Category Archives: healing

Reflections on a “Life of a Yogi” 500-Hour Teacher Training

By Rachel Carr

First: if you have the chance to take a class with Sri Dharma Mittra then do. He’s a true yogi and taking class from him has transformed my life in so many ways.

Second: if you’ve ever wanted to push, pull and stretch yourself in amazing ways (big and small) then consider taking the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training offered at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC. You may just be surprised by what you uncover about yourself and your practice.

Third: teacher trainings are intense. They are designed that way in order to shake you up and wake you up. The days I spent immersed in Dharma Yoga were amazing, but also the most challenging of my yoga practice to date. At the conclusion of day one, after we spent 12 hours practicing pranayama and asana and learning new sequences, I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this for the next seven days?” It all seemed so daunting and my mind flooded with so many doubts. “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. I just want to go home and be comfortable.” But I kept pushing because, deep in my heart, I knew it was where I needed to be in order to evolve personally and professionally. Somehow, whether by willpower or fierce determination, I made it through the rest of the training relatively unscathed and those feelings of doubt slowly slipped away.

LOAY_Trainee_class

The First Module:

What came out of my first module of teacher training? There were many realizations, but here are a few.

Although I hate to admit, I realized that I had seriously neglected my personal practice. My practice has always been a place of rejuvenation for me and I had let that slip. How? Frankly, I’m doing too much, saying yes too many times and giving so much energy and care through my teaching to the well-being of others that I have completely neglected my own well-being. So, after the first module I decided to step back a bit and make time for my own practice so I can be a better teacher for my students.

Yoga, when done correctly and with experienced and qualified teachers, is incredibly healing and I needed this training to remind me! When I left for the training I had some digestive discomfort that I was working to tame. At some point during my asana and pranayama practice, it went away, and even though I got a head cold while I was there, my digestion was never better, my skin cleared up and random bouts of anxiety slipped away. Sri Dharma says, “With constant practice comes success.” It’s true. If you want to see the benefits, you have to do the practice.

Coming home there was lots of homework to follow, including daily pranayama, meditation and asana practice. At times I felt overwhelmed with getting the practice in as well as my other commitments, but Sri Dharma’s words keep ringing in my ears. “Do it because it needs to be done.” 

Namaskarasana

The second module:

The second immersion week of my teacher training was just as amazing, but far more challenging than the first.  Given the success of the first immersion and my dutiful attention to the inter-module homework, I felt ready for the second half of the training in December. Leaving my family right after the Thanksgiving holiday was hard, but I was ready for the endeavor. However, all that preparedness came to a screeching halt about 45 minutes in to asana practice on the first day when I was feeling so out of sorts that I left and started crying uncontrollably in the bathroom. My body was heavy and foreign to me as I moved through the practice. I felt like my world shifted and I didn’t know which way was up. After class was over, I spoke with a mentor and felt better knowing that I was not the only one feeling out of sorts that day. Maybe the holidays had a greater effect on me than I’d realized?

I kept telling myself that if I made it through the first four days, I would be okay. However, the first days of the training were some of the hardest of my yoga career! Physically I started to feel much better about things, but my ego was literally crawling out of my body and demanded we leave right then and there. I did not give in, although I thought about it a lot, because I know that when things get really tough, the good stuff starts happening, so I kept moving forward, doing the work that needed to be done and reflecting on what was coming up for me from practice. Was this some sort of ego detox, I wondered? I don’t have that answer, but I do know I felt defeated on so many levels that at some points I felt so paralyzed by it all that I could barely move on my mat.

Luckily, two very good friends came to visit mid-way through the week. It didn’t take much, but a hug and a friendly hello from two close outsiders of the training made my heart so happy I nearly burst. Also, the amazing mentors and teachers of the LOAY program kept pulling me forward. They were always open and ready to help me through anything, patiently listening and helping me observe the onslaught of internal messages I felt overwhelmed by at times.

