he quizzed the class on whether or not we had done our homework of a seven minute practice.  Again, we rolled into over an hour and a half of interviews with individuals in the class.  For those of us that don’t like to jump up and down and scream “Pick me!  Pick me!”, listening to other people talk about themselves can be tiring.  That’s probably mean of me, but when I get an opportunity to attend a workshop with a master teacher, I want to hear that teacher speak, not listen to someone’s tale of eight years of living in a cabin in the woods and discovering the power of inhale/exhale. 

The following practice was exactly the same as the day before, except with ten million, billion Sun B’s… there is only so many Warrior Ones you can do before you start to go a bit crazy.  For a while there, I became convinced that the guy in front of me had six fingers on his right hand.  No joke.  Of course he didn’t really have six fingers, but I spent a disproportionate amount of time watching him to make sure. 

Mark’s new book is called The Promise of Sex, Love and Intimacy and he encouraged us REPEATEDLY over the weekend to buy this book.  I’m a bit broke right now so I may just settle for the iPromise app for now…

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  1. Oh my god! I just stumbled upon your blog via Mind Body Green (loved your article btw) and huge kudos to you! I find it so refreshing that you're not talking yogic nonsense that's unfortunately so common in the yoga scene. I loved this post and your humour!

  2. You are hilarious.... I love your writing style and sense of humor. Like Karin I was introduced to your blog through the article you wrote on Teacher Training on MindBodyGreen. Like you I am about to travel half way around the globe for my 200hr YTT in April. Unlike you however I am going the opposite direction, from Vancouver to Bali. I hope you keep this blog going.


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