Category Archives: self knowledge

Letting Go of Self-Imposed Limitations

By Barb Cooper

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dharma Yoga Center’s immersion weekend in celebration of Sri Dharma’s 76th birthday in May. I hadn’t been back to the DYC in an entire year (I live in Texas) and this year, I went there pretty much spiritually bankrupt, physically depleted, and in ethical conflict. Whereas in the past, my focus had centered on reconnecting with my physical yoga practice and the yogis who have come to mean so much to me, this time I went because I was longing to sit at the foot of the master, to soak up as much of his love and healing as I could. I’d been ill –I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to practice the asana.

And, you know, I learned such a huge lesson.  We get out of our spiritual experience with Sri Dharma Mittra what we are willing to receive.  He is unchanging and constant, offering all he knows to all who come before him. But he meets us where WE are; he’s not offering us lessons that are beyond our capacity to understand and experience.

In the past, I have had such a longing to connect with him, but I was simultaneously a little afraid of him. I always tell the story of the time I sneaked out of an immersion weekend for a cup of coffee. I came back to the DYC and readied myself for the next class, sitting cross-legged on the floor and closing my eyes to settle my singing blood. I opened my eyes to find Sri Dharma looking right at me, smiling.  “How are you going to find bliss,” he said, “If you can’t even give up coffee?”

For a long time, I told that story as evidence that Sri Dharma is psychic (he is) and as evidence that you can’t get away with anything when you are with him.

But what I understand now is that it was never actually about the coffee. It was never about getting away with anything. It was never about judgment. It was always about him answering my deepest wish that he see me.  He was saying, “You are seen. Come.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had met his eyes and smiled back, instead of looking away guiltily?

Well, actually, I know what would have happened.  I know because it happened this year at the immersion. This time, I went to him in pain and needing healing.  I watched him.  I sat as close as I could to him.  When I closed my eyes, I tried to channel him—to feel a little of the peace he feels.  And he read my heart.

Every word he spoke seemed to be directed at helping me down the path to true yoga. I felt enveloped by his love—so much so that as I walked through the streets of Chelsea, I could hear his voice in my head. And I finally understood that all the barriers I have to self-realization are ones I built myself. Sri Dharma’s frequent exhortations to “be receptive to the grace of God” are more than just a slogan.  He’s urging us to let ourselves be cracked wide open in ways we can’t even imagine –and all it takes is a searching and open heart.

I returned to Texas profoundly and permanently changed. I used to fear that the great physical distance between the DYC and me would dilute the effect of the healing I receive when I go there.  I know now that the only limits we experience are the ones we put on ourselves.

 

“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”

― Sivananda Saraswati

 

Barb CooperBarb 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

An Interview with Sri Dharma’s Modern Handyman, Adam Frei

By Hannah Allerdice

 Sri Dharma has often referred to himself as the handyman to his Guru, Yogi Gupta. My heart swells to think of Sri Dharma as a disciple, lovingly shaving Yogi Gupta’s hair, preparing his vegetables (slowly taking all of the sides of the mushrooms off), and preparing juices for Satsang.  Although he’s not fixing electric wires, or serving Sri Dharma’s personal needs, in many respects, Adam Frei is Guru-ji’s handyman, lovingly serving him with full dedication and love.

Most of us know Adam as the director of Sri Dharma’s Life of A Yogi teacher trainings and for his stunning devotional kirtan. Indeed, many of us swoon ourselves to his chanting. But Adam is behind the scenes for so much of Sri Dharma’s beautiful interviews and writings. He edited the comprehensive LOAY TT manual (soon to be published!), and has been instrumental in conveying Sri Dharma’s messages within his interviews and other writings. He also spreads Sri Dharma’s messages throughout the wild world of social media. In his direct teachings, in New York and when he travels, he is a bright, clear channel of Sri Dharma’s teachings. This might be why I’ve heard Sri Dharma say, “Next life I will be Adam and Adam will be in my place.”

Last year, I interviewed Adam to learn more about him, and from him. We talked about his spiritual journey, meeting and developing a relationship with Sri Dharma, common obstacles and tricks for staying on the spiritual path, and what it means to be a yoga teacher. His messages bring out the qualities – the virtues – that Adam embodies: love, strength, clarity, humility, cheerfulness, kindness and devotion. May you learn and cherish this as much I have!

 

Q: Can you talk a little about your own spiritual journey?

 

Adam: Yes. I started singing when I was very young. One of the places that I sang from the time I was young was in Synagogue. So, I always had a certain experience that was more experiential – than anyone telling me to think a certain way or feel a certain way. That sense of connection, and that experience, was something that I looked to find other ways and tried to understand, especially as a teenager. I actually served as a cantorial soloist for three years starting from the time I was thirteen, so I was the person leading the service, which is mostly song in a synagogue. And, there was a difference between that and regular performing – dealing with people’s energy. I was thinking about those things.

I went into yoga because I liked the idea of something that was integrated. It was ethical rules, breathwork, it was meditation, it was the asana to help to maintain the physical. I just really liked the idea of something that was comprehensive because to just meditate, I don’t know– I always had the ability to just sit and be completely still. I really liked yoga. It was one of those things, when, from first times I practiced, I felt like it was exactly what I was looking for.

