Category Archives: divine

Om: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Too Afraid To Ask

By Kali Om (Cara Jepsen)
 
“Brahman is Om, this whole world is Om.” ~ Taittirya Upanishad
“Om is the bow; atman is the arrow; Brahman is said to be the mark. It is to be struck by an undistracted mind. Then atman becomes one with Brahman, as an arrow with the target.” ~ Mandukya Upanishad

 

Mispronounced, misunderstood, and misconstrued, the sacred Om, or Aum, is the root of all mantras and contains all the sounds in the world. Yogis believe the Aum is one and the same as Brahman, or the ultimate reality underlying the phenomenal world.
But sometimes the meaning – and pronunciation – can get lost. A couple of years ago, I was waiting for a large class to end so I could teach a workshop. The class finally finished with three loud, wall-shaking “Ums.” Not the “Aum” that rhymes with “home,” but “Um,” which rhymes with “thumb.”
The Aum and all the mantras that spring from it are like asanas for the mouth and should be pronounced with care and concentration as well as with proper motivation, faith, devotion, and understanding. In the scriptures, the Om or Aum is also referred to as the Pranava, Omkara , and Udgita .
According to yogis, the sound and form of Aum is the same as God. The Rig Veda says, “In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was the Word, and the Word was truly the supreme Brahman.” The Bible says something similar: “In the beginning was the Word” and “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Most mantras begin and end with Aum; it is the highest of all mantras or divine words, as well as Brahman itself. In the Bhagavad Gita , Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable Om. I am also the Rig, the Sama and the Yajur Vedas.”
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also state that the Aum is Isvara , or God: “The sacred word designating this creative source is the sound OM, called Pranava. This sound is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents. From that remembering comes the realization of the individual Self and the removal of obstacles.”
Because the Aum is considered to be one and the same as God by many yogis and Hindus, it should be treated with respect. Having it tattooed on the foot or ankle or printed on a pant leg or across the buttocks or on shoes or a meditation cushion or a yoga mat (where the feet step on it), or placing the Om symbol on the floor are considered highly disrespectful by many Hindus and yogis. Knowingly offending others in this way is a violation of ahimsa, or non-harming.
The Aum has four parts:
  • The first is the “A,” which sounds like the “a” in father and is pronounced in the throat, with the mouth wide open. It is usually fairly short.
  •   The second is the long, loud “U,” which rhymes with shoe and is pronounced with the mouth actively shaped like an “O”–not with a slack mouth. The sound rolls over the tongue.
  • Then the mouth slowly closes and the sound becomes the “M,” which is pronounced mmmm with the lips together, creating a pleasant vibration.
  • The fourth is the silence that follows. My guru, Sri Dharma Mittra, says that during the silence one should focus on the vibration behind the forehead and repeat Om mentally.

The three parts of the Aum represent the three states in the manifest world:
  • the A is the waking state (represented by the bottom curve of the Aum symbol);
  • the U is the dreaming state (the middle curve);
  • and the M is the state of deep, dreamless sleep (the top curve).
  • The silence that follows represents the fourth state or turiya –pure consciousness, the goal of yoga. It is represented by the bindu , or dot, at the top, while the curve separating it from the rest of the Om symbolizes maya , or illusion.

The Aum also relates to the three bodies:
  • the A is the gross body;
  •  the U is the subtle body;
  • and the M represents the causal body.

