Category Archives: peace

Raw Vegan Spaghetti with Carbonara

By Ivy Mok

As Sri Dharma Mittra said, “The secret is really to eat the right food and to realize the knowledge.”

From constant practice of yoga, I can tell eating a diet that is vegan and almost completely raw, is the best diet for my body. This is something I experienced after the 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training last year. My asana practice progressed faster than ever (I was more flexible, light) and my mind was calm. My skin has been very clear and I have become more compassionate to others. This was one of the quickest ways to transform myself, my practice, and my mind.

Just experiment by giving yourself one to two days a week of eating raw vegan meals and you can tell the changes from the inside out. Withdrawal syndrome could be unpleasant if you have been indulging in a processed food, high sugar diet, and other stimulants. Listen to your body and use your intuition to gradually leave the old diet habit and eat in a purified and compassionate way.

Ingredients:

½ Zucchini (around 3 inches long), spiralized
Handful of rocket leaves aka arugula
2 medium crimini mushrooms
¼ avocado, sliced

Sauce:

A handful of cashews (10-15), soaked for 4-6 hours
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tbsp coconut nectar
1-2 basil leaves
¾ avocado
Suitable amount of water (I used ~100ml)

Put all the above ingredients into high speed blender and blend. Add in water until they are well blended. Water amount depends on how you like the consistency.

Mix the sauce into the spiralized zucchini evenly. Add arugula, crimini mushroom, and ¼ avocado sliced nicely with the zucchini “pasta” on the plate, add in a dollop of sauce on top for mixing with the salad, sprinkle with diced raw pecan and half a teaspoon of za’atar on top.

 

 

IvyMokBlog 3A physiotherapist based in Hong Kong, Ivy learned yoga as a remedy for lost souls in a hectic city. She is blessed to quickly find her lineage in yoga despite living on another side of the world from her beloved guru, Sri Dharma Mittra. Constantly a student on all sorts of therapeutic modalities (visceral manipulation, craniosacral therapy), she finds the ultimate medicine for all sorts of ailments is “self-realization.” Ivy is always ready to spread whatever she learned to her students and patients.

 

 

 

How to Develop a Dharma Yoga Style Meditation Practice

By Jeffrey Vock

 

About 18 years ago, I was helping Sri Dharma with his computer and I ambushed him with three questions:

1. How important was meditation in your spiritual development?

2. Why don’t we practice longer meditations in class?

3. Why don’t you take a more technical approach to teaching meditation?

 

He answered:

1. Not very important; selfless service and watching his Guru was key to his development.

2. He would lose students if he included silent, sitting meditations that are longer than five or ten minutes and they might never come back.

3. His last answer was silent: he assumed a meditation posture; his back straight, his eyes closed, one palm resting in the other and after an instant; he shrugged his shoulders, twirled his thumbs and expressed indifference with his face!

 

So there is nothing to meditation? Is that what he was hinting at? Maybe for him! However, over time, I’ve interpreted his demonstration differently and it has become the prime directive of my own deepening meditation practice.

Sri Dharma’s teaching has evolved since I’ve known him: he now speaks more of meditation. He has refined his approach to easing his students into meditative practices by adding frequent Kirtans, Yoga Nidra, Psychic Development and Spiritual Discourse classes (which he did not offer, back in the day.)

His students have also changed: many now seem familiar with meditation and I see them sitting enthusiastically before class starts. Are they ready for more?

So, how to meditate Dharma Yoga Style? Is there an approach to this practice that differs from all the established and distinct types of meditation teachings and practices that already exist?

Sri Dharma often mentions meditation and the importance of cultivating solitude, silence, stillness (metaphorically and literally as in NOT MOVING) and disconnecting from stimuli. But he also frequently says that other aspects of Yoga practice “are even better than meditation.”Once I heard him say that meditation is for lazy people and I think he was looking at me when he said it. Touche. He also mentions a range of practices from diet to following ethical rules and asanas that are “preparation for meditation,” and essential to a balanced practice that includes all eight limbs of Yoga.

The health benefits of meditation are scientifically validated. But that knowledge is usually not enough to motivate or facilitate a deeper practice. I enjoy my practice because it gives me an avenue of exploration that agrees better with my aging body than perfecting my asanas (which everyone knows are quite sloppy.) Meditation takes the edge off my introverted nature. It inoculates me against the demand to be constantly networked and interactive. It helps me fight depression and find contentment and joy. As a bonus; it helps me experience some of Sri Dharma’s more cosmic and far-out claims.

So, in between the “preparation for” and “the better than,” what is this meditation? What type is it? How do you do it? for how long? Where are the instructions? Should you do it lying down? Walking? Sitting? What counts as meditation? And how do you gauge success? What does it take to develop an effective and enjoyable meditation practice? And how to do it in a way that’s true to Sri Dharma and his brand of active urban mysticism?

Sri Dharma talks about the need to “allow the muddy water to settle,” by being motionless to “see” and “witness” clearly. He has replaced his former “High Definition” analogy with a new one about a “cell phone.” Can you realize yourself as the signal and not the device? What are the practical steps that can lead you to having this experience?

“You have to be interested.”

Dharma Yoga Style meditation is motivated by simple curiosity. You have a body, senses, thoughts and consciousness. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? What is the nature and the mechanics of your consciousness? What is your true nature?

“Use your intelligence.”

This inquiry leads to Knowledge or Wisdom that can reveal itself with sudden insight or after deep, reflective analysis, but you have to gain confidence in this pursuit because you are on your own.

FORGET ABOUT CONCENTRATION: When you meditate with curiosity for the purpose of gaining self-knowledge you can bypass the oppressive concentration exercise that defines meditation for so many and creates so much self-defeating frustration. To meditate successfully you need just enough attentiveness to proceed. Concentration as we conventionally define it doesn’t have much to do with it.

“Everything depends on your attitude.”

This exploration of your true nature is motivated by curiosity, but driven by ATTITUDE. Your mental attitude is one of the few things in life you can actually control if you want to. An attitude is complex– think of a teenager.

So when Sri Dharma answered my question silently, assuming a meditation posture; his back straight, his eyes closed, one palm resting in the other and after an instant; he shrugged his shoulders, twirled his thumbs and made an indifferent expression with his face! He was demonstrating an attitude:

You sit; comfortably.

You observe; but not too hard.

You are a witness; because you don’t know what is going to happen.

You are curious even if there seems to be nothing there.

You don’t expect anything and you don’t care about results.

You wait: patiently… it is a long haul.

You reconcile with your Karma, because you are limited “according to your condition.”

And above all:

Your attitude should “Remain Unconcerned.”

Any reaction is counter-productive.

You observe and allow rising obstacles or impurities to burn themselves out under your non-judgmental gaze.

 

If you can stay still and engage the process for 20 minutes or more, you are on the right track.

And the brilliant thing is: The attitude you develop to sit comfortably still, overcoming any obstacles, for a long period of time IS the benefit of the endeavor. The quality of your effort enables your meditation and is the successful outcome of your practice. This style of meditation is just a re-set or a calibration of attitude to enhance your daily life. This to me is Dharma Yoga Style Meditation!

To succeed you have to sensitize yourself to the subtlety of WHAT you observe AND the subtlety of HOW you observe. And this is only to get started; this creates the right conditions for Dharma style SIGNAL REALIZATION, which is the natural, un-coerced by-product of the meditation process and is accelerated by the Yoga Nidra technique.

But even if you are motivated by curiosity and driven by the right attitude you will still encounter obstacles, both physical and psychological, that challenge your ability to sit peacefully for longer periods of time. To overcome these, you need to choose your initial mind sharpening technique such as the breath, a mantra or third eye, and develop a strategy keeps engaged on your own path.

Or better yet: “Do you know any tricks?”

 

042Jeffrey Vock is a free-lance photographer based in Jersey City where he lives with his wife and 2 older kids. He takes photos for DYC but he is a strictly amateur Yogi. In 1984 he spent 3 months in a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand studying Vipassana Meditation. In 1986 he picked up a New York City Yellow Pages looking for a Yoga studio. He dialed a number and Sri Dharma answered the phone. Jeff has been taking classes at Sri Dharma’s various centers for almost 30 years (with occasional lapses) and has never felt the need to find another teacher.

Guru from Within

Devotional Writings
Dedicated to a Living Inspiration:

 Sri Dharma Mittra

Guru from Within

By
Anne Marie Gordon

 I bow to the Supreme Self

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

Om Namah Shivaya

 

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

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

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

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

Your devoted sadhaka

 ***

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am Dharma Mittra

***

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

I Am No One

By Julie Bach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three governing ethical guidelines as a Sadhaka have been:

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

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

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

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

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

And so it unfolds….. Ever so thankful…

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

 

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

Purifying Bit by Bit Through Practice

By Jenna Pacelli

When I look around me at all the different kinds of people, in completely different places in their lives, I notice my mind judging certain aspects of them. Being a yoga practitioner and firmly on the path of self-realization, I am often humbled by my mind’s ability to spew some nasty things, contrary to the compassionate goals of yoga.

However, the practice comes not from being perfect necessarily but from learning to observe these tendencies and using the practice to continue to cleanse and purify the mind, body and heart.

The practice and teachings of my teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra, have changed my life dramatically. He has taught me how to purify the parts of myself that would make your hair curl, parts that all of us have, if we just look closely enough. The more and more aware I become, the amount of work I still need to do becomes ever clearer.

As a Dharma Yoga instructor, I practice pranayama, meditation, mantra, asana, concentration, and other spiritual practices every day. These form the bulk of my practice and there is a direct correlation between how steady I’ve been in my practice and my own ability to be compassionate, calm and patient in my daily life. It is literally a never-ending process of cleansing and purifying the places within myself that I would rather not look at. I once read about a teacher whose student asked them if they should practice every day.

The teacher replied: “You don’t necessarily have to practice every day but when life gets difficult, you’ll hope you’d been practicing every day.”

The path to self-realization is not an easy one. It can be very lonely and isolating, not to mention mentally and emotionally trying. However, the payoffs greatly outweigh the costs and eventually all costs go away and become irrelevant as a self-realized being. It’s the difference between suffering in my own thoughts and feelings about others (because we’re truly the only ones that suffer when we judge) and allowing others to have their own awakening process.

The people surrounding me haven’t changed – I have! So I can walk through the grocery store and either feel the hot anger of judgment and criticism inside my body (which the practice has also helped me connect with) or have a totally peaceful experience. Nothing about my outside surroundings changed – but when I’m connected to myself through the practices of yoga, I hold the power of changing my experience in my hands.

Judgment serves as a mirror for our own progress on the path. It’s simply a construct of the mind and when we learn to purify the mind, we’re really learning how to remove obstacles on the path.

This is why we practice – to shed light on the dark, cob-webby places inside of us that need our attention. Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras did Patanjali say “You must be free of all imperfections.”

What he did say was that yoga is the “settling of the mind into silence.”

When we silence the mind, the place where the dark, harmful thoughts originate, then we start to experience the peace of our true self. And the joy that accompanies that supreme knowledge is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, even if only briefly.

 

DSC_0094-MJenna Pacelli is a Yoga Teacher and Board-Certified Holistic Health Coach in San Francisco, serving clients and students all over the world. She helps her clients navigate radical life changes and transitions, helping them heal at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Connect with her at jennapacelli.com.

The Yoga of Truly Seeing

By Barb Cooper

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

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

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

Yep. He sees me.

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

I know how that sounds.

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

I had no idea what I was doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Yoga Journal Estes Park and Sri Dharma Mittra

By Brendan Lentz

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

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

blog1Entrance Drive to the YMCA of the Rockies

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

blog2View of the Historic Administration Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

From Istanbul to Dharmaland, with Love

By Gülnihal Özdener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Magic of Mantra, Japa and Kirtan

by Martin Scott

I didn’t know it at the time, but Sri Dharma was present at the beginnings of my practice.

I was very musical as a child, forming an extremely tight bond with music at a very young age.  My first piano lesson was the same day as my first day of first grade and I played my last recital my senior year of high school.  I joined the school band in fourth grade playing the tenor saxophone, then went through a bunch of different instruments – French horn, trumpet, flute, oboe, tuba, baritone – until I quit band my junior year in high school.

I would save my allowance and ask my dad to drive me to the store so I could spend hours perusing records before I finally made the decision as to which one of the many-coveted vinyl discs would end up living with the other beloveds I had so carefully chosen.  I would spend hours in my room memorizing every word to every song and commit to memory every melody.  This passion for all kinds of music grew with me all the way through adulthood.

With this deep-rooted love for music I’ve always loved chanting in yoga classes.  I was first introduced to this part of the practice by my teacher, Stephanie Snyder, and it quickly became my favorite part of the class.  She always began and ended her classes with different a chant every time.  At first I just loved the melodies, the smile that these lovely tunes always put on my face and the overwhelming sense of happiness that stayed with me with once they were done.  I listened very carefully to learn the words so that I could sing along, enunciating each word and working hard to be right on key, which was made a little easier since she plays the harmonium.  When I got home from class I would look up these chants online to learn the words and their meanings.  I was certain that knowing the translations would make me understand them even more.

One of my favorite chants that I learned, and the most mysterious of all, was the Purification Mantra.  Stephanie told us that she had learned it from her teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra.  She told us how this powerful mantra would purify anything that the sound touched, including the mind, the practice, everything.  I found myself chanting the Purification Mantra when I was washing dishes, when I was riding my scooter, out for a walk, settling in for my practice – all the time!  I asked Stephanie what it meant and she told me that she didn’t know and that I didn’t need to know and that it is more powerful when you don’t know the meaning.  This piqued my interest.

I started to realize that the effects of the mantras were what was making me feel so clear and grounded, not the happy tune or the words.  The repetition of the words were calming my mind, clearing things out and giving me that feeling of peace and calm.

“Many students of meditation and spiritual life complain of a noisy mind, out of control senses, and emotional challenges. One of the most significant, single suggestions of the ancient sages is the use of mantra japa, or sacred word to focus the mind. No amount of intellectualizing will convince you of this. It must be practiced for the benefits to be experienced.  Regardless of what mantra you use, one of the most important principles is the practice of constant remembrance. By cultivating such a steady awareness many benefits come.”(www.swamij.com)

When I sit with my mala and chant my mantra 108 times, I almost forget the words that I am saying.  The japa of the mantra calms the vrittis to the point that my own voice becomes a separate entity.  The cadence, rhythm, and repetition of the mantra are the simplest way to “nirodhah the vrittis.” Now I don’t try to figure out the words or what they mean when I learn a new mantra.  I just get into the groove of it and let the mantra work its magic.  These are some of my favorite times with Sri Dharma – comfortably sitting, chanting, responding incessantly what he calls out and feeling the amazing sense of clarity and calm that comes without really knowing what I’m saying.

 

Martin.Scott.HeadshotInspired and passionate, Martin Scott brings a light and humorous energy to every class he teaches; whether in Union Yoga, his own studio, or as messenger of yoga to other communities. Employing a distinct expression of devotion, tradition and levity, Martin teaches in a way that holistically inspires his students. Martin is committed to honoring his teachers, all of which who have led him to a life devoted to the study of yoga, as well as to teaching yoga to others. Most of all, Martin honors his guru, Sri Dharma Mittra

Mindfulness with the Foot on the Pedal

by Lisa Markuson

Mindfulness. It’s a hot topic on social media outlets and the news.  But what is mindfulness?

Well, have you ever seen a cyclists whizzing around on the road, texting while biking? You don’t have to be a yogi perusing the Dharma Yoga blog to know that bike-texting is not being mindful of the task at hand and foot.

But I’m not here to berate masochistic compulsive communicators, I swear. In fact, the opposite is true. I want to talk about how cycling isn’t just the ecologically, physically, and socially healthful mode of transit, but is also a means to improve your mental and emotional health, strength and equanimity – much like a regular yoga practice. When riding a bike, every pedal is a new opportunity to be grateful for your legs, your feet, your trusty steed, the home you are leaving, the destination you are approaching, the air filling your lungs, society that paves the roads…you get the idea. I’ve always had a sense of this fact, but my recent experience of the Life of a Yogi yoga teacher training program at Dharma Yoga Center this February really catalyzed these ideas.

Bike_NY_©Enid_Johnstone

Mindfulness isn’t about being a Jedi who can fine tune proprioception to the point that you could take apart and reassemble a bike while blindfolded in a sandstorm. It is also very closely linked to the crucial tenets of compassion and loving-kindness, which can also be embodied while you are on a bike. What could be kinder and more compassionate then being a safe, engaged, calm cyclist, sharing the road, being present, and appreciating the people around you? If nothing else, it may keep you from yelling threats at tourists riding tandem in your way.

So here are five ways to make your bike ride more mindful and compassionate:

  1. When you’re getting ready to ride, take time to do a few simple stretches to wake your body up, get your blood pumping and stimulate your brain. A few sun salutations are a great start. Side stretches, loosening up the spine, hamstring stretches, and hip opening movements will improve your cycling, and an inversion like a headstand or a forward fold will bring oxygenated blood to the brain and wake you up better than coffee.
  2. Before you push off for your first pedal take 20 seconds to pause and visualize a safe, pleasant ride, and smile. Seriously, actually smile – it tells your body to produce all sorts of calming, pleasing chemicals.
  3. While riding, be aware of the mechanical processes and symbiosis of your body and your bike. Allow the body awareness that you’ve developed through your asana practice to translate to your ride and acknowledge the muscles of your legs and feet that are working in harmony to propel the pedals of your bike, the graceful simplicity of the machine amplifying your movements.
  4. Notice your breath and you may be surprised to realize how shallow it usually is, and how often we hold our breath because we’re focused elsewhere. Gently remind yourself to take full, slow, luxurious breaths while you ride, especially in heavy traffic or challenging terrain and you will be calmer, happier and will ride better overall.
  5. Develop new thought habits. Sri Dharma Mittra always encourages us to use each movement or action as an offering to God and you can do the same thing while on your bike. As a cyclist, it is easy to feel like you’re getting pushed around by cars, thwarted by pedestrians and on the defensive. However, if you give yourself permission to feel compassion and empathy for the other people with whom you share the road and the world, you’ll be amazed at how much happier and safe you feel. If a car cuts you off, wish them a safe and stress-free day. If another cyclist blows through a light, don’t curse at them but send a positive thought their way. It isn’t easy at first, but once you get started it quickly becomes second nature and it is worth it.

wheel_Lisa_Markuson

See if you can give some or all of these a try on your next ride and notice if it makes a difference in how you feel on your bike and off. If even one person who reads this finds that they have a better ride or a better day overall I’ll be thrilled so let me know how it works and how you feel. So let’s go ride! And of course, be receptive.

 

Lisa_Markuson

Lisa helps run an indie bike adventure company in Brooklyn, NY, and has completed Dharma Yoga Teacher training, splitting her time between NYC and our nation’s capital, Washington DC. Lisa is a Buddhist, queer, nomadic, New Age nonconformist, and likes to listen to jazz and funk and ambient sounds while collecting ideas on her blog, Disco Granola. She is only mostly vegan and gluten-free. Inspirations and role-models include but are not limited to: Gertrude Stein, Bill Murray, Mark Twain, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elena Brower, Haruki Murakami, and her father. Find her on twitter/instagram @lisamarkuson or tumblr at http://discogranola.tumblr.com