Category Archives: students

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.

Washington D.C. – A Dharma Yoga Mecca

By Brando Lee Lundberg

With 24 certified Dharma Yoga teachers, including four studio owners, over 50 Dharma Yoga classes offered per week, and a packed house at the convention center last year for Sri Dharma’s visit to Washington, the D.C. area has quickly become a mecca for Dharma Yoga– second only to New York City, where Sri Dharma lives and shares his practice at the Dharma Yoga Center.

What has led to this phenomenon?  The close proximity of D.C. to New York City – a four to five hour car ride or three to four hour train ride – has certainly helped by making weekend or even daily trips possible for D.C. area Dharma Yoga practitioners. But this is true for other metropolitan areas of a similar size and demographic. While understanding the reasons behind the growth of Dharma Yoga in D.C. may elude linear or even rational explanation, one of the most significant factors lies in the service of two now-senior Dharma yoga teachers who first started sharing the practice: Justin Blazejewski and Hannah Allerdice.  Justin participated the Life of a Yogi teacher training in 2008 and Hannah in 2009.

They offered the following thoughts about their experience of sharing the Dharma Yoga practice.

How did you first come into contact with Dharma Yoga?  How long had you been practicing yoga before then?

Justin: I was practicing yoga for about six months before I went on my first yoga retreat in Bali. Once I returned I was inspired to look for a teacher training to help deepen my practice.  I came across Dharma’s website and saw the 200-hour teacher training intensive and my curiosity was piqued. When I arrived to Dharma’s old studio in NYC, I walked up the stairs and Dharma was in the middle of the studio fixing some electrical wires and said, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.” And then walked away. I knew in my heart I had found my guru.

Hannah: I came into contact with Dharma Yoga in 2007 through Saraswati Lorie Om, who has the beautiful Dharma Yoga Syracuse center. Before then, I had practiced on and off for about six or seven years.

When you returned to D.C. after your first training in 2009, how did you go about sharing the teachings of Sri Dharma?

Justin: I returned from teacher training on a Sunday and boarded a plane the following day for Afghanistan for a three-month work trip. While I was overseas I gathered local military personnel and contractors on the base every day and taught them the Level I Shiva Namahskara sequence, pranayama and meditation. My group grew from one to three people to about 10 people before I left to come home.

Once I was back in D.C. I began organizing free yoga classes in Meridian Hill Park every week. I encountered a similar pattern that I had overseas, with only a few students at the beginning, but after a few weeks the group grew. After a few months of teaching, a beautiful soul walked into one of my classes. She had just returned to D.C. after her 200-hour teacher training with Dharma. That beautiful soul was Hannah.  I remember a feeling of love and joy knowing that I was no longer alone in sharing Dharma’s teachings and knew deep down in my heart that something special was about to grow and expand in this city.

Hannah: I started in our little apartment with three to six friends, teaching them Dharma 1 and Dharma 2, according to our internship requirements. About a month after that I met Jasmine (the owner of Yoga District) and started helping out with Yoga Activist.  She then asked me to teach a class at Yoga District.  And then I started to teach more and more classes.

What is it about Dharma Yoga?

Justin: After over six years practicing with Sri Dharma, my heart truly sings and feels the love for my guru every time I see him or bring him into my awareness. He is always with me in my heart no matter where I am in the world, and anytime I feel my energy drained, I take a bus to NYC and plug into the source for a recharge.

Hannah: Everything. Particularly the love that radiates from our beloved guru. It is infinite and through him takes so many forms, according to the student he is teaching. And, through his example, I learn how to love more and more.

What do you attribute to the success of Dharma Yoga in D.C.?

Justin: It was hard in the beginning, as I was the only Dharma Yoga teacher in D.C. Not many people had heard about him and I was a new teacher so it was hard to get exposure. I began by writing to all the yoga studios in the D.C. area, asking them if they wanted Dharma Yoga at their studio and nine out of 10 of them turned me down or didn’t reply. In the end I attribute “angry determination” and “doing the work because it has to get done,” as Sri Dharma Mittra often says.

Hannah: The teachers here are so dedicated, and are fully committed to living a life established in ahimsa.  Just like Sri Dharma says, “everything comes from there [ahimsa].” And it is contagious, the love and deep truth of living life like this. Students can feel it. And, we are all so committed to updating our learning from Sri Dharma. We are all practicing with him regularly and sharing his love, his lightness, his simplicity, his humor. The students feel this too.

How did you contribute to building the Dharma Yoga community in D.C.?

Justin: I was the first Dharma Yoga teacher in Washington D.C. that shared the teachings in a yoga class environment. I continued to teach and sub in Virginia and D.C. as much as I could to expose as many people as possible to Dharma’s teachings. The first year was pretty slow but I started getting more and more students in my classes. By then Hannah and I were teaching at Yoga District and we started to get a lot more students coming to the Dharma Yoga classes. After a while the students began to be inspired by Dharma’s teachings and eventually decided to head up to NYC to do the LOAY teacher trainings. Once there were a few Dharma teachers in D.C., the roots of the sangha took form, and the tree of Dharma Yoga in D.C. just kept growing.

