Category Archives: Dharma Yoga

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.

Effort as Offering: Changing the way we approach our practice

headstand

by Eileen Lorraine

My life has gone upside down many times; in my yoga life though, inverting has always eluded me. I came up with many viable reasons for this, blaming my gymnastics teacher who denied me my beloved balance beam until I learned to do multiple backward summersaults on the mat. Yawn. I blamed my thick thighs which I felt were far too heavy to lift higher than my hips. Gravity’s got me like. I blamed my unwarranted fear that kept me rooted to the ground no matter how many people kindly attempted to show me their way of going upside down on their heads. Feeling somewhat defeated, I eventually came to accept it as fact. I cannot do a headstand. There, I said it. Let others do it, let others teach it. It just won’t be me.

I suppose all along there was something deeper inside me that wasn’t fully buying such a definitive statement, and what didn’t come as a surprise to those who know my rebellious spirit, I applied to do the Life of a Yogi 500 hour teacher training with the man who dubbed the headstand, the “King of Poses”. In August 2015, I took a micro-sabbatical from my corporate gig and teaching classes in Las Vegas to join 65 other yogis from all over the world in New York’s Dharma Yoga Center (DYC). Feeling much like my first day at a brand new school, I entered the temple thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?” During our first practice together as a group, Sri Dharma Mittra called sirsasana ten minutes into class. Ten minutes into class?! So I sat while the rest of the room went upside down, all the while trying to fake a look of serenity and confidence in my “watchasana”, when inside I was crumbling. “I want to do that,” I thought. “I should be able to do that! I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a teacher. What am I doing here?” And on and on and on the internal dialog went until sweet relief came when I heard Dharma-ji say, “Ok. Now break the pose.” (Holding self-chastising-asana is remarkably exhausting.)

Soon after, we were paired off into small groups of six. These were to be my peers for the two contact modules during our training, led by my first of two mentors, Andrew Jones. Being paired with Andrew, a senior teacher at DYC, was a gentle gift from the Universe. His soft British accent and kind demeanor invited me to share my dark confession with the group, “I can’t do headstand. And I want to. I really, really want to.” I expected to be met with instructions to go into a headstand and then feel the familiar shame of not being able to go any further than a deep version of dolphin pose. But that’s not what happened. Instead he simply said, “So you can’t do headstand. Its ok, you don’t have to.”

Wait, what?

Four words were all it took. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO,” and I was suddenly set free. Andrew continued, asking if I could consider removing the goal of conquering the pose, to take if off of my to-do list and to remember that asana is not the yoga I was after. That it wasn’t what pulled me away from my life in Las Vegas and called me to spend this time with Dharma-ji. He reminded me that our practice is an offering, and in that sense no matter how little or how much I invert myself, it is enough. For God, it has always been enough. And it was then that I gave myself permission to release the white knuckle grip I had on this pose, to slow down, to open my mind in a way that could finally absorb the technical hints my mentor and peers lovingly shared with me. And little by little over the course of the next eight days, my legs began to go up. It wasn’t until I returned to the security of my home did I fully invert away from the wall, but let me just say, it was an amazing feeling. I’m up, I’m up! I had a huge sense of pride, not for conquering the pose but for being able to let go of my ego enough to make my all my efforts an offering. And let that offering be enough.

Self-realization happens in subtle moments when we witness ourselves for whom we truly are, made of our strengths and our limitations. It happens in the moments when we release what is outside of us and instead go quietly inside, gently encouraging ourselves (with a sweet English accent if possible, it bloody helps!) to experience the moment, not the result. Without bringing compassion to our practice, there is no yoga.

shirshasana1 Shirshasana2 Shirshasana3 Shirshasana4 Shirshasana5 Shirshasana6 Shirshasana7 headstand

Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.

To Understand “Dharma” as Duty

By Diana Scime-Sayegh

We are a society obsessed with “fulfilling our dreams.” However, those dreams are usually ego based—ones of fame, fortune and “having it all.”  Yet many of these dreams cause great suffering when they are not achieved—feelings of failure, FOMO and not being good enough. This then impedes our ability to move forward in our lives and can result in depression and anxiety.

What if instead of fulfilling our dreams, we grew up excited and present with the idea of fulfilling our dharma?

Dharma is defined as duty, but it is not that simple to fully digest.

Dharma is what we were put on this earth to do for our soul’s evolution, to reach self-actualization, and perhaps most importantly to serve the rest of our community and Lord Shiva.

Beloved Sri Dharma will sometimes (lovingly and joyfully) say during class, “I don’t wanna be here! I wanna go home.”  But he understands his Dharma, and so he shows up and practices with us, teaches us, stays with us.

He left Brazil to follow Yogi Gupta, left India to come to NYC and fulfill his purpose handed to him by Shiva and his Guru, to teach and spread true yoga to as many people as possible.

Sri Dharma has been in the army and worked as a janitor, never feeling any job was beneath him, always willing to work hard, shed karmas, and offer all of himself to something much greater.

He opened one of the first yoga schools in NYC, and at his first class he watched as the one person who showed up left before he could even finish the Om. Regardless, with ego non-existent and no attachment to the outcome of his labor, he kept on going.  He understood it was not about “him,” but rather that this was his offering to the Lord and the purpose of his soul.

Now 76 years old,  he has taught all over the world and is an endless source of compassion and giving.  He is tired, but he knows he has a duty to fulfill (to such an extent his Guru gave him the name Dharma!) and he keeps going.

I have finally come to understand that “Dharma” and our dreams are not to be confused, and that a person must be fully established in a release of ego in order to truly hear their Dharma. I once thought my dharma was to be a world famous yoga teacher, a household name who was being asked to teach at Wanderlust and Bhakti Fest, leading Gwyneth Paltrow through practice.

How wrong I was, how wrapped up my ego was in these ideas! That was my DREAM, not my “dharma”.  As Sri Dharma says, “you might think you are very right, but really you are very wrong.”

As I sat in the garden this summer watching the bees tend to their work day after day I finally understood “dharma” and releasing the fruit of our actions. The bees show up to the flowers every day, busily working and ego-free, with no need for accolades, awards, or notoriety. They show up to the flowers because they must, because it is their dharma to the rest of the community—to nature, to us.  They fulfill their role joyfully, dutifully and with great discipline.

How much the bees have taught me about “dharma”.

I now understand in order to teach yoga in the way it is meant to be taught I must simply get a full time job like everyone else. In that way I can serve without a business mind, without the need to prove myself, without attachment to the workshops and the classes. But rather with the freedom and the joy of understanding that all of my work is actually done by Shiva anyway, and that all I do when I teach yoga and show up to my job are my offerings back to the cosmic consciousness.

All work is spiritual and all work is yoga when we understand all work is an offering.  Meditate, come to know yourself and the supreme teacher within, and be freed from the ego’s constant need for gratification, praise and attention.

Our purpose as yogis is to serve, and we cannot do this fully if we are serving our egos before our brothers and sisters, if we are more concerned with fulfilling our dreams than our dharmas.

 

DianaDiana Scime-Sayegh is the owner of Happy Heart Yoga Shala where she leads bespoke yoga for vibrant living, creating custom private practices to help release people of the blocks that keep them from living their most effervescent, joyful lives.  She received her 500-Hr from Sri Dharma Mittra and regularly practices with him. She is humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to teach yoga and is committed to serving, sharing her spiritual knowledge and transforming lives through yoga the same way she transformed her own.

 

The Lone Dharma Yoga Teacher in the Desert

By Dani Gray

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Dharma at Wanderlust

By Susan Craig

Reverence, obedience, self-discipline, vegan, being strict with oneself yet kind and compassionate towards all others, a strong desire for liberation. All of these are phrases that Sri Dharma Mittra uses to describe his no-nonsense approach to the Life of a Yogi. Being serious about yoga and teaching at Wanderlust may seem like an oxymoron, yet there he was, teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley!

Wanderlust is like an upscale, yogic version of Burning Man. It is a four-day festival of yoga and music in which participants play hard and party even harder. Celebrity yoga teachers and performing artists offer a variety of yoga and music experiences to choose from. There was delicious vegan food available and all things yoga for sale. Everyone was happy and friendly…and it was contagious. The collective consciousness at work!

Sri Dharma taught five classes at Wanderlust and I took four of them (due to a scheduling screw up I missed getting into one of his classes before it sold out) and filled in the holes in my schedule with a variety of classes with other instructors. While I thoroughly enjoyed the event, including the sampling of classes that I took from several well-known instructors, nothing at Wanderlust compared to being in the presence of Sri Dharma. He stood out both in his classical and technical instruction in the practice of yoga, and, more importantly, he was in a category all by himself with regard to his ability to guide individuals towards glimpses of God.

Sri Dharma was the only teacher I took class from who devoted time for the instruction and practice of pranayama, bandha, and mantra. None of the other teachers I took classes from devoted instruction to these important elements of yoga.

Sri Dharma personally modeled many of the poses, including demonstrating modifications for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, before asking participants to do them, in order to ensure that participants had options and could do them correctly. In addition, his assistant, Melissa, was at the front of the room demonstrating the asanas while Sri Dharma instructed. The other teachers from whom I took classes did little or no modeling/demonstrating of asanas. Sri Dharma devoted a generous amount of time for deep relaxation during savasana, whereas, in all other asana classes that I took, savasana lasted only about five minutes. Sri Dharma stressed the importance of a long, deep savasana in order to settle into silence.

Sri Dharma began and concluded each of his sessions by discussing the importance of observing the ethical rules, yama. He was the only teacher I experienced who told participants that they should not eat animals, and further, recommended veganism. Sri Dharma made it a point not to miss any opportunities to impart spiritual knowledge to his students. He neither teaches nor lives in a casual manner.

Sri Dharma spoke about how one cannot truly settle into meditation if one is eating animals, he repeated that one “must stop eating animals.” He described how the spiritual heart, located at the right center of the physical heart is there in all of us, “subtler than an atom.” Sri Dharma also spoke on the tremendous pain and suffering that we experience due to attachment, and how a serious practice of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher can help free us.

As soon as I saw Sri Dharma, I relaxed and dropped into a silent space. Sri Dharma’s classes at Wanderlust, in which there were 200 or so participants, were the only classes that felt peaceful and meditative to me. Sri Dharma says, “Seek out a person through whom God manifests a little more clearly and make such a one your teacher.” Sri Dharma is “such a one” to many of us. There is something very subtle, yet extremely powerful, that one experiences in Sri Dharma’s presence. To be near Sri Dharma, to look into his eyes, to observe his humility, is to experience a living yoga master who freely shares his spiritual knowledge to all who are interested. He lives this commitment from the bottom of his heart. He knows what he is doing, he is sincere, and his approach and presence are uniquely ego-less. To have Sri Dharma as a teacher is to have entered into a spiritual love affair with this humble man who manifests God more clearly. It is Sri Dharma’s commitment to share and promote spiritual knowledge to all; he says this is the highest form of charity. Whether at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, or at Wanderlust, Sri Dharma is the same… he is a rare true Karma Yogi on an urgent mission to impart the truth to us at every opportunity.

 

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.

Sri Dharma’s Humble Power Helped This Popular Teacher Find His Way

By Jerome Burdi

Mark Kan’s reputation preceded him during my 500-hour teacher training at Dharma Yoga Center. Some of his students from London came to learn with Sri Dharma Mittra and they told me about how challenging Mark’s class was. It’s a good thing I like challenges.

Mark was one of the mentors during the training and offered a master class during it. The class was intense, a hail of inversions and a flow of physical postures that didn’t seem to stop. The class ended only because we ran out of time. Mark could have kept going. But myself and most others were ready for the sweet dreamless sleep of savasana, which was beautiful.

Though Mark’s classes are physically challenging, if you’re receptive, you can also pick up on the spirituality coming through the class. That’s because Mark, despite being as comfortable on his hands as he is his feet, is more than just the asanas. He’s a sadhaka who is extremely reverent and grateful to Sri Dhamra Mittra.

I caught up with Mark recently while he was in New York mentoring a 200-hour training at the center.

Q: How did your yoga journey begin?

A: My yoga journey began when my life was “in the meantime.” I was a little lost and I was disillusioned with my [graphic design] career and compensating that with a very disruptive social life.

My upbringing began in the Catholic tradition so I always had this spiritual seed that was planted but never really germinated because of things that happened when I was a young adult. My parents got ill and passed away when I was in my 20s and that was a difficult time. I lost my path and lost my faith. I ambled half way through my 30s just thinking I wanted to get by. That’s when I started to think I needed something else. Some colleagues I was working with were practicing yoga so I decided to give it a try.

Q: What did you find once you started yoga?

A: I felt like I needed more of a spiritual path. Unfortunately the teachers I was turning to weren’t that spiritual. It was asana focused but there was no one to guide me anywhere. I realized they had the same weaknesses as me. And I thought, ‘Where do we go from here?’

But I carried on with the practice. I practiced Sivananda Yoga, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Bikram Yoga, I tried everything and I enjoyed the challenges that they brought. And then, very suddenly, my eldest brother died in his sleep. It was such a difficult time for me. I was really heartbroken. I was just lost for a whole year. I didn’t know who to turn to. There was no one to turn to except my siblings. We were all struggling to work out how this could have happened, why it happened. Who could do this to us?

One afternoon after practicing Bikram Yoga, I was browsing around their book shop and I came across the 608 asana book [by Sri Dharma Mittra]. I was just flicking through it and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a proper yogi.’ Just looking at the poses and seeing the message that was coming from the poses. You look at people doing asana now, and it’s very impressive, very gymnastic and graceful but with Dharma’s poses you just felt that power coming through them. And you just think, ‘Somebody’s worked very hard to get to that stage and he’s gone through every conceivable process to get there.’

But I thought he wasn’t alive anymore because the pictures looked old!

Shortly after, I was practicing Ashtanga Yoga and my teacher mentioned that Dharma Mittra was coming to London. I was really blown away by that. He was coming in February 2006. I booked the whole weekend on the basis of this book.

Q: What was it like to meet Sri Dharma?

A: I went and saw a short man, like myself, just wandering around, no ego there, just looking really quiet and content.

That day was a big turning point for me. Before he did any asanas, he sat everybody down and started talking about God dwelling in the right side of your heart. I’d been in such a dark place for so long because of my brother’s death. So it was just like somebody picking you up and holding you and saying everything was going to be alright. He switched a light on in a really dark heart. I felt everything was going to start be be OK as I sat and listened to him intensely. Up until that point I still ate meat and when he spoke about going vegetarian, it made so much sense. That evening I went home and there was chicken in the fridge and there was shrimp in the freezer. I just took it out and threw it in the bin and it’s never been back since.

Q: How was the practice?

A: The actual practice that day blew me away. I thought I was quite good at the time. I was in a room full of London’s most advanced yogis and it shocked me. As far as the asana goes, I thought, ‘That’s really challenged my ego.’ I realized if I want to develop my asanas, how far I needed to go.

Becoming a yoga teacher

After his fateful meeting with Sri Dharma, Mark went to northern India and spent time in the Sivananda ashram where he became certified as a yoga teacher. Upon returning to London, he still thought about Sri Dharma and felt a calling to practice with him again, which he did, in February 2008 for the 500-hour training. Mark said it was amazing practicing and learning with the sangha at the former Dharma Yoga East.

When Mark went back to London and started teaching Dharma Yoga, it was an instant hit. And it has continued to grow. There are now about 15 Dharma Yoga certified teachers teaching in the London area.

Mark usually practices two hours a day, channeling Sri Dharma through his asana, and it shows in his stunning practice and teachings.

“I’m still honored to be in his presence,” Mark said at the Dharma Yoga Center as the sun was shining through the windows. “Look at this city, look at what goes on and we’re all here. I could be out there doing anything but I just want to be here. That’s the measure of him.”

With a laugh, he added, “Another thing to end on is he never knows my name. He thinks I’m Mike from Hong Kong.”

 

 

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

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

Letting Go of Self-Imposed Limitations

By Barb Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

― Sivananda Saraswati

 

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

Mineral Rich Vegan Ginger Fudge Cake (Gluten Free)

By Ivy Mok

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

That brought me think of a yoga sutra from Patanjali:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredient highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Transformation of the LOAY Teacher Training

by Gabriella DiGiovanni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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