markrobberds markrobberds

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Mark Robberds  Sept 22-27 GREEK ISLANDS 🇬🇷 RETREAT - 10-15 students maximum Sept 29-30 Athens Oct 5-7 Milan Nov 1-21 Goa Jan 19-Feb 1 Goa

Thanks for all the birthday wishes everyone - I’m one happy 🦁 I couldn’t ask for much more than all the blessings I have in my life right now. Thank you to all of you who are a part of it. 🙏❤️(this is my happy (sandy) face after trying back saults at the beach).

Parivrttasana(Revolved Turning Pose) or Mandalasana as it’s commonly known used to scare the hell out of me, but now it’s one of the postures that I find the most ‘fun’ and it feels amazing for the shoulders. I kind of like the Ashtanga name Parvttanasana because it is a good reminder of the the revolved (pariv) turnings (vrtti) of the mind that we are trying to make calm in this practice of yoga 🧘‍♂️.

The W sit and internal rotation. One of the elements that I have found that really complements my yoga practice is focusing on the 90/90 or Shinbox position - especially applying the FRC approach (from the little I understand of it). Most yoga postures focus on external rotation of the hips and internal rotation is limited to Virasana or variations of it. A more uncommon variation is called Paryankasana - which is basically a W sit - which children are mostly discouraged from doing these days due to fears that it causes tightness and a lack of coordination and gross motor skills. I have found that with the implementation of the 90/90 and focusing more on internal rotation has made the W feel ‘relatively’ comfortable (remember this posture is not a starting point - unless you are naturally inclined to be able to sit this way).

I love these iconic images from Australian photographer Max Dupain from 1937/39, taken at Australia’s most famous beach - Bondi in Sydney. It is a window into our past which can give us an idea of where we came from and how we got here. Actually my mother grew up in Bondi and was born at this time - so perhaps there was something in the air that led me to be fascinated by this physical culture!
In those days they most likely called what they were doing acrobatics/circus and I’m curious to know at what point this all went out of fashion because we don’t see it reappear in the mainstream again until the late 90’s and early 00’s,
when it was refashioned as Acro Yoga. Nowadays the acro yoga scene has made its way into the youth culture of India and I’m aware of a growing community of acro yogis In Mumbai, and so we see another example of the the way Yoga and the way we define it, continues to grow and adapt to every age.

Progress report... Looking back at my last one arm handstand post from June 2 I had almost 10 seconds on my left arm and a shaky 5 on my right... yesterday I managed 15 on my right and the day before that 15 on my left. It’s nice to document these little progressions of a journey that I began about three years ago. It was only since March though, with the encouragement of my teachers (@yuval_on_hands @miguel_hand_balance ), that I committed to more volume and practice each day. Timing is everything and persistence and consistency is key 🔑

Yogi Mercenaries ⚔️. The popular image today of the Yogi is one who follows the path of Ahimsa/Non-Violence, which is most likely due to the influence of Mahatma Gandhi. It seems that at least for a certain part of history this was not always the case. I came across this idea in Singleton’s book, Yoga Body, and again in @yogicstudies online course. Just a little research and I found that this hidden part of yoga’s history has been researched by a number of people in recent years. I came across this particularly interesting article from journalist Andrew Sullivan in The Dish which I’ll share here: Yogis seem to have gone particularly out of control during the eighteenth-century anarchy between the fall of the Mughals and the rise of the British. This is a subject explored by William Pinch in his brilliant 2006 study of the militant yogis of the period, Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires.
European travelers of the period frequently describe yogis who are “skilled cut-throats” and professional killers. “Some of them carry a stick with a ring of iron at the base,” wrote Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna in 1508. “Others carry certain iron diskes which cut all round like razors, and they throw these with a sling when they wish to injure any person.” A century later the French jewel merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier was describing large bodies of holy men on the march, “well armed, the majority with bows and arrows, some with muskets, and the remainder with short pikes.” By the Maratha wars of the early nineteenth century, the Anglo-Indian mercenary James Skinner was fighting alongside “10 thousand Gossains called Naggas with Rockets, and about 150 pieces of cannon.”
Pinch focuses in particular on the well-attested case of Anupgiri, a Shaivite ascetic and mercenary warlord who led a large army of killer yogis and fought with both modern weaponry and spells: Mahadji Shinde, a rival leader of the time, was convinced that Anupgiri had attacked him with a painful case of boils through his “magical arts.” Nor was Anupgiri necessarily a champion of Hindu interests: “Far from thinking of themselves as the last line of defense against foreign invaders - continued in comments

