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Mark Robberds  markrobberds.com

Progress report and thought for the day: It’s not the load that breaks you down - it’s the way that you carry it.... reflecting on all that I learned during last week’s intensive in Thailand with @yuval_on_hands - one of the big take home concepts was how to find the right amount of tone (tension) and integrity (alignment) while staying relaxed and calm. We need to be active but so often we overdo it - so we end up overtucking, oversucking or hardening the abdomen, and constricting the breath and creating excessive stress in the body. So that is an exploration that I’m continuing this week not just in my handstand practice but also in my Ashtanga practice, my surfing and life in general. Oh and the result of all of that is that the one arm👋 is starting to become a tangible reality. 🙏

Turn on sound 🎧 Sometimes you need someone to egg 🥚 you on! This time it was @yuval_on_hands helping me with this - scorpion 🦂 push-up? (Anyone know the correct name for this?) It was my first time trying it and I got it the first time, then failed about four times, and then got it this last time. It’s a bit messy at the moment but I’ve put this down on the project list 🖊📋 to try an understand the technique of using balance and momentum and not brute strength to find ease in this.

There is a beautiful story about the Buddha soon after his enlightenment. It is said that he passed a man who noticed something extra ordinary about him and asked, “Are you a God or a celestial being?” “No”, said the Buddha. “Are you a wizard or a magician?” asked the man. “No”, “Are you a man?”, and again he answered, “No”. “Then what are you?” I am awake”. This is where he got his name - The Buddha - which means The Awakened One, and it is this metaphor of waking up from the dream like nature of our minds, that is one of the primary metaphors found in the eastern philosophical traditions.
In the schools of Sankhya and Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, the Buddhi, which we can translate as, The Awakening Principle, is explained as operating all the time - even if we are unaware of it. As one of my teachers, Richard Freeman, so beautifully describes, and I paraphrase here, “If it were not for the Buddhi we would be trapped inside of a giant dream machine”. A good way to explain this, in a practical way is in the everyday habit of looking at our phones. We get drawn in to a dream world of our thoughts and stories that are pure fantasy and imagination. We become totally absorbed in this dream world and are unaware of the world around us. Then, and this is something to observe in your day to day, there is an awakening out of that dream, and we become present -perhaps we hear the birds outside or the sound of traffic, or whatever, and we are aware of the “Suchness”, as the Buddhists like to describe it, of life. The “IS-ness” of the present moment that is beyond thought, that is behind the story telling nature of the mind.
This awakening is happening all the time. The practice of Yoga is to become aware of this process and to choose to stay with that awareness of “What Is”, rather than repeatedly getting lost in our dream world.
We can do this with curiosity and do it lovingly. Not by forcing or pushing or trying hard. It is a kind of relaxed effort that we bring to all areas of our life. Try it. Put your phone down for a moment and experience the “Suchness”, the “Is-ness” of life in this moment, and then throughout the day continue to cultivate (continued below 👇🏼)

#goals I’ve had the backflip on my list for ever - and I thought I want it before I’m 50... it looks like I might reach it before then 🙃 This was my first time ever attempting an assisted backflip on land 🤟🏼. They say that if you’re the best in the room then you’re in the wrong room - and this week I’m surrounded by people with many more skills than I have and it makes me so happy@and inspired. 😊 Thanks for the helping hand 🤚 @yoni.moves

It’s been a few days... we’ve been living a little bit off the grid here in the jungles of Thailand 🌴, reconnecting with nature and simple living; and a lot of handstands! I’m starting to chip away at the elusive one arm (2018 is going to be the year 🤞🏼) and of course, enjoying the process along the way. Here’s a bit of today’s exploration under the tutelage of @yuval_on_hands , followed by a bit of compensation work (scorpion and hollowback) for the upper back and shoulders after a long day on my hands. 🤙🏼🙏

What do they say? Fall nine times and get up 10 right? Check out the bloopers in the second frame to see how many times I fell this morning while practicing/playing. The focus for this session was to work on a few different ways to enter backbends, working with, rather than against, gravity, using the earth to rebound, to bring more symmetry by working on my weak side - the left leg and arm, and to combine what I have learnt from my yoga practice with what I’m exploring in the capoeira/gymnastics/movement worlds.

The use of metaphors has been an important part of the Yoga teachings for thousands of years, and one metaphor that has stood the test of time is that of the mind (chitta) as a mirror.
The ancient teachings would refer to the mind as a mirror to describe the way in which our Consciousness (our Eternal Self) gets identified with a false vision of itself - in the same way that when someone looks into a mirror that is dirty they think that they too are dirty. In the case of this photo I represent ‘the eternal witness’ and ‘my’ reflection in the water represents my mind. As the waves wash up over the sand my reflection changes. The waves represent all my changing thoughts, feelings and emotions. If I, as the observer, take this reflection to be me, I will have a distorted view of my true form. However at certain tides, when the waves no longer come and go, only an almost perfect reflection will remain; and in the stillness I will see my true form reflected back to me - just like when you are looking in the mirror and there is that moment when you are not identified with the image in the mirror but with the one who is observing the image (that is a useful practice in itself btw). So too, in this case, there is the possibility that when the waves have ceased, and the reflection is clear, that this realisation may happen and the observer will understand that all those changing conditions were only changes appearing on the surface.
Of course metaphors are only useful to a degree, and can never describe the unknown, or the full mystery of existence. Just as in this example, we know that my form is also as much a part of nature (Prakriti) as my reflection, and is therefore ephemeral, we are always left pondering the question as to what is our True Nature, and what is eternal? .

