Category Archives: cooking

Yogi Favorites ~ (1) Dharma Green Cleanse Juice


Many people know that juicing is good for you and yet not that many people include it in their everyday routine. This is why you should try to:

Celery, cucumber, and lemons are all very effective for balancing acidic pH levels in the body. The body does have its own system for regulating and maintaining homeostasis to keep this balance, but only so long as we do our part. 


Celery and cucumbers contain 95-96% percent of their weight in water that is naturally distilled, making them superior to ordinary filtered water. As its physical shape suggests, celery helps increase bone mass with high levels of Vitamin K  that promote bone tissue activity. The leaves are rich in Vitamin A, while the stems pack vitamin C and various other essential vitamins and minerals. 


The silica content in cucumbers also helps form healthier connective tissue, meaning stronger bones, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles. The skin is an excellent source of vitamins C, A, fiber and folic acid. 

Lemons are high in Vitamin C, which cannot be produced or stored by the human body, meaning it is essential to acquire in our daily diet through nutrition. They are nature’s tonic, making them the perfect addition to the Dharma Green Cleanse Juice. 


Here’s how to do it:


Get the celery, cucumber and lemons ready. Wash the celery stalk by stalk in salted or ‘veggie wash’ water. Rinse well. 


Peel the cucumber if it’s not organic, otherwise it is a matter of taste. Cucumber peels are generally bitter and may not be that good to consume.


For this amount of juice at least 2-3 lemons are needed. Celery is a hard vegetable for juicers, so use the high setting.


If you love lemons and the lemons are organic you can juice the peel as well. Otherwise use only the juice. 


Add the lemon juice at the end. One whole large celery bunch and one large cucumber yields about 36 oz of juice. 

While making your blend, chant the Mantra for Purification at least three times.


Drink immediately while the enzymes are still living. Enjoy!


Post written by: Lana J. Lee & Amy Stinchcombe Pictures: Amy Stinchcombe

Recipe Source: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Dharma Yoga Across the US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US…

This week: 

Gopi Om (Nicole Sopko) in Chicago, Illinois 


Where do you live?

I live in Chicago with my partner Dan, and our rescued dogs. I have an affinity for rescued pit bull type dogs especially since they need loving homes. Though I am not a Chicago native and I grew up outside of Detroit, this city is definitely where my heart is.


Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I lived in Philadelphia when I first heard of Sri Dharma’s teachings from others. I dedicated a day to taking the train up for the noon Master Class and my heart instantly knew that Sri Dharma-ji was the teacher for me. Following many years of self doubt and a move to Chicago, I got on a plane for each of the four sessions of the 500-hour and the intensive 800-hour training. It was a test of dedication, not to Sri Dharma-ji to whom I already felt very dedicated, but to embracing my own worthiness.


The 500-hour training took place in the winter of 2009/2010 and I had several life events take place during that time that would be considered a little catastrophic. These events were the pieces of my life that were not me falling away to make room for the things that are more in line with my goals. Being in Sri Dharma-ji’s presence and the presence of so many other aspiring yogis, I felt at peace with the changes and natural in my surrender to the will of the Divine.


When I heard about the first ever 800-hour training I knew that I could not miss it. My personal life was more stable than it had been during the previous training and as a result my mind was freer to submerse myself in the deep teachings that Sri Dharma-ji was offering. The experience was like nothing else and I still struggle to explain what I’ve taken away, but it has been absolutely life-changing.



What would you say about the people who you met during your trainings? How have they inspired you?
The people I met during the trainings inspire me endlessly! Many people I see infrequently but still feel incredibly close to. I keep up with many of them on Facebook, which is an easy tool for that kind of transmission. 

I am constantly awe-struck by the magnitude of what my fellow Dharma Yoga teachers are accomplishing. Of course, I believe it is all a result of “giving up the fruits.”

What is one practice that you do every day?

I try to offer kindness to myself, to others and to the world. I make mistakes, but I constantly practice being kind. I also practice Psychic Development regularly.



What are you currently working on?
I currently make my living in a variety of ways! I am the Vice President of Upton’s Naturals, an exclusively-vegan natural foods company owned by my partner, Dan. Upton’s primarily makes seitan, a compassionate alternative to meat. We just moved into a new production facility in Chicago that we’ve constructed to house that business and which also incorporates a small vegan café called Upton’s Breakroom

Dan and I both live and work together to operate these businesses, to which we’ve dedicated much of our lives. The new space has been designed from the ground up limited only by our imaginations and more realistically, our budget. It is a beautiful space for our employees, guests, and students to enjoy and I hope it adds something beautiful and of value to the city that we’ve made our home.


