Category Archives: present

Yoga For Trying Times

By Sri Dharma Mittra 

In terms of the world today and what the new (U.S.) president may be saying or doing, some people have a lot of fear or concern. What would you recommend for the people who are afraid or worried?

Many years ago, I asked my guru: what about the president now? He said to me with a smile: “Don’t you worry, my son. Everything is just perfect. If the majority of the people chose him, that’s just what the people deserve — are ready for.” So, everything is perfect. Not even one blade of grass moves without the will of the Almighty One. Do you think that the Almighty One is allowing something that is not right? Everything is perfect. We do our best to help, to influence him, but whatever is happening: perfect! People who get hurt in this process: they have their karma. Perfect. Everything is Divine. Don’t worry: there are Celestial Beings that went before us. They are watching the planet, allowing all these people to assume their positions. Everything is just perfect. Let’s do our best and pray for the president. Remember: he is our brother, too. In reality, he is doing Divine work. That’s what I think.

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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.

 

The Lone Dharma Yoga Teacher in the Desert

By Dani Gray

 

After my very first Dharma Yoga class in 2010, I knew something profound had happened.

Even before the class was over, I kept thinking, “This is not like anything I’ve done before. This isn’t just about ‘becoming more flexible.’ There is something else going on here, and I have to find out what it is.”

I was training to be a dancer at that time and had a knack for memorizing movement, so I went home and repeated the practice I had been taught, exactly as I learned it, nearly every day for the next two months. By the end of that time period, I was completely changed – many issues that I had been struggling with for years (physical, mental, emotional) had simply disappeared, and have not returned since that time. It took no extra effort on my part; all I had done was this simple asana practice, with an easy pranayama exercise and short meditation to close.

Upon realizing the transformation that had occurred, I had only one thought, “I have to learn how to share this with other people.” I applied for the 200-hour Life Of A Yogi (LOAY) teacher training program immediately.

Fast forward to today, five years later, when I’ve just recently finished the immersion portion of my 800-hour training, and have been teaching regularly where I live (the slightly strange tourist town of Sedona, Arizona) for a little over a year – on a more full-time basis for several months.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that teaching this much is the most perfect extension of everything I’ve learned – the practical application of all this sadhana, particularly the yamas and the niyamas, with a major emphasis on ahimsa, compassion.

I quickly noticed that what my students receive during my classes has a lot less to do with how much I know, and a lot more to do with the way I am. If I am strong in my own practice (and, as a result, centered & grounded within myself,) the teachings flow naturally & lovingly, and students are noticeably more receptive. Discovering how to meet students where they are and keep them engaged, without changing the core essence of the practice, has been a dynamic and fascinating learning process for me.

There are a lot of things I could say about what it’s like to be the only active Dharma Yoga teacher around for hundreds of miles – it has been immensely challenging at times, and I catch the mind occasionally making up stories about how what I do doesn’t really make a difference, or how students aren’t actually interested in really absorbing everything this practice can offer them. Usually at those times of doubt, Grace shows itself in some form – a student sharing a profound shift that’s occurred in his/her life, or a deep appreciation for the practice overall – and I am reminded why I began teaching in the first place.

As the beginnings of a small sangha have started to form in our town, I’ve witnessed the immense power of like-minded individuals coming together for a common purpose, and the transformations that occur without us having to even talk about it.

This practice speaks for itself, and one thing that has never wavered within me is my faith in what I have learned through this sadhana, and the truth of my own experience. To be one of the many teachers carrying the torch of this lineage has always been, from my perspective, an incredible privilege, and a call to truly live the teachings – to offer our lives in service as much as possible.

 

5-4-15Dani Gray currently lives and teaches in Sedona, Arizona.

https://www.facebook.com/dani.gray.948

Reflections on Guru Purnima

By Sandra Lafuente

I am writing this on Guru Purnima. There are no words in this physical gross plane that can really depict the gratitude and love I feel for Sri Dharma Mittra, but I will try to use the ones I know that come from the heart.

