Category Archives: teaching

Indaba Recap

by Adam Frei

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ahimsa and Veganism

by Susan Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purifying Bit by Bit Through Practice

By Jenna Pacelli

When I look around me at all the different kinds of people, in completely different places in their lives, I notice my mind judging certain aspects of them. Being a yoga practitioner and firmly on the path of self-realization, I am often humbled by my mind’s ability to spew some nasty things, contrary to the compassionate goals of yoga.

However, the practice comes not from being perfect necessarily but from learning to observe these tendencies and using the practice to continue to cleanse and purify the mind, body and heart.

The practice and teachings of my teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra, have changed my life dramatically. He has taught me how to purify the parts of myself that would make your hair curl, parts that all of us have, if we just look closely enough. The more and more aware I become, the amount of work I still need to do becomes ever clearer.

As a Dharma Yoga instructor, I practice pranayama, meditation, mantra, asana, concentration, and other spiritual practices every day. These form the bulk of my practice and there is a direct correlation between how steady I’ve been in my practice and my own ability to be compassionate, calm and patient in my daily life. It is literally a never-ending process of cleansing and purifying the places within myself that I would rather not look at. I once read about a teacher whose student asked them if they should practice every day.

The teacher replied: “You don’t necessarily have to practice every day but when life gets difficult, you’ll hope you’d been practicing every day.”

The path to self-realization is not an easy one. It can be very lonely and isolating, not to mention mentally and emotionally trying. However, the payoffs greatly outweigh the costs and eventually all costs go away and become irrelevant as a self-realized being. It’s the difference between suffering in my own thoughts and feelings about others (because we’re truly the only ones that suffer when we judge) and allowing others to have their own awakening process.

The people surrounding me haven’t changed – I have! So I can walk through the grocery store and either feel the hot anger of judgment and criticism inside my body (which the practice has also helped me connect with) or have a totally peaceful experience. Nothing about my outside surroundings changed – but when I’m connected to myself through the practices of yoga, I hold the power of changing my experience in my hands.

Judgment serves as a mirror for our own progress on the path. It’s simply a construct of the mind and when we learn to purify the mind, we’re really learning how to remove obstacles on the path.

This is why we practice – to shed light on the dark, cob-webby places inside of us that need our attention. Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras did Patanjali say “You must be free of all imperfections.”

What he did say was that yoga is the “settling of the mind into silence.”

When we silence the mind, the place where the dark, harmful thoughts originate, then we start to experience the peace of our true self. And the joy that accompanies that supreme knowledge is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, even if only briefly.

 

DSC_0094-MJenna Pacelli is a Yoga Teacher and Board-Certified Holistic Health Coach in San Francisco, serving clients and students all over the world. She helps her clients navigate radical life changes and transitions, helping them heal at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Connect with her at jennapacelli.com.

A Journey into the Self

By Gena Rockwell

As soon as I signed up for the training, I knew that it was meant to be. I had never even practiced Dharma Yoga, but when I stumbled upon the website and saw that it was actually possible to study with Sri Dharma, whom I had admired through his famous poster and his interviews for years, I jumped at the opportunity. To prepare, I purchased his Maha Sadhana DVDs, began to practice them regularly and immediately fell in love with the Dharma Yoga.

It was five years after completing my 200-hour teacher training in vinyasa yoga, and I knew that this training would take me to the next level as a teacher. Little did I know what a profound effect this experience would have on my life as a whole.

The moment I walked into the Dharma Yoga Center on my first day of class, I immediately felt calm and serene. I was warmly greeted at the front desk and directed to the temple, which was huge and beautifully decorated with candles, images of Shiva, Ganesh, and Sri Dharma’s guru, Yogi Gupta.

As I gathered with the 70 yogis from all over the world, I could sense that everyone was as excited and humbled as I was when Sri Dharma walked into the room to lead us through our pranayama practice and spiritual discourse. Throughout the first day we did hours of asana practice along with more pranayama, meditation and kirtan. At the end of the day, my body was exhausted but I was so full of energy at the same time. As the week progressed, I continued to be filled with some kind of divine energy even though our 14-hour days were packed with up to eight or more hours of asana practice.

I got to know my fellow yogis more throughout the first week and I couldn’t believe how amazing each and every person was. These were some of the kindest most sincere people I had ever met.

