Category Archives: breathing

Indaba Recap

by Adam Frei

It has been four days since we returned from London and somehow it seems to have taken place a few months ago. Sri Dharma said to me at the start of our trip that in a moment it would be over. On our way back to the airport, he said: “You see? Already finished – like a dream.” It was, for all of us that went, a very pleasant dream.

Sri Dharma travels less these days than a few years ago, but he still travels quite a bit and his teaching takes him around the world. For the last couple of years, he has been saying that he really wanted to take the Dharma Yoga Kirtan Band along with him. As the London workshops seemed like they were going to be large and some of the band members had the dates available, we were able to make it happen. Although my position at the Center means that I get to work closely with Sri Dharma, it has been a while since I’ve been able to travel with him. It was, for me, a very special opportunity.

The venue was part of the Lords Cricket Ground in North London. It easily accommodated the 250 plus people that were part of each session. The presenters, Indaba Yoga, did a great job managing every aspect of the weekend. Most of the classes were two hours long. Somehow, Sri Dharma managed to include a full practice of Asana as part of each one, a brief, but focused spiritual discourse, an introduction to basic Pranayama techniques, recitation of mantra, Kirtan with the band and a full experience of Yoga Nidra. The classes never felt rushed, yet he managed to include so much. Spiritual discourse treated such topics as compassion, the Kleshas and the Koshas. What particularly impressed me was how Sri Dharma gave us a full experience of Yoga Nidra, sometimes in as little as twelve minutes, but that included complete relaxation of the body, visualization and autosuggestions. Truly extraordinary. The enthusiasm of the students was wonderful to observe.

Some highlights from Sri Dharma’s teaching as part of and outside of the workshops:

Indicating a small, cube refrigerator: “You see, that’s the perfect size for a Yogi.”

“I’m going to add some extra sugar to all the sessions this weekend.”

“We are doing Rabbit (Pose) here now. I bet if I look around the room, I see many Camels. If I catch any Camels, I throw them out.”

“If G-d come here right now and catch you not singing, that would be a catastrophe!”

“The action of compassion is to see yourself in others.”

“The orchestra is going to come and play now, so leave your mats and come close.”

“Move together like in a parade. Then we share all the knowledge psychically and become one.”

“I have an old car (body). The brakes don’t work so well anymore and some of the systems are starting to shut down. That’s why I always try and put the best quality fuel in. In about 10 or 20 years, I’ll be back with a new car.”

“We’re going to do Spiritual Breathing now so you feel spiritually inspired.”

“If you are interested to go deeper into yoga, you should read The Yoga-Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. For those just interested in living a more ethical life, there’s The Dammapada.”

“From the Hubble Space Telescope, we know that there are millions of blue planets. Some are ahead of us. Some, still with dinosaurs. The reason the aliens never come here, is because when they look through their telescope and zoom, zoom in on McDonalds, they see us eating animals, and then they never come here. They are soft and their limbs are tender. They are afraid that if they come here, they get eaten.”

“In one generation, it is predicted that there will be harmony among all the people of the earth. Then no need for the first step of yoga – the Ethical Rules – what for?”

“Do you know about the Koshas? These are the sheathes that cover Atman. It's good to know about them so you can negate them.”

“You become one with G-D at this moment. One with the Supreme Self.”

Special thanks to Kenny Steele, owner of Idaba Yoga, Olga Asmini, Indaba Yoga’s exceptional manager, her wonderful team, Mark Kan, our main Dharma Yoga teacher in London who really established Dharma Yoga there, Andrew Jones who did much work behind the scenes in advance of these workshops, Pam Leung and Yoshio Hama for beautiful demoing throughout the weekend, to Andrew and Yoshio for playing until their fingers bled, for the dedicated students who came from all over Europe and America to be part of this weekend and to Sri Dharma Mittra who somehow seemed fresher, funnier and more energized by Sunday night than he had at the start and who at almost 77 years of age continues to devote his life to sharing what he knows with all of us that are fortunate enough to learn from him.

 

Adam Frei is the director of the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training programs at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.

Letting Go of Self-Imposed Limitations

By Barb Cooper

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dharma Yoga Center’s immersion weekend in celebration of Sri Dharma’s 76th birthday in May. I hadn’t been back to the DYC in an entire year (I live in Texas) and this year, I went there pretty much spiritually bankrupt, physically depleted, and in ethical conflict. Whereas in the past, my focus had centered on reconnecting with my physical yoga practice and the yogis who have come to mean so much to me, this time I went because I was longing to sit at the foot of the master, to soak up as much of his love and healing as I could. I’d been ill –I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to practice the asana.

And, you know, I learned such a huge lesson.  We get out of our spiritual experience with Sri Dharma Mittra what we are willing to receive.  He is unchanging and constant, offering all he knows to all who come before him. But he meets us where WE are; he’s not offering us lessons that are beyond our capacity to understand and experience.

