Mark is well known for helping people discover their own personal practice at home, and stepping out of the yoga studio industry.
NEW YORK, NY, December 02, 2020 /Neptune100/ —
Q: Every time I teach a class I have a voice in my head going “They’re going to hate it, you’re a terrible teacher, what are you doing.” Does this go away?
Mark Whitwell: Yes. You are reality itself. In reality there are no separate objects that you have to be fearful of. In reality there is no separate subject, the knower, of the object, the imagined separate object. No shadowy subject of the separate object. You don’t have to do that whole script in your head. It will inevitably be there. Inevitably, in any of your activity or circumstance in the world, no matter what you’re doing, it will be there. This yoga is something completely different from this, it is your participation in reality as it is. In reality there is not you and me, a separate knower of you in some sort of complication of what I perceive you to be. There is only reality arising, and in reality I love you. In reality I love all things, all apparent others. So then fear does not arise. And if we are doing our own practice, then we can walk into our yoga rooms or walk in to see our student and just teach them as life itself, as love, as reality.
Q: Did you ever have to go through a process of feeling nervous, sharing yoga?
Mark Whitwell: Of course, it’s inevitable, because it’s the social mind that we’re born into. And of course it’s not just teaching yoga, is anything that we are doing whatsoever.
Q: What helped with that?
Mark Whitwell: It’s just an understanding. You know, it’s written in the Upanishads that “Wherever there is an other, fear arises.” It is a basic teaching of Veda. And after a while that becomes apparent, that becomes apparent that there are no others to be afraid of.
Q: Sometimes I feel that people who act very confident are kind of repellent, how do we avoid being shy on the one hand or abrasive like that on the other.
Mark Whitwell: Well I wouldn’t call that confidence, it’s toxic positivity. It’s a hardness, still a fear of the other, fear of other people, maintenance of a persona, and so there is a mask on, a performance of confidence.
Q: Is that why people do the “yoga teacher voice?” Like a kind of lifeless, perky, high-pitched pattern, similar to what flight attendants are made to do. Why do people do that?
Mark Whitwell: It’s just a patterning which has created a yoga industry. We’re finished with that. It’s sort of a waste of a life. This is nothing personal, it is not a criticism to any person, it is a cultural criticism. And it’s not confined to Yoga, yoga is just one more industry where people are driven by fear. There’s a catch 22 where people are teaching something that has the same name as an ancient system meant to resolve separateness, resolve fear. But it has had the essential technology of the breath stripped out of it, and so it’s not really working. So the yoga teachers are putting pressure on themselves and other teachers to somehow be this blissed out, peaceful, confident person, without the means to manifest those qualities naturally. It create a tremendous stressful pressure of performance. To become a teacher can be a strategy in life to get by when you’re a fearful person. It’s a mass mental health situation.
Q: On the theme of the yoga teacher voice, don’t students seem to notice it or mind?
Mark Whitwell: I remember teaching a wonderful woman in Bali who had started to practice teaching on her husband. And halfway through their first session, he said to her “Why are you talking to me in a funny voice?” He knew that she didn’t talk like that! It broke the illusion for her, it cracked her open and it was very funny for her to realise what she had been doing. But if no one points this out, this vulgar duplication of the patterning of this world, repetition, repetition of the patterning goes on and on. Yoga actually practiced is there to break that spell. Yoga is each person’s direct embrace of reality as it actually is, where the mind is arising as a function of a life, a function of reality, a function of the heart. You can’t do that forcefully or strategically. You can’t act natural, you cannot. It’s based on a real understanding that all that is arising is reality itself and that’s all there is. And you have this practice of direct embrace, the body’s intimacy with its own condition, its own wonder. Not a struggle to get somewhere but participation in the given reality. And that puts the body-mind into the natural state of life. And then gradually or suddenly, that strategic patterning duplication disappears out of the system and you find you are just a caring person, with your students who you care for, and you’re doing your best job to share the practice.
Q: Is there a chance I’m doing the yoga teacher voice and don’t even know?
Mark Whitwell: It’s like Ringo Starr’s song, “all you gotta do is act naturally” – you can’t act naturally. It’s a contradiction. Some salesman in the US said “if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.” It’s not a personal criticism, it’s a cultural criticism. There is a sense of profound relief that you don’t have to do it. Performing takes a huge, vast amount of energy. It’s exhausting. As my dear friend UG Krishnamurti used to say, to be yourself is very easy. But to be somebody else takes a huge amount of effort.
Mark Whitwell is a world-renowned yoga teacher, author, speaker and mentor. He has helped tens of thousands of people all over the world discover intimacy with their body and breath, by sharing the principles he learned from his teachers, T. Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar. Mark is well known for helping people discover their own personal practice at home, and stepping out of the yoga studio industry. His teacher trainings are referred to as teacher ‘untrainings’, and his students often find themselves sharing yoga spontaneously and creatively, in gestures of genuine caring towards others. He is known for deconstructing student teacher hierarchies and sharing difficult truths about what’s missing from western yoga with grace and humour. Mark is the author of four books and can be found at www.heartofyoga.com and writing on Instagram @markwhitwell. Here he answers questions from new teachers on confidence and overcoming reactivity to the western yoga scene.