Mark Robberds@markrobberds

Jan 19-Feb 1 Purple Valley Goa
March 10-15 Ashtanga Conference Bali
May 11-18 Nepal
June 23- July 19 Bali
August 4-30 Bali

markrobberds.com/

2,205 posts 112,746 followers 667 following

Mark Robberds

I find fascinating these photos of Yoga pioneer, Swami Kuvalayananda, in the laboratory using scientific methods to investigate the effects of Yogic techniques like asana, pranayama, bandhas and shatkarmas. It makes me ask the question: Is Yoga about radical self transcendence (Enlightenment) or about health and healing? Are those two ideas even separate - can we have one without the other? Many yogins argue both sides; that only through a sound and stable body can one attain a stable mind. While others say that asana/pranayama is simply a preliminary stage and is not needed to reach the higher stages of Yoga. And what about the Tantric Yogic body of chakras and nadis? Would we find them with a scalpel or a camera - or do they exist only in the imagination of the practitioner? If so, does this make them any less real?
There is a story in Mark Singelton’s book, Yoga Body, of Dayananda Saraswati, who in 1855, “pulls a corpse from the river and dissects it to ascertain if the chakras are real. When his search fails he throws away his Yogic texts, with the exclusion of the Vedas, Patañjali and Sankhya - claiming that all other works on the science of yoga are false.” An argument that is often put forward is that the Indian system of yoga cannot by understood by the rational, Western mind. Yet, as Singleton points out, we must consider that it was actually Indian pioneers of Yoga, like Swami Kuvalayananda and Sri Yogendra, in the 1920’s, that began to use rational, empirical methods to prove that Yoga is a legitimate science (by Western standards).
The attempt to map the Yogic Anatomy of the Tantric body of the chakras and nadis appears to have started much earlier than this, and theories were formulated that they correspond with the different organs and nerve plexus of the human body - an idea that is still popular today.
The more I look into all of this, the more I find that the lines are blurred - it’s rarely black and white. Ideas are interchangeable and are indeed also changing and being recycled all the time across cultures and through generations. Today this is perhaps more apparent than ever. #yoga #science #history


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Mark Robberds

To squeeze or not to squeeze (the butt in backbends)- apparently that is still the question. I still hear a lot of confusion around this one so let’s first go back to the origins of the dilemma. Somewhere around the late 90’s the cue, “relax your butt/glutes” became widespread in the Yoga community the reason being that the gluteus maximus is both a hip extensor and an external rotator. The theory is that when we squeeze the butt in backbends this externally rotates the femurs and sends a compressive force up through the sacroiliac joints which can cause damage and pain. The belief was that in order to be done safely backbends needed to be done with internal rotation and adduction of the femurs. Fast forward to the present day and you’ll see in the physiotherapy world and fitness culture in general, that glutes are back in a big a way. So you’ll see Cobra’s prescribed with the glutes engaged, same as bridges (aka backbends) actually it’s almost gone to the opposite extreme where it seems that the cause of every imbalance in the body is said to be coming from weak glutes.
So squeeze or not to squeeze? It depends. There are many types of backbends - some with the hips involved and some without. My feeling is be able to do both - squeeze and see how that feels, relax and see how that feels. In the first video I’m in a backbend and moving from “sitting down” relaxing the butt, to extending the hips - squeezing the butt. Both are good. Another point to consider is why not be strong in all directions? For example in hip external and internal rotation and in neutral - as I demonstrate in the third video. Many movements that I enjoy - like walkovers - require a lot of external rotation and extension on one leg. In the end I think that the problem is not about whether you squeeze or not, it’s about how extreme are your movements? The more extreme you go the more control you must have. Stay within a safe and healthy and build more options from there. Keep your mind open and keep exploring and learning. (Oh the last vide is one of those weird things that I used to do and I was curious to see if I still can 🤔)


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Mark Robberds

Here’s one for the vinyasa lovers... yesterday one of my big inspirations @tomweksler described one of his movement sequences with details about connecting movement with breath in a way that was very yogic (and something that I don’t often find mentioned in the movement world) and it inspired this this morning: From Marichyasana A inhale lift the head and chest up. Exhale firm abdomen and engage lats. Inhale lift up and swing back while exhaling - aim to keep the arms straight - all the way to handstand. Inhale at the top. Exhale as you lower while bending the elbows and land the knee softly on top of the elbow. Still exhaling start to rotate. Inhale ‘pop’ to the finger tips in the Air Baby (you will need to train this move independently- check my stories). Find your balance and stay 3-5 breaths. Inhale hand back to the floor and exhale jump back to Chaturanga. Inhale up dog. Exhale down dog. Inhale step right foot forward. Exhale pivot to a Cossack squat. Inhale transition to the left leg, right hand to the floor and right foot steps through, bind and head up. Exhale bend forward. Repeat on the left side....swipe to see my left side - not so clean but good enough. Obviously this is not a beginner sequence but I’m sure we could find a way to adapt it so it could be... if you try it let me know how it goes. 🙏🏼


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Mark Robberds

An important element for developing faith and strength in your practice is creating and focusing on the ‘bhāv’ - the feeling/emotion of your practice and your practice space. This mantra is powerful:
Atmastakam
I am not the mind, intellect, thought, ego, or some form of the supreme being; I neither have ears, nor tongue and I neither have nose (nostrils) nor eyes; I am not the sky, earth, light or the wind; I am the fortunate, joyful, supreme being who is the very emblem of truth, knowledge and eternal bliss.
I am consciousness and bliss. I am Shiva, I am Shiva.
I am not the most essential air that everyone breathes. Nor a part of essential five gases related to bodily functions (which are Prana, Aparna, Vyana, Udana and Samana). I am not the seven-fold material (Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Medas, Asthi,Majja and Shukra) that help in body’s physical development, I am not part of five coverings that help to build up the personality (food, air, mind, knowledge or wisdom and pleasure). Nor am I the five organs of action (which are speech/mouth, hands, feet, reproductive and rectum).
I have no likes or dislikes; Not I have any greed or delusion; I have no pride or arrogant vanity; Nor am I jealous of anyone or in competition with anyone ; I do not need the four main necessities of life (which are Dharma (Law of Life), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desires) and Moksha (Liberation);
I am not attached to any righteousness or sin; I have neither pleasure nor sorrow. I have no need for any Mantra; I have no need for pilgrimages ; I have no need for any sacred scriptures; nor do I perform any sacrifise or rituals; I am neither the meal nor the one who consumes or what is consumed;I have no fear of death, nor do I have caste distinctions; I neither have a father nor mother because I was never born; I have neither kin/relatives nor friends; I have no gurus and nor am I a disciple. I am free of thoughts and beyond imagination since I have no form; I am all pervading and exist everywhere; I am the king of all sense-organs; I am always impartial to everything and everyone,; I am free from everything and I have no attachment to anything.
Adi Shankaracharya, 8th Century music by Craig Pruess


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Mark Robberds

Getting artsy 👨‍🎨 When it comes to Lotus pose (Padmasana) and knee pain, the common dialogue is that it comes from having ‘tight’ hips - and since the knee is a hinge joint (or so the book says) it is not made for the rotational stresses placed on it. But the tibia 🦴 does rotate (internal/external) as I’m demonstrating here and this can make a big difference in not only the Lotus, but for a ton of other yoga poses (think back leg in all standing poses) and for overall knee health for daily activities; such as walking 😉. I’ve been intuitively teaching my students this tibial rotation for years which is why I really connect with the #FRC and #kinstretch practice because they stress the importance of reclaiming this awareness - “rotation is nature’s anti-inflammatory” I heard @coachzachdeck say on the first course I did with him and it really made sense. I recommend checking out his upcoming January course and you’ll get some great drills for healthy knees... click the link in my bio for $10 discount - Happy New Year 🥳 and thanks for all the support in 2018. 🙏🏼


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Mark Robberds

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you would have noticed that movements like ‘Van Damme’ splits are making a comeback as more and more people come to value the importance of active flexibility - or a similar term used now is functional mobility (the ability to actively achieve a range of motion). This is not to say that passive stretching doesn’t have a place (in my opinion it still does) but in the last few years I’ve been putting much more attention on a daily practice of a joint by joint approach - by simply moving the joints through their active range (and I’ve never felt better). In the last few months I’ve also added in the #kinstretch practice with @coachzachdeck and this has been an excellent compliment/addition to my daily practice. What I like about it is that it’s similar enough to my yoga asana practice that I can easily implement the principles, yet different enough that I find myself having many ‘Aha!’ moments....I definitely recommend all my students (and any of you who follow me but that I haven’t met) to take his next online course. Don’t worry you won’t be going straight into Van Damme splits 😱! The course starts with the basics and building a solid foundation. If you’re interested use the link in my bio and you’ll get a $10 discount. I’m not usually into the sales push but I really believe in this which is why I’m recommending it. 🙏🏼


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Mark Robberds

This is one of my favourite hollowback variations (old photo from last May) with a similar variation (video from the other day) so you can see how I get into this - and to see the reality of how photos can be deceiving. I have so much respect for b-boys and capoeiristas who can do these movements with speed - but as they say, “You have to earn your speed”, and for me I need to go slowly with these to keep my shoulders and neck safe. By far this is one of the best shoulder/upper back “openers” that I know of.
@miguel_art_photos 🧞‍♂️#hollowback


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Mark Robberds

Throwback to when it was much easier to get my feet 👣on my head🦂(I had to laugh the other day when a friend said to me, “I notice you only touch your toes now - is that how it’s supposed to be done?” I replied, “Ha! No... it’s just not as easy now as it was”. Definitely first world problems though).
The interesting thing for me about this photo is that it’s from pre-Instagram days. In those days we would take some photos for our website, and for promotional materials - flyers for an upcoming workshop or retreat - and those photos would last you a couple of years at least. Ah the good ol’ days... now with social media it’s like we get caught up in this pressure to post everyday, otherwise there’s a fear that we won’t stay relevant, that we will suddenly be forgotten. Thankfully that’s not true. We can still live meaningful, fulfilling ‘non-social’ lives.....but it does help for work related posts:
Upcoming workshops:
Purple Valley Jan 19- Feb 1
Ashtanga Conference Bali March 10-15
Nepal: May 11-18
Bali: June 22-July 19
Bali: August 4-30


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Mark Robberds

I’ve had a few people (yoga friends) asking me about the gymnastics rings and how to get started. By now it’s pretty well understood that doing some pulling and hanging, while developing grip strength, can be a great compliment to all the pushing that is done in a general yoga practice. I know there are some styles like Iyengar that do use ropes and the ancient yogis did hanging practices - but there’s not much taught these days. Getting started can be a little daunting, and I recommend seeing an expert to show you correct technique and to develop a program, but what I show here is a good place to start:
1) Supported Hang (feet on the floor to control how much weight you need to support) allow the shoulder blades to elevate to the ears - just because something is supposed to be good for you doesn’t mean that your shoulders are ready for it. If you feel pain here transfer more weight to your legs. 2) Active Supported Hang - Keep the feet on the floor but actively pull the shoulder blades down away from the ears. 3) Scapula Circles - forward,up,back,down and reverse it. If this hurts then try smaller movements and more weight to the feet. 4) Active Dead Hang - if the above progression is pain free the take the feet off the floor and depress the shoulder blades (pull them down towards hips). 5)Passive Dead Hang - let the shoulders go up to the ears. 6) Everyone would love to do a chin up! There are many things to consider for this but practicing a chin up negative is a good place to start. Jump up to where you’re able to touch your collarbones with your thumbs, depress and retract the shoulder blades and lower down as slowly as you can. 7)Hanging Cobra - this is an amazing stretch. You can adjust the weight to make it more passive or active by adjusting the height of the rings. Play with T-Spine extension and flexion also with the shoulder blades and also internal and external rotation of the arms. 8) This side stretch is one of the best.... same goes for this as the Cobra. There’s no set rep and sets scheme for this - like I said, if you want to develop this then find a trainer who can show you in real time the correct techniques. Happy hanging 🐒


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Mark Robberds

Something that I’ve learned from my exposure to the movement world - in particular calisthenics and gymnastics - is the use of progressions and regressions, and this tends to be missing in the yoga approach (to asana) because there is generally the ‘Pose’ (or transition) and if this can’t be done then a modification is made - and nothing in between. A good example would be the lifting up and swinging back transition found in the Navasana (boat) series. This is something that I love but have always struggled with - I blame it on long levers (very big feet 👣and long-ass shin bones). Nine out of ten practitioners will face other limitations - short arms, heavy hips/pelvis, lack of strength etc. What happens then is that the floor gets in the way and only a partial range of the movement is practiced. The rest of the movement - which is what needs to be practiced - is continuously missed. This is where calisthenics/gymnastics use regressions - in this case either handstand cubes, yoga blocks or *parallel bars/paralletes (or substitute with *dumbbells as I did). *This is also a good option for people with wrist injuries as the gripping builds strength and avoids extension.
Using regressions allows good form to be maintained throughout - a key to efficiency, strength and injury prevention. Progressions allow for progressive adaptation to each particular stage and a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. All this levels the playing field and allows everyone to get the same joy from the movements as those who are genetically gifted.


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Mark Robberds

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.


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Mark Robberds

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 🙏🏼


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