Beware the Social Dynamic of Disempowerment | Mark Whitwell

“The teacher must attain ordinariness, otherwise there is no Yoga taking place” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Yoga is intimacy with Life in every way and one of the aspects of Life is the relationship we have with somebody who is able to share with us their Yoga experience and their understanding of how to participate fully in our existence.

It is a natural phenomenon. The teacher is the function of nurturing in local community and we need our teachers.

The true teachers of this world are ordinary people who do not have a pathology about needing to be a teacher. Teachers are usually very questionable people.

They are often fearful and they control their social circumstance by being becoming the special person: the person who is wearing special clothes, sitting on the stage, and wearing the special clothes.

Many people become comfortable in themselves in this way, even powerful and rich. It is the game of orthodoxy.

By contrast, the hallmark of a genuine teacher is that they are utterly ordinary — they have ‘attained ordinariness’ and have no identity or need to be a teacher. Theirs is a natural sharing function that arises spontaneously.

If a relationship of ordinary friendship and mutual affection is not there with a teacher, then there is no teaching happening. What is taking place is the passing on the social dynamic of disempowerment and the insistence that students mold themselves into physical and mental patterns.

My teacher U.G. called it the grotesque duplication of culture and the social dynamic of disempowerment. And modern day Yoga, with its obsession with imposing straight lines on the body and various patriarchal techniques of mind-control, is merely the passing on of patterns.

The story of J. Krishnamurti, U.G. Krishnamurti and TKV Desikachar, three men who did so much for Yoga and the dismantling of patriarchal social relations | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

So, the teacher does not look like anything in particular. In fact, the more ordinary the teacher, the better.

The way to ensure that your practice and your teaching is not the duplication of patterns is to include the principles of practice that T. Krishnamacharya brought forth.

The principles are:

1) The body movement is the breath movement.

2) The inhale is from above as receptivity and the exhale is from below as strength.

3) The breath envelops the movement.

4) Asana creates bandha; the intelligence cooperation of muscle groups in the polarity of above to below.

5) Asana, pranayama, meditation and life are a seamless process.

Once these principles are in place, then one can naturally pass it on; you have the skills to empower any person who comes along with the Yoga that is right for them. This is so badly needed in the world today.

The world needs its Yoga teachers. If we have received Yoga transmission, then we have to teach even where it has been made difficult because of the yoga circus of studios, brands and styles — what Desikachar called, “the mediocre gymnastics” that has been popularized as Yoga around the world. As sincere people, we are put off by the assumptions that attend to the word Yoga itself.

But as my mother Joan said to me:

“Don’t let anything hold you back.”

“The Yoga teacher empowers the student to follow the directions in life that are right for them” | Mark Whitwell | Mysore 2019

In Life, we have to do what is authentic to us and that is to share your own personal experience of being in life free of problem. As Yogis, we have realized that we are a column of air, of energy that is descending and ascending in a perfect balance.

We have felt our tangible relatedness to all conditions and that our bodies are arising in Life as Life; that we are held within a vast beauty, intelligence and intrinsic harmony.

It does not matter if we are not feeling it all the time. There may be the drone of social patterning still upon us and all the pain, hurt and resentment might be there, but we have had a startling recognition of the Truth that is impossible to ignore.

As the poet Rumi said,

“Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.

Come, come again, come.”

In other words, there is never a time when you cannot say: “Okay, I’ve got it. I am the power of the cosmos. My body, even if it is sick, is still the wonder and beauty of Life.” And then you do your appropriate practice in that recognition.

Do not despair at the draw of the popular brands with their patterned programs. Be steady in your commitment to real Yoga and teach your heart out.

“What’s the minimum number of students for a class?” My teacher used to ask. “The answer is One.”

*Join me and my friends in the heart of yoga online studio to further the conversation about your personal practice and your teaching function. Everybody is welcome.

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years, and is the author of four books on Yoga.