I love him beyond everything that is tangible. Same way I love my grandfather Bernardino, the first guru I ever had, not in his body anymore. Same respect and tenderness. They are so alike. They teach me the same.

Dharma Mittra-ji embodies the deepest meaning of Yoga in the simplest way. The innermost sacred message: life is a game. It’s all an ilusion. If one is established in the Higher Self, in what is Real, suffering disappears while playing the game. One is content. One is sattva. One Is.

Guru-ji takes out of me the child I never stopped being although I concealed it for so long. He helps me bring that little girl back. Fearless, joyful, curious, lively. The child whose divine qualities are stainless. He helps take the dust off and see her as she is, natural wild perfect. A manifestation of God.

That is what practicing with him is about. Do it now, don’t even think about the results. Do not fear. Laugh. It is easy. It is simple. Play!

Five years passed before I came back to New York to be at the presence of Sri Dharma again. Intense purging, purifying, long five years I went through with the main guidance of Andrei Ram. The bitter before the nectar. That period was preparation to come back. I realized I never lost the psychic connection with Dharma-ji, the link became more powerful in the most arduous times. I tuned in and he taught: don’t take it so seriously, don’t be so hard on you, don’t try to be perfect in the changing world of forms and names, you are already perfect in your formless nameless no beginning never ending Self. Act with no expectations. Love. Live!

Then I went back to his temple in June for a whole month. I recognized his voice as if I never stopped hearing it –I never did. It was as if I just took his class the day before and every previous day, non-stop. As if he never left me and I never left home.

And so I heard him saying that the meaning of life is to experience all manifestations of the Creation, that one should enjoy everything but be ready to lose it all.

That’s it!  Go ahead, make mistakes, learn from them, be patient. It is in this very world where you have to be. It is in this very maya where you have to reach for the Light and make it permanent.

And then I played, although the body hurt like hell at the beginning because of old physical and emotional injuries. The mind wanted to win me over, but I didn’t give out. Tried over and over. I did it because it had to be done. Like a child. Like that little girl. No worries, unconcerned, happy.

It is much much easier than the mind puts it. It is uncomplicated. Effortless if one stops resisting. So difficult to get to surrender to God, so liberating once you have accomplished it. I am still working on getting there but have savored it periodically. Ananda. Wholeness. Letting yourself be carried by the Mother-Father, by the Supreme Master within. Freedom!

That is what Dharma Mittra-ji teaches.

I brought a friend who lives in New York to Maha Shakti, the day before I came back to Madrid. He had never practiced with Dharma-ji. I saw his perennial smile while doing every posture, all of them. I asked him how he felt at the end of the session. “It was like going back to school,” he replied.

Thank you, beloved Guru. Thank you to the brothers and sisters who brought me closer to you like angels.  I bow and I am humble. We are One.

OM

 

Sandra Lafuente was born and brought up in Venezuela in this lifetime. She currently lives and teaches in Madrid, where she also works as a freelance reporter and writer. She has realized, no doubt, there is Yoga in journalism, Yama and Niyama being the foundation, although she does not write about spiritual matters. Always grateful to the Supreme Source, to the Guru, the masters and the Sangha, she keeps working ceaselessly for the ultimate purpose of Yoga, God-realization.

(Picture by Fabio Filippi)

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.

An Interview with Sri Dharma’s Modern Handyman, Adam Frei

By Hannah Allerdice

 Sri Dharma has often referred to himself as the handyman to his Guru, Yogi Gupta. My heart swells to think of Sri Dharma as a disciple, lovingly shaving Yogi Gupta’s hair, preparing his vegetables (slowly taking all of the sides of the mushrooms off), and preparing juices for Satsang.  Although he’s not fixing electric wires, or serving Sri Dharma’s personal needs, in many respects, Adam Frei is Guru-ji’s handyman, lovingly serving him with full dedication and love.

