Category Archives: joy

Guru from Within

Devotional Writings
Dedicated to a Living Inspiration:

 Sri Dharma Mittra

Guru from Within

By
Anne Marie Gordon

 I bow to the Supreme Self

the Creator of all beings.
May my life be an expression
of your will.

Om Namah Shivaya

 

Dharmaji –
With love
& fidelity,
how can I keep you close (to me)?

Send please, the strength
to carry on this light
that dispels all doubt.

Every day, a brand new dawn
breaking new horizons
that somehow seemed long gone –
before they even saw the light
of day.

In true reality, let my heart practice
wholeness in knowing (truth),
and in each moment liken
myself to you.

Your devoted sadhaka

 ***

May I always express the current of Truth
that flows through this being;
always knowing the Real from the un-Real,
maintaining strength and balance
to remain unaffected by the delusions of dreaming.

 ***

In my heart
I’m your disciple,
though my mind may be oft confused;
my body may be weak and feeble,
but my soul hearkens towards you.

In my life,
the senses wandered,
in the dark they saw it too,
given strength and will to go on
still and still more they foresee truth.

O Dharma, be my Guru,
help me dispel this doubt!
I am but a black sheep wondering
when at last it’s all ‘figured out.’

I don’t need a written answer,
I don’t need a brand new name,
I have felt the plane of Atman,
I would do it all again.

“I have no one else but you, only you my lord.”

 ***

Dharmaji,
May we become wise like you.
As the minutes, days, years
go by.

Truth is reflected in us all;
It’s a guiding inner light.
When all around is dark and menacing,
one feels strength,
instead of fright.

When the mind weaves webs of doubt,
and sadness wanders through;
shake-off the mind as impermanent,
and remember the calling within you.

I hear voices saying random things!
Recall and allow their mutability. 

Words may arise with little inspection,
only after they’re thrown can one see the waves;
with each ripple and sense of unalterable reception,
one firmly sees cause to withhold – for days.

Let all I do here shine out a pure pattern,
let me be not ashamed for all to see.
I am the love between children and nature,
I have you, and you have me.

***

All my life
I’ve been searching for Truth;
to realize the infinite All Mighty –
all I could want to do.

Sometimes in loneliness, fear struck, with pride,
Still aware, from my Self, there was nowhere to hide.

Grown out of darkness,
and into my life,
You arrived!
now confiding in me
a path that is right.

With each mantra I pray,
I’m more my Self each day,
loosening the hold of distractions.

And so often I can,
using voice, using hands,
I let Spirit shape these movements.

And I know it’s to thee,
my yearning soul guided me;
so in my heart you will always be.
For I am you, and you are me.

I am Dharma Mittra

***

Anne MarieNurtured from a young age by the curiosities of existence, Anne Marie Gordon has always dreamed of expanding her world view through travel, poetry, and self-study.
After relishing the experience of studying English Literature and teaching in Prague, she landed back home in New York to unravel her path to yoga. During her first hot yoga training in 2011, she was introduced to the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra and the flame of inspiration was ignited.
Since settling in Sheffield, England, she has maintained a solid yoga and teaching practice, opened Hot Yoga Sheffield, and has attended the Life of a Yogi 500-hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra. She’s living each day with joy and gratitude.

I Am No One

By Julie Bach

During a retreat one year ago to this day, my spiritual teacher turned to me and said, “You are ready.”  I said, “Ready for what?”  Felix Lopez, my teacher, said, “ You are ready for Sri Dharma Mittra.  We have worked hard for two years to prepare you and I am excited for your next step. Let’s see what happens…”

Ten days later I was in NY getting my head shaved as part of a ceremony one of my friends hosted for my transformation. Diana was a yogini in service to her guru for 30 years. She took me in to her home to show me what life was like for her as a yogini in service.  We sat in her home temple as she showed me publications and trainings she had written and marketed in service to help her teacher and to spread the teachings globally.

I am a trained businessperson and I remember asking her, “So you got paid nothing for all of this? ” I was shocked because 30 years is a long time. I was listening, perhaps for the first time, to someone who was in service and seeing the beauty that was created.

