Category Archives: kirtan

10 Things I wish I had known AFTER completing the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training…


By Jessica Gale

1) There must be Tapas (again)…
One of the most difficult aspects to maintain post-training is maintaining a regular yoga practice. I moved to a new city with no Dharma Yoga studio after living in a city with a very devoted studio (where I attended class almost every day). Being in a new place and having to practice on my own presented a difficult transition. Despite this, I know that in order to be a good teacher I need to cultivate Tapas. Part of this transition includes a realization that I can’t rely on attending yoga classes every day and I need to be disciplined and take my practice into my own hands.
Unless you intend to fully devote yourself to yoga and forsake a householder’s life, you will have to adjust back to “real life” after the intensity of LOAY Teacher Training. You will be changed and your practice may be changed. You will need Tapas – but in new ways.
2) Take time to reflect… and then get started!
After completing the LOAY Teacher Training I took some necessary time off to let everything that I learned and experienced sink in. Revelations are not habituated over night and it may take some time (perhaps even a lifetime) to make sense of it and become part of your routine. That being said, I know how hard it can be to restart again. Let your mind rest but keep the enthusiasm going.
3) People are curious…
Something I still find interesting is that people are genuinely curious about my LOAY experience. Since yoga has been a huge part of my life for the last few years, I forget that Neti pots seem strange and people cannot imagine sitting quietly in meditation. Yes, people may think you’re a bit odd, but I have found that people admire the dedication and hard work that goes in to attending an intensive program like LOAY Teacher Training.
This situation presents the perfect opportunity to share your experience, offer to teach a free class and answer questions (but try not to overwhelm with your abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm). Just by being open and passionate you may lead people to discovering their own yoga practice!
4) Yoga is not a punishment…
Teaching yoga to your family and friends is not a punishment of some kind but a gift for youand a new experience for your loved ones to be taught by you! However, after first returning home from the LOAY Teacher Training, I did not want to impose yoga on my family and friends and didn’t ask about teaching anyone. I figured if they were interested, they would ask.
But then I realized there is nothing wrong with asking if anyone would like to attend one of my classes. Remember, your family and friends may not want to impose on you. They may be curious and want to try, but may think you are too busy or need to be paid. At the worst you may hear “no thank you,” but the best case is a dedicated new student!
5) Network, network, network…
Navigating the world as a new yoga teacher can be tough, particularly if you are in a new location without the support of an existing Dharma Yoga studio. The key point to remember when starting out is that yoga is non-threatening and people who practice yoga are generally pretty kind and understanding folks. So don’t be afraid to email, call or drop by a studio at which you are interested in teaching. And don’t be shy or embarrassed to reach out to other yogis, Dharma Yoga-taught or not. They are a part of your spiritual family, and family members try to help one another out.
6) You may teach in attics and other unconventional places…
I would hazard a guess that most teachers-in-training imagine teaching in a beautiful, bright studio with hardwood floors, a view and maybe even some birds singing outside. It is wonderful and inspiring to teach classes in a beautiful environment like this, however, it is non-essential. Sometimes, opportunities will arise and place you in strange spaces.
Take for example a class I currently teach in a friend’s small attic. There is large furniture in the room so we have to lay out our mats in an “L” formation. The ceiling is low and most of us are tall. The cats come in to visit and sometimes will even lie on the student’s legs, purring away in savasana. But none of this matters. It’s a quiet space that we all can fit in, and after each class, we exit feeling more peaceful than when we entered. So take opportunities as they come, even if they do not match your ideal vision.
7) “Copy the teacher…”
By now, if you have attended a LOAY Teacher Training, you know that this is one of Sri Dharma Mittra’s common phrases. Post-training, Sri Dharma may not be teaching you regularly anymore but that doesn’t mean you stop imitating the teacher.
Sometimes when I have had difficulty phrasing something in class I take a moment to think of what Sri Dharma may have said or done. And since I have only taken classes from Sri Dharma during the LOAY Teacher Training, I think about what the other teachers at my previous studio, who trained extensively under Sri Dharma, would have said or done. It works every time.
8) Teaching is not as scary as it first seems
After teaching my first class, my husband said to me “The first class will be the worst you teach… The second the second worst… and so forth.” He learned this from a professor when he was a graduate student and first started teaching. And yes, it’s true. Your teaching abilities will improve with time and experience.
Teaching yoga is not, nor should it be, a nerve-racking experience. The best thing you can do for the class and yourself is to come in with a peaceful state of mind. I discovered that a bit of pranayamaand a few asanas before class allows me to teach a good class. Better yet, I sometimes include a simple pranayama exercise at the beginning of the class. The students are coming to class from their own crazy lives, so if people appear flustered and stressed, bring them to a more peaceful state of mind before you begin.
9) Hit the books (again)…
I completed the LOAY Teacher Training eight months ago and I am continually surprised that I find myself mentally searching for knowledge I could have recited without blinking during the course. Just the other day I was asked something I once knew but could not remember. I then realized the importance of continuing my studying and hitting the books a little each week. And while teaching regularly helps maintain some of what you learned, the breadth and depth of Sri Dharma’s teaching will be lost without a constant renewal and study.
10) Be patient…
Upon my return home from the LOAY Teacher Training, I declared to my fiancé that I planned to complete my internship hours in three months. Well, needless to say, as I write this (for my Karma Yoga!) it is six months later and I am not yet even half done.
This is not to say that you cannot complete everything in a month or two, but to be patient if you do not. Work hard. Continue to study. Accept that sometimes opportunities take time to fully manifest. Ahimsa (again!) is the most important guiding principle you can live by during this time (and always!).
Enjoy this time of learning, new experiences, and have patience and love for yourself during the journey.
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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, NY 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.