In the past, I have had such a longing to connect with him, but I was simultaneously a little afraid of him. I always tell the story of the time I sneaked out of an immersion weekend for a cup of coffee. I came back to the DYC and readied myself for the next class, sitting cross-legged on the floor and closing my eyes to settle my singing blood. I opened my eyes to find Sri Dharma looking right at me, smiling.  “How are you going to find bliss,” he said, “If you can’t even give up coffee?”

For a long time, I told that story as evidence that Sri Dharma is psychic (he is) and as evidence that you can’t get away with anything when you are with him.

But what I understand now is that it was never actually about the coffee. It was never about getting away with anything. It was never about judgment. It was always about him answering my deepest wish that he see me.  He was saying, “You are seen. Come.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had met his eyes and smiled back, instead of looking away guiltily?

Well, actually, I know what would have happened.  I know because it happened this year at the immersion. This time, I went to him in pain and needing healing.  I watched him.  I sat as close as I could to him.  When I closed my eyes, I tried to channel him—to feel a little of the peace he feels.  And he read my heart.

Every word he spoke seemed to be directed at helping me down the path to true yoga. I felt enveloped by his love—so much so that as I walked through the streets of Chelsea, I could hear his voice in my head. And I finally understood that all the barriers I have to self-realization are ones I built myself. Sri Dharma’s frequent exhortations to “be receptive to the grace of God” are more than just a slogan.  He’s urging us to let ourselves be cracked wide open in ways we can’t even imagine –and all it takes is a searching and open heart.

I returned to Texas profoundly and permanently changed. I used to fear that the great physical distance between the DYC and me would dilute the effect of the healing I receive when I go there.  I know now that the only limits we experience are the ones we put on ourselves.

 

“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”

― Sivananda Saraswati

 

Barb CooperBarb Cooper, 50, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013 and teaches yoga at Rasna Yoga in Austin, Texas. Read more of her musings at sothethingisblog.blogspot.com

An Opportunity to Serve the One who Serves So Many

By Smita Kumar

Sant Kabir wrote this verse to sing the glory of guru and wonders: “If both guru and God were to appear at the door, whose feet will I worship first?” He then adds, “The guru’s feet because without the guru how would I have recognized (known) God?”

Two years ago when I started practicing Dharma Yoga, I thought it was going to help me deal with the challenges of my graduate study. When I graduated from 500 hour LOAY teacher training in May, it was clear that I came to the U.S. to learn from Sri Dharma Mittra. If I had not undertaken the 500 hour training last year, I would have been participating in the graduation ceremony at my school. However, instead of graduating from school, I graduated from teacher training on the very same day!

A desire to spend time with Sri Dharma took me to training, and during the last several months I often found myself speechless when someone asked me about the training. I still do not know what happened and I am not sure if I will know. All I know is — I lived several lifetimes and became aware of a certain silence deep inside me. There were days when the training felt challenging, but interestingly, everything fell by the wayside and all I did was to carry out my daily practices.

I also encountered a challenging life experience that questioned my faith in God, guru and my practice. I felt let down and forsaken, as though I was suffering despite my practice. In those dark moments, I received messages from Sri Dharma to go beyond fear and doubt, but I did not know how. To my surprise, I found the answer in one of the daily meditation practices– have faith! I learned I could not have survived the test without God’s grace and the guru’s support.

It is interesting to learn that nothing moves without God’s grace and the guru’s guidance. The following incident taught me that Sri Dharma is ever so perceptive and gives us way more than we desire. I do not recall when, but somewhere over the last two years I had a desire to serve Sri Dharma like he served his guru; cooking, cleaning, taking care of all his needs and just doing everything. I had dreams of cooking for him and sometimes I made vegan sweets, which I took to New York, and Sri Dharma lovingly accepted them.

With Sri Dharma’s Washington DC visit, my dream came true — I was blessed to have the opportunity to cook for him. I even planned to submit my dissertation before his arrival to ensure there was no distraction. Just as I was busy deciding the menu and preparing for his visit I received a call from the organizers to inquire if I would be available to take care of Sri Dharma during his visit — such as receiving him from the train station and dropping him back. I just froze. I was amazed at God’s lila and the guru’s blessings.

Lastly, my mother had planned to visit from India to participate in my dissertation defense, but somewhere deep down I hoped she would come for my 500-hour graduation. However, I was shy to ask, as it meant showing my deep love and faith for my guru, it meant opening myself for any judgment, and most importantly, it meant making myself vulnerable—what if she declined?

Nonetheless, I faced my fears and asked. She was interested, but was unsure if it was logistically feasible. A day was left for the graduation and I still did not know if Ma (mother) was coming, so amidst my anxiousness I offered it all to God and Sri Dharma — “You will bring Ma if she is meant to come.”

