Category Archives: enlightened

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.

Ahimsa and Veganism

by Susan Craig

“The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.” Mahatma Gandhi

I became a vegan nearly 30 years ago – long before I found Sri Dharma. My decision to stop eating animals was born out of a very hopeless period in my life when I was severely abused. During that darkest days of my life I made a pact with myself that, as small and inconsequential as my life seemed to be, knowing what it felt like to be abused and to be treated as if I had no value, I would do my best not to treat others as if they had no value. This decision included non-human animals; the least that I could do was to stop eating them. Little did I know that this decision, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, would take me on a most amazing journey which recently included finding Sri Dharma Mittra as my yoga teacher.

While the deep pain in my life did not suddenly dissipate as a result of becoming a vegan, I did experience some immediate benefits. My overall physical health improved quickly and dramatically (To this day, at nearly 60 years old, I am far healthier than I was in my teens  and twenties.). Along with that, issues around body image and eating that had been a source of personal torture since my teens disappeared and never returned. These were miracles!

With veganism as a non-negotiable core value, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, I began the slow and arduous climb out of the deep pit that I found myself in. While I have utilized many additional means of recovery support along the way, I believe that the deepest and most profoundly transformative decision that I have made has been to become a vegan. Sri Dharma’s core teachings around Ahimsa certainly support this.

It is a rare individual who has not eaten animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. We have been born into cultures that treat food animals as commodities meant to be eaten. From birth we have been indoctrinated into a culture that tells us that we must consume animals, that it is normal and necessary for health. Upon questioning this indoctrination, however, we find that it is based upon false information. The human body is designed to thrive on a vegan diet. Additionally, on a deeper, spiritual level, the simple act of changing what we put on our plates at each meal – the decision not to participate in the abuse and slaughter of food animals, is liberating  beyond words. The benefits extend far beyond one’s health and spiritual development. As the effects of climate change become become increasingly evident, numerous sources of scientific research indicate that animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming. (Perhaps the law of Karma is at work here…as we reap, so shall we sew.) What a blessing that, by choosing a plant-based diet, we are improving our own health, we are ceasing to participate in wide-spread violence towards sentient beings, and we are drastically reducing our contribution to the environmental stress on the planet!

In June 2015, I participated in the deeply transformative 200 hour LOAY training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Prior to making the decision to go through the LOAY training, as I searched for my yoga teacher, I started with one screening requirement: I needed a teacher who practiced and taught veganism as a core requirement of being a yogi. This one requirement narrowed the field of potential teachers down to few enough that I could count them on the fingers of one hand. Out of these few, I found myself drawn to Sri Dharma – his wisdom, dedication to his practice and to selfless service, his humility and egoless presence, and his fidelity to practicing and teaching the Yama of Ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa literally means A=not, himsa= killing or violence. In the LOAY Teachers’ Manual (2015, p. 4) Sri Dharma says, “Ahimsa means love; ‘thou shalt not kill!’ This applies not only to human beings, but to every living creature.”

Sri Dharma is one of the only yoga teachers of whom I am aware who does not shy away from teaching the yama of Ahimsa to his students truthfully. He regularly states while teaching that one must extend one’s compassion beyond one’s pets and that when one eats animals one is engaging in cruelty. He talks about how when one consumes animal products, one’s body becomes a morgue. In Sri Dharma’s words, “Without taking on the yama of ahimsa, there is little benefit to observing the other four yamas or any other aspect of the holy science of yoga.” (LOAY Teachers’ Manual, p. 5) I know, from the center of my soul, that this information is true and correct. The decision to become a vegan as a core component of one’s practice of Ahimsa will deepen and strengthen one’s  yoga practice. It will simultaneously improve the quality of one’s life immeasurably while benefiting other beings and the health of the planet. I highly recommend it!

Note: For additional information on the benefits of veganism that this blog has room for, I recommend reading The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and viewing the documentary, Cowspiracy.