Most of us know Adam as the director of Sri Dharma’s Life of A Yogi teacher trainings and for his stunning devotional kirtan. Indeed, many of us swoon ourselves to his chanting. But Adam is behind the scenes for so much of Sri Dharma’s beautiful interviews and writings. He edited the comprehensive LOAY TT manual (soon to be published!), and has been instrumental in conveying Sri Dharma’s messages within his interviews and other writings. He also spreads Sri Dharma’s messages throughout the wild world of social media. In his direct teachings, in New York and when he travels, he is a bright, clear channel of Sri Dharma’s teachings. This might be why I’ve heard Sri Dharma say, “Next life I will be Adam and Adam will be in my place.”

Last year, I interviewed Adam to learn more about him, and from him. We talked about his spiritual journey, meeting and developing a relationship with Sri Dharma, common obstacles and tricks for staying on the spiritual path, and what it means to be a yoga teacher. His messages bring out the qualities – the virtues – that Adam embodies: love, strength, clarity, humility, cheerfulness, kindness and devotion. May you learn and cherish this as much I have!

 

Q: Can you talk a little about your own spiritual journey?

 

Adam: Yes. I started singing when I was very young. One of the places that I sang from the time I was young was in Synagogue. So, I always had a certain experience that was more experiential – than anyone telling me to think a certain way or feel a certain way. That sense of connection, and that experience, was something that I looked to find other ways and tried to understand, especially as a teenager. I actually served as a cantorial soloist for three years starting from the time I was thirteen, so I was the person leading the service, which is mostly song in a synagogue. And, there was a difference between that and regular performing – dealing with people’s energy. I was thinking about those things.

I went into yoga because I liked the idea of something that was integrated. It was ethical rules, breathwork, it was meditation, it was the asana to help to maintain the physical. I just really liked the idea of something that was comprehensive because to just meditate, I don’t know– I always had the ability to just sit and be completely still. I really liked yoga. It was one of those things, when, from first times I practiced, I felt like it was exactly what I was looking for.

The [Sri Dharma Mittra] poster for me was a very important part of my yoga journey. No one I ever spoke to at Kripalu, where I used to look at the poster, had any idea of who Dharma was. No one could ever give me information other than, “Yea, it’s a great poster, we sell it. We have it in two sizes.” When Dharma’s DVD’s came out, I had this advanced copy of the Level 2 that I was sent. I remember practicing it and being like, “Whoa, this is awesome!” And, realizing, “Wait! Dharma is alive, this is the same guy as the poster!”

Coming and taking class with Dharma for the first time – it really blew me away. For me, it was everything that I was looking for in terms of a teacher. It’s funny because everyone has such a different experience with Dharma. You know people often say that he never tells them what to do. Dharma always told me what to do. From the very first time I met him, he would always say things to me like, “you need to do this, or do this.” I found that to be very helpful.

I never used to ask Dharma anything, but Dharma always, like so many people say, used to answer all of my questions as a part of the teachings. I’d be thinking about something riding the subway in, I’d go to the class and then he’d talk about that exact thing and answer the question. I remember at some point Dharma saying to me, “You are like Arjuna, you’re always asking questions.” But I never asked him anything! In fact for the first year and a quarter, we never even spoke, directly, other than him teaching me within the class.

It’s exactly what I think I was looking for. And as much as anything else, certain things that I thought, or realizations that I had. Dharma at different points, if I ever asked him a question, would say to me, “You already know the answer.” And I’d say, “Oh, he’s right.” Or, he would say to me, “Why are you asking me, you know just as much as I do.” And I am not saying this from a place of ego. He was validating and helping me to have more confidence.

 

Q: Some people talk about when they meet their teacher, they are overwhelmed. Did you have that feeling when you met Sri Dharma?

 

Adam: No it really wasn’t like that. I think I came to the first class with Dharma in a certain way, almost having given up. At that point, I’d been actively looking for a teacher for about seven years. I was planning that that summer to go to India. My thought was that I wasn’t finding it here and in different places I’d gone in North America. I thought, since that was where yoga came from, it could be a place where I could find something. I already had a schedule when I was going to take my shots. It was really far into the planning stage.

That first class – in those days the noon class was the most popular class. The place was completely jammed full. It was a lot of yoga teachers who would plan their day so to take that class. And they were teaching before and after. I set down my mat, I went toward the back of the carpet, assuming, like everyone else, that Dharma would teach at the front of the room, and Dharma came in and put his mat right in front of where my mat was. There were 60 people in the room, all the way back to the bathroom. There were people in the hall down there. Almost in every pose he adjusted me. He had all these things to say, it wasn’t about the adjustments, it wasn’t like fixing, it was about showing me how to go deeper, or “this is another way to do it, or try this way.” And always, “open your eyes, look at me, I am right here. The reason I’m doing this is for you.” That, in and of itself, was amazing. That someone had all this information and was so generous to share. Then, just the experience I had in savasana, which was just very different than any kind savasana experience I’d ever had which then meant that the meditation was so different.

I talked to Dharma briefly afterwards. He was so uncomfortable. I tried to thank him. So often teachers are usually like, “come to my retreat. Would you like to buy my book?” And here was Dharma saying, “I didn’t do anything, you don’t have to thank me.” I was thinking, “What?” And there were people stacked up to talk to him and he got out of there as fast as he could and almost ran down the stairs. I was just fascinated by the whole experience.

I rearranged my entire work schedule so I could be at those classes at least twice a week. In the summers I was there four or five days a week. I just made it a part of my life. A big thing for me also was when Dharma came back from his first trip to Japan. He came in that day, about a half hour early. I always went early, so I could warm up so I could do the class. He sat down, and instead of going through his own practice, like he always used to do in those days, he sat down he started talking to me. “So, I was in Japan.” He started telling me about Japan – the students, the experience of teaching there. And he said, “some day you’ll go to Japan and you’ll teach there.” We literally had never spoken a word outside of him teaching in the class and all of a sudden it was like, oh, okay… It’s always been a really good thing for me – and I just I feel so fortunate, I feel so blessed to have the experience of being able to learn from him. He is so generous. To this day, he still has things to tell me. Even though he insists that I know all his tricks. There is always something else. I just love it, I love being around him.

 

Q: How has your relationship with Sri Dharma changed?

 

Adam: Basically after I had been there a couple of years, around New Years, Dharma had started saying to me, “Why are you still here? You’re done. You don’t need to be here anymore.”  He’d say that in class, in front of everyone. I felt a little embarrassed about it. We were at Kripalu, He said this every time he saw me at Kripalu. I said, “Dharma. You may think, and I am sure you are right, because you know better than I do, that I am done, but I feel like even if I am done, if I stay maybe I can help in some way. And, in some way, for everything you have done for me and everything you do for everyone else, maybe I could somehow help a little bit, and I’d like to stay around.”

There are things that come up. Like, about six years ago, I asked Dharma, “Someone asked me, since you weren’t there, if I could charge their malas for them and I don’t know if I am comfortable.” Dharma got angry at me: “What do you mean? You do it. If someone asks you, you do it.” I guess too, I think this was a long time ago, actually, Dharma said something along the lines of, “Let’s just be friends.” He was sort of trying to not have me be so reverent – or insisting upon reverence all the time. “Lets just be friends- treat me like you’d treat your friends.” For me, sometimes its hard, because I feel an enormous reverence for Dharma. But also I have the sense that because this is what he asks, I’ll be obedient. To the degree that I am able to because that’s the way he’d like it to be and that is what is comfortable for him.

 

Q: What have been some big obstacles for you? Can you share what kinds of things you learned to overcome them?

 

Adam: It sounds kind of ridiculous to say, but I feel like some of the biggest obstacles that I have had are not as recent. I used to try more to do things, try to make things happen. The more I have been able to go into the surrender, the fewer obstacles there are. It’s not to say there aren’t obstacles. It’s always this thing of being patient until things work themselves out in whatever way they work out. I used to think, particularly when I was more interested in singing opera professionally and was doing that a bit- that I am going to prepare, that I am going to do, and based on my preparation, and based on everything, this is going to be the result. If that wasn’t the result, I’d have that feeling that I have to work harder, I have to do, and I have to make. I started to understand over time, there is no “do,” no “make.” There is making your best effort, but being unattached. The less you are attached, the less you worry. I could say something completely asinine as part of this interview. But in a certain way, I can’t help that because that is what I am supposed to say.

I used to get very nervous, I’ve noticed in recent years, I don’t get that nervous. I think it is because I am not attached to the result. I mean, I cannot say that I am not at any level, I am not perfect, I am not perfected. I try to make the effort and offer up the fruit, whatever it ends up being.

 

Q: Do you feel like that this is your work — this is your internal, personal work?

 

Adam: I don’t feel that way at all. It used to be internal work. There were certain things, certain experiences I had where I thought I needed to put names to them or I needed to categorize them, to be able quantify them. Because of the way this brain and the body is, I needed that for my own development. I don’t think of anything in terms of myself. I don’t mean that I have no ego, no personality. It’s not to say I walk around, and if someone spits on me I say thank you. I don’t know how to explain it. I used to have a lot of goals, I used to have a lot of things – I don’t feel that way anymore. I have an obligation to my family, to take care of them, having brought two children in the world. I want to do everything I can for their life – to set them on the right path, and be the best husband that I can, and support my wife and our household and the rest of my family. I don’t really think in things for myself. Lately, I gained some weight as my metabolism has slowed down in recent years, and I am making an effort to lose it at this point, because there are some asanas I can’t demonstrate and it’s good for the students to see certain things. It was something I let go of for a while. But, I feel like I want to do something about it. I feel like this is the house I am living in and it’s a very comfortable and nice house. Everything works well and I am grateful.

It’s not like where Dharma will say, “I already have my diploma.” I see there are a lot of things I could still do or achieve. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just not something I think actively about.

 

Me: That sounds very peaceful!

 

Adam: It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, I was very competitive. I used to ski race, so I was competitive about that. I used to be interested in jobs, careers. At this point, it’s just different.

 

Q: What are some tricks that you have for staying on the path, and remaining useful on the path?

 

Adam: I don’t know if they are really tricks, per se. One of the things is first to have the courage to have the experience – and to try. Because, if you are willing to go into places that sometimes seem a little dangerous, scary, and certainly unfamiliar – that’s where you grow the most, where there is the opportunity to experience the most. Moving toward enlightenment, in psychological terms, is uncoupling the thinking processing mind from the part of our being that just experiences –that just sort of records and witnesses. If you went to that place, and stayed at that place, you’d stay insane. To be willing to go to that place, but keep that thread to come back. People think, or they look at enlightenment like it’s going to be a life changing experience, they are going to be a different person – like everything that is broken will suddenly be fixed. I don’t personally think that enlightenment is anything about that. It is coming to see something that at a certain point you already know, but you are not willing to accept with every fiber of your being. I think, once you accept it with every fiber of you being then everything is different, everything is just changed. Everything you experience, you perceive, you see and experience from a different place, a different perspective.

For me, seeing Dharma and the way he lives his life is helpful. He still has a family, and things he has to deal with. Like, his basement flooded. He drove all the way to the city and had to turn around and drive back home. What are you going to do? You have to take care of it. It’s that whole Zen thing: before enlightenment the laundry, after enlightenment, the laundry. Things have to be done. I think of it and feel it in a different way. I am not saying I am enlightened, but a lot of people think that something is going to fundamentally shift, that they will become superman, or super woman. I think all that stuff is all expectation, all attachment. It is all imposing a form on something that is not about form.

