Category Archives: secret

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.

Yoga Nidra: Exploring the Deepest Relaxation Practice

by Marija Kundakovic

 “Yoga Nidra: Extremely deep relaxation with psychic instructions.” ~ Sri Dharma Mittra 
 
©Natasha Phillips
             
I fell in love with yoga because of savasana. This may sound strange (or lazy…?) to many people who practice yoga to improve physical strength and flexibility, because savasana involves simply lying on the mat for 10-15 minutes and relaxing. But it was exactly there, in my first savasana, that I started feeling that yoga was truly “working” for me. I could feel my busy mind finally getting less noisy, and I started being receptive tothe present moment.
 
The majority of us are very busy and distracted by our daily duties, worries and little desires, without having the chance and time to stop and try to understand our true nature and what really lies within us. We identify with our ever-changing bodies and minds and with our egoistic constructs of ourselves that make us feel efficient and safe in the environment that we live in. We are constantly projecting ourselves in the future or getting caught up within the past. But how do we go beyond that? How do we reach our essence and improve our understanding of our surroundings and of our purpose in life?
 
For me, the answer lies in the practice of Yoga.  The Asana practice is only an introduction to what yoga can offer in terms of self-knowledge and self-development. Slowly, with my constant practice, I started being able to lose my body sensations and quiet my mind during relaxation and meditation, and to go beyond the regular frame of body and mind. This gave me a completely new perception of myself, with more subtle levels of existence and the awareness that there is certainly much more beyond my ego and its little wishes and concerns. Within my six-year yoga practice, I think that my first class of Yoga Nidra with Sri Dharma Mittra was one of the biggest milestones. 
   
©Natasha Phillips
 
Sri Dharma Mittra likes to say that, “relaxation is the best antidote for all impurities”. Once after savasana in his regular asana class, he suggested we come to Yoga Nidra, in which you lie down in savasana and relax for an hour. As a long-time savasana lover, I thought, “Oh, that would be really nice,” and I decided to check out this class, expecting it to be, literally, a long, one-hour savasana. I went to class.  We were instructed to lie down in savasana, not to move or fall asleep, and to stay attentive throughout the practice while listening to the instructions.
 
It turned out that Yoga Nidra is an active meditation. Sri Dharma first guided us to bring the awareness to each part of the body, slowly starting from the left hand thumb and then moving through all the limbs, ending with the individual facial features and back of the head. This was followed by the stage in which we were asked to evoke the experiences of opposite sensations and feelings, such as sensations of extreme hot and cold, and very busy and quiet environments, briefly, one after another. We were then asked to visualize some images and landscapes and were led through an enjoyable imaginary journey.
 
I don’t remember when exactly, but I can clearly evoke an amazing moment when I lost all my body sensations while being aware of everything that was happening. And then I felt like I was floating… And then I heard Sri Dharma say “you are everywhere” and I felt … I was … indeed … everywhere…
 
©Natasha Phillips
The practice of Yoga Nidra ended with a resolution, “my will power is rapidly improving,” repeated three times and we were then slowly brought to the regular waking state. I came out of the class transformed. I felt lighter, elevated, and refreshed. (Someone met me just after the class and asked me if I had a facial — no kidding, inside and out!)
 
I wondered what exactly happened in that hour of Yoga Nidra (a.k.a. Psychic Sleep) which Sri Dharma said could substitute for several hours of ordinary sleep. As a scientist (that’s my profession), I started reading articles and books to better understand with my mind what happened beyond my body, and beyond my “regular” mind in that class. 
 
Briefly, this is what literature says: Yoga Nidra is a method of inducing deep physical, mental, and emotional relaxation in which the body is in a sleep-like state somewhere between being awake and being asleep. Unlike regular sleep, the consciousness is maintained in Yoga Nidra. And, unlike the fully awakened state in which only the intellectual mind is operating, when you are able to completely relax in Yoga Nidra, the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind open, allowing the penetration into the depths of the mind that are not normally available. For instance, rotation of consciousness through different body parts induces physical relaxation while evoking the opposite, intense feelings in Yoga Nidra enables emotional relaxation. 
 
©Natasha Phillips
 
The visualization stage of Yoga Nidra, which usually involves images that have universal significance and powerful associations, brings the hidden contents of the deep unconscious into the conscious mind. The practice of visualization develops self-awareness and induces deep mental relaxation.  This practice also sets the mind into a peaceful and calm state that makes the unconscious mind very receptive to positive thoughts and suggestions, and this is why the practice ends with the resolve to increase will power (or any other resolution that the practitioner would like to achieve through practice). Please do not mistake this for hypnosis because the resolve in Yoga Nidra is made by practitioner, who is aware of it, and the teacher is there only to guide the practice.
 
During practice of Yoga Nidra, one’s consciousness travels from one layer to another, according to its current state and capacity. In some cases, the practice will bring only some sort of relaxation, sleep, or pleasant experience. Sometimes it may go very deep and bring fantastic experiences. The ultimate outcome of Yoga Nidra, similar to meditation, is total harmony and integration between all levels of consciousness and merging with the universal consciousness or achieving the highest level of consciousness, known as samadhi. 
 
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Marija Kundakovichas a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is currently a Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University in NYC. She is an epigeneticist studying how life experiences leave an imprint on our genes shaping the brain and behavior throughout life. In addition to her scientific quest, her yogic path has been essential for her self-inquiry and search for understanding of life. She is thankful to all yoga teachers that have left the imprints on her yoga practice, including the teachers from Chicago Yoga Center, Mandiram Yoga Barcelona, and Jivamukti Yoga NYC. She is particularly thankful to Sri Dharma Mittra and the teachers at Dharma Yoga New York Center. Marija completed the Dharma Yoga “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training under the guidance of Sri Dharma Mittra in June 2013. She is currently in the last stages of her internship and looks forward to sharing her knowledge of yoga with others.  

 

Ten Great Quotes To Inspire You

by Sorsha Anderson




“You are never bereft of your inner guidance.” ~  Jane Roberts


“Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

“You are never too old or too broken.  It is never too late to begin, or to start all over again.” ~ Bikram Choudhury


“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.  Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough.  We must do.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci



“Any path is only a path, and there is no affront to oneself or to others in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you.  Look at every path closely and deliberately.  Try it as many times as you think necessary.  Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question – does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.” ~ Carlos Castaneda


 “A good stretch is like a yawn.  One doesn’t feel satisfied until it is complete.” ~ Unknown

“Knowing Love, I will allow all things to come and go, to be as subtle as the wind and take everything that comes with great courage. As my teacher would say to me, Life is right in any case. My heart is as open as the sky.” ~ from Kamasutra: A Tale of Love


“As with a labyrinth, you must sometimes move away from the place you long to be in order to eventually come to the heart of the matter.” ~ Sorsha Anderson

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Sorsha Anderson is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher who lives and teaches in Vermont.  She has been practicing since 1991 and worked with very gentle and restorative yoga until her 30’s when she wandered into a hot and sweaty, but meditative vinyasa studio.  Neither a dancer nor gymnast as a child, and after having had two children, she surprised herself by balancing in crow for the first time at 36.  She never looked back.  Sorsha approaches each new pose with a sense of optimism and adventure and delights in encouraging others to try what only seems impossible at first glance.  She particularly enjoys teaching older women who are trying to find their way back to their bodies after a sometimes very long absence.  Sorsha is thankful to have found her way to the Dharma Yoga Center and makes the trip from Vermont as often as she can.  She offers gratitude for the beautiful physical and spiritual teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra.  

Yoga’s Little Secret: Pranayama

by Melody Abella

 “…the movements of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled.  This is pranayama.”  sutra 2.49

Pranayama is yoga’s little secret.  Outside of the yoga world, no one talks about fully dedicating attention to your breath unless you’re hyperventilating or experience some other health issue like pneumonia or asthma.  Even then, in my limited experience, the medical world rarely knows what the power of conscious breathing has to offer.

To the general population of non-yogis, yoga is typically only associated with physical movements/poses (asana).  Don’t get me wrong.  Yoga asana offers a ton of benefits such as improving balance and coordination, increasing strength and flexibility and boosting confidence and concentration.  There are many, many reasons to do it.  And in most asana classes, breathing is usually mentioned and encouraged but it tends to be secondary in the minds of many students (at least those newer to asana).

Pranayama (breath control) is really the heart and soul of yoga, just as breathing (the exchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide) is essential to keeping our hearts pumping and blood flowing.  The benefits of exploring pranayama can be as grand as easing high blood pressure and asthmatic symptoms to as simple as cleansing the body and calming the mind.

There are numerous pranayama techniques, each having their own specific function and benefit.  For instance:

·        Kapalabhati cleanses the lungs, warms the body and tones the abdominal muscles. 

·        Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) has a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system. 

·        Sound breathing improves concentration and can positively shift your energy (i.e. awakening the chakras). 

For details on some of these techniques, check out The Science of Pranayama.  If the techniques I’ve mentioned sound too esoteric (which I get!), Max Strom’s Learn to Breathe DVD might be your speed.

My current fav:  Calming Breath.  Why?  It’s easy.  Anyone can do it.  Plus, it can be done anywhere, anytime. 

Simple instructions:  

  • Work with a 4:2:4 breathing ratio for a few weeks (5-10 minutes a day). 
  • This means inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, exhale for a count of 4.  
  • As this gets easy, you can increase the ratio to 6:3:6, or 8:4:8.  
  • Don’t be too ambitious.  Remember it’s called calming breath so more doesn’t mean better.
Again in my mind, pranayama is yoga’s little secret.  Trust me, this  blog post here really doesn’t do it justice!  Explore it for yourself.  Read up on it.  Find a yoga teacher who can guide you and answer your questions.  And just like asana, practice it daily.

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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.