First things first: This is not actually a book about Yoga per se but a book about life and how to develop a “personal ethos” that will serve readers well in all aspects of their lives. That’s what Mark Divine – with Catherine Divine – sets out to do in his latest book Kokoro Yoga. People often stumble through life without a personal ethos they can depend on to keep them on track on their journey, especially during these often confusing and trying times.
What Mark has done in this book is no less than give readers a way to develop – or strengthen – their own personal ethos through the use of mental and physical approaches, that yes, includes yoga! This not your sisters hippie dippie yoga book…
Unlike so many who attempt to offer such grand advice – who frankly have no business doing so other than their own delusions of grandeur – Mark is what’s referred to in the military as a been-there-done-that guy. To my mind, that makes it far easier to take his excellent advice as found in Kokoro Yoga. Mark spent years as a Navy SEAL, decades learning various martial arts, and yet more years in the study of various forms of yoga honing his views and approach. Contrary to what many westerners may understand, yoga, like martial arts, takes on many different forms and focus often quite different from each other.
Mark tells the story of his first time flying into a combat zone, and doing a full yoga session, wearing combat kit and all, on the deck of a C-130 military transport plane coming into Iraq. Quite possibly the first yoga session ever done on a military transport plane! That early experience demonstrated to him just how much yoga could assist in settling and focusing his mind in the most potentially stressful situations for a green (to combat zones) officer, and it stuck with him as a way to keep his mind and body settled and focused on the dangerous missions he’d experience.
After many years of diligently working in various systems of martial arts, yoga, physical training, and the special operations community, he developed his own approach to physical and mental well-being called Kokoro Yoga.
As a rule, one will find those “systems” that endure, be they martial arts, yoga, business, or battle, find the developer of the approach usually has a wide ranging and extensive background, which Mark has in spades. In my view, that gives him the “creds” to offer such advice, and this book is full of damn good advice too.
Kokoro Yoga offers a systematic approach to improved fitness, health, and mental well-being through each step with all aspects of physical, psychological, and spiritual well being discussed. Mark does an excellent job of combining eastern approaches and philosophies while applying a more western pragmatism to the program, which as a scientist type, I appreciated.
In a similar fashion to what Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn has done by effectively combining western pragmatism with eastern approaches to mindful meditation, Mark has done with Kokoro Yoga it appears.
The Kokoro Yoga “way” takes you through actionable and specific segments – tactics, strategies, programming etc – to address the key areas of a complete human being. Developing a “personal ethos” to breathing, to mobility and relaxation to yoga poses and where and when to do them, to mental and spiritual growth. It’s a “system” that could change the lives of many for the better who follow it, which in turn improves the lives of those around them, which ultimately benefits humanity. Lofty goals? Indeed, but you gotta start some place…
The book is broken down into sections which allows one to take from it what fits their existing approaches to health/fitness/wellness is it applies and appeals to them. For example, I have added the Zen Warrior sequences on my off days from the gym as a excellent prehab/rehab/mobility work and adopted the box breathing technique outlined to my own program of mindful meditation work. I can’t do all the poses because I lack the mobility for them, but I’m working on it!
Whether searching for well rounded approach to becoming a more advanced and realized human being, to simply looking for some new tips and concepts to add to your existing approach to fitness and general well-being, Kokoro Yoga has you covered. Is Kokoro Yoga the way? You’ll have to read it for yourself to decide if it fits that title for you, but you couldn’t go wrong reading this book is my estimation, and I’m glad I did.
Hooyah Commander Divine for what could be a life changing piece of work for those who chose to follow the way of Kokoro Yoga.
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- Will Brink