Strength Receiving • 17 August 2009

Listen here: Mark Whitwell, asking ashtangis to please just understand the yoga…

…Yoga has been branded as something that a slim, white woman can do… yoga is participation in the nondual… intimacy with the ordinary… connection…

…Spine, breath, sex…

…You could finally admit that what you wanted was sex, was intimacy…

… connection to rocks and ground and each other…

…Daily, actual, natural, not-obsessive practice… such a gift to know how to practice without obsession as a pleasure… it’s a little bit of work because relationship IS work: you have to turn up…

…We need to put Patthabi Jois’s [and Krishnamacharya’s] principles [back] in to the ashtanga vinyasa practice. …Just learn the principles [of Krishnamacharya] so that you are playing with a full pack of cards so that it can become the nondual practice of abundance nurturing continuity healing…

…You’ve got these obsessed exercise fanatics feeling buzzy and putting it out there as if it’s YO-GA, and they have the body types to do it… don’t be seduced by the orthodoxy that want to tell you that you know less than their text, their gymnastics, their effort to get to a future state… [but] you stand in your own ground as strength receiving…. And in time you might be called on to teach what you know… the principles of hatha yoga… PUT IT in to Ashtanga Vinyasa, in to Iyengar, in to Anusara, in to Bikram…

It’s difficult when you meet the orthdoxy and they claim generational authority… “my guru said, my forefather said”…

…You are a yogi [because] you are feeling what you’re feeling…

…The whole body becomes relaxed and absorbed in its own condition… intimacy arrives in that condition… this ability for you to feel as the whole body is there… self-generated practice… re-generation, not our parents’ generation… having your own generation and empowerment… even your mother wants you to go beyond her conditioning… become committed to practice, not obsessed with practice… but daily, naturally… you can actually do this now…

…And I DO want you to enter in to a friendly, diplomatic dialogue with the orthodoxy, with the power-holders who have their strict ideas…

…what’s needed is intimacy… meditation arises from intimacy… in relatedness…

…put the five basic principles back in to your Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice…

–Body movement is breath movement: the breath begins and ends each movement

–There are four parts to the breath: inhale, retention, exhale, retention

–The inhale is from above as receptivity the exhale from below is strength

–Asana creates bandha and bandha serves the breath, in that order

–Asana creates pranayama and pranayama allows for meditation and clarity of mind

…We want the ordinary conditions to be participating in their source, to be acknowledging their source… that is what bandha is doing… acknowledging the whole body participation in asana…

… witness consciousness of “I am not the body, I am witness consciousness” is not a yogic point of view. It is a religious dogma. Yoga is the acknowledging of individuation and all relatedness… you have the Eckhart Tolles out there expressing “awareness” as being the point… and people read the book and they fall in to the point of no-relatedness as a kind of satori and then they try to get back to that place… all this has become a substitute for what we really want, which is intimacy… yoga is a tool to enjoy your life now… intimate connection now… you can connect now, inhale now… I’m quite certain that moving and breathing as strength receiving… it can create a crisis of people feeling stuff of hidden stuff they have hidden in the back… releasing what we don’t need…

…intimacy that heals… the immediate connection to our own body… intimate connection is god-realizing which has been denied us because relationship has been denied… the dogmatic version is the denial of the ordinary life… telling you there is something wrong that you have to conquer… it’s just politics, power structure… that’s all it is…

…continue your daily practice which is intimate connection with source… THIS life, THIS body, THIS sex… AAAAH! When discontent is there, just honor it and continue to practice… in might take months or even years but it HAPPENS, this reduction of concern…


  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 3:46 am | #

    This is so much more high-powered than that of which I have inklings now and then. As J once put it, MW is “hot fire.” I love the bit about “your mother wants you to have this connection,” actually, having put the 3-hour epic about Gandhi that they made in 1982 in my head, not long ago, all of this does all kinds of resonating. Again, thanks for it and for the link elsewhere too.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 6:25 am | #

    I did have that feeling back in June when I started exploring and practicing for a couple of weeks, Ramaswami’s Yoga (or his presentation of Krishnamacharya’s )

    ‘ Oh, so this is what yoga is about’.

    So much so that I’ve been feeling a little dissatisfied with my Ashtanga practice ever since, trying to adapt it or at least refocus it on the breath and bandhas and try to ignore so much of that that that surrounds it. I gave up on it this week and went back to Ramaswami’s. Such a relief, those long slower breaths the inhale-retention-exhale-retention that you mention, the clear breath-asana bandha connection, Asana’s growing out of asana’s, . It does feel more intimate somehow, more grounded.
    Sometimes Ashtanga feels like it gets in the way of the yoga or rather it feels likes it’s coming between you and the yoga.., playing gooseberry. What MW says about intimacy here is interesting. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way, maybe I’ve been practicing it wrong all this time or Perhaps at this present moment in time I’m looking for a more meditative practice or a practice that supports my meditation more. This is not necessarily a criticism of Ashtanga which I’m grateful for. Maybe it’s not so much Ashtanga, but what Ashtanga has become.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 12:59 pm | #

    Honestly, do you know what ashtanga has become?

    All these seeds are right there… ashtanga (good teachers and routine practice) is exactly where I found them and how I have nurtured them.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 1:02 pm | #

    And yes… he is hilariously intense, firey and opinionated. An absolute joy in person. Very disappointed with how much everyone beats themselves up, and totally impatient with us. He’s not dismissing any systems: he’s deeper than that, calling attention to how particular systems are interpreted.

  • srs
    Posted 17 August 2009 at 1:33 pm | #

    Are you sure that’s ‘exactly’ where you found these seeds? Also, given your location, finding ‘good teachers’ of the Ashtanga system is somewhat easier than for those living elsewhere.

    Just be straight up and don’t bullshit for the sake of system defence.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 4:54 pm | #

    MW is saying it’s shallow to attack systems—all systems have been distorted insofar as immanence, groundedness, being-in-the-world has been devalued.

    I know a few dozen ashtangis who have stayed with it long enough—many years, through all the waves of desire to say fuck it, and eventually have figured it out. “It” is what a long-term practitioner emailed to call the “cliche of embracing the feminine side.”

    I’m all for people doing what works for them. But if one is quitting any practice, I’d say ask if it’s because it’s actually causing physical harm (entirely possible) or if it’s because there’s something about it that makes you afraid or angry in an interesting if uncomfortable way.

    I would say that my organism has been restructured in four major ways the past five years. (1) Opening the heart and hips, (2) Strengething my spine and connection to the earth through the pelvic floor, (2) cultivating deep states of concentration—developing the concentration muscle and (4) learning to enter nondual states at will (only consistently do-able in recent months).

    Three of those have happened entirely through ashtanga. The fourth is a by-product of the third plus good meditation instruction.

    (I feel I am now being restructured again insofar as I’m choosing to apply vipassana to ordinary life, but the results of that are yet to be known.)

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 5:42 pm | #

    ‘Honestly, do you know what ashtanga has become?’
    ‘MW is saying it’s shallow to attack systems’
    Well thanks for those…..
    In this context of course, ‘what it’s become’ is an implied subjective. But do you not think it’s ‘become’ someTHING ? Something other than what it was ten years ago, twenty, thirty? What it was when SKPJ first started teaching it or when he and Krishnamachariya first came up with it. Of course it’s ‘become’ something, whatever that is or rather, how that is, the many ways it manifests itself, some less wonderful than others, some more tiresome than the practice itself, same with anyTHING. And of course the seeds of the practice are still there how could they not be.

    I’ll assume the quitting remark is another patronizing dig (sigh) I said why I was ‘giving up’ (though actually it’s more a case of shifting the main focus of my practice from one version to the other, I still intend to practice Primary and Intermediate one day a week for the fun of it.) It’s not because I’m afraid or angry… or have issues with my Mother for that matter. I just happened to find something by accident in Ramaswami that I personally connected with and seems to suit where I am at the moment. Oh, and that seemed to resonate with what MW was saying which was why I bothered to mention it.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 6:00 pm | #


  • V
    Posted 17 August 2009 at 7:06 pm | #

    Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard any of the old timers say that it was better “then” than “now”. All the ones I’ve spoken to (quite a few) have said it was good then, it’s good now.