Susan Craig is a Berkeley, California native who participated in the transformational June 2015 LOAY 200 hour training. Susan strives to practice Karma Yoga each day in her job as a school district administrator where she oversees support services for marginalized youth, as an advocate for animals through vegan activism, and as a teacher of a weekly donation-based yoga class. She resides in Napa in the home of the four cats and a rabbit who rescued her. Susan is most grateful to have found Dharma Yoga and to have Dharma Mittra as her yoga teacher and spiritual guide.

Without Compassion, There’s No Yoga in Your Asana

By Garth Hewitt

I remember practicing once with Sri Dharma when I first went to check out his classes about six years ago. It was a Master Class, but there were all levels of students in the room. Some of the students were very advanced –far more advanced than I. Some of the students were quite new and finding the class really challenging.

Sri Dharma loves to hold twisting extended side angle pose for a long time. We were holding this pose for a really long time at this class and there was a woman in the class who was having a really hard time maintaining her balance. She kept falling over and she was getting really upset and frustrated. She looked like she was on the verge of crying. You could feel that she was becoming very overwhelmed. My first reaction was to judge her. I’m embarrassed to share that with you. That was my first reaction, though. I remember thinking that she didn’t have any business coming to a Master Class when she was clearly a beginner. I was being such a selfish &$%-hole and I didn’t even realize it at the time.

Something amazing happened after that, that made me feel ashamed and made me re-think what I was doing on my yoga mat.

The regular Sri Dharma students around the woman started to encourage her and offer kind words. They let go of any focus on “their practice” and they focused on her and gave her their energy and attention. One of the students, in front of her, who had a very advanced asana practice, came out of his pose and walked over to her and helped her to find her balance. I heard him say, “It’s OK. This is a hard pose. You’re doing great.” Several students offered her their smiles and encouraging gestures. It was really beautiful to witness. I was blown away by the community and how everyone reached out to her. It almost made me cry.

I remember leaving the class and thinking about this moment for a long time. There was so much competition in the classes I was taking back in Los Angeles, so much ego. There was so much competition in my own practice, too, so much ego. This pursuit of asana, pursuing these fancy trick poses and advanced transitions. What was the point? I remember thinking after this class that these things aren’t yoga. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten off track; we’ve missed the point.

What happened in Sri Dharma’s Master class that day was yoga.

Sri Dharma always teaches that the number one practice is to be respectful and to be kind to all living beings. I’ve made many trips to New York now in the past six years and I’ve completed 800 hours of training with Sri Dharma. I’ve met so many incredible people through this community. Sure, there are some really advanced asana practitioners. Many of the people are way more advanced than me. Sri Dharma is a really advanced asana practitioner. The thing that I love so much about the Dharma community is that Sri Dharma teaches that the asana doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t moving through the world with kindness and love. The practice is so much more than just being able to do a fancy pose.

I was talking about Sri Dharma the other day, about the space that he creates in his classes. No competition in the room. This really wonderful community of students supporting each other, growing as a community, practicing as a community. One of my goals over the past six years has been to create this kind of space in my classes and encourage this same idea of community. A group of students coming together, connecting, supporting each other, growing, helping each other along the way.

Last week one of my students in one of our awesome communities (Westlake Village!!) was having a challenging time in a pretty tough class. This student sometimes leaves class when it gets too tough for her. I’ve encouraged her to stay and just come down and rest, to not give up on herself, but this is a habit that’s been hard for her to break. Sometimes when the going gets tough, she heads for the door.

When she got up to leave in the middle of this class, due to where I was standing in the room, she had to walk right past me on her way to the door. She tried not to look at me as she went by. I stopped instructing the class. I smiled at her and said, “Come on. You can stay. You can do this. You don’t have to leave. Come on.”

She stopped and the whole class looked at her. There was a long moment where we all waited to see what she was going to do. Then something amazing happened. Everyone started to encourage her to stay. They started to smile and tell her it was OK. That she would be fine.

People said things like, “You can do it!” and “Stay, we’ll do it with you!” There was so much love in the room. It overwhelmed her and she smiled and went back to her mat to stick it out and finish the class.

This was one of the most special moments for me ever as a teacher. I watched this really strong group of students, mostly regulars, who’ve been coming to class for a while now together practicing yoga. I watched these guys, not just doing asana, but practicing yoga and I was so proud of them as a teacher.

After the class, I talked to my student who had given up on herself and asked her if she felt good that she had stayed for the whole class and she said she had never felt so much love from a group of people in a class before. Powerful stuff.

Be kind and respectful to others. Love. Open your heart. Help someone who needs help. These are the greatest things that we can teach to our students. Thank you, Sri Dharma, for teaching me about what really matters. These are the great moments we get to experience as teachers and why I love my job so much! Thank you for letting me hold the space and passing on the teaching of my teachers.

 

IMG_5642Garth Hewitt is a 500hr E-RYT, Teacher Trainer, Yoga Therapist, Certified Yogaworks Teacher, Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher, and has led classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings in Los Angeles and around the world. Garth taught for several years at the original Yogaworks in Santa Monica and at Exhale – The Center for Sacred Movement in Venice.  He led the first Pure Yoga Teacher Training, in Los Angeles, at Equinox, with Ashley Turner.  He has been featured in and contributes regularly to: Yoga Journal, Men’s Health Magazine, Mantra Magazine, Yoganonymous and LA Yoga.  He has spent time in Mysore, India, studying Ashtanga Yoga, with the Sri K. Patthabi Jois family, practicing with Saraswati Jois. Garth teaches integrated yoga classes, focusing on; alignment, breath and concentration. He also teaches: pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and sees students privately for yoga therapy sessions.

 

A Walden State of Mind

by Barrie Rosencrans

You know what they say: sometimes what you’re looking for can be found right in your own back yard.

I live in a place called Walden, about an hour’s drive from Cleveland, a serene and idyllic community built to emanate the tranquility and earth-bound Shangri-La made most famous by Henry David Thoreau.  You don’t bump into Walden; it’s a destination.  Little did I know this fact of life—my life—would come full circle at the top of 2015.

When change is in the air, things are stirred, and sometimes we’re unsettled. Think of the autumn leaves preparing for winter, or a storm that’s beginning to rain. I was fully unaware when I met Sri Dharma for his NYC New Year’s Eve Immersion that he would visit Walden, where I not only live but am also a proprietor of the wellness center. I decided to truly practice one of the yamas (non-hoarding aparigraha,) and share Walden and its beauty with Sri Dharma Mittra.  It’s important to me that Walden, in addition to its serene horse-farm surroundings and organic local menu, also feed the soul.

Sri Dharma Mittra arrived at Walden on April 17, 2015 with a message of compassion, trust, kindness, goodness, friendships, self-investigation, love for all beings everywhere (“even the piggies.”)  His teachings embodied principles of the Yamas, individual precepts of the Niyamas, asana postures, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, chanting, kriyas, mantra, Yoga Nidra and meditation. (Touching all of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga in one weekend!) The medical/ clinical benefits of yoga were also a message that he delivered during his visit.

This was a definite highlight of my pursuit in bringing a yoga studio to Northeast Ohio (NEO,) an area currently in the midst of a cultural boom, but still in need of my native NYC touch. Two years ago, Dharma Yoga teachers first came to Walden, sharing their hearts and opening NEO’s minds to Dharma Yoga’s philosophies.

In Sri Dharma Mittra’s never-ending supportive manner, his teachings encouraged me to take risks, be enthusiastic, and to realize that truly all I have is me. All my fears washed away as I dove into the growth of Walden Wellness.

When Sri Dharma came to teach, he spoke of protecting and saving our earth as well as realizing the world beyond our own conception and even to other galaxies. This brought to mind a statement by esteemed Astronomer Carl Sagan, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Sri Dharma’s lectures during the Satsang and Maha Sadhana segments of his Walden immersion truly opened minds up to the possibility of space, time and personal existence.

My karma may be to share yoga- cost effectively- to those people who could not travel to NYC, but who could truly benefit from practicing and studying Dharma Yoga here. Without ever expecting anything in return, I worked on my dream and thought, “If not now… when?”