Meeting People… Where They Are

By Danielle Gray

The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health attracts all kinds of different people. It’s sort of a magical place in that way.
Over President’s Day Weekend, Sri Dharma Mittra held a retreat in this beautiful place – one of many programs that were offered that weekend (the place was bustling when I arrived). Personally, it was my first time staying at Kripalu, although I had heard a lot about it from acquaintances (mostly about the food being “SO GOOD!” – which it was, as I discovered at dinner the first night).
Sri Dharma offered six sessions over a period of four days (Friday evening discourse, a morning and afternoon session each on both Saturday and Sunday, and a slightly shorter session Monday morning), all of which left me buzzing. Although I have been taking classes with Sri Dharma regularly and have done two of his three available teacher trainings, there is always more to learn, more wisdom to open yourself to receiving from the master.
The Saturday, Sunday, and Monday sessions were all vitalizing combinations of pranayama, meditation, and asana practices; by the end of the weekend, it felt like Sri Dharma had given us everything we needed – a well-rounded overall picture of the path of yoga, and also great depth about each subject covered (astounding for such a short period of actual time!).
The program reminded me a little bit of the teacher trainings, actually, in that we were all blessed to be spending a great amount of time with Sri Dharma Mittra in a very condensed period. However, the main difference between the teacher trainings and the program at Kripalu was the sense of time. At Kripalu, there is time for everything! Time to sit and be silent and just watch the thoughts. Time to write and reflect further on the teachings, if that’s your thing.
Time to sit in the sauna, or to explore the grounds (which is more fun in the winter time than you might think, actually – especially if you hit the sauna afterwards…). There’s even time to get an Ayurvedic massage if you really want to be luxurious (although that costs extra; but I heard they were well worth it!).
There is especially time to talk with other people about where they are on their path, and share experiences. For me, interacting with so many different people and observing their tendencies and receptivity encouraged me to reflect a little more deeply about myself throughout the weekend.
Many seemingly magical things happened throughout the weekend, but this is perhaps the most amazing (it’s a slightly long tangent, but bear with me – it’s worth it): Saturday afternoon, after our session concluded, I decided to browse in the gift shop and get a trinket or two for some friends. As I was checking out, I noticed a little dancing Shiva statue sitting at the register; I asked the cashier how much it was, but I couldn’t really justify buying it for myself – “Even though,” I told the cashier, “that’s a really great price, and I’ve been searching for a dancing Shiva for so long!”
I stopped by my room to put away the gifts I had bought, and as I left to go for a walk, I found a note on my door which read: “Attention guest Danielle Gray in room 305, please report to the front desk. Another guest has left a package for you.” I went down to the front desk, and I gave the note to the man sitting there. He handed me a bag, inside of which was the dancing Shiva statue.
I could hardly believe it. I asked him, “Who left this here? What did the person look like???” He told me it was a woman – “small, young, and very striking, with hair…” and he made a hand gesture, which I guessed indicated curly hair. I thought I knew for sure who it was, so I went and found the person to thank her, but she had no idea what I was talking about. Later on, I ran into the cashier who had rung me up in the gift shop.
“YOU!” I said excitedly. “WHO bought the dancing Shiva statue!?” He told me that at the time, he had thought to himself that it was a funny coincidence – she bought it right after I had left. He said she was “tall” and “a bit older”… Exactly the opposite of what the person at the front desk had said when I inquired.
At that point I was struck with two thoughts: First, it is amazing how each of us can perceive the same exact person (or anything) in a completely different way. Second, I remembered something that Sri Dharma said during my last teacher training: “The best gift is the one with no strings attached.” In other words, completely anonymous.
So, I decided to leave it at that. Whoever gave me that dancing Shiva also gave me the greatest gift of all by remaining anonymous, so now every time I see it, all I feel is joy, rather than any sense of obligation to “pay back” the favor. If, in fact, the person who gave me this wonderful gift is reading this article, please know that I am so grateful, and the statue sits on my altar right beside Sri Dharma’s picture; I am inspired every morning when I see it.
In the end, each little experience and everyone I met helped me in some way – to develop a deeper and more confident sense of my own beliefs, as well as my approach to the practice of yoga in my own life. These interactions helped me to dispel some of my own doubts and fear, which can be some of the greatest obstacles on this path.

