Category Archives: selfless service

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.

On the Cusp of Transcendence

by Dani Gray

During the summer leading up to my 500-hour training, I spent a lot of time at the Dharma Yoga Center. I was living on the Upper West Side, and finding that the only way I really wanted to spend my time was taking class – being around Sri Dharma Mittra as much as possible.

In that time of my life, the devotion that blossomed within me was unprecedented; although I had done my 200-hour training about one year prior, I had never felt this level of unconditional love for a teacher before. Dharmaji awakened many other aspects of my human self that were previously hidden or diminished in their expression, and as my 500-hour training approached, I knew I was ready for the level of growth and transformation that awaited me – I craved the intensity of sadhana that was being offered through this program, and I couldn’t wait to start.

Now that I am teaching almost full-time, people ask me often about my experiences in teacher training, and I almost always tell them that the trainings I have done were, without a doubt, the best investments I ever made in myself – the seeds that were planted during the immersions continue to bear fruit even today, almost three years after the completion of my 500-hour.

Especially as I’ve begun to prepare for my 800-hour training, people ask even more questions:

“Are you excited? You must be so excited.”
“Wow, 800 hours? How does that fit into a week?”
“So what are you going to be learning, exactly?”
“Oh my gosh, you’re going to be a completely different person when you get back.”

All these questions and comments come to me with such pure love and joyful curiosity, from enthusiastic students and fellow teachers in my community; these reflections from others have brought me to very deep levels of self-inquiry – both getting clear within myself about my intentions for this training, and also realizing that there is, in reality, no way to prepare for the immensity of what lies ahead.

I remember the summer before my 500-hour training very clearly: it was the first time the 800-hour was being offered, and each day when I would take class with the trainees or catch snippets and sound-bytes from their sessions underneath the door to the studio, I would always think to myself, “I don’t know that I’ll EVER be ready for that training.”

Now I’m here, about to begin, and it’s still true – in so many ways, I am not ever going to be ready. To have the honor and privilege to learn such high-level, subtle practices, and be given the tools to teach these processes to others – it’s almost unbelievable, and to even think of the possibility humbles me.

To embark on the journey of the 800-hour training is, from my perspective, the ultimate extension and expression of the practice of Dharma Yoga. The essential pillars of this practice, of everything that Dharmaji shares with us, have come back to me over and over as the training has come closer, and their obvious necessity has become clear:

-Remain as a witness.
-Renounce the fruits of your actions (and any expectations).
-Abide in this eternal present.
-Be receptive, to the infinite Grace of G-d.

5-4-15Dani Gray currently lives and teaches in Sedona, Arizona. https://www.facebook.com/dani.gray.948

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.

I Am No One

By Julie Bach

During a retreat one year ago to this day, my spiritual teacher turned to me and said, “You are ready.”  I said, “Ready for what?”  Felix Lopez, my teacher, said, “ You are ready for Sri Dharma Mittra.  We have worked hard for two years to prepare you and I am excited for your next step. Let’s see what happens…”

Ten days later I was in NY getting my head shaved as part of a ceremony one of my friends hosted for my transformation. Diana was a yogini in service to her guru for 30 years. She took me in to her home to show me what life was like for her as a yogini in service.  We sat in her home temple as she showed me publications and trainings she had written and marketed in service to help her teacher and to spread the teachings globally.

I am a trained businessperson and I remember asking her, “So you got paid nothing for all of this? ” I was shocked because 30 years is a long time. I was listening, perhaps for the first time, to someone who was in service and seeing the beauty that was created.

The next afternoon with a better understanding of what a life of yogini could look like, I took a train back to the city to get situated and learn from Sri Dharma Mittra during Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training.

I remember sitting there that first day introducing ourselves and listening to why people were taking training.  I remember looking around and saying, “I am here because my teacher told me to be and to see what will happen next.” This is part of a transformation process is all that I know and I shaved my head last night to shed the old patterns that reside in me.”

I remember when we got our karma yoga jobs. Mine was lighting the candles and the incense and I loved doing this as an offering. I continue to do this at home alongside the picture of Sri Dharma given at the training.

The first time I saw a picture of Sri Dharma Mittra, I remember saying, “He’s the guy.  He’s the guy with the silver hair I have been looking for since I was a teenager.”  I was excited to see what exactly it was that I was to learn.

During training I had the opportunity to approach Sri Dharma. I did not know what to expect, but I had questions. No sooner than I had opened my mouth, Sri Dharma said, “You are here to be in service. To be in service to your teacher and to humanity.  To truly realize your path, you will need to learn to become invisible.To become, nothing. To become no one.”

The words continue to ring in my head, especially during times when I see my ego getting excited about things. I step back and hear Sri Dharma.

The Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training has changed my relationship with yoga – changed my relationship with my spiritual teacher, and changed my relationship with my community.

When I do my asana practice or pranayama, I close my eyes and feel that I am back in the temple in NYC where Sri Dharma is the teacher.  And when I am in service to my guru, I picture how I think Sri Dharma Mittra was in service to Yogi Gupta while he was alive in physical form — as if a roadmap had been laid before me to show me the way to humbleness and selflessness.

It has been almost one year since the training and my life is completely different.

The three governing ethical guidelines as a Sadhaka have been:

1.     Cultivate an open mind regarding the Supreme Self or God.
2.     Be kind and non-judgmental in all circumstances, especially when dealing with students (or students of my teacher,) and abstain always from acts of arrogance, cruelty, greed, or harshness.
3.     Work constantly toward the freedom from “I” and “mine,” growing ever less concerned with name, fame, prestige or personal property.

I have built a retreat house for the local community and for the regular students of my teacher to come and study.  My primary role at the retreat house starts with preparing juices and snacks for the students who come to stay and coordinating their stay. My primary role in the local community is to share my daily Dharma yoga practice. It is intended for people who want to cultivate a home practice, but may not want to practice alone.

I am most at peace in the retreat house, which feels like the temple in NYC. I am most joyful being in service in this manner.  I am in service to God; I can think of no greater gift.

I remember crying at the realization of how my life has changed. How I built this center years ago and it has waited until I was ready to be of service. Until I really understood this is not about me. This is something far greater than I can imagine, something my head cannot understand.

I also have learned there is no negotiating with God. The one attempting negotiation is my ego –the one who is trying not to see my path and the one trying to make it unfold in the way that I want.  But in the end, God has some big boots and will use them when needed. I have been negotiating this move to live full time in the retreat center for one year.  Many things are changing, affording space to unfold. And in my moment of surrender, the retreat center had its first student call to book a private immersion.

And so it unfolds….. Ever so thankful…

Learning to be of service.  Learning to fall in to nothingness.  Realizing that everyone is on his or her own path.  And who am I to judge or question?  I am no one.

 

Julie BachJulie Bach is on a mission to authentically integrate yoga and meditation through the spa industry. As a child, Julie was not quite aware of what she was doing as she used to “knee” around the house and quietly sink to the bottom of the pool in full lotus.  And when she grew out of her childhood years, Julie had a certain restlessness to her.   It was not until 2010 when she connected with her spiritual teacher, Felix Lopez, did she begin to understand this restlessness and the calming effects of yoga. Julie worked with her spiritual teacher to prepare her for the 200 hour Life of A Yogi Training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Since her first step in to the temple, she knew she was home with Dharmaji and has established a center to share this feeling with her family and her community.

Making the Work of Her Guru Her Life’s Work

By Dharma Yoga Center Staff

Sri Dharma Mittra speaks highly of Karma Yoga, doing work for others without any expectation of results. He’s well known for being a karma yogi for his guru and still practices what he preaches.

Within minutes of teaching at The Kripalu Center, Sri Dharma spent time neatly arranging everyone’s shoes outside of the workshop, recalled Dharma Yoga teacher Lorie Bebber.

“He’s just this incredible reminder of what it is to see God in everyone and everything – to see that we are all one,” she said.

Lorie became initiated as a disciple of Sri Dharma in 2010 and was given the name Saraswati Om. She was looking for a guru to help guide her and when she met Sri Dharma five years earlier, she knew she found him.

Saraswati owns Dharma Yoga Syracuse and continues to spread her guru’s teachings and host him for workshops annually, so her students can learn directly from the source.

It was around 2004 when she’d heard of Sri Dharma through an article in a magazine but that was before the easy use of the Internet and she had a hard time finding a way to study with him.

“I was searching for my teacher and I said, ‘I hope I have the opportunity to study with this man some day.’”

The next year she was volunteering at a yoga conference in New York City and recognized Sri Dharma’s name as one of the teachers there. It was for a spiritual purification class.

“It was amazing,” she said.  “He was speaking a lot about ahimsa. I was already vegan, but it still brought tears to my eyes. I just felt at home. I knew this was it. This is my teacher. I could just take rest.”

This was around the time Sri Dharma’s 908 Asana Poster was having a surge of popularity in the yoga world.

It wasn’t long before Saraswati found herself at Sri Dharma’s New York center practicing and going through teacher training with her guru. She loves how in tune with the students Sri Dharma is.

She recalled the days when he would add some jumping jacks to the practice.

“If you’re out of breath, you’re eating too many sweets,” Saraswati recalled Dharmaji saying while looking at her. Saraswati laughed, knowing she had a battle with her sweet tooth then.

Saraswati has been a mentor for Dharma Yoga teacher trainings since 2009 and though she lives in Syracuse, she is able to be in Sri Dharma’s presence often, whether it be taking his classes or being blessed to assist him.

Though she owned a yoga studio since 2003, it officially changed its name to Dharma Yoga Syracuse about two years ago. It was just a name change, she said, because ever since she started teaching Dharma Yoga, that’s the knowledge she’s been passing on to her students anyway.

“It’s classical yoga at its finest,” she said. “I always tell people that Sri Dharma has lived this life of a yogi and is a realized master, and the proof is in the pudding. The best of the best has been given to us.”

She’s amazed that he has this poster of breathtaking postures, but continually says, one only needs to practice a few asanas to remain healthy and the rest of the time should be devoted to spiritual practice and cultivating compassion towards all beings.

“We are all very blessed to be brought together by this amazing and humble being,” Saraswati said. “No matter where you are in the world, if you meet someone who met Dharma, home can be anywhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karma Yoga

by Danielle Gray

As we have been told, karma yoga is the practice of selfless service – doing deeds with “no strings attached”, as Dharmaji would say. Karma yoga was a major part of Dharmaji’s path with Yogi Gupta, according to the LOAY teacher training manual. For me, the practice of karma yoga has begun to help me understand what “dharma” truly is, as well as to teach me how to interact with other people in the world in a better way.

Occasionally I find myself feeling unmotivated to do my sadhana for some period of days. Usually the cure for this lack of enthusiasm includes reading the section of the teacher training manual that talks about Dharmaji’s life when he was studying with Yogi Gupta. The fact that he was both paying for every class with the Master (meaning he had to work several paying jobs), as well as offering his services as a karma yogi is incredibly inspiring. Reading this  portion of Dharmaji’s story helps me realize that life is fairly simply if we allow it to be – just do what has to be done to move forward on your path, and forget the energetic charge that comes with complaining or creating stories about what it means to do the things you have to do! This is what it means to truly live your own dharma – to remove all resistance to what is happening or what must happen, and go forth with your best enthusiasm and your best efforts.

Keeping these things in mind helps me view each day differently. It helps me to remove the sense of self-entitlement that seems to permeate many of my peers’ lives. It helps me break the ego a little more, stay humble, and realize that no task is beneath me – no matter what I may have “accomplished” in this material plane.

When I am able to maintain this perspective with focus and clear intention, the world around me changes. Other people sense that I am receptive and deeply appreciate my openness and ability to listen. I accomplish every task that is given to me much more easily, and simultaneously, I create no attachment to any of this external feedback. Approaching everything in daily life as karma yoga simplifies my existence a great deal, and helps me reconnect with the act of giving constantly from a place of pure devotion. As Dharmaji says, “Devotion leads to the total surrender of ego,” and eventually to the goal: Self-Realization or God-Realization.

photo by Jeffrey Vock
photo by Jeffrey Vock

The practice of Dharma Yoga found Danielle in 2010, and after her very first class, she began to immerse herself in it, feeling a deep calling to share it with others. She participated in the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program in June 2011 (completing her certification the following May), and she completed her 500-hour certification in May 2013. Additionally, she has over 18 years of experience studying dance & movement, which greatly informs her yoga instruction, especially in the aspects of anatomy and alignment. She is currently living in Sedona, AZ, teaching Dharma Yoga at several local studios.

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.

Light_On_Yoga_BKS_Iyengar

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.

Selfless Service in a Frenetic World

By Barb Cooper
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi
There are a lot of different interpretations of what Karma Yoga (Selfless Service) is and how it fits into a budding yogi’s practice.  For me, Karma Yoga is where my entire practice comes together—all the limbs of yoga, the relinquishing of the ego, not being attached to the fruits of one’s labor, actions as offerings to the Divine—Karma Yoga is where my practice meets the real world.

 

I’m given to the concept of Karma Yoga naturally. As someone who has fought depression and anxiety for much of her life B.Y. (before yoga,) I learned that the best antidote for sadness is doing something for someone else –-to turn the focus outward.  Last year, in response to the almost crippling grief I felt after the mass murder of school children in Connecticut, I implemented a systematic campaign aimed at sowing little seeds of love in the world.
I started by buying the next person behind me a hot tea in the tea shop, or coffee at the deli.  A few times, I bought the next person behind me some soup at the local bakery. The effort seems to have blossomed from there, and has ended up genuinely changing my life over the past year.
Because what I’ve found is that the impulse to give people stuff is matched by the impulse to just…well, GIVE in general.  So I rush to hold the door open for people or I let people out in traffic. I help people carry their packages to their cars. I just try to adopt an attitude of service, offering whatever is needed in the moment to whomever I encounter.
The interesting thing about Karma Yoga is that it gives back to you exponentially. I really didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect these small acts of devotion to change the way I viewed the world, but that’s what happened. I find that the more I look for ways in which to give to others, the more I genuinely SEE the people around me. And when I’m genuinely noticing them and their struggles, it’s so easy to tap into a vast compassion for them. That compassion, in turn, begins to translate into everything I see around me—animals, insects, this planet.
This year, if you aren’t already doing it, try this: in the midst of all the holiday chaos and demands on your time, do one small kind thing.  Just one tiny thing—open the door for someone, or buy a cup of tea for someone who looks like he or she needs it.  Take some hot chocolate to the crosswalk guard you pass every day. Surprise your mail carrier with some hand warmers.  Just one small thing that shows someone that you’ve noticed him or her.  Sometimes, just being seen is enough to begin a ripple of kindness.
“Giving of any kind… taking an action… begins the process of change, and moves us to remember that we are part of a much greater universe. ” ~ Mbali Creazzo 
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Barb Cooper, 48, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. She considers herself a grateful observer, a recovering perfectionist, and no longer shy. 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.

 

 

For Yoga Teachers: Five Ways To Serve With Joy

By Jessica Gale

©Jeffrey Vock

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

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

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

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

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

·        Teach for free or barter

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

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

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

©Jeffrey Vock

·        Teach what someone wants to be taught

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

·        Share your time and your experiences

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

·        Volunteer

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



©Enid Johnstone
·        Focus on small acts

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

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

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

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


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

The Tool of the Divine

By Elle Swan 

Sitting behind a dumpster as a homeless woman is where I first experienced the self-less nature of Karma yoga. The LOAY Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra gave a name to the moment that forever changed my life. 


Karma yoga is often defined as being a “tool of the Divine.” There was no hope in my life that day as I sat in that alley and the woman– who I have never seen again and who wanted nothing in return– assisted in shifting the course of my hopeless life. 

She was on her way to work when our paths crossed. She was getting gas and I was standing there begging for change. A few people tossed dimes and pennies my way, which ultimately led to a can of beer. More than a decade ago, it would be my last drink, thanks to a woman who allowed herself to be used by the force that holds this world in place.  


Instead of getting in her car and heading to the responsibilities of her day, she turned around and asked me if I needed help. She took me to safety and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today, as I speak to audiences around the world, I’m often asked her name.  I never got her name, but I will never forget her spirit. Her soul touched mine, and, as a yogi, I try on a daily basis to let my actions in some way demonstrate the self-less love I experienced that fateful day.

Thank you, Sri Dharma Mittra, for introducing me to the appropriate meaning of such a beautiful term: Karma Yoga.



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For years, Elle Swan wanted to die and couldn’t. Her darkest days left her addicted to drugs and alcohol, 67 pounds overweight, penniless and living on the streets of California. On May 29th 2000, during an overdose in an abandoned van, her misery merged with death and Elle suddenly crossed over. “But, when your soul knows you belong here,” she says, “it won’t let you go.” Her miraculous journey from deprivation and despair, to a life filled with inner peace is a miracle, and she truly believes she was given a second chance. Her dramatic personal transformation unfolded into quest for knowledge in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Yoga, Nutrition, and Hypnosis. The synthesis of these modalities combined with her near death experience shapes her uncanny ability to pin point lasting solutions to teach others how to make a comeback in their own lives. Today Elle Swan is a Life Coach and speaks all over the world. Her story and strategies have been featured on TV and in The Wall Street Journal. Elle attended the Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Program in 2011 and is in the process of becoming a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher.