All posts by Adam Frei

10 Reasons to Go Upside Down

By Raquel Vamos

Group_Headstand

When I tell my students it’s time for inversions, I can sense panic in the room. To let go of our fears and embrace the world upside down, we must first begin to change our perspective. Here are 10 reasons why life upside down can be fun, healing, and can help your confidence!

1.  Facing Fear: Fear is what holds us back in life and keeps us from achieving our goals. When we face our fears on the yoga mat, we learn to bring this strength into the world around us. Most of the time we are more afraid of falling than we are of going upside down. In order to control our fear we must first identify it clearly. Facing your fear helps you live in the moment. It’s a practice of letting go and living in the now; an exercise to make your mind stronger.

2.  Refresh: Inversions bring the blood flow toward your head, which helps increase oxygen to your brain. Increased blood flow improves your mental functions like concentration, processing skills, and memory. Going upside down also helps calm your nervous system bringing about more balance and less anxiety caused by the external world.

Dharma_Mittra_Headstand

3.  Energize: Inversions are energizing. Most everything in our daily life, from work, family, electronics, and school drains our energy. Inversions are a tool that act like a shot of espresso. When I feel sleepy or tired, I go upside down and the blood flow to my head (see number 2) wakes me up. I feel alert and vibrant!

4.  Awareness: Going upside down develops awareness both physical and mental. First we are aware of the mechanics of getting up. Then, as we go deeper, we find a more subtle awareness of our physical and mental body working as one. Since you cannot see your feet or legs when you are upside down, you learn to feel where they are and move them with your mind. Without our vision to guide us, we feel insecure about being upside down. The sense of sight keeps us stuck in the external world, which can be so extravagant that we get stuck outside and forget the inside. Inversions help us rely less on sight and more on intuition to develop an inward awareness.

Dharma_Mittra_with_Pepper

5.  Strength and Balance: Inversions develop muscle strength and balance throughout your whole body. When you practice headstand you strengthen the stabilizer muscles in your neck, which helps you gain better control of your head. In forearm stands your shoulders gain strength and stability. In handstand your arms become lean and fit.  All inversions help develop core strength which is essential for asana and help you with better balance, stability, and endurance.  Most of all, inversions work the entire body so you don’t need to go to a gym and do ten different circuits to target individual muscles—inversions develop them all at once.

6. Concentration: When you are upside down you must focus entirely on what you are doing. It’s extremely hard to think about your personal life and problems when your feet are over your head. Your mind becomes one-pointed and you let go of all worries and doubts, bringing you into the present moment. In my opinion it’s a fast way to enjoy stillness.

7.  Breath Control: It is said in the yoga tradition that we are born with a certain amount of breaths to sustain us throughout life. Stress makes our breathing rapid and fast. When you go upside down the body forces you to inhale and exhale, otherwise it is too hard to hold the inversion. Synchronizing your breath in inversions help guide the movement.

Inversions

8. Get Happy: I have yet to meet anyone that is unhappy after going upside down. While inverting, you release endorphins and serotonin. These “feel-good” chemicals in your body relieve stressors in the mind which also help with depression and immediately improves your mood. 

9.  Playtime: Sri Dharma always says that we must act as children and have a light heart in life as well as on the yoga mat. Inversions bring out the inner child trapped inside the adult mind. This world can be so serious that we get lost in the adult mentality. We stop singing, we are afraid to dance, we have irrational fears of being judged, and the list goes on and on. The truth is we are all children wanting to play. Going upside down is a great way to ignite that long lost flame of innocent fun and play.

10.  Confidence: After a day of inversions you should notice a sense of confidence rising from deep within. You may feel empowered and charged with high esteem. Facing your fears and accomplishing the unthinkable helps you to see the power of mind over body. You realize you are capable of anything and raise the standards of your own potential.

(Pictures by Jeffrey Vock and Ana Cecilia Vargas)

Raquel_VamosRaquel Vamos has been teaching yoga for 3 years. She has a 150-Hour Hot Yoga Certification with Sayville Hot Yoga, RYT- 200 and is busy completing her Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Certification. Raquel has taught at Sayville Hot Yoga, Yoga for Life, Love Yoga Shala, Rocky Point Hot Yoga, Dharma Yoga NY Center, and Dharma Yoga Center LI.  She teaches privates, group classes, and workshops. Yoga is not just a job for Raquel she practices regularly with the Master Sri Dharma Mittra, taking meditation, Kirtan classes, and continued education classes.  Raquel is the owner of the Dharma Yoga Long Island studio, and hopes to spread the knowledge to those who wish to self-realize.