Hannah: I don’t really know. I helped water some plants I think, through Sri Dharma. There were a lot of yoga teachers here in D.C. when I moved here, and many of them hadn’t found a real, living master. When they came to the classes, and we all got to know each other, something was sparked. So, they all started to go to the trainings too.  And then it blossomed. Now we all just love on each other and support each others continued growth, and keep welcoming new people in the community.

Any advice or words of encouragement for Dharma yogis seeking to build Dharma Yoga community where they live?

Justin: Angry Determination! Do the work with love and compassion, staying true to Dharma’s teachings no matter what! And the rest will come!

Hannah: Yes, serve just as Sri Dharma serves; embody his teachings, his way. Remember, we have been given the highest teachings, from a realized Yogi, stand supreme in that knowledge. And, keep charging up by staying connected to Sri Dharma physically, mentally and psychically.

 

Brando Blog

 

Brando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine.  For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility.  In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.

Finding Sri Dharma

By Jerome Burdi

The first time I went to a master class with Sri Dharma Mittra, I didn’t like it. I thought it was too hard and I had a difficult time understanding him.

“He expects us to just do these poses? What about some more prep or explanation? Do you really have to hold a headstand that long?” I thought.

It wasn’t Sri Dharma, it was me. I had to deepen my understanding of the practice to be receptive to the teachings. In time, Sri Dharma changed everything about my practice and my life.

I started my yoga journey in 2010 during a shamanic retreat in Brazil’s majestic Chapada Diamantina National Park. Before that, I practiced martial arts and was full of vices such as meat eating, drinking too much, and promiscuity. I thought yoga was something women did in heated rooms.

But as the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

During the retreat in Sri Dharma’s home country, yoga was offered and I felt an instant connection to it. I could feel the changes coming right away.

From Brazil I returned to South Florida where I lived at the time working as a crime reporter for a major newspaper. But I wasn’t the same. I no longer had an interest in my low vibration habits and I had a thirst to find a place to practice yoga. I found some good studios that carried me into the practice.

A little over a year later, I decided to quit my job, move back to New York and become a yoga teacher. I pinpointed Rishikesh, India, as the place to do my teacher training. It’s known as the “Yoga Capital of the World,” and it was good enough for The Beatles to spend time in an ashram there, so I thought it would be good enough for me.

I now see my studying in Rishikesh also as a connection to Sri Dharma, as that’s where his beloved guru did a lot of his work. So I started my yoga journey in Sri Dharma’s native country and made it official in the land of Yogi Gupta, his guru. I needed to go to India to come back to be receptive to the grace of Sri Dharma. I had to get on to his level.

As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

India was another one of my great teachers — meditating, bathing, and practicing asana beside the holy Ganges taught me what it is to do your work, but to also what it is to cultivate an art of effortlessness. As the Ganga flows, she teaches the lesson of living naturally without attachment or concern for the future or past. People come and go and still the Ganga flows.

This is how I see Sri Dharma’s classes. As I learned just by being beside the holy river, I learn by being beside Dharmaji.

It took me a while to discover this.

When I got back to New York City, I was determined to find a home studio. I didn’t even think of going to the Dharma Yoga Center because I went before I left for India and didn’t connect to it. For a year, I went to many big name studios and teachers in New York, but nothing clicked. That seemed strange to me. New York City seems to have more yoga studios than India and I couldn’t find one to suit me. I thought I’d just have to stick to a home practice.

But on Jan. 1, 2013, someone recommended I go to the 3-hour practice Sri Dharma offers on New Year’s Day. His yoga center was also offering free vegan food that day so I decided to go.

I walked in and sat close to Sri Dharma. The studio that I now call home was packed and silent. Sri Dharma started the class with closed eyes.

“Boo!” he suddenly yelled, and we got startled then laughed with him.

As we moved through the postures and Sri Dharma spoke, something shifted in me. After class, I told him what a great time I had.

“I saw when you came in here you were skeptical,” Sri Dharma said, then laughed and put an arm around me.

I was amazed that he knew that. And I was also content to have finally found my teacher and my home.

 

HollowbackOmJerome 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

 

Are You My Guru?

by Reno Muenz

Since my daughter was born two years ago I have had the opportunity to revisit some of the classic children’s books I read as a child. One of them, Are You My Mother?, tells the story of a little bird who falls from the nest while his mother is away. He sets out on a quest to discover who his mother is. He meets many interesting characters along the journey but none of them turns out to be his mother. Finally, in the end, he returns to the nest to find his mother waiting for him. My experience on the path of yoga is quite similar to this children’s story.

I developed an interest in yoga as a teenager. Not an interest in the postures, but rather an interest in yogis, like the Buddha and the Sadhus of India. It was Bhagavan Das’ “It’s Here Now (Are You?)” that really turned me on to the world of yogis and spiritual practice. After high school I studied Religion in University, with a focus on Eastern Philosophy, and began practicing the asanas.

