Category Archives: new york city

The Healing Powers of Yoga

By Barb Cooper

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

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra, Part II

You may remember our last collection of quotes from dearest Dharmaji; we thought it was about time for a few more!
Please enjoy, and share with those who may benefit…
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1.  
2.   “Pain and suffering is for the purpose of cleansing the mind and subtle channels, or nadis. When the nadis are polluted, there is no chance of feeling even a little bliss. When the mind and body are cleaned, the energy can begin to move, and one tastes a little then the bliss.”

3. 

 
4.   “Don’t listen to your mind; listen to your heart.”
5.
6.   “Most adults don’t sing anymore. We have to break that, and start singing the name of the Almighty One, try to cultivate the emotions. We have to elevate our emotions to the maximum, to the limit, and that then turns into spiritual bliss.”
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8.   “With constant practice, one can improve his physical body and mental attitude rapidly, thereby igniting the higher motives of making one’s self useful to himself and all mankind.”
9.
We thank Dharma Yoga teacher Katherine Labonte for compiling this fantastic list of Sri Dharma Quotes.

20 Ways Yoga Changed My Life

By Deanna Aliano

Practicing yoga on and off for fifteen years has led me to one conclusion: I need to be disciplined and keep a regular practice to maintain the evolution that yoga has helped me attain.
So I’ve begun compiling a list of all the ways yoga has changed my life. I share it with you in hopes that you will be inspired to begin a practice, or maintain or resume your current one.
1.        I am more relaxedand handle the daily stresses in my life better. Stress can’t be completely eliminated but it can be managed. Yoga is a path to achieve that.
2.       I am healthier. Yoga has helped me lose weight, increase my muscle tone and given me better posture, just to name a few of many changes.
3.       I am more focused. My time on my mat has taught me to tune out outside distractions while I am there. This sense of focus has been attained off the mat too.
4.       I have a strong sense of accomplishment. Nearly every time I go to class I notice an improvement on some level – going a little deeper into a pose, a little more balance, holding a pose longer. These little achievements make me realize I am getting somewhere.
5.       My daily interactions have improved. I’m more confident in my skin because I have found my center.  Therefore I am not intimidated by others or self-conscious.  I now enjoy my time with other people because I can be myself.
6.       I eat better. I went from being a carnivore to eliminating red meat, then poultry, and now I am a complete vegan. My body no longer craves sugar or animal products. 

7.       I am more patient with myself. My time on the mat has taught me not to push myself beyond what I am ready for. I no longer feel the need to have a practice like the other yogis in the room, but instead allow myself to be where I need to be at that moment – even if that changes daily!
8.       I am more patient with others. Learning to be patient with myself enabled me to look at the world and realize everyone is at their own place in life. Being judgmental or trying to change people gets you nowhere.
9.       I am less fearful. I learned to push myself past my level of comfort and into the unknown while on my mat. This same idea applies to life in a big way.
10.    I am more flexible both mentally and physically. Of course, you expect to become more physically flexible through yoga, but I didn’t realize that as my body practiced asana, my mind began to change, and I now accept & perceive everything from different angles. 

11.     I am stronger both mentally and physically. Yoga is not just about flexibility, but about finding the balance between flexibility and strength. Many of the poses take a tremendous amount of strength to hold! Sometimes the greatest strength is in keeping the mind from telling you that you cannot do it. Yoga taught me to refocus and tell myself that I can.
12.    I am able to sit quietly for long periods of time. My mind still wanders, but it is much easier to bring it back and become a silent observer.
13.    I better understand who I am and my purpose in this life. We all have a path, something we are here to do. Practicing yoga put me in touch with that purpose and allowed me to reconnect with who I really am.
14.    I better understand my true needs and can differentiate them from desires. This is hard and I often struggle with it, but it has become easier to recognize things I don’t really need to get by in life.
15.    I am more creative and expressive. This connects to increased confidence. I think it is why many creative people are drawn to yoga. While practicing, you find the confidence to express yourself. Also, when you clear the mind of excess baggage your creativity rises to the surface.
16.    I am more present. Clearing the mind allowed me to better focus on the things immediately in front of me and I’m no longer sidetracked. I am really present.
17.    I am more responsible. Developing discipline on the mat means more discipline in everyday life, and this has allowed me to see the things that need to be done and accomplish them.
18.    I am happy and content with what I have and where I am in life. I recognize it for a path and not a destination.
19.    I am more compassionate. By recognizing and letting go of my own stresses and pains, I am better able to recognize them in others, and perhaps help others to let go of their own suffering.
20.   Giving and receiving more love in my life. By being at peace, content, and present, I have cultivated space in my life for others to join and share the good vibes…
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Deanna has been exposed to many different styles of yoga and has recently taken the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Being a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist, and fitness trainer, Deanna never thought she would find her higher self in a “fitness” class, but she did and has never looked back. She has developed Artasana workshops, exploring creativity through the art of yoga. She spends her time off the mat writing, illustrating yogis and enjoying her children at the New Jersey Shore.