Sri_Dharma_Mittra

Sri Dharma is always there to remind me of what I need to hear at just the right time. Every day I listened intently to his discourse and instructions. The more my ego calmed down, the easier it was to take in, and the more being there made sense. I truly felt that “everything was perfect.”

The last four days of the training were just as intense, however, less so emotionally for me. I still struggled with some asanas, but my body didn’t feel as heavy any longer. I didn’t realize this until the end of the week, but I had become so strong from the inter-module homework, that I rarely felt sore and injured. I even started moving my mat up front for practice. I think it’s best to sit close to Sri Dharma if possible. I was coming out of my shell…finally.

On the second to last day we participated in an inversion clinic. Inversions are not my strongest area, but I’m determined to work on them. In the beginning of the workshop I started to get really anxious. However, my partner was very supportive as we worked though the exercises together. In fact, all of my fellow trainees were so supportive that I started having fun again as we “played” with asana instead of “working” on them.

Maha_Sadhana

On the final day I got up the nerve and mentioned to a mentor just how nervous inversions make me and to my surprise, he helped me out through practice for so many inversions I am now confidently practicing on my own. It only took eight full days of training, but I had a breakthrough! Of course, there’s more work to be done, but I was happy I finally let go because when I do, amazing things always happen. In our final Satsang, I sang my heart out and felt so light and joyous. I was sad to leave, but at the same time I was ready to come home.

Thirty days home and I miss my Sangha dearly. It was hard jumping back in to practice and the holidays made it even more difficult, but, as always, I am striving to do my best. I continue to have many breakthroughs and worry less about how well I do some of asana as opposed to the journey they provide me. I’m stronger and feel more grounded now than ever before and continue to learn more and more about myself through this amazing practice and the teachings of dearest Sri Dharmaji.

(All pictures by Jeffrey Vock. This post first appeared on the blog Capricious Yogi.)

Rachel CarrRachel Carr E-RYT 200, RPYT is a DC based yoga teacher currently working on her 500-Hour LOAY certification with Sri Dharma Mittra. She completed an inter-disciplinary 200-Hour yoga Teacher Training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.

Why I Love Teaching Yoga

By Alexis Corchado 
I’ve always been told that I have a natural teaching ability… So after a while, I accepted this opinion as fact and majored in Elementary Education in college and substitute taught as well. 
 
But my major of choice became a drag and substitute teaching on and off for ten years in one of the worst school districts in the country wore my patience very thin. Many times amidst the chaos of the classroom I wondered to myself, “Why aren’t you teaching something you truly love with individuals that will appreciate your effort and commitment and in a loving and nurturing environment?” It was time for change and the immediacy could no longer be ignored.
 
Fast forward to spring of this year when the decision for change was finally made. After being re-acquainted with Yoga after a few year hiatus, it dawned on me: This is it! This is that “thing” I had been searching for.
 
I had instantly fallen in love with Dharma Yoga because I felt as though this was the Yoga of millennia ago; it felt authentic, natural and classical and I was in a state of fascination after that first asana class with Sri Dharma Mittra. It took me a nanosecond to decide that not only would I be a student at the Dharma Yoga Center, but that I would also enroll in the next Life of a Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training scheduled. I decided then and there that I would teach Yoga and I knew that this would bring me joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

©Jeffrey Vock
 
Upon completing the LOAY Teacher Training (which was an experience worthy of its own blog post!), I was profoundly changed physically, mentally and spiritually and I was ready to take the gift of knowledge imparted to me by Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga teachers and share it with the world, or at very least anyone receptive to yoga!
 
As I sit here typing these words, I know that it was a wise decision to pursue Yoga as a vocation. 
 