This is a re-enactment of the sequence (though I just realised I made a couple of mistakes but, hey, who’s judging?) demonstrated by B.K.S. Iyengar in the historic 1938 silent film where he appears with his Guru, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya - who is considered to be the ‘Grandfather’ of modern yoga, and the teacher who first introduced the idea of vinyasa - connecting movement with breath, into the asana practice. Prior to this there is no recorded evidence in the yogic texts of this - so we have him to thank for the way many of us practice yoga today.
It is believed that the film was commissioned as a way of promoting and changing the way yoga was portrayed in India, because at that time, asana practice was not viewed favourably and very few Indians were practicing.
I don’t remember when I first saw this film (maybe 2000?), but I remember being inspired by not only the athleticism of these masters - but also by the mood of the film which did invoke a kind of mysticism; it looked like they were performing their sadhana(spiritual practice). The film was influential at the time when it resurfaced (thanks to the internet) because it gave us a glimpse of the kind of practice that Krishnamacharya was teaching and practicing, as well as Iyengar, during the 1930’s.

Greasing the Groove (GtG) is an approach to strength training that I first came across from strength guru, and the man credited for introducing kettlebell training to the West, Pavel Tsatsouline. GtG is a technique that I believe was developed during the Soviet era. The idea behind it is that strength is a skill that needs to be trained: and one way to do this is by ‘greasing’ the neurological ‘groove’, or the neurological pathways between the nervous system and the muscles. Through repetition these pathways become more efficient and strength ‘gains’ are made.
What Pavel suggests is to pick a skill that you want to work on. He gives the example of Pull-Ups, but here I I’m using the example of the “Jump Back” found in Yoga. Now you cannot approach this technique the same way that would do with other forms of strength training. What you have to do is choose your skill and then perform it as 40% of your maximum capacity - in the case of pull ups if 10 is your max number of repetitions then you would do 4, but you would do this multiple times throughout the day. In the case of a Jump Back, if I can do 10 of these (here I’m isolating each part of the movement) then I would do 4 reps and then do that at various times throughout the day. According to Pavel the strength gained from this approach is phenomenal. Using the paralletes gives the added benefit of developing grip strength and stronger wrists at the same time.
So I’m going to give it a try this month... who’s going to join me?
@thekozm 👖 and beanie

Another thread in this story of the roots of modern yoga, that has as yet been overlooked - as far as I know - is the spread of yoga to Brazil and its connections with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legends such as Rickson Gracie. In my research a few years ago I came across his teacher, Orlando Cani, and his blending of yoga with martial arts and animal movements was mesmerising. I was curious to know where he learned Yoga and it seems he studied with Shri Yogendra - Founder of The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, who was one of the key players in the revival of yoga in the modern era, according to Mark Singleton.
As a side note I am also aware that Pattabhi Jois’ first time out of India was to give a lecture in Brazil. So the stream of yoga moving between India and Brazil has also been an element that has contributed to the global movement which began last century.
In this video I’m doing some movements that could be, and I think are, part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but could easily fit in with modern dance, yoga (bridge to plough), and modern day movement classes. The cross-over is real.

I just finished listening to Jerome Armstrong - the author of the book Calcutta Yoga, on @jbrownyoga podcast, and it’s just so fascinating to discover more about India’s bodybuilding yogis from last century and the influence they had on modern yoga. In the first photo here is Bishnu Ghosh, who was not only Bikram Choudhury’s guru, but he was Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother, and part of the lineage of Kriya Yoga’s somewhat mythical figure - Babaji. According to Mark Singleton, in his book Yoga Body, and this was a revelation to me, in the early days of coming to America, both the brothers (Yogananda and Bishnu) toured the US giving demonstrations of what they called, “Muscle Control”, which, by all accounts were demonstrations of asanas, feats of strength, and judging by the photos - uddiyana bandha and nauli kriya. This is why I have included the photo of the legendary body builder Frank Zane performing the ‘Abdominal Vacuum’ which is a pose used by body builders - I wonder if they got it from the yogis?
In the fourth image I have chosen a photograph of Ramesh Balsekar, who I was very surprised to find in Singleton’s book, as he was one of (in my opinion) the great non-dual/Advaita Vedanta teachers of the modern era, and he had a big influence on my way of understanding the world when I visited him in his home in Mumbai during the 2000’s. What we were never told was that during the 30’s he was acclaimed to have the most perfect physique in India and was ranked in the top 10 in Great Britain.
Then there is this quote from the great Swami Vivekananda, ““You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the Upaniṣads better and the glory of the Ātman when your body stands firm upon your feet and you will feel yourselves as men. What I want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made. Strength, man-hood, kshatriya-virya plus brahmteja(?))” He called it ‘muscular Hinduism’. All this research that is coming to the fore is fascinating and I urge you to at least consider it - we certainly cannot ignore it.

Yesterday someone commented on my post, “don’t you do yoga anymore?” and I occasionally (thankfully only occasionally) get people acting like experts commenting on my posts in this way. My own understanding of what Yoga is, is by no means complete. After 20 years of practice, and riding the waves of honeymoon phases, of attachment and aversion, only now do I truly feel like I’m beginning to go deeper into my inquiry.
An exciting part of this learning is the new wave of academic practitioners who are creating waves in the yogic world by giving us a fresh perspective on what this ancient tradition is - where it came from and how we got here.
We have all been conditioned so much to limit our understanding of Yoga to a singular definition, yet it is becoming clearer that the word itself (and what it means) has been changing and evolving since the beginning.
So I share with you this fantastic image depicting the forest yogis of India doing some of my favourite activities - hanging upside down, squatting, doing some pranayama or meditation, doing one arm headstand and YES - handstand! I guess the answer is then, that - yes I do still ‘do’ Yoga. 🤙🏼
Photo from the British Museum - which I have taken from Seth Powell’s brilliant Yogic Studies online course. Stay open-minded... stay curious, keep learning 🔱.

I was listening to an old Liberated Body Podcast yesterday with the Original Strength guys and it got me thinking about head position in common yoga postures like High Plank and Chaturanga Dandasana. They (Original Strength) emphasise the importance of crawling (contra lateral) patterns and how the head follows the eyes, and the body follows the head. Our whole sense of balance governed by the vestibular system is located between the ears so to speak. But in the modern world we have totally lost this connection to the relationship between our heads and the rest of our body due to all the time we spend looking at screens, and “Forward Head Posture” and “text neck” are an epidemic.
So we know that while standing the ears should be over the shoulders, which are over the hips, over the knees, over the mid foot. But should we maintain this alignment in other positions?
Many physiotherapists, yoga teachers and trainers advocate keeping this alignment while doing planks and push ups. The reasoning being that as soon as you extend the neck (head up) the lower back also extends and core control is lost.
Yet if we look at our evolution then we can observe that the first thing that infants do is lift up their heads to begin crawling because we need to see where we are going. You can see this in the animal kingdom as well. This is why it’s natural to want to look forward instead of down during planks and chaturangas.
I tried these movements while balancing a stick and noticed that it was nearly impossible to keep my neck in neutral and I needed at least some extension.
Conclusion: Try both!

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