To me, this mini-immersion was an incredible opportunity, and the amount of growth that occurred in just one weekend of mindful and receptive practice (lead by a true Guru) was astounding. I would highly recommend the experience to anyone who is interested in going further into the system of yoga… And maybe experiencing a little bit of grace along the way.

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Danielle Gray, a native of New Jersey, was blessed to find Dharma Yoga in 2010, and after her very first class, she knew she had to immerse herself in the practice to eventually share it with others. She graduated from the 200-hour Life of a Yogi program in May 2012, participated in the 500-hour program in September and November of 2012, and is in the process of completing her certification in Dharma II and III. Additionally, she has over 15 years of experience studying dance and movement, which greatly informs her yoga instruction, especially in the aspects of anatomy and alignment. Danielle has experienced incredible growth and healing in all areas of her life as a result of studying with Sri Dharma Mittra, and hopes to share this transformative path with all her students. In addition to teaching, she is currently employed at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.

~Teacher Profile of the Month~


Amber Abramson

Amberteaches Dharma II on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 – 6:30 PM.
1.    Describe yourself in three words.
AA: Curious, inquisitive, imaginative.
2.  If you were a fruit, what would you be, and why?
AA: Well my father and brother always tell me I’m a prickly pear, because I can seem really serious with this intense look on my face when I’m doing something… But I’m really a big, mushy, sweet piece of fruit once you get beyond my appearance. I love to laugh and have fun; I’m not as serious as I look.
3.  What is your favorite story you heard from Sri Dharma?
AA: Dharma once told the story about how when he was younger and first started to learn with his Guru, he loved Lord Shiva. He loved what Shiva stood for and he loved His image. One day, Dharma said he was really sad because he realized that there was no Shiva. The true Shiva was within. And so that is what Sri Dharma teaches – that the real Guru, the real divinity, is within all of us.
4.  Three things you always have in your fridge?
AA: Chia seeds, coconut milk, and oranges of all kinds.
5.  What is one practice you must do every single day?
AA: I have to connect to my breath and be quiet every single day. It keeps me grounded and centered amidst all of the beautiful chaos life has to offer.


You might say Amber was born to be a yoga teacher – her first experience with yoga was at the tender age of three! Her father is a yoga teacher, so the practice has been an influential part of her life for a long time. She loved assisting her father’s classes, and as she began to teach classes of her own, she realized that she discovered even more about the practices in the process of sharing them with others.
She loves Dharma Yoga because of its completeness & authenticity. Of course, she says, every form of yoga is about going inside and uniting the mind, body, and spirit; but she loves that Sri Dharma Mittra’s classes are about so much more than asana – you go beyond the poses and learn to be a “well-rounded yogi” through practices in all eight limbs. From her perspective, the goal is to realize that everything is already within each of us (as Sri Dharma frequently reminds us).
For her, practicing yoga is a means to reintegrate & expand the whole Self; to become aware of discomfort & congestion in the physical & subtle bodies; and to make space & breathe into any feelings that arise. She hopes to help guide her students further within, to allow them the chance to truly be themselves in the present moment.  
Amber will also be teaching a program at Kripaluthis coming July (“Boot Camp for Goddesses”)!

Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

Spiritual Study (Svadhyaya): A Journey Within

By Danielle Sheather
 

Of all the Niyamas, Svadhyaya has left a lasting impression on me.  One particular image is ingrained in my mind when I think of self-study: the notion of a journey.   I daydream about an expedition or a grand voyage.
Svadhyaya is a spiritual study, a tour of one’s deepest thoughts, ideas, and fundamental nature. It is the study to know oneself in an effort to understand why we are the way we are and catch a glimpse of our Divine Self.  It is independent of the thoughts and ideas to the world around us, when one can study the self with a mind free from the disturbances of outside forces. Spiritual study then can help unlock our understanding of who we are as well as our relationship to the outside world.
As Iyengar describes in Light on Life, “You will not reach knowledge of the Divine Self without passing through Self-knowledge. Your practice is your laboratory, and your methods must become ever more penetrating and sophisticated. Whether you are in asana or doing pranayama, the awareness of the body extends outwards, but the senses of perception, mind and intelligence should be drawn inward.”
Patanjali describes Svadhyaya as “study that concerns the true Self, not merely analyzing the emotions and mind as psychologists and psychiatrists do. Anything that will elevate your mind and remind you of your true Self should be studied: The Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Koran, these Yoga Sutras, or any uplifting scripture. Study does not mean just passing over the pages. It means trying to understand every word – studying with the heart.”
A vital part of Svadhyaya is the fact that we are not alone in our journey to the Self. Others have gone before us and succeeded! There is no doubt that history and literature show us that Svadhyaya occurs from generation to generation: From Jesus to Buddha, Siddhartha to Arjuna, all of these figures embarked on a journey. While some were geographical, all were metaphysical and in an effort to truly study the self.
Iyengar also said “spiritual realization is the aim that exists in each one of us to seek our divine core. That core, though never absent from anyone, remains latent within us. It is not an outward quest for a Holy Grail that lies beyond, but an inward journey to allow the inner core to reveal itself.” Here, Iyengar describes Svadhyaya as being a journey to the self, a journey inward so as to truly find our divine core.
Thus the study of scripture becomes vastly important to Svadhyaya. The aforementioned scriptures and characters have paved the way to their Divine Self.  Patanjali reminds us that “we don’t exhaust the Bible even after reading it hundreds of times. Each time we read it we see it in a new light. This is the greatness of the Holy Scriptures… Each time we read these works we elevate ourselves to see a little more.”
In BKS Iyengar’s, Light on Life, we are taught that “to know one self is to know one’s body, mind and soul.” There is no better way to understand the Self than by first taking a glimpse at those who have passed before us and studying with our hearts, then delving deep into our thoughts, ideas, and emotions without judgment or fear; but with an open mind and an open heart.
In that vein, part of my attraction to this particular Niyama came about from my father’s inspiration.  At 40 years old, with two children approaching university years, a mortgage and a wife, he chose to open his own business. It was through self-study that he realized he was tired of doing things other people’s way. Now, 19 years later, he is peacefully removed when he speaks of his spiritual study, as though it was merely a necessary step in becoming the man he always envisioned himself to be. His spiritual study throughout that time in his life and the many prior years, led him to take a gigantic leap off of a cliff, a leap in which he did not know if there was water or land below. He simply leapt and fell into an abundant pool. While he admits that Svadhyaya was arduous, he cannot imagine it being any other way. He studied every day in order to manifest what he wanted in his life.      
So why is it that so many people (myself included) are afraid of going inward to discover what is on the inside? Funny enough, the answer to that question lies in going deeper into self-study and allowing discoveries to occur independent of whether it is good or bad.

For example, last summer I took a Chakra workshop in which I was asked to dive deep into the self to discover how I dealt with milestones from my early childhood to present day. Many emotions, from anger to elation, frustration, and guilt came to the surface. But how was it possible that all of these emotions lay dormant in me? It was as if they were camping in my back yard and I had no idea they were even there! Perhaps then I would have no control when any one of these emotions would come out.  I was furious.
This was my first real attempt at Svadhyaya and because of it, my inner core is no longer latent and has begun to reveal itself to me.  With the help of further spiritual study I feel that the universe and its predecessors have been supporting me in opening up in further Svadhyaya. It is true what Sri Dharma Mittra says: “Be receptive and all is coming.” Especially in Svadhyaya!
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Danielle Lydia Sheather first found yoga through dance, and thanks her primary dance teachers and several others for introducing her to yoga without ever really knowing what they were doing. She has been to every continent dancing on cruise ships and on tours. Danielle has since been in NYC for 3 years, the longest she’s been anywhere since high school. A self-proclaimed nomad, she loves to travel but decided to lay down some roots for a while. Danielle graduated from Sonic Yoga’s 200-hour teacher training in 2009 and from the DYLOAY 500 Hour program in 2012. She has taught in Bed Stuy at St John’s Bread of Life, Yoga on the Rooftop, Sonic Yoga, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio, New York Yoga and the Dharma Yoga Center. She is also the ballet mistress and choreographs for Dance Dimensions in New Milford New Jersey and continues to perform here in NYC. She believes that it is a teacher’s responsibility to continue to practice in order to grow, understand, and honor their commitment to enlightenment thus being a student of life! PS: She is also fluent in French Canadian.

10 Things I wish I knew before taking the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training…

by Jessica Gale

1) It’s OK to attend the LOAY Teacher Training program even if you don’t plan on being a super yogi…

I will admit it: the week before attending the program I panicked. Was I ready? Would I ever be ready? I had been practicing yoga for several years, desired to teach, and wanted to attend an intensive like the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. However, doubts still remained – even the night before the training began…

Within a few days of starting the program I came to understand the diversity of students the LOAY TT attracted. Everyone practiced at different levels and intensity, and their reasons for attending were just as diverse. We learned the spectrum of what yoga encompassed, but there was always an understanding and acceptance that everyone was at different physical and spiritual levels.