So what is it that I love most about teaching Yoga? 
  • I find great enjoyment in sharing that which has impassioned me. Yoga has become my life to a significant extent. It is a love affair of sorts, and having the opportunity to expose another to the subject of my new found love is priceless.
  • I’m sure many teachers can relate to the incomparable feeling of taking a newcomer to the practice, (one who is usually full of judgments and reservations) and completely changing their outlook at the end of a class.
  • I’ve experienced with my students a shift in their perspective as well as their new found body and health awareness. I’ve observed long held misconceptions shatter and this fills me with a tremendous sense of contentment.
  • But it is the progress I observe in my students practice that is perhaps the reason I most love teaching Yoga.  In just a couple of classes I’ve seen students with very little flexibility and strength improve drastically. It is a wonder to share this with the students, some who have a tendency towards pessimism about their own abilities.
  • But Yoga being far from just a physical experience has also provided my students with a sense of what can be and what is possible on the mental and spiritual planes. I’ve taught public school teachers, who are some of the most stressed out individuals I have ever taught, and heard their praise of the limitless fruits of relaxation and gentle Pranayama. They speak of their sense of being transported to a different place, one where life is allowed to play itself out free of constraints created by time or obligations.
  • I’ve observed my students roll up their mats less jittery and unhappy than they were one hour previous. For 15 minutes at the end of class they experience a little slice of bliss. The fact that I facilitate this experience is one that I don’t take for granted no matter how many times it happens.
  • Yoga is amazing because it is a form of therapy for the teacher also.  When I’m fully present and in the teaching zone, not talking too much and giving my students the space to experience their poses, I find myself losing track of time and my own mental preoccupations. It’s just my students, their mats, and I, in one cohesive unit.
©Jeffrey Vock
 

As I complete my internship, I find myself increasingly excited about the prospect of teaching Yoga on a more full time basis. The more I teach the more aware of my student’s needs I become. Whether it’s the ongoing process of simplifying cues, offering variations to practitioners with different needs, or learning the art of pacing within a class, the challenge of instructing Yoga within itself is an element that makes me love teaching it even more.

The fruit of Yoga manifests itself in a myriad ways: confidence, physical and mental health, and a sense of who we really are beneath the veil of Maya, or illusion, are increased and nourished by this ancient practice. Being a guide for individuals on this path is what makes being a teacher of Yoga one of the noblest professions. Oh, and not many jobs allow you to come to the workplace in Prana Pants and a tank top 🙂 

 

Alexis Corchado lives in Union, New Jersey. He has been practicing Yoga for about a year and is in the internship phase of his LOAY 200-hour Teacher Training. Off the mat you can find him playing in the mountains or on the beach or dancing the night away to Salsa and Merengue. Nature is his biggest inspiration and having a sense of place is part of his passion. Alexis is forever grateful for the presence of Dharma Yoga, and all that it represents, in his life.  
 
 

Kriyas to Help Soothe Nasal Congestion

By  Liz Schindler 

 

Kriyas are ancient cleansing techniques designed to purify both the physical and spiritual bodies. The kriyas are effective processes that facilitate both physical and subtle purity. Purity, or Saucha, is one of the niyamas or yogic observances that yogis strive to achieve.
Some kriyas are morning practices, preceding pranayama and asana, and often facilitate clearing of the nasal passages, the digestive system and the psychic channels, as well as help ready the system for morning sadhana (practice). The kriyas shared here are especially helpful during allergy and flu/cold season to remove phlegm, clear the sinuses and airways and alleviate sinus pressure. For best results perform these kriyas daily.
Jala Neti
Jala neti is possibly the most widespread of the kriyas in the west. It consists of rinsing the nasal passageway with lukewarm saline solution or salt water, by using a small pot with a long spout to send the solution in one nostril and out the other. Neti pots are available in most drug stores, as are pre-mixed packets made for mixing with warm water and pre-measured for a net pot.
Jala neti clears the nasal passages, thins mucus and decreases the intensity of inflammation, making it very helpful in easing symptoms of allergies and sinus congestion and/or sinus pressure from a cold or flu. Jala neti also helps to flush the tear ducts, clearing mucus and debris from the eyes. Jala neti is associated with the ajna chakra or third eye and may help fine tune intuition, concentration and visualization.
Method:
 