It also contains the three gunas , or qualities of the phenomenal world that are constantly shifting: A is rajas (action), U is sattva (harmony), and M is tamas (inertia). Finally, Aum represents the Hindu trinity: the A is creation or Brahma, the U is preservation or Vishnu, and M is dissolution, or Lord Shiva.
Yogis believe that what you are thinking of when you die is where you will go next. So if you only learn one mantra in this lifetime, let it be the Aum, which represents the supreme goal. If Aum is always on your lips when you are alive, it will be in your mind when you pass.
As the Bhagavad Gita says, “He who closes all the doors to the senses, confines the mind within the heart, draws the prana into the head, and engages in the practice of yoga, uttering Om, the single syllable denoting Brahman, and meditates on Me – he who so departs, leaving the body, attains the Supreme Goal.”
Aum Meditation – learned directly from Sri Dharma Mittra
There are many Aum meditations. This one is suitable for all levels.
Face east or north. Sit tall on the floor or a chair, with the back of the neck in line with the spine. Inhale, and exhale, create a long, loud, resonant Aum. The mouth is wide open during the A, in the shape of an “O” during the U, with the lips coming together for the M (the M should last for at least one third of the Aum). Then remain silent and do an internal mental Aum, while focusing on the vibration between the eyebrows, behind the forehead. Then repeat – a verbal Aum, followed by a mental Aum. Keep repeating for ten minutes. This practice stimulates the pituitary gland, activates the sixth sense, and is an antidote to depression.
Kali Om (Cara Jepsen), E-RYT 500, lives in Chicago, where she has been teaching yoga since 1998. She first studied with Sri Dharma Mittra, in 1999, and has completed his 200, 500 and 800-hour teacher trainings. She also studied five times in India with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and has completed trainings in Hormone Yoga Therapy, therapeutics, senior yoga and ashtanga vinyasa yoga.  She also specializes in yoga for back care, yoga for depression, and yoga for menopause. She will lead a yoga and meditation retreat in Belize February 9-16 in near Chicago April 12-13.  For more information, visit www.yogikaliom.com or e-mail kaliom108@yahoo.com.
    

   

Why read the Dhammapada?

by Fay Inger
 
©Enid Johnstone
 
When reading through the Dhammapada, I found that many verses resonated with me and I wonder if this is because I read the verses with yogi colored glasses because I studied with Sri Dharma Mittra
 
When a modern day Guru such as Sri Dharma recommends a book, it makes it less obscure and more approachable. Certainly, many verses touched upon themes I learned in the Life of a Yogi (LOAY) Teacher Training program, and when reading, I imagined seeing Sri Dharma’s face with a glimmer in his eye! 
 
Because of the similarities between the words of the Buddha and Sri Dharma, it is no wonder that Sri Dharma recommends this text as an important read for any new or experienced yogi. 

 
There is a misconception that you must be a Buddhist or a person on a spiritual path seeking enlightenment to study the texts. In reality, this text is an important read regardless of one’s religious affiliation, because it transcends religion. In fact, there is no mention of religion at all. The book is not about religion or a higher power; it is about empowering the reader to be his or her best possible version by realizing that all the power is already within. (As I type this, I am aware of the strong correlation with how Sri Dharma encourages students to find their inner Guru). 

 
Jack Kornfield, who wrote the foreword of the Gil Fronsdal translation of the Dhammapada, himself touches upon this very concept in the introduction, where he points out the contrast between the opening verse in the bible and the opening verses in the Dhammapada. As the author points out, the bible “emphasize God’s role as creator and, by extension, our reliance on God’s power.” This implies that we are weak in God’s shadow. Conversely, the Dammapada reflects “the importance and effectiveness of a person’s own actions and choices.” This observation highlights how we are in charge of our own path and indeed, the masters of our own destinies. The entirety of the text is reminding us of this fact in every capacity and function. 

 
As the Buddha points out in the very first verse, it is our minds. “All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind.” This sentiment reflects that Sri Dharma taught us that it is not we who are “bad,” it is our minds. It’s an important distinction, as it allows the individual freedom from our own thoughts and therefore actions – not to shirk responsibility of our deeds, but rather as a way to reflect on our own thoughts and regulate them before they turn into actions. 

 
According to the Buddha, our very experiences start with the mind! Is it any wonder, then, that when going into a situation thinking it will be bad, it usually is? To tie this into asana: if, before attempting a posture, the thought is, “there’s no way I can do that,” you are right and it will indeed be impossible to do.  Sri Dharma, in his infinite wisdom has said, “If you can bend your mind, you can bend your body.”  How liberating then to take ownership over your own experiences! 