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

By Jessica Dodd

Gale_Super_Dancerpose

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.

Reflections on a “Life of a Yogi” 500-Hour Teacher Training

By Rachel Carr

First: if you have the chance to take a class with Sri Dharma Mittra then do. He’s a true yogi and taking class from him has transformed my life in so many ways.

Second: if you’ve ever wanted to push, pull and stretch yourself in amazing ways (big and small) then consider taking the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training offered at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC. You may just be surprised by what you uncover about yourself and your practice.

Third: teacher trainings are intense. They are designed that way in order to shake you up and wake you up. The days I spent immersed in Dharma Yoga were amazing, but also the most challenging of my yoga practice to date. At the conclusion of day one, after we spent 12 hours practicing pranayama and asana and learning new sequences, I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this for the next seven days?” It all seemed so daunting and my mind flooded with so many doubts. “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. I just want to go home and be comfortable.” But I kept pushing because, deep in my heart, I knew it was where I needed to be in order to evolve personally and professionally. Somehow, whether by willpower or fierce determination, I made it through the rest of the training relatively unscathed and those feelings of doubt slowly slipped away.

LOAY_Trainee_class

The First Module:

What came out of my first module of teacher training? There were many realizations, but here are a few.

Although I hate to admit, I realized that I had seriously neglected my personal practice. My practice has always been a place of rejuvenation for me and I had let that slip. How? Frankly, I’m doing too much, saying yes too many times and giving so much energy and care through my teaching to the well-being of others that I have completely neglected my own well-being. So, after the first module I decided to step back a bit and make time for my own practice so I can be a better teacher for my students.

Yoga, when done correctly and with experienced and qualified teachers, is incredibly healing and I needed this training to remind me! When I left for the training I had some digestive discomfort that I was working to tame. At some point during my asana and pranayama practice, it went away, and even though I got a head cold while I was there, my digestion was never better, my skin cleared up and random bouts of anxiety slipped away. Sri Dharma says, “With constant practice comes success.” It’s true. If you want to see the benefits, you have to do the practice.

Coming home there was lots of homework to follow, including daily pranayama, meditation and asana practice. At times I felt overwhelmed with getting the practice in as well as my other commitments, but Sri Dharma’s words keep ringing in my ears. “Do it because it needs to be done.” 

Namaskarasana

The second module:

The second immersion week of my teacher training was just as amazing, but far more challenging than the first.  Given the success of the first immersion and my dutiful attention to the inter-module homework, I felt ready for the second half of the training in December. Leaving my family right after the Thanksgiving holiday was hard, but I was ready for the endeavor. However, all that preparedness came to a screeching halt about 45 minutes in to asana practice on the first day when I was feeling so out of sorts that I left and started crying uncontrollably in the bathroom. My body was heavy and foreign to me as I moved through the practice. I felt like my world shifted and I didn’t know which way was up. After class was over, I spoke with a mentor and felt better knowing that I was not the only one feeling out of sorts that day. Maybe the holidays had a greater effect on me than I’d realized?

I kept telling myself that if I made it through the first four days, I would be okay. However, the first days of the training were some of the hardest of my yoga career! Physically I started to feel much better about things, but my ego was literally crawling out of my body and demanded we leave right then and there. I did not give in, although I thought about it a lot, because I know that when things get really tough, the good stuff starts happening, so I kept moving forward, doing the work that needed to be done and reflecting on what was coming up for me from practice. Was this some sort of ego detox, I wondered? I don’t have that answer, but I do know I felt defeated on so many levels that at some points I felt so paralyzed by it all that I could barely move on my mat.

Luckily, two very good friends came to visit mid-way through the week. It didn’t take much, but a hug and a friendly hello from two close outsiders of the training made my heart so happy I nearly burst. Also, the amazing mentors and teachers of the LOAY program kept pulling me forward. They were always open and ready to help me through anything, patiently listening and helping me observe the onslaught of internal messages I felt overwhelmed by at times.

Sri_Dharma_Mittra

Sri Dharma is always there to remind me of what I need to hear at just the right time. Every day I listened intently to his discourse and instructions. The more my ego calmed down, the easier it was to take in, and the more being there made sense. I truly felt that “everything was perfect.”

The last four days of the training were just as intense, however, less so emotionally for me. I still struggled with some asanas, but my body didn’t feel as heavy any longer. I didn’t realize this until the end of the week, but I had become so strong from the inter-module homework, that I rarely felt sore and injured. I even started moving my mat up front for practice. I think it’s best to sit close to Sri Dharma if possible. I was coming out of my shell…finally.

On the second to last day we participated in an inversion clinic. Inversions are not my strongest area, but I’m determined to work on them. In the beginning of the workshop I started to get really anxious. However, my partner was very supportive as we worked though the exercises together. In fact, all of my fellow trainees were so supportive that I started having fun again as we “played” with asana instead of “working” on them.

Maha_Sadhana

On the final day I got up the nerve and mentioned to a mentor just how nervous inversions make me and to my surprise, he helped me out through practice for so many inversions I am now confidently practicing on my own. It only took eight full days of training, but I had a breakthrough! Of course, there’s more work to be done, but I was happy I finally let go because when I do, amazing things always happen. In our final Satsang, I sang my heart out and felt so light and joyous. I was sad to leave, but at the same time I was ready to come home.

Thirty days home and I miss my Sangha dearly. It was hard jumping back in to practice and the holidays made it even more difficult, but, as always, I am striving to do my best. I continue to have many breakthroughs and worry less about how well I do some of asana as opposed to the journey they provide me. I’m stronger and feel more grounded now than ever before and continue to learn more and more about myself through this amazing practice and the teachings of dearest Sri Dharmaji.

(All pictures by Jeffrey Vock. This post first appeared on the blog Capricious Yogi.)

Rachel CarrRachel Carr E-RYT 200, RPYT is a DC based yoga teacher currently working on her 500-Hour LOAY certification with Sri Dharma Mittra. She completed an inter-disciplinary 200-Hour yoga Teacher Training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.

The Power of Thoughts

By Dawn Kopecki

The book Yoga and Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta was a revelation when I first read it more than two years ago. It completely transformed how I think about yoga, what I knew at the time about yoga, and how I have approached my yogic studies since then. It is, by far, one of my favorite books on yoga.

“There is a close association between a material thing and your invisible thoughts,” Yogi Gupta writes at the beginning of the chapter “Thoughts are Things.” That idea was one of the strongest messages I took away from reading this book.

Our thoughts are basically electrical currents or vibrations that are carried throughout the universe and can physically impact, even manifest, other people’s thoughts as well as physical matter.

This is a really important concept to understand in yoga, since we are ultimately trying to master control over our thoughts. Negative thoughts translate into negative energy, and increase the likelihood of negative events. Positive thoughts attract more positive energy to your aura, and increase the odds of a good outcome on whatever it is that you’re focusing on.

A person’s thoughts have a direct impact on a person’s mood and physical health. All the cells in the body are under direct control of your higher mind, not your conscious mind. Your higher mind, which never sleeps, literally controls all mechanical and electrical functions in the body; therefore, it can heal disease. However, negative thoughts can affect your higher mind and, in turn, your physical body in negative ways. Yogis are able to gain control of their higher minds and to access or control the forces of nature, which is also known as supernatural phenomena.

“Every action, physical or mental in your life, is preceded by a specific thought in your mind and that thought is preceded by specific astral pictures or astral images.”

The astral image may be your own or someone else’s. People who have don’t have strong protection around their auras are more prone to receive negative thoughts or psychic attacks. You can psychically “charge” yourself and protect yourself against attack by generating more prana and strengthening your aura. A yogi shouldn’t attempt to heal herself until she has mastered the ability to protect her aura and strengthen her prana.

Every single thought is its own form comprised of energetic vibrations that are transmitted and picked up by other human beings. Those thoughts and currents can also manifest themselves in forms of disease or health and, among the extremely evolved yogis, can take physical shape.

Every thought we have in our earthly bodies is stored in our astral bodies for the afterlife. Those thoughts and actions form our Karma, which helps determine the course in our next lifetime.

 

Dawn_KopeckiDawn has had a consistent yoga practice since 2006 and completed her first 200-Hour Teacher Training in 2009 in Washington, D.C. She found her real calling when she stumbled upon the Dharma Yoga Center‘s website that year and moved to New York in 2010 for a new job and to train at the DYC. She completed the LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in 2011 and the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training in 2012. She’s also certified to teach children’s yoga and has trained with the Lineage Project, which teaches yoga to incarcerated teens in New York City, hoping to eventually bring Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings to people who can’t afford classes. Yoga has not only transformed her body, strength and overall health, but it brings a sense of balance and calm to her high-stress job covering finance and politics in New York and Washington, D.C.