1) Warm some purified water in a kettle and test the warmth on the inside of the wrist or forearm. The water should be a comfortable warm temperature and not too hot. Next fill the neti pot and mix in either one pre-mixed store-bought nasal rinse of your choice or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
 
2) To rinse the nasal passages, stand over a sink in front of a mirror and tilt your forehead forward. Begin by placing the spout in the right nostril, tilting the head slightly to the left and pouring the solution into the right nostril. You may feel pressure at first but the water will slowly start to come out of the left nostril, sweeping out debris in it’s path and clearing the nasal passageways. After pouring about one half the contents of the pot, switch nostrils and reverse the rinsing process.
 
3) When you’ve emptied the pot perform a few exhalations through the nostrils to remove any leftover solution. Restrain from holding the nostrils and blowing the nose as this may force water and pressure into the ears.
 
4) Next, fold forward and left the head hang as you perform a few more exhalations through the nostrils. All water should be drained from the nostrils to avoid infection.

 

Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is both pranayama as well as a kriya, and an element of a daily practice for many yogis. Translated as “skull shining breath,” it is renowned for powerfully cleansing the entire respiratory system. Sri Dharma Mittra recommends practicing two rounds of kapalabhati daily for all those living in a large city because it is an excellent way to rid the airways and lungs of pollutants. In addition to cleansing the respiratory system, it offers the benefits of oxygenating the blood, clearing the mind, strengthening the abdominal muscles and diaphragm and is a simple warm up for any pranayama practice. Kapalabhati is the opposite of natural breathing as it consists of forceful exhalations and passive inhalations. Kapalabhati is a very powerful practice and is not recommended for those with heart disease, high blood pressure, a hernia or during an asthma attack.
Click here for a short demonstration: Kapalabhati 

Method:
 
1) Find a comfortable sitting position and a tall spine. Begin by passively inhaling or taking in just half of a normal breath through the nose. Exhale forcefully through both nostrils as you push the abdomen back vigorously (note: it may be helpful for beginners to place one hand on the abdomen to feel the correct sensation of the belly moving towards the spine during exhalation). Continue passively inhaling and forcefully exhaling, pumping the breath out in a rhythmic pattern. The exhalations should be faster than the inhalations and there should be one or two exhalations per second.
 
2) After completing a round of kapalabhati, breathe out completely. Then inhale deeply and hold the breath for as long as comfortable. Exhale slowly and begin the process again for the second round of kapalabhati.
* Beginners should perform kapalabhati for 10-15 seconds per round and can work up to two minutes per round as they become more advanced.
**If kapalabhati is inaccessible due to severe congestion, I sometimes employ bhramari pranyama (humming bee breath) as an alternative. The sound literally vibrates the sinus passages and facilitates drainage. To try brahmari pranayama make your hands into fists and point your index fingers, plugging the ears. Close the eyes and inhale and as you exhale make a high pitched humming noise with the mouth, as Sri Dharma says “like a female bee.” Chanting mantra and om has a similar effect of vibrating the nasal cavities. The humming exhale should be loud and long. Perform three rounds.
Kapal Randra Dhauti
Kapal Randra Dhauti is a very simple kriya that can facilitate drainage of the frontal sinuses. It is recommended to perform this kriya dailu upon waking, after meals and again at night.
Method:
While sitting upright, use the thumb of the right hand to rub the space between the eyebrows.

Liz Schindler found yoga during a stressful period of her life and has returned to it again and again for over ten years to calm both body and mind. After moving to New York and beginning to study with Sri Dharma Mittra, she soon came to realize her need to share her love of yoga with others. Liz is a 200-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher. She currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY.