 

 
The verse that I believe sums up the blueprint to living the life of a yogi is found in Chapter two, verse 25: “Through effort, vigilance, restraint and self control, the wise person can become an island no flood will overwhelm.” This is a powerful lesson to heed, as it sums up so much of Sri Dharma’s teachings. The Yamas and Niyamas, making an effort in asana — regardless of what happens around you, inside you are unchanged. This is essentially the same lesson from the Buddha to Sri Dharma just in different words! This concept is again reflected in Chapter 3 verse 38: “For those who are unsteady of mind, who do not know true Dharma, and whose serenity wavers, wisdom does not mature.” In essence, if you want to be wise, the reader is given the exact route to take to achieve wisdom.  It is through steadying the mind, finding your Dharma and becoming serene. And the ultimate goal is to conquer oneself. 
 
According to the Buddha: “Greater in combat than a person who conquers a thousand times a thousand people is the person who conquers herself.” 

 
And if one is simple and does not wish to be wise or to conquer him/her self? The Buddha has a blueprint for this person as well: “Doing no evil, engaging in what’s skillful, and purifying one’s mind: This is the teaching of the buddhas.” 

 
I find this book to be a perfect companion to Sri Dharma’s teachings for a student like myself who is across the country from the center, or for a student who has never participated in a LOAY teacher training. While the words are different, the direction and ultimate goal is the same. If it is mastery of the self one is seeking, then the Dhammapada is a text that will help set one on the right path. 

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Fay Inger is a 800-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga instructor living in Los Angeles, California. Fay is a private yoga instructor, writes blog posts on yoga and wellness and is learning nutrition to better help her students reach their health and fitness goals. As she always says, “yoga is a gift” and it is her favorite gift to share!

 

15 Truths I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra

By Sorsha Anderson


Picture by Natasha Phillips
  1. To make progress you must learn to do three things: Fast, keep silent and wait
  2. Breathe as slowly as possible for an hour and watch your cravings disappear. 
  3. See yourself in the practice you are not able to access right now.  Imagine yourself in it.   
  4. Do the work.  Not because you expect results, but because it’s work that needs to be done.  
  5. In the beginning, do the poses any way you can. 

  6. You can become king of the gods by watching…
  7. Cultivate compassion–the rest will come. 
  8. Expect nothing.  Do it because it has to be done. 
  9. Avoiding discipline is a trick of the mind.  It enjoys its pleasures.  The mind will throw you down.  It is powerful. 
  10. There is no ‘mine’.  Where there is ‘mine’, there is bondage.
  11. Be kind to all beings.  Everyone passes through the same obstacles.
  12. You can reach higher states with drugs, but there is a blackness behind it.  You despair because you know you cannot get there without the help.  When you achieve higher states with meditation, you feel bliss because you realize no one can take it from you.
  13. Yoga is…perfect obedience to the teacher.
  14. Drop the elbows. Don’t think!  Forearm stand!
  15. After enlightenment, there are plenty of exciting jobs for you to do! 



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Sorsha Anderson is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher who 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.


The Tool of the Divine

By Elle Swan 

Sitting behind a dumpster as a homeless woman is where I first experienced the self-less nature of Karma yoga. The LOAY Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra gave a name to the moment that forever changed my life. 


Karma yoga is often defined as being a “tool of the Divine.” There was no hope in my life that day as I sat in that alley and the woman– who I have never seen again and who wanted nothing in return– assisted in shifting the course of my hopeless life. 

She was on her way to work when our paths crossed. She was getting gas and I was standing there begging for change. A few people tossed dimes and pennies my way, which ultimately led to a can of beer. More than a decade ago, it would be my last drink, thanks to a woman who allowed herself to be used by the force that holds this world in place.  


Instead of getting in her car and heading to the responsibilities of her day, she turned around and asked me if I needed help. She took me to safety and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today, as I speak to audiences around the world, I’m often asked her name.  I never got her name, but I will never forget her spirit. Her soul touched mine, and, as a yogi, I try on a daily basis to let my actions in some way demonstrate the self-less love I experienced that fateful day.

Thank you, Sri Dharma Mittra, for introducing me to the appropriate meaning of such a beautiful term: Karma Yoga.