The next afternoon with a better understanding of what a life of yogini could look like, I took a train back to the city to get situated and learn from Sri Dharma Mittra during Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training.

I remember sitting there that first day introducing ourselves and listening to why people were taking training.  I remember looking around and saying, “I am here because my teacher told me to be and to see what will happen next.” This is part of a transformation process is all that I know and I shaved my head last night to shed the old patterns that reside in me.”

I remember when we got our karma yoga jobs. Mine was lighting the candles and the incense and I loved doing this as an offering. I continue to do this at home alongside the picture of Sri Dharma given at the training.

The first time I saw a picture of Sri Dharma Mittra, I remember saying, “He’s the guy.  He’s the guy with the silver hair I have been looking for since I was a teenager.”  I was excited to see what exactly it was that I was to learn.

During training I had the opportunity to approach Sri Dharma. I did not know what to expect, but I had questions. No sooner than I had opened my mouth, Sri Dharma said, “You are here to be in service. To be in service to your teacher and to humanity.  To truly realize your path, you will need to learn to become invisible.To become, nothing. To become no one.”

The words continue to ring in my head, especially during times when I see my ego getting excited about things. I step back and hear Sri Dharma.

The Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training has changed my relationship with yoga – changed my relationship with my spiritual teacher, and changed my relationship with my community.

When I do my asana practice or pranayama, I close my eyes and feel that I am back in the temple in NYC where Sri Dharma is the teacher.  And when I am in service to my guru, I picture how I think Sri Dharma Mittra was in service to Yogi Gupta while he was alive in physical form — as if a roadmap had been laid before me to show me the way to humbleness and selflessness.

It has been almost one year since the training and my life is completely different.

The three governing ethical guidelines as a Sadhaka have been:

1.     Cultivate an open mind regarding the Supreme Self or God.
2.     Be kind and non-judgmental in all circumstances, especially when dealing with students (or students of my teacher,) and abstain always from acts of arrogance, cruelty, greed, or harshness.
3.     Work constantly toward the freedom from “I” and “mine,” growing ever less concerned with name, fame, prestige or personal property.

I have built a retreat house for the local community and for the regular students of my teacher to come and study.  My primary role at the retreat house starts with preparing juices and snacks for the students who come to stay and coordinating their stay. My primary role in the local community is to share my daily Dharma yoga practice. It is intended for people who want to cultivate a home practice, but may not want to practice alone.

I am most at peace in the retreat house, which feels like the temple in NYC. I am most joyful being in service in this manner.  I am in service to God; I can think of no greater gift.

I remember crying at the realization of how my life has changed. How I built this center years ago and it has waited until I was ready to be of service. Until I really understood this is not about me. This is something far greater than I can imagine, something my head cannot understand.

I also have learned there is no negotiating with God. The one attempting negotiation is my ego –the one who is trying not to see my path and the one trying to make it unfold in the way that I want.  But in the end, God has some big boots and will use them when needed. I have been negotiating this move to live full time in the retreat center for one year.  Many things are changing, affording space to unfold. And in my moment of surrender, the retreat center had its first student call to book a private immersion.

And so it unfolds….. Ever so thankful…

Learning to be of service.  Learning to fall in to nothingness.  Realizing that everyone is on his or her own path.  And who am I to judge or question?  I am no one.

 

Julie BachJulie Bach is on a mission to authentically integrate yoga and meditation through the spa industry. As a child, Julie was not quite aware of what she was doing as she used to “knee” around the house and quietly sink to the bottom of the pool in full lotus.  And when she grew out of her childhood years, Julie had a certain restlessness to her.   It was not until 2010 when she connected with her spiritual teacher, Felix Lopez, did she begin to understand this restlessness and the calming effects of yoga. Julie worked with her spiritual teacher to prepare her for the 200 hour Life of A Yogi Training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Since her first step in to the temple, she knew she was home with Dharmaji and has established a center to share this feeling with her family and her community.

The Yoga of Truly Seeing

By Barb Cooper

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

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

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

Yep. He sees me.

