Yoga for the 21st Century: A Conversation with Yoga Teacher Mark Whitwell

Conducted by Domagoj Orlic, Mark Whitwell’s student from Zagreb, Croatia
Nava Yoga Studio, Zagreb, April 30th, 2005

Questioner: Would you, perhaps, like to chant something at the beginning of the interview?

Mark Whitwell (chants a prayer for the removal of obstructions in Sanskrit):

shuklambaradharam vishnum
shashivarnam caturbhujam
prasanna vadanam dhyayet
sarva vighnopa shantaye

gurubhyasta gurubhyastya
namo va kamadimahe
vrnimahe jatatrajo
dhampati jagedhampati

shri gurubhyo namah

harih om

Questioner: Please introduce yourself.

Mark: I am Mark Whitwell and I am happy to be visiting Europe and Zagreb, and basking in the healing waters of the Adriatic Sea. Thank you. I’m from New Zealand. It is very similar to my own place here. It’s a beautiful, beautiful earthly paradise. Thank you for having me.

Questioner: OK. I’m glad you could come. Tell us something about your history with yoga.

Mark: As a young boy I was fascinated with yoga! The Beatles had gone to India, to Rishikesh, with their guru. And, as just a young man, young teenager in New Zealand, with the usual sort of middle class life and offerings and the university, and this and that, didn’t seem quite enough. So, off I went to India to find my teachers.

Questioner: How old were you?

Mark: Twenty. When I first went to India I was twenty. Actually nineteen, for a brief time and returned again.

Questioner: And how long did you stay in India?

Mark: I stayed a year and a half. The first visit, no second visit a year and a half. I went to one famous ashram, called Ramanashram, the home of Ramana Maharshi, in Tiruvannamalai, the holy mountain in south India there in Arunachala. And there I met a young man, Douglas (Rosestone), who took me to Desikachar in Madras with whom he was studying.

Questioner: And how did you study yoga with Desikachar?

Mark: One to one. Like this. Questions, answers.

Questioner: OK. What was it like to study yoga with the renowned master Tirumalai Krishnamacharya?

Mark: Well, I didn’t study with Krishnamacharya. I studied with his son. And when Krishnamacharya wasn’t in the home, where I would visit once a day for an hour, an hour at a time, in the same room where Desikachar had his lessons with his father, I would study. And it was lots of fun.

Questioner: How did you pay for the instructions?

Mark: (smiles) Rupees! Not so much in those days. Nothing. Nothing.

Questioner: Why was this yoga of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar so helpful to you?

Mark: Because it was very practical! Also, because it was very learned. In my understanding, they had the technical matters of yoga well worked out, from Krishnamacharya’s study, a life-long study with his teachers. He was born into a family of great teachers, and then went further from his family and found great teachers in Benares and in Tibet, the Himalayas. And he was very practical in his approach. So, it wasn’t just what is yoga. It is how do you do yoga! As a young man with my own quest and my own health issues at the time, they addressed them in very practical ways, you know. We ate food on the kitchen floor, you know, on the concrete floor, and shared meals together. And they weren’t at all like these great gurus with their status and their hierarchy. They were simple, straightforward people, and it was easy to enter into good relationships and clear communications. And ask questions! And they weren’t doing the swami, religious, or guru game. They were just scholars of yoga and practitioners of yoga, so it was easy to acquire information.

Questioner: Yes, I understand. You also met there J. Krishnamurti and U.G. Krishnamurti?

Mark: At the same time, in 1973, they were giving talks in Adyar, in Madras, and then in Bangalore.

Questioner: And what is your relationship with these two great men?

Mark: Well, it’s just that they were and are great men. U.G. is still alive today. And I think they had clarity of teaching, especially U.G. as it’s developed. So, great men, but ordinary men, you know. Real men, people who you can talk to! (smiles) And you don’t have to be in a sort of higher or lower type of relationship, but in an equal relationship, you can have a good talk, thrash things out. In a practical way, and a personal way. And this is what I’ve learnt, most of all and especially from U.G. Krishnamurti, as the ordinariness of a true life.

Questioner: After years of study, you also formed The Heart of Yoga Association. Why did you do that and how did you do that?

Mark: Well, the book that we had done, Desikachar and I, it’s called The Heart of Yoga, and I love that name because it was the heart of yoga. The heart of yoga is the friendship between a student and a teacher. And I had students or friends all around the world, and it just seemed right to just loosely bind these friendships together in a communication network, so we formed that as a non-profit organization, The Heart of Yoga.

Questioner: Tell us something about the unknown masters that you also met in India and that inspired you so much, especially about your teachers of tantra yoga.

Mark: Hmm. Well, these were the meetings that occurred mainly in the north of India. I certainly spent time with Swami Muktananda, who was the student of Nityananda, the great Nityananda, who died in 1961. And in that environment of yogis and teachers, I met some extraordinary people who were not known, even then, as gurus or teachers, and will never be known as gurus or teachers, but were humble men living a life and practicing their devotion, their life in that environment. And I certainly met these folk, and received a lot from people through a nod, a word, an explanation. A day, a week, some time together, and just feeling the quality of a Yogi, capital Y, what a person is who was a Yogi, you know.

Questioner: So, what is the essence of your approach to teaching and practicing yoga? And why is the breath so important in your teachings?

Mark: The essence of yoga, and I hope I’m teaching yoga, is to allow a person, the practitioner, to be intimate with their life. Right? So, that is the essence, to give practical practices that a person can actually do, that allow that person to feel intimate with their life, with the whole body and the breath of the whole body, which is this magical aspect of our life, as the breath that we have available in the whole body. Right? So, to give those in a way that a person can actually do, not in any linear struggle of trying to get somewhere as if they are not Some Where, capital S and capital W, but allow them to be deeply connected, to feel the Life that is in their living system … in the polarities of above and below, inhale/exhale, left and right, front and back, male and female. And then, of course, comes this great wonder of life, which is the outer polarity, our relationship to our own experience, to each other, especially and including our intimacies with each other.

Questioner: I understand. All the principles of your yoga, or yoga as such, have been precisely described in Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, and you wrote your own Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection. What is the connection between the two books, or in which way is your book different from Shri Desikachar’s?

