How to Practice Yoga as a Pure Pleasure | Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell Shares about the Yoga practice and pure pleasure..

Mark Whitwell
5 min readApr 25, 2022
Yoga is the Mother’s Milk of human culture — your direct embrace of nurturing source. God knows we need it in these difficult times for humanity | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Despite knowing what the benefits of home practice are, it can be difficult to get a daily yoga going. Somehow, when we go to get on the mat, a million other things demand our attention: housework, the kids, work, thoughts, the state of the world! In the beginning steps of our yogic life, we find our ability to practice is easy on some days and frustrating on others. We may do it for a few weeks and then drop off; come back to it again and then stop. How do we sustain that initiating spark of when we first discovered yoga, and transform our inspiration into lasting, non-dramatic, powerful daily practice?

For decades, I’ve been teaching yoga around the world. I find that difficulty in establishing a personal practice is the same everywhere. If this describes you, then lighten the load and don’t take it personally! To cut through the social mind and develop a ruthless commitment to our own asana practice requires perseverance, compassion to yourself and a practical approach. We want to get you to a point of unproblematic practice, so it feels like slipping into your favourite pair of jeans.

“When there are no issues around practice,” my teacher Desikachar would say, “then yoga begins.”

In 1995 on a visit to New Zealand we filmed this video with my teacher Desikachar. In it he discusses, “What is Yoga?” and gives practical tips on personalised practice | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

So when you find yourself reluctant to practice, here are four simple ideas that will help you get on the mat:

A. Unhook Your Yoga from the Seeking Mind.

The assumption that truth is somehow absent and needs to be found is culturally ingrained, whether we are religious or not. This intellectual mistake has formed civilisation and has been spread by power structure into all corners of the social mind. For our Yoga to be pleasurable and non-obsessive, we need to unhook it from the seeking mind — the endless attempt to get somewhere as if we are not already somewhere. The body and all that is experienced is the absolute condition, whereas the ‘absolute’ that culture proposes is only conjecture moving attention away from reality. So as you start your daily practice, be brave enough to forget your thoughts. “Truth is a pathless land” — J. Krishnamurti. What does this mean? It means you have already arrived. You are already home. Your body is the cosmos. Move and breathe in the wonder that is always, already the case.

“Truth is not within you. You are within truth. So where is the question of having to find it?” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

B. Make it a Three Breath Discipline.

If you feel reluctant to practice, just get through the first three breaths. First breath: I don’t want to do this. Two breaths: I feel terrible. Three breaths: I still don’t want to do this. Four breaths: Ah, I feel better. Make sure there are four parts to the breath and a pause after inhale and exhale. Inhale receiving from above. Exhale strength from below. After four breaths your practice will naturally roll out as a pure pleasure — the feeling of our bodies relaxing and filling with energy, the only reason to do yoga!

“Seeking anything implies that you don’t have it. The very action denies intrinsic reality. The world has been seduced by the idea of enlightenment. Your search negates the truth that is you, as you already are, the present embodiment of life’s wonder — a living, breathing expression of Reality Itself.” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

C. Ensure that the Breath is the Central Feature and the Gauge to the Asana.

Krishnamacharya was insistent that the main purpose of asana practice is to facilitate the merging of the inhale with the exhale. Asana is for the breath. Sadly, his teaching was ignored by his most famous students: B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois: the young men who went on to popularize yoga in the west. The breath-focused practices were turned into brand and style, and a form of physical gymnastics. When we put the breath principles that Krishnamacharya rescued into our asana practice, back into the brands and styles that we know and love, then our yoga becomes powerful, efficient, and safe. The body loves its breath. The inhalation loves the exhalation and vice versa. It is literally making love with life within and without. We feel better and feel better — two different sentences. And this immediate and cumulative depth of pleasure is what motivates us to practice every day.

“You only need to realize it one time that you are the power of the cosmos. Once you realise it you don’t have to carry it around it with all the time. You just do your Yoga as your embrace of this simple, obvious fact.” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

D. Do Your Yoga and then Do Your Life

The condition and force of life is in the mutuality of opposites. There is no escaping it. It is the means of yoga and life realization. We start with an intimacy with our body and breath: the merge of above/below, left/right, inhale/exhale, strength/receptivity, inner/outer, male/female. This sensitivity to our own life quickly develops into sensitivity to all of life, including to our nearest and dearest. So do your yoga and then reach out, connect, and enjoy your relatedness to everything and everyone. Merge with your experience. Notice how your Yoga empowers your life of relatedness in profound ways and let that bring you to the mat. This is a promise from the wisdom traditions.

Ultimately, you do your practice because you love life. And you do love life! If you miss a few days here and there it is of no consequence to Reality. You cannot fall out of the condition of Grace. My teacher U.G. would say that “Nobody need give this to you and nobody can take it away.”

That being said, we have all been deeply programmed by the social mind to search for an alternative reality, a heaven that lies elsewhere to the world we actually live in. This patterning of mind has brought humanity into a state of mass dissociation from the Real. It is the root cause of violence, war, sexual abuse, climate catastrophe, and predatory human behaviours of all kinds. “Man’s idea of heaven has created a hell out of this abundant paradise” — U.G. So do your Yoga, link the mind to the whole body, and embrace your life. It is the hope for humanity.

Join my friends and I on the heart of yoga online studio where we explore home practice and share our yoga experience together. Everyone is welcome.

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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.