But then again, it all made sense because we had all sought out Sri Dharma as our guru, one of the most kind and sincere voices in the yoga world.

The mentors were amazing, as well. Each mentor had a special gift to give, and did so with so much compassion and humility. I knew the training would be great, but I had no idea how welcomed and at home I would feel right away.

“This is it, this is real yoga,” I thought to myself constantly.

Kindness, compassion, and humility, these are Dharma’s true teachings. While he is one of the most renowned practitioners of asana in the world, his true teaching is much deeper. He encourages us to realize that we are a reflection of the divine, to be kind to others, to be kind to the animals, to see ourselves in others, to always practice compassion, and to make every action an offering to the divine.

Throughout both of the training modules, we performed hours upon hours of challenging asana but in a way, it seemed effortless. I credit this to the fact that not only were we all moving together as a collective consciousness, but we were all also aligning our practice with a higher purpose,­ seeing our practice as serving something greater than ourselves.

There is something very profound that happens when you practice in this way. Suddenly, the ego or sense of “I am­ness” begins to evaporate. Your muscles are not each working individually to hold you in the pose. You are not thinking “This foot goes here, this arm goes there.” You cease to become the doer, and instead become one with all of creation.

I believe that each one of us experienced to some degree throughout the course of the training the true meaning of yoga: Union with the divine. This divine energy guided us through every 14-hour day, leaving us not only with sore muscles, but with beaming radiance,­ and a childlike sense of wonder for all of existence.

We practiced and learned many techniques to get to this place, and will keep them with us forever.

I thought that I was going to learn how to be a better teacher, but what I really learned was how to go deep inside to the place of God­-consciousness that exists within us all, the true self. Then the teaching happens naturally.

 

Gena RockwellGena Rockwell is a yoga instructor, massage therapist and musician who lives in Shepherdstown, W. Va. In 2013 she received her certification as an ayurvedic yoga specialist from the Himalayan Institute and this year she had the honor of studying under yoga master, Sri Dharma Mittra for her 500 hour yoga certification.

There is Only Bliss–the 500 Hour LOAY Teacher Training

By Jerome Burdi

I remember looking around the room of one of the packed master classes during the 500-hour-teacher training and seeing students breaking their practice to help others get into a pose. That’s because they were not just students, but teachers, too.

I felt so happy to be there, seeing the community come together under the guidance of the teachers’ teacher: Sri Dharma Mittra. There are 67 souls in the teacher training that had its first eight-day module Sept. 7, and will have it’s second on Nov. 2. They came from all over the States and world including: China, England, Australia, Germany, France, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Croatia. And there I was, too, taking the subway from my native Brooklyn.

It’s wonderful to be in the presence of these people with Sri Dharma and the group mentors. To be a student again and soak up so much knowledge just by being in the presence of a true master who shows the mark of one: humility.

Sri Dharma is open hearted and childlike, and that floods the training and his classes. There usually comes a point towards the end of class where he opens it up for students to “Do your own special thing,” including acroyoga. This is when it becomes like a big playground and we’re all children playing at the feet of our father.

The training’s 14-hour days start at 7 a.m. with pranayama. Before coming to the training, I didn’t have a personal pranayama practice. This is one of the things I hoped to receive from the training and receive it I did. Dharmaji and the fellow teachers were so knowledgeable that it became one of my favorite parts of the training.

It’s the perfect way to start the day in the hush of Manhattan mornings before all the madness begins. Incense circles the images of Indian dieties in the dimly lit room as we fill the atmosphere with positive vibrations, moving into higher states of consciousness through pranayama.

I watched everyone’s yoga practice grow during the course of the first module. We were like one big family helping each other get better. People had breakthroughs in their practice thanks to the energy in the room and the knowledge of Sri Dharma who was helping us all psychically.

That’s why a lot of students can do things in Sri Dharma’s class that they cannot do alone. With the power of the master and the sangha, all is possible, all is bliss.

The long days went so fast and there was not one moment that I did not want to be there with my fellow student/teachers, each sharing our strong points and improving our weaknesses.

The more difficult part of the training comes in the intermodule when you are left with only your inner strength, without the daily help of your fellow trainees or in some cases without the presence of Sri Dharma.

I am fortunate enough to be close to Sri Dharma, but I feel for my friends who are in far reaches of the world, some even without a Dharma yoga studio to practice in.

But as Sri Dharma says, all is perfect and we must be receptive to see this. And that’s why we’ve come to him. I look forward to our reunion in the great yoga temple where we will shine once more under the umbrella of Sri Dharma’s grace.

Jerome

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

Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

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.

Not Invincible. A Tale on Loss and the Reality that Follows

by Fay Inger

Fay_Inger

I am a yogi, but I am not invincible. I know this because I was recently injured in car accident and X-rays (and later an MRI) revealed a total of 5 herniated discs in my lumbar spine. Two in particular are pressing on a nerve, shooting pain in to my glute and down into my leg and knee. The painful throb feels as if a red-hot fireplace iron is constantly and firmly poking me. My injuries are relatively small compared to serious injuries people sustain in auto accidents, but hearing that this will never ever fully heal, and the best I can do is manage the pain, is a difficult reality to accept. And because my profession involves movement and demonstration, the first questions that came to mind were about my ability to teach and practice yoga.

Yoga. Yoga is the love of my life and has been my life since 2001 when I was first introduced to it, and especially since 2008 when I began my voyage into the world of teacher trainings. From that point on, I was on a trajectory of feel-good body awareness and meditation. My life orbited around yoga to the point where it was no longer a hobby and it became my chosen profession. I loved the way it made me feel and I became obsessed with introducing other people to how good it could make them feel. I became a teacher of yoga.

I was high all the time from feel-good endorphins, increased circulation, length, and expansion in my body, meditation, and deep yogic breathing. It was exquisite. But the higher we are, the harder we fall and this experience has brought me back down to earth’s orbit, where for the first time in 12 years I feel…mortal. I am now like Superman in the second film when Clark Kent gives up his powers to grow closer to Lois Lane, except I didn’t willingly submit myself to this. Now I am forced to deal with the truth that 1) I am not actually invincible, 2) I can bend and break, and 3) I am emotionally attached to the experiences of my physical body.

Up until now I (sort of, half jokingly) believed that being a yogi equaled being invincible.  It is as if all the physical practice of yoga formed a protective shield around my body, just as Superman’s shield of invulnerability did.  Like I said, as if.

Every point of opposition between fantasy and reality is an opportunity to grow. While I am mourning the loss of my imagined super powers, I, as well as many yogis connected to the Dharma Yoga Center, experienced the loss of a dear friend, mentor, and inspiring yogi, Bernadette, who recently passed away. Bernadette was a strong yogi who was known to practice Bikram yoga to warm up for teaching a class. She was warm and genuine and knew exactly what to say to someone in a given moment. I was lucky to have Bernadette as a mentor and I will never forget the conversations we had. She is and will be missed. Her passing is a painful loss to all who knew her, but it also served as a lesson to naïve yogis who think we are invincible: We yogis are not inoculated against life any more than non-yogis. We may have been armed with tools to deal with life and conflict compassionately and with non-attachment, but if you have a date with karma, it will find you despite all the yoga and meditation practiced in the world.  In the end all we (yogis) can do is what anyone can do: deal with the matter at hand and make the most of the situation, and maybe keep a smile on your face in the process.

Fay_Inger

I always like to say, “Think good and it will be good.” Yoga has given me a lot to think good about. I can also see how yoga is a metaphor for life: How I deal with my stuff on my mat directly correlates to how I deal with stuff in my life. If I get bent out of shape when my “spot” in class is taken by an innocent and unknowing bystander, how will I react if I am cut off on the road? And on the days when my practice just isn’t strong and I allow that to ruin my day, how much more so will I come undone in the wake of an actual catastrophe?  If I cannot breathe through the hard poses, how can I possibly breathe through the tough moments in life? And if I cannot be grateful in a 90-minute class, how can I ever be grateful for the blessings in life, big and small?

Yoga mirrors life and provides a safe space to exam yourself in the confines of a piece of a rubber yoga mat, 2 feet by 6 feet: the space is small enough to allow you to move but not large enough to get away from yourself mentally or physically. So I explore. I take those 90 minute intervals to be fully present with myself so that I can be fully present with other people in the infinitely large world. On my mat I accept my imperfections and injuries so that I can be compassionate and loving to others’ imperfections and injuries. But most of all I love myself so fully and completely so that there are no imperfections, just a collection of stamps in the passport of my life that prove that I am not “perfect,” but I am whole.

So when you next see me in class and on my mat or teaching you in class, there is no need to ask if I am okay, because I am and will be. Instead just smile and catch my eye and know that in that moment we will both be whole.

(This post first appeared on the blog Fay Inger)

Fay_Inger Fay is an 800-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga instructor living in Los Angeles, California. Fay is a private yoga instructor, writes blog posts on yoga and wellness and is learning nutrition to better help her students reach their health and fitness goals. As she always says, “yoga is a gift” and it is her favorite gift to share!

Social Media Release: Yoga Master Sri Dharma Mittra Celebrates 75th Birthday

Dharma_Mittra_©Eleanor_KaufmanOur Year Long Celebration will be marked by a special weekend long immersion in NYC

New York, NY, April 2014: Sri Dharma Mittra turns 75 years old on May 14, 2014. Events will open with a special Master Class taught by Sri Dharma Mittra on Wednesday, May 14 from noon to 1.30 pm at the Dharma Yoga New York Center (61 West 23rd st, New York, NY). Vegan cake and treats will be served after class. All are welcome.  Following this, a weekend immersion will be held from May 16 – May 18. The immersion consists of classes on asanas (physical poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation, deep healing relaxation and partner yoga. The retreat-like immersion is unique in the sense that it will be held in the heart of bustling New York City. Sri Dharma Mittra and his senior teachers will lead the classes which will be held at the Dharma Yoga New York Center. The first class of the Immersion starts on Friday May 16 at 5 pm and the last class concludes on Sunday, May 18 at 3 pm. The final program is a by-donation event and includes satsang and chanting with the Dharma Kirtan Band followed by a vegan potluck extravanganza. Longtime students as well as new practitioners will attend the immersion and celebration.

Legendary Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra, teaching since 1967, founded the first independent school of yoga in New York City in 1975, and has taught tens of thousands the world over in the years since. He is known as the “Teachers Teacher” and “Asana Master”. He authored the “The Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures”, Yoga Course Chart, ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses, and the “Maha Sadhana DVD set, Level I – A Shortcut to Immortality, Level II – Stairway to Bliss”. Students and teachers from around the world flock to his practices and renowned “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training Immersions for 100, 200, 500 & 800-hour certification programs. It is said that “Dharma Mittra is Yoga; he is the living embodiment of Yoga.”

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Krishna Das says “Sri Dharma Mittra is a true friend of the Dharma, and with love and tender strength help all those who meet him to be better human beings through the practice of Yoga.” Known for his humble nature, Sri Dharma has quietly devoted his life to the service of others through teaching classical yogic techniques. Adam Frei, the director of the Life of Yogi Teacher Training Programs says, “Studying with Sri Dharma is like one-stop shopping for all your yogic needs. Whether you want to learn asanas, meditation, kriyas, scripture, pranayama, or karma yoga – Sri Dharma has mastered all of these practices and is willing to share them with all earnest students.” Swami Kailashananda has called Sri Dharma the “greatest hatha Yogi in the West.” He is also referred to as the “Rock of Yoga” and the “Teacher’s Teacher.”

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Sri Dharma Mittra is well known for his famous Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures that hangs in studios worldwide. Created in 1984 the chart depicts Sri Dharma in 908 yoga poses, many of which are rarely seen today. Sri Dharma continues to teach classes for all levels in New York City and gives workshops around the world.  Contact information:  Eva Grubler, Dharma Yoga Center, 61 West 23rd Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY,  10010 eva@6a2.4af.myftpupload.com  Phone 212-889-8160 . Check our our Website or join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for the Dharma Yoga Spring Immersion: A Legendary Yoga Master Turns 75

 

Self-Practice with B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga

By Jessica Dodd

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My self-practice of yoga began in a small village made up of five families, tucked away in the historic Basque valley of Northern Spain. Using B.K.S. Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga as a guide, I rolled out my mat each day and practiced yoga. The room I stayed in had a beautiful bareness, located in a mere corner space of an old adobe building, with gorgeous blue frame windows that let in the light. Before practice each day I swept the floor which collected dust quickly. It was in this room that I developed the confidence to practice on my own.

Studying Light on Yoga played an important role in my development as a yogi. The text begins simply with “What is Yoga?”  As a recent college graduate who spent four years earning a bachelor’s of fine art in sculpture, this was the perfect introduction for me.  I had decided to change hats from learning and expressing myself through three-dimensional art to using my skills as a maker and give back more significantly to the world. I turned to small-scale organic farming, a respectable way of life that brings nourishment to the people. This journey of giving back and serving others led me to work on many parts of my being.

I had been traveling and volunteering on small family farms for a year when I arrived in that tiny town of Spain. I read through Iyengar’s opening words in Light on Yoga multiple times. I appreciated his straightforward writing which clearly illustrates the techniques, history, and path of yoga.

If it were not for his book, it may have been some time before I attempted to study the sacred science of yoga. Iyengar’s descriptive photographs were helpful to a beginner without a guru to learn from in person. He provides a thorough text describing the philosophy and practice of yoga that gives his readers a clear understanding well beyond a beginner level. I immediately began applying the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) on and off the mat. These codes of conduct helped me to realize yoga was not just done on a mat or cushion, but rather the practice was with me always.

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With the book as my guide and my inner being as my greatest teacher, I practiced confidently on my own. Abhaya (non-fear) was a constant in my mind. I released any fear towards the practice of yoga. Instead I embraced it with the entirety of my being and learned to stay in the moment. Doing so helped me to consider the effects of my difficult childhood as cause for some of my personal traits as an adult. Once I learned to dislike only the actions done by persons of my life, rather than the persons themselves, I became free of ill feelings and full of forgiveness.

Iyengar’s fourfold remedy to overcome common obstacles, which were drawn from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, were also at the forefront of my thoughts. Maitri (friendliness) taught me to connect more easily with new people I met when I traveled. Karuna (compassion) was the backbone of my decision to work only for room and board on each small family farm as most farmers have very little money. Mudita (delight) enveloped me as I admired each farmer for their talents and the beautiful bounties they produced for their communities. Upeksa (disregard) helped me through challenges with other persons, reminding me to first look within myself.

Light on Yoga is a sacred book in my collection. Though I do not practice a classical Iyengar style of yoga today, I believe this book helped me develop a strong foundation for my practice. Learning to manage fiery dedication, honoring the light within, and being light at heart takes courage. Today I have that courage and I look forward to sharing it with others within the Dharma Yoga community and beyond.

Jessica_DoddJessica Dodd is a craftswoman living in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She founded and runs a sustainable textile business that focuses on organic linens naturally dyed with plants.  Her yoga practice is present in all threads of her life.  She enjoys living a simple homestead lifestyle, getting her hands dirty tending the soils, and preparing meals for others.  She participated in the Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training in February 2014.

Yoga Myths

By Alexis Corchado

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Prior to becoming a Yoga teacher, I wasn’t very aware of the “Yoga Myths” surrounding our beloved practice. To me, it was all peaches and cream with a dollop of Pranayama. But as I embark on my teaching career, I’ve noticed misconceptions and false notions floating around Yoga. I been brought to chuckles at some of the ideas prospective students have even before taking their very first class.

Myth #1 – Yoga is an activity for women

Ok, I must admit that this seems to be true in most commercial Yoga classes. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of students are female. However, this is starting to change. More and more men are becoming acquainted with the practice and its immense benefits. As a result, they’re telling their “macho” buddies about it and the buzz is spreading. Even world champion boxer, Juan Manuel Marquez incorporates asana and meditation into his pre-fight training regimen.

I think this belief centers around the cultural limitation placed on men with regard to feeling vulnerable in public. Women seem more inclined to engage in activities like Yoga that encourage one to look within, and to get in touch with emotions or whatever else happens to be inside of them. Blame it on gender roles and society telling men that they must be stoic at all times.

Myth#2 – Yoga is for “white” people

This is a myth that not only infuriates, but saddens me deeply, because I am of Latino descent. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for the amount of times I’ve heard students of mine (I’m also a substitute teacher in a public school district,) or in my old neighborhood, tell me that Yoga is something that white people do. Yoga is a practice open to anyone regardless of color, religion, or race. To associate a certain activity with a particular skin tone is absurd to me, but I must say that although it’s a false notion, I can understand why it exists. The fact of the matter is that all too often when we glimpse the glossy covers of a Yoga magazine or website homepage, more often than not we’re treated to a photograph of an individual of Caucasian descent. To add fuel to the previous myth, that individual will nine out of ten times also be a woman.