I am also regularly teaching yoga. The top floor of the seitan factory has a small by-donation yoga center called Maha Dharma. I also recently became the caretaker/owner of a second yoga center, Yoga Trek Center, in nearby Oak Park, IL. 

Both spaces offer yoga classes as well as host community events. I aim for them to both be multi-use spaces, while still keeping our intention of creating a devotional space for studying the science of yoga.



Why are these projects a priority?
I think that the main purpose of my previous “profession” was to make enough money to afford the 500-hour training and once that was secured, that job fell away naturally. 

For the first time in my life, I feel competent at what I am doing, which I think is a result of my passion for this work. Now, I just want to keep moving forward; offering whatever I have towards making the world a more compassionate place – whether that is by making vegan options more available and maybe more palatable or by offering spiritual teachings. I try to meet every situation in the way that I am most needed.


How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
The experience has helped me tremendously in developing my drive, as well as to eliminate my fears of success and of failure. As long as I am offering up the fruits of this work, I know that whatever I accomplish will not hold me back from the real reason that I am here, the realization of the Supreme Self.



Can you share a little about your current teaching schedule?
I currently teach at Yoga Trek and Maha Dharma each a few times a week, as well as retreats and workshops throughout the year wherever I am drawn.

What books are you currently reading or studying?

I am currently reading Yoga and Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta and reading it very slowly and deliberately as I try to soak in as much as I can from this text. I also always re-read the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras and attempt to “check it out for myself,” as Dharma-ji advises.

3 Ways To Cultivate Compassion In Your Life

By David Jozefczyk 
Ahimsa (non-violence/non-killing or compassion), the ethical guideline that stands in the forefront from the others, is life’s law of non-harming

Once this ethical guideline is mastered, all other ethical guidelines fall into place. Also true, is that the more compassion is studied, the more layers of understanding appear.



Most people understand Ahimsa in regards to non-killing or not causing physical pain to other human beings or pets.  But Ahimsa goes beyond that. Prior to learning about Ahimsa, I fell into this category.  The first time that I had the honor to receive Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings regarding Ahimsa, it changed my life.  This intricate ethical guideline (Yama) was explained to me with such simplicity and in such a compassionate manner that it brought tears to my eyes and struck a chord deep within me
A vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to practice Ahimsa as it covers three areas – through thought, word and deed. 

1.    Thoughts

With thoughts, for example, when eating with friends and family who are not educated in Ahimsa, my thoughts do not judge or think bad of them.  I have realized their true Self does not mean to harm, it’s just their physical mind is not ready at this point in their evolution and so I feel compassion for them.



Ahimsa of thoughts not only applies towards others, but towards the self as well.  Negative thoughts can manifest themselves, so any negativity or harm towards yourself (as well as others) should be avoided.  A good amount of bad karma can be accumulated in this regard and no one wants that!

2.    Deeds
In regards to deed, leading by exampleand consistently living as a vegetarian is a very powerful way to influence and it may eventually change another person’s outlook on diet.  

3.    Words

Lastly, being vegetarian and practicing Ahimsa in regards to word, conversation arises from time to time and I am asked “what made you become vegetarian?”  I always choose my words carefully, as some friends and family members love to play devils advocate by mentioning plants.  I answer that it is impossible for most people to be completely non-harming due to the physical body needing sustenance, so I chose what I feel to be the lesser of two evils.  This type of conversation has the ability to transform others not aware of Ahimsa.

Words can be very powerful and life changing in both a positive and negative way.  Even a simple “hello” with the right intention to someone passing by can brighten his or her day! 

I feel it is a good practice to keep your words to a minimum and positive and uplifting in nature.  Many yogi masters teach that if you do not have anything good to say then this is a good time to practice silence or Mouna, which Swami Sivananda describes as “Tapas of speech.”
I am still learning from the masters to eradicate negative traits and to bring more compassion into my life by practicing Ahimsa.  Through a steady and consistent practice this can be mastered and then applied towards all Yamas and Niyamas!