An hour later I received a call from my mother confirming that she was going to be there! My mother came and all I did was cry. I was overwhelmed with her presence, and more importantly, I realized there was nothing more to complain about. Slowly, it was becoming clear that I was receiving all that I desired and more — not just with my mother’s visit, but by coming to this country to learn yoga, finding my guru, getting an opportunity to serve my guru (for a day), and simply everything.

 

Smita KumarGrowing up in India in a family of Karma Yogis, Smita was exposed to the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and started practicing asana nearly a decade ago to find peace (and something more). However, it was only after coming to the U.S. that she found her yoga home with Dharma Yoga and since then her life has not been the same. She continues to be surprised and humbled with all that she has received and continues to receive from Sri Dharma and his teachings.

Mineral Rich Vegan Ginger Fudge Cake (Gluten Free)

By Ivy Mok

I had some inspiration from a friend, who was hesitant to bring her mother to a Christmas buffet last year. The next day after buffet, her mother had an appointment for body check. She was afraid the rich meal would yield undesirable results in her mother’s blood test results.

That brought me think of a yoga sutra from Patanjali:

Yoga citta virtti nirodhah. Yoga is stilling the changing state of the mind.

Sri Dharma Mittra explained to us that it was good to always shift one’s mind, and to also to shift one’s consciousness. This is the way to be creative and to be receptive. This is the way to see light in darkness, to see chance in risk, to see love in fear.

When it comes to dessert, people usually think it has to be unhealthy to be tasty. Many famous chefs do not care if they use refined sugar and animal butter lavishly because to them, dessert has to be delicious, and in their mind, deliciousness does not come with health.

I experimented with this recipe a few times and finally came up with this version. This is a gluten free, refined sugar free, vegan cake, with loads of fibers (psyllium husks, flaxseeds, teff flour, almond meal) and it is highly rich in minerals (blackstrap molasses & teff flour). Most of all, it is tasty and it does not make you feeling thirsty or uneasy (common symptoms if you consume too much refined sugar or processed food). It is indeed a nourishing treat.

Vegan ginger fudge cake
Ingredients (for making 1 loaf, i.e. around 36 cubes)

Dry:
100g teff flour
50g quinoa flour
50g potato starch
25g hazelnut meal
25g almond meal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp himalayan salt

Egg replacement for baking:
3 tbsp ground flaxseeds
9 tbsp warm filtered water

Wet:
1/2 cup unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil
1 ripe banana (mashed)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed ginger juice
2 tbsp psyllium husks

  • Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a regular loaf pan with coconut oil.
  • Mix the flaxseeds and warm filtered water well until it is thick and creamy. Set aside for later use.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients into large mixing bowl.
  • Combine the wet ingredients thoroughly, add psyllium husk at the end, then add in the flaxseeds mixture, whisk until well blended.
  • Add the dry ingredients (small portions at a time, to make the mixture smooth, even, with no lumps) into the wet, well blended mixture, stir to make sure they mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into the greased pan, bake at 350 deg F until set in the middle with a knife and it comes out clean, around 40 minutes.
  • Cool on rack, then cut it into cubes when it’s completely cool.

Can serve either cool by refrigerating it or serve warm by reheating it in the oven.
Serve best with fruit or herbal tea.

Ingredient highlights:

Teff grain / flour
This is a staple grain commonly found in Ethiopia, color ranges from white to dark red. The
taste is like hazelnut, so it is naturally sweet & nutty. It is a gluten free grain so it is excellent for people with gluten intolerance. It is also high in minerals such as manganese (~8.5mg), magnesium (~175mg), potassium (~400mg), phosphorus (~400mg) and it is rich in vitamin B (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pathothenic acid), it has ~7g of dietary fiber per 100g. It also contains choline, vitamin k, and it has very low fat content (~2.5 g per 100g).

Organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses
Blackstrap molasses has the highest antioxidant among all other sweeteners, making it a very healthy kind of sweetener. It is very rich in iron, folate, along with some B vitamins, which all combine to work synergistically to promote red blood cell production.

It also contains high amount of magnesium, calcium. Magnesium is a crucial mineral for
maintaining heart health. People who are magnesium deficient are more prone to muscle
spasms, including heart muscles. Magnesium is also vital in balancing calcium for bone
production and energy. It is necessary for nervous system health. It is essential to over 300
metabolic processes and the synthesis of almost all the other minerals and vitamins.

Blackstrap molasses is also rich in potassium. Potassium deficiency may result in weak
muscles. It helps to calm the nervous system and boosts heart health.

Organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses is particularly rich in manganese, of which its ions function with a number of enzymes, to combat damage of free radicals. Like magnesium, manganese also supports cellular absorption of nutrients, and is beneficial to the nervous system.