2) There will be Tapas…

You will be sore and the program will push you to your physical limits. It is helpful to view the program more like a marathon than a sprint. Since there are 10 days of asana practice it may be hard to participate when you throw your back out on the first day. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try new things or push yourself (see #3 below), but it is important to pace yourself.

To fully engage and enjoy the program, get some sleep, bring energizing snacks, take the breaks when they are offered, and it wouldn’t hurt bringing some Arnica or Tiger Balm along too.

3) Trust and try…

Yes, it’s intense. Yes, you have 10 days of asana. And yes, it’s the perfect time to embrace new and difficult poses and techniques. The training offers the rare opportunity to learn from a yoga master and several very accomplished senior teachers. When they ask you to try something new, give it a go. Be like a child and have faith.

4) Meet Sri Dharma Mittra, the comedian…

Since I’d heard Sri Dharma speak before attending the training, I knew he had a sense of humor. What I did not expect was to spend so much of a yoga intensive laughing! I have attended several types of yoga classes through my years of practice and I have never found another type that is so light, happy, and humorous! It is one of the things I love most about Dharma yoga – the sense of joy it emanates.

5) You will be homesick…

Throughout the program, everyone at some point felt a little bit blue. It is natural to miss your family and friends, especially since there isn’t a lot of time to communicate with people. The key is to remember that it is only 10 days and the benefits you will gain from the program will last you a lifetime. In addition, one of the things I loved best was coming home and sharing what I learned from Sri Dharma with my loved ones.

6) Listen first and ask, if you still need to, after… 

During the training, there was plenty of time for questions and discussion and the teachers assisting Sri Dharma were also available for additional queries. However, one of the things recommended (and I found to be true) is that if you listen, your questions will often be answered without you even asking. I found that if I was intensely thinking about some question, the answer would come up that same day.

7) If possible, stay close to the home base…

The LOAY TT has long days. I stayed with a friend in Queens to save on lodging during the training and my commute was an hour each way. In my situation, I couldn’t afford to stay in Manhattan, but if it was financially possible, I’d recommend it. The long commute added to my fatigue and made me feel rushed at times. I wish I could have transcended the lack of sleep and the noisy commute, but alas, I have not yet reached that point.

 8) Lose the “yoga ego”…

Be prepared to have your mind blown by attending the master classes taught by Sri Dharma. It was absolutely incredible being taught by a master and be surrounded by yogis with amazing asana practices. It is easy to start comparing yourself to the person on the next mat over but DON’T. The LOAY TT is the perfect time to lose whatever “yoga ego” or “yoga envy” you may have.

In the first master class I found myself entirely overwhelmed!  Soon after I found myself in utter wonder and inspired by the dedication of people around me.  There was inspiration not only with the advanced students, but the student who could not yet do a headstand but sit unmoving and for long periods of meditation with a blissful smile on their faces.

One way I found to tame my yoga ego was to focus on my weaknesses and not my perceived strengths. I took special care during pranayama, held the poses that were most uncomfortable the longest and tried my best to surrender in meditation.

9) The name of the game is Ahimsa…

There will be times during the program when you will be frustrated with yourself because you can’t achieve a pose no matter how many times practiced, or your mind will relentlessly wander during meditation. Take your time to cultivate Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the greatest of the Yamas and Niyamas and all of the others come from this main tenant. Surrounded by happy, loving yogis, it is easy to be kind to others.However, there will be times when you will struggle to be kind to yourself. Before attending the LOAY TT, try to make it your main goal to live by Ahimsa.

10) You will leave changed…

I cannot believe a single person leaves the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program without feeling changed. Immersed in yoga and all of Sri Dharma’s teachings, you will come away changed in your body, mind, and spirit. You may even find yourself coming to surprising conclusions you never expected. Be open to the changes and take the experience with you. Share what you have learned as an act of thanks-giving.

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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 the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, NY 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.

~Teacher Profile of the Month~


Andrew Jones

Andrew teaches an open Dharma I-II class every Tuesday night (7-8:30 PM), Dharma I Basics(4-week course: Mondays, 7-8:30 PM), and Dharma II Basics (4-week course: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 PM) at DYNYC.
1.    Where were you born?
AJ: Swansea, Wales, UK… Or “England”, as people like to call it here.
2.  What do you do when you don’t teach yoga?
AJ: Try and bring the practice to the workplace, and spread some of the love in this very stressful world of many ups and downs. I like to introduce others to yoga and show them how it may help their everyday lives & bring a smile to their faces – these are small steps that can build into huge gains for all!
3.  Three things you always have in your fridge?
AJ: Bananas, soy milk, sprouted almonds
4.  Favorite veggie restaurant in the area?
AJ: Natural Frontier – they have the best juices, especially green ones. Plus they look after Dharma Yogis with much love!
5.  One practice you must do every day?
AJ: Compassion to all beings with love.
 