Mark: Well, the connection is simply my involvement in both books. You know that I helped Desikachar put that book together and collaborated, and pulled notes together from various sources, especially this book called Religiousness in Yoga, which was an early book that Desikachar did from Colgate University from a series of lectures there. But there were other people’s notes that had been taken from talks and different times of study with Desikachar, especially two excellent students, doctors from Berlin who had done the German translation of that book. It was a team effort, but I synthesized it down, you know, on the computer, criss-cross, this out this in, and worked with the publisher to put that together. And I wrote some introductions and some special interviews with Desikachar to form the themes of the book that I felt were particularly relevant at the time. Prior to ’95, the year 1995, there was no good public book that described, or no book that was actually accessible, available around the world, that described the teaching of Krishnamacharya as Desikachar had interpreted it. So, I felt it was very needed in the world to do that, and I asked Desikachar: Shall we do this book? “Yes, please do it if you can!” (smiles) So, it was a task of love and commitment, I think, to the public mind, to social change, to put this information. Because what I saw was many things were popularized as yoga, like gymnastics, you know, spiritual gymnastics, physical gymnastics, that I felt were really exploiting the gullibility of people. And this great knowledge that Krishnamacharya had I saw was not available, there was no access to it in any media form. So, I was quite passionate about getting that together and getting a good publisher who would really put it out around the world and become a major asset to yoga, or yoga aspirants. So, from that point I found a good idea to then write an entirely my own expression of yoga. So, there is a relation between The Heart of Yoga and Yoga of Heart. You know, they are linked words, and that is significant, because certainly the yoga that I teach is the yoga that I’ve learnt from the great students of Krishnamacharya; Desikachar and Srivatsa Ramaswami, to name a few, who had also written a wonderful book called Yoga for the Three Stages of Life. And they are, these two books, The Heart of Yoga and Yoga for the Three Stages of Life by Srivatsa Ramaswami, who studied with Krishnamacharya for 33 years, who I subsequently spent a good time with, they are the jewels, they are the diamonds in this world. And they really explain what is yoga, from Krishnamacharya’s scholarship and their scholarship with him. However, I found it necessary to then contextualize it into an entirely my own, our own Western background, you know, where I am not Brahmin male, I am a New Zealander. Most of my spiritual and religious and environmental inspiration comes from Polynesia and comes from our Western scholarship, as I, as a young Western person, was inspired by the wonderful changes that have gone on in Western society since the 60s which I was born into. And I think it was very pertinent and necessary to put this universal teaching of yoga into the context that I am in and that you are in, and speak of it from there, so it becomes entirely useful to people. Be very clear that we don’t have to become Vedic in our background, we certainly don’t have to become Hindu, we don’t have to become Brahmans, we don’t have to adopt male doctrine, you know, we don’t have to aspire to some linear process to get somewhere as if we are not Some Where. And this is the essence of my book, Yoga of Heart, it’s the explanation and understanding that it is so simple that truth is not absent. That’s all. And if you want to reinterpret that as God is not absent, because that’s in our language that we are using. God is not absent and does not have to be found! However, this theme of this religious mind that’s permeated the world and created societies is that God or truth can be found through process, through hierarchical participation, through agency and through the disciplines of the various agencies that are offered in doctrinal mind. And I want to reveal that as a problem. This is the problem itself. The idea that truth needs to be found implies that truth is absent, you see, the idea that God needs to be found through some hierarchical agency, or any method, or even a discipline. And societies have been built upon that assumption, it’s ingrained in us. That idea is the problem. And my teacher, U.G. Krishnamurti, says yoga starts when that problem is seen and understood, when that is undone, the idea of needing to look for truth. That yoga is the participation in the Given, capital G, not an effort in the body or mind to try to get to the proposed social ideal called God or enlightenment. That is a vast, pervasive cultural mistake (smiles) that’s got everybody busy trying to get high as if this is low. The whole thesis of my work in Yoga of Heart is, and certainly stated again and again in the ancient yoga traditions, that yoga is the embrace of the seen condition, it’s the embrace of your experience, or the merge with your experience.

Questioner: Not an escape from relationship.

Mark: Totally! Totally gone. To absorb, you know, (smiles) all related condition, as the truth, as the facts of life. It may well be, in that absorption, we become aware of some vastness that is forming the seen condition. But the fact is to know the unseen, or what we might call God, is via the seen, via the tangible relatedness (smiles). The base of the body and then the relatedness this way (waves his hand to and fro horizontally) of my body’s relatedness to all of its experience, the embrace of that. So, then we do not separate the seen from the unseen, and this false dichotomy that religion creates, that diminishes the seen, and diminishes the male/female polarity, and diminishes the feminine, see, into a nothing, into something, a blandness that we suffer, you know, that men suffer, that women suffer. It’s the denial of life, you know.

Questioner: I understand. So this is the reason why we should be anchored in the Heart while alive in the body. Can you explain a little bit what is actually this Heart that you are talking about?

Mark: It’s the merge of all aspects of life, when we understand there is no left without right. There is no such a thing as a left (smiles), or just right, see. Then there is a whole and the Heart is realized. See, here is the Heart realized, the end of duality. I’m left and right, I’m male and female, I am above and below, which is particularly relevant in hatha yoga, because it’s the strength receiving.

Questioner: Which is already the case!

