Mark Whitwell – “I see yoga as a hope for humanity.”
I’m passionate about life.
I’m passionate about passing on my teacher’s work in yoga. Most essentially that is Krishnamacharya. The hallmark of Krishnamacharya’s work is that there is a right yoga for every person no matter who the person is. That yoga must be adapted to each and every individual, according to the needs of each person. He would say, “Adapt yoga to the individual, not the individual to yoga.”
Krishnamacharya was the teacher to B.K.S. Iyengar. He’s an important man of our own time. He died in 1989, so he’s very recent. He lived to be 101 years old. He was a scholar you could say, a Vedic scholar, a religious scholar, a yoga scholar. The hallmark of his work is that yoga needs to be adapted to each and every situation, including the culture of each person. Yoga is not an alternative culture.
If someone’s a Christian, you fit the yoga to that liturgy, that context. According to the background, you respect the background of each person and give yoga according to their needs. If someone’s Islamic, or someone’s a Buddhist, or an atheist. There is yoga for each person. That is each person’s direct intimacy with life itself. This is what it comes down to.
Yoga is to give connection to life, intimacy to life. What life is. The power, the cosmos, that beats the heart, that moves the breath, that moves us into the male-female polarity. Whether that is same sex intimacy or opposite sex intimacy. That power of intimacy, and the ability for each person to have that in their life is yoga. I’m passionate about communicating that and giving it to all people everywhere, all countries, all ethnicities, all cultural backgrounds. I see yoga as a hope of humanity.
This is the means by which we can get out of the mess that we’re in. Humanity actually dissociated from our own reality. We live on this planet as if we’re not of this planet. As if we are not life itself. I feel that this arising of yoga in the world is no coincidence. That yoga went through the ancient world, is a practical means for all people. It traveled for thousands of years to all different cultures and people, is something very useful to people. Now in the modern world where it’s happening, it’s going everywhere and needs to go everywhere. The essential of how each person does a yoga that’s right for them. That’s my passion.
I discovered this when I was just a young man in the suburbs of New Zealand and had been prepared for the university and so forth. I just saw that what my society as dishing up, was not enough of an education. It was a certain education, but had big areas that were being not addressed for me as a young boy.
At a certain point I got frustrated with my studies and left and went to India. The reason I went to India is because The Beatles were in India. I was of course a young guy deeply moved by that explosion of music in the West, deeply impressed by our heroes, our gurus, John Lennon and George Harrison and the others. That interested me greatly that they had picked themselves up, and had this exploration going on. That’s what I did. I went on the same exploration in my own way I suppose, so I went off to India in 1971. I returned again for a long stay in 73. It was in 1973 that I met my teachers Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar.
I was traveling around India like a hobo going from guru to guru, meeting all the famous gurus, and all the famous yogis, and the not famous yogis, and the not famous gurus. I ended up in place called Tiruvannamalai which is the home of Ramana Maharshi. There I met a young man called Douglas Rowstone who was studying with Krishnamacharya and Desikachar. He took me to meet them. There was a link to J. Krishnamurti because Krishnamurti had been studying with my teacher Desikachar. My friend Douglas was in that community of Krishnamurti and I was there too. It was really through Krishnamurti’s influence and his personal interest in yoga that got many of us inquiring into yoga. That’s what I did in 1973.
My first a-ha moment with yoga was on a rooftop in Madras then known as Madras Chennai. I’d had a lesson or two with Desikachar. It was on a full moon night. I felt the power of my breath, and the magic, and the function of my breath. It was just a moment like a sudden inspiration, electoral inspiration, inspiring, from my contact with them.
I knew that there was power in the breath. It was a power unknown to me. It was an education that no one had given me, as a young boy in the suburbs. To this day it’s not there. This is why I’m passionate about yoga; making sure it gets there into the public.
To be continued…
1st part of the interview series with Mark Whitwell at Shakti Fest West in Joshua Tree, CA
Join Mark Whitwell Sept 7-12 at Bhakti Fest West 2016 in Joshua Tree, CA
Photo credit: Mark Whitwell
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