Many years have passed and I have dedicated my life to the study and practice of traditional yoga. I have had many teachers along the way and have studied a handful of disciplines. I am eternally grateful for each of these teachers who have inspired me and offered fuel to keep my flame burning bright, but I have known all along that I was not prepared to dedicate myself to any one practice. I had not found my “mother,” so to speak.

“If the guru comes I will know,” I have always told myself.

Reno Muenz with Sri Dharma

The teachings are very clear that if you desire to experience the higher states of consciousness, by means of yoga techniques, you will need a guru to guide you. Someone who has mastered the practice. I have been in the company of a few masters in my life, yet knew in my heart that they were not my guru. The difference between a teacher and a guru is that a teacher will offer guidance for certain parts of your life or practice. They will arrive when you need them. And you will probably have many in this lifetime. A guru, on the other hand, will pass the Light from their lamp to your wick, allowing you to see the Light that is within, or the Supreme Self. This is a lifelong relationship. It is as sacred as the relationship between a child and his or her parents. It is not to be taken lightly, as it is just a permanent as getting a tattoo. You have to know that you know that you are making the right decision and that the guru is honest and compassionate, without a doubt.

This is something that I have thought about for many years. “Will I ever have a guru?” “Is it really that important?” “Are you my guru?” All of these questions have danced through my mind.

About 3 years ago I saw this book called Asana at a yoga school I was teaching at. I was so moved by the photos in the book. I was really inspired. “Who is this amazing person?” I thought to myself.

I discovered his name was Sri Dharma Mittra and began looking into him. I discovered his Maha Sadhana DVDs and began to practice them at home. I devoured all the extras on the DVDs like a true yoga nerd and made this a regular part of my daily life. As a traditional yoga practitioner, I’ve never been much for practicing in front of a television screen, but Sri Dharma really spoke to me. I was practicing more Ashtanga and Jivamukti Yoga which took up a lot of my time, but I kept going back to the DVDs. “Someday, I would love to practice with this man.”

I read as much as I could from Sri Dharma online, which there is quite a bit (many thanks to the amazing staff at the Dharma Yoga New York Center). Then in the film Enlighten Up, I saw Sri Dharma again. Of all the amazing yogis in this film, it was Sri Dharma who grabbed me and spoke to my heart.

What I attracted me to Sri Dharma Mittra from afar was his depth. Not only was this man a master asana practitioner, he also had a deep knowledge of the scriptures, he chanted and played the harmonium, he emphasized pranayama, yama and niyama nearly every time he was interviewed (even on his DVDs), and most of all he appeared to be so humble.

My life, as it is for most experienced yoga teachers, was very busy and didn’t have a lot of space for travelling, unless it was work related. It had been a long time since I was able to sneak away for my own personal studies, not to mention it had also been a long time since I had felt inspired to do so. My life continued on with my inspiration from Sri Dharma coming from interviews and video clips via the internet, wondering when/if we would ever meet.

Reno Muenz 2Finally, at the encouragement of my mother and partner, I looked into what it would take for me to head to New York City, to find out if this humble master was my guru.

I wrote the entrance essay and sent it off with my deposit, not knowing if my attending would even be financially possible, or geographically possible, as I live on the West Coast of Canada. Some time passed and I spent a lot of time focusing my awareness on being in New York City with Sri Dharma. Manifesting.

I had a telephone interview set up and spoke with one of the great staff at the Dharma Yoga Center. “It just feels like I should be going.” I told my partner, who is always supportive and shared very little doubt as to whether or not we could make it happen. Even though we both knew it would be a stretch for me to be away from work and the family during the training.

I was very excited to receive my acceptance to come to New York and study with Sri Dharma Mittra. “This could be my guru!” I thought.

I was able to scrape the cash together to take part in the training and headed off to New York City.

Upon my arrival I spent a couple of days at the center practicing with Sri Dharma Mittra. I was absolutely amazed by him. His strength and flexibility, his devotion and dedication, his sweetness and sense of humor. “This is my guru.” I thought. I had never thought that before. I even became very emotional upon meeting him for the first time, which by the way is out of character for me.

The training was absolutely life changing. Dharma’s Senior teachers shared the same dedication that I have for the traditional practice of Yoga. It felt like coming home.

I remember a mentor of mine explaining the guru to me years ago. He said to me that if you are luck enough to meet your Sat Guru in this lifetime, you will know right away. I was always searching to see if I knew. And up until now I never have. But since meeting Sri Dharma Mittra, I know that I know.

I have since taken on a discipleship with the master and couldn’t be happier. I am dedicated to spreading the teachings of Yoga as described by Sri Dharma  Mittra and am grateful for my spiritual family of Dharma Yogis. As Dharma says in his prayer in the Asana Book. “Once we return home, may we never leave again.”

It feels good to be home. To have answered the question “Are You My Guru?”

