Category Archives: devotion

The Ying and Yang of the Dharma Yoga 200 hour LOAY Teacher Training

By Kathy Goelz

The temple seems so large and spacious — then suddenly it’s the size of your living room.
You’ll ask yourself when, where, and why –then realize: “Everything is perfect.”
You may come with anxiety, but leave “with a mind settled into silence.”
You will develop a sense of pride — then realize “I am not the doer.”
You’ll stand firm as a warrior– then fall and roll like a circus clown.
You’ll sing and laugh– then cry.
You’ll have doubts– then learn “I can have the best of the best.”
Your pranayama practice will change from “Breathing like a mouse” to “breathing like a horse.”
Yoga becomes not just poses, but an offering. “This is for you my Lord”
You may feel as though you can’t take another class, but do “because it has to be done.”
You will be exhausted and fatigued, but give 100% because the mentors and Sri Dharma will.
You may be confused about God, but that will change to devotion and surrender.
You may not be sure what Yamas and Niyamas are, but just watch Dharma-ji and you’ll learn instinctively.
Maha Shakti will energize you– then 5 minutes later you’ll struggle to stay awake during Yoga Nidra.
You may eat meat now, but learning about compassion and ahimsa you won’t let “your stomach be a grave yard.”
You may never have done volunteer work, but hearing about selfless service will change that.
You’ll walk in alone, and leave as friends and family.
You’ll come with questions, and leave with Self Knowledge!
Om Shanti , Shanti, Shantih

 

KathyKathy Goelz has practiced yoga for 17 years and is now embracing the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra with a full heart. Goelz started teaching after a Senior Yoga teacher training at Shanti Niketan Ashram’s North Carolina School of Yoga under the supervision of Chandra Om. Since October of 2014, Goelz has been teaching a chair yoga class at the Love Yoga Shala in Patchogue, NY. In March 2015, she completed the Dharma Yoga LOAY 200-hour immersion and hopes to graduate in May. Goelz will continue to teach in her community and at Love Yoga Shala.

 

Washington D.C. – A Dharma Yoga Mecca

By Brando Lee Lundberg

With 24 certified Dharma Yoga teachers, including four studio owners, over 50 Dharma Yoga classes offered per week, and a packed house at the convention center last year for Sri Dharma’s visit to Washington, the D.C. area has quickly become a mecca for Dharma Yoga– second only to New York City, where Sri Dharma lives and shares his practice at the Dharma Yoga Center.

What has led to this phenomenon?  The close proximity of D.C. to New York City – a four to five hour car ride or three to four hour train ride – has certainly helped by making weekend or even daily trips possible for D.C. area Dharma Yoga practitioners. But this is true for other metropolitan areas of a similar size and demographic. While understanding the reasons behind the growth of Dharma Yoga in D.C. may elude linear or even rational explanation, one of the most significant factors lies in the service of two now-senior Dharma yoga teachers who first started sharing the practice: Justin Blazejewski and Hannah Allerdice.  Justin participated the Life of a Yogi teacher training in 2008 and Hannah in 2009.

They offered the following thoughts about their experience of sharing the Dharma Yoga practice.

How did you first come into contact with Dharma Yoga?  How long had you been practicing yoga before then?

Justin: I was practicing yoga for about six months before I went on my first yoga retreat in Bali. Once I returned I was inspired to look for a teacher training to help deepen my practice.  I came across Dharma’s website and saw the 200-hour teacher training intensive and my curiosity was piqued. When I arrived to Dharma’s old studio in NYC, I walked up the stairs and Dharma was in the middle of the studio fixing some electrical wires and said, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.” And then walked away. I knew in my heart I had found my guru.

Hannah: I came into contact with Dharma Yoga in 2007 through Saraswati Lorie Om, who has the beautiful Dharma Yoga Syracuse center. Before then, I had practiced on and off for about six or seven years.

When you returned to D.C. after your first training in 2009, how did you go about sharing the teachings of Sri Dharma?

Justin: I returned from teacher training on a Sunday and boarded a plane the following day for Afghanistan for a three-month work trip. While I was overseas I gathered local military personnel and contractors on the base every day and taught them the Level I Shiva Namahskara sequence, pranayama and meditation. My group grew from one to three people to about 10 people before I left to come home.

Once I was back in D.C. I began organizing free yoga classes in Meridian Hill Park every week. I encountered a similar pattern that I had overseas, with only a few students at the beginning, but after a few weeks the group grew. After a few months of teaching, a beautiful soul walked into one of my classes. She had just returned to D.C. after her 200-hour teacher training with Dharma. That beautiful soul was Hannah.  I remember a feeling of love and joy knowing that I was no longer alone in sharing Dharma’s teachings and knew deep down in my heart that something special was about to grow and expand in this city.