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Dave Jozefczyk began practicing yoga in 2006 by taking class with his wife ‘chelle in his basement.  Having a consistent flow of friends who attended three days per week made it an official class.  The next chapter in Dave’s spiritual journey was experiencing a long weekend immersion with Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu in 2008 with his wife.  Since that transformative weekend, he has been faithfully practicing Dharma Yoga.  During these five plus years of practice and observing his wife’s transformation after completing her 500-hour LOAY Teacher Training, Dave realized that he also had the ability to help others and serve in so many different ways. In June of 2013, Dave was very humbled to experience the 200-hour LOAY TT at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  He is currently teaching at the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga Syracuse) to fulfill his internship credentials.  It brings him such joy to be able to share the Dharma Yoga teachings, which he continues to learn from Sri Dharma and the Dharma family.

Dharma Yoga Across the US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US…

This week: Ishvara Pranidhana Om

– Jefferson City, Missouri


  By Nicole Sopko
Ishvara Pranidhana Om, simply called “Vara” by her students at Dharma Yoga Missouri, is a dedicated and reverent student of yoga. She has fully incorporated the practice of yoga in her life, running Dharma Yoga Missouri as well as the attached vegan café, Vitality (www.vitality-cafe.com).
Where do you live?

I live in Jefferson City, Missouri. It’s the capitol, in the heart of the state that’s in the heart of the Midwest. I lease a building that has Dharma Yoga Missouri along with Vitality, our vegan café, on the first floor. I live in the apartment upstairs with my two daughters and two cats. I like just walking downstairs and being at work.



Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I completed my LOAY 200-hour in June 2010 because I started subbing and needed to have formal training. Also, I took a weekend workshop with Dharma Yoga Teacher Rebecca Kovacs in San Diego, CA, that blew my mind and blew all of my perceptions about Yoga out of the water.

So I took a 24-hour trip to meet Sri Dharma Mittra for a Maha Sadhana the day before Valentine’s in 2010 to check out the facility and the teacher. I had watched his Maha Sadhana DVDs and his voice was something so old in my memory that when I met him in person I started to cry.  Sri Dharma asked me, “What’s wrong with you, did you break up with your boyfriend? Oh, you just have some Shakti rising up” as he gestured to his heart. I was stricken and all I wanted was to be with him. So I signed up for the LOAY 200-hour teacher training.

I took the LOAY 500-hour training because I was so happy about my first training and also so that I could teach all the levels at the center. When I heard that there was going to be a LOAY 800-hour I was like, “PUT ME ON THAT LIST!” At this point I have an overwhelming burning desire for liberation, it’s all I think about and I think that is certainly a result of such intensive immersion experiences. I think the LOAY 800-hour TT has been the one of the best experiences of my life so far.
How have the people you met in the training inspired you?

The people I met are a varied group of people, some whom I remain very close with to this day. There are people from every walk of life, all different ethnicities and from different parts of the world.  I am inspired by the fact that we can all be so different, yet are all reflections of each other in our love for Sri Dharmaji and our quest for Self-Realization.

What is one practice that you do every day?

I watch the activities of the mind and pray constantly. I devote every action to God, and try not to be concerned with the activities of the mind, but I am always trying to observe it. I am consumed with thoughts of liberation, so I ask for Divine Help all the time.

This is the easiest practice for me because I don’t always have time for asana and pranayama, or reading scriptures every day.

What are you currently working on?

I opened Dharma Yoga Missouri in 2010, and three other trainees have taken the LOAY 200-hour training since then. I’m letting them take over most of my classes for the summer so I can focus on the Vitality Café. I will return in September with emphasis on teaching the Deep Healing Relaxation Series.

I opened the Vitality cafe in my town because there is nothing like it for 150 miles in any direction! Vitality is named after the Vitality diet that I was required to follow during my LOAY 500-hour training. Vegan food is considered to be fairly radical here! Starting in September, our studio and cafe will be doing Fresh Start, a one month program on just raw food.  Every day there will be recipes, inspiration, and a Dharma Yoga Asana mini-class.  I am also doing some half-day intensives with raw vegan dinner afterward.  All info can be found on our website.

I admit that I am using customer’s senses to trick them into making a compassionate decisions about food. If I give someone chocolate cake and please their senses to the point that they might consider having vegetarian food next time they eat something, then that is better than me trying to feed them a bunch of sprouts which they will simply reject and classify as “health food.” So we offer food that is not sattvic, but we have to get them hooked on vegan food somehow…


How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
The name of the program “Life of a Yogi” is exactly that and has turned me into an aspiring Yogi. I went from a drugged-out meat eater, deluded, with total lack of self-control to a person that my family and old friends have a hard time recognizing. I don’t think I will ever look back to this time and think, “Oh well, you know…I was young.” I can’t imagine going backwards from this point. The love and discipline and other qualities that Sri Dharma and my other teachers exemplify is so far-reaching that Self-Realization seems the only way out!