 

Reno MuenzReno Muenz (Chaitanya Deva) is a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra and a certified Dharma Yoga instructor. His knowledge of traditional yoga science/philosophy, combined with a great sense of humor, and love for music make him a unique and inspiring teacher.  He is dedicated to a lifelong commitment of sharing the teachings of his guru, and the great masters of the past, in a way that is accessible and inspiring for students of all levels of experience.
You can find him in Vancouver BC Canada hanging with his daughter Marley Summer. Or teaching yoga classes at Semperviva Yoga and One Yoga. He is the founder of Sadhaka Yoga school which offer students an opportunity to deepen their understanding of traditional yoga techniques. Reno can also be found behind the turntables, sharing his love for music at many conscious events such as the Wanderlust Yoga festivals. You can connect with him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dharmayogavancouver or email oneloveyoga@gmail.com for more information on Sadhaka Yoga courses.

Reflections on a “Life of a Yogi” 500-Hour Teacher Training

By Rachel Carr

First: if you have the chance to take a class with Sri Dharma Mittra then do. He’s a true yogi and taking class from him has transformed my life in so many ways.

Second: if you’ve ever wanted to push, pull and stretch yourself in amazing ways (big and small) then consider taking the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training offered at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC. You may just be surprised by what you uncover about yourself and your practice.

Third: teacher trainings are intense. They are designed that way in order to shake you up and wake you up. The days I spent immersed in Dharma Yoga were amazing, but also the most challenging of my yoga practice to date. At the conclusion of day one, after we spent 12 hours practicing pranayama and asana and learning new sequences, I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this for the next seven days?” It all seemed so daunting and my mind flooded with so many doubts. “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. I just want to go home and be comfortable.” But I kept pushing because, deep in my heart, I knew it was where I needed to be in order to evolve personally and professionally. Somehow, whether by willpower or fierce determination, I made it through the rest of the training relatively unscathed and those feelings of doubt slowly slipped away.

LOAY_Trainee_class

The First Module:

What came out of my first module of teacher training? There were many realizations, but here are a few.

Although I hate to admit, I realized that I had seriously neglected my personal practice. My practice has always been a place of rejuvenation for me and I had let that slip. How? Frankly, I’m doing too much, saying yes too many times and giving so much energy and care through my teaching to the well-being of others that I have completely neglected my own well-being. So, after the first module I decided to step back a bit and make time for my own practice so I can be a better teacher for my students.

Yoga, when done correctly and with experienced and qualified teachers, is incredibly healing and I needed this training to remind me! When I left for the training I had some digestive discomfort that I was working to tame. At some point during my asana and pranayama practice, it went away, and even though I got a head cold while I was there, my digestion was never better, my skin cleared up and random bouts of anxiety slipped away. Sri Dharma says, “With constant practice comes success.” It’s true. If you want to see the benefits, you have to do the practice.

Coming home there was lots of homework to follow, including daily pranayama, meditation and asana practice. At times I felt overwhelmed with getting the practice in as well as my other commitments, but Sri Dharma’s words keep ringing in my ears. “Do it because it needs to be done.” 

Namaskarasana

The second module:

The second immersion week of my teacher training was just as amazing, but far more challenging than the first.  Given the success of the first immersion and my dutiful attention to the inter-module homework, I felt ready for the second half of the training in December. Leaving my family right after the Thanksgiving holiday was hard, but I was ready for the endeavor. However, all that preparedness came to a screeching halt about 45 minutes in to asana practice on the first day when I was feeling so out of sorts that I left and started crying uncontrollably in the bathroom. My body was heavy and foreign to me as I moved through the practice. I felt like my world shifted and I didn’t know which way was up. After class was over, I spoke with a mentor and felt better knowing that I was not the only one feeling out of sorts that day. Maybe the holidays had a greater effect on me than I’d realized?

I kept telling myself that if I made it through the first four days, I would be okay. However, the first days of the training were some of the hardest of my yoga career! Physically I started to feel much better about things, but my ego was literally crawling out of my body and demanded we leave right then and there. I did not give in, although I thought about it a lot, because I know that when things get really tough, the good stuff starts happening, so I kept moving forward, doing the work that needed to be done and reflecting on what was coming up for me from practice. Was this some sort of ego detox, I wondered? I don’t have that answer, but I do know I felt defeated on so many levels that at some points I felt so paralyzed by it all that I could barely move on my mat.

Luckily, two very good friends came to visit mid-way through the week. It didn’t take much, but a hug and a friendly hello from two close outsiders of the training made my heart so happy I nearly burst. Also, the amazing mentors and teachers of the LOAY program kept pulling me forward. They were always open and ready to help me through anything, patiently listening and helping me observe the onslaught of internal messages I felt overwhelmed by at times.

Sri_Dharma_Mittra

Sri Dharma is always there to remind me of what I need to hear at just the right time. Every day I listened intently to his discourse and instructions. The more my ego calmed down, the easier it was to take in, and the more being there made sense. I truly felt that “everything was perfect.”

The last four days of the training were just as intense, however, less so emotionally for me. I still struggled with some asanas, but my body didn’t feel as heavy any longer. I didn’t realize this until the end of the week, but I had become so strong from the inter-module homework, that I rarely felt sore and injured. I even started moving my mat up front for practice. I think it’s best to sit close to Sri Dharma if possible. I was coming out of my shell…finally.