Dharma talks about the part of us that is not affected. Something happens, someone cuts you off in traffic, you get that flash of anger and it is gone as soon as it comes. That flash of anger, it’s gone – it is just body and mind going through whatever experiencing it is having. It’s not that you don’t walk around without the body and mind living out the karma of this lifetime – the prarabdha karma. It’s going to be whatever it is going to be – sometimes you are going to be good, sometimes it is going to be bad, sometimes you are going to be hot, sometimes you’re going to be cold, it doesn’t matter.

 

Q: Do you feel like there are any other lessons that would be helpful for our spiritual community – more messages emphasized?

 

Adam: There are two things. One is that I think it’s really important for people to stop confusing that asana and yoga are synonymous. And, it’s very hard, because where we are with yoga in the West, it is mostly a physical practice. But by looking at yoga in that way, you are stuck with just 1/8th. I think there is so much more to the system – if people are able to see the other parts as just as important, then yoga has the potential to change everything.

The second point is one Yogi Gupta always made: You have to discover your tendencies, your dharma. What works for you, you have to do a lot of it. It is certainly true that there are things we don’t like to do. But if you are a person to sit and sing and that’s something where you have a strong sense of connection – you should do that a lot. And just because everyone else enjoys these punishing asana classes — that may be helpful at some level, but it won’t help you make the most progress. The body and the mind have their tendencies and those are built-in. Figure out what those are and work with that. I think that is something that can help everyone make progress.

 

Q: You are the director of the LOAY teacher training program and you see the development of teachers. What are some things to consider when wanting to be a teacher?

 

I always go back to something that one of Dharma’s senior teachers said in response to the question, “What it is you want to do as a teacher?”

They said, “You want to be someone who helps someone find God.”

I thought, “Wow! How many people approach teaching yoga like this? I think about that answer daily. There are some people who teach parts of yoga- and that can be helpful. But, if they are really wanting to be someone who wants to share the full Ashtanga yoga with someone else – that is a big thing – a big level of responsibility. When we go through it, we don’t necessarily understand what we are going to be involved in.

When you go to teach the public classes, sometimes people are there for the workout, and that’s wonderful and great, and there are people who are really doing something devotional. You teach all of them. You try to help all of them. I think the biggest thing about being a teacher is that people have a fantasy that they will become famous. That people will be interested in what you have to say. Teaching is service – you try to do whatever you can to help people make progress. I always echo what Dharma says, teacher training is here to help you make progress so then, over time, you can help others make progress on their way.

 

hannahHannah was born in Manhattan, NY, and raised in Florida and Georgia. She came to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra in 2007 after learning under Saraswati Om in Syracuse, NY. Hannah completed the 200-hr and 500-hr LOAY in 2008 and 2011 and is honored to be a mentor in the LOAY Teacher Training programs. She teaches yoga and stress management, leads kirtan, does energy healing and cares for her growing family in Washington D.C. She feels so grateful to be a student of Sri Dharma Mittra and a part of his loving Dharma Yoga family. You can find more at hannahabricker.com.

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.

 

Change Your Perspective, Change the World

By Jairo Sanin

The notion that our identities and experience of separateness are an illusion is common discourse to those engaged in the yoga community. Despite being an avid practitioner, it wasn’t until a difficult week that this lesson became even more vivid for me.

My wife was having a challenging week and I found myself in a big warehouse purchasing a few items needed for our home.  I spotted an orchid plant and felt moved to purchase it for her, sure that it would bring her some sort of comfort.

I called her soon after I purchased this plant and talked to her about the colors of the flower and how I felt drawn to purchase it to brighten her day.  All I saw when I looked at this plant was the rich color and the intricate structure. She asked me to take a picture and send it to her. I was pleased to send her a picture of this simple flowering plant.

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After taking the picture, I used the photo editor on my phone to look at the negative of the picture I had just taken. I was amazed at what confronted me when I looked for a picture of a beautiful flower.  What stared back at me was the image above — a picture so distinct and powerful that I had to pick up the phone and call her before I sent her the image I was viewing.

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In yoga, we often practice methodologies aimed at mind purification and growing receptivity. While I have always believed myself to be a person of heightened awareness, it was this experience that truly taught me that when you change what you look at, what you look at changes.

 

JSYoga (1)Jairo Sanin, a bilingual, Long Island based yoga practitioner, holds an MPA and has extensive experience working in government building partnerships and contributing to public service.  His passion for fitness emerged after he became acquainted with the practice of yoga and watched its transformative impact take hold in his life and that of his fellow practitioners.  He is in the process of finishing his teacher training and is excited to share the great benefits of yoga, especially with communities that historically lack access.

 

The Bethlehem Star Guiding Us to Sri Dharma

By Gaia Bergamaschi

The 6th of January is celebrated as Epiphany according to the Western Christian tradition and the etymology of the word Epiphany from the ancient greek meaning “manifestation, striking presence reminds me of the importance of experiencing the presence of our spiritual masters who manifest and teach devotion, prayers, and sadhana (spiritual practice).

Although I am far way from our beloved Sri Dharma and the Dharma Temple in New York, geographically speaking, when I returned to Italy from the last module of the teacher training in November, I promised myself I would engage in special spiritual practice to overcome the physical distance. My intention is to turn the illusion of being alone into the real aptitude “bhavana” of a yogini blissfully active in the Dharma community and in the world around it.

Before starting the asana, pranayama, and meditation practices, I close my eyes and focus my inner sight into the shining eyes of Dharmaji. Whenever I can, I connect myself to the starting hours of the weekly and weekend lessons, repeating the purification mantra. It’s a remote distance bhakti yoga tool which I am sure I share with many others!

In the same way the Three Wise Men (Magi) let the Bethlehem star guide them towards Jesus’s feed trough (a symbol of nourishing humanity), I imagine every yoga practitioner joining an inner path towards “satya,” the eternal truth, which can be considered nourishment for our actions.

Sri Dharma, the teaching faculty, and all the people working and studying in the Temple act as the light which diminishes the obscurity represented by the afflictions described by Patanjali as the five kleshah: avidya: spiritual ignorance, asmita: ego pride, raga: attachment, dvesa: hate and abhinivesa: fear of death (Yoga Sutra II.2).

The attachment to a sacred and spiritual place has to translate into the faith to rebuild it into a secret corner of our hearts. The light has always been there because it is eternal — regardless of the contingent life we’ve been assigned. As we’ve learned, if one is endowed with true wisdom as to the fleeting and painful nature of the worldly enjoyments, one can exert oneself in the right direction to do or undo one’s Prarabdha, the portion of Karmas ripened for actual experience in this current birth.

During Sri Dharma’s psychic development lessons, I often dreamed of sitting on a stardust mat. The stardust has the power to transform itself into the original stars it comes from, letting the inner child hidden in every one of us to come out through the coexisting presence of the voice and of the silence of the master. The marvelous and precious Sri Dharma logo immediately appears in my inner landscape as the reincarnation of that child!

Coming out from this dream state, I’d like to symbolically share with you the gifts I offered to Sri Dharma during the Epiphany day:

–       gold as my yama and niyama practices;
–       frankincense as my prayers and mantra chanting;
–       myrrh as my continuous learning experience.

As Sri Dharma said, “The universal principles of spiritual disciplines can elevate the seeker into eternal God communion. This is the true goal of yoga.”

During this special day, I’d like to celebrate with you the manifestation of the divine presence in all of us, committed and generous sadhakas, thanks to the living example of one of the greatest living Hatha yogis.