 

    
      

Yogi Favorites (4) Dharma Salad

Avocados and tomatoes are both superfood fruits in their own right, but together they make a true power couple! 
 
The Dharma Salad is a great example of how good food combining can provide even more nutritional benefits. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is better absorbed by the body when consumed with fatty foods like avocados. Lycopene is a pigment-rich nutrient from the carotenoid family that gives tomatoes, among other fruits and vegetables, their red hue. Studies have shown this powerful antioxidant’s potential to reduce risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

For the purest benefits, try to purchase organic and locally grown tomatoes. 

Here’s how to do it:

Cut one avocado into cubes.
 

 

Slice two large tomatoes.

 

Mix a splash of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil with a splash of Bragg’s liquid aminos or sea salt. Add the sprouts (any kind). Stir all ingredients together and enjoy!  (Serves 1-2)

Text: Lana J. Lee Pictures: Cayla Carapella & Enid Johnstone
Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites (2) ~ Sprouting Almonds & Making a Dharma Sun Salute Blend



“I think it’s the best food.” ~ Sri Dharma Mittra on sprouted almonds

Five facts about Almonds:

  • Almond oil is excellent for the skin and almonds build muscle, reduces cravings, fight obesity and can prevent heart disease;
  • Almonds make for a good flip side to dairy and is officially the healthiest of all nuts;
  • If you plant an almond tree it will be covered in lovely light pink flowers in the late winter or early spring;
  • In Greek mythology the almond tree is represented by the beautiful princess Phyllis. Left at the altar on her wedding day, Phyllis waited for years before finally perishing of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed her into an almond tree, as a symbol of hope. When Phyllis’ fiancée returned to find her as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraced it and the tree burst into bloom – a demonstration of love not conquered by death;
  • Almonds are a Yogi staple and Dharma Yogisare great consumers of Almonds.

Sprouting Facts:

Most raw seeds, nuts and beans should be sprouted to reap their maximum potential.  Sprouting changes the entire chemistry of the seed, nut or bean, flooding it with the Prana (vital life-force), thus turning it into a mature, healthy plant that is easy to digest.


A sprout is a complete food and can supply the physical body with vital nutrients in promoting life and radiant health.  Once seeds and beans are sprouted, they can be placed in direct sunlight for 30-60 minutes.  The sprouts then become a green vegetable, a wondrously complete Superfood.


Sprouting instructions:

Soak the almond for 12 hours and then rinse every three to four hours for a period of 18 hours.  Sprouted almonds should be covered in water and placed in the refrigerator.  The water should just cover one half inch over the top of the almonds.  Peel the skin off before eating, as it becomes toxic during germination. Enjoy!


Using sprouted almonds:




Dharma Sun Salute Blend


Instructions:


Add the following ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy:

2 large bananas or 1 avocado
1 cup of sprouted almonds (peeled)
1 to 2 cups of the fresh juice of your choice or rice/soy/almond milk
Agave nectar to taste (the bananas are naturally sweet if ripe so you may find you do not need an additional sweetener)

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


“I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.”  ~ Nikos Kazantzakis


Post written by: Enid Johnstone Pictures: Lorenza Pintar

Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites ~ (1) Dharma Green Cleanse Juice


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

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


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


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

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


Here’s how to do it:


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


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


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


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


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

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


Drink immediately while the enzymes are still living. Enjoy!


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

Recipe Source: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Five Ways To Conquer Cravings

By Sara Schwartz



I used yoga to quit smoking. I did so after I noticed that after my Power Vinyasa class I was less eager to grab a cigarette. It also turned out that I liked the taste of fresh air, so when I decided to give up smoking, I just figured I would do a ton of yoga and it would be easy.