 

IvyMokBlog 3A physiotherapist based in Hong Kong, Ivy learned yoga as a remedy for lost souls in a hectic city. She is blessed to quickly find her lineage in yoga despite living on another side of the world from her beloved guru, Sri Dharma Mittra. Constantly a student on all sorts of therapeutic modalities (visceral manipulation, craniosacral therapy), she finds the ultimate medicine for all sorts of ailments is “self-realization.” Ivy is always ready to spread whatever she learned to her students and patients.

The Transformation of the LOAY Teacher Training

by Gabriella DiGiovanni

For the past several years I spent a great amount of time exploring where to get my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Amidst the seemingly infinite amount of programs, I felt that there was no way I could choose among them. How would I know that I made the right choice? How could I possibly sift through all the programs to find the perfect one? And most of all, was I ready?

After practicing many different styles at many studios, I stumbled upon Dharma Yoga from a teacher in my hometown in upstate New York. I knew there was something special in the beautiful reality and simplicity of Dharma Yoga, so I decided to come to the source. I travelled to New York City to take class with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga Center. From the instant I walked in the temple, I felt at home. After my first class with Sri Dharma, everything clicked. I knew that he was an extremely special teacher, and this was the life-changing teacher training that I had been waiting for. I decided to jump in and immerse myself in the spirituality I had been craving.

In retrospect, the application process itself was an initial offering for me in the journey of the LOAY teacher training. The questions allowed me to search within myself and organize my thoughts, goals, and feelings. Reflecting back, it is amazing to see how much those initial responses have changed and grown throughout my time as a Sadhaka. Additionally, the pre-training assignments helped to give me an intellectual and practical background of Yoga before entering the training. It was extremely beneficial to read the scriptures and develop a more committed self-practice before the immersion. Not only did my heart begin to open, but the calling for me to join the path became stronger every day. I was becoming more ready for the immersive experience I was about to have, and preparing myself to get the most out of the training.

The night before the immersion began, I had countless thoughts running through my mind. Was I spiritually advanced enough? Was my physical practice strong enough? Is this the right time? What am I getting myself into? The mind and ego were playing tricks on me to make me feel unsure, but I was about to find out that there was no doubt that I was where I was for a reason. Everything was perfect. It was time to let go.

The first morning of the immersion, I left for the DYC with excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of nervousness. When I arrived and sat in the temple with the other Sadhakas, I felt a sense of extreme gratitude and serenity. Sri Dharma entered the room, and the vibrations of his incredible energy filled the temple. I felt a great desire to be near him, and listen intently to every word he spoke, and watch the way he explains. His words were simple, deep, honest, and funny. I felt wildly blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such a true master of Yoga. Everything in every moment of my past and my present had led me to this experience. I was home.

From the first day of the training, we entered into a very well organized, detailed, and time-efficient schedule. The schedule offered us the chance to truly live life as a Yogi. Every morning we had the chance to begin our day learning pranayama techniques, mantras, kriyas, and more. Sri Dharma and his amazing senior teachers gave us foundational lectures that helped lay the spiritual stepping stones for developing our own understanding and practice of Yoga. The support system of Sri Dharma, the mentors, and other trainees helped me reach much further than I would have alone in these exercises. As Sri Dharma says, “Imagine yourself in the practice you wish to access.” From this, I am thankful to have been able to watch Sri Dharma and his disciples so that I can now imagine that I can access their practice and continue to advance spiritually.

We were broken up into small groups and given two mentors. The small group sessions gave us the opportunity to practice teaching in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, with people who felt like brothers and sisters. All the mentors guided us with love and compassion, and gave us encouragement in this wonderful time of learning. Each of Sri Dharma’s teachers and disciples are unbelievable teachers, mentors, friends, and yogis. DYC’s senior teachers exude positive vibrations and clearly represent the pure teachings. Here it is okay not to be perfect, but to simply try our best and make our classes an offering. It was a powerful moment to realize that I am a vessel for these sacred teachings, and that we must lose attachment to the outcome of our actions as both teachers and students of Yoga.

My entire practice sky-rocketed through the opportunity to take daily asana classes with Sri Dharma along with hearing his daily lectures. I became so much more connected to the search for my true Self, and shifted the perspective of my practice more towards compassion than ever. My heart opened to Self-discovery and releasing attachment to allow my consciousness to flow freely. During this process I began to lose the initial grip on the results of my actions, and as a result my physical practice was deepened greatly. I did things I never knew I was able to access just by being in Sri Dharma’s presence and focusing on the Self. I felt myself grow by gaining a much deeper comprehension of compassion, and what it means to integrate it into every part of my life. While I was already following a vegetarian diet, the shift towards a complete vegan diet with the support of my co-trainees transformed my views on the subject. As a result, I now feel more connected to others and my practice by practicing ahimsa on a greater scale.

One of the many moments that stands out from the immersion was the Kirtan hosted by our mentors and Sri Dharma Mittra. The music was beautiful and the energy was so pure and full of devotion. I will never forget the sounds and feelings from our Kirtan, and how it transformed and strengthened us all as seekers of the Self. We were all able to connect deeply to ourselves and others through this devotional music.

I felt the bonds between our Dharma Family grow stronger each day. It seemed as though I had known the other trainees for my entire life, and that we were simply meeting again. The love, support, and compassion that came from each Sadhaka made me realize that I will never have to feel alone again on this journey. While we went our separate ways after the immersion ended, I know that we all continue to carry each other along with us.

In summation, there is no way to put the feeling of Sri Dharma Mittra’s presence into words. Just by being in the same room as Sri Dharma, my practice was elevated to a new level. Dharma Yoga is based around compassion and respect for all living beings. From this, Sri Dharma presented me with wisdom that brought me closer to the Divine that lies behind all of creation. Additionally, Sri Dharma revealed to me that the Guru lies within myself. From this I understand that I have all the tools I need to realize the Self. In this space I discovered Yoga as it was meant to be practiced, passed down through generations by enlightened Yogis. I cannot thank the staff and senior teachers enough for all of their kindness and compassion. I am so blessed to have had this amazing experience, and take it with me every day of my life. I am looking forward to taking future trainings with the Dharma Yoga Center, which I am certain will only deepen my journey further. Thank you Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga Center for changing my life. It is not possible to give enough praise for this beautiful center and all the amazing beings that are a part of it.

 

GabriellaGabriella began practicing Yoga four years ago in search of spiritual guidance. When she discovered  Sri  Dharma Mittra and embarked on the Life of a Yogi teacher training, her life was catapulted into a new upward direction. Through Dharma Yoga, Gabriella has found a stability and peace through constant practice. She seeks to grow as both a teacher and student of Yoga. Gabriella also works on a farm and apple orchard, and is a supporter of sustainable agriculture and small farms.

 

With An Open Heart, The Path Unfolds With Ease

By Steve Fazzari

I was introduced to Sri Dharma’s teachings by my brother and disciple of the Guru, Reno Muenz, but the first time I met Sri Dharma – in this lifetime, at least – wasn’t in the waking state, it was in a dream.

Awakening from my dream, I was immediately enveloped by Sri Dharma’s love, and right away I knew there was something bigger at play. Even though I was on the other side of a continent, in a different country, I knew Dharmaji was calling to me; I was ready. Without a plan, and with seemingly none of the necessary parts in place, I set the intention that I would make my way to NYC to be with Sri Dharma. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know when; but twice weekly, during the Psychic Development techniques, I set the sankalpa, or intention, that I would somehow make it to the temple to study with the living master himself.

They say when you are living your dharma, or path, everything becomes easy. Sure enough, bit by bit, every piece of the puzzle began to fall into place. They say a true master is only concerned with intention. Sometimes we get too caught up in the minor details and forget the big picture. Where will I get the money? How will I get the time off work and school? Then we concern ourselves with those minor details that seem insurmountable, and they consume us. Instead, I opened myself up to the infinite potential of the universe. When I did, it was almost like I dove into the river of life and it was carrying me towards my destination.

For my work in developing and implementing Food For Thought — a vegetarian-based nutrition education program for youth in Vancouver’s marginalized Downtown Eastside — I was nominated by a faculty member at the University of British Columbia for the Edward JC Hossie Leadership award. This prestigious award is presented to a student who displays outstanding leadership within both the UBC and Vancouver community as a whole.

The money I received for winning the award, while not enough to cover the entire cost of the training, represented a significant portion of the necessary funds. If I had been too focused on getting the money, I may have stopped offering my programs to youth to work somewhere else. Then I wouldn’t have been nominated for the award, and likely wouldn’t have had enough money. By staying true to my intentions, maintaining a strong root in service, and being open to infinite possibilities, all those things that seemed like big obstacles at first turned out to be inconsequential. Before I knew it, I was registered for the 2014 Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in NYC.

Being in Sri Dharma’s physical presence for the first time, you immediately sense his humble, open nature. When Sri Dharma looks at you, his pure, unconditional love is clearly apparent. I knew he was seeing me — not my physical appearance, but truly seeing me, with all my faults and flaws — and loving me unconditionally. Sri Dharma doesn’t only love you if you’re clean, or respectful, or only if you act how he thinks you should. He loves you regardless. This is how Sri Dharma feels for all living beings.

I don’t study with Sri Dharma for physical health, or to have the ability to do cool looking poses. Those things don’t really matter, and aren’t permanent anyway. I study with Sri Dharma because I want to learn how to see the Self in all beings. I want to tap into the source, and live in a place of unconditional love like he does.

Life provides us these wonderful opportunities all over the place. We just have to be more receptive to the possibilities, and often get out of our own way. We are capable of so much. We just have to harness our true potential and unleash it in a directed and purposeful way.

Be receptive to the infinite potential within.