 

 

GBGaia Bergamaschi started her yogic path about ten years ago. After having been certified by the Vedanta Forest Academy of Swami Sivananda and having studied in India, she discovered Sri Dharma. Since the first step into the temple she knew Dharmaji was the Acharya she had always been connected to, regardless of space and time. She’s currently teaching in Milan according to Dharma style and Dharma ethical principles. After quitting her job in the investment banking sector, she took another degree in clinical psychology. She aims at merging the yama and niyama with the relational psychoanalysis and the humanistic psychology, creating yoga-therapy protocols inspired to Sri Dharma targeted to people who suffer from personality and mood disorders.

 

From Istanbul to Dharmaland, with Love

By Gülnihal Özdener

I was walking home from Dharma Yoga Center on the third night of my 500-hour teacher training in September and mantras echoed in my head as I was gazed up into the sky, counting the stars. Then I saw 50 of them on a flag in front of a tall building. It hit me then — I had been in the United States for almost three months! In Manhattan for almost three months!

Why hadn’t I ever realized that before? Of course, I was not speaking Turkish or having Turkish food, but I felt like I was home the entire time, without realizing I was thousands of miles away from home. But it was still home.

Coming to New York to meet Sri Dharma Mittra, after the most troubling period of time in my life, has been a remedy. The wounds of a psychologically abusive relationship pushed me onto a path where I found Dharma Yoga. The legendary Mark Kan’s class forced my body gently to its physical limits in a way that felt so right. I said, “That’s it! This is what I want to do!”

There I was, on my mat, in Sri Dharma’s temple. Krishna Das music was on. The incense was wrapping me up kindly. Since my first day in the city, I was at Dharma Yoga Center every single day. I was lucky enough to practice twice-a-day with Dharmaji and the great teachers he taught. The energy is always so embracing, you can never feel like an outsider.

I looked around the temple; more than 100 people practicing, 70 of them were teacher trainees. I saw that each body is different. Each has a story that brought them into this very temple, practicing with Dharmaji. Hearts beating as one in each pose, all fuelled with so much enthusiasm. There was no judgment, only pure love. There was abundant help, encouragement, and unconditional support. The compassion that Sri Dharma always emphasizes turned us into a very large multinational family.

The self is one, as Sri Dharma teaches us, and those 100 plus people in the temple were moving all together as one. Even the beginners, who happened to find themselves in the middle of so many advanced asana practitioners, found the courage to try the seemingly impossible.

For me, many poses were hard to practice, either because of my mild scoliosis or out of stiffness. But when I saw my family moving and trying and falling and getting back up — even after some six to eight hours of asana practice in a day — I didn’t give up. I found myself in poses that would have been impossible elsewhere. I am not even mentioning the experiences I had during our morning pranayama and meditation sessions.

People in Turkey were, and are, asking me, “Oh you must have visited a lot of places! Three months is a long time!”

That makes sense, New York City (or Manhattan, to be more specific) is a crazy place with so many entertaining or touristy options, and I have been to some of them. But it never felt like I was touring Manhattan. I was at the center, in the temple almost every day! There were times when we had our breakfast, lunch, dinner at the center, or when we took naps.

Then I thought; well, yeah, I have been to many places. Especially within my mind, soul, and body. Those were wonderful places, and my guide was mostly Dharmaji, and other beloved Dharma teachers.

If you’re talking about the city, for me, Manhattan is Dharmaland.

 

Gulnihal OzdenerGülnihal Özdener met yoga when she was 19 and absolutely hated the first few months of practice. Later on, she realized her scoliosis-related pain started to fade and her grumpiness turned into calmness, so she applied for her first teacher training at the age of 23.  Two years later, she contacted the Dharma Yoga Center, applied for the 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. Now back in Istanbul, she spreads the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra via the classes she offers, humbly continuing the lineage of Yogi Gupta.
Find her at facebook.com/gulniyleyoga or yogawithgulni@gmail.com.