Turns out that quitting smoking was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The craving struck and sat like a piece of lead on my throat and tongue. Sometimes, it settled around the center of my chest. The craving created a real physical ache as well as annoying mental repetitions. “If I only had… I would feel better…”

To break a habit you have to use the force of willpower and willpower is essentially the movement of the spirit. You need willpower to move through a craving. Logically, cravings just cause us mental pain, and this mental pain is the feeling of an old habit breaking. To pass through cravings is to be in touch with the divine force of will. In a craving you can sense the movement of your spirit, strengthening your connection to your spiritual anatomy.

The second time I came face to face with intense cravings was during my Dharma Yoga Life of aYogi 500-Hour Teacher Training when we were instructed to follow a fairly strict vegan diet.

“Food is a very emotional experience,” LOAY Director Adam Frei told us. I thought to myself: I don’t have any emotional issues with food – I’ll eat anything!  But then, I realized I couldn’t have my Chai Tea Latte and I cried! Chocolate cake, even though I never ate it, became my newest obsession. But I stuck with the diet; I ate my salads and drank my juices. At first my body didn’t feel very good. I was tired and hungry all the time. I realized I was detoxing. Then I adjusted and began to feel calmer, cleaner, and my yoga practice felt solid.

Overcoming my cravings meant I had to stake out uncomfortable territory. I had to re-visit what I had done when I quit smoking. 

Here are five ways to get rid of cravings and live a healthier life:

    • Make a list of why you want to give something up and allow that to become your mantra. Why would I want to follow a yogic diet? Because “healthy body, healthy mind”. So when I craved chocolate cake I asked myself “does this cake cultivate a healthy body better than a banana?” Of course the banana wins this round!
    • Take one day, one moment, and one breath at a time. This is what they say in Alcoholics Anonymous and I used it to quit smoking. Each morning I would think, “today I am not going to smoke.” If during the day the craving was bad I would think: “right now, I am choosing not to smoke.” If I was in front of a store ready to jump in and buy a pack of cigarettes, I would think “now I am inhaling; now I am exhaling” as I breathed.
    • Read spiritual literature. Sri Dharma Mittra recommends this all the time! When you are feeling uninspired and uncertain, the Bhagavad Gita can point you in a good direction. Arjuna also didn’t know why he was supposed to fight, and Krishna gives him a ton of reasons why he should. Sometimes you might not be sure why you’re fighting your cravings, so you too can apply Krishna’s counsel.
    • Practice Pranayama. It can be as simple as a square breath: Inhaling for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four. If the craving is strong you might try a stronger, more complicated Pranayama: like Nadi Shodana with Kumbakha (alternate nostril breathing with breath retentions). As Swami Sivananda said “the veil is removed by the practice of Pranayama. After the veil is removed the real nature of the soul is realized.”
    • Remove the tempters. Clean your kitchen of those culprit foods. When you shop at the grocery store first go to the fruit and vegetable section. When I tried to quit smoking I stopped going to the smoker’s corner on my lunch break and I went to the park instead.
These are just techniques to test out in the laboratory of your own experience. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette or a piece of chocolate cake. After I had decided to quit smoking I slipped up for a good year before I was actually able to buckle down and commit to a daily yoga practice. During the LOAY Teacher Training Diet one day I walked into a Starbucks and had a cup of tea and a scone and enjoyed every moment of the sugary and caffeinated goodness. But the next day I woke up and was back on track.
Over the long run the cravings get less and less. And now, three years later, if I smell a cigarette it makes me feel sick. Now, most sweets are too sweet for me since I spent half a year not eating sugar.

You can create the life you imagine! It just takes time, awareness, and as Sri Dharma says, a little bit of ‘angry determination’ to get back up again after you fall.

_____________________________________


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 recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. “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.

Five Ways To Detox Your Thoughts

by Sorsha Anderson

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

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

Try the steps below:


  • Understand that you are not your thoughts. 

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

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



©Jeffrey Vock

  • Observe your thoughts

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

  • Don’t fear your thoughts.

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

  • Strike a pose!

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



©DovVargas

  • Count to ten – upside down.

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

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


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



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.