The [Sri Dharma Mittra] poster for me was a very important part of my yoga journey. No one I ever spoke to at Kripalu, where I used to look at the poster, had any idea of who Dharma was. No one could ever give me information other than, “Yea, it’s a great poster, we sell it. We have it in two sizes.” When Dharma’s DVD’s came out, I had this advanced copy of the Level 2 that I was sent. I remember practicing it and being like, “Whoa, this is awesome!” And, realizing, “Wait! Dharma is alive, this is the same guy as the poster!”

Coming and taking class with Dharma for the first time – it really blew me away. For me, it was everything that I was looking for in terms of a teacher. It’s funny because everyone has such a different experience with Dharma. You know people often say that he never tells them what to do. Dharma always told me what to do. From the very first time I met him, he would always say things to me like, “you need to do this, or do this.” I found that to be very helpful.

I never used to ask Dharma anything, but Dharma always, like so many people say, used to answer all of my questions as a part of the teachings. I’d be thinking about something riding the subway in, I’d go to the class and then he’d talk about that exact thing and answer the question. I remember at some point Dharma saying to me, “You are like Arjuna, you’re always asking questions.” But I never asked him anything! In fact for the first year and a quarter, we never even spoke, directly, other than him teaching me within the class.

It’s exactly what I think I was looking for. And as much as anything else, certain things that I thought, or realizations that I had. Dharma at different points, if I ever asked him a question, would say to me, “You already know the answer.” And I’d say, “Oh, he’s right.” Or, he would say to me, “Why are you asking me, you know just as much as I do.” And I am not saying this from a place of ego. He was validating and helping me to have more confidence.

 

Q: Some people talk about when they meet their teacher, they are overwhelmed. Did you have that feeling when you met Sri Dharma?

 

Adam: No it really wasn’t like that. I think I came to the first class with Dharma in a certain way, almost having given up. At that point, I’d been actively looking for a teacher for about seven years. I was planning that that summer to go to India. My thought was that I wasn’t finding it here and in different places I’d gone in North America. I thought, since that was where yoga came from, it could be a place where I could find something. I already had a schedule when I was going to take my shots. It was really far into the planning stage.

That first class – in those days the noon class was the most popular class. The place was completely jammed full. It was a lot of yoga teachers who would plan their day so to take that class. And they were teaching before and after. I set down my mat, I went toward the back of the carpet, assuming, like everyone else, that Dharma would teach at the front of the room, and Dharma came in and put his mat right in front of where my mat was. There were 60 people in the room, all the way back to the bathroom. There were people in the hall down there. Almost in every pose he adjusted me. He had all these things to say, it wasn’t about the adjustments, it wasn’t like fixing, it was about showing me how to go deeper, or “this is another way to do it, or try this way.” And always, “open your eyes, look at me, I am right here. The reason I’m doing this is for you.” That, in and of itself, was amazing. That someone had all this information and was so generous to share. Then, just the experience I had in savasana, which was just very different than any kind savasana experience I’d ever had which then meant that the meditation was so different.

I talked to Dharma briefly afterwards. He was so uncomfortable. I tried to thank him. So often teachers are usually like, “come to my retreat. Would you like to buy my book?” And here was Dharma saying, “I didn’t do anything, you don’t have to thank me.” I was thinking, “What?” And there were people stacked up to talk to him and he got out of there as fast as he could and almost ran down the stairs. I was just fascinated by the whole experience.

I rearranged my entire work schedule so I could be at those classes at least twice a week. In the summers I was there four or five days a week. I just made it a part of my life. A big thing for me also was when Dharma came back from his first trip to Japan. He came in that day, about a half hour early. I always went early, so I could warm up so I could do the class. He sat down, and instead of going through his own practice, like he always used to do in those days, he sat down he started talking to me. “So, I was in Japan.” He started telling me about Japan – the students, the experience of teaching there. And he said, “some day you’ll go to Japan and you’ll teach there.” We literally had never spoken a word outside of him teaching in the class and all of a sudden it was like, oh, okay… It’s always been a really good thing for me – and I just I feel so fortunate, I feel so blessed to have the experience of being able to learn from him. He is so generous. To this day, he still has things to tell me. Even though he insists that I know all his tricks. There is always something else. I just love it, I love being around him.

 

Q: How has your relationship with Sri Dharma changed?

 

Adam: Basically after I had been there a couple of years, around New Years, Dharma had started saying to me, “Why are you still here? You’re done. You don’t need to be here anymore.”  He’d say that in class, in front of everyone. I felt a little embarrassed about it. We were at Kripalu, He said this every time he saw me at Kripalu. I said, “Dharma. You may think, and I am sure you are right, because you know better than I do, that I am done, but I feel like even if I am done, if I stay maybe I can help in some way. And, in some way, for everything you have done for me and everything you do for everyone else, maybe I could somehow help a little bit, and I’d like to stay around.”

There are things that come up. Like, about six years ago, I asked Dharma, “Someone asked me, since you weren’t there, if I could charge their malas for them and I don’t know if I am comfortable.” Dharma got angry at me: “What do you mean? You do it. If someone asks you, you do it.” I guess too, I think this was a long time ago, actually, Dharma said something along the lines of, “Let’s just be friends.” He was sort of trying to not have me be so reverent – or insisting upon reverence all the time. “Lets just be friends- treat me like you’d treat your friends.” For me, sometimes its hard, because I feel an enormous reverence for Dharma. But also I have the sense that because this is what he asks, I’ll be obedient. To the degree that I am able to because that’s the way he’d like it to be and that is what is comfortable for him.

 

Q: What have been some big obstacles for you? Can you share what kinds of things you learned to overcome them?

 

Adam: It sounds kind of ridiculous to say, but I feel like some of the biggest obstacles that I have had are not as recent. I used to try more to do things, try to make things happen. The more I have been able to go into the surrender, the fewer obstacles there are. It’s not to say there aren’t obstacles. It’s always this thing of being patient until things work themselves out in whatever way they work out. I used to think, particularly when I was more interested in singing opera professionally and was doing that a bit- that I am going to prepare, that I am going to do, and based on my preparation, and based on everything, this is going to be the result. If that wasn’t the result, I’d have that feeling that I have to work harder, I have to do, and I have to make. I started to understand over time, there is no “do,” no “make.” There is making your best effort, but being unattached. The less you are attached, the less you worry. I could say something completely asinine as part of this interview. But in a certain way, I can’t help that because that is what I am supposed to say.

I used to get very nervous, I’ve noticed in recent years, I don’t get that nervous. I think it is because I am not attached to the result. I mean, I cannot say that I am not at any level, I am not perfect, I am not perfected. I try to make the effort and offer up the fruit, whatever it ends up being.

 

Q: Do you feel like that this is your work — this is your internal, personal work?

 

Adam: I don’t feel that way at all. It used to be internal work. There were certain things, certain experiences I had where I thought I needed to put names to them or I needed to categorize them, to be able quantify them. Because of the way this brain and the body is, I needed that for my own development. I don’t think of anything in terms of myself. I don’t mean that I have no ego, no personality. It’s not to say I walk around, and if someone spits on me I say thank you. I don’t know how to explain it. I used to have a lot of goals, I used to have a lot of things – I don’t feel that way anymore. I have an obligation to my family, to take care of them, having brought two children in the world. I want to do everything I can for their life – to set them on the right path, and be the best husband that I can, and support my wife and our household and the rest of my family. I don’t really think in things for myself. Lately, I gained some weight as my metabolism has slowed down in recent years, and I am making an effort to lose it at this point, because there are some asanas I can’t demonstrate and it’s good for the students to see certain things. It was something I let go of for a while. But, I feel like I want to do something about it. I feel like this is the house I am living in and it’s a very comfortable and nice house. Everything works well and I am grateful.

It’s not like where Dharma will say, “I already have my diploma.” I see there are a lot of things I could still do or achieve. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just not something I think actively about.

 

Me: That sounds very peaceful!

 

Adam: It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, I was very competitive. I used to ski race, so I was competitive about that. I used to be interested in jobs, careers. At this point, it’s just different.

 

Q: What are some tricks that you have for staying on the path, and remaining useful on the path?

 

Adam: I don’t know if they are really tricks, per se. One of the things is first to have the courage to have the experience – and to try. Because, if you are willing to go into places that sometimes seem a little dangerous, scary, and certainly unfamiliar – that’s where you grow the most, where there is the opportunity to experience the most. Moving toward enlightenment, in psychological terms, is uncoupling the thinking processing mind from the part of our being that just experiences –that just sort of records and witnesses. If you went to that place, and stayed at that place, you’d stay insane. To be willing to go to that place, but keep that thread to come back. People think, or they look at enlightenment like it’s going to be a life changing experience, they are going to be a different person – like everything that is broken will suddenly be fixed. I don’t personally think that enlightenment is anything about that. It is coming to see something that at a certain point you already know, but you are not willing to accept with every fiber of your being. I think, once you accept it with every fiber of you being then everything is different, everything is just changed. Everything you experience, you perceive, you see and experience from a different place, a different perspective.

For me, seeing Dharma and the way he lives his life is helpful. He still has a family, and things he has to deal with. Like, his basement flooded. He drove all the way to the city and had to turn around and drive back home. What are you going to do? You have to take care of it. It’s that whole Zen thing: before enlightenment the laundry, after enlightenment, the laundry. Things have to be done. I think of it and feel it in a different way. I am not saying I am enlightened, but a lot of people think that something is going to fundamentally shift, that they will become superman, or super woman. I think all that stuff is all expectation, all attachment. It is all imposing a form on something that is not about form.

Dharma talks about the part of us that is not affected. Something happens, someone cuts you off in traffic, you get that flash of anger and it is gone as soon as it comes. That flash of anger, it’s gone – it is just body and mind going through whatever experiencing it is having. It’s not that you don’t walk around without the body and mind living out the karma of this lifetime – the prarabdha karma. It’s going to be whatever it is going to be – sometimes you are going to be good, sometimes it is going to be bad, sometimes you are going to be hot, sometimes you’re going to be cold, it doesn’t matter.

 

Q: Do you feel like there are any other lessons that would be helpful for our spiritual community – more messages emphasized?

 

Adam: There are two things. One is that I think it’s really important for people to stop confusing that asana and yoga are synonymous. And, it’s very hard, because where we are with yoga in the West, it is mostly a physical practice. But by looking at yoga in that way, you are stuck with just 1/8th. I think there is so much more to the system – if people are able to see the other parts as just as important, then yoga has the potential to change everything.

The second point is one Yogi Gupta always made: You have to discover your tendencies, your dharma. What works for you, you have to do a lot of it. It is certainly true that there are things we don’t like to do. But if you are a person to sit and sing and that’s something where you have a strong sense of connection – you should do that a lot. And just because everyone else enjoys these punishing asana classes — that may be helpful at some level, but it won’t help you make the most progress. The body and the mind have their tendencies and those are built-in. Figure out what those are and work with that. I think that is something that can help everyone make progress.

 

Q: You are the director of the LOAY teacher training program and you see the development of teachers. What are some things to consider when wanting to be a teacher?

 

I always go back to something that one of Dharma’s senior teachers said in response to the question, “What it is you want to do as a teacher?”

They said, “You want to be someone who helps someone find God.”

I thought, “Wow! How many people approach teaching yoga like this? I think about that answer daily. There are some people who teach parts of yoga- and that can be helpful. But, if they are really wanting to be someone who wants to share the full Ashtanga yoga with someone else – that is a big thing – a big level of responsibility. When we go through it, we don’t necessarily understand what we are going to be involved in.

When you go to teach the public classes, sometimes people are there for the workout, and that’s wonderful and great, and there are people who are really doing something devotional. You teach all of them. You try to help all of them. I think the biggest thing about being a teacher is that people have a fantasy that they will become famous. That people will be interested in what you have to say. Teaching is service – you try to do whatever you can to help people make progress. I always echo what Dharma says, teacher training is here to help you make progress so then, over time, you can help others make progress on their way.

 

hannahHannah was born in Manhattan, NY, and raised in Florida and Georgia. She came to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra in 2007 after learning under Saraswati Om in Syracuse, NY. Hannah completed the 200-hr and 500-hr LOAY in 2008 and 2011 and is honored to be a mentor in the LOAY Teacher Training programs. She teaches yoga and stress management, leads kirtan, does energy healing and cares for her growing family in Washington D.C. She feels so grateful to be a student of Sri Dharma Mittra and a part of his loving Dharma Yoga family. You can find more at hannahabricker.com.

The Transformation of the LOAY Teacher Training

by Gabriella DiGiovanni

For the past several years I spent a great amount of time exploring where to get my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Amidst the seemingly infinite amount of programs, I felt that there was no way I could choose among them. How would I know that I made the right choice? How could I possibly sift through all the programs to find the perfect one? And most of all, was I ready?

After practicing many different styles at many studios, I stumbled upon Dharma Yoga from a teacher in my hometown in upstate New York. I knew there was something special in the beautiful reality and simplicity of Dharma Yoga, so I decided to come to the source. I travelled to New York City to take class with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga Center. From the instant I walked in the temple, I felt at home. After my first class with Sri Dharma, everything clicked. I knew that he was an extremely special teacher, and this was the life-changing teacher training that I had been waiting for. I decided to jump in and immerse myself in the spirituality I had been craving.

In retrospect, the application process itself was an initial offering for me in the journey of the LOAY teacher training. The questions allowed me to search within myself and organize my thoughts, goals, and feelings. Reflecting back, it is amazing to see how much those initial responses have changed and grown throughout my time as a Sadhaka. Additionally, the pre-training assignments helped to give me an intellectual and practical background of Yoga before entering the training. It was extremely beneficial to read the scriptures and develop a more committed self-practice before the immersion. Not only did my heart begin to open, but the calling for me to join the path became stronger every day. I was becoming more ready for the immersive experience I was about to have, and preparing myself to get the most out of the training.

The night before the immersion began, I had countless thoughts running through my mind. Was I spiritually advanced enough? Was my physical practice strong enough? Is this the right time? What am I getting myself into? The mind and ego were playing tricks on me to make me feel unsure, but I was about to find out that there was no doubt that I was where I was for a reason. Everything was perfect. It was time to let go.

The first morning of the immersion, I left for the DYC with excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of nervousness. When I arrived and sat in the temple with the other Sadhakas, I felt a sense of extreme gratitude and serenity. Sri Dharma entered the room, and the vibrations of his incredible energy filled the temple. I felt a great desire to be near him, and listen intently to every word he spoke, and watch the way he explains. His words were simple, deep, honest, and funny. I felt wildly blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such a true master of Yoga. Everything in every moment of my past and my present had led me to this experience. I was home.

From the first day of the training, we entered into a very well organized, detailed, and time-efficient schedule. The schedule offered us the chance to truly live life as a Yogi. Every morning we had the chance to begin our day learning pranayama techniques, mantras, kriyas, and more. Sri Dharma and his amazing senior teachers gave us foundational lectures that helped lay the spiritual stepping stones for developing our own understanding and practice of Yoga. The support system of Sri Dharma, the mentors, and other trainees helped me reach much further than I would have alone in these exercises. As Sri Dharma says, “Imagine yourself in the practice you wish to access.” From this, I am thankful to have been able to watch Sri Dharma and his disciples so that I can now imagine that I can access their practice and continue to advance spiritually.

We were broken up into small groups and given two mentors. The small group sessions gave us the opportunity to practice teaching in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, with people who felt like brothers and sisters. All the mentors guided us with love and compassion, and gave us encouragement in this wonderful time of learning. Each of Sri Dharma’s teachers and disciples are unbelievable teachers, mentors, friends, and yogis. DYC’s senior teachers exude positive vibrations and clearly represent the pure teachings. Here it is okay not to be perfect, but to simply try our best and make our classes an offering. It was a powerful moment to realize that I am a vessel for these sacred teachings, and that we must lose attachment to the outcome of our actions as both teachers and students of Yoga.

My entire practice sky-rocketed through the opportunity to take daily asana classes with Sri Dharma along with hearing his daily lectures. I became so much more connected to the search for my true Self, and shifted the perspective of my practice more towards compassion than ever. My heart opened to Self-discovery and releasing attachment to allow my consciousness to flow freely. During this process I began to lose the initial grip on the results of my actions, and as a result my physical practice was deepened greatly. I did things I never knew I was able to access just by being in Sri Dharma’s presence and focusing on the Self. I felt myself grow by gaining a much deeper comprehension of compassion, and what it means to integrate it into every part of my life. While I was already following a vegetarian diet, the shift towards a complete vegan diet with the support of my co-trainees transformed my views on the subject. As a result, I now feel more connected to others and my practice by practicing ahimsa on a greater scale.

One of the many moments that stands out from the immersion was the Kirtan hosted by our mentors and Sri Dharma Mittra. The music was beautiful and the energy was so pure and full of devotion. I will never forget the sounds and feelings from our Kirtan, and how it transformed and strengthened us all as seekers of the Self. We were all able to connect deeply to ourselves and others through this devotional music.

I felt the bonds between our Dharma Family grow stronger each day. It seemed as though I had known the other trainees for my entire life, and that we were simply meeting again. The love, support, and compassion that came from each Sadhaka made me realize that I will never have to feel alone again on this journey. While we went our separate ways after the immersion ended, I know that we all continue to carry each other along with us.

In summation, there is no way to put the feeling of Sri Dharma Mittra’s presence into words. Just by being in the same room as Sri Dharma, my practice was elevated to a new level. Dharma Yoga is based around compassion and respect for all living beings. From this, Sri Dharma presented me with wisdom that brought me closer to the Divine that lies behind all of creation. Additionally, Sri Dharma revealed to me that the Guru lies within myself. From this I understand that I have all the tools I need to realize the Self. In this space I discovered Yoga as it was meant to be practiced, passed down through generations by enlightened Yogis. I cannot thank the staff and senior teachers enough for all of their kindness and compassion. I am so blessed to have had this amazing experience, and take it with me every day of my life. I am looking forward to taking future trainings with the Dharma Yoga Center, which I am certain will only deepen my journey further. Thank you Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga Center for changing my life. It is not possible to give enough praise for this beautiful center and all the amazing beings that are a part of it.

 

GabriellaGabriella began practicing Yoga four years ago in search of spiritual guidance. When she discovered  Sri  Dharma Mittra and embarked on the Life of a Yogi teacher training, her life was catapulted into a new upward direction. Through Dharma Yoga, Gabriella has found a stability and peace through constant practice. She seeks to grow as both a teacher and student of Yoga. Gabriella also works on a farm and apple orchard, and is a supporter of sustainable agriculture and small farms.

 

Change Your Perspective, Change the World

By Jairo Sanin

The notion that our identities and experience of separateness are an illusion is common discourse to those engaged in the yoga community. Despite being an avid practitioner, it wasn’t until a difficult week that this lesson became even more vivid for me.

My wife was having a challenging week and I found myself in a big warehouse purchasing a few items needed for our home.  I spotted an orchid plant and felt moved to purchase it for her, sure that it would bring her some sort of comfort.

I called her soon after I purchased this plant and talked to her about the colors of the flower and how I felt drawn to purchase it to brighten her day.  All I saw when I looked at this plant was the rich color and the intricate structure. She asked me to take a picture and send it to her. I was pleased to send her a picture of this simple flowering plant.

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After taking the picture, I used the photo editor on my phone to look at the negative of the picture I had just taken. I was amazed at what confronted me when I looked for a picture of a beautiful flower.  What stared back at me was the image above — a picture so distinct and powerful that I had to pick up the phone and call her before I sent her the image I was viewing.

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In yoga, we often practice methodologies aimed at mind purification and growing receptivity. While I have always believed myself to be a person of heightened awareness, it was this experience that truly taught me that when you change what you look at, what you look at changes.

 

JSYoga (1)Jairo Sanin, a bilingual, Long Island based yoga practitioner, holds an MPA and has extensive experience working in government building partnerships and contributing to public service.  His passion for fitness emerged after he became acquainted with the practice of yoga and watched its transformative impact take hold in his life and that of his fellow practitioners.  He is in the process of finishing his teacher training and is excited to share the great benefits of yoga, especially with communities that historically lack access.