What books are you currently reading or studying?
Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta (because it pertains to my 800-hour training and Psychic Development). Plus, I am always reading and re-reading the Gita.

Check out the Vitality Café on Facebook for beautifully styled and delicious vegan food.




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Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL where she teaches Dharma Yoga and operates a nationwide vegan natural food company alongside her (life) partner. She takes great care to be always aware of the ways in which these two responsibilities intersect and spends her time promoting compassion in all forms. She is a dedicated and loving student of Sri Dharma’s and visits New York as frequently as possible to absorb the benefits of his holy teachings in person.Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL 

Five Ways To Detox Your Thoughts

by Sorsha Anderson

Most of us have an idea how to detox our bodies:  eating right, exercising and juicing or fasting.  But how do we detoxify our thoughts and thought process?  In much the same way: by choosing which thoughts to feast on and which to pass up.

Think of your mind as a giant store that is stocked with unlimited food.  Further realize that this store is stocked in part by the world outside which is filled with unhealthy influences.  No matter what our intentions, our store is not always the health food store we would like it to be.  The good news is that no matter what state our store is in, we can examine carefully each item that we take off of the shelf and choose whether or not to put it into our cart.

Try the steps below:


  • Understand that you are not your thoughts. 

Just as the food in your cart may belong to you, it is not you. The same is true with thought.  Thoughts are a product of the mind, the mind is a tool of the self, but it is not the self.  As Sri Dharma Mittra explains, “the mind is powerful, it loves its pleasure. It will throw you down! But you are not the mind.”   

He continues with this analogy:  the higher self resting in the body is akin to a driver in a car.  If you are driving the car and the brakes fail and you are having trouble with the electrical system, you are having trouble with the car, but you are not the car.  Next: 



©Jeffrey Vock

  • Observe your thoughts

This can be done very simply in a short period of time.  Pick a quiet time during the day, or even as you lay down before sleep at night.  Close your eyes and observe the thoughts that come into your mind.  Do not engage the thoughts, do not dialogue with the thought or practice arguments in your head…just watch the thoughts come up and then let them go.  Even five minutes at a time will help introduce you to your thought patterns and begin to give you the sense of the ‘observer,’ your higher self watching the thoughts.  It will give you an excellent idea of what shape your store is in.  Is it a health food store or a 7-eleven?

  • Don’t fear your thoughts.

Even if after some observation you notice negative patterns, keep calm.   Everyone experiences negative thoughts.  You cannot help the thoughts that float through your mind.  Remember, they are thoughts only and they are not you.  You can begin to control your thoughts by using your discrimination.  You do not have to validate every thought that comes into your mind any more than you have to buy unhealthy food every time you enter the store.  If a troublesome or unhelpful thought arises, ask first, “Is this thought compassionate? Is it compassionate to myself, to my friends, to the world?”  If it is, engage the thought and let it tell its story.  If not then let it go; leave it on the shelf.  Leave room in the mind for something worthy.  As Sri Dharma Mittra says, “Cultivate compassion, the rest will come.”

  • Strike a pose!

Try tree pose, with the eyes closed. No matter how observant and vigilant we become, all of us have trouble at times releasing negative thoughts. If the mind is stuck in a difficult place, give it something else to concentrate on.  Vrksasana, can be done almost anywhere, any corner of any room, even a bathroom stall at work.  Stand in tree, feel your standing foot on the ground and close your eyes.  Tell your mind, ‘Nothing changes here; I am simply lowering my eyelids.’  The mind may fight; it may panic as the eyes close and it loses the visual horizon; but remember, you are the driver.  Use the breath, feel yourself in space; imagine you are simply a tree in the dark.  The mind will start to understand that it does in fact know where it is in space without visual reassurance.  It will begin to settle. The worrisome detail the mind would not relinquish may suddenly dissolve in the moonlight!



©DovVargas

  • Count to ten – upside down.

In addition to the physical benefits of inverting the body, the mind greatly benefits as well.  One of the elements of inversions that hooked me early on was the instantaneous quieting of the mind.  If the mind won’t stop, if it becomes filled with obsessive thoughts and won’t let go, dump it out!  Turn your cart upside down, empty it out and start again.  The mind will begin to concentrate on not falling over and start to let go of everything else.  Something about going upside down is also reminiscent of being a kid again.  We physically recall a time when we felt fearless and invincible and our mood instantly elevates. 

