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Mark Robberds  Jan 19-Feb 1 Purple Valley Goa March 10-15 Ashtanga Conference Bali May 11-18 Nepal June Bali August Bali

As the first generation of westerners (the hippies from the late 60’s/early 70’s) approach their 70’s and 80’s, as well as those that came after them through the 1980’s, we are able to see the results of their pioneering explorations into the path of yoga/meditation. In general, the overall consensus would be that through that experimentation a lot of mistakes (valuable ones - we should all be grateful for everyone who came before us) were made, and we have come to a place now, more than ever, where as a global community we are questioning the validity and appropriateness of the practices of yoga that were once the domain of ascetics and renunciants who practiced them as forms of austerity. We are at the point of asking, “What is the point?” “Does it really matter if I can put my leg behind my head, or hold my breath for hours and go into deep states of absorption - if I still end up facing and succumbing to the same anger, jealousy, envy, lust, greed and apathy as everyone else?” And now we have the Instagram craze where the world has got caught up in chasing ‘shapes’ and followers, but already we are seeing the dissent this is creating as we are forced to ask deeper questions; as we realise that this was not what it was about, and the chase creates more feelings of emptiness and moves us further away from the sense of wholeness that we were longing for.
These are important questions and a necessary phase for us all to work through. In my own practice it’s as if I’m only just beginning again, as I look more deeply into the purpose of it all and what is at the core of what drives me to practice.

Hi everyone,
My podcast with @ashtangadispatch Is now available. This is my first time speaking on a podcast - I hope you like it. Some of the topics we touched upon were, “Can exploration in movement and other approaches to practice coexist in the Ashtanga tradition?” I share my opinion as to why variety is critical for our physical development, in particular for Ashtanga, to balance out the sometimes extreme nature of the postures. There are some important issues talked about in this podcast and I hope this is the just the beginning of a much bigger conversation. Check it out on iTunes or ashtangadispatch.com
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Thanks @pegmulqueen and @meghanreuck 🙏🏼

There’s a lot of different opinions out there about the ‘right’ way to do backbends. From my perspective it’s rarely ‘this vs that’, or a one-size-fits-all approach. Nor is there a magic pill or an easy way. And it doesn’t just come from practicing either (unless it’s intelligent practice). What is needed is a varied, multi-pronged approach that builds upon the basics/foundations/fundamentals and addresses the needs and capacities of each individual.
Kapotasana is one of the postures that I used to fear, but now, with the right preparation I’ve come to love it - well not quite- but it’s never felt so good as it does now. .
So, while there is a protocol that we follow and inevitably we teach the way we find works for us; it just doesn’t work for 100 per cent of our students, and for that we need other options and approaches. .
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Next retreat Purple Valley Jan 19-Feb 1
And Bali intensives for the months of June and August where we will help you discover your best possible backbends and more. 🙏🏼

@yuval_on_hands posted a short sequence today that reminded me of this sequence that we used to practice in Ashtanga in the late 90’s (before handstands were considered bad - for making the shoulders tight for backbends and showing off). Yuval’s post was about a sequence his 7 year old daughter is learning in gymnastics class on the road to the ‘Stalder Press’, and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities - and as much as the yoga community would like to say that what we do is not ‘mere’ gymnastics (or contortion for that matter), there can be no denying the similarities - at least from an external point of view. At the end of the day the human body only has so many possibilities: so there is bound to be a cross over amongst different modalities. Personally I feel that this cross-over is a positive thing and we can learn so much from each other. The technical aspect of my practice has improved dramatically since learning from Yuval and others like him in hand balancing and contortion, but I’ll always be so thankful that I’ve learnt about the importance of breath connected movement and breathing techniques, meditation, as well as the philosophical aspects and (for lack of a better word) spirituality/self-inquiry, that comes from developing a Yoga practice.

As I mentioned in a previous post, only once ‘good’ breathing has been established can we begin a discussion on ‘bandhas’ that is beyond concepts,
and can be applied in reality. The same is true of movement. Once ‘good’ movement patterns are established - combined with ‘natural’ breathing - then there’s little else to do in terms of trying to overlay a concept of the bandhas to a yoga practice. The key is to learn/teach/be taught, movements that bring about obligatory muscle activations like these spinal waves and hip circles. Almost 100 percent of people I show the hip circles to can do them straight away - it’s as easy as walking. The spinal waves can be challenging, often when they are first learnt the coordination can be difficult,
but once the pattern is understood then they too become very natural and effortless.
Essentially spinal waves are about learning to articulate/segment the spine one vertabra at a time. The body knows how to do this - you don’t have to think ‘ok now activate Rectus Abdominus and relax TVA, now relax RA and switch on TVA’, yet this is exactly what is happening, as well as there being loads of other muscles all working in a synergistic flow together.
In terms of the health of our spine then these simple, gentle movements are probably all we need. If we are trying to achieve other more advanced skills and postures then of course we will need a higher level of control. My teacher @simonsynergy has been alluding to all of this for a long time - definitely way ahead of his time. It’s great to see other teachers from different modalities also incorporating and emphasising these principles now.

Viparita Chakrasana (aka tic-tocks/tacs) have always been one of my favourites - and gave me a solid foundation for all the acrobatics that I’m currently pursuing. I don’t think I would have been able to learn skills like back handsprings and back somersaults at this age without them. That being said, as I move more towards a generalist, rather than specialist,
approach (in the words of @portal.ido ) I very rarely practice them anymore. That process itself is very interesting because on the one hand I feel myself becoming stronger and working with better technique, but on the other hand I can feel my flexibility has decreased (even if it doesn’t look like it here - I can feel it). Everything comes with a price; as a specialist ‘Ashtangi’ I was able to reach many of the goals I had set for myself, but at the expense of many other areas of my life. As I pursue other skills and try to fulfil other areas of my life,I can notice that I’m not ‘where I used to be’ in my Ashtanga practice - in terms of flexibility that is- in terms of the other limbs my practice is developing and evolving all the time, but on the physical level it’s an interesting process to observe attachments to mind made images and projections. That said, I’m going to spend the next couple of months revisiting the practice and see where it leads.
#innerramblings

Here are some of my tips for those of you who are pursuing the #questforthepress . The prerequisites are both a decent handstand freestanding and adequate flexibility. Assuming those are in place then here is a progression that works:
1️⃣ Work off a height (bed, bench, step etc) it can be scary at first but having the hips already up so high gives a big mechanical advantage and teaches you a lot about how to transfer weight. 2️⃣ Work the negatives (5-10 seconds descent) This will build a lot of strength and groove the neural pathways for this movement to happen. 3️⃣ Elevate the shoulder blades and lock the elbows! I wish I’d been told this 20 years ago - you guys today are so lucky to have all this information now! 4️⃣ Compress! This means stick your legs and torso together for as long as possible which totally engaged the anterior chain of the body. Again I wish I’d been shown this 20 years ago instead of relying on my lower back to do the movement. 5️⃣ Open the straddle - do more flexibility and mobility work - and less strength will be required. 6️⃣ Progressively lower the height - don’t skip any steps. 7️⃣ Momentum press - this is almost the full press but as you lean forward you push off the balls of the feet - it’s not a jump though! 8️⃣ Keep repeating and practicing the above hundreds (maybe thousands) of times. May your path be pressed 🙏🏼 (sidenote: the foot position I use here is how most yoga practitioners learn it which is why I demonstrated it like this - in my hand balancing practice I prefer it done with the feet starting and finishing together.)

This is a breathing sequence that I like to work with; both in my own practice and with my students. In order to understand the subtle, esoteric world of the ‘bandhas’ we first need to understand the basics of breathing. I recommend all students to research ‘Three Dimensional Breathing’ as a way to understand the importance the diaphragm plays in the breathing process. Something interesting to note is that as the diaphragm contracts there is a reflexive contraction of the pelvic floor - so we can say that good breathing will activate Mula Bandha without having to consciously squeeze your anus! 🗝Another important element is understanding how to breath not only to the front, but also to the sides and back of the body - first focusing on diaphragmatic breathing and then on Thoracic (which also still uses the diaphragm btw) breathing. ⚖️ This brings about a sense of balance not just within the body - but also the mind. If you have problems feeling the back body then you can try lying on your back and feel as if you are breathing into the floor and for breathing into the upper back I like to put the hands under the armpits and slightly flex the T-Spine - a little addition to my practice that I got from @coachzachdeck 🙏🏼. Then there are the ‘traditional’ Yogic breathing techniques - the staple of my routine being the fire breath - ‘breathing into the abdomen and then forcefully exhaling with the muscles of exhalation- TVA/obliques. Then the bellows breath and which uses the Thoracic breathing and forceful exhales and then combining the two and after exhaling all the air, creating a mock inhalation/Uddiyana Bandha - as well as Mula (pelvic floor) and Jalandhara (chin) bandhas. Before a conversation can be started about the subtleties of breath and what is the right and wrong way to do things there must first be an experiential process and some aptitude demonstrated - otherwise we can too easily get lost in words and concepts. 🙏🏼

Suck your Belly in or Engage/Brace your Core?” It’s an important distinction and one I feel needs to be addressed because I see a lot of students coming to me with dysfunctional breathing and movement patterns because they are attempting to suck their bellies in as they move. But before I go into that I want to give my take on the development of that idea. Back in the mid 90’s Australian Professor Paul Hodges, head of human neurosciences at Queensland University, performed experiments by attaching electrodes to two groups of people, one with healthy backs and another with chronic back pain. His results showed that the healthy group engaged a deeply embedded muscle called the transversus abdominis, causing it to contract and support the spine just before movement. In those with back pain, no such engagement took place, leaving the spine less supported. Hodges then claimed that this muscle could be strengthened by “drawing in” the stomach during exercises and this provided some protection against back pain. This started a whole wave amongst physiotherapists and fitness trainers and subsequently Pilates became huge. Not only that, western yoga teachers drew a correlation between activating TVA with the bandhas- Mula and Uddiyana.
Fast forward some years later and Dr Stuart McGill - one of the world’s leading spine biomechanics experts, has clearly shown that sucking the belly in destabilises the spine, “In studies we have done, the amount of load the spine could bear was greatly reduced when subjects sucked in their belly buttons,” he says. “What happens is that the muscles are brought closer to the spine, which reduces the stability in the back. It becomes weak and wobbly as you try to move.”
Further to that even Paul Hodges has evolved his view and now is saying, “All muscles are important to meet functional demands. You can’t just rely on one muscle.”
One example of this is the first position I’m demonstrating here - sucking the belly in does not change the position of the spine whereas activating all the abdominal muscles brings the rib cage down and reduces lumbar extension. A different, but related, example is (continued in comments)

This is a follow up on my last post about Yoga Butt Injury - there were 250+ comments indicating that this is a serious issue within the yoga community and I’ll do my best to help you - but let me first say that I’m not a medical professional so any advice I share is only from my own experience from the last 20 years of teaching. So besides following the protocol outlined in the previous post, I also recommend strengthening the hamstrings and glutes and these exercises can easily be added to the yoga practice. 1️⃣ Hip IR+Ext (Internal Rotation and Extension). You should feel the glutes go soft and the hamstring switch on. Keep the pelvis in neutral or slightly tucked under. 3-5 lift offs from the floor. 2️⃣Hip ER + EXT (External Rotation and Extension)This activates the glutes. 3-5 lift offs focusing on peak contraction of the muscle. Note that pure hip extension - without using the lower back - is a small movement so if you find these easy then probably you are using your low back. 3️⃣ S.L (Single Leg) Glute Bridge - make sure to keep the knee hugged tightly to the chest, tuck the pelvis under and focus on lifting from the glutes and not from the quads. You can do 3-5 reps and hold the last one for 5 seconds. 4️⃣Hamstring Bridge - maintain a posterior pelvic tilt as you extend the hips away from the floor, digging the heels into the floor attempt to drag the heels towards the hips to activate the hamstrings. 3-5 reps and hold the last one for 5 seconds. 4️⃣S.L. Hamstring Bridge - The same as the last one but extend one leg. Same reps as above. 5️⃣ Bring the heels in closer to the hips and repeat. This sequence can be done a few times a week. I’m not saying this is definitely going to heal the injury but it’s a step in the right direction and the worst case scenario is that you will have stronger legs because of it.
I hope this helps with a speedy recovery 🙏🏼.

This week we had quite a few students come to us with a classic case of ‘Yoga Butt’ (no, not the yoginis in bikinis 👙 kind 🙃) but the injury of the hamstrings/adductors right on the sitz bone(s). It’s one of the worst yoga injuries and can take years to heal. The problem is that the science tells us that we need to keep stretching the scar tissue but there is a very fine line between that and causing more inflammation and chronic pain. Often we think that the solution is to bend the knees in forward bends, but in some cases this increases the stretch and pain, so what I have found works the best is to use more spinal flexion. This can be a difficult movement to understand and it’s the opposite of what we are mostly taught to do, and there is also a fine line between active flexion of the spine and collapsing into flexion. The protocol I show here is more or less what I find to be the most effective and I have had good results with this in the past. The other element is to add in hamstring and glute strengthening exercises. If you’d like to see those leave a comment below. 🙏🏼

A few bits from my afternoon practice today... My first ever back sault (on the flats)!!! My goal was to get this before I turned 50 - I’m happy to say I reached it with 5 1/2 years to go 😜. Also, I got so close to the 30/30 (30 seconds on each hand in one set) today in my one arm handstand... I’m more than stoked 😃. The other vids are a couple of other projects I’m working on. Stay inspired guys and keep going after your goals. I read a good one from Zig Ziglar: “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” ✌🏼

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