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

I know how that sounds.

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

I had no idea what I was doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Yoga Journal Estes Park and Sri Dharma Mittra

By Brendan Lentz

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

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

blog1Entrance Drive to the YMCA of the Rockies

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

blog2View of the Historic Administration Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

From Istanbul to Dharmaland, with Love

By Gülnihal Özdener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Journey into the Self

By Gena Rockwell

As soon as I signed up for the training, I knew that it was meant to be. I had never even practiced Dharma Yoga, but when I stumbled upon the website and saw that it was actually possible to study with Sri Dharma, whom I had admired through his famous poster and his interviews for years, I jumped at the opportunity. To prepare, I purchased his Maha Sadhana DVDs, began to practice them regularly and immediately fell in love with the Dharma Yoga.

It was five years after completing my 200-hour teacher training in vinyasa yoga, and I knew that this training would take me to the next level as a teacher. Little did I know what a profound effect this experience would have on my life as a whole.

The moment I walked into the Dharma Yoga Center on my first day of class, I immediately felt calm and serene. I was warmly greeted at the front desk and directed to the temple, which was huge and beautifully decorated with candles, images of Shiva, Ganesh, and Sri Dharma’s guru, Yogi Gupta.

As I gathered with the 70 yogis from all over the world, I could sense that everyone was as excited and humbled as I was when Sri Dharma walked into the room to lead us through our pranayama practice and spiritual discourse. Throughout the first day we did hours of asana practice along with more pranayama, meditation and kirtan. At the end of the day, my body was exhausted but I was so full of energy at the same time. As the week progressed, I continued to be filled with some kind of divine energy even though our 14-hour days were packed with up to eight or more hours of asana practice.

I got to know my fellow yogis more throughout the first week and I couldn’t believe how amazing each and every person was. These were some of the kindest most sincere people I had ever met.

But then again, it all made sense because we had all sought out Sri Dharma as our guru, one of the most kind and sincere voices in the yoga world.

The mentors were amazing, as well. Each mentor had a special gift to give, and did so with so much compassion and humility. I knew the training would be great, but I had no idea how welcomed and at home I would feel right away.

“This is it, this is real yoga,” I thought to myself constantly.

Kindness, compassion, and humility, these are Dharma’s true teachings. While he is one of the most renowned practitioners of asana in the world, his true teaching is much deeper. He encourages us to realize that we are a reflection of the divine, to be kind to others, to be kind to the animals, to see ourselves in others, to always practice compassion, and to make every action an offering to the divine.

Throughout both of the training modules, we performed hours upon hours of challenging asana but in a way, it seemed effortless. I credit this to the fact that not only were we all moving together as a collective consciousness, but we were all also aligning our practice with a higher purpose,­ seeing our practice as serving something greater than ourselves.

There is something very profound that happens when you practice in this way. Suddenly, the ego or sense of “I am­ness” begins to evaporate. Your muscles are not each working individually to hold you in the pose. You are not thinking “This foot goes here, this arm goes there.” You cease to become the doer, and instead become one with all of creation.

I believe that each one of us experienced to some degree throughout the course of the training the true meaning of yoga: Union with the divine. This divine energy guided us through every 14-hour day, leaving us not only with sore muscles, but with beaming radiance,­ and a childlike sense of wonder for all of existence.

We practiced and learned many techniques to get to this place, and will keep them with us forever.

I thought that I was going to learn how to be a better teacher, but what I really learned was how to go deep inside to the place of God­-consciousness that exists within us all, the true self. Then the teaching happens naturally.

 

Gena RockwellGena Rockwell is a yoga instructor, massage therapist and musician who lives in Shepherdstown, W. Va. In 2013 she received her certification as an ayurvedic yoga specialist from the Himalayan Institute and this year she had the honor of studying under yoga master, Sri Dharma Mittra for her 500 hour yoga certification.

10 Reasons to Go Upside Down

By Raquel Vamos

Group_Headstand

When I tell my students it’s time for inversions, I can sense panic in the room. To let go of our fears and embrace the world upside down, we must first begin to change our perspective. Here are 10 reasons why life upside down can be fun, healing, and can help your confidence!

