by Dina Lang
I first came to know of legendary Sri Dharma Mittra several years ago when investigating Yoga Journal’s annual conference in San Francisco. Each year I would read through all the bios of the featured instructors, research them online and plan out whose classes I’d take, should I ever actually attend. Sri Dharma always stood out as that instructor I felt I should take a class from before I die. In January of 2012 I finally got my chance in San Francisco.
My typical M.O. in a yoga class is move straight to the back of the room and hide myself in the corner. Uncharacteristically that day, I deliberately arrived early enough to set my mat in its usual place, but instead set up in the second row. (I’m still working on that front row thing!) The moment Sri Dharma walked in, took his place seated on his chair on the stage, closed his eyes and began to chant Om, I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. The two-hour practice was physically challenging, but completely accessible. He wove his message of ahimsa and the ethical rules throughout our every breath and posture. He guided us with as few words as possible, but we knew exactly where he wanted us to go. Simple clarity was his style… and I loved it!
As he taught, he would occasionally pop up into a headstand, handstand or forearm stand variation, talking all the while with humility and humor. His light-hearted manner created a warm, inviting environment, and yet we never lost sight of the sense that we were in the presence of a deeply respected teacher whom we should follow. He spoke about vegetarianism; he spoke about compassion; and he challenged us to examine ourselves with honesty and to compassionately embrace a commitment to our own betterment as human beings.
I knew then what was missing from my practice… a true teacher! It was like coming home on my mat for the first time in fifteen years. It left me hungry for more. I picked up his information after the class about teacher trainings. Having already completed my 500-hour certification, I was interested in his 800 hour Life of a Yogi training. I spoke with one of his representatives and they told me the prerequisite for his 800-hour training was his 500-hour and my previous work would not be acceptable. Disappointed, I left with the information in hand… chalking it up to a wonderful glimpse of something out of my reach.
The next six months crept along as I searched locally for a teacher to guide me in my practice with that same sense of spirituality I had experienced with Sri Dharma. Feeling dejected, one day I went online and researched again more closely what it would take to study with Dharma in New York City. I researched flights, hotel stays, the training itself and of course, my financial resources. I realized it was time to either commit and leap or walk away with no regrets. I decided that if I continued to allow my personal practice to wane and didn’t do something to restore my enthusiasm for yoga, I didn’t deserve to teach others. As yoga teachers I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than our students… faking it just isn’t good enough.
So I made the leap. I signed up for the Dharma Yoga 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training and began my journey with Sri Dharma Mittra – committing myself to another500 hour teacher training so I could learn what it is to truly be a yogi…
Of all my trainings to date, this has been the most demanding of my time, physical energy, self-discipline, and unyielding commitment. And I have not been happier in many years.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m exactly where I am supposed to be – studying, practicing, meditating, living the yamas and niyamas and practicing karma yoga (selfless service)…being a dedicated student of yoga, and I am filled with gratitude. Sri Dharma’s practices are a lifetime labor of love, created by the ‘real deal’, and I feel so honored to be a conduit for his wonderful practice and message. For me, yoga is an opportunity to create the very best version of myself, to practice that which is difficult, find grace through the process, and walk in the world with my best intention leading the way. With Sri Dharma’s voice in my head, his message in my heart and his commitment to yoga as my inspiration…I believe I am finding my way at last.
Dina Lang, RYT and co-owner of Santosha Yoga in Bethany Village (Portland, OR), discovered yoga many years ago and found that the practice brought a deeper awareness of all life’s gifts to her senses. She is the mother of two grown children. She turned her nurturing energy toward building a yoga community in Bethany Villagein 2010 and, when teaching, consciously holds a space for others to discover for themselves the transformative power of yoga. “Like many yogis, it was during one of life’s lowest points that the power of this great practice began to take center stage in my life. I embarked on the teacher training path with hopes of simply deepening my own practice, never considering actually teaching yoga. After my personal practice really took hold and my perspective grew clear, I suddenly felt eager to help others by sharing what I learned.”