You are not your thoughts, but thoughts are energy and the vibration of that energy affects our mood, our state of being and our physical body.  Next time you are revamping your diet because the body is calling out for a change, also take stock of the contents of the mind.  Choose to leave those uncompassionate, un-helpful thoughts on the shelf, and over time, your store may stop stocking them altogether.


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Sorsha lives and teaches in Vermont.  She has been practicing since 1991 and worked with very gentle and restorative yoga until her 30’s when she wandered into a hot and sweaty, but meditative vinyasa studio.  Neither a dancer nor gymnast as a child, and after having had two children, she surprised herself by balancing in crow for the first time at 36.  She never looked back.  Sorsha approaches each new pose with a sense of optimism and adventure and delights in encouraging others to try what only seems impossible at first glance.  She particularly enjoys teaching older women who are trying to find their way back to their bodies after a sometimes very long absence.  Sorsha is thankful to have found her way to the Dharma Yoga Center and makes the trip from Vermont as often as she can.  She offers gratitude for the beautiful physical and spiritual teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra.



Dharma Yoga Abroad


Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers around the world…
This week: Sandra Petra Pintarić – Zagreb, Croatia
By Nicole Sopko
Sandra Pintaric travelled to New York City for the first time in early 2011 to study with Sri Dharma Mittra. Sandra is the only certified Dharma Yoga teacher in Croatia and a great ambassador for Dharma Yoga. She is also a Vastu Adviser, Interior Designer and Artist.
Where do you live?
I live in capitol of Croatia, the city of Zagreb. My life is oriented mainly around the paths of yoga, spirituality, and art. I spend my free time creating art or studying and practicing my Sadhana. I enjoy nature, cooking, and spending time with friends and family. 

Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-hour Teacher Training in 2011.  I came across Sri Dharma Mittra via the internet and was greatly inspired. He touched my heart and I am so grateful that I met him.

What would you say about the people who you met during your trainings? How have they inspired you?
I was very impressed with the many things during the training, especially the flow of it, the organization, and karma yoga. There were many different people in my group, mainly from the US, and I have formed really nice friendships. I really liked our smaller groups with mentors, who all inspired me in their own way. I feel very fortunate to have met such great teachers.

What is one practice that you do every day?
For many years now my Sadhana has remained mostly the same – it includes asana, pranayama, kriya, yoga-nidra and mantra meditation. I usually start early in the morning with Dharma III/IV asanas with some variations, also mudras, and twice a week I do the Psychic Development Techniques. This creates the foundation for the rest of my day. Several times a year I commit to a 40-day uninterrupted cycle of offering or cleansing, which means the same practice, every day, for 2-3 hours (alone or with someone else).


What are you currently working on?
Because I’m the first Dharma Yogateacher in Croatia and the neighboring countries, I’ve invited many senior Dharma Yoga teachers to be my guests. They’ve given our yoga community so much inspiration and support.
Croatia, with its beautiful coastline and numerous islands, is a perfect place for summer retreats and yoga workshops, which we organize every summer (on the island of Hvar, city of Hvar). We have Dharma Yoga retreats on the beautiful island of Silba, which is in itself a perfect place as no vehicles of any kind are allowed on the whole island.

Additionally, I’m working with the founders of “Mandala”, a non-profit organization, to create a retreat center with a focus on perma-culture, animal protection and higher education. The center will include a vegetarian restaurant and an “ashram-motel”. We’ve just produced our first organic harvest and even sold some eco-veggies to some members and friends.  I see my future in this project mainly because it offers a great opportunity for bettering individuals through the paths of yoga and knowledge.

I will be traveling to New York soon to spend time with Sri Dharma Mittra and all the other wonderful teachers at the Dharma Yoga Center. I’m greatly looking forward to it!

How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
It has affected my life in many ways. After seven years of yoga, and the past three years with Dharma Yoga, everything sort of clicked into place… My practice was completely refreshed, which made me more enthusiastic and inspired. The homework and practices we had during the LOAY Teacher Training implanted a special seed inside my heart. And as the title says “Life of a Yogi” – we are encouraged to live in this way, in every aspect of our life.
Can you share a little about your current teaching schedule?
Besides the regular classes I lead on a daily basis in Zagreb, I also conduct workshops. In my free time I travel and spread the teachings of Sri Dharma and Dharma Yoga in surrounding cities. My teaching is usually spontaneous and relaxed and I’m more interested in what’s underneath the surface of this body and mind.
My emphasis is on a daily Sadhana practice, reaching our higher potential by living yoga outside of the yoga room as well. One sentence from Sri Dharma inspires me greatly: “Everything I have is Yours”. I try to share as much knowledge as I receive. 