  • Grimmly
    Posted 17 August 2009 at 7:42 pm | #

    V, I wasn’t suggesting that it was better then, I’m not attacking Ashstanga here. When I said what it’s become, I meant it in the sense that it’s become this thing. Not just a practice but Ashtanga, and that can feel like it comes with a lot of baggage. And I’m not saying that baggage is necessarily bad. One of the things I like about the Ramaswami is that it feels minus the baggage, there’s just the practice…. In fact there doesn’t even feel like a practice, just sequences of asana, the breath, the bandhas, still working out how to turn it into a practice.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 7:48 pm | #

    “[A]sk if it’s because it’s because there’s something about it that makes you afraid or angry in an interesting if uncomfortable way.”

    This is the standard question in both practices I do. Nothing personal.

    Any true friend, well intentioned colleague, or half decent teacher would ask this question. I’m happy to take the heat for doing the same, if it’s at all useful.

    Good old days… the way it never was? Banana leaves? Mark himself is doing a deft, totally effective (and justifiable) power play to base this teaching on his own claim to the lineage. That’s part of the first paradox: he’s using text and authority to critique the use of text and authority. Fine by me. 🙂

    It’s a living tradition, not an object. Only analysts reify, and then only for the sake of analysis. In experience it is diverse, complex, variable, ever changing, and juicier in some quarters than others. It contains a number of distinct schools. I’ll take Mark’s advice and connect with the best of what is available to me now the best that I can. Ever new, ever new.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 7:54 pm | #

    It seems like any information is potential armor/weaponry.

    Or the same information can be used to connect with my own experience and that of others, and to heal.

    Trikonasana, envelope breathing, bandha… whatever information.

    That’s a central choice: disconnect or connect.

    Protect; or be willing to play a vulnerable fool if that’s what it takes.

    Mark’s message is something like: practice every day, don’t obsess, be intimate, pierce through authority issues, breathe as if your life depended on it, enjoy this life.

    The critical side of his work is full of obvious (and fun) contradictions and paradoxes—that’s how it has to be since he is challenging regnant categories. All his critiques are delightful and super useful: this is the guy who rolled his eyes at me and forcefully told me to stop beating myself up with vinyasas and quit ashtanga altogether. That was a great and clarifying moment for me: he actually put it to me straight, with so much respect and implicit love that my own trust in my experience never faltered. That’s how he is—a beautiful, charismatic, direct, no bullshit, pissed off sage.

    The juice is in the message that any motherfucking practice is always already nurturing if we understand the ways that anti-femininity has distorted everything, and allow for the strength-receiving vibe to do its thing. Almost nobody seems to get this. Two of the few I’ve found happen to be very manly ashtanga teachers. Yes.

  • catygay
    Posted 17 August 2009 at 8:25 pm | #

    You are all wrong.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 8:27 pm | #

    Thank GOD. Young though you are.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 8:27 pm | #

    I shifted, of course : ) from the Ontic/analytic to the ontological when I said ‘ whatever that is or rather, how that is, the many ways it manifests itself’
    being and becoming owl, being and becoming, those Greeks knew a thing or two

    Oh and I appreciate the well intentioned concern, us english prickle at ‘does it make you afraid or angry’ sounds like shrink speak, too narrow and negative with the assumption that something is wrong…. guess I prefer something more neutral, open and nonjudgemental, how I approach my own mindfulness practice.

    for what it’s worth the defensiveness is part of the baggage

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 8:37 pm | #

    Now if I could just coax you to clean up your punctuation….


    But yes, this is an intriguing difference between American and British lexicons. Mine is full of Freudian proto-concepts… didn’t mean to imply you have a psyche! Seriously though, the challenge was indeed embedded in my comment, but it was a mark of respect and optimism, as I understand Mark’s to be when he issues a general critique.