Are You a REAL Yoga Teacher?


By Melody Abella

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

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

~Teacher Profile of the Month~


Chikako Mizokami
 
Chikako teachesDharma II on Tuesday & Thursday mornings, 10:30 – 11:45 AM.
1.    Where were you born?
CM: Japan!
2.  What do you do when you don’t teach yoga?
CM: Practice yoga off the mat. I believe yoga is a living science and it comes fully alive when we integrate the teachings into our everyday life.
3.  What are three things that are always in your fridge?
CM: My photographer friend said my fridge is a farmer’s market; she was amused and took pictures.
4.  What is your favorite vegetarian restaurant in the area?
CM: It was Kajitsu until recently, but now I have to find my new favorite.
5.  What is one practice you must do every single day?
CM: Connect and give gratitude to our divine mother, Gaia. We are all stewards of the Earth.

Chikako met Sri Dharma Mittra in 2007, and according to her, he inspired her commitment to the overall practice and lifestyle of yoga. She never really thought she would teach, being quite shy typically, but for her the process has unfolded quite naturally. As a student in her class, one would never guess that she ever had any hesitations about teaching.
She is greatly inspired by healing, as well as the transformations she has witnessed in students – especially those who begin to incorporate meditation, pranayama, and Yoga Nidra into their lives consistently. While the goal of yoga may be Self-Realization, she also recognizes that the path helps us examine our tendencies and unfold our individual dharma (meaning our highest purpose, or most authentic life path).
For Chikako, the practices of yoga are like a roadmap that helps us find our true selves. In her words, they are “like the most high-tech GPS you can imagine – like a celestial GPS; instead of going through the satellite, it goes right to the source”. This is the main thing she hopes to give her students – a deeper sense of connection to their Supreme Self.
Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

What I learned from reading the Bhagavad Gita


By Arin Farrington

 I recently re-read the Bhagavad Gita. It is the fourth re-read in 15 years but this time with a different translation. This go around, I found myself reeling from the depth of wisdom, scope of matter, and sheer force of the book. My conclusion is that with every new read, further insight will be presented to the reader and one will come to understand the text more and more.
The Bhagavad Gitais one of mankind’s greatest philosophical achievements. And although we are in a different era than it was written, the message and lessons continue to be relevant in this day and age. I wondered while reading it, “does human nature really evolve?” Perhaps for those who read with an open mind and pure devotional heart and absorb the teachings of the Gita and other sacred Hindu texts such as the Yoga Sutras, the Vedas and Upanishads.
The Gitain particular takes the reader deep into his/her very humanness and provides tools for ethical living and eventual evolution. Just as we, as thoughtful human beings, confront our dilemmas and choices, Arjuna hesitated and questioned his role before launching into a battle that led to devastation and destruction. With Krishna’s guidance Arjuna comes to terms with his own nature and most importantly his dharma, or individual responsibility. Arjuna, as a member of the Kshatriya or warrior caste, and as an instrument of the divine, must follow the law of his inner being which has been determined by the actions of all past lives.
The 18 chapters of the Gita, placed in the middle of the much longer epic, Mahabharata, introduce the reader to the main tenets of yoga in action: what it means to practice yoga on all levels. The yogi attempts to “yoke” his/her individual body, mind and spirit self with the divine or greater Self (Atman), which is part of the Universal Self (Brahman, or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute).  The Gita provides important tools for this purpose! So while we practice asana and pranayama (Hatha yoga) to prepare for Raja yoga, and learn the yoga teachings (Jnana yoga), we are engaging in a form of Karma yoga, all of which are in turn Bhakti yoga, in that the true practitioner is acting in a devotional manner. All yoga can lead to Samadhi (total bliss) resulting from utter concentration and detachment from sense objects.
In Samadhi we may realize one of the Gita’s most important revelations: that we all are One. All actions, all thoughts, all beings are connected; all are minute pieces of the much greater whole. Brahman is within us! The godhead is an ocean which refuses no river. Interestingly enough, this idea echoes throughout history: from the sacred text of Buddhism (the Diamond and Lotus Sutras), the writings of innumerable philosophers (Plato to San Augustine to Hegel), to psychiatry (Jung’sconcept of “synchronicity” hinges on belief in the ultimate “Oneness” of the universe), and science. For example, in modern physics, the four dimensional space-time concept of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity also exhibits Oneness, which in Stephen Hawking’s words is: “Space and time not only affect, but also are affected by, everything that happens in the universe.”
In our daily and mostly unexamined lives we mostly live in darkness, maya, brought about by Prakriti, or base nature. We are unable or unwilling to lift the veil of ignorance (avidya) and recognize the true state of things. There is a right path of action (dharma) which creates equilibrium when discovered and embraced. We are all the product of the actions in past lives and these determine our balance of gunas.
Recognizing how the three gunas (rajas, sattva and tamas) combine to influence the way we live is an important step in creating balance. If rajasic, one may be driven by lust and passions that lead to attachment and anger and can poison the chance for liberation and happiness.  If tamasic, one may welcome delusion and may be too lazy to work towards ones best interest. Only in a sattvic state can we be truly peaceful and balanced. The three gunas are reflected in the way we think and act, including what we eat and how we speak. To break the cycle of death and rebirth on the wheel of Samsara, our actions (Karma) must be conscious, but not predicated on the results.
There is a universe of potent ideas, significance and meaning in the Gita, most of which I am sure I have not even fully grasped! For example, in Chapter 11 when Krishna reveals to Arjuna his true form through temporary divine sight, I too am overwhelmed by what I begin to see in the Gita. Unlike Arjuna, I am not terrified. The Gita is a tremendous guide for a peaceful, healthy and liberated life and most certainly a life-long study.
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Arin Farrington will graduate from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 200-hour teaching training in May and hopes to continue with the LOAY 500-hour training this fall. She currently lives in Mexico City, where she is a university professor and freelance writer. Fifteen years ago, a doctor advised yoga for back pain (from poor alignment), and she never looked back—or suffered back pain again. Over the years, she has practiced varied styles and studied with different teachers, all of which have led to Sri Dharma Mittra.

Dharma Yoga Abroad

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers around the world…
We’re starting a new blog series to catch up with countrywide and global Dharma Yoga teachers. Find out what they’re up to – teaching in exotic locations, inspiring students all over the globe, and living the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra every day!
This week:
Gerson Frau (Brazil and Mexico)
By Nicole Sopko
Gerson Frauis an inspiring Dharma Yoga teacher who shares his time between Brazil and Mexico. Gerson’s presence (and his accent!) is, in many ways, very much like Sri Dharma Mittra’s. He’s a wonderful teacher who inspires his students, and his attitude is perfectly summed up in his statement: “I just keep learning every day and seeking Reality.”
What books are you currently reading or studying?
GF: The Bhagavad Gita (Swami Nikhilananda), Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Swami Satchidananda – I love him!) and Self Knowledge by Swami Nikhilananda.
What is the one practice you do every day?
GF: Pranayama and meditation, at least 5 times a week.
Which teacher trainings have you completed?
GF: The Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 200- and 500-hour trainings.
What would you say about the people who you met during your trainings? How have they inspired you?
GF: There are so many amazing people are under Sri Dharma Mittra’s umbrella. We all inspire one another, support one another and shared an amazing experience during our training.
What are you currently working on?
GF: Regular Dharma Yoga classes and workshops in Brazil and also several workshops in Mexico, as well as Maha Sadhanas all over both countries. We’re doing a Dharma Yoga event in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, and this year’s will be the sixth time! 40 students attended last year. (Dharma Yoga in Puerto Escondido at the Santa Fe Hotel, June 27 -30, 2013)
 
Why are these projects a priority?
GF: I am following my dharma by practicing and sharing the teachings of Yoga.  It is my commitment for this lifetime.
How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY teacher training program affected your life outside of training?
GF: Finding Sri Dharma Mittra (or Sri Dharma having found me…) shifted my life completely. The LOAY teacher training program is an immersion to Self Realization. It’s hard to explain in words, but it’s hard to keep living the way you used to after the training.
Any final thoughts to share with us?
GF: Since I first started studying with Sri Dharma Mittra, I teach every day. It doesn’t matter how many students attend class. Students from Mexico have been inspired and many have gone to New York to take the LOAY Teacher Training themselves. Yoga is not so popular in Brazil but I feel students spontaneously start going beyond the physical practice even if they came to class only for a physical yoga practice. They end up going beyond or feeling the curiosity of getting to experience more than the physical.
Gerson will be one of the DYLOAY mentors for the upcoming June 2013 200-Hour Teacher Training Program in New York City. To learn more about Gerson, visit his website: www.yogifrau.com.
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Nicole Sopko (Gopi Om)is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL where she teachesDharma Yoga and operates a nationwide vegan natural food company alongside her (life) partner. She takes great care to be always aware of the ways in which these two responsibilities intersect and spends her time promoting compassion in all forms. She is a dedicated and loving student of Sri Dharma’s and visits New York as frequently as possible to absorb the benefits of his holy teachings in person.

Six things one Dharma Yoga Teacher wants you to know….

By Fay Inger

·        I don’t judge you, your body or your practice.

Life is interesting because people come in all shapes and sizes, with personalities as diverse as snowflakes. I’m no better than my students because I teach yoga. As Sri Dharma teaches, we are not our bodies and we are not our minds. You have a body and you have a mind, but you are so much more than the sum of your parts. Your body is perfect, you are perfect and your practice is exactly where it should be at this time.

·        My practice isn’t perfect either.

I’ve been practicing yoga for ten years, and while that may seem like a long time, it actually isn’t relevant to poses that I’ve “mastered.” I am naturally flexible with a very bendy back, but I lack raw strength. It’s easy for me to do king pigeon but my forearm balance and handstands are nonexistent. That doesn’t mean I can’t teach poses I cannot do – in fact it makes me a great teacher because I understand you have your own strengths and weaknesses. We are all a work in progress, I just happen to be the one guiding the class.

·        I take your limitations and baggage seriously.

Your range of motion and limitations are a factor in your yoga practice. Because of that I would never force a student to go into a pose they couldn’t get into on their own, or force someone into a pose they didn’t feel ready to do. I was always terrified of doing headstands despite the gentle encouragement of my teacher. Once, a well meaning substitute teacher took me into headstand and failed to provide adequate support. It resulted in me falling over and reinforced my fears.  Ultimately it wasn’t encouragement or support that helped me move past my fears, it was time. We all have our issues to work through and sometimes they manifest on the mat.


·        You need to be pushed.

Not physically pushed as in pushed down a flight of stairs, but pushed to what you think your limit is so that you can surpass it. I know this because in my Life of a Yogi 500-Hour teacher training I was pushed to my limit multiple times and my practice evolved and excelled because of it.

The second day of our second month of training I was absolutely convinced that I could not do one more humble warrior; convinced my quads were too sore and my hips too tight to cooperate. I asked to sit out one asana practice so my achy muscles could rest. At the time I was annoyed when my request was denied.  I didn’t understand I was told “no” for my benefit and for me to grow.  But being told “no” did just that.  It forced me to push on, past the tired, sore and achy muscles.  It pushed me to realize that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I was pushed to understand that although my body may not have wanted to, my mind is stronger than my body.  I was pushed to ultimately realize I am so much more than just my physical body.

Real change begins when your back is against the wall.  You can rise to the challenge and surprise yourself with your strength and determination, or you can cower into the wall and refuse to grow.  I am your cheerleader and always want you to grow.

·        I didn’t become a yoga teacher because I wasn’t qualified to do anything else.

In fact, let me follow that statement with: I chose to forsake other, potentially lucrative professions because I love yoga. I love it so much that I want to devote my life not only to practicing it but teaching it; so much so that I love spending my days being my student’s cheerleaders, enriching their lives and helping them grow stronger in their practice every day!

·        Sometimes I worry.

Did you enjoy my class? Will you come back? Yoga teachers have feelings too, and sometimes we feel insecure. It helps to remember that the class is for my students benefit and not my own. It also helps if you liked the class to say so!

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Fay Inger is a 500-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga instructor for levels I to IV and completed the 800-Hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in August 2012. Fay took up yoga 10 years ago to help with her bad posture.  The bad posture is gone, but Fay’s love of yoga has stuck around! Currently living in Los Angeles, California, Fay primarily works as a private instructor. As she always says, “Yoga is a gift,” and it is her favorite gift to share! 

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.