Hannah: I started in our little apartment with three to six friends, teaching them Dharma 1 and Dharma 2, according to our internship requirements. About a month after that I met Jasmine (the owner of Yoga District) and started helping out with Yoga Activist.  She then asked me to teach a class at Yoga District.  And then I started to teach more and more classes.

What is it about Dharma Yoga?

Justin: After over six years practicing with Sri Dharma, my heart truly sings and feels the love for my guru every time I see him or bring him into my awareness. He is always with me in my heart no matter where I am in the world, and anytime I feel my energy drained, I take a bus to NYC and plug into the source for a recharge.

Hannah: Everything. Particularly the love that radiates from our beloved guru. It is infinite and through him takes so many forms, according to the student he is teaching. And, through his example, I learn how to love more and more.

What do you attribute to the success of Dharma Yoga in D.C.?

Justin: It was hard in the beginning, as I was the only Dharma Yoga teacher in D.C. Not many people had heard about him and I was a new teacher so it was hard to get exposure. I began by writing to all the yoga studios in the D.C. area, asking them if they wanted Dharma Yoga at their studio and nine out of 10 of them turned me down or didn’t reply. In the end I attribute “angry determination” and “doing the work because it has to get done,” as Sri Dharma Mittra often says.

Hannah: The teachers here are so dedicated, and are fully committed to living a life established in ahimsa.  Just like Sri Dharma says, “everything comes from there [ahimsa].” And it is contagious, the love and deep truth of living life like this. Students can feel it. And, we are all so committed to updating our learning from Sri Dharma. We are all practicing with him regularly and sharing his love, his lightness, his simplicity, his humor. The students feel this too.

How did you contribute to building the Dharma Yoga community in D.C.?

Justin: I was the first Dharma Yoga teacher in Washington D.C. that shared the teachings in a yoga class environment. I continued to teach and sub in Virginia and D.C. as much as I could to expose as many people as possible to Dharma’s teachings. The first year was pretty slow but I started getting more and more students in my classes. By then Hannah and I were teaching at Yoga District and we started to get a lot more students coming to the Dharma Yoga classes. After a while the students began to be inspired by Dharma’s teachings and eventually decided to head up to NYC to do the LOAY teacher trainings. Once there were a few Dharma teachers in D.C., the roots of the sangha took form, and the tree of Dharma Yoga in D.C. just kept growing.

Hannah: I don’t really know. I helped water some plants I think, through Sri Dharma. There were a lot of yoga teachers here in D.C. when I moved here, and many of them hadn’t found a real, living master. When they came to the classes, and we all got to know each other, something was sparked. So, they all started to go to the trainings too.  And then it blossomed. Now we all just love on each other and support each others continued growth, and keep welcoming new people in the community.

Any advice or words of encouragement for Dharma yogis seeking to build Dharma Yoga community where they live?

Justin: Angry Determination! Do the work with love and compassion, staying true to Dharma’s teachings no matter what! And the rest will come!

Hannah: Yes, serve just as Sri Dharma serves; embody his teachings, his way. Remember, we have been given the highest teachings, from a realized Yogi, stand supreme in that knowledge. And, keep charging up by staying connected to Sri Dharma physically, mentally and psychically.

 

Brando Blog

 

Brando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine.  For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility.  In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.

The Yoga of Truly Seeing

By Barb Cooper

When I finished my LOAY teacher training requirements and graduated in 2013, I felt like it was the end of the most transformative chapter in my life.  It turned out to be the beginning of an entirely new way of serving the world.

In 2007, I had reconstructive foot surgery, during which something went wrong that left me on the couch in abject chronic pain for three years. It was yoga (and acupuncture) that triggered my healing, and then brought me to study with Sri Dharma Mittra. In Sri Dharma, I found the Guru who resonated with my hungry, directionless soul.

Although I have never had a conversation with Sri Dharma (I am too shy to approach him,) I know he sees me. I feel a deep connection to him. And there have been some funny moments: There was the time I came back after a coffee break to a session during a weekend immersion, sat down in a group in front of him, closed my eyes and tried to connect with my breath.  I opened my eyes to find him looking directly at me.  “How are you going to find bliss, “ he said, smiling, “when you can’t even give up coffee?”

Yep. He sees me.

So, I began teaching in March of 2013. In August of that year, after my family moved back to Texas, the dream of opening my own small studio became a reality. And things started to get weird and, um, magic started happening.

I know how that sounds.

In addition to the students for my Sri Dharma-inspired regular vinyasa classes, people in chronic pain and with chronic conditions began sort of…well, appearing in front of me, seeking healing through yoga. It wasn’t the usual injuries due to age or over-use, either. These were people with dramatic and excruciating physical needs. The first client who came to me had her entire spine fused except for three vertebrae, a frozen shoulder and muscles that her brain couldn’t talk to!

