Yoga Podcast Episode 39: Mark Robberds

Can exploration in movement and other approaches to practice coexist in the Ashtanga yoga tradition? Teacher Mark Robberds, certainly hopes so. And in today’s episode, Mark shares some really valuable information about movement – like how variety is critical for our physical development, and in Ashtanga in particular – a way to balance out some of the more extreme movements sometimes involved. 

But Mark also shared his feelings on a few more serious topics within the yoga community. Like the sexual abuse that took place in the practice room with Pattabhi Jois – and the whole debacle when Mark was temporarily stripped of his teaching certification after it was reported he was exploring different approaches to the practice. (As I type this, I am SMH for real).

I hope you enjoy this last podcast of 2018 with Mark Robberds. As always, thank you for listening – and for all your support!  xo, peg & meghan


* Image of Mark Robberds, by Alessandro Sigismondi

Generalist vs. Specialist

It’s the idea that if you become a specialist at something, you’re kind of limiting your growth as a human. You’re narrowing your field to one of expertise. And also, one of the dangers of specializing in something, particularly if it’s like movement is that at some point, you’re kind of creating inflammation in your body because you’re doing the same thing over and over again. Whereas if you’re doing a variety of different things, a variety of different movements, this is – in some people’s opinion – more healthy for the body. And also, for the brain. You know, as we evolve and we grow, it can be anything – learning languages, learning music and dance – just branching out, going for a walk, going swimming …. Though I’d just like to add that one important point is that you get best at what you do the most. And so if you do want to get good at Ashtanga, you do need to specialize in it. There’s no doubt about it so that’s just a decision that you have to make, you know? And I did that. I devoted almost 20 years to just the practice.

The need for movement complexity

If I want to be able to be healthy and feel like I’m still going to be active into old age, I need to do something else. I need to balance out some of these extreme movements I’ve been doing for so long … just having movement variety and that’s a question we have to consider. Like as Ashtangis, doing the same practice year in and year out, is that enough for us for the rest of our lives? That’s something Edo talks about a lot the importance for humans for movement complexity.

Strength work in Ashtanga

In the beginning you have the standing poses, but after a while you probably become used to those movements and they become easy. Or even like, you know, the nature of the practice is – to me anyway – I was always trying to conserve energy, turning the sun salutations and standing poses to save my energy for the peak poses in whatever series. I remember when I was learning intermediate series, I’d be trying to save all my energy for karandavasana so I would be doing all the sun salutations and standing with as minimal effort as possible. So you’re not really doing any strength work anymore.


I received a couple of messages from friends saying, Hey Mark, we’ve heard, like people have told me that there’s a rumor that you’re going to get taken off the (KPJAYI) list. And sure enough the next time I looked – so that was in April, I’d been taken off the list … (basically) they’d been told I was not teaching the traditional method, that I was incorporating all these different things with my teaching and they are waiting for me to explain myself. So, yeah, I explained myself and I was put back on the list but it kind of left a bad feeling within me that people right within the community were out there judging me and like, reporting me to Sharath. 

But there was some truth to that because in my own exploration in movement, I’d started to incorporate these things in to my workshops and into my own practice, starting to explore different approaches to the practice. So I guess in that sense, yes – I was not being 100 percent traditional, whatever that means.

2018: A Year of Reflection

It’s made me very conscious of the role that I’m playing. You know, like am I this authoritarian figure? Or am I being there as someone there to support and nurture people


The Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast is edited and hosted by Peg Mulqueen along with Meghan Powell. We are an incredibly small but dedicated mother-daughter team – and we bring each episode to you without any third-party advertisers.

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