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For years, Elle Swan wanted to die and couldn’t. Her darkest days left her addicted to drugs and alcohol, 67 pounds overweight, penniless and living on the streets of California. On May 29th 2000, during an overdose in an abandoned van, her misery merged with death and Elle suddenly crossed over. “But, when your soul knows you belong here,” she says, “it won’t let you go.” Her miraculous journey from deprivation and despair, to a life filled with inner peace is a miracle, and she truly believes she was given a second chance. Her dramatic personal transformation unfolded into quest for knowledge in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Yoga, Nutrition, and Hypnosis. The synthesis of these modalities combined with her near death experience shapes her uncanny ability to pin point lasting solutions to teach others how to make a comeback in their own lives. Today Elle Swan is a Life Coach and speaks all over the world. Her story and strategies have been featured on TV and in The Wall Street Journal. Elle attended the Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Program in 2011 and is in the process of becoming a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher.

Ten Ways to Establish a Home Practice

By Jessica Gale

Moving to a new city and being short on cash, I realized it was time to establish my home practice. I was spoiled for the last 3 years with CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, New York, literally down the street from me. However, last May after finishing my Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training, I knew it was now or never.
After almost a year, I find myself at a happy medium. I enjoy my solitary practice and it’s become a habit in my life. I’m still far from the ideal practice I have envisioned in my mind, but I’m satisfied with the direction it’s going in. 

Here is what I learned:  
1.     Have clear goals
Why do you want to establish your own self practice? What sets it apart from your classes? What do you want to learn? Having defined reasons and goals before setting out helps you keep yourself focused and motivated.
2.    Practice even if you don’t have the ideal space
I like to practice in quiet, but sometimes my partner comes home earlier than expected. Sometimes the kids in the downstairs apartment are screaming. Sometimes it’s extremely hot in my apartment in the summer. These are not excuses. They are challenges.  Don’t make your practice so sacred there is no room for regular life to come in. Strive for a quiet, peaceful, and comfortable space to practice in, but take what comes in stride.
3.     Hold poses for three counts longer
Because you’re not in class, waiting for the teacher to make adjustments before the next pose, it is easy to speed through your practice. Slow down, breathe, and take at least three extra counts.
4.    Change up your routine
Although repetition can be an important part of yoga, boredom is a quick way to make quitting a new goal all the easier. There are literally hundreds of yoga poses and their variations, dozens of breathing techniques, and several mantras & meditations Dharma Yoga offers. All of these offer different benefits. Depending on your abilities you may be limited to certain poses, but there are still ways to change things up to offset tedium.
5.     Don’t forget pranayama and meditation
When time is short and you’re trying to fit in your practice, don’t skip breathing exercises and meditation! With yoga, we sometimes get so caught up in all the poses that we forget the incredible benefits of the other limbs. I like to remind myself what the ultimate goal of yoga is—stillness and union. Pranayama and meditation are essential to that final goal.
6.    Keep your mat by your side
I try to always bring my yoga mat with me when I travel. Sometimes it’s hard to find time and a space. Sometimes you’re surrounded by people. However, I look at this as an opportunity to share yoga with others by including family and friends in my practice, even just for sun salutations. They are likely curious what you’re up to—this is a great chance and a way to fit in your practice.
7.     Add yoga practice to your exercise routine
I took up running recently and find that yoga and running complement each other very well. They particularly fit together in my exercise routine.  Consider how you can include your asana into your other exercise. I find that a post run yoga practice is perfect for me.
8.    Do something, not nothing
If you have an hour—practice. Thirty minutes—practice. Fifteen—practice. Five—practice. Even a few sun salutations, a breathing exercise, and sitting quiet for a moment can be beneficial.
9.    It’s okay if you miss one day—just don’t let it become habit
Sometimes my day passes so swiftly, I realize I forgot to practice yoga. Sometimes things will be really crazy and I’ll miss two or three days. The important thing is I try not to let that become a habit. The more days pass between your last and your next self practice—the harder it will be to pick it up again.
10.                         Remember ahimsa, have compassion for yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you run out of time or are simply too exhausted. Start the next day afresh and enjoy the time you do have to practice yoga.
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Jessica Gale has practiced yoga for nine years and studied Ashtanga, Kripalu and Dharma Yoga during this time. She spent the last three years studying intensely at CNY Yoga (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, New York and completed her LOAY 200-hour teacher training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in May 2012. She is currently completing her internship hours and hopes to achieve full certification soon. Jessica lives in Toronto with her husband and is pursuing a career in environmental work along with flower farming, garden design, and, of course, yoga.

The Healing Powers of Yoga

By Barb Cooper

I tell everyone who asks that yoga has been a healing miracle for me.
In 2007, I had reconstructive foot surgery. Something – no one knows quite what – went wrong during the surgery and I was left in increasingly excruciating, chronic pain, eventually unable to leave the couch, for more than three years. It was awful. I’m on the other side of that pain now and it’s hard to describe exactly how terrible it was. Let me just say that I was so desperate for relief that I looked into elective amputation, among other things. (It turns out that we don’t do elective amputation in this country. I’m pretty glad of that now, but at the time I was distraught.)
It’s not that my doctors weren’t trying to find something to give me relief. I had so many steroid shots that I developed a bleeding hole in my retina. “I’m afraid this may just be as a good as it gets,” said my podiatrist as he handed me a form to submit for a handicapped parking permit. On it, he had checked the box for “permanent disability.”
And then, I’m still not sure why, I got off the couch and made my way to a Dharma I class taught at the martial arts studio where my daughter took taekwondo. It seems an unlikely setting for a miracle, but that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t just that the physical asana practice allowed me to regain the suppleness in my foot that was necessary in order to walk without pain.  It was also that, for the first time in my life, I had found something that allowed me to live in my body, in my brain, and in my spirit all at the same time.
Some changes in my life were immediate. As soon as I began to have stretches of time without pain, I began to notice and eliminate anything that took the edge off of my joy.  So I stopped drinking alcohol and weaned off of the lobotomizing anti-depressants I was taking. I grew stronger. I lost weight. Eventually, I needed harder and more yoga classes than I could find at the martial arts studio, so my teacher took me to HIS local yoga teacher, who was also trained by Sri Dharma Mittra. (This one act epitomizes the generosity and love I have found pervasive in the yogis I have met who are associated with Sri Dharma Mittra.) At the new studio, I found my current practice. I stopped eating meat and then became a vegan, and eventually went through the Life of a Yogi 200-Hour teacher training at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City. I’m now finishing up my requirements to be certified as a teacher, because I’m pretty sure that when you are given a miracle, you’re supposed to share it.
Yoga has transformed my life in ways I never thought possible. It has not only healed me physically, but it has given me a new way of being in the world.
I’m not the only one. Recently, the International Journal of Yogapublished a paper compiling research on the therapeutic benefits of yoga on various conditions, both mental and physical.
“Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions and involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent, reduce, or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Results from this study show that yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.”
In another article published in Yoga Journal, medical editor Timothy McCall, MD, compiled 38 ways that yoga can positively affect one’s health, concluding:
“This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected—your hipbone to your anklebone, you to your community, your community to the world. This interconnection is vital to understanding yoga. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.”
Studies providing scientific evidence of the healing power of yoga have been around for decades, but our Western culture has been slow to embrace them. 
“There’s a common perception in the minds of conventional scientists: Yoga is either trivialized as something for cosmetic purposes to slim your butt, or it’s perceived as a goofy, New Agey, ‘out there’ kind of practice,” says Sat Bir Khalsa, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. “If you can find a pill that fixes something, that’s golden. Everybody wants that. What’s not sexy is the stuff that makes the most sense—lifestyle research. And yoga is really all about changing your lifestyle.” Although progress is being made, he says, it is slow. Of the 46,000 large projects currently funded by the National Institutes of Health, fewer than 10 involve yoga.
While Western science isn’t rushing to prove the healing benefits of yoga, yoga practitioners are reaching out for the information on their own. A significant number of the attendees at the recent Life of a Yogi 200-Hour teacher training weren’t there in order to become teachers – many were already certified in other styles and had been teaching for years – but instead, had enrolled in the program to deepen their own practices and to understand the lifestyle and yogic rituals of Sri Dharma Mittra. Sri Dharma is a very humble, gentle man with an essence of something much larger, of a purpose bigger than he is. Inner peace is his default way of being in the world. People gravitate to that naturally as an antidote to their current frenetic lifestyles.
I see it in the Dharma I classes that I am teaching, too.  People are finding their way to yoga almost instinctively, a number of them hoping that they will find healing for their physical issues, and an even greater number seeking respite from the increasingly chaotic and stressful world in which we live. The lack of inner turmoil and ego, and the connectedness to a deeply spiritual practice, are things that attract seekers of a different way of life to the traditions of Dharma Yoga. 
As for me, yoga healed my body and continues to heal my spirit.  Which, in the end, may be the true miracle in my life.
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Barb Cooperis a 48-year-old mother of two girls, a Texas-to-New York transplant, and a writer by nature and training. She completed the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi  Teacher Training program with Sri Dharma Mittra in February 2013, and is currently working on fulfilling the requirements for certification. She is healthier, and happier, than at any other time in her life.

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.

Are You a REAL Yoga Teacher?


By Melody Abella

As part of the 2012 Arts Festival Day at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, my friend & fellow Dharma Yoga teacher, Brittanie DeChino, and I volunteered to do a few yoga demonstrations to third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. 
 We taught them sound breathing (a breathing technique we learned from Sri Dharma Mittra), sun salutations, balancing poses, partner yogaand a few other fun things. It was a nice change from my daily office yoga gigs.
At the end of each 20-minute presentation, we opened it up for a few questions from the kids. In the last group, which was about 75 fifth-graders, one girl asked: “Are you real  yoga teachers?” Of course, we said with a smile. “We are real yoga teachers.” Though now I’m thinking, what is a realyoga teacher?
From an educational standpoint in the United States, the Yoga Alliance defines the educational requirements to be considered a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with their organization. Is being an RYT enough to be considered a real yoga teacher? I say no. In fact, you can become a RYT and not ever teach an actual yoga class. Or you can become a RYT and teach yoga classes every day – though I don’t think whether you teach yoga classes or not makes you a real yoga teacher either.
To me what makes a real yoga teacher is someone who shows up in life doing their best in every moment. Someone who shows up in life for other people – helping others, giving to others, and not expecting anything in return (AKA Karma Yoga). Someone who inspires others naturally through their actions.
To me a real yoga teacher honors the universal vows of yama (sutra 2.30) and niyama (sutra 2.32). And if a “teacher” only follows the first yama of ahimsa (nonviolence in thought, word and action), to me they are a realyoga teacher.
To quote my teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra: “Without ahimsa, there is no yoga.” He’s right. How we treat others is way more important than whether we can put our legs behind our head…
A real yoga teacher takes time to pause daily –whether it’s to move (asana), meditate, or just simply open a yoga text, like The Yoga Sutrasor The Bhagavad Gita, and reflect.

A real yoga teacher is a truth seeker – someone who is following their heart and sharing from the heart. As Sri Dharma always says, the goal of yoga is self-realization.
So how is yoga related to art (a question posed by one bright fourth-grader later that day)? Brittanie explained to her that practicing yoga calms you, which creates space within you, opening you up to endless amounts of creativity. And as I type this, I realize that teaching yoga is an art, just as living yoga is an artistic journey. Both take constant practice, dedication and an open heart to whatever and whoever shows up in the moment. Isn’t this all art?
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Passionate about sharing the power of yoga & its transformational benefits, Melody Abella founded a mobile yoga business (abellaYoga) in 2006. abellaYoga travels to corporate and private clients in Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington, VA to teach yoga in homes, offices, hotels, and conference centers. Grateful for experiences gained in the telecom/tech corporate world, this ex-marketing yoga-chick is happy to share all she knows about yoga. Believing through discipline and devotion we have the power within to make positive changes in our bodies, lives and this world, Melody teaches her students “anything is possible”. Or as Sri Dharma Mittra says you must have “angry determination.” Melody received her 500-hour Dharma Yoga Teacher certification in May 2012. She continues to hop the train from DC to NYC monthly to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.