Questions & Answers
Questions from DY Teachers Answered by the New York Center
Q: You have said, "the ultimate purpose of Yoga is to settle the mind into silence." How does this help?
When one learns to settle the mind, automatically the Supreme Self is revealed. Many people practice meditation to be able to control their mind, to reduce their pain and suffering, or to succeed in their business or personal affairs. That is not the ultimate purpose of meditation. The highest state of meditation is Nirvana Samadhi where there is no "I" or ego anymore, no doubts, no "me", no "you", no notion of time, no eating, no talking, no walking, no working or doing anything at all. We realize that the Self is action-less. When the mind accepts these truths, the personal self (mind) will disappear and the mind will settle automatically into silence.
Q: Why should we stop eating meat?
One should stop eating meat for two important reasons. In eating meat, you’re breaking the first rule, the first commandment of all the Ethical Rules: "thou shalt not kill or hurt anyone." By eating flesh or meat, someone has to kill the animal for you. Therefore, you are participating in cruelty and death, as well. The second reason is that it is not good for your health. After 90 days, what you eat turns into your physical and subtle bodies. Due to the tamasic nature of flesh, it will not allow the mind to settle. Gradually, your health can be lost and your kidneys fail due to an animal diet. Showing lack of compassion to living creatures is an obstacle to achieving the reign of God. Your compassion should be great enough and big enough that you understand eating meat involves pain and suffering. The animals that man uses for food were made to be loved, not to be treated with cruelty. All beings are like us: they love life, they want to have a family and take care of their children. All beings tremble with fear in the presence of violence. It is through compassion that you can train your conscious mind to understand these simple and true realities that the saints and sages expound upon.
Q: I have been approached by the P.E. department at my school to begin offering Yoga to the 3rd and 4th graders as part of the P.E. curriculum. I am hoping you can give me some guidance as to which postures in the Dharma I sequence would be appropriate for that age group and any other advice you feel would be helpful.
All the poses in the Dharma I sequence are suitable for kids! You can add a little fun to it by giving teaching in a slightly playful manner so the kids enjoy themselves. You may exclude some postures as you see necessary. Kids love the challenges but usually can't really sit still so much. So keep the class moving. They do usually love relaxation and can do some breathing, as well. Good luck with the classes. It's wonderful that you're bring Dharma Yoga to kids.
Q: Dharma and Andrei started the practice with some pranayama exercises instead of doing it after shavasana. Is this something I should also think about doing?
Firstly Dharmaji, has been teaching for so many years, and he is experienced beyond us so of course he may always change his sessions as he wishes, without any of us finding any question about it. He also works in phases, changing through the months and over the year what he focuses on teaching. This is especially true for his regular daily students in the NYC Temple. Sometimes Dharma will put the breathing in the beginning depending on what he has planned for the end. Also note that he is switching between teaching 2 hour master classes and 1.5 in the evenings. Often he will rotate his focal point on extra teachings on the scriptures, or on DMY partnering, or on meditation or pranayama. He gracefully brings students and teachers exactly what they need over time.
The program that he has given all the new teachers is the one for us all to follow just as prescribed and taught in the teacher training program. This is designed to bring the best results for you when teaching, in your relation to the students, and for the students themselves. We ask that everyone stay consistent when teaching it. Andrei who has been with Dharmaji at the center daily, likes to “copy his teacher/Guru” as he is teaching weekly most of the same students, so it remains consistent.
Q: About vegetarianism. I find that people like to hammer me with questions regarding the whys and come up with their reasons to suggest that human beings were made to eat meat, like why we have teeth designed to cut meat up?? and how Jesus went to the water and killed thousands of fish to feed the hungry people?? I don't care for these questions because I have no desire to eat meat, be a part of the suffering and killing of animals, and have experienced the beauty and health of not eating animals, but in order to have an intelligent response so that they can maybe start to make sense of how this is truly Ahimsa and the right path, do you know of anything I can say to them when they ask me these things?
Again Since Sri Dharma had been teaching for years, he has a bit more clout when speaking on these matters. People of course will still challenge him regularly. For years Dharmaji spoke little on becoming a vegetarian, but did get the idea across through his “Ahimsa in Action”. People feel his compassion thru his everyday actions for both people and animals. Without any mention or lectures many students over the years have told me they just instantaneously became vegetarian from being around Dharma and in his classes. This of course would be something great to strive for in our future of teaching, but for now I would suggest not getting too involved in convincing. It is best to suggest to eat less animal products just for one's own health, and in order for them to feel better.
As you have regular DMY students over a year of so, and if they are ready, you may focus further on its importance. As you know, classically speaking, it is a given in Yoga, but in this country, most people want to believe in their own mind first, and have the freedom to think and act as they wish and believe. So yes this is a challenge, but take it slow, do not get too involved in arguments over it, and just let them know that is what you do, and it works very well for you and in the practice. We can show and inspire most of all by example! I thank you so much for your questions and am grateful to help. Om Shanti Om!
Q: I am currently teaching yoga to a small group of men. They vary from ages 40 to 70. Most are reasonably fit but extremely inflexible. They are all new to yoga. Most of them ski or snow board and feel they need yoga for the stretching benefits. They are not overly receptive to the meditation aspects of a yoga practise. I can often hear them holding their breath or breathing too fast so that they push and force a posture. I have them close their eyes and let their breath take them slowly deeper to a place of comfort but they joke and tell me they can't find a comfortable place. They don't seem ready to give up, but I wonder how much they are enjoying the practise and how much they are getting from it. I often watch them in their various forms of Seated Spinal Twist and no matter how much I encourage them to breathe and relax their shoulders, their shoulders are hunched up to their ears and they're holding their breath trying so hard to sit tall on their blocks with their very rounded backs. It's as if they need to sit on 2 blocks! I would be grateful for any advice to help these determined souls. I'm so happy that they requested the classes be held twice weekly instead of once weekly and don't want them to become discouraged. Namaste, Kathie
Firstly Katie, don’t forget that it has taken 25 to 50 years for these men create the bodies they now live in, so don’t think they can change very quickly. It is OK for them to not have perfect postures and to be allowed to gradually but inevitably work through and with their tight physical bodies. They are obviously experiencing the benefits from the Yoga parctice, and that is why they wish to come more often (so you can relax!). I owned a body building gym, and competed nationally, before I ever started practicing the 3rd Limb of yoga; Asana. At 45 years old I spent one year creating the Master Yoga Chart of 908 postures. Of course I worked very hard with full conviction and attention to my practice, but I was able to achieve great flexibility that remains with me now at 70. It is said that 70 is the new 60, maybe even 50, I sure hope so.
I would recommend that you offer these men simple joint flexibility and warm up floor exercises before the practice of the postures (asanas). Give slow neck, shoulder, elbow and wrist rotation, knees to the chest, and side to side to soften the lower back and spine, and gentle hip openers. They should then be given a number of cobra postures, back-stretches, gentle arches, spinal twists and the shoulderstands to practice. Have them repeat these asanas three times each if possible. Since their minds are not that calm, it is recommended to give them less relaxation between the asanas, and keep conversation to a minimum with the students during the practice. It is good to keep them constantly active in the class, so that they don’t have a chance to worry about their personal problems. After the activity, guide them through a long, peaceful relaxation. As you guide them to come out of it, have then come up and sit comfortably or against the wall and have them practice concentration on a candle flame, flower, and crystal ball for five minutes. It is best to have them end with the simple mantra Om Shanti, and to not give them names of the Saints as in Krishna or Ganesh to chant. In this way they will not have any feeling of practicing a religion, and will truly enjoy their journey and body unfold in the practices that are rooted in Ashtanga, the eight limb path. Lots of love, Dharma Mittra
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