by Gabriella DiGiovanni
For the past several years I spent a great amount of time exploring where to get my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Amidst the seemingly infinite amount of programs, I felt that there was no way I could choose among them. How would I know that I made the right choice? How could I possibly sift through all the programs to find the perfect one? And most of all, was I ready?
After practicing many different styles at many studios, I stumbled upon Dharma Yoga from a teacher in my hometown in upstate New York. I knew there was something special in the beautiful reality and simplicity of Dharma Yoga, so I decided to come to the source. I travelled to New York City to take class with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga Center. From the instant I walked in the temple, I felt at home. After my first class with Sri Dharma, everything clicked. I knew that he was an extremely special teacher, and this was the life-changing teacher training that I had been waiting for. I decided to jump in and immerse myself in the spirituality I had been craving.
In retrospect, the application process itself was an initial offering for me in the journey of the LOAY teacher training. The questions allowed me to search within myself and organize my thoughts, goals, and feelings. Reflecting back, it is amazing to see how much those initial responses have changed and grown throughout my time as a Sadhaka. Additionally, the pre-training assignments helped to give me an intellectual and practical background of Yoga before entering the training. It was extremely beneficial to read the scriptures and develop a more committed self-practice before the immersion. Not only did my heart begin to open, but the calling for me to join the path became stronger every day. I was becoming more ready for the immersive experience I was about to have, and preparing myself to get the most out of the training.
The night before the immersion began, I had countless thoughts running through my mind. Was I spiritually advanced enough? Was my physical practice strong enough? Is this the right time? What am I getting myself into? The mind and ego were playing tricks on me to make me feel unsure, but I was about to find out that there was no doubt that I was where I was for a reason. Everything was perfect. It was time to let go.
The first morning of the immersion, I left for the DYC with excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of nervousness. When I arrived and sat in the temple with the other Sadhakas, I felt a sense of extreme gratitude and serenity. Sri Dharma entered the room, and the vibrations of his incredible energy filled the temple. I felt a great desire to be near him, and listen intently to every word he spoke, and watch the way he explains. His words were simple, deep, honest, and funny. I felt wildly blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such a true master of Yoga. Everything in every moment of my past and my present had led me to this experience. I was home.
From the first day of the training, we entered into a very well organized, detailed, and time-efficient schedule. The schedule offered us the chance to truly live life as a Yogi. Every morning we had the chance to begin our day learning pranayama techniques, mantras, kriyas, and more. Sri Dharma and his amazing senior teachers gave us foundational lectures that helped lay the spiritual stepping stones for developing our own understanding and practice of Yoga. The support system of Sri Dharma, the mentors, and other trainees helped me reach much further than I would have alone in these exercises. As Sri Dharma says, “Imagine yourself in the practice you wish to access.” From this, I am thankful to have been able to watch Sri Dharma and his disciples so that I can now imagine that I can access their practice and continue to advance spiritually.
We were broken up into small groups and given two mentors. The small group sessions gave us the opportunity to practice teaching in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, with people who felt like brothers and sisters. All the mentors guided us with love and compassion, and gave us encouragement in this wonderful time of learning. Each of Sri Dharma’s teachers and disciples are unbelievable teachers, mentors, friends, and yogis. DYC’s senior teachers exude positive vibrations and clearly represent the pure teachings. Here it is okay not to be perfect, but to simply try our best and make our classes an offering. It was a powerful moment to realize that I am a vessel for these sacred teachings, and that we must lose attachment to the outcome of our actions as both teachers and students of Yoga.
My entire practice sky-rocketed through the opportunity to take daily asana classes with Sri Dharma along with hearing his daily lectures. I became so much more connected to the search for my true Self, and shifted the perspective of my practice more towards compassion than ever. My heart opened to Self-discovery and releasing attachment to allow my consciousness to flow freely. During this process I began to lose the initial grip on the results of my actions, and as a result my physical practice was deepened greatly. I did things I never knew I was able to access just by being in Sri Dharma’s presence and focusing on the Self. I felt myself grow by gaining a much deeper comprehension of compassion, and what it means to integrate it into every part of my life. While I was already following a vegetarian diet, the shift towards a complete vegan diet with the support of my co-trainees transformed my views on the subject. As a result, I now feel more connected to others and my practice by practicing ahimsa on a greater scale.
One of the many moments that stands out from the immersion was the Kirtan hosted by our mentors and Sri Dharma Mittra. The music was beautiful and the energy was so pure and full of devotion. I will never forget the sounds and feelings from our Kirtan, and how it transformed and strengthened us all as seekers of the Self. We were all able to connect deeply to ourselves and others through this devotional music.
I felt the bonds between our Dharma Family grow stronger each day. It seemed as though I had known the other trainees for my entire life, and that we were simply meeting again. The love, support, and compassion that came from each Sadhaka made me realize that I will never have to feel alone again on this journey. While we went our separate ways after the immersion ended, I know that we all continue to carry each other along with us.
In summation, there is no way to put the feeling of Sri Dharma Mittra’s presence into words. Just by being in the same room as Sri Dharma, my practice was elevated to a new level. Dharma Yoga is based around compassion and respect for all living beings. From this, Sri Dharma presented me with wisdom that brought me closer to the Divine that lies behind all of creation. Additionally, Sri Dharma revealed to me that the Guru lies within myself. From this I understand that I have all the tools I need to realize the Self. In this space I discovered Yoga as it was meant to be practiced, passed down through generations by enlightened Yogis. I cannot thank the staff and senior teachers enough for all of their kindness and compassion. I am so blessed to have had this amazing experience, and take it with me every day of my life. I am looking forward to taking future trainings with the Dharma Yoga Center, which I am certain will only deepen my journey further. Thank you Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga Center for changing my life. It is not possible to give enough praise for this beautiful center and all the amazing beings that are a part of it.
Gabriella began practicing Yoga four years ago in search of spiritual guidance. When she discovered Sri Dharma Mittra and embarked on the Life of a Yogi teacher training, her life was catapulted into a new upward direction. Through Dharma Yoga, Gabriella has found a stability and peace through constant practice. She seeks to grow as both a teacher and student of Yoga. Gabriella also works on a farm and apple orchard, and is a supporter of sustainable agriculture and small farms.