What else do you do?
I’ve been working on interior designand art. I have also upgraded my interior design degree with higher education in Vastu consulting. Vastu is a holistic concept of Vedic architecture and interior design which respects harmony with nature, and is also the precursor to Feng Shui.
All in all, I try to achieve balance and harmony with everything I do. As an artistic soul, I admire Sri Dharma’s beautiful posters and other things he hand-made, as well as his entire sense for art, beauty and harmony.

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Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL where she teaches Dharma Yoga and operates a nationwide vegan natural food company alongside her (life) partner. She takes great care to be always aware of the ways in which these two responsibilities intersect and spends her time promoting compassion in all forms. She is a dedicated and loving student of Sri Dharma’s and visits New York as frequently as possible to absorb the benefits of his holy teachings in person.

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra, Part II

You may remember our last collection of quotes from dearest Dharmaji; we thought it was about time for a few more!
Please enjoy, and share with those who may benefit…
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1.  
2.   “Pain and suffering is for the purpose of cleansing the mind and subtle channels, or nadis. When the nadis are polluted, there is no chance of feeling even a little bliss. When the mind and body are cleaned, the energy can begin to move, and one tastes a little then the bliss.”

3. 

 
4.   “Don’t listen to your mind; listen to your heart.”
5.
6.   “Most adults don’t sing anymore. We have to break that, and start singing the name of the Almighty One, try to cultivate the emotions. We have to elevate our emotions to the maximum, to the limit, and that then turns into spiritual bliss.”
7.
8.   “With constant practice, one can improve his physical body and mental attitude rapidly, thereby igniting the higher motives of making one’s self useful to himself and all mankind.”
9.
We thank Dharma Yoga teacher Katherine Labonte for compiling this fantastic list of Sri Dharma Quotes.

20 Ways Yoga Changed My Life

By Deanna Aliano

Practicing yoga on and off for fifteen years has led me to one conclusion: I need to be disciplined and keep a regular practice to maintain the evolution that yoga has helped me attain.
So I’ve begun compiling a list of all the ways yoga has changed my life. I share it with you in hopes that you will be inspired to begin a practice, or maintain or resume your current one.
1.        I am more relaxedand handle the daily stresses in my life better. Stress can’t be completely eliminated but it can be managed. Yoga is a path to achieve that.
2.       I am healthier. Yoga has helped me lose weight, increase my muscle tone and given me better posture, just to name a few of many changes.
3.       I am more focused. My time on my mat has taught me to tune out outside distractions while I am there. This sense of focus has been attained off the mat too.
4.       I have a strong sense of accomplishment. Nearly every time I go to class I notice an improvement on some level – going a little deeper into a pose, a little more balance, holding a pose longer. These little achievements make me realize I am getting somewhere.
5.       My daily interactions have improved. I’m more confident in my skin because I have found my center.  Therefore I am not intimidated by others or self-conscious.  I now enjoy my time with other people because I can be myself.
6.       I eat better. I went from being a carnivore to eliminating red meat, then poultry, and now I am a complete vegan. My body no longer craves sugar or animal products. 

7.       I am more patient with myself. My time on the mat has taught me not to push myself beyond what I am ready for. I no longer feel the need to have a practice like the other yogis in the room, but instead allow myself to be where I need to be at that moment – even if that changes daily!
8.       I am more patient with others. Learning to be patient with myself enabled me to look at the world and realize everyone is at their own place in life. Being judgmental or trying to change people gets you nowhere.
9.       I am less fearful. I learned to push myself past my level of comfort and into the unknown while on my mat. This same idea applies to life in a big way.
10.    I am more flexible both mentally and physically. Of course, you expect to become more physically flexible through yoga, but I didn’t realize that as my body practiced asana, my mind began to change, and I now accept & perceive everything from different angles. 

11.     I am stronger both mentally and physically. Yoga is not just about flexibility, but about finding the balance between flexibility and strength. Many of the poses take a tremendous amount of strength to hold! Sometimes the greatest strength is in keeping the mind from telling you that you cannot do it. Yoga taught me to refocus and tell myself that I can.
12.    I am able to sit quietly for long periods of time. My mind still wanders, but it is much easier to bring it back and become a silent observer.
13.    I better understand who I am and my purpose in this life. We all have a path, something we are here to do. Practicing yoga put me in touch with that purpose and allowed me to reconnect with who I really am.
14.    I better understand my true needs and can differentiate them from desires. This is hard and I often struggle with it, but it has become easier to recognize things I don’t really need to get by in life.
15.    I am more creative and expressive. This connects to increased confidence. I think it is why many creative people are drawn to yoga. While practicing, you find the confidence to express yourself. Also, when you clear the mind of excess baggage your creativity rises to the surface.
16.    I am more present. Clearing the mind allowed me to better focus on the things immediately in front of me and I’m no longer sidetracked. I am really present.
17.    I am more responsible. Developing discipline on the mat means more discipline in everyday life, and this has allowed me to see the things that need to be done and accomplish them.
18.    I am happy and content with what I have and where I am in life. I recognize it for a path and not a destination.
19.    I am more compassionate. By recognizing and letting go of my own stresses and pains, I am better able to recognize them in others, and perhaps help others to let go of their own suffering.
20.   Giving and receiving more love in my life. By being at peace, content, and present, I have cultivated space in my life for others to join and share the good vibes…
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Deanna has been exposed to many different styles of yoga and has recently taken the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Being a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist, and fitness trainer, Deanna never thought she would find her higher self in a “fitness” class, but she did and has never looked back. She has developed Artasana workshops, exploring creativity through the art of yoga. She spends her time off the mat writing, illustrating yogis and enjoying her children at the New Jersey Shore.

Transitions


Gina Lee

My journey towards vegetarianism is not the one that you would normally hear of in a Dharma Yoga class. In fact, for years I attended classes and other teacher trainings in which they espoused the virtues of the yogic diet and I would politely nod my head knowing that as soon as I left I would be headed towards a meal with meat as its centerpiece. Even when I heard Sri Dharma give his classic comparison of our refrigerators to morgues and our stomachs to graveyards I went back to eating meat albeit with some food for thought (particularly thoughts that equated parts of my home and body to death). 
As a yoga teacher I was perplexed to hear from teachers that I had great respect for, that I was not living ahimsa by eating animals and I did my best to consume less by getting educated about where my meat was coming from and by choosing to eat only organically raised free range meat. This helped reduce the amount I was eating but I still felt the urge to eat it. Something was missing and I wasn’t really sure what. What would it take to give me the conviction that I needed? 
I was curious about how to possibly begin to incorporate more vegetarian options into my diet but it wasn’t until I met Sri Dharma that I felt a deeper pull to give vegetarianism a hard look. In my first immersion weekend with him he made his point clear: beyond the moral implications of eating animals, we could never realize the full potential of our meditation or yoga practice or feel the subtlety of the energetic impact of what we eat until we gave up meat and increased the amount of live foods that we consumed so we could see the difference for ourselves.
The idea of giving up meat cold-turkey (pun intended) scared me. But if there is one thing I’ve learned on my yogic path, it is that if something scares me I am headed in the right direction and that further investigation is necessary before drawing any conclusions or making a decision. 
As I started to root out my fears bit by bit, the first area that surfaced for inspection was my emotional connection to meat through my family of origin. Meat was a part of my psyche and identity as an Italian American. For us, meat was not only a primary source of protein but also one of pride and love. My mother’s meatballs are the stuff of legend; my Grandmother’s meat sauce has been passed down for generations, a rite of passage to be in the kitchen alongside her learning how to make it. To renounce meat would be to renounce them, to look upon my family’s rich tradition as barbaric and outdated.  
I also realized that my love for food and for cooking was heavily rooted in recipes for meat. For us, vegetables were always an afterthought or something meant to be choked down, certainly not enjoyed as a main course.  
As I peeled through the layers of awareness around my food habits I began to uncover hidden truths buried about myself within them. One that surfaced quickly was my emotionally reactive and addictive relationship with food that went far beyond meat. This particular fact was what led me to be 50 pounds heavier than I am today.   
My meals consisted mostly of highly processed foods, contained some fried element and had a super high fat content. My emotions and connection to food went something like this: 
Happiness=celebrate with food
Sadness=comfort yourself with food
Excitement=celebrate with more food than usual
Holiday=Plan entire day around preparing food then gorge yourself on food
Grief or depression=numb yourself with food
I knew I had a problem when I could remember more good meals than the names of acquaintances. I simply did not want to live in a world where pork fat was not a part of my diet. I derived more pleasure from eating bacon than any human should. Eating salad depressed me… you get the picture.
Through the careful practice and study of yoga I finally came to witness the feelings of emptiness and disconnection to my spirit that was driving me to eat the way that I was. I also realized how much my familial conditioning was holding me back from thriving as a healthy adult, and I wanted to be a better model for healthy eating habits for my children. Perhaps I could do the hard work of eating less meat and influence the ones I loved in a positive way.
I knew that I was ready to take the next steps on my path when I had successfully begun to add more and more vegetarian items to my cooking repertoire that didn’t depress me and were actually quite delicious (a shock even to myself) and more days passed before I had a meal with meat.  I was preparing myself for the next stage, my Dharma Yoga LOAY 500 Hour Teacher Training.
When it was time for me to seek out a 500-hour training, it was with careful thought and consideration that I chose Sri Dharma’s program. I knew that it would require a commitment to being a vegetarian for the duration of the training and I was inspired by the depth of devotion that Sri Dharma clearly had to his commitment to being not only vegetarian but mostly vegan. I was also genuinely curious about the energetic implications to what it would mean for me to have no meat for that great a length of time, the longest I would ever go without meat in my life thus far. 
At first, finding alternate replacements for protein was difficult; there was only so many sprouted almonds I could reasonably consume in a day. Once I got into my flow of morning smoothies and making tasty salads with tahini and avocado as suggested in Sri Dharma’s Ahimsa diet, I began to experience what they said about feeling lighter in my body and less disturbed in my mind. I also felt the digestive impact right away. The fresh green juices left me feeling energized and mentally sharper. I found I needed less sleep and that my emotions were more balanced. I was finally feeling something other than overwhelmed by what I initially felt was a restrictive lifestyle.
My family was largely unsupportive, which wound up being the more challenging thing for me to face.  My husband actually felt directly threatened by it, even though I still continued to cook meat dishes for him and our children. My mother and siblings outright taunted me at family gatherings. I stood firm but saw how challenging it would be to holding the diet for the rest of my life if I were to choose to do so once the training and all of my requirements were completed.
After all of my required months of steady diet journals and training, I felt my body (and perhaps mind) asking for meat so I allowed myself the ability to choose and see for myself what would happen to my energy and digestion again. I immediately found that my energy dropped and my digestion was impacted when I ate beef or pork. Chicken and fish seemed to do nothing so long as I watched the quantity and frequency. My decision was clear – beef and pork were officially off my plate (a major victory for cows and pigs everywhere, given how much I used to consume) and I would be greatly limiting the amount of chicken and fish I ate allowing it only when my body really gave me a message for it which is happening less and less frequently.  
I’m also happy to note that my family has backed off their incessant teasing to a certain degree; they are respecting my choices more and more and are even enjoying my creative interpretations to Italian classics such as mushroom “burgers”. They do still get mildly insulted when I turn down the food that they made with love and pride, but they are at least taking it a little less personally which is another victory to say the least.  
The lesson I learned through all of this is that even old habits and ways of being can change – even the strongest ones that you thought were an inextricable part of your being (if you give it enough time and self-reflection). I am gentle enough with myself to know that I will probably be in transition towards total vegetarianism for a while, but I know enough to not speak in absolutes or to attach too strongly to rigid timelines or expectations. Sri Dharma gave me the tools & strength to try, and I feel stronger in my convictions because of it. Life, like yoga, can be a work in progress.
Need some help with your transition? Join us on New Year’s Day for a special asana practice with Sri Dharma Mittra, followed by a FREE film screening of Forks Over Knives (Still have doubts about plant-based eating? This is the film for you.) Plus, free vegan snacks throughout the day, provided by the unbelievably delicious Cinnamon Snail food truck.
Make sure to pre-register for the festivities! 
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Gina Lee has been practicing yoga for ten years, teaching for five, and is the owner of Bearfoot Yoga & Wellness Center in Bay Shore, NY, which opened in May 2012. She is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher (levels II and III) and a 200-hour level Integral Yoga instructor, as well as a certified Prenatal Yoga teacher. She has two beautiful, energetic sons and enjoys living her yoga in many ways, making her whole life a sadhana (spiritual practice). She enjoys making regular pilgrimages to the Dharma Yoga New York Center with her students in tow, spreading the light of Sri Dharma’s particular brand of yoga far and wide.