Traveling The Journey Within: An Interview With Mark Robberds
By Stephanie Santos
Mark Robberds, has seen the world and had his share of experiences. It is with this wisdom that he comes to the mat with no expectations, only an open mind. Originally from Australia, Mark never knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, but he had a sense that he wanted to give back to the world and never give up discovering his place in it. He is an a an Australian native, avid surfer, songwriter, and musician. With the upcoming Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2017 March 30th-April 2nd, we were lucky enough to spend some time with Mark.
The first time I went to Mysore was in 1999, before Facebook and the Mysore Community Page. I turned up there with a copy of the Yoga Mala in my hand. Pattabhi Jois's photo is on the front cover, and I went up to a rickshaw driver and asked, "can you take me to this man?" In India it often happens that when you ask a question, even if the person does not know the answer, they don't want to tell you no - so they make you believe that they know - especially when it's someone who wants your business. So we went on a wild goose chase all over the city. Eventually, after many wrong calls, we made it to his house. I walked in to find him sitting there chatting with two senior students. The first thing he asked me was, "where's your letter?" In those days you had to write a letter asking for permission to practice with him. I never received a reply so I just had to go and hope for the best. The second question he asked was, "Who is your teacher?". He was happy to know my teacher was Eileen Hall - one of his favorite students in Australia, and so after registering he told me to come the next morning for practice.
And that was it, I was hooked for life. He was a charismatic and mysterious teacher, who kept you guessing as to whether he was enlightened - which you thought he was because of the sparkle in his eyes and his ability to quote the yogic texts by heart, yet the gold chains and rings and yoga tuition fees made me wonder if he was beyond attachment to material things - which of course is a great teaching in itself.
I would love to hear more about your love of surfing and music. How has yoga played a role in this?
Yoga practice has taught me how to be present, to be in the zone and in a state of flow. This has allowed me to harness the potential of my body-mind connection and to bring this ability into learning other skills like surfing and playing the guitar. At the same time the ocean has taught me about the raw power of nature, about the impermanence of all things. Surfing has taught me about being in the right place, about putting yourself in the way of good things. It has also taught me about commitment - because in big surf, when the situation is critical, you have to commit or you will come unstuck. The difference between the ride of your life or the flogging of your life comes down to that commitment and following through with it - an important life lesson if there ever was one!
Can you share a little about your love of the sutras and philosophy? How has this helped you follow your truth? Should yogi's feel less intimidated about delving into the sutras?
My seeking to find the truth, and my own truth, has been a driving force in my life. When I found yoga and the teachings of India, it gave me a framework to explore my belief systems and a way to live in the world. I spent many, many years searching for a way to make sense of my place in the world, and my yoga practice was the vehicle for that exploration.
The sutras can be intimidating without the right teacher to guide you. I was fortunate to meet Professor Rao in Mysore who brought them to life for me. Now I'm at a place where the teachings and practice have become a way of life and permeate my whole life - easy to say, of course, but to put into practice in every moment of every day is the real yoga practice.
Where is your favorite place in India?
There are a couple of spots that have a lot of power and significance for me in the South. Then of course there is Mysore where I have been returning almost every year since 1999. The mountains might be next.
I see you travel all over the world. Is there one place that you want to return to over and over?
Besides Mysore and Australia, Bali is the other place that I feel most at home.
I also really love all of your acro yoga posts and one handed handstands. So much strength! You have been practicing yoga for so long, how has your physical practice evolved over the years?
Actually I've only dabbled in acro here and there, and the one arm handstands are a work in progress. The evolution of my physical practice has been an ongoing one. In the beginning there was the initial honeymoon period, followed by the usual highs and lows. There has been a continuous play between enthusiasm and attachment, letting go and desire. The nature of Ashtanga, and it's different series, does lead to a linear approach and the feeling of trying to get somewhere. I have satisfied all those desires now and can honestly say that in terms of yoga asana that attachment has more or less subsided. Now I have other movement goals that I'm working towards, like one arm handstands, surfing etc but will keep the yogic approach of being present moment to moment without attachment to future results.
Mark will be teaching and in numerous panel discussions at the upcoming Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2017. He is teaching a course titled ‘Backbending and Beyond’ and will be available for questions. Come to the confluence and meet this inspiring yogi!