On the second to last day we participated in an inversion clinic. Inversions are not my strongest area, but I’m determined to work on them. In the beginning of the workshop I started to get really anxious. However, my partner was very supportive as we worked though the exercises together. In fact, all of my fellow trainees were so supportive that I started having fun again as we “played” with asana instead of “working” on them.

Maha_Sadhana

On the final day I got up the nerve and mentioned to a mentor just how nervous inversions make me and to my surprise, he helped me out through practice for so many inversions I am now confidently practicing on my own. It only took eight full days of training, but I had a breakthrough! Of course, there’s more work to be done, but I was happy I finally let go because when I do, amazing things always happen. In our final Satsang, I sang my heart out and felt so light and joyous. I was sad to leave, but at the same time I was ready to come home.

Thirty days home and I miss my Sangha dearly. It was hard jumping back in to practice and the holidays made it even more difficult, but, as always, I am striving to do my best. I continue to have many breakthroughs and worry less about how well I do some of asana as opposed to the journey they provide me. I’m stronger and feel more grounded now than ever before and continue to learn more and more about myself through this amazing practice and the teachings of dearest Sri Dharmaji.

(All pictures by Jeffrey Vock. This post first appeared on the blog Capricious Yogi.)

Rachel CarrRachel Carr E-RYT 200, RPYT is a DC based yoga teacher currently working on her 500-Hour LOAY certification with Sri Dharma Mittra. She completed an inter-disciplinary 200-Hour yoga Teacher Training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.

Tapas for Teachers

By Liz Schindler

“Yoga is the path of purification of character and conduct (the cleansing of one’s physical and mental nature) wherein the highest state of reality and truth may shine undiminished in the hearts and minds of all beings.” –Sri Dharma Mittra
 
©Jeffrey Vock

 My Life of A Yogi Teacher Training Training wasn’t all rainbows and kittens! Well, it was mostlyrainbows and kittens, but also a whole lot of tapas. Tapas is perhaps the most transformative of the niyamas, or personal disciplines, set forth by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras as well as the basis for the “path to purification” that Sri Dharma Mittra refers to in his definition of yoga.
According to the LOAY manual, tapas is defined as heat, austerity, or burning away impurities through self-discipline.Tapas was at the beginning of my transformative journey and it fueled my passion to learn and grow and to push through self doubt. Tapas caused the deepening of my physical practice throughout the intensive ten days, fueled by my own fire and sweat. It was tapas that drove me to the training, got me through it, and forced a change in my body, mind and spirit.
       
Sri Dharma Mittra is referred to as the teacher’s teacher and for good reason! Sri Dharma is the perfect shepherd to the trainees because he didn’t only show us how to teach yoga classes, he shared his limitless experience, knowledge and wisdom.  The morning pranayama and spiritual discourse sessions were the highlight of my day and I cannot stress how challenging but rewarding the breath work was. I soaked up all the information on the kriyas, mantra, chakras, bandhas and mudras.  
©Jeffrey Vock
 
Yet there was still the element of tapas and the floor seemed to harden with each passing day and by day six easy poses were no longer easy. The pain of sitting with a tall spine (out of respect for Sri Dharma) was distracting at times but looking back I’m happy that I did it. It broke a mental barrier in my mind and got rid of “I can’t do this any longer” and replaced it with “I’m still doing this.” I read a quote somewhere that says “your mind will always give up before your body, just keep going” and I did.
The hard part was putting myself out there as a teacher and I cannot adequately express my horror as I taught my first Dharma I class to my group during the training. In contrast to my inexperience, my group was so advanced! Two of my group-mates had mothers that taught yoga and two others were already certified teachers. This was my first teaching experience ever and I was mortified. I remember my disappointment as I taught and how frustrated I was over the shakiness in my voice and the inaccuracy of my cues. But why was I so nervous? I had been falling on my sweaty face and loudly farting in front of these people for days! But suddenly their opinion mattered more than anything and I thought I was bombing it.


©Liz Schindler
 
After finishing my first practice teach (which felt like hours) my mentor Hannah Allerdice gave me an honest review of my teaching. She stressed her opinion that I would be a wonderful teacher because she could sense how much I cared about my students. At the time I thought she was just being kind, but looking back through my handy 20/20 hindsight goggles, I see she was on point. Because I care so much I was nervous and horrified while practice teaching. My drive to teach yoga stems from my gratefulness to all of my teachers for helping deepen my yoga practice and to open my heart. All I wanted then and now is to be able to share that same gift of yoga with my students.
       
By the end of the training I had more confidence in my teaching and a greater sense of sympathy for my own feelings. I made strong friendships and have new role models to look up to. I surpassed my own expectations and in turn have raised my self-expectations. The LOAY teacher training experience was truly life altering for me and I am forever grateful to Sri Dharma and all of his teaching staff. 

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Liz Schindler found yoga during a stressful period of her life and has returned to it again and again for over ten years to calm both body and mind. After moving to New York and beginning to study with Sri Dharma Mittra, she soon came to realize her need to share her love of yoga with others. Liz is a 200-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher. She currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY.

 

    

      

Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Your LOAY Teacher Training

By Jennifer Helgren

©Jeffrey Vock

First and foremost: GO



“Always do what you are afraid to do”   –Ralph Waldo Emerson



When the thought of attending the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training first entered my mind, I almost automatically dismissed the idea.  I had so many reasons NOT to attend (mother of two young children, travelling husband, a plane ride away from NYC, no housing in the city, etc.)



What I learned was that when I committed to my dream, the obstacles fell away. It may take some time, and definitely some effort, but the result – well, is simply too great to put into mere words. Dive in, take a chance, and find a way to GO.

Second:  Open your mind and heart



“Be Receptive” —Sri Dharma Mittra



There will be moments in the training that will challenge you – physically, mentally, spiritually – and you must always remember that is why you are here. Open the whole of your mind, even the places that you are least aware of: the places that hold onto resistance.  Allow the words, people, experiences, and lessons to pour into those hidden places. Listen with an open heart and mind, and the information will be absorbed.  Weeks, months after you leave, you will hear these words and learn these lessons…they will reside in the mind and heart, and the space you created within. 



©Jeffrey Vock
Third: Put forth effort and use imagination



“Imagination is powerful. You go as far as you can imagine”– Sri Dharma Mittra



You are going to be tired at some point. You will physically and mentally hit the proverbial wall.  You will move past it. I promise you, a second wind comes along and you will be renewed.



I second-guessed myself initially, but that fell away after time. My mind let go of the attachments to thoughts and emotions that often distract us and inhibit us from fully committing to something.  We live in the real world, and the world does not like to be left behind. It will pull at you, distract you, and sometimes overwhelm you.  Give yourself time to allow these things to come up. They are natural and they will pass.



Apply disciplined effort to your practice. Let the physical practice act as a brush to scrub away at whatever negative tendencies you may have.  Let it invigorate you, regenerate you. Your physical practice will grow by leaps and bounds through dedication and practice, practice, practice.



Finally, use your imagination – Sri Dharma talks about this often and it truly resonated with me. Imagine yourself to be a better person, mother, father, daughter, son, friend, partner – a better yogi. Use your imagination as fuel to show yourself that what you pursue is attainable through effort, dedication, study, and time. 

Fourth: Be a Student



“In learning you will teach and in teaching, you will learn” Phil Collins



Lose all preconceptions. Take off the teacher hat and allow yourself to commit to being a student. Listen and learn: from Sri Dharma, the mentors, your fellow trainees. Watch your own mind and learn how to apply all that you receive to yourself, your life, your teaching.  Apply the lessons to every aspect of your life. You will be amazed at how the things you are exposed to relate to your roles in life – as a person, yogi, teacher, parent, child, friend, partner, spouse. This is truly the LIFE of a yogi training!



Listen as much as possible. You will want to take notes, but if you can, take time to just be still and listen. Let go and simply absorb the information and the words.  Listen to other people’s questions and answers and try not to be too eager to answer them for yourself, even in your own mind. Let other people share, and let their knowledge and experiences become part of your own.

©Jeffrey Vock


Fifth: Smile, live, learn, laugh…and do your homework!



“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it” Lao Tzu



Enjoy the training! Every day, it becomes more of a part of you and integrates itself into your very being. 

Sri Dharma is always quick with a smile and a kind-hearted joke. He understands the power of laughter and the importance of joy.  The training will go faster than you think, so soak up every minute! When you leave between sessions or after the final interval, do your homework!  Remember that you are going to be able to do it and what’s more, you will enjoy it. After my internship ended, I found that much of the homework has become a part of my daily life.  After talking with many other trainees, this is the case with most of us.  Carry it forward. Apply it. LIVE it. 

Sixth and finally: Go back



“Well, sometimes home is a person” –B.Revis



I understand how hard to is to travel to New York City. Still, I would encourage you to go back as much as you can. Go home, and by home I mean return to Sri Dharma and be in his presence. 



However, if you are very far and it is not possible for you to physically go, keep in touch with people through the internet, the phone, however you can to maintain the connection. I have found myself using Facebook to keep in contact with other trainees and to touch base with the Center – daily! You can see pictures of Sri Dharma, the mentors, your friends. You can read quotes from Sri Dharma (and yes, you hear his voice!) You see familiar faces and smiles and all at once, you are home. 



In closing, ultimately this experience is a very personal one. I wish that everyone who is undecided about going could understand one thing – you will never regret going, but you may regret having never been. 


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Jennifer has a undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree with a specialty in Counseling.  She had a career as a counselor working with clients of all ages and backgrounds, in varying environments, with a wide range of needs and concerns.  After her time as a counselor, Jennifer began her life as a mother, the most rewarding and challenging career of all. She believes that her education, practice, and history as a counselor, and mother, play an important role in her yoga practice and her teaching. She believes strongly that a truly dedicated spiritual and physical yoga practice can transform, enhance, and expand the life of the practitioner. Jennifer had the honor to study with Sri Dharma Mittra for both the LOAY 200- and 500-Hour Teacher Trainings, and recently graduated from the 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. Jennifer studied with numerous other teachers, but continues to find her strength, inspiration, knowledge, direction, and guidance from Sri Dharma. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two children.  Jennifer teaches regular weekly classes in Virginia Beach and continues to travel to NYC at every available opportunity to study under Sri Dharma and the Senior Teachers at the NYC Center. 

For Yoga Teachers: Five Ways To Serve With Joy

By Jessica Gale

©Jeffrey Vock

Recently, upon borrowing mats from a yoga center for a workshop, I reflected on new connections and coincidences since moving to Toronto, Canada, and teaching yoga.

I thought about my growing social circle and sharing yoga with them; the yoga center I borrowed mats from; the workshop venue which was rented inexpensively to me by friends of friends (whom I had taught at home); and that all these new contacts kept me in the loop of any new jobs and opportunities and promoted my teaching.

All of this started with my eagerness to share yoga and my belief in karma yoga (selfless service). Acts of selfless service are free from the idea of receiving something in return and instead focus on the act of giving and surrender.

Selfless service will always be a part of my teaching.  The wonderful surprise is that for all I give, positive returns come back to me.  

Here are a few ways to include selfless service in your life:

·        Teach for free or barter

One of my students has chronic Lyme disease. I too had Lyme disease for several years and know firsthand that yoga helps. When I met his partner and heard of his situation, I immediately offered to teach them both. They were reluctant at first because they could not pay but they were willing and wanted to barter. In exchange, I receive muffins, preserves, and other small treats every week when I come to teach. But the real payoff and is seeing a friend recovering from a lengthy illness and there is no amount of money that can match this true reward.

For many of us, yoga is sometimes our sole profession and teaching classes for free is not feasible. However, a few karma yoga classes go a long way in helping people that cannot afford to attend but will reap the benefits of yoga.

Students, the elderly, even the unemployed with limited or no income, would greatly appreciate this and many are willing to pay in their own way by service or gifts in kind. Know the limits to what you can give and then give as much as you can.

©Jeffrey Vock

·        Teach what someone wants to be taught

As lovers of yoga, we sometimes forget that yoga can be overwhelming for some people. For example, my neighbor had difficulty with her breathing and I offered to teach her yoga. She was keen to learn breathing exercises but due to her age and inexperience, was not interested in the physical practice. While I knew that she would benefit from the physical exercises, I decided not to push it and I only taught her some simple pranayama exercises.  She found relief from the exercises and continued to talk about how beneficial it for months afterwards.

·        Share your time and your experiences

People are very curious about yoga teachers and I often find myself answering questions and sharing what I know. It can be overwhelming when you are in the midst of something or in a hurry!  So when I find myself becoming anxious or glancing at my watch during these situations, I try to remember to slow down and to share what I was so lucky to learn.

·        Volunteer

My first connection to potential students was made through volunteering. I helped out twice a week at an urban farm for some time and it was fantastic to help nurture plants and assist busy farmers. A number of wonderful connections developed from this time and it all began with selfless service.



©Enid Johnstone
·        Focus on small acts

Selfless service may sometimes seem like a tall order but really it’s not!

We don’t have to make huge sacrifices to include it in our day. Small opportunities occur around us all the time, but the first step is to slow down.

Do you need to be the first person on the grocery line? Can you hold the door for the people coming in? Would you pick up your partners clothes if it was left on the floor? 

I believe the key to Karma Yoga is to remember Ahimsa (compassion or non-violence) and to think, what are the loving acts I can do today?


_____________________________________

Jessica Gale has practiced yoga for nine years and studied Ashtanga, Kripalu and Dharma Yoga during this time. She spent the last three years studying intensely at CNY Yoga (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, New York and completed her LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in May 2012. She is currently completing her internship hours and hopes to achieve full certification soon. Jessica lives in Toronto, Canada.

What is a Mantra?

By Alan C. Haras


©Natasha Phillips

In the 3rd and 4thcenturies, many spiritual seekers left Europe and traveled to the Egyptian deserts to approach wise men and women who had been living prayerful lives looking for God.  When they finally arrived at the cell of these wise men and woman (abba or amma), tradition says that these seekers would ask: “Abba, speak to me a word, by which I might have life.” They might then receive a “prayer-word” or some brief instruction.  The pilgrim would take this “word” back with them to their home country and build their spiritual life around this one “word.” 


In the yogic tradition, these “words of power” are called mantras, and they are traditionally whispered into the ear of the disciple by a guru.  The guru is someone who has realized the essence of a mantra.  The Sanskrit word guru actually means “weighty one”.  These gurus have gravitas, and their words carry a lot of weight.  Because the guru has yoked their mind and heart with Truth, when they are approached by a seeker who is humble and sincere, the Truth emerges from them as the perfect thing the student needs to hear to continue their journey.  Indeed, such words give life to the soul who is thirsty for God.


Traditionally, at the time of initiation one receives a mantra, a mala(rosary) and a spiritual name.  The ceremony marks a new birth for that individual into their spiritual family.  But in order to realize the full benefit of the mantra it should be “awakened and put into action.” 



©Jeffrey Vock


Along with receiving the mantra comes both the permission to us it, as well as transference of psychic power from the master.  The mantra contains within it the enlightened wisdom of the spiritual preceptor, and like a zip file, must be unpacked through continued repetition to reveal its full meaning and power.   


 The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit roots – man or manas which refer to the mind/heart, and tra which means “to protect”.  The root tra also means “to cross over” and comes into English words such as “travel” and “traverse”. 


The practice of mantra protects the mind and heart from distraction, and helps us to cross over the discursive mind.


There are many types of mantras.  Some are used to produce specific results – to overcome illness or to achieve worldly success – while others are employed solely for the purpose of Self-realization.

©Jeffrey Vock

Mantras sung in the spirit of devotion, with melody and rhythm, are known as kirtan– the foundational practice of bhakti yoga.  Other mantras are performed silently, like the Hamsa/Soham mantra which is produced effortlessly by the sound of the incoming and outgoing breath.  But the Guru Mantra is given special importance in the world of mantras. 


The mantra given by one’s guru at the time of initiation provides invisible protection for the disciple, and acts like the “red phone” at the White House during the Cold War – it is a direct line to the Supreme. 


Swami Satyasanghananda says that “the mantra is a link between you and the cosmos, between you and the deeper mysteries of the universe.” The specific number of the syllables in the mantra given by the guru is designed to make up for any deficiencies in the disciple’s aura or energetic body.  The more one recites the mantra, the more one gains spiritual wealth.


By establishing the psychic link with the guru through recitation of the mantra, one becomes receptive to spiritual guidance across all planes of existence, and is able to stir the spiritual awareness which resides in one’s spiritual heart.



As Sri Dharma Mittra says, the outer guru shows you how to find the inner guru, situated in the right side of the heart, in the center of the chest.  The practice of mantra is one proven method for gaining access to this sacred chamber of the heart – the goal of all spiritual disciplines.



1.     Yogi Gupta, Yoga and Yogic Powers (New York, Yogi Gupta, 1958), 52 – 62

2.     Swami Satyasanghananda Sarasvati, Light on the Guru and Disciple Relationship, 101
3.     Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, (Paraclete Press) quote taken from Introduction.

4.     Maha Sadhana bySri Dharma Mittra (DVD) – Spiritual Discourses, The Importance of a Teacher



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Alan Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Michigan State University, is finishing up a two-year training in Spiritual Direction from the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, and is pursuing his Masters in Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.  He has been blessed to spend three years studying Advaita Vedanta with Dr. John Grimes, ten years studying the Jivamukti Yoga method, as well as having spent time in India with the late kirtan-wala and bhakti yogi Shyamdas.  In 2012-13, Alan completed the 200, 500 and 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, made a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  As a teacher, he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to offer “the greatest charity of all” – sharing and promoting spiritual knowledge.

15 Truths I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra

By Sorsha Anderson


Picture by Natasha Phillips
  1. To make progress you must learn to do three things: Fast, keep silent and wait
  2. Breathe as slowly as possible for an hour and watch your cravings disappear. 
  3. See yourself in the practice you are not able to access right now.  Imagine yourself in it.   
  4. Do the work.  Not because you expect results, but because it’s work that needs to be done.  
  5. In the beginning, do the poses any way you can. 

  6. You can become king of the gods by watching…
  7. Cultivate compassion–the rest will come. 
  8. Expect nothing.  Do it because it has to be done. 
  9. Avoiding discipline is a trick of the mind.  It enjoys its pleasures.  The mind will throw you down.  It is powerful. 
  10. There is no ‘mine’.  Where there is ‘mine’, there is bondage.
  11. Be kind to all beings.  Everyone passes through the same obstacles.
  12. You can reach higher states with drugs, but there is a blackness behind it.  You despair because you know you cannot get there without the help.  When you achieve higher states with meditation, you feel bliss because you realize no one can take it from you.
  13. Yoga is…perfect obedience to the teacher.
  14. Drop the elbows. Don’t think!  Forearm stand!
  15. After enlightenment, there are plenty of exciting jobs for you to do! 



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Sorsha Anderson is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher who lives and teaches in Vermont.  She has been practicing since 1991 and worked with very gentle and restorative yoga until her 30’s when she wandered into a hot and sweaty, but meditative vinyasa studio.  Neither a dancer nor gymnast as a child, and after having had two children, she surprised herself by balancing in crow for the first time at 36.  She never looked back.  Sorsha approaches each new pose with a sense of optimism and adventure and delights in encouraging others to try what only seems impossible at first glance.  She particularly enjoys teaching older women who are trying to find their way back to their bodies after a sometimes very long absence.  Sorsha is thankful to have found her way to the Dharma Yoga Center and makes the trip from Vermont as often as she can.  She offers gratitude for the beautiful physical and spiritual teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra.