Category Archives: enlightenment

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

Where Most of Us Get Stuck: Understanding the Throat Chakra

By Sara Schwartz 
©Enid Johnstone
 
I once heard someone quote Sri Dharma Mittra and said that ‘most of us are stuck in our throat chakra.’ I’ve always wondered what that meant. With a little bit of research here’s what I came up with:
 
The chakra system is a description of our subtle anatomy and a part of the map of our spirit.
 
The seven chakras form at the intersections of our Ida and Pingala Nadis. These two main Nadis also intersect seven times along the Shashumna Nadi, the central energy channel which runs down our spines. Nadis, subtle energy channels, carry concentrated prana, or vital energy through our systems.
 
The idea is that our Divine Cosmic Energy, also known as Kundalini energy, lays dormant at the base of our spine. This is why our awareness of divine self is also dormant. As we practice, we raise our Kundalini energy from the base of our spines and we experience physical, spiritual, and emotional evolutions. The final destination is for Kundalini to unlock our seventh crown chakra, allowing us to experience enlightenment.
 
Each chakra has physical and spiritual manifestations based on whether it is closed, or if it is open. As the Kundalini rises and your chakras open, you evolve into each of the seven stages. By the time you get to your fifth chakra, your throat chakra, you are fairly evolved.
 
For example, the root chakra at the bottom of our spines deals with our base desires: Our need for food, sleep, and shelter. A person who is stuck at this level of evolution might hurt themselves or others to advance materialistically. A person with an open root chakra does not worry about where the food and money will come from but simply devotes his life to service, knowing the universe will provide.
 
The throat chakra is located somewhere around the base of the throat. A physical manifestation of an open throat chakra is a beautiful, clear, and resonant voice. You might have a good sense of hearing. Your shoulder and neck muscles are relaxed if your throat chakra is open. Physical manifestations of a tight throat chakra would be chronic head colds, thyroid imbalances, a tense neck and shoulders.

The Sanskrit name of the throat chakra is Vishuddha, which means purification. Emotionally, the throat chakra governs expression, so an open and healthy throat chakra means that we are comfortable telling the truth. With an open throat chakra we make sure that our actions serve the greater good and we embody a pure way of living.
 
The good news is that the Life of a Yogi Teaching Training Manual says, “Once one’s consciousness arrives at the Fifth Chakra, it never descends again.” The amount of knowledge it takes to progress up to your fifth chakra prevents you from descending back into ignorance.
 
When your consciousness is in your fifth chakra, your personality is marked by an interest in spiritual seeking. You try to cultivate, “self-denial, self-control, austerity, steadfastness, uprightness, renunciation, dedication, truthfulness and tranquility.” The throat chakra is a good place to be: spiritually aware and seeking, telling the truth, living a pure life.
 
But there is more on the spiritual path beyond the fifth chakra. Once in the sixth chakra, located at the space between your eyebrows, you can glimpse the spirit world in this lifetime.
 
So how can we evolve our consciousness past the throat chakra? Sri Dharma says, “After long and painful spiritual practices such as self-purification, the mind, heart, and intellect are purified and the consciousness is expanded to the level of Divine Perception.”
 
You can start this process of self-purification by watching what you say, and watching what you eat. Sri Dharma often says “If you control what you put into and what comes out of your mouth, you have controlled much of your mind already.” With that in mind, try following a vegan diet for a while, and thinking about what you say before you say it, and perhaps not saying most of what you intend to say.
 
Anodea Judith recommends you take a Vow of Silence to help heal the throat chakra. In her book Wheels of Life,she writes, “By avoiding verbal communication, one can open up other avenues of communication. Namely, communication with higher consciousness.”
 
Mouna, or spiritual silence, is a great way to deepen your connection to the divine. Think of the second yoga sutra of Patanjali: “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.” So to be verbally quiet is a good start to being mentally quiet.
 
To be in the throat chakra evolution-wise is a good sign. And it would make sense that most of us are stuck in the throat chakra because we are sincerely practicing, but maybe not predicting the future quite yet.
 
Om Namo Shivaya! 

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Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training in 2013. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is very grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.

 

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!

 

The Four Building Blocks of Meditation

By Alan C. Haras

 “After mastering the art of concentration, one proceeds to meditate.  The constant practice of meditation leads to realization of self.” Yogi Gupta

©Dharma Yoga Center

The Catholic theologian Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. referred to Meditation, or dhyana, as it is referred to in the Yoga Sutras, as the means through which we connect to the “portion of God dwelling in the center of our chest” – in the spiritual heart.

The various practices of yoga are designed to empower us with the ability to sit still long enough in order for the “mind to settle into silence”, revealing the changeless, eternal Self.


Let’s explore the various components of meditation, using the framework of Father Burghardt’s definition, and the substance of the yogic teachings as passed on by Sri Dharma Mittra.


·        Long


According to SwamiSivananda, concentration, or dharana, is defined as twelve seconds of unbroken focus on one point.  Meditation, or dhyana, is said to be about 2.5 minutes, while samadhi is about thirty minutes.
 

Sri Dharma Mittra emphasizes that the purpose of asana is intended to prepare one to sit in meditation long enough to perceive the Self.  Traditionally, it is said that one should build up to being able to sit for three hours without distraction.  


Of course, progress is made in stages.  Patanjali Maharishi says that, “The practice of yoga will be firmly rooted when it is maintained consistently and with dedication over a long period of time.”  The Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi TeacherTraining Manual reminds us that, “the more one practices, the faster progress is made.” 


·        Loving


In order to persevere in the practice of meditation, one must be motivated by a burning desire for liberation, or mumukshutvaWithout a passion for God or the Self, progress is virtually impossible.  One may be motivated to practice for a time out of fear, or a desire for some benefits, but it is really love which leads us onward, beyond ourselves. 

Patanjali says that samadhi comes from complete surrender to the Almighty One.   Surrender takes place when we love something more than we love our own illusions.  Of the nine different forms of yoga, bhakti yoga is the path of union with the Self through love.  Whether one is devoted to a particular form of God, one’s Guru or the Truth, the spiritual aspirant is spurred on by a love which consumes the small self and draws them into a transforming union with Ultimate Reality.

·        Look


There is a beautiful word in Sanskrit – darshan– which refers both to how one sees things, as well as to actually “to have sight of” something or someone.  When one goes to a temple or to see a Guru, one is going to have darshan.  This kind of “look” is not a stare or a glare, but a gaze, by which one sees beyond the appearance of things into the things into their essence.


This kind of vision is depicted in yogic literature and art as the “third eye” – a vision that sees beyond the apparent duality to the unity we all share.  The yogi is one who lives in two worlds at once – simultaneously aware of multiplicity, while remaining absorbed in the Supreme Self beyond names and forms.  One “sees”, not merely with physical eyes, but with the divine eye, or divya chakshu.


·        Real


When asked what is really Real, the great sage Sri Ramana Maharshi answered, “That which does not change.”  The question we must then ask is, “What does not change?”  We live in a world of constant change.  Change appears to be the only thing we can count on.  However, the yogis assure us that there is a changeless reality, but it is to be found only within.  It is known as the atman – the portion of God residing within our own heart.  This atman, the changeless reality within us, is said to be identical with Brahman– the changeless reality that pervades the entire cosmos.  This Supreme Self is like the movie screen upon which the play of names and forms unfolds, while remaining unstained by any of the moving pictures. 


The practice of meditation establishes us in the role of the eternal witness, observing the movements of the body, mind and emotions, without getting caught in them.  One is able to “do what needs to be done” without being identified with the “doer”, thus allowing the mind to remain absorbed in the Infinite.

1. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Alistair Shearer
2. Fourteen Lessons in Raja Yoga by Swami Sivananda
3. Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training Manual
4. Bhagavad Gita by Swami Nikhilananda.



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Alan Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Michigan State University, is finishing up a two-year training in Spiritual Direction from the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, and is pursuing his Masters in Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.  He has been blessed to spend three years studying Advaita Vedanta with Dr. John Grimes, ten years studying the Jivamukti Yoga method, as well as having spent time in India with the late kirtan-wala and bhakti yogi Shyamdas.  In 2012-13, Alan completed the 200, 500 and 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, made a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  As a teacher, he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to offer “the greatest charity of all” – sharing and promoting spiritual knowledge.

What is a Mantra?

By Alan C. Haras


©Natasha Phillips

In the 3rd and 4thcenturies, many spiritual seekers left Europe and traveled to the Egyptian deserts to approach wise men and women who had been living prayerful lives looking for God.  When they finally arrived at the cell of these wise men and woman (abba or amma), tradition says that these seekers would ask: “Abba, speak to me a word, by which I might have life.” They might then receive a “prayer-word” or some brief instruction.  The pilgrim would take this “word” back with them to their home country and build their spiritual life around this one “word.” 


In the yogic tradition, these “words of power” are called mantras, and they are traditionally whispered into the ear of the disciple by a guru.  The guru is someone who has realized the essence of a mantra.  The Sanskrit word guru actually means “weighty one”.  These gurus have gravitas, and their words carry a lot of weight.  Because the guru has yoked their mind and heart with Truth, when they are approached by a seeker who is humble and sincere, the Truth emerges from them as the perfect thing the student needs to hear to continue their journey.  Indeed, such words give life to the soul who is thirsty for God.


Traditionally, at the time of initiation one receives a mantra, a mala(rosary) and a spiritual name.  The ceremony marks a new birth for that individual into their spiritual family.  But in order to realize the full benefit of the mantra it should be “awakened and put into action.” 



©Jeffrey Vock


Along with receiving the mantra comes both the permission to us it, as well as transference of psychic power from the master.  The mantra contains within it the enlightened wisdom of the spiritual preceptor, and like a zip file, must be unpacked through continued repetition to reveal its full meaning and power.   


 The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit roots – man or manas which refer to the mind/heart, and tra which means “to protect”.  The root tra also means “to cross over” and comes into English words such as “travel” and “traverse”. 


The practice of mantra protects the mind and heart from distraction, and helps us to cross over the discursive mind.


There are many types of mantras.  Some are used to produce specific results – to overcome illness or to achieve worldly success – while others are employed solely for the purpose of Self-realization.

©Jeffrey Vock

Mantras sung in the spirit of devotion, with melody and rhythm, are known as kirtan– the foundational practice of bhakti yoga.  Other mantras are performed silently, like the Hamsa/Soham mantra which is produced effortlessly by the sound of the incoming and outgoing breath.  But the Guru Mantra is given special importance in the world of mantras. 


The mantra given by one’s guru at the time of initiation provides invisible protection for the disciple, and acts like the “red phone” at the White House during the Cold War – it is a direct line to the Supreme. 


Swami Satyasanghananda says that “the mantra is a link between you and the cosmos, between you and the deeper mysteries of the universe.” The specific number of the syllables in the mantra given by the guru is designed to make up for any deficiencies in the disciple’s aura or energetic body.  The more one recites the mantra, the more one gains spiritual wealth.


By establishing the psychic link with the guru through recitation of the mantra, one becomes receptive to spiritual guidance across all planes of existence, and is able to stir the spiritual awareness which resides in one’s spiritual heart.



As Sri Dharma Mittra says, the outer guru shows you how to find the inner guru, situated in the right side of the heart, in the center of the chest.  The practice of mantra is one proven method for gaining access to this sacred chamber of the heart – the goal of all spiritual disciplines.



1.     Yogi Gupta, Yoga and Yogic Powers (New York, Yogi Gupta, 1958), 52 – 62

2.     Swami Satyasanghananda Sarasvati, Light on the Guru and Disciple Relationship, 101
3.     Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, (Paraclete Press) quote taken from Introduction.

4.     Maha Sadhana bySri Dharma Mittra (DVD) – Spiritual Discourses, The Importance of a Teacher



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Alan Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Michigan State University, is finishing up a two-year training in Spiritual Direction from the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, and is pursuing his Masters in Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.  He has been blessed to spend three years studying Advaita Vedanta with Dr. John Grimes, ten years studying the Jivamukti Yoga method, as well as having spent time in India with the late kirtan-wala and bhakti yogi Shyamdas.  In 2012-13, Alan completed the 200, 500 and 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, made a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  As a teacher, he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to offer “the greatest charity of all” – sharing and promoting spiritual knowledge.

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.


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.