 

Stephen FazzariSteve Fazzari (Shankara Deva) is a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His dedication to the path of Yoga, as well as his drive to serve, make him a committed and inspiring teacher. He aims to preserve and share the classical teachings of Hatha Raja Yoga, as taught by Shiva, and since passed down from Guru to student, through Yogi Gupta, Dharma, and then to himself. His classes are playful and fun, but grounded in the goal of developing compassion for all living beings and gaining Self Realization.
He shares his offerings at Dharma Yoga Vancouver (www.dharmayogavancouver.com). You can contact him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stevefazzari, by emailing him at stevefazzari@gmail.com, or on instagram @stevefazzari.

The Yoga of Truly Seeing

By Barb Cooper

When I finished my LOAY teacher training requirements and graduated in 2013, I felt like it was the end of the most transformative chapter in my life.  It turned out to be the beginning of an entirely new way of serving the world.

In 2007, I had reconstructive foot surgery, during which something went wrong that left me on the couch in abject chronic pain for three years. It was yoga (and acupuncture) that triggered my healing, and then brought me to study with Sri Dharma Mittra. In Sri Dharma, I found the Guru who resonated with my hungry, directionless soul.

Although I have never had a conversation with Sri Dharma (I am too shy to approach him,) I know he sees me. I feel a deep connection to him. And there have been some funny moments: There was the time I came back after a coffee break to a session during a weekend immersion, sat down in a group in front of him, closed my eyes and tried to connect with my breath.  I opened my eyes to find him looking directly at me.  “How are you going to find bliss, “ he said, smiling, “when you can’t even give up coffee?”

Yep. He sees me.

So, I began teaching in March of 2013. In August of that year, after my family moved back to Texas, the dream of opening my own small studio became a reality. And things started to get weird and, um, magic started happening.

I know how that sounds.

In addition to the students for my Sri Dharma-inspired regular vinyasa classes, people in chronic pain and with chronic conditions began sort of…well, appearing in front of me, seeking healing through yoga. It wasn’t the usual injuries due to age or over-use, either. These were people with dramatic and excruciating physical needs. The first client who came to me had her entire spine fused except for three vertebrae, a frozen shoulder and muscles that her brain couldn’t talk to!

I had no idea what I was doing.

I did have an enormous desire to see others find the kind of healing that I found. Much of what I learned about yoga therapy, I learned by watching videos and reading medical texts.  I did hours of research on the specific conditions of my students. For each student, I developed a customized yoga sequence, modifying poses and sequences to suit their needs.  Every few months, we adjusted the sequences together, just seeing what was possible and what accommodations were no longer necessary.

Because I had such a profound experience with chronic pain myself, I know how to touch and talk to people who are hurting. I know, above all, that people in pain need to be reassured that I am not going to hurt them –that they are safe with me. I am very careful to ask permission before I adjust my clients, and then I do so in the gentlest way I can.  Often, I just hold people in the poses until they can hold themselves.

One of the most transformative things about my teaching practice has been developing the eyes to really see my students. I’ve learned that my students are used to feeling invisible –this is true of both the healthy and those who are struggling with health issues, actually. I make sure my clients know that I am truly seeing them. I see where they hold their pain, how their bodies change as their pain levels change.  Sometimes I see things in their bodies that they aren’t aware of until I mention it.

Healing is happening. It’s amazing and miraculous, and it is real.  Recently, over the holidays, I had a 15-year-old concussion victim, who had losses in balance and short-term memory.  After three private sessions, she was almost back to normal! My first client’s shoulder unfroze, her brain started talking to her muscles and today, she can do headstands.

I know that this healing isn’t coming from me. (Heck, I still haven’t been able to give up coffee.) First of all, it is in my students’ unwavering willingness to persevere. They come back to every class, and they come willing to work. It is so inspirational.

It’s also the healing power of yoga and, I believe, it’s Sri Dharma’s gentle healing spirit. Before each session, I repeat the Mantra for Purification, and another one where I ask, “free me from my ego, fill me with love and healing.” I know that when I can set aside my own ego, yoga can use me as a channel through which healing comes.

All of this has changed my life in a truly amazing and profound way. Although I still struggle to set my ego aside off the mat, when I can do so, I can really see the people in my life– my yoga students as well as my friends and family. I find I am less reactive to things that might have once angered me or hurt my feelings.  I am beginning to see people without judging them.  I may never be able to do this as comprehensively as Sri Dharma does, but it has given me a glimpse of how peaceful life can be when lived in a life of service.

 

Barb Cooper, 50, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013 and teaches yoga at Rasna Yoga in Austin, Texas. Read more of her musings at sothethingisblog.blogspot.com

The Fan Behind the Flame of Dharma Yoga

By Jerome Burdi   Sri Dharma Mittra isn’t looking for fame and fortune. He teaches out of goodwill and compassion. “If you have a little spiritual knowledge, you should share it,” Sri Dharma often says. “This is the greatest form of charity.” For 50 years, he has done just that. Though Sri Dharma is the flame of knowledge, he needs those around him to spread it. Otherwise, it could be quite easy in today’s oversaturated yoga world for the jewel of Dharma Yoga to be lost. The work of Sri Dharma’s wife and longtime disciple, Eva Grubler, aka Ismrittee Devi Om, is to fan the flame Dharmaji has ignited in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of students throughout the years. “The popularity of yoga hasn’t affected him, but it has affected his classes because there are so many other places to go,” she said. “He lights up when there’s a full house.” EvadancerEva, the daughter of holocaust survivors, grew up in Queens. Before discovering yoga she was a modern dancer, training at Alvin Ailey’s school while he was still alive. She danced with several companies, was a principal dancer in the film Fame, and choreographed her own work in New York City. Eventually she grew weary of the competitive dance world. “I was ready not to be yelled at, and compared to others.” In the 1980s, Eva was in a health food store on the corner of 13th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan where Sri Dharma’s Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures hung on the wall. “I was asking about the person in the poster and the clerk said, ‘That person is the yogi around the corner at 100 West 14th street. He comes in all the time; I can introduce you.’” Eva found her way up the tall stairs into Sri Dharma’s Yoga Asana Center and fell deep into the practice ever since her first class. “It was amazing,” she said. “He had a beautiful red soft plush carpet. There were no yoga mats at the time. You needed to bring a towel, or a shawl in my case, to spread over your spot. It felt like you were in a loving womb in the lush temple space he created.” Yoga was not popular and certainly not as physically challenging as it is today. Most of Sri Dharma’s students were middle-aged people and dancers who came to practice daily with him. Sri Dharma charged as little as $2 a class. Teachers from other yoga schools came daily to study with him and many of his students went on to teach and open their own schools. “He was known as the only one who gave the advanced postures,” Eva said. “The sensibility is still similar to how he teaches today but it was even kinder and gentler. Everything felt like you were just contained in yourself.” Sri Dharma was quiet and humble, as he is today, but had yet to share the sense of humor his current students also love him for. As yoga grew in popularity in the late 90s and 2000s, many of Sri Dharma’s students rose to fame but Dharmaji wasn’t getting recognition for his hard work, Eva said. Mainly because he is so humble and would never think of going after it. When yoga teacher trainings became popular, students who studied with him for years asked him to run a program to certify them. So, Eva worked to establish a teacher training program for Sri Dharma so his students did EVA WHEEL copynot have to go elsewhere. In 1999, the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Certification program was finally established. “Krishna Das used to chant at the center often and said, ‘I’ll be at Dharma’s.’” Eva said. “So I said it’s time to have the Dharma name on it. I was amazed when Dharma agreed.” “Whatever notoriety Sri Dharma has, we worked hard to make sure he’s out there. He’s ashamed to even charge today’s prices for class. I said, ‘But how can you be any less than what new teachers are charging?’ That’s why he always makes the class longer.” Eva recalled visiting Sri Dharma’s guru, Swami Kailashananda, for meditation classes and lectures and sometimes bringing her and Sri Dharma’s two children. “It was always wonderful to sit under the vibrant rays of the guru,” she said. “Sri Dharma is the energizer battery that continues the work of his guru, day in and day out, for a half century now. “You can still sit in his classes today and hear a man filled with wisdom trying to inspire each person in the room to become better human beings and understand Ahimsa – non-cruelty, especially to all animals, through becoming a vegan.” Eva would like to see the lineage continue. “Our trained teachers sprouting out of the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Certification become a conduit for their teacher, Dharma Mittra, and will pass on his work and legacy to generations of people in times to come.”     Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.
Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist
 

Making the Work of Her Guru Her Life’s Work

By Dharma Yoga Center Staff

Sri Dharma Mittra speaks highly of Karma Yoga, doing work for others without any expectation of results. He’s well known for being a karma yogi for his guru and still practices what he preaches.

Within minutes of teaching at The Kripalu Center, Sri Dharma spent time neatly arranging everyone’s shoes outside of the workshop, recalled Dharma Yoga teacher Lorie Bebber.

“He’s just this incredible reminder of what it is to see God in everyone and everything – to see that we are all one,” she said.

Lorie became initiated as a disciple of Sri Dharma in 2010 and was given the name Saraswati Om. She was looking for a guru to help guide her and when she met Sri Dharma five years earlier, she knew she found him.

Saraswati owns Dharma Yoga Syracuse and continues to spread her guru’s teachings and host him for workshops annually, so her students can learn directly from the source.

It was around 2004 when she’d heard of Sri Dharma through an article in a magazine but that was before the easy use of the Internet and she had a hard time finding a way to study with him.

“I was searching for my teacher and I said, ‘I hope I have the opportunity to study with this man some day.’”

The next year she was volunteering at a yoga conference in New York City and recognized Sri Dharma’s name as one of the teachers there. It was for a spiritual purification class.

“It was amazing,” she said.  “He was speaking a lot about ahimsa. I was already vegan, but it still brought tears to my eyes. I just felt at home. I knew this was it. This is my teacher. I could just take rest.”

This was around the time Sri Dharma’s 908 Asana Poster was having a surge of popularity in the yoga world.

It wasn’t long before Saraswati found herself at Sri Dharma’s New York center practicing and going through teacher training with her guru. She loves how in tune with the students Sri Dharma is.

She recalled the days when he would add some jumping jacks to the practice.

“If you’re out of breath, you’re eating too many sweets,” Saraswati recalled Dharmaji saying while looking at her. Saraswati laughed, knowing she had a battle with her sweet tooth then.

Saraswati has been a mentor for Dharma Yoga teacher trainings since 2009 and though she lives in Syracuse, she is able to be in Sri Dharma’s presence often, whether it be taking his classes or being blessed to assist him.

Though she owned a yoga studio since 2003, it officially changed its name to Dharma Yoga Syracuse about two years ago. It was just a name change, she said, because ever since she started teaching Dharma Yoga, that’s the knowledge she’s been passing on to her students anyway.

“It’s classical yoga at its finest,” she said. “I always tell people that Sri Dharma has lived this life of a yogi and is a realized master, and the proof is in the pudding. The best of the best has been given to us.”

She’s amazed that he has this poster of breathtaking postures, but continually says, one only needs to practice a few asanas to remain healthy and the rest of the time should be devoted to spiritual practice and cultivating compassion towards all beings.

“We are all very blessed to be brought together by this amazing and humble being,” Saraswati said. “No matter where you are in the world, if you meet someone who met Dharma, home can be anywhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Spiritual Knowledge is the Highest Charity

By Ivy Mok

Sri Dharma Mittra’s love was emitting to me long before the Life of a Yogi 500-hour teacher training. Back in 2009, knowing nothing about Dharma Yoga, I was attracted to a flyer of Andrei Ram’s Dharma Yoga workshop in Hong Kong. I met Andrei and he gave me a postcard with photos of Sri Dharma in beautiful asanas. I said to myself, “This is the teacher I have to follow.”

The rest of the story is simple: Life of a Yogi 200-hour teacher training in 2010, several workshops with Andrei Ram — a senior disciple of Sri Dharma’s and a mentor in the teacher training — and finally the 500-hour training in 2014.

I practiced asanas because I felt good afterwards, emotionally. I was weak, stiff, shy, and far from adequate. Yoga somehow made me feel better with my physical self. I wanted to learn yoga beyond the asanas. I did not search for other teachers because I just knew right things would come.

Then, Andrei appeared. Then, Sri Dharma Mittra.

“Yoga without yama is like spaghetti without sauce,” Sri Dharma says.

Although he puts emphasis on yamas and niyamas, Sri Dharma never let the asanas fall by the wayside. Everyone who’s heard of Sri Dharma thinks about the breath-taking poses. Why would a teacher with such a strong asana practice teach students to focus on yamas (moral codes) instead of asana? This is quite unconventional compared to teachers out there nowadays.

I kept Sri Dharma’s words in my heart and started to be more serious about my asana practice. I practiced constantly and I saw some changes: The stronger asana practice I had, the stronger will power I attained; the more asana practice, the subtler perception, the more equanimity.

I built a better relationship with my physical being and I felt more of the benefits that yoga has to offer on my mental and even spiritual planes.

Sri Dharma always says: “The best job is being a yoga teacher.”

I could not quite connect with that idea initially. I started teaching yoga in 2009. I was mediocre in asana practice and I was teaching in a studio where I usually practiced. It was quite embarrassing for me going to the same classroom, facing more than 40 students – who were also my classmates. The peer pressure thing, the shy attitude, was indeed the work of ego.

Sri Dharma always asks us to “give up your ego, tune your mind to the higher mind.”

This has made an imprint in my heart. It’s my daily prayer. The constant practice and the practice on teaching actually removed my ego. I never expected it could be done via asana practice. When I now go to teach, I forget about myself. I just share what I learned from Sri Dharma’s yoga lineage. With this, I truly feel what Sri Dharma says, “sharing spiritual knowledge is the highest charity and the best thing to do.”

Without expectation, I am blessed to be able to learn and to be able to share what I learned.

 

IvyMokA physiotherapist based in Hong Kong, Ivy learned yoga as a remedy for lost souls in a hectic city. She is blessed to quickly find her lineage in yoga despite living on another side of the world from her beloved guru, Sri Dharma Mittra. Constantly a student on all sorts of therapeutic modalities (visceral manipulation, craniosacral therapy), she finds the ultimate medicine for all sorts of ailments is “self-realization.” Ivy is always ready to spread whatever she learned to her students and patients.