The first thing you notice about Andrew Jones is his joyfully lighthearted nature. Though he takes his practice seriously, he is a bit of a jokester. Some might assume, because of Andrew’s seemingly constant smile, that he is a full-time yogi – devoting hours and hours to his sadhana, or practice, every single day. While he is a full-time yogi, it’s not necessarily in the way you’d imagine: his sadhanais the practice of daily life – of bringing “yoga” with him wherever he goes, even the world of corporate advertising!
Like so many of us, Andrew began practicing yoga because of hardships in various areas of his life (including scoliosis and knee problems) He enrolled in our teacher training program because another teacher at the DYNYC told him it would be a great spiritual experience. Though he did not set out initially with the goal of teaching, he connects greatly with the intention of helping to uplift his students: “It’s great to see people leave feeling good – even if it only lasts a little while, at least they’ve tasted the benefits.”
He is extremely devoted to Sri Dharma Mittra and his teachings; he speaks with great admiration about Sri Dharma’s compassion, unconditional love, and playfulness that are apparent in every single class; in taking Andrew’s class, it is clear that he strives to bring these attributes into his own life and teaching as well.

Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

Karma Yoga and the Art of Selfless Service: The Reggie Deas Story


By Freddy Pastore

“Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” Ram Dass
Often, the more we have in life the more disconnected we become from those who have very little. However, by “being receptive” to the needs of others, sometimes Karma Yoga finds you.
My Karma Yoga found me last July in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore. After practicing yoga on the boardwalk I stopped at the Twisted Tree Cafe for a fruit smoothie breakfast. As I waited to pay, something caught my eye on the “community board” next to the register. Though most of the board was over-loaded with business cards and advertisements, a picture of an acoustic guitar snapped in half caused me stop and pay attention.
Above it read, “Reggie Deas Needs Your Help – Call Steve.” On the back of the postcard was a story about Reggie Deas, a homeless musician who found his way to Ocean Grove and was living under the boardwalk. His guitar had been destroyed and Steve was organizing an effort to have it replaced. I called Steve and offered my help but since there was such an outpouring of support, Reggie not only had the new guitar but also a case. Steve said that Reggie was however still homeless and in need of help. I agreed to meet with Steve and Reggie in the park the next day.
It only took a few minutes of listening to Reggie play music to realize that he was a gifted musician. Though his playing was a little rough around the edges, his instrument was played with true knowledge and in his voice was love of music. Reggie, though currently homeless had attended Berkley College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; a prestigious music school in which many of the greatest musicians in the world had passed through the halls. And seemingly here was one music great living under a boardwalk in a beach town. Reggie’s story immediately called to mind the movie “The Soloist,” based on a similar story of a Juilliard trained musician who was also homeless. Through Sri Dharma Mittra’s inspirational teachings on Karma Yoga (and the fact that I too am a musician), I knew I needed to help Reggie.
Sitting with Reggie in the park that day, with his new guitar and only a single duffle bag full of his possessions, a roof over his head was evidently his biggest need. The first and most obvious thought was a homeless shelter but Reggie refused. In his words “I rather live on the street.” The biggest problem with a shelter is “lock-down” at 7pm, the time when Reggie does best playing music on the boardwalk for money. Also, since Reggie was not suffering from any form of addiction he did not want to be around others whom are often in this unfortunate state.
I brainstormed with the fundraising group and after many hours of making phone calls and surfing the internet, I found a room in The Whitfield Hotel, a very large hostel-style hotel just one block from the beach. With the help of the nearly $1,000 left over from the guitar collection fund, by the end of that afternoon, Reggie had a roof over his head.
Over the next several weeks I continued to contribute to Reggie’s well being however I could. Tapping into my work in Finance, I created a “project plan” to organize efforts around Reggie’s needs. I outlined and prioritized various aspects that the fundraising group could do together to help Reggie establish himself in Ocean Grove. On the list: (1) find a part-time job (2) obtain a pre-paid cell phone (3) resolve an outstanding court fine (4) seek medical attention, and (5) play the music he so loved in local venues. Working together with the fundraising group we were able to accomplish everything on the list.
Reggie worked part-time mowing lawns for a local real estate company and slowly adjusted to his new life. But above all Reggie loved playing music and to see Reggie do what he loved to do and having played a small part in making that happen for him was special. Some of my best memories from the summer was rehearsing and performing with him several summer nights at the Barbaric Bean and Day’s Ice Cream Shop.
When summer passed into fall Reggie came to me because he wanted to move to San Diego, California where he had some friends. Although he had established some roots in Ocean Grove, he was concerned about playing music for money through the winter. It was late September and the New Jersey boardwalks were basically deserted. Although my first reaction was think of all the reasons why he shouldn’t go, I quickly realized that it was Reggie’s life to live and not mine. Reggie had his own Dharma and it was essential for him to go and pursue his dreams, wherever they make take him.

As Sri Dharma says, do it because it has to be done,” and I had been there for Reggie because it had to be done. By doing selfless service (seva) I found that I had also served myself. We can all make a difference, no matter what. So next time you come across someone in need remind yourself that yes,I can help. Yes, I will do this. Yes, change is possible.

Check out Reggie Deas
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Freddy was introduced to yoga by his wife, Amy Pastore (E-RYT 500 Hour yoga instructor). At first, practicing yoga was an excuse to be around Amy – even if it meant enduring 26 excruciating posture holds in 105 degree heat! Over the years, the practice of asana gave way to the deeper purpose of yoga. This resulted in physical, mental and spiritual transformation. Freddy has attended many yoga workshops with world renowned teachers and in 2012 he completed the Life Of A Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training Program with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Freddy also holds a certification in Basic Thai Massage from the Loi Kroh School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Together with his wife, Freddy is the co-founder of iflow Yoga, a modern, eclectic Vinyasa style yoga drawing from their diverse yoga experiences.  Freddy is also an accomplished bassist who has performed and recorded with many of New York City areas top jazz, rock and pop musicians.

How I Found My Teacher

by Dina Lang

I first came to know of legendary Sri Dharma Mittra several years ago when investigating Yoga Journal’s annual conference in San Francisco. Each year I would read through all the bios of the featured instructors, research them online and plan out whose classes I’d take, should I ever actually attend. Sri Dharma always stood out as that instructor I felt I should take a class from before I die. In January of 2012 I finally got my chance in San Francisco.
My typical M.O. in a yoga class is move straight to the back of the room and hide myself in the corner. Uncharacteristically that day, I deliberately arrived early enough to set my mat in its usual place, but instead set up in the second row. (I’m still working on that front row thing!) The moment Sri Dharma walked in, took his place seated on his chair on the stage, closed his eyes and began to chant Om, I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. The two-hour practice was physically challenging, but completely accessible. He wove his message of ahimsa and the ethical rules throughout our every breath and posture. He guided us with as few words as possible, but we knew exactly where he wanted us to go. Simple clarity was his style… and I loved it!
As he taught, he would occasionally pop up into a headstand, handstand or forearm stand variation, talking all the while with humility and humor. His light-hearted manner created a warm, inviting environment, and yet we never lost sight of the sense that we were in the presence of a deeply respected teacher whom we should follow. He spoke about vegetarianism; he spoke about compassion; and he challenged us to examine ourselves with honesty and to compassionately embrace a commitment to our own betterment as human beings.
I knew then what was missing from my practice… a true teacher! It was like coming home on my mat for the first time in fifteen years. It left me hungry for more. I picked up his information after the class about teacher trainings. Having already completed my 500-hour certification, I was interested in his 800 hour Life of a Yogi training. I spoke with one of his representatives and they told me the prerequisite for his 800-hour training was his 500-hour and my previous work would not be acceptable. Disappointed, I left with the information in hand… chalking it up to a wonderful glimpse of something out of my reach.
The next six months crept along as I searched locally for a teacher to guide me in my practice with that same sense of spirituality I had experienced with Sri Dharma. Feeling dejected, one day I went online and researched again more closely what it would take to study with Dharma in New York City. I researched flights, hotel stays, the training itself and of course, my financial resources. I realized it was time to either commit and leap or walk away with no regrets. I decided that if I continued to allow my personal practice to wane and didn’t do something to restore my enthusiasm for yoga, I didn’t deserve to teach others. As yoga teachers I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than our students… faking it just isn’t good enough.
So I made the leap. I signed up for the Dharma Yoga 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training and began my journey with Sri Dharma Mittra – committing myself to another500 hour teacher training so I could learn what it is to truly be a yogi…
Of all my trainings to date, this has been the most demanding of my time, physical energy, self-discipline, and unyielding commitment. And I have not been happier in many years.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m exactly where I am supposed to be – studying, practicing, meditating, living the yamas and niyamas and practicing karma yoga (selfless service)…being a dedicated student of yoga, and I am filled with gratitude. Sri Dharma’s practices are a lifetime labor of love, created by the ‘real deal’, and I feel so honored to be a conduit for his wonderful practice and message. For me, yoga is an opportunity to create the very best version of myself, to practice that which is difficult, find grace through the process, and walk in the world with my best intention leading the way. With Sri Dharma’s voice in my head, his message in my heart and his commitment to yoga as my inspiration…I believe I am finding my way at last.
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Dina Lang, RYT and co-owner of Santosha Yoga in Bethany Village (Portland, OR), discovered yoga many years ago and found that the practice brought a deeper awareness of all life’s gifts to her senses. She is the mother of two grown children. She turned her nurturing energy toward building a yoga community in Bethany Villagein 2010 and, when teaching, consciously holds a space for others to discover for themselves the transformative power of yoga. “Like many yogis, it was during one of life’s lowest points that the power of this great practice began to take center stage in my life. I embarked on the teacher training path with hopes of simply deepening my own practice, never considering actually teaching yoga. After my personal practice really took hold and my perspective grew clear, I suddenly felt eager to help others by sharing what I learned.”

~Teacher Profile of the Month~

 
Jessica teaches a Dharma II class at DYNYC every Sunday from  10 to 11:30 AM.  
1.   Describe yourself in 3 words. 
JC: Strong, sensitive, compassionate 

2.  What do you do when you don’t teach yoga? 
JC:  I practice it in my own life! I sing, play guitar, study Spanish, dance Sabar, run, read, travel, smile, laugh, love, and dream. I am also starting a non-profit that gives scholarships to disadvantaged youth to attend international volunteer experiences (Moving Youth in New Directions).
3.  Favorite Dharma quote/best advice you ever got from Sri Dharma?
JC: Honestly, everything that Dharma says and does is equally important to me.

4.  Three things that are always in your fridge?
JC: Kale, almond butter, soy milk

5.  Favorite place you’ve traveled? 
JC: This is a tossup between Barbados and Iceland. Both were extremely pure and clean with stunning landscapes and unbelievably genuine, kind people.

Jessica Crow has an innate ability to communicate depth in her classes. She first started practicing yoga herself because she heard it would help her to cope with stress. In conversation, she speaks a great deal about the transformative power of yoga in her own life, and the way it profoundly shifted her overall lifestyle. She hopes to bring these same benefits to her students: “new perspectives, new access to self confidence, new seeds planted that excite and nourish their spiritual beings”. She loves to support people in stepping outside their comfort zones – to help unveil their own potential.

 She tells us that Sri Dharma is the reason she became a teacher. She loves that he never takes himself too seriously (a quality that flows into her own life and practice), and she greatly appreciates all the Dharma series’ capacity for rapid growth, physically and spiritually.

Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC
Layout & design: Lorenza Pintar, LOAY teacher trainee 

 

Day Seven: Exploring Evenness


The Life of a Yogi
          I can’t even explain the insane amount of bliss that results from a Maha Sadhana with Sri Dharma Mittra. I had a little bit of a roller coaster sort of day, but after that workshop, everything is just erased. All I feel right now is devotion and ecstasy.
          My roomie and I overslept a little bit this morning, but it didn’t really phase me. That’s the main thing I’m noticing about myself lately, is that I just accept situations more readily and adjust myself according to the circumstances rather than fighting things. As Kim said last module, “Some things just aren’t worth getting upset over.” I think that’s going to become my personal mantra for the rest of my life, actually. It probably would have helped me to remember that later in the day when I was getting ruffled about some silly thing.
          The day started with pranayama and dhyana with Melissa, followed by a Dharma Shakti practice, which was a very basic class consisting of sun salutations, the main poses, relaxation, and some meditation. It was probably the deepest savasana of the training, actually – I think I’m finally beginning to understand the power of the simplest practices. We’ve been talking a lot this module about how we want to strive, as teachers, to be simple, clear, and direct. I think that’s why I love all the Dharma Yoga teachers (the mentors especially) – they all make difficult and/or complex asanas quite straightforward.
          We had Maha Shakti and Yoga Nidra afterwards with Sri Dharma, which were both awesome as usual. I just laugh so much in his classes… The element of joy is contagious. Then we had lunch, followed by a small group session where we practiced teaching the pranayama and dharana for Dharma III. Then we had our last small group session, and I got to teach. I felt pretty good about it, but I’m still trying to reconcile some of the feedback I got. Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing else I’m meant to do on this earth but teach yoga (and I feel like I’m starting to become a pretty decent teacher), and other times I feel like I’m a little kid and I just have no idea what I’m doing… It doesn’t help that I tend to take “constructive criticism” personally sometimes. Anyway, I’m thankful for the feedback, and it’s all just part of the process. I can’t expect myself to be perfect right off the bat! I certainly don’t expect it of others, so why should I hold myself to that kind of standard?
          After that we had Maha Sadhana, for which I only have a few pictures because the camera died partway through! There were a lot of people taking pictures, though, so I’m sure they’ll be posted on the other Dharma Yoga social media pages soon. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…
~Danielle