I had no idea what I was doing.

I did have an enormous desire to see others find the kind of healing that I found. Much of what I learned about yoga therapy, I learned by watching videos and reading medical texts.  I did hours of research on the specific conditions of my students. For each student, I developed a customized yoga sequence, modifying poses and sequences to suit their needs.  Every few months, we adjusted the sequences together, just seeing what was possible and what accommodations were no longer necessary.

Because I had such a profound experience with chronic pain myself, I know how to touch and talk to people who are hurting. I know, above all, that people in pain need to be reassured that I am not going to hurt them –that they are safe with me. I am very careful to ask permission before I adjust my clients, and then I do so in the gentlest way I can.  Often, I just hold people in the poses until they can hold themselves.

One of the most transformative things about my teaching practice has been developing the eyes to really see my students. I’ve learned that my students are used to feeling invisible –this is true of both the healthy and those who are struggling with health issues, actually. I make sure my clients know that I am truly seeing them. I see where they hold their pain, how their bodies change as their pain levels change.  Sometimes I see things in their bodies that they aren’t aware of until I mention it.

Healing is happening. It’s amazing and miraculous, and it is real.  Recently, over the holidays, I had a 15-year-old concussion victim, who had losses in balance and short-term memory.  After three private sessions, she was almost back to normal! My first client’s shoulder unfroze, her brain started talking to her muscles and today, she can do headstands.

I know that this healing isn’t coming from me. (Heck, I still haven’t been able to give up coffee.) First of all, it is in my students’ unwavering willingness to persevere. They come back to every class, and they come willing to work. It is so inspirational.

It’s also the healing power of yoga and, I believe, it’s Sri Dharma’s gentle healing spirit. Before each session, I repeat the Mantra for Purification, and another one where I ask, “free me from my ego, fill me with love and healing.” I know that when I can set aside my own ego, yoga can use me as a channel through which healing comes.

All of this has changed my life in a truly amazing and profound way. Although I still struggle to set my ego aside off the mat, when I can do so, I can really see the people in my life– my yoga students as well as my friends and family. I find I am less reactive to things that might have once angered me or hurt my feelings.  I am beginning to see people without judging them.  I may never be able to do this as comprehensively as Sri Dharma does, but it has given me a glimpse of how peaceful life can be when lived in a life of service.

 

Barb Cooper, 50, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013 and teaches yoga at Rasna Yoga in Austin, Texas. Read more of her musings at sothethingisblog.blogspot.com

The Fan Behind the Flame of Dharma Yoga

By Jerome Burdi   Sri Dharma Mittra isn’t looking for fame and fortune. He teaches out of goodwill and compassion. “If you have a little spiritual knowledge, you should share it,” Sri Dharma often says. “This is the greatest form of charity.” For 50 years, he has done just that. Though Sri Dharma is the flame of knowledge, he needs those around him to spread it. Otherwise, it could be quite easy in today’s oversaturated yoga world for the jewel of Dharma Yoga to be lost. The work of Sri Dharma’s wife and longtime disciple, Eva Grubler, aka Ismrittee Devi Om, is to fan the flame Dharmaji has ignited in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of students throughout the years. “The popularity of yoga hasn’t affected him, but it has affected his classes because there are so many other places to go,” she said. “He lights up when there’s a full house.” EvadancerEva, the daughter of holocaust survivors, grew up in Queens. Before discovering yoga she was a modern dancer, training at Alvin Ailey’s school while he was still alive. She danced with several companies, was a principal dancer in the film Fame, and choreographed her own work in New York City. Eventually she grew weary of the competitive dance world. “I was ready not to be yelled at, and compared to others.” In the 1980s, Eva was in a health food store on the corner of 13th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan where Sri Dharma’s Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures hung on the wall. “I was asking about the person in the poster and the clerk said, ‘That person is the yogi around the corner at 100 West 14th street. He comes in all the time; I can introduce you.’” Eva found her way up the tall stairs into Sri Dharma’s Yoga Asana Center and fell deep into the practice ever since her first class. “It was amazing,” she said. “He had a beautiful red soft plush carpet. There were no yoga mats at the time. You needed to bring a towel, or a shawl in my case, to spread over your spot. It felt like you were in a loving womb in the lush temple space he created.” Yoga was not popular and certainly not as physically challenging as it is today. Most of Sri Dharma’s students were middle-aged people and dancers who came to practice daily with him. Sri Dharma charged as little as $2 a class. Teachers from other yoga schools came daily to study with him and many of his students went on to teach and open their own schools. “He was known as the only one who gave the advanced postures,” Eva said. “The sensibility is still similar to how he teaches today but it was even kinder and gentler. Everything felt like you were just contained in yourself.” Sri Dharma was quiet and humble, as he is today, but had yet to share the sense of humor his current students also love him for. As yoga grew in popularity in the late 90s and 2000s, many of Sri Dharma’s students rose to fame but Dharmaji wasn’t getting recognition for his hard work, Eva said. Mainly because he is so humble and would never think of going after it. When yoga teacher trainings became popular, students who studied with him for years asked him to run a program to certify them. So, Eva worked to establish a teacher training program for Sri Dharma so his students did EVA WHEEL copynot have to go elsewhere. In 1999, the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Certification program was finally established. “Krishna Das used to chant at the center often and said, ‘I’ll be at Dharma’s.’” Eva said. “So I said it’s time to have the Dharma name on it. I was amazed when Dharma agreed.” “Whatever notoriety Sri Dharma has, we worked hard to make sure he’s out there. He’s ashamed to even charge today’s prices for class. I said, ‘But how can you be any less than what new teachers are charging?’ That’s why he always makes the class longer.” Eva recalled visiting Sri Dharma’s guru, Swami Kailashananda, for meditation classes and lectures and sometimes bringing her and Sri Dharma’s two children. “It was always wonderful to sit under the vibrant rays of the guru,” she said. “Sri Dharma is the energizer battery that continues the work of his guru, day in and day out, for a half century now. “You can still sit in his classes today and hear a man filled with wisdom trying to inspire each person in the room to become better human beings and understand Ahimsa – non-cruelty, especially to all animals, through becoming a vegan.” Eva would like to see the lineage continue. “Our trained teachers sprouting out of the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Certification become a conduit for their teacher, Dharma Mittra, and will pass on his work and legacy to generations of people in times to come.”     Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.
Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist
 

Yoga Journal Estes Park and Sri Dharma Mittra

By Brendan Lentz

Over the past two years, I had been contemplating doing some long-term travelling. The basic idea was to take a self-created sabbatical from my career in technology in New York City and travel around the world.  I planned to visit family, friends and cities with Dharma Yoga communities. In late June of 2014, I donated, sold or stored my things and packed up what remained.  This past summer I assisted at the Charm City Yoga festival in Maryland, taught workshops in Ohio and generally had a great time making new friends and enjoying my newfound free time.

A major stop on my journey was to visit longtime friends who had recently relocated to the Boulder, Colorado area. The timing of this visit worked out so that I would be able to be in Colorado at the same time Sri Dharma would be there for the Yoga Journal conference at the YMCA of the Rockies.  I had never attended a Yoga Journal conference and I thought this was the perfect time to do it.

blog1Entrance Drive to the YMCA of the Rockies

I arrived at the YMCA  (elevation 8,010 feet) on September 19th, on the heels of a grueling 1,000-mile drive from Illinois to Colorado the day before.  The setting is breathtaking. Beautiful views of snow covered mountains surround the YMCA campus and wildlife is abundant. It is a perfect setting for practicing yoga! I had just enough time to pick up my conference badge at the Administration Building and make it to the first of four classes taught by Sri Dharma over the next two days.

blog2View of the Historic Administration Building

 Sri Dharma gave an extended discourse before we started the physical asanas during the first class.  He spoke about food and the importance of offering the food before we eat it.  “May all beings enjoy this food through my senses,” is something he suggested we say before eating. I like this idea because it not only reminds us to be grateful for what we have, but it goes beyond.  One way I look at it is this: I can use this food as nourishment so that I can maintain good health and use my body and mind in order to serve others.  In that way my actions can create ways for more people to enjoy healthy food on a consistent basis.  Later during the conference I joined some new friends for lunch at the cafeteria. We all agreed that this part of the discourse struck a chord and we all said the offering together before enjoying a delicious meal.

Sri Dharma offered ideas on how to transition to a vegetarian diet. The suggestion is to eat vegetarian Monday through Friday. You can buy one of the new Bullet blenders and use that to make blends in the mornings. If you are living with someone you can share the task. Each day you can alternate who makes the blended drinks to make it easier. As an example of blend Sri Dharma recommended some spinach, kale, fresh pineapple and protein powder. On the weekends you can be more relaxed in the diet. He suggested you might try a vegan pizza from Trader Joe’s. Sri Dharma stressed that it is important to let the senses enjoy food and not to be too strict. If you are too strict with yourself, then it won’t work.  Over time you might find that you don’t even want to the pizza as much, but in the beginning he advises its best not to be overly strict. In my own experience I’ve noticed that the more I eat healthier food, the more I enjoy it and, over time, cravings for unhealthy food falls away.

With regard to the asanas, or the physical postures, Sri Dharma suggested that they are not required. If you don’t like to do the postures you can go to the gym, use the bike or swim as alternatives. He stressed that is important to keep the body in good shape. When I arrived the first day I had a fair amount of trouble breathing comfortably. While on a phone call to my father that day I was winded and had trouble even speaking. I know from studying with Sri Dharma in New York that he is in excellent physical condition but I wondered how he would handle the high altitude in Estes Park. When we did pranayama – breathing exercises, Sri Dharma did not seem to be impacted at all by the thin air. Towards the end of the weekend he shared with us that the first year he came to Estes Park he was winded but each year he returned he became more acclimated. At 75 years young, he is a living example of how you can maintain excellent physical health for many years through a committed practice of yoga and exercise.

blog3Sri Dharma Mittra on the Dharma Yoga Wheel (http://www.dharmayogawheel.com)

Although Sri Dharma is known for being able to perform difficult poses, his classes at Yoga Journal were accessible to all levels. He spoke on compassion and the ability to place yourself in others. Along these lines I believe he made the classes less challenging since the altitude and the full days of classes already challenged many students. Instead he offered a little more discourse and made himself available before and after each class if anyone had questions.

I had a great time meeting new people and seeing friends who came from New York just for this event. I spoke with some people who wanted to learn more and I shared information about the Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings that Sri Dharma offers regularly in New York. I had such a good time that I purchased pre-sale tickets for next year. The gorgeous natural setting with Rocky Mountains in the background are the perfect setting to practice yoga with Sri Dharma Mittra – the “Rock of Yoga.”

 

 

 

Embodying Sri Dharma’s Teachings and Letting Her Goodness Shine Through

By Jerome Burdi

 

The yoga class was packed wall to wall with amazing students moving together into poses, following the lead of the beloved master. It was the end of a teacher training so the atmosphere was in high vibration.

That class was more than a decade ago but Dharma Yoga teacher Kim Jeblick remembers it like yesterday. It was her first class with Sri Dharma Mittra. Kim was already a yoga teacher but came out of a fitness background rather than the path of Self-realization that she would soon be steeped in.

Sri Dharma guided the students into extended side angle pose. While they were holding the pose, he walked over to Kim and moved her fingers into jnana mudra. It was the first time Sri Dharma adjusted her. By the end of the class she knew she found true yoga and a guru to guide her to her highest Self.

“After shavasana, I felt like my whole body was vibrating,” Kim said.  “There was a subtle humming and I thought, ‘This must be the real yoga.’”

She discovered Sri Dharma through his famous 908 Asana Poster. She ordered it to put up on the wall at her studio, Maximum Motion Fitness in Jersey City. After ordering the poster, Kim found out about Dharma Yoga Center and decided to take a class with Sri Dharma.

Sri Dharma’s classes were intensely physical when Kim started attending. If you ever heard her laughing in class, it’s because the pose seemed beyond her reach.

“When I can’t do the pose I just laugh,” she said. “It’s the, ‘Oh, that’s the impossible’ laugh. Then I found out, with practice, the poses could be accomplished.”

Kim has remained close to Sri Dharma ever since her first class and became a certified teacher in the 200, 500 and 800-hour levels. She’s now a mentor for others during teacher trainings.

“Dharmaji has no ulterior motives, hidden agendas or anything like that,” Kim said. “He shares all of his knowledge freely and really wishes all of us to become Self-realized in this lifetime.  He is the sweetest, kindest person and I am only here to help him with his work.”

She recalled a time in her early days of teaching Dharma Yoga where she was asked to cover a Maha Sadhana practice for Sri Dharma and she asked him how to teach it.

“He said to me, ‘Oh don’t worry about that. Just let your goodness shine through,’” Kim recalled.

“I think that it is good advice not only for all teachers but also for all people. Sometimes we don’t really see our own goodness, only our shortcomings and if we are worried about being whatever our idea of ‘perfect’ is then it is difficult to be receptive and sensitive to the needs of others.”

The teachings of Sri Dharma shine brightly through Kim. She is full of compassion and knowledge as a teacher.

“Kim has served as a mentor and example for an entire generation of students and teachers, modeling the best of what our teacher expects of all of us consistently in a way that always demonstrates humility and deep understanding,” said Adam Frei, program manager and director of Dharma Yoga’s Life of a Yogi teacher training programs.

“On a personal level, Kim is one of my teachers and has always been a part of what makes the Dharma Yoga New York Center so special.”

Kim has taught regular classes, held workshops, subbed for Sri Dharma, and has assisted him when he travels for workshops and teacher trainings.

“Kim disseminates the teaching of yoga with a selfless, egoless attitude,” said Ivy Mok, who recently completed her 500-hour Dharma Yoga teacher training and had Kim as a mentor.

“Her spiritual presence and calmness is infectious, which instantly shifts her students to a sattvic state. She is a great channel for Dharma’s teaching. If one wants to know how to copy the guru physically, mentally, and spiritually, one should come to learn from Kim.”

Kim is grateful to Sri Dharma for helping her. But the master remains humble.

“I felt like Dharma brought me back to God and one time I said to him, ‘Dharma, thank you so much.’ And he said, ‘That’s not me, that’s your karma.’ So he didn’t even take credit for it.”

She teaches 6:30 p.m. Fridays at Dharma Yoga Center in New York City. Though she teaches Dharma Yoga at her own studio, there’s nowhere quite like the place where the master himself teaches.

“It’s effortless to teach here, it just comes through,” Kim said. “I just sit there and think of Dharma and how he teaches.”

 

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

 

 

The Spiritual Impulse

By Alan C. Haras

“Fire exists in the firewood, coal and charcoal, but without ignition from a spark of fire from without it cannot burn.  So the forces Divine within you do not grow without the impulse from the Preceptor.”

~Yogi Gupta (Sri Swami Kailashananda), from Yoga & Yogic Powers, p.46

There is an ancient tradition practiced by some yogis to continually tend a sacred fire.  This dhuni fire represents the fire of self-knowledge and it reduces all apparent phenomenon into a single, irreducible essence.  This sacred ash, or vibhuti, is often given to others seekers as prasad – a blessed and healing substance.  It is the duty of such yogis to keep this sacred fire going, offering the benefits of their dedicated practice as a healing remedy to all beings.

As sadhakas, we are all tending the sacred fire that we have received from our Guru at the time of initiation.  The Sanskrit word for “initiation” is diksha, which means “to ignite,” and interestingly enough, the English word “ignite” is related to the Sanskrit word agni – meaning “divine fire.”  A yogi who seeks initiation from a guru is seeking to be ignited by the sacred fire or “spiritual impulse” of the guru.  This invisible power is a “quickening” agent that speeds up the spiritual progress of the disciple.

We all contain within us great treasures of spiritual forces, but they typically remain asleep until awakened by the grace of the guru.  This grace cannot be received from any book.  In Yoga and Yogic Powers, Yogi Gupta says, “By reading the menu, your hunger cannot be satisfied.”  Similarly, any amount of reading about spiritual topics will not satisfy our spiritual hunger.  We must seek out a qualified Preceptor, and in receiving instructions from him or her, become receptive to the transmission of this spiritual impulse.

All genuine gurus have received this divine spark from their teacher.  Having received the blessing of the spiritual impulse, they continued to cultivate that sacred fire through their own sadhana, or spiritual practice.  It is not enough simply to “get” initiation – one must “give” themselves to their practice.  In this sense, initiation marks a new beginning.  One entrusted with the sacred fire becomes responsible for tending it and making it grow.  “Being initiated” means “becoming a disciple” and making the life-long commitment to the path of self-realization.

The word “disciple” comes from the Latin root discere which means “to learn.”  All are able to learn, but each individual learns at his or her own rate.  According to Swami Sivananda, an individual’s capacity is based upon their readiness to receive the divine spark of the guru’s instructions.  Some, he says, are like gunpowder – when the fire of knowledge is brought near to them, they are instantly ablaze with realization.  Others are like charcoal, who need only a little time in the presence of fire before they are completely consumed and transformed.  Still others are like dry firewood and need to stay in the fire a little while longer.  And then there are those who are like wet firewood – when they are in the presence of Truth, all they do is “smoke.”  This kind of disciple will need ample time to “dry out” before any real learning is possible.

If we approach a fire without proper respect, it is possible that we could get burned – not through any intention made by the fire, but simply through our own inattention. And yet, if we stay too far away, we won’t be able to enjoy the warmth that the fire provides.  Similarly, when a disciple approaches a guru with the divine qualities of reverence, humility and obedience, her or she is able to receive the spiritual impulse of the teacher.  Yogi Gupta says that this impulse is the “energized thought” of the teacher, and although it is invisible, it is “far more powerful than electricity.”

One receives the spiritual impulse through transmission.  The Guru received it from his or her Guru, and blesses the disciples with that same impulse upon their initiation.  It is like a lit candle passing the flame to an unlit candle – it is now up to the disciple to protect that flame, keep it burning brightly, and eventually, to pass on the living flame to a qualified disciple.  The flame does not belong to anyone, but is pure grace; the pure gift of the enlightened teachers to those who are sincerely seeking Self-Realization.  It is transmitted through the Guru’s presence and teachings, and is received only by those who have cultivated the necessary qualities of a disciple.

 

Alan Alan C. Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion Michigan, a commissioned Spiritual Director in the tradition of Ignatian Spirituality, and a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Religion Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, and completing his 800-hour Advanced Dharma Yoga Teacher Certification.
www.hamsayogacenter.com

From Istanbul to Dharmaland, with Love

By Gülnihal Özdener

I was walking home from Dharma Yoga Center on the third night of my 500-hour teacher training in September and mantras echoed in my head as I was gazed up into the sky, counting the stars. Then I saw 50 of them on a flag in front of a tall building. It hit me then — I had been in the United States for almost three months! In Manhattan for almost three months!

Why hadn’t I ever realized that before? Of course, I was not speaking Turkish or having Turkish food, but I felt like I was home the entire time, without realizing I was thousands of miles away from home. But it was still home.

Coming to New York to meet Sri Dharma Mittra, after the most troubling period of time in my life, has been a remedy. The wounds of a psychologically abusive relationship pushed me onto a path where I found Dharma Yoga. The legendary Mark Kan’s class forced my body gently to its physical limits in a way that felt so right. I said, “That’s it! This is what I want to do!”

There I was, on my mat, in Sri Dharma’s temple. Krishna Das music was on. The incense was wrapping me up kindly. Since my first day in the city, I was at Dharma Yoga Center every single day. I was lucky enough to practice twice-a-day with Dharmaji and the great teachers he taught. The energy is always so embracing, you can never feel like an outsider.

I looked around the temple; more than 100 people practicing, 70 of them were teacher trainees. I saw that each body is different. Each has a story that brought them into this very temple, practicing with Dharmaji. Hearts beating as one in each pose, all fuelled with so much enthusiasm. There was no judgment, only pure love. There was abundant help, encouragement, and unconditional support. The compassion that Sri Dharma always emphasizes turned us into a very large multinational family.

The self is one, as Sri Dharma teaches us, and those 100 plus people in the temple were moving all together as one. Even the beginners, who happened to find themselves in the middle of so many advanced asana practitioners, found the courage to try the seemingly impossible.

For me, many poses were hard to practice, either because of my mild scoliosis or out of stiffness. But when I saw my family moving and trying and falling and getting back up — even after some six to eight hours of asana practice in a day — I didn’t give up. I found myself in poses that would have been impossible elsewhere. I am not even mentioning the experiences I had during our morning pranayama and meditation sessions.

People in Turkey were, and are, asking me, “Oh you must have visited a lot of places! Three months is a long time!”

That makes sense, New York City (or Manhattan, to be more specific) is a crazy place with so many entertaining or touristy options, and I have been to some of them. But it never felt like I was touring Manhattan. I was at the center, in the temple almost every day! There were times when we had our breakfast, lunch, dinner at the center, or when we took naps.

Then I thought; well, yeah, I have been to many places. Especially within my mind, soul, and body. Those were wonderful places, and my guide was mostly Dharmaji, and other beloved Dharma teachers.

If you’re talking about the city, for me, Manhattan is Dharmaland.

 

Gulnihal OzdenerGülnihal Özdener met yoga when she was 19 and absolutely hated the first few months of practice. Later on, she realized her scoliosis-related pain started to fade and her grumpiness turned into calmness, so she applied for her first teacher training at the age of 23.  Two years later, she contacted the Dharma Yoga Center, applied for the 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. Now back in Istanbul, she spreads the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra via the classes she offers, humbly continuing the lineage of Yogi Gupta.
Find her at facebook.com/gulniyleyoga or yogawithgulni@gmail.com.

Finding Strength in Brokenness

By Dharma Yoga Center Staff

It was a Tuesday night and Kat Milburn was feeling good. She was two weeks into her inter-module LOAY 500 hour teacher training and things were tough, but she was determined to get through it. The new vegan diet and daily practices were making her stronger in her practice. She knew she’d be a great Dharma Yoga teacher when it was completed.

Then the accident happened.

She was walking to her kitchen, but it was dark and she entered the door next to it, falling down 15 stairs to her basement. The pain was ripping through her. She opened her mouth to cry for help, but nothing came out.

“I couldn’t stand up and I couldn’t scream because my diaphragm was pushing into my back,” Milburn said. “I crawled half way up the stairs so my roommate could hear me.”

She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors worked on her, then told her the horrible news: She had broken bones in her left foot and also fractured her vertebrae.

One of the first things that came to mind was how she would continue her 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training. She could keep the diet for the most part, but she couldn’t practice pranayama and meditation while on painkillers and asana was out of the question.

She had about five more weeks before the second module began. Despite her injuries, Milburn knew she wanted to attend, even if she had to sit on the sidelines while everyone else did movements she no longer could.

The Dharma Yoga Center allowed her to continue her training and Milburn was relieved. After being an athlete her whole life and practicing asana seven days a week, the accident caused her to move into deep reflection.

“It was tough,” she said. “I was working towards the goal and it felt like someone pulled the rug from underneath me. I hurt myself where I couldn’t even do a practice.”

There were Dharma Yoga classes lined up for Milburn after the training near her Arlington, Va., home, but she is not sure when she will be able to teach them.

“I’m feeling like I’m letting everybody down,” she said.

Milburn knew that making her way back to the Dharma Yoga Center on Nov. 2 to complete the eight day training would help her spirits and help her to heal. She could not wait another year to complete it.

“Every day was a tough time,” she said. “It was physically hard, sitting in the chair on the sidelines. Everything happens for a reason. I was given the opportunity to sit and really watch Sri Dharma teach and that was a blessing. I was also given the opportunity to teach in a way I don’t do. I had to sit and picture myself doing the class every time people were doing it.

“We are all humans and we’re going to break down and we’ll have a time where we can’t demo all the time. Learning that was my biggest gift. It made me a stronger.”

Milburn also had support from the Dharma Yoga staff and her nearly 70 classmates, including two reiki healers who would check on her everyday.

“That’s really powerful to be around people who are genuinely concerned,” she said.

Other students told Milburn how inspiring it was to see her strength and determination to come back.

“They’d say, ‘You have the toughest practice of all,’” Milburn recalled. “I feel I made more progress during my own spiritual journey to sit and be silent and not listen to that nasty voice in your head. Remain unconcerned. You fall down a flight of stairs and it’s really hard to see the beauty in that.”

Milburn was right that making her way back to the Dharma temple would help her heal. When she returned home, the doctors were amazed at how fast she healed. A week after the second module ended, Milburn was given the OK to slowly start practicing again.

Finding Sri Dharma

By Jerome Burdi

The first time I went to a master class with Sri Dharma Mittra, I didn’t like it. I thought it was too hard and I had a difficult time understanding him.

“He expects us to just do these poses? What about some more prep or explanation? Do you really have to hold a headstand that long?” I thought.

It wasn’t Sri Dharma, it was me. I had to deepen my understanding of the practice to be receptive to the teachings. In time, Sri Dharma changed everything about my practice and my life.

I started my yoga journey in 2010 during a shamanic retreat in Brazil’s majestic Chapada Diamantina National Park. Before that, I practiced martial arts and was full of vices such as meat eating, drinking too much, and promiscuity. I thought yoga was something women did in heated rooms.

But as the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

During the retreat in Sri Dharma’s home country, yoga was offered and I felt an instant connection to it. I could feel the changes coming right away.

From Brazil I returned to South Florida where I lived at the time working as a crime reporter for a major newspaper. But I wasn’t the same. I no longer had an interest in my low vibration habits and I had a thirst to find a place to practice yoga. I found some good studios that carried me into the practice.

A little over a year later, I decided to quit my job, move back to New York and become a yoga teacher. I pinpointed Rishikesh, India, as the place to do my teacher training. It’s known as the “Yoga Capital of the World,” and it was good enough for The Beatles to spend time in an ashram there, so I thought it would be good enough for me.

I now see my studying in Rishikesh also as a connection to Sri Dharma, as that’s where his beloved guru did a lot of his work. So I started my yoga journey in Sri Dharma’s native country and made it official in the land of Yogi Gupta, his guru. I needed to go to India to come back to be receptive to the grace of Sri Dharma. I had to get on to his level.

As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

India was another one of my great teachers — meditating, bathing, and practicing asana beside the holy Ganges taught me what it is to do your work, but to also what it is to cultivate an art of effortlessness. As the Ganga flows, she teaches the lesson of living naturally without attachment or concern for the future or past. People come and go and still the Ganga flows.

This is how I see Sri Dharma’s classes. As I learned just by being beside the holy river, I learn by being beside Dharmaji.

It took me a while to discover this.

When I got back to New York City, I was determined to find a home studio. I didn’t even think of going to the Dharma Yoga Center because I went before I left for India and didn’t connect to it. For a year, I went to many big name studios and teachers in New York, but nothing clicked. That seemed strange to me. New York City seems to have more yoga studios than India and I couldn’t find one to suit me. I thought I’d just have to stick to a home practice.

But on Jan. 1, 2013, someone recommended I go to the 3-hour practice Sri Dharma offers on New Year’s Day. His yoga center was also offering free vegan food that day so I decided to go.

I walked in and sat close to Sri Dharma. The studio that I now call home was packed and silent. Sri Dharma started the class with closed eyes.

“Boo!” he suddenly yelled, and we got startled then laughed with him.

As we moved through the postures and Sri Dharma spoke, something shifted in me. After class, I told him what a great time I had.

“I saw when you came in here you were skeptical,” Sri Dharma said, then laughed and put an arm around me.

I was amazed that he knew that. And I was also content to have finally found my teacher and my home.

 

HollowbackOmJerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.

Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist