Category Archives: reading

Dharma Yoga Across the US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US…

This week: 

Gopi Om (Nicole Sopko) in Chicago, Illinois 


Where do you live?

I live in Chicago with my partner Dan, and our rescued dogs. I have an affinity for rescued pit bull type dogs especially since they need loving homes. Though I am not a Chicago native and I grew up outside of Detroit, this city is definitely where my heart is.


Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I lived in Philadelphia when I first heard of Sri Dharma’s teachings from others. I dedicated a day to taking the train up for the noon Master Class and my heart instantly knew that Sri Dharma-ji was the teacher for me. Following many years of self doubt and a move to Chicago, I got on a plane for each of the four sessions of the 500-hour and the intensive 800-hour training. It was a test of dedication, not to Sri Dharma-ji to whom I already felt very dedicated, but to embracing my own worthiness.


The 500-hour training took place in the winter of 2009/2010 and I had several life events take place during that time that would be considered a little catastrophic. These events were the pieces of my life that were not me falling away to make room for the things that are more in line with my goals. Being in Sri Dharma-ji’s presence and the presence of so many other aspiring yogis, I felt at peace with the changes and natural in my surrender to the will of the Divine.


When I heard about the first ever 800-hour training I knew that I could not miss it. My personal life was more stable than it had been during the previous training and as a result my mind was freer to submerse myself in the deep teachings that Sri Dharma-ji was offering. The experience was like nothing else and I still struggle to explain what I’ve taken away, but it has been absolutely life-changing.



What would you say about the people who you met during your trainings? How have they inspired you?
The people I met during the trainings inspire me endlessly! Many people I see infrequently but still feel incredibly close to. I keep up with many of them on Facebook, which is an easy tool for that kind of transmission. 

I am constantly awe-struck by the magnitude of what my fellow Dharma Yoga teachers are accomplishing. Of course, I believe it is all a result of “giving up the fruits.”

What is one practice that you do every day?

I try to offer kindness to myself, to others and to the world. I make mistakes, but I constantly practice being kind. I also practice Psychic Development regularly.



What are you currently working on?
I currently make my living in a variety of ways! I am the Vice President of Upton’s Naturals, an exclusively-vegan natural foods company owned by my partner, Dan. Upton’s primarily makes seitan, a compassionate alternative to meat. We just moved into a new production facility in Chicago that we’ve constructed to house that business and which also incorporates a small vegan café called Upton’s Breakroom

Dan and I both live and work together to operate these businesses, to which we’ve dedicated much of our lives. The new space has been designed from the ground up limited only by our imaginations and more realistically, our budget. It is a beautiful space for our employees, guests, and students to enjoy and I hope it adds something beautiful and of value to the city that we’ve made our home.


I am also regularly teaching yoga. The top floor of the seitan factory has a small by-donation yoga center called Maha Dharma. I also recently became the caretaker/owner of a second yoga center, Yoga Trek Center, in nearby Oak Park, IL. 

Both spaces offer yoga classes as well as host community events. I aim for them to both be multi-use spaces, while still keeping our intention of creating a devotional space for studying the science of yoga.



Why are these projects a priority?
I think that the main purpose of my previous “profession” was to make enough money to afford the 500-hour training and once that was secured, that job fell away naturally. 

For the first time in my life, I feel competent at what I am doing, which I think is a result of my passion for this work. Now, I just want to keep moving forward; offering whatever I have towards making the world a more compassionate place – whether that is by making vegan options more available and maybe more palatable or by offering spiritual teachings. I try to meet every situation in the way that I am most needed.


How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
The experience has helped me tremendously in developing my drive, as well as to eliminate my fears of success and of failure. As long as I am offering up the fruits of this work, I know that whatever I accomplish will not hold me back from the real reason that I am here, the realization of the Supreme Self.



Can you share a little about your current teaching schedule?
I currently teach at Yoga Trek and Maha Dharma each a few times a week, as well as retreats and workshops throughout the year wherever I am drawn.

What books are you currently reading or studying?

I am currently reading Yoga and Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta and reading it very slowly and deliberately as I try to soak in as much as I can from this text. I also always re-read the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras and attempt to “check it out for myself,” as Dharma-ji advises.

Dharma Yoga Across The US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US…

This week: Monica Breen

– Detroit, Michigan  


By Nicole Sopko

Monica Breen is a lovely Dharma Yoga teacher who is also an artist in the Detroit-area. Her yoga studio is called BE NICE Yoga which was named in tribute to Sri Dharma Mittra’s emphasis on the first ethical rule of yoga, Ahimsa, instructing students to “just be nice.”

Where do you live?

I live in Hamtramck, Michigan, which is a little city of only two square miles, surrounded by the city of Detroit. It is probably the most culturally diverse community in Michigan, strongly represented by Polish, Arab, Indian, Yugoslav, Bangladeshi, and African American people. I’m grateful for my community! I live in an old Baptist Church (the former First Baptist Church of Hamtramck) with my husband and two rescued cats.



Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I completed the LOAY 200-hour training in 2005. I was inspired by my immediate connection to Sri Dharma’s teachings, which I felt after I dropped into one of his classes at the old studio on East 23rd Street. I returned to Michigan and continued to think about our meeting and I realized that the LOAY training had the potential to be a unique experience. I was correct!

I really responded to Dharma’s strong emphasis on the spiritual aspects of practice and its intersection with the sciences. In addition, Sri Dharma shares so many great and funny stories and it’s coupled with practical advice! His emphasizes on compassion, especially for animals is important as we enter into the seat of a teacher in our community.



How have the people you met in the training inspired you?
Our group was quite diverse with individuals from many different cities, countries, and backgrounds. I was impressed with the strong yoga asana! I made great strides with my postures by being immersed in the group, and at the same time I was completely humbled.

What is one practice that you do every day?
Seated meditation.

What are you currently working on?

I operate a little yoga studio in Detroit by the name of BE NICE Yoga. As a subsidiary of the studio we launched Project Social which is a program of events and activities which are developed by and for the community. The idea is to allow a space for the community to share and “test” knowledge and life practices which have been discovered or enhanced through the practice of yoga.

I think of Project Social as a lab where the studio community can bring their healthy and unique interests into a larger, social context. An example of a Project Social event is our upcoming Silent Nature Walk which we hope will serve to help us better appreciate nature and to investigate the intersection of ecology and yoga – all while forming stronger social bonds in our community.

Project Social aspires to many outcomes: to create interconnection between our practice and community, to be a platform for political and social exchange, to open a forum for sharing information that relates to health and well-being, and to deepen friendships within and beyond our yoga community. So far the response has been great!



How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY teacher training program affected your life outside of training?

From the program I learned that a strong and fulfilling lifestyle develops from the rigors and discipline of continued practice. With consistency and determination the division between practice and life all but disappears. Dharma helped me establish a holistic practice that includes a healthy spirituality, which is no less real or important as a healthy body or a healthy mind.

Can you share a little about your current teaching schedule?

I instruct 13 classes a week, mostly asana but include pranayama and meditation in many of my classes. My overriding philosophy is that we must meet our practice with a balance of determination and compassion. We must also be consistent. Practice evolves on a schedule that is very different than anything else we experience in our life and its timeline is much longer than I believe we really understand. I am always surprised along the way at how much I have learned and how little I actually know.



What books are you currently reading or studying?
I was just gifted the book How Yoga Works by Christie McNally and Michael Roach and I’m very excited to read it. And as always, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali…

________________________________________________
Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL where she teaches Dharma 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.