  • catygay
    Posted 17 August 2009 at 8:55 pm | #

    Let me just point out that strength recieving is very much part of Ashtanga Yoga. That is what adjustments are for, not to encourage you into postures that, quite frankly, you don’t deserve. So butch the fuck up and take your injuries like the mannish woman that you ought to be come carnival time. Yum.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 9:43 pm | #

    Honey, you do cut a mean line in your sequined nut-huggers, but I wouldn’t let you anywhere near me in a moment of strength receiving.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 9:51 pm | #

    Armor/weaponry or not: find this in Reich and in a certain Makavejev’s work on Reich; find it later on in the same’s film featuring one Otto Muehl. Find it again and differently in the current “media studies” groove on AFFECT. Find it differently in your own post some back, on ANGER. Find it in the new kid, the seventh series (that’s for me to find, but I issue the finding challenge to anyone who takes up seventh series, because IT’S IN THERE). If I take my too-normal route and find it in Nietzsche and D+G (because it’s in there too) then I re-reify, even into the juicy, wonderful texts that they are. “Enjoy your life,” as I found out this morning, has everything to do with kneading bread and not too much to do with the witness consciousness in seated meditation (maybe I speak too soon, not having a regular practice of the latter). The ordinary state might be ordinary, but since our lives are reality television, FINDING the ordinary state is no longer an ordinary thing to do. That’s how I took one angle of it. It is SUPER chewy, paradoxes and all. Good, good stuff.

  • Posted 17 August 2009 at 11:44 pm | #

    Ok, but incidentally from this perspective, invoking texts is only a power play that kills the present moment. There is no becoming—no second or third anything. Only being.

    Whereas most nondualists collapse being and becoming in to a transcendent state (see Tolle, Adyashanti, etc etc), Mark collapses it in to an ordinary state. This is a paradox, or contradiction, in that he shows a dualistic preference for one kind of mental state (ordinary mind) over others (he mentions witness consciousness or some satori). I don’t fully agree since I find woo-woo altered states to be nourishing and possible to enjoy without stress, but I find it super useful. Especially as a teaching to cut through yoga obsessiveness.

    Beyond this, he makes the statement that ordinary mind can itself be nondual. This, he is saying, is yoga. The union of apparent opposites is found by saying to hell with becoming. Reclaiming immanence, groundedness, relationship… all the aspects of life that modern religion demoted to banal “women’s work.”

    Surface analytical troubles generated by the apparent being/becoming paradox aside (because it’s pointless to try to resolve them analytically… and I’d say that nothing can really make this double movement die except for an integral practice that lovingly “transcends and includes” each pole… and in fact what makes Mark’s work so crucial is that it’s here to balance out a whole tradition–ours–that has *attacked* the present moment and *shunned* intersubjective I/Thou relationship while pretending quite horribly to honor them), this is a really inspiring, provocative teaching. My way of encapsulating it it sort of like this:
    Screw text. Screw achievement. Screw the men who pretend to have power. Screw getting power. All of that gets in the way of being, in the way of relationship. Be intimate with experience and stop trying to use it to become something else.

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 12:27 pm | #
  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 3:47 pm | #

    Nice posting. Do you know about these yoga books?

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 4:35 pm | #

    Huh. To me this sounds a lot like “practice and all is coming.” If so, that aphorism contains more mat cred than this text. But, having said that, the creation of such text may be part of some people’s practice. Who am I to say? Thanks for letting us see your tussle with these questions.

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 4:56 pm | #

    Well it sure is a lot damn easier to say.

    Mat cred. 🙂

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 4:59 pm | #

    But too, a bit of commentary from Karen’s story:

    Everything feels utterly open and alive, but if you’re questioned you don’t know, and you don’t know, and still you don’t know. It’s important to settle in there, into that not knowing which isn’t the blankness of ignorance, but rather of a profound mystery that cannot find its tongue.

    This reminds me…

    I did Genpo Roshi’s “everyday mind satori” thing last week in San Francisco. I have ridiculed his work here in the past, but it was very good in a non woo-woo, super helpful way. I’ve been wrapped up in writing other things, but… yeah. Super creative, well-crafted and inspiring.

  • catygay
    Posted 18 August 2009 at 5:23 pm | #

    If only you knew the origin of ‘do your practice and all is coming’!

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 5:43 pm | #

    Babe, everybody knows nondualists don’t climax.

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 6:03 pm | #

    I always took it from the source: a non-English speaker.

  • Posted 18 August 2009 at 7:34 pm | #

    You always talk about stuff that reminds me of koans. Wu-Men’s Comment on the Mu koan:

    So, then, make your whole body a mass of doubt, and with your three hundred and sixty bones and joints and your eighty-four thousand hair follicles concentrate on this one word “Mu.” Day and night, keep digging into it. Don’t consider it to be nothingness. Don’t think in terms of “has” and “has not.” It is like swallowing a red-hot iron ball. You try to vomit it out, but you can’t.

    Gradually you purify yourself, eliminating mistaken knowledge and attitudes you have held from the past. Inside and outside become one. You’re like a mute person who has had a dream—you know it for yourself alone.

  • catygay
    Posted 18 August 2009 at 10:54 pm | #

    No. The idea was put forth by the (old)god of the Semites at a less than formal conclave of pan-Eurasian divinities yon Kailash way. Suggest omniscience through gnomic utterances, then treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen – just keep a little enigmatic twinkle up in the firmament to guide them home. Crafty rascal, that Y. What a session ensued! Special Reserve Patriarchal Soma all round…you should have heard Indra’s farts boom across the abode of snows!

    Only a kid at the time, but appreciate the work of those old timers to this day. Lived off the juice ever since. Oh yum, yum, yum.

  • Posted 19 August 2009 at 4:19 am | #

    Ah, you’re older than you look. And you like growing ‘shrooms!

    Being a longtime worshipper of Y, I am well acquainted with the Mushroom Theory of Management.

    A clue from our side. There’s something you poor, prurient gods don’t know… The method works better for us than it does for you! We don’t have to worry about anything!

    Oooommmm Vande Gurunam…

  • Posted 19 August 2009 at 4:24 am | #

    P.S. Karen, despite my sworn hatred of the Beats (useless, mind-numbingly sexist onanism), I just read the first three chapters of The Dharma Bums in the bath.

    What a good book! It is just the right thing for a weird moment in this life… and some pretty hilarious, vulgarized Zen-quips. Thankfully I have you to keep me straight on these things.

  • Posted 19 August 2009 at 2:25 pm | #

    What? Ridiculed a Roshi? You have balls woman! 🙂
    He is a sweetheart.

    On the topic of the feminine from a variety of angles cause it made me think:
    Tango: even though the male leads the dance, he must dance through the woman. Always connected. And its rare this happens without practiced choreography. In the moment is the holy grail.
    Aikido: Nothing is static, continuously unbalancing one another, connecting all the time, feeling all the time, no time for thinking, all the time for relaxing, letting go the attachments to fear, danger and control. I would say that this is extremely f’ing difficult.
    Jung: it is to the feminine side we must heed, for there is the saving of our collective psyche… and ourselves.

  • catygay
    Posted 19 August 2009 at 3:29 pm | #

    Of course it ‘works’ for you – it does so even for that apalling Ciccone creature. For us, it’s play, though it grieves me (figuratively) that some are luckier with their Lilas than others. Naturally, there is a degree of envy amongst us (occasional) Olympians over your suffused (sense of) immanence, but you do appreciate that, again, this is merely to make your mortal rump taste all the sweeter come the hubris-howling splashdown of your existential demise.

    But you’ve been marked out (on my recommendation) for a special place in the jnr pantheon. Things have been faltering of late, I admit. Let’s not talk of the absurdities, the Wong Kong Phooey of the Ashtanga apostates – I almost burst a sequin doing so last week. No, between that fool Rangaswamy carrying on like a Patpong hooker and mercilessly billing for services rendered, and, on the other hand, blabbermouth Whitwell giving the game away for nothing, the business looks shakier than a plump matron attempting trivikramasana. Now, like Prince Richard before you, a discursive flutter through certain other practices and ‘perspectives’ has brought you back haum, ripe and ready to fill the more prestigious (and profitable)cabins on the good ship ashtanga with a better class of passenger.

    I have to tell you that Y is more than a little miffed with this development. But don’t worry, he’s nowhere near as potent as you have been led to believe. We’ll keep him quiet – ‘praise moves’ was one of mine, I confess – just keep at it and don’t hestitate to apply for a career loan via MetaBank. Plenty of yogasoup for you…Isn’t that yum?

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *