by Adam Frei
My first summer at the Dharma Yoga Center which was then located on Third Avenue was one where Sri Dharma Mittra already had a rather heavy travel schedule and was gone for most of it. I had already changed my work schedule so I could take class at least twice a week at noon most weeks and decided to keep to that schedule and get a chance to take class with some of Sri Dharma’s senior students. That was how I really first came to know Bernadette Duthu as I think she subbed more of those noon classes in those years than anyone else.
Bernadette was very similar to Sri Dharma in that you didn’t always notice when she entered the room, but suddenly she was there and the class was starting. As a teacher, Bernadette was strict, but always still caring and extremely encouraging. In her classes, we seemed to hold poses longer than at any other time and meditation at the end of class always seemed to last twice as long as in any other class. When I asked her about this once, she told me that most people don’t give enough attention to their meditation so she always made sure they would when they were taking class with her.
Bernadette was a certified Dharma Yoga instructor, and also a certified Bikram instructor. Over a number of years that she was a regular fixture in most every noon class Sri Dharma taught, her warm up was to take a Bikram class first and often teach one, as well. Bernadette also worked both through the French Institute and independently as a French tutor. She was extremely well-read when it came to yoga, Buddhism and related topics, but, like Sri Dharma, she often claimed that she knew and understood only a little beyond the basic subject matter. This touches perhaps on one of her greatest qualities: humility.
I was fortunate to take part in the “Life of a Yogi” 200-hour teacher training program as a student in February of 2007. Bernadette was one of the people who made that experience extraordinary for me. She was a constant source of support and knowledge, and her discipline in terms of the practice was truly an inspiration.
I think that being involved as a regular teacher and as faculty for the “Life of a Yogi” teacher training program over a number of years was an important part of her life as a whole. She respected, admired and was devoted to Sri Dharma, to the school and to the students in way that many only wish they could be. She had a sweet, even disposition and a deep love of classical music. She also had endless curiosity about the world around her that allowed one to feel that she was much younger than she actually was.
Her enormous strength and determination allowed her to return to France for a year to tend to her then ailing Mother and Father. She rose at 4 a.m. every day there as she had back in New York, did her practice, then devoted her day to serving others. As she once expressed to me personally: “My sisters have their families and their careers — I am lucky now to have neither and to do this is not so big a deal for me.”
It was during this time that she had her first go around with Cancer. Unfortunately, that became a big part of the final few years of her life. That she lived her life as she did almost to the end was truly remarkable to those few who really knew what she was going through.
Her loss is a great one to the entire Dharma Yoga community. She was a teacher and friend to so many, and her memory will live on as the teachings she helped transmit live on. Bernadette, we love you and we miss you, but we are glad you are now at peace. Thank you for all you gave to all of us.
Adam Frei was born in Stamford, Connecticut, grew up in the wilds of West Redding, and is now a New Yorker. After years of mostly solitary Sadhana practice, he found his way to Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra. His entire practice changed during that first Master class, and he must have done something extremely rare and good in a previous incarnation to have finally met the teacher in this lifetime. He is grateful to have taken part in the transformative Dharma Yoga 200 and 500-Hour “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training intensive immersions. They helped him understand that teaching is just one more component of practice as we all strive to copy the teacher in word, thought and deed. He has been teaching at the New York Center and beyond ever since his first teacher training and, after years of involvement with the Teacher Training programs on the staff side, is now blessed to be the director of these programs.