Mark: Which is already the case! See, that’s why I say there is merely or sheerly a participation in the Given condition when we realize there is no inner without outer, there is no male without female. There is certainly no me without my mother and my father, you see. This is how spirit takes form, how Heaven comes to Earth, how this form comes into the seen. So, it’s via the seen, the participation and all these polarities, including and especially the outer polarity, that allows me to know the Union, that is already the case. And that is what we call the Heart, or the hrid, the hridaya, Hridayayogasutra, and that’s explained in Hridayayogasutra. So then we can naturally, in a very natural way, so actually and naturally, perceive that the wave is not separate from the ocean, you know. Sure, I am not the ocean, but I am a wave of the ocean, you know, that’s here because the ocean is here. Without the ocean, without the source, there is no me; without the spirit, there is no me; without my mother, father, without the sun, there is no me. And this is already, utterly, deeply in place, including, if there is, the vast one that we call Ishvara, Lord, the one who appears as all known and unknown stars, the Cosmos. I’m here because it’s here, you know.

Questioner: It is so obvious, but most of us still suffer from the “trauma of separateness”, as you put it. Why?

Mark: Because it’s been forced into the social mind by doctrine, doctrine as a power mechanism. And it is so clear we are still trying to thrash this out in the world politics today, where the idea of exclusive access to God or truth through agency is used as a power mechanism. So, it’s been deeply asserted into the public mind by power, by power systems. So, whether we are presently in those hierarchical systems of thought or not, doesn’t matter. That’s what our society has been formed on, we grow up in that.

Questioner: How can yoga help us?

Mark: By the intimacy with Life that doesn’t depend on those systems of thought. See, by taking a breath, when I inhale/exhale. When I’m with my life, I’m with myself and I‘m with the extreme intelligence that is Life, that beats my heart, that moves my breath, that helps me to move life to life with a clear mind, and be connected with somebody I am biochemically attracted to and the energies that move in that. And that lifts off the mind, you see. That lifts off this mind of me trying to get to God as if God is absent. But that mind has been put in us so deeply, so aggressively over thousands of years now, so insidiously so: “You must be dutiful to the system, to the guru, to the Pope, to the priest!” You know? This absurdity: “If you want to get to God, give up sex!” Oh, my God, who came up with that? Who even came up with the idea that God is absent and needed to be found, you see? And the asana tradition that grew from wisdom culture in ancient times had nothing to do with that, those doctrinal systems that developed later in history. Even the idea of the holy personality developed later, and was grabbed upon as a power mechanism. See, yoga existed in a time prior to that, you know, which was how we as individuals, as ordinary folk, participate in the Given, capital G, in the perfection which is Life itself and the extreme intelligence that is Life that’s upon us (smiles), that’s in us as us, that beats my heart, that moves my breath, that moves me life to life to create a new life. That power is, through my yoga or your yoga, merely or sheerly each person’s participation in that. And that lifts off that that previously incrusted mind as conditioning that I am less, you know, that I am separate from the ocean, and that I need to do something strenuous or heroic, or violent on myself, or some absurdity like giving up sex trying to get close to God. And that’s still sold in the market place, shoddy spiritual goods, sold in the market place to innocent young men and women, to the gullible public who then want to go off and join a monastery, and so forth. See, in the United States where all this sex scandal that‘s occurred in the Catholic church, there is no one asking the question: “Perhaps it is not a good idea that priests give up sex?” Very seldom, among the priesthood, among the public, among media people, has anyone asked the question: “Oh?” If you are a good person and you want to serve your community, and you are sixteen, nineteen, twenty, whatever the age, and you go: “Oh, maybe I’ll go to the Church.” You see? This is what’s offered, this is what’s sold socially and been a worthy thing to do. So, off you go, and they take your sex from you, your life from you, and twenty years go by and you are suddenly fondling with a little boy in a choir, and you don’t know why you are doing it! It’s a sickness that’s arisen because of this crazy idea. It’s like asking someone not to breathe, or something. It’s so fundamental to Life, the male/female polarity, the Union of Life. So, no one is saying perhaps it was not a good idea to ask, you know, Father, to have given up sex as a young man. So, see the obviousness to that. It’s a crippling assumption. And furthermore, it’s created a hierarchical system in our society where all the good stuff is happening in the monastery, you know, the juice, all the heroes from thousands of years now in Europe, and in America more recently. If you are a heroic wonderful true person, you’ll drop this life away and you’ll go to the challenge of the prayer, the meditation, the insights, the philosophy, the obedience to the great power, to the monastery. If you are still a villager and you are in your downtown still having sex and a family, you are less, you are less than those great ones, see. So, it creates this hierarchical thinking in our world where the ordinary, household life, the ordinary person is diminished in value, in the perceived value of him/herself and others. And there is this sex negativity, there is still something wrong if you still want to have sex, there is something less about that. See, there is pervasive crippling of the bodily life, and that’s got to be seen and understood, and dropped. The mind of looking for truth as if truth is absent, that habit of mind has to be simply understood. That’s all. You understand it. That’s like a mathematical equation, you know, that the looking for truth is the denial of truth. It’s a mathematical equation. So, do we have the courage to stop looking and start a life, start our Yoga, capital Y, participation in the Given condition of Life; intimacy with my own body and breath, and others and other, like that, in that order? First, this body/breath and then, in time, in a natural way, of course the movement of life to life. Right? The participation in Life.

Questioner: Why is this order so important: asana, pranayama, meditation and relationship? Why do you insist on this order?

Mark: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say asana, pranayama, and relationship, like that. That’s a bit too technical. I’d just say; body, breath and relationship, right. Sure, asana. pranayama, body, breath (smiles). In that, we must develop intimacy here. First, strength receiving, see, inhale/exhale. If I’m sensitive to my own conditions of life, then there is a chance that I can be sensitive to another. If I can receive in a strong asana, my inhalation, my feeling through the crown, and through the frontal line, there is a chance that I might be able to receive – you (smiles). If I can’t receive myself, if I can’t be sensitive to my own condition, there is no hope in hell that I’ll be sensitive to your condition. Now, so I’m just asking for ordinary folk a short twenty-minute non-obsessive, natural and actual practice, in their own time, in their own home, of what I’m calling strength receiving, ha-tha yoga, the merge of the male/female aspects of their life. So that, very quickly, and it’s people’s experience, that they can then begin to receive their experience, all experience, to not be in conflict any more, to be sensitive to it, to be able to relate tangibly and sensitively to another person, including and especially, of course intimate relationships, where it’s deeply needed in our society now. Because it’s been deeply abused in very recent times and continues to be. We do not learn how to receive each other.

Questioner: Yeah. So, how do you practice your yoga now at 56?

Mark: I do a little asana, a little pranayama, on a daily basis as I feel I need to. And, you know, like taking a shower, brushing my teeth, I just do it, I don’t think about it. I just do it. I love to do it, you know. Strength receiving, inhale/exhale – it feels good (smiles). And not as an effort of trying to get somewhere, because I’m already Some Where, you see. It’s just a participation in Life as Life, and certainly not obsessive, because as soon as it becomes obsessive, then I’m back in that dark insidious mind of denial, self-denial, you know. Yoga like this can be so abusive, self-abuse. Meditation like that is self-abuse, like this aggressive working on yourself. It’s very simple, very ordinary. It’s like taking a shower!

Questioner: Why do people miss that?

Mark: Why do people need that?

Questioner: Why do people miss that, this obvious fact?

Mark: Well, because they are being sold shoddy bill of goods. You know, the old spiritual game of creating solutions for people. See, the solutions create the problem, the idea of a problem, trying to get somewhere as if you are not Some Where creates the problem. So, most of yoga, most of spirituality, most of the world meditation, from what I’ve seen, is sold like that, as solutions, not participation in the Given. Right?

Questioner: There’s a change happening here. I think that something positive is happening in the world. You can see some major change coming up in practicing yoga in a more authentic way.

Mark: Yeah. I think it’s a great thing that yoga has been popularized. It’s very good these popular forms of yoga gymnastics have spread all around the world. And young people are responding, they feel good, prowess, and it’s given context to a more diligent conversation about what is yoga and how people do yoga. And I think, as we get over the initial sort of novelty of yoga in the world, there is some deeper consideration going on of becoming more sensitive to what it’s actually all about. And also, people are getting frankly hurt by these activities, either sort of psychologically detected or even grossly injured, physically. And so this turning to the greater query of broader inquiry.

Questioner: So, this is why it is so vital to adapt yoga to the individual instead of the other way round?

Mark: And see that a person actually practices (smiles)!

Questioner: Yes, that’s an important point.

Mark: Yeah, the natural and actual practice of Life, practice of Yoga. And people do not understand what they are doing when they start a yoga practice. And often they are sold this idea of some extreme thing that they do on themselves and they have to leap over a big hurdle every day rather than understanding how it is a natural practice of strength receiving and how, frankly, it is a spiritual practice! People know how this can develop for them, that it can help them and they work out their relational life, their sexual intimacy, and so forth, what it actually does! And to teach as a friend, a friend to friend, not as a system, not cajoling people to get on merry-go-round to work away on themselves. That doesn’t work.

Questioner: So, what’s the right relationship between teacher and student?

Mark: Friend! Equal people. We’re just people, you’re a person, I’m a person, end of story. People who care for each other, know a little bit about yoga and who can help a person actually do yoga for themselves, just like you would help a friend, like any friend would help a friend: “Hey, try this! Hey, try showering every day. See what happens (smiles)!” Like this.

Questioner: You also emphasize the various limbs or aspects of yoga. You do not advise people to practice just what is called the physical yoga, or the intellectual yoga, you insist on the ”whole story”. So, what is the whole story?

Mark: Yeah, but in my view, there is no substitute for an actual yoga practice of asana and pranayama that is designed correctly for the individual. That’s what Krishnamacharya called your sadhana, that which can be done, underline can, you can do that, you see. You can’t go into sublime states, you cannot mediate! You can make an attempt, but you can’t do it, the mind struggling with the mind, you can’t merge, you can’t go into a samadhi, you can’t meditate. But what you can do is to make the conditions right. So, in my view, there is no substitute for an actual program, natural and actual, on a daily basis. So, right asana and pranayama designed correctly for the person. And this allows all other aspects of yoga to occur.

Questioner: It is a fact that people, although they have their yoga almost perfectly adapted to their needs, they still have problems in maintaining regularity. And although they enjoy the positive effect of yoga, they still seem to have problems in realizing that yoga is a discipline, and that it should be practiced on a daily basis.

Mark: Yeah, but not more so than a shower is a daily discipline, having a bath, you see. And when you use that analogy, people go: “Aaa, I see! Alright, you mean I don’t have to create an issue about it.” I don’t have to congratulate myself, you know: “Wow, I showered every day for a whole week!” We don’t do that, we just take a shower. Or if you miss a shower for any reason, what do you do? You take it the next day, you see. So, natural and actual, no issue around the practice.

Questioner: So, do we have to practice yoga? And, if we do have, in which way?

Mark: (smiles) Well, the bottom line, absolute answer to that question, do we have to practice yoga: No, you don’t have to practice yoga! Everything is utterly and perfectly given already, you know, all your intimacies with life are already in place, including the male/female polarity if you are fortunate enough to be able to live that, as a power of Life. So, no, you don’t have to practice yoga! But, if there is some health issue to be addressed, physical or emotional, or a relational issue, you feel somewhat isolated, to any degree whatsoever, then yoga can help you. Right? And then anyway, once having been helped, why not do some a little non-obsessive, natural and actual practice?

Questioner: It helped me! And I feel grateful to yoga, to what it has given me over the years.

Mark: Yeah.

Questioner: One last question. Are you optimistic about humanity?

Mark: Yes! (smiles)

Questioner: Why?

Mark: The best of times! Because these systems of doctrinal power, that have crippled humanity and taken the feminine out of life, and taken intimacy from life, including and especially the accord between man and woman, are being seen for what they are. It’s been played out, you know. And we are planting the seeds of yoga all around the world, from Beijing … (smiles) from India to Ireland, from Beijing to Australia, all over the world, you see. There is a sincere and actual interest: “Aaa!” You know. And this equation has been felt that the looking for truth is the denial of truth. I am what I am as Life itself, I am not separate from the Infinity that formed me. Right? And I’m talking about my skin, my seen condition, my life! It’s been felt. And the young bright people around the world who are like so much finished with all these old models of thought, and even those folk who choose to stay within their religious cultural structures, which I encourage! Why not? We need community, we need leadership, we need good friends and family, and the resource for money that community provides. Stay in there, and do your yoga! And have a life, have some intimacy. And by that means, I feel, the Heart of Yoga, or the Heart of Life, the Heart of religion, is then felt, which is the love of Life and the care for each other. The deep caring of Life for each other can be felt if we put this intimacy with Life into the social structures that are in place. You see, I don’t have any enmity for the Pope, I love the Pope! And, as an individual, he is Life itself. But there is a vast cultural mistake being made that is being used as a power mechanism. And I think, because of our separation of church and state, and the separation of the sacred and the secular, there is a chance now to see how inappropriate it is to use doctrine as power and force it. And I think there is now an environment where some intelligence can come into what I call the secular priesthood. The secular must serve the sacred, the priest must serve the intimacy between man and woman, the intimacy with Life. That can happen now. To a degree, it’s happened. I’ve seen women in the Catholic church, who are yoga practitioners, and I said: You are the priesthood now, your are there, planting the seeds in this, even in those contexts.

Questioner: I understand. So, can we say that the essence of yoga is to take a good care of ourselves by being intimate with our breath, our body, our relationships, and so take a good care of all other people and all creation, just as the creation takes a good care of us?

Mark: Beautifully said. Thank you.

Questioner: Thank you. Thank you for this conversation. Thank you for coming to Zagreb to share your beautiful and deep yoga teachings with us.

Mark: You are so welcome.

Questioner: And thank you for teaching me, and being there for me when it mattered most.

Mark: Oh, Domagoj, thank you. And thank you so much for putting my book into Croatia. It was really beautiful people responding to it.

Questioner: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. Could we perhaps chant together saha nav avatu?

Mark Whitwell and Domagoj Orlic (chant together a prayer for student and teacher in Sanskrit):


saha navavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
tejasvi navadhitam astu
ma vidvishavahai

shantih shantih shantih


May we both be protected,
may we both be prosperous,
may we work together with vigor,
may our study illumine us,
may there be no dislike between us.

peace peace peace

Domagoj Orlic (b. 1970) has been studying yoga with Mark Whitwell since the year 2000. He is the author of an introductory book on yoga in his native Croatian language entitled Iskustvo yoge: Uvod u filozofiju i praksu viniyoge (The Experience of Yoga: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of Viniyoga, 2001) and translator of Mark’s Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection (Yoga srca: Iscjeljujuca snaga prisnosti, 2004). Domagoj has just published his second book, a comprehensive study of both traditional and modern yoga, entiled Yoga na Zapadu: Transformacijska snaga yoge u preplitanju svjetskih kultura (Yoga in the West: The Transforming Power of Yoga in the Interpenetration of World Cultures, 2007). He teaches yoga privately and non-professionally in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where he earns his living as an English teacher and translator.


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