 

Making the Work of Her Guru Her Life’s Work

By Dharma Yoga Center Staff

Sri Dharma Mittra speaks highly of Karma Yoga, doing work for others without any expectation of results. He’s well known for being a karma yogi for his guru and still practices what he preaches.

Within minutes of teaching at The Kripalu Center, Sri Dharma spent time neatly arranging everyone’s shoes outside of the workshop, recalled Dharma Yoga teacher Lorie Bebber.

“He’s just this incredible reminder of what it is to see God in everyone and everything – to see that we are all one,” she said.

Lorie became initiated as a disciple of Sri Dharma in 2010 and was given the name Saraswati Om. She was looking for a guru to help guide her and when she met Sri Dharma five years earlier, she knew she found him.

Saraswati owns Dharma Yoga Syracuse and continues to spread her guru’s teachings and host him for workshops annually, so her students can learn directly from the source.

It was around 2004 when she’d heard of Sri Dharma through an article in a magazine but that was before the easy use of the Internet and she had a hard time finding a way to study with him.

“I was searching for my teacher and I said, ‘I hope I have the opportunity to study with this man some day.’”

The next year she was volunteering at a yoga conference in New York City and recognized Sri Dharma’s name as one of the teachers there. It was for a spiritual purification class.

“It was amazing,” she said.  “He was speaking a lot about ahimsa. I was already vegan, but it still brought tears to my eyes. I just felt at home. I knew this was it. This is my teacher. I could just take rest.”

This was around the time Sri Dharma’s 908 Asana Poster was having a surge of popularity in the yoga world.

It wasn’t long before Saraswati found herself at Sri Dharma’s New York center practicing and going through teacher training with her guru. She loves how in tune with the students Sri Dharma is.

She recalled the days when he would add some jumping jacks to the practice.

“If you’re out of breath, you’re eating too many sweets,” Saraswati recalled Dharmaji saying while looking at her. Saraswati laughed, knowing she had a battle with her sweet tooth then.

Saraswati has been a mentor for Dharma Yoga teacher trainings since 2009 and though she lives in Syracuse, she is able to be in Sri Dharma’s presence often, whether it be taking his classes or being blessed to assist him.

Though she owned a yoga studio since 2003, it officially changed its name to Dharma Yoga Syracuse about two years ago. It was just a name change, she said, because ever since she started teaching Dharma Yoga, that’s the knowledge she’s been passing on to her students anyway.

“It’s classical yoga at its finest,” she said. “I always tell people that Sri Dharma has lived this life of a yogi and is a realized master, and the proof is in the pudding. The best of the best has been given to us.”

She’s amazed that he has this poster of breathtaking postures, but continually says, one only needs to practice a few asanas to remain healthy and the rest of the time should be devoted to spiritual practice and cultivating compassion towards all beings.

“We are all very blessed to be brought together by this amazing and humble being,” Saraswati said. “No matter where you are in the world, if you meet someone who met Dharma, home can be anywhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bethlehem Star Guiding Us to Sri Dharma

By Gaia Bergamaschi

The 6th of January is celebrated as Epiphany according to the Western Christian tradition and the etymology of the word Epiphany from the ancient greek meaning “manifestation, striking presence reminds me of the importance of experiencing the presence of our spiritual masters who manifest and teach devotion, prayers, and sadhana (spiritual practice).

Although I am far way from our beloved Sri Dharma and the Dharma Temple in New York, geographically speaking, when I returned to Italy from the last module of the teacher training in November, I promised myself I would engage in special spiritual practice to overcome the physical distance. My intention is to turn the illusion of being alone into the real aptitude “bhavana” of a yogini blissfully active in the Dharma community and in the world around it.

Before starting the asana, pranayama, and meditation practices, I close my eyes and focus my inner sight into the shining eyes of Dharmaji. Whenever I can, I connect myself to the starting hours of the weekly and weekend lessons, repeating the purification mantra. It’s a remote distance bhakti yoga tool which I am sure I share with many others!

In the same way the Three Wise Men (Magi) let the Bethlehem star guide them towards Jesus’s feed trough (a symbol of nourishing humanity), I imagine every yoga practitioner joining an inner path towards “satya,” the eternal truth, which can be considered nourishment for our actions.

Sri Dharma, the teaching faculty, and all the people working and studying in the Temple act as the light which diminishes the obscurity represented by the afflictions described by Patanjali as the five kleshah: avidya: spiritual ignorance, asmita: ego pride, raga: attachment, dvesa: hate and abhinivesa: fear of death (Yoga Sutra II.2).

The attachment to a sacred and spiritual place has to translate into the faith to rebuild it into a secret corner of our hearts. The light has always been there because it is eternal — regardless of the contingent life we’ve been assigned. As we’ve learned, if one is endowed with true wisdom as to the fleeting and painful nature of the worldly enjoyments, one can exert oneself in the right direction to do or undo one’s Prarabdha, the portion of Karmas ripened for actual experience in this current birth.

During Sri Dharma’s psychic development lessons, I often dreamed of sitting on a stardust mat. The stardust has the power to transform itself into the original stars it comes from, letting the inner child hidden in every one of us to come out through the coexisting presence of the voice and of the silence of the master. The marvelous and precious Sri Dharma logo immediately appears in my inner landscape as the reincarnation of that child!

Coming out from this dream state, I’d like to symbolically share with you the gifts I offered to Sri Dharma during the Epiphany day:

–       gold as my yama and niyama practices;
–       frankincense as my prayers and mantra chanting;
–       myrrh as my continuous learning experience.

As Sri Dharma said, “The universal principles of spiritual disciplines can elevate the seeker into eternal God communion. This is the true goal of yoga.”

During this special day, I’d like to celebrate with you the manifestation of the divine presence in all of us, committed and generous sadhakas, thanks to the living example of one of the greatest living Hatha yogis.

 

 

GBGaia Bergamaschi started her yogic path about ten years ago. After having been certified by the Vedanta Forest Academy of Swami Sivananda and having studied in India, she discovered Sri Dharma. Since the first step into the temple she knew Dharmaji was the Acharya she had always been connected to, regardless of space and time. She’s currently teaching in Milan according to Dharma style and Dharma ethical principles. After quitting her job in the investment banking sector, she took another degree in clinical psychology. She aims at merging the yama and niyama with the relational psychoanalysis and the humanistic psychology, creating yoga-therapy protocols inspired to Sri Dharma targeted to people who suffer from personality and mood disorders.

 

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.

A Journey into the Self

By Gena Rockwell

As soon as I signed up for the training, I knew that it was meant to be. I had never even practiced Dharma Yoga, but when I stumbled upon the website and saw that it was actually possible to study with Sri Dharma, whom I had admired through his famous poster and his interviews for years, I jumped at the opportunity. To prepare, I purchased his Maha Sadhana DVDs, began to practice them regularly and immediately fell in love with the Dharma Yoga.

It was five years after completing my 200-hour teacher training in vinyasa yoga, and I knew that this training would take me to the next level as a teacher. Little did I know what a profound effect this experience would have on my life as a whole.

The moment I walked into the Dharma Yoga Center on my first day of class, I immediately felt calm and serene. I was warmly greeted at the front desk and directed to the temple, which was huge and beautifully decorated with candles, images of Shiva, Ganesh, and Sri Dharma’s guru, Yogi Gupta.

As I gathered with the 70 yogis from all over the world, I could sense that everyone was as excited and humbled as I was when Sri Dharma walked into the room to lead us through our pranayama practice and spiritual discourse. Throughout the first day we did hours of asana practice along with more pranayama, meditation and kirtan. At the end of the day, my body was exhausted but I was so full of energy at the same time. As the week progressed, I continued to be filled with some kind of divine energy even though our 14-hour days were packed with up to eight or more hours of asana practice.

I got to know my fellow yogis more throughout the first week and I couldn’t believe how amazing each and every person was. These were some of the kindest most sincere people I had ever met.

But then again, it all made sense because we had all sought out Sri Dharma as our guru, one of the most kind and sincere voices in the yoga world.

The mentors were amazing, as well. Each mentor had a special gift to give, and did so with so much compassion and humility. I knew the training would be great, but I had no idea how welcomed and at home I would feel right away.

“This is it, this is real yoga,” I thought to myself constantly.

Kindness, compassion, and humility, these are Dharma’s true teachings. While he is one of the most renowned practitioners of asana in the world, his true teaching is much deeper. He encourages us to realize that we are a reflection of the divine, to be kind to others, to be kind to the animals, to see ourselves in others, to always practice compassion, and to make every action an offering to the divine.

Throughout both of the training modules, we performed hours upon hours of challenging asana but in a way, it seemed effortless. I credit this to the fact that not only were we all moving together as a collective consciousness, but we were all also aligning our practice with a higher purpose,­ seeing our practice as serving something greater than ourselves.

There is something very profound that happens when you practice in this way. Suddenly, the ego or sense of “I am­ness” begins to evaporate. Your muscles are not each working individually to hold you in the pose. You are not thinking “This foot goes here, this arm goes there.” You cease to become the doer, and instead become one with all of creation.

I believe that each one of us experienced to some degree throughout the course of the training the true meaning of yoga: Union with the divine. This divine energy guided us through every 14-hour day, leaving us not only with sore muscles, but with beaming radiance,­ and a childlike sense of wonder for all of existence.

We practiced and learned many techniques to get to this place, and will keep them with us forever.

I thought that I was going to learn how to be a better teacher, but what I really learned was how to go deep inside to the place of God­-consciousness that exists within us all, the true self. Then the teaching happens naturally.

 

Gena RockwellGena Rockwell is a yoga instructor, massage therapist and musician who lives in Shepherdstown, W. Va. In 2013 she received her certification as an ayurvedic yoga specialist from the Himalayan Institute and this year she had the honor of studying under yoga master, Sri Dharma Mittra for her 500 hour yoga certification.

Finding Sri Dharma

By Jerome Burdi

The first time I went to a master class with Sri Dharma Mittra, I didn’t like it. I thought it was too hard and I had a difficult time understanding him.

“He expects us to just do these poses? What about some more prep or explanation? Do you really have to hold a headstand that long?” I thought.

It wasn’t Sri Dharma, it was me. I had to deepen my understanding of the practice to be receptive to the teachings. In time, Sri Dharma changed everything about my practice and my life.

I started my yoga journey in 2010 during a shamanic retreat in Brazil’s majestic Chapada Diamantina National Park. Before that, I practiced martial arts and was full of vices such as meat eating, drinking too much, and promiscuity. I thought yoga was something women did in heated rooms.

But as the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

During the retreat in Sri Dharma’s home country, yoga was offered and I felt an instant connection to it. I could feel the changes coming right away.

From Brazil I returned to South Florida where I lived at the time working as a crime reporter for a major newspaper. But I wasn’t the same. I no longer had an interest in my low vibration habits and I had a thirst to find a place to practice yoga. I found some good studios that carried me into the practice.

A little over a year later, I decided to quit my job, move back to New York and become a yoga teacher. I pinpointed Rishikesh, India, as the place to do my teacher training. It’s known as the “Yoga Capital of the World,” and it was good enough for The Beatles to spend time in an ashram there, so I thought it would be good enough for me.

I now see my studying in Rishikesh also as a connection to Sri Dharma, as that’s where his beloved guru did a lot of his work. So I started my yoga journey in Sri Dharma’s native country and made it official in the land of Yogi Gupta, his guru. I needed to go to India to come back to be receptive to the grace of Sri Dharma. I had to get on to his level.

As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

India was another one of my great teachers — meditating, bathing, and practicing asana beside the holy Ganges taught me what it is to do your work, but to also what it is to cultivate an art of effortlessness. As the Ganga flows, she teaches the lesson of living naturally without attachment or concern for the future or past. People come and go and still the Ganga flows.

This is how I see Sri Dharma’s classes. As I learned just by being beside the holy river, I learn by being beside Dharmaji.

It took me a while to discover this.

When I got back to New York City, I was determined to find a home studio. I didn’t even think of going to the Dharma Yoga Center because I went before I left for India and didn’t connect to it. For a year, I went to many big name studios and teachers in New York, but nothing clicked. That seemed strange to me. New York City seems to have more yoga studios than India and I couldn’t find one to suit me. I thought I’d just have to stick to a home practice.

But on Jan. 1, 2013, someone recommended I go to the 3-hour practice Sri Dharma offers on New Year’s Day. His yoga center was also offering free vegan food that day so I decided to go.

I walked in and sat close to Sri Dharma. The studio that I now call home was packed and silent. Sri Dharma started the class with closed eyes.

“Boo!” he suddenly yelled, and we got startled then laughed with him.

As we moved through the postures and Sri Dharma spoke, something shifted in me. After class, I told him what a great time I had.

“I saw when you came in here you were skeptical,” Sri Dharma said, then laughed and put an arm around me.

I was amazed that he knew that. And I was also content to have finally found my teacher and my home.

 

HollowbackOmJerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.

Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

 

Karma Yoga

by Danielle Gray

As we have been told, karma yoga is the practice of selfless service – doing deeds with “no strings attached”, as Dharmaji would say. Karma yoga was a major part of Dharmaji’s path with Yogi Gupta, according to the LOAY teacher training manual. For me, the practice of karma yoga has begun to help me understand what “dharma” truly is, as well as to teach me how to interact with other people in the world in a better way.

Occasionally I find myself feeling unmotivated to do my sadhana for some period of days. Usually the cure for this lack of enthusiasm includes reading the section of the teacher training manual that talks about Dharmaji’s life when he was studying with Yogi Gupta. The fact that he was both paying for every class with the Master (meaning he had to work several paying jobs), as well as offering his services as a karma yogi is incredibly inspiring. Reading this  portion of Dharmaji’s story helps me realize that life is fairly simply if we allow it to be – just do what has to be done to move forward on your path, and forget the energetic charge that comes with complaining or creating stories about what it means to do the things you have to do! This is what it means to truly live your own dharma – to remove all resistance to what is happening or what must happen, and go forth with your best enthusiasm and your best efforts.

Keeping these things in mind helps me view each day differently. It helps me to remove the sense of self-entitlement that seems to permeate many of my peers’ lives. It helps me break the ego a little more, stay humble, and realize that no task is beneath me – no matter what I may have “accomplished” in this material plane.

When I am able to maintain this perspective with focus and clear intention, the world around me changes. Other people sense that I am receptive and deeply appreciate my openness and ability to listen. I accomplish every task that is given to me much more easily, and simultaneously, I create no attachment to any of this external feedback. Approaching everything in daily life as karma yoga simplifies my existence a great deal, and helps me reconnect with the act of giving constantly from a place of pure devotion. As Dharmaji says, “Devotion leads to the total surrender of ego,” and eventually to the goal: Self-Realization or God-Realization.

photo by Jeffrey Vock
photo by Jeffrey Vock

The practice of Dharma Yoga found Danielle in 2010, and after her very first class, she began to immerse herself in it, feeling a deep calling to share it with others. She participated in the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program in June 2011 (completing her certification the following May), and she completed her 500-hour certification in May 2013. Additionally, she has over 18 years of experience studying dance & movement, which greatly informs her yoga instruction, especially in the aspects of anatomy and alignment. She is currently living in Sedona, AZ, teaching Dharma Yoga at several local studios.