1.  Facing Fear: Fear is what holds us back in life and keeps us from achieving our goals. When we face our fears on the yoga mat, we learn to bring this strength into the world around us. Most of the time we are more afraid of falling than we are of going upside down. In order to control our fear we must first identify it clearly. Facing your fear helps you live in the moment. It’s a practice of letting go and living in the now; an exercise to make your mind stronger.

2.  Refresh: Inversions bring the blood flow toward your head, which helps increase oxygen to your brain. Increased blood flow improves your mental functions like concentration, processing skills, and memory. Going upside down also helps calm your nervous system bringing about more balance and less anxiety caused by the external world.

Dharma_Mittra_Headstand

3.  Energize: Inversions are energizing. Most everything in our daily life, from work, family, electronics, and school drains our energy. Inversions are a tool that act like a shot of espresso. When I feel sleepy or tired, I go upside down and the blood flow to my head (see number 2) wakes me up. I feel alert and vibrant!

4.  Awareness: Going upside down develops awareness both physical and mental. First we are aware of the mechanics of getting up. Then, as we go deeper, we find a more subtle awareness of our physical and mental body working as one. Since you cannot see your feet or legs when you are upside down, you learn to feel where they are and move them with your mind. Without our vision to guide us, we feel insecure about being upside down. The sense of sight keeps us stuck in the external world, which can be so extravagant that we get stuck outside and forget the inside. Inversions help us rely less on sight and more on intuition to develop an inward awareness.

Dharma_Mittra_with_Pepper

5.  Strength and Balance: Inversions develop muscle strength and balance throughout your whole body. When you practice headstand you strengthen the stabilizer muscles in your neck, which helps you gain better control of your head. In forearm stands your shoulders gain strength and stability. In handstand your arms become lean and fit.  All inversions help develop core strength which is essential for asana and help you with better balance, stability, and endurance.  Most of all, inversions work the entire body so you don’t need to go to a gym and do ten different circuits to target individual muscles—inversions develop them all at once.

6. Concentration: When you are upside down you must focus entirely on what you are doing. It’s extremely hard to think about your personal life and problems when your feet are over your head. Your mind becomes one-pointed and you let go of all worries and doubts, bringing you into the present moment. In my opinion it’s a fast way to enjoy stillness.

7.  Breath Control: It is said in the yoga tradition that we are born with a certain amount of breaths to sustain us throughout life. Stress makes our breathing rapid and fast. When you go upside down the body forces you to inhale and exhale, otherwise it is too hard to hold the inversion. Synchronizing your breath in inversions help guide the movement.

Inversions

8. Get Happy: I have yet to meet anyone that is unhappy after going upside down. While inverting, you release endorphins and serotonin. These “feel-good” chemicals in your body relieve stressors in the mind which also help with depression and immediately improves your mood. 

9.  Playtime: Sri Dharma always says that we must act as children and have a light heart in life as well as on the yoga mat. Inversions bring out the inner child trapped inside the adult mind. This world can be so serious that we get lost in the adult mentality. We stop singing, we are afraid to dance, we have irrational fears of being judged, and the list goes on and on. The truth is we are all children wanting to play. Going upside down is a great way to ignite that long lost flame of innocent fun and play.

10.  Confidence: After a day of inversions you should notice a sense of confidence rising from deep within. You may feel empowered and charged with high esteem. Facing your fears and accomplishing the unthinkable helps you to see the power of mind over body. You realize you are capable of anything and raise the standards of your own potential.

(Pictures by Jeffrey Vock and Ana Cecilia Vargas)

Raquel_VamosRaquel Vamos has been teaching yoga for 3 years. She has a 150-Hour Hot Yoga Certification with Sayville Hot Yoga, RYT- 200 and is busy completing her Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Certification. Raquel has taught at Sayville Hot Yoga, Yoga for Life, Love Yoga Shala, Rocky Point Hot Yoga, Dharma Yoga NY Center, and Dharma Yoga Center LI.  She teaches privates, group classes, and workshops. Yoga is not just a job for Raquel she practices regularly with the Master Sri Dharma Mittra, taking meditation, Kirtan classes, and continued education classes.  Raquel is the owner of the Dharma Yoga Long Island studio, and hopes to spread the knowledge to those who wish to self-realize.