The truth is that the latter and the former myths are reinforced by the marketing of the billion-dollar industry that this ancient practice has become in the West. Let’s face it: Yoga classes and monthly memberships, not to mention retreats, are for the most part, very expensive, especially in major metropolitan areas. The above-mentioned demographic tends to be the one that has the discretionary income available to invest in Yoga. That being said, this is also changing and thankfully so. When I take glimpses around the main room at the Dharma Yoga Center I’m greeted by smiles from individuals representing numerous nations and walks of life, not to mention Sri Dharma Mittra himself is a Latino male. Yoga is for all of us!

Yoga Myth #3- Yoga is just stretching

This myth is, above all, the furthest from the truth. Does Yoga include stretching? Absolutely! Is that all there is to Yoga? No way! I quote the famous second verse from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha.” Translation: Yoga is the stilling of the mind into silence. This is where heart of Yoga lies. The asana practice is a tool for strengthening the body and creating radiant health. But it’s only the beginning; one branch on the eight-limbed tree that is Yoga. Our practice is about traveling within, shedding external distractions, communing with the true, lasting self, and understanding the multitude of afflictions that lead us to unhappiness and suffering. Yoga is a spiritual science that transcends the body and puts us on the path to comprehending universal truth, or God. It challenges as well as relaxes, forces us to accept our flaws or limitations, and encourages us to improve on them. To say that Yoga is just stretching is equivalent to saying that the Grand Canyon is just a crack in the Earth’s surface.

Yet again, I can comprehend the origins of this myth. Sadly enough, through the commercialization of Yoga in the West, Yoga has become just that, in classes offered across the nation it is just stretching. It appears as though Yoga has been morphed into countless manifestations in the hopes of drawing more business and as a result, the essential nature of the practice is being lost. I’ve been to a few classes, particularly hot Yoga classes, where not so much as an inkling of meditation or spirituality could be found. It felt like I was in an aerobics class (an incredibly sweaty one at that.) As teachers of Yoga, we can’t forget Ashtanga or the eight limbed tree of our practice. We can’t extract the very heart and soul out of what we teach in the hopes of drawing more business, or becoming more attractive to students less inclined to the metaphysical aspects of Yoga. It’s exactly these aspects that, in this day and age, must be upheld and are most in need. For this reason, I hold Sri Dharma Mittra and his way of teaching in the highest regard. Sri Dharma is Yoga on every conceivable level. His approach is classical in its method of preserving the ancient teachings of our practice.

So once again, is Yoga just stretching? Nooooooooooo!

Myth #4 – Yoga is too difficult

Yoga can be infinitely challenging and many asanas are achieved only after years of dedicated practice. But the beauty of Yoga lies in the fact that it is approachable from wherever you happen to be physically or mentally. Most of my students assume they’ll be standing on their heads during their very first class. I assure them that, in time, if they so desire, they will! But advanced asanas aren’t a requisite of Yoga. One’s practice is personal and unique. We all come to Yoga with a set of strengths and weaknesses. As I write this, I’m instantly reminded of my stubborn hamstrings.

What’s important is that we forget about competing with our peers and going into full splits, and instead appreciate the progress that will come when we’re compassionate with ourselves and our bodies. You do what you can do at your own pace. Yoga is a lifelong journey; it shouldn’t feel like a race. Self- realization doesn’t come overnight; it takes time. In basketball, one doesn’t start with shooting from the three point line, not even if your name is Lebron James. You start with dribbling, ball handling, and layups. Yoga is no different. So next time you’re in downward facing dog and your legs won’t comply, trust that this will change. Enjoy the process!

Myths abound and are associated with countless people, objects, events, or activities the world over. But let us try and remember that myths are false notions and often become roadblocks to our progress or experience of life. In the words of Sri Dharma Mittra, “be receptive.” Always strive to experience things for yourself, formulate your own well-informed opinions and in the process, help to shatter pre-existing myths.

 

Alexis Corchado

 Alexis Corchado lives in Union, New Jersey. He has been practicing Yoga for about a year and is in the internship phase of his LOAY 200-hour Teacher Training. Off the mat you can find him playing in the mountains or on the beach or dancing the night away to Salsa and Merengue. Nature is his biggest inspiration and having a sense of place is part of his passion. Alexis is forever grateful for the presence of Dharma Yoga, and all that it represents, in his life.