During a class with Sri Dharma Mittra I heard him make reference to the “Eternal Now”, a concept which stayed with me, in my heart for days- thinking, pondering, and examining what I can do to make the present moments count. We could all think, “What do I currently have that I can share?” It may make your “eternal now” seem significant, promote contemplation.

A true Walden state of mind is difficult to sum up here in words, simply because it’s an embodiment of your lifestyle every single day.  It’s honoring your full surroundings: the people, the nature, the animals.  (As a result of Sri Dharma MIttra’s talk on loving the animals, we scheduled successful vegetarian and vegan cooking classes last Spring.)  Moreover, when we create positive changes we affect all around us, every living thing benefits from our actions.  My dream is to turn my little piece of Ohio into a dreamscape for those who yearn to go inside themselves to be their best and share that magnanimous love.

“The best that could happen IS happening” – Sri Dharma Mittra

Jan. 2015- New Year’s Immersion

 

IMG_1857Barrie, a New York City native and professionally trained dancer,  discovered yoga in 2001 while pregnant with her third child. Since then Barrie has wholeheartedly embraced the Dharma Yoga 8 limbed path of Raja Yoga and is a devoted teacher of daily donation based classes, spreading yogic love via Walden Wellness. With much heartfelt gratitude Barrie attributes her road to Sri Dharma Mittra in 2015 after learning under Sri Andre Ram at Walden in January 2014. Barrie–wife, mother of three teenage boys, and two golden retrievers–holds a masters degree from Case Western Reserve University’s Medical School in metabolism & nutrition, is currently the proprietor of Spa Walden (www.yourwalden.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.

Removing Desires and Rising to Raja Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

Of all the yamas, brahmacharya is the greatest struggle for me. It is, however, possibly the most important to really taste true freedom –freedom from desires. Even the gods admire the one who is free from desires.

Swami Sivananda mentions the importance of brahmacharya time and again in his book, Raja Yoga, detailing the Yoga Sutras. I read the book in preparation for the 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Training in August.

The other yamas — non-violence, not stealing, non-greed, and truthfulness –are much easier practices for me and many other yogis. Curbing desires is the toughest and if it’s not done successfully, all the other yamas can be tainted.

Only when desires are quieted can one progress along the spiritual path.

This is also the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings: Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.

I enjoy Sivananda’s technique of destroying the evil vrittis, or thought patterns. It’s a sort of meditation, an awareness that one must maintain to have success on the path of yoga.

When an evil thought arises, think of its opposite and all the benefits of the good vrittis. When the thought of lust arises, think of brahmacharya; when anger rises, think of love; when pride shows its ugly head, chop it down with humility.

Desires will keep you in a rajasic, overactive state of mind, always unsettled. One must work properly, from a calm, sattvic state of mind.

“When sattva increases, the mind becomes steady like the flame of a lamp in a windless place,” Sivananda wrote. “He who is sattvic can do real concentration and meditation, and can enter into samadhi easily.”

The difficulty is how to find that sattvic mind and finally concentrate.

“Have perfect trust in God and be steady in your sadhana,” is the advice Sivananda gives. “Faith sustains the yogi like a kind, affectionate mother.”

Faith is a crucial component as one moves along the path. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere in my practice, but then come those moments of holding a difficult asana or having a steady stream of concentration. And that’s it! There’s the bliss! It may not last long, but it’s enough to get me through to the next episode. There’s falling along the way, but the faith gets us back up again and back on the path. We can’t beat ourselves up over the past. We get up and keep moving forward.

“Everything is present for the yogi,” Sivananda wrote. “Everything is here. Everything is now only.”

When the mind is filled with passions and desires, you cannot sit still to do your sadhana. The mind is always moving. The asana comes easily for many, but we must remember this is only a preparation so we can sit and work on the higher limbs of yoga that lead to the goal, samadhi, complete union with all of creation.

When I read about the states of mind a yogi can reach, I am reminded of how much work I have to do to reach the goal. The distractions are always coming like hurricane rains, like waves in the sea, or wind atop a mountain. But with practice, the yogi finds stillness. That’s why we do our practice, why we have our faith, why we stay on the path despite the digressions.

Stillness.

In those blissful moments we are mountains. Desire cannot touch us. We are truly free.

 

 

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.

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
 

~Teacher Profile of the Month~


Andrew Jones

Andrew teaches an open Dharma I-II class every Tuesday night (7-8:30 PM), Dharma I Basics(4-week course: Mondays, 7-8:30 PM), and Dharma II Basics (4-week course: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 PM) at DYNYC.
1.    Where were you born?
AJ: Swansea, Wales, UK… Or “England”, as people like to call it here.
2.  What do you do when you don’t teach yoga?
AJ: Try and bring the practice to the workplace, and spread some of the love in this very stressful world of many ups and downs. I like to introduce others to yoga and show them how it may help their everyday lives & bring a smile to their faces – these are small steps that can build into huge gains for all!
3.  Three things you always have in your fridge?
AJ: Bananas, soy milk, sprouted almonds
4.  Favorite veggie restaurant in the area?
AJ: Natural Frontier – they have the best juices, especially green ones. Plus they look after Dharma Yogis with much love!
5.  One practice you must do every day?
AJ: Compassion to all beings with love.
 
The first thing you notice about Andrew Jones is his joyfully lighthearted nature. Though he takes his practice seriously, he is a bit of a jokester. Some might assume, because of Andrew’s seemingly constant smile, that he is a full-time yogi – devoting hours and hours to his sadhana, or practice, every single day. While he is a full-time yogi, it’s not necessarily in the way you’d imagine: his sadhanais the practice of daily life – of bringing “yoga” with him wherever he goes, even the world of corporate advertising!
Like so many of us, Andrew began practicing yoga because of hardships in various areas of his life (including scoliosis and knee problems) He enrolled in our teacher training program because another teacher at the DYNYC told him it would be a great spiritual experience. Though he did not set out initially with the goal of teaching, he connects greatly with the intention of helping to uplift his students: “It’s great to see people leave feeling good – even if it only lasts a little while, at least they’ve tasted the benefits.”
He is extremely devoted to Sri Dharma Mittra and his teachings; he speaks with great admiration about Sri Dharma’s compassion, unconditional love, and playfulness that are apparent in every single class; in taking Andrew’s class, it is clear that he strives to bring these attributes into his own life and teaching as well.

Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

Karma Yoga and the Art of Selfless Service: The Reggie Deas Story


By Freddy Pastore

“Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” Ram Dass
Often, the more we have in life the more disconnected we become from those who have very little. However, by “being receptive” to the needs of others, sometimes Karma Yoga finds you.
My Karma Yoga found me last July in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore. After practicing yoga on the boardwalk I stopped at the Twisted Tree Cafe for a fruit smoothie breakfast. As I waited to pay, something caught my eye on the “community board” next to the register. Though most of the board was over-loaded with business cards and advertisements, a picture of an acoustic guitar snapped in half caused me stop and pay attention.
Above it read, “Reggie Deas Needs Your Help – Call Steve.” On the back of the postcard was a story about Reggie Deas, a homeless musician who found his way to Ocean Grove and was living under the boardwalk. His guitar had been destroyed and Steve was organizing an effort to have it replaced. I called Steve and offered my help but since there was such an outpouring of support, Reggie not only had the new guitar but also a case. Steve said that Reggie was however still homeless and in need of help. I agreed to meet with Steve and Reggie in the park the next day.
It only took a few minutes of listening to Reggie play music to realize that he was a gifted musician. Though his playing was a little rough around the edges, his instrument was played with true knowledge and in his voice was love of music. Reggie, though currently homeless had attended Berkley College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; a prestigious music school in which many of the greatest musicians in the world had passed through the halls. And seemingly here was one music great living under a boardwalk in a beach town. Reggie’s story immediately called to mind the movie “The Soloist,” based on a similar story of a Juilliard trained musician who was also homeless. Through Sri Dharma Mittra’s inspirational teachings on Karma Yoga (and the fact that I too am a musician), I knew I needed to help Reggie.
Sitting with Reggie in the park that day, with his new guitar and only a single duffle bag full of his possessions, a roof over his head was evidently his biggest need. The first and most obvious thought was a homeless shelter but Reggie refused. In his words “I rather live on the street.” The biggest problem with a shelter is “lock-down” at 7pm, the time when Reggie does best playing music on the boardwalk for money. Also, since Reggie was not suffering from any form of addiction he did not want to be around others whom are often in this unfortunate state.
I brainstormed with the fundraising group and after many hours of making phone calls and surfing the internet, I found a room in The Whitfield Hotel, a very large hostel-style hotel just one block from the beach. With the help of the nearly $1,000 left over from the guitar collection fund, by the end of that afternoon, Reggie had a roof over his head.
Over the next several weeks I continued to contribute to Reggie’s well being however I could. Tapping into my work in Finance, I created a “project plan” to organize efforts around Reggie’s needs. I outlined and prioritized various aspects that the fundraising group could do together to help Reggie establish himself in Ocean Grove. On the list: (1) find a part-time job (2) obtain a pre-paid cell phone (3) resolve an outstanding court fine (4) seek medical attention, and (5) play the music he so loved in local venues. Working together with the fundraising group we were able to accomplish everything on the list.
Reggie worked part-time mowing lawns for a local real estate company and slowly adjusted to his new life. But above all Reggie loved playing music and to see Reggie do what he loved to do and having played a small part in making that happen for him was special. Some of my best memories from the summer was rehearsing and performing with him several summer nights at the Barbaric Bean and Day’s Ice Cream Shop.
When summer passed into fall Reggie came to me because he wanted to move to San Diego, California where he had some friends. Although he had established some roots in Ocean Grove, he was concerned about playing music for money through the winter. It was late September and the New Jersey boardwalks were basically deserted. Although my first reaction was think of all the reasons why he shouldn’t go, I quickly realized that it was Reggie’s life to live and not mine. Reggie had his own Dharma and it was essential for him to go and pursue his dreams, wherever they make take him.

As Sri Dharma says, do it because it has to be done,” and I had been there for Reggie because it had to be done. By doing selfless service (seva) I found that I had also served myself. We can all make a difference, no matter what. So next time you come across someone in need remind yourself that yes,I can help. Yes, I will do this. Yes, change is possible.

Check out Reggie Deas
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Freddy was introduced to yoga by his wife, Amy Pastore (E-RYT 500 Hour yoga instructor). At first, practicing yoga was an excuse to be around Amy – even if it meant enduring 26 excruciating posture holds in 105 degree heat! Over the years, the practice of asana gave way to the deeper purpose of yoga. This resulted in physical, mental and spiritual transformation. Freddy has attended many yoga workshops with world renowned teachers and in 2012 he completed the Life Of A Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training Program with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Freddy also holds a certification in Basic Thai Massage from the Loi Kroh School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Together with his wife, Freddy is the co-founder of iflow Yoga, a modern, eclectic Vinyasa style yoga drawing from their diverse yoga experiences.  Freddy is also an accomplished bassist who has performed and recorded with many of New York City areas top jazz, rock and pop musicians.

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra


Students in Sri Dharma Mittra’s classes (whether regular attendees or first-time participants) can all relate to that feeling of: “What was the brilliant little gem of yogic philosophy he said – that I SWORE I would remember and write down after class?”
Believe us when we say, we understand this sentiment. We try to record every tidbit we can; so, for your enjoyment, here are ten of our favorites:

1. “God (Divine) is the inmost Self of all creatures, sitting in the heart as our real selves.  Formless, incomprehensible for the mind, beyond all conditions, immutable, eternal, and action-less.”

2.


3. “The goal is to separate you from the mind.” 

4.
 
 
5. “The highest state of meditation is Samadhi where there is not ego anymore, no doubts, no me, no you, no notion of time, no eating, no talking, no walking, no working and not doing anything at all, realizing that the Self is action-less.” 

6. On Asana:
 
7. “I am only here to share my knowledge with others and to help them make rapid progress on the path of yoga.” 

8.
 9. “Rest your mind on the infinite…  Deep inside you are free.”  

10.