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

by Rachel Carr

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison and competition go hand in hand. Without comparison, there’s no need to compete. Without competition, there’s no need to compare. If there is one thing that yoga has taught me, it’s to let go of my competitive edge and “release any expectations of the fruit of my actions.” The practice is not about the achievement, but rather, the journey. In order to succeed on the path of yoga, one must refrain from comparing oneself to others.

I like to think I have a good handle on this. However, recently I almost walked away from my hard earned career as yoga teacher. That’s right, this Fall, I became so frustrated with the yoga industry that I started polishing up my resume, convinced it was time for me to get a “real job.” Even participating in the life-changing experience that is the LOAY 500-Hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra did little to pull me out of how I was feeling. I was losing my footing on a path to which I felt so connected, and what is important to me as a yoga teacher and student started to become very unclear.

After much introspection and self-reflection I realized that the reason I was feeling this way all boiled down to comparison. Without knowing it, I was comparing myself to all of my peers in my community, especially in the digital and social media world, and it was making me second-guess everything I so fervently believed in. This realization completely humbled me, but at the same time propelled me forward.

My comparison to others was stealing my joy. 

I was so unhappy with how I was measuring up to others’ perceived success, that I was stopped paying attention to the good work I was doing. I have always believed there is a yoga practice and teacher for everyone. Like attracts like. You serve the students who show up to your classes and remain unconcerned by those who don’t. I have never believed that standing on your hands is a prerequisite for being a good yoga teacher, but in these past few months I let my ego lead the way and started to believe that was true. Self-defeating stories swirled through my head. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not popular enough.” “Why can’t you do more?”

On second thought, perhaps my intention should be to stop caring so much about what others think about me. 

When you think about it, they go hand in hand. I wouldn’t feel the need to compare if didn’t worry so much what others thought about me and my ability to teach and practice yoga.

In theory, letting go of comparison seems easy enough, but in reality, there is a lot of work to be done. My first action step is to take breaks from social media on regular basis, and spend more time on my practice, relationships with friends and family, and writing. It’s so easy to be consumed by what appears before your very eyes. We are inundated with so much unwanted messaging these days.

Further, when the stories start to swirl, I’ll reconnect with the teachings. Sri Dharma says that instead of comparing yourself to someone else, you should see him or her as yourself. For example, if someone is doing an asana that you are still working on, then you think, “look, that is me. Look what a good job I am doing!” Instead of the ego driven, “why can’t I do that? I’ll never be able to do that. I must not be that good.”

This brings to mind Yoga Sutra 1.33 and the four keys to happiness. We are all made of the same eternal consciousness, so everything we experience is already experienced by all. What you can or cannot do is based on conditions from your karmas (previous actions). So you do your best, but know that everything is perfect just as it is. This is true contentment (Santosha). It doesn’t really matter what you can or cannot do physically, but what’s happening on the inside that matters most.

 

This post first appeared on the Blog Capricious Yogi.

Rachel Carr

 

Rachel Carr, E-RYT 200, RPYT,  is a Washington, DC based yoga teacher currently working on her Dharma Yoga LOAY 500-hour Teacher Training certification. She completed an interdisciplinary 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.  
 
 

The Four Core Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita

By Gary Mark



Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, c. 1830 painting

“Bhagavad” means “God” and “Gita” means “Song.”  “Bhagavad Gita,” therefore, can be translated as “The Song of our Lord.” Krishna, one of many incarnations of The Lord, explains that he lives in each and every one of us, meaning that “Song of our Lord” is also the song that praises the beautiful divine within each one of us! As I type these words my heart cries tears of joy. I feel so fortunate to have found the Gita and to have found Sri Dharma Mittra.