Corset Killer 3-5 plan. I only recently came across strength training Guru Pavel Tsatsouline on a @timferriss podcast a few months ago. He talked about the 3-5 plan which is basically something like choose an exercise and do 3-5 reps working at close to maximum intensity for 3-5 sets 3-5 times per week. He swore by it as one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to make strength gains. So a couple of weeks ago my friend @mattexp and I came up with this “Corset Killer” routine to work on the front, back and sides. I’m weak in all three of these skills so I’m pretty happy with the challenge to work on these 3-5 for the next few months. First is Dragon Flag - ideally the feet reach the floor. Second is partner assisted back extensions with a 5 second hold at the end of the 5th rep. Third is the air baby which is one of the best oblique exercises I’ve found. Actually all three are three of the best. 💪🏼 I’ll check in with you in a few months to see if the plan works. 🙌🏼

Here’s another one on the theme of assisting/adjustments. Just as my own practice is continuously evolving and going through a process of exploration, experimentation and refinement - so too is my teaching style and the way I assist - as I draw from new experiences and influences. The “Scorpion” assist is a good example of that. In the past I would more or less do the work of the student by “putting” them into the pose. But what I have found is that while this feels good for the student, it very rarely teaches them how to do it themselves. Working with my amazing wife @deepikamehtayoga is a good case in point. The time has come now where she is ready to “own” this one, but there are many things going on in this movement, as she finds her way to gain more control of the balance so that she can then start to reach full control of her end range hip and spinal extension, combined with ankle (plantar) and knee flexion. With this approach and her dedication and hard work ethic I know she will be doing this alone in the not so distant future. Watch this space 🦂🦂🦂.

In this day and age of modern postural yoga, one of the big questions that we need to ask as teachers, is what is the place of “hands on adjustments”? Firstly, as asana teachers we are also placed in an ambiguous relationship with our students, as we may have become a role model for them, and are therefore in a position of responsibility and power on a psychological and emotional level, requiring something of us that is beyond the knowledge of asanas. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of being a modern yoga teacher - particularly if your classes involve hands on adjustments, as the human body is a storehouse of emotional trigger points. As can be seen in this video there needs to be a lot of trust in order to go into these zones (by the way I was actually practicing when @martimegghi asked for this assist - hence I wasn’t wearing a shirt).
Secondly, in terms of finding Yoga - steadiness and comfort - in asana, then there needs to be a balance of strength and flexibility. In order to be pain free, the student must have sufficient active flexibility and end range control.
I know Martina well enough to know that she has both of these, and actually she could go much deeper than she has here, but I do not want to take her to her end range. Actually my goal is to get her to do this movement by herself. In the meantime, partner or teacher assisted adjustments like this, can help train the nervous system to understand the movement on a visceral level, and with the correct approach, adaptation will take place until less and less assistance is needed.
What has any of this got to do with the goal of Yoga? Do adjustments have a place in modern postural yoga? These are good questions to be asking.

It was not Instagram that killed yoga, ‘Sivananda Buried Yoga’ long before that. In case you’re wondering about the reference, then I suggest you read Yogi Manmoyanand’s provocative book from 2008. In essence, the point is that the original purpose of Yoga was/is radical self-transcendence - the process of realising that we are not the body or the mind. Yet at some point in history, Yoga became about physical fitness and healing diseases and ailments through yoga postures and breathing techniques. It became about stress management through meditation.
The challenging reality behind this is that it was not the cultural appropriation of westerners that lead to this change in the meaning and purpose of Yoga. This movement was started by Indian teachers. Western culture has simply run with it and due to the current trend of globalisation and the rise of the universal mono-culture, the Yoga scene has become “Americanised”. Yet, what came first - the chicken or the egg? If you come to India and visit Goa, Mysore or Rishikesh, you will see the Yoga marketplace bursting at the seams with teacher trainings happening on every street corner. You’ll see kids participating in Yoga competitions. In Mumbai prominent signs on the streets are advertising Yoga as the best way to lose weight, while the newspapers are promoting the latest Beer Yoga classes.
But how did I start practicing ? How did you start? How do any of us start? We start for a multitude of reasons and I bet that the goal of leaving the world and entering Samadhi was not one of them. Yet through our humble beginnings we are introduced to the Yoga tradition and to the process of self-inquiry. Some of us will be called to go deeper into that inquiry while others will stay with more simple desires for health and happiness.
Is that a bad thing? We don’t have to look to far to see the many stories of Gurus who have fallen from grace. Enlightenment might not be all it’s cracked up to be after all. Being a loving and compassionate human being may be our greatest challenge and the highest goal of Yoga. Before we go pointing the finger at others let’s begin with our own inner work. 🙏

That ‘lightbulb’ moment when Bollywood dance moves meet Yoga alignment 💡🤪 #bollywood #yoga #mumbai #india

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