A Few Pointers for Your Daily Practice | Mark Whitwell

“Verily as space is boundless, so is the ether within the Heart. Both heaven and earth, fire and air, the sun and the moon, also the lightning and the stars, and whatever is, as well as whatever is not in the universe, all are within the vacuity (Heart)”. Chandogya Upanishad, IX, i.3. | Mark Whitwell teaching at Esalen | Heart of Yoga

When it comes down to it there is no need to attain or realise anything at all. Rather, life has realised you. In the usual cultural struggle of meditation, yoga, and philosophy however, we are programmed to seek for an alternative and more amazing reality — a place called enlightenment, god-realization, or heaven and this search for a more spiritual reality is happening in every body world-over. It is not to put anybody down but simply to recognise the limit that this places on life because the struggle to get somewhere else is the active denial of the reality that has been given to us.

My teacher U.G. used to say that it is only because you are not interested in what is here that you have invented a more interesting place to try and get to. Actual Yoga is a matter of seeing how things really are, what is really happening, what is actually the case, and relaxing into that.

Your daily Yoga practice begins when you give up the struggle to try and get somewhere, as if you are not the wonder of the cosmos, already. Yoga is not the passing on of cultural patterns, it is to unqualify the living organism from seeking, and that the only reason to do Yoga is for the pleasure — the literal pleasure — of your system relaxing and filling with energy, in the here and now. Yoga is direct and immediate participation in the abundant nurturing source that is our reality. It is not a search to enjoy a future result somewhere down the line. You are loved and nurtured and you love and nurture. This is the Natural State of your body and you are already, always in that state — no matter what the mind is up to.

When you stop seeking you create an opportunity to become intimate with the divine. Intimate with all of life and life’s conditions. Intimate with your self. They are all one and the same. Under the Pepper Tree at Ojai where J. Krishnamurti had his famous revelation | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

We may find that even though we have switched off the seeking mind it continues to spin for a while like a ceiling fan turned off at the wall. The thought-structures of seeking have gone deeply into us from about the age of four onwards. There’s nothing we can do about the past. What we can do is take action to to link the mind to what is really happening — to life itself, pure existingness. To this end, your daily, personal Yoga is a priceless treasure.

Whether beginning a personal practice or refining it a good place to start (and end!) are the opening lines of Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Krishnamacharya loved this text deeply and he would say that everything you need to know about Yoga is in there. The first four sutras are often said to contain the entire text, like a seed. The rest of the book is an elaboration.

Translated into English they read: Yoga is to direct consciousness via the mind in a direction of choice with continuity. When you go in a sustained direction then you know the draṣṭā — the one who sees; consciousness itself; Reality Itself. If you don’t go in the directions that are right for us, if you don’t practice, all there is is confusion.

There is a paradox in any helpful teaching. It is: you do not need any help. The extreme intelligence and infinity of life is already established in you, as you. Any friend (teacher) will help you understand this and make the teaching function redundant. | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

What does this mean for us? Your daily sadhana — whether it lasts for seven minutes or for one hour — is to direct consciousness via the mind to your body and breath. So that the mind doesn’t wander, its good to focus your attention on the five key principles that Krishnamacharya brought through from the ancient tantras. Specifically, these are 1) the body movement is the breath movement; 2) the inhale is from above, the exhale is from below; 3) the breath envelops the movement; 4) asana creates bandha, the intelligent cooperation of muscles groups in the polarity of strength that is receiving; and 5) asana, pranayama, meditation, and life are a seamless process. When you include the principles of practice that Krishnamacharya brought through, your practice inherently transcends the seeking mind. The breath leads the movement, not the brain, for example. And so the mind has no choice but to be drawn into the activity of the breath. The mind automatically gets linked to the body, to life itself, to source, via the breath.

In asana, our whole-body functions as a singularity — consciousness moving in a single direction. Via this sustained, utterly pleasurable movement, the mind realises its source — the kundalinishakti that spirals from the heart like a lotus flower in bloom. This is your intimate connection to nurturing source reality. It is this most deep, sustained, already-established intimacy that reduces the fluctuations of mind. You do not need to control, struggle with, or restrain the modifications of mind. Intimacy cuts through the troubles of the mind like a knife through hot butter. Yoga is an intimacy that everybody can do.

The head bowed to the heart in jalandhara bandha — the closest distance between the head and its source, between which amrita Nadi flows, the nurturing source of life itself. | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

So that you can go in this most basic “direction of choice” the practice must be perfectly designed to your needs — body, age, health and culture. Every morning you slip into it like your favourite pair of jeans. We are likely to find that we need to exercise some discipline in order to get our practice established on a daily basis. Yoga has been lost from culture and so we do not have the associated saṃskāras (patterns) of daily sadhana.

Despite being a discipline, it is a discipline of pleasure — you practice because you love life and when you do your Yoga you love to imbibe life’s nurturing flow. So commit to forty days of sadhana and the habit will become established in your daily life — it was good enough for Jesus to do forty days of tapas in the desert! Find a good teacher who is sensitive to these matters of adapting Yoga. This is what we are here for.

“Yoga is a linking process. It could be to link with my body. It could be to link with my breath, or my emotions and sentiments. It could even be to link with some higher force in which I have faith. Essentially, Yoga is to link.” My teacher Desikachar speaking at Takapuna beach, Auckland in November 1995. Desikachar was the bridge who translated Krishnamacharya’s wisdom into the modern world | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Ultimately, we cannot predict what will happen as a result of our daily practice, but things do change in their own time — suddenly or gradually, or both. Do not be disturbed by the coming and going of civilisation’s thought-structures. Thoughts like, “I should be more loving.” Or “I should be realizing.” Or, “I should be more peaceful.” Or, “I shoulder be more like my guru.” Whatever your thought is, in your subtle struggle to get there, see that it’s going on all the time and just forget it. Be brave enough to forget your thought. You are the extreme intelligence, beauty, harmony, and wonder of Reality itself. With or without Yoga, you are inherently at one with life, simply through having been born. If there is any Yoga it is only to relax into what is already the case.

*Join my friends and I for live classes and conversations in the online heart of yoga studio. We are here to help you get the Yoga that is right for you.

--

--

--

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Late, Late Summer

Mindfulness Calls for a Good Sense of Caring and Perspective

Woman sitting on a stone looking toward the sunset.

Some 3rd path shifts, “learning retreat” and Reading about mahamudra teachings.

The Very Best Way to Meditate

In Presence the Guru is Found

Let Thoughts….Just Be Thoughts

Where Attention Goes Energy Flows

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.

More from Medium

Answering the Unanswered | Spiritual questions and answers

A thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin.

Shifting Sands

The Psychology of Betrayal