There are four core concepts from the Gita which extolls the beautiful potential that exists vibrantly in each one of us and, indeed, in every atom of the entire cosmos, known and unknown, seen and unseen.


Concept one:  Look to your Dharma


Dharma can mean “law of the universe,” “social and religious rules,” and/or one’s own individual mission or purpose.  On the individual level, it can also mean a number of things. For example, in the Gita, Krishna points out to Arjuna that his Dharma is to be a warrior whether he likes it or not. He cannot escape his Dharma and he must fulfill it. Arjuna is a warrior for what is right and just. He is not just a warrior for fighting’s sake. His Dharma must be grounded in a proper purpose. Whatever role we are fulfilling at the moment is our Dharma at that moment.


Applying this on a personal level, I followed my Dharma as a Finance and Accounting professional for the last 30 years. Recently, coinciding with my new practice of Yoga Asana and study of Hindu or Yoga scriptures, I began to find less and less meaning in my profession. I am now in a period of transition, seeking to find a new and more meaningful personal Dharma.  I am a “householder” (someone who lives among and provides for his or her family), and as much as I would love to throw caution to the wind and become a Sadhu, I need to be mindful of the effect of my actions on those around me. Therefore, following the counsel of the spirits, I am proceeding on a step by step basis, finding my way with the Lord’s merciful guidance.


Concept two:  Do it full out


Both Hinduism and Buddhism extoll this virtue of absolute commitment.  In fact, many books have been written about the power of focus and single-mindedness, including the Gita. I first learned about this concept when I began practicing Buddhism in 1977 and I poured myself wholeheartedly into my career development. As a result, I was very successful from a materialistic standpoint. Success in life is no accident and it is a result of pursuing one’s Dharma full out, no holding back.


Upon looking back, I see that I did not always carry out my Dharma as a husband and father and I have made mistakes that have impacted others’ lives unfavorably. Had I had the vision to take the longer and broader view on things, I may not have made these mistakes. I feel that I was more concerned with material success at any cost, even if others had to pay a price. I now see that I was not acting properly in these and probably many other cases. In this last chapter of my life, I would like to pursue my new Dharma with more mindfulness and focus on proper context and big picture focus.



Krishna displays hisVishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 11).

Concept three:  Let go of the fruits of your labor


When we invest our efforts or resources, it tends to take on our self-identity in our minds. Subconsciously, we associate this identity with life/death.  This mistaken association leads us to regard all critics or those who appear to get in our way as mortal threats to be neutralized, lest we “die.”


The Gita exhorts us to release this incorrect view and to realize that our self and the phenomenal world at large are not real.  What is real is “Self,” the divine within all life, sentient and insentient. Even the air we breathe has the divine nestled in every particle. Therefore, instead of jealously guarding our self-worth, we are much better letting all that go and acting out of gratitude for the opportunity to work on our Dharma. Krishna says we our entitled to work, but not to any of the fruits of our work. When we adopt this attitude, all we can feel is gratitude, no matter what happens.


I have found that as I endeavor to embrace this concept, I am shown which areas need work and I am grateful to be shown these things and grateful to be able to improve so I can one day serve others with gratitude and without attachment to the fruits.


Concept four:  Offer it all up to the divine


I feel this concept is closely related to its predecessor. How much easier it becomes to let go of the fruits when one is offering every moment up to the divine. The ultimate form of this is when one feels that God is acting through him/her.  In truth, this is what is happening all the time, we just fail to see it and that failure results in suffering and angst.


Sri Dharma Mittra has a saying on his website and in his teachings.  He says, “Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed.”  

I believe this last sentence resonates with this fourth core concept from the Gita upon which this post is focused. It provides a very practical way to begin to incorporate this concept in one’s life. Begin the day focused on God and end the day focused on God.  What a beautiful way to live! Om Namah Shivaya.



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Gary Mark has practiced yoga for the last three years and studied Bikram and Dharma Yoga during this time. He has spent the last year studying intensely at Dharma Yoga Los Angeles and completed his LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training and Certification at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in June to September 2013.  Gary is currently enrolled in the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.