Category Archives: selfless service

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…

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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.

Karma Yoga and the Art of Selfless Service: The Reggie Deas Story


By Freddy Pastore

“Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” Ram Dass
Often, the more we have in life the more disconnected we become from those who have very little. However, by “being receptive” to the needs of others, sometimes Karma Yoga finds you.
My Karma Yoga found me last July in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore. After practicing yoga on the boardwalk I stopped at the Twisted Tree Cafe for a fruit smoothie breakfast. As I waited to pay, something caught my eye on the “community board” next to the register. Though most of the board was over-loaded with business cards and advertisements, a picture of an acoustic guitar snapped in half caused me stop and pay attention.
Above it read, “Reggie Deas Needs Your Help – Call Steve.” On the back of the postcard was a story about Reggie Deas, a homeless musician who found his way to Ocean Grove and was living under the boardwalk. His guitar had been destroyed and Steve was organizing an effort to have it replaced. I called Steve and offered my help but since there was such an outpouring of support, Reggie not only had the new guitar but also a case. Steve said that Reggie was however still homeless and in need of help. I agreed to meet with Steve and Reggie in the park the next day.
It only took a few minutes of listening to Reggie play music to realize that he was a gifted musician. Though his playing was a little rough around the edges, his instrument was played with true knowledge and in his voice was love of music. Reggie, though currently homeless had attended Berkley College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; a prestigious music school in which many of the greatest musicians in the world had passed through the halls. And seemingly here was one music great living under a boardwalk in a beach town. Reggie’s story immediately called to mind the movie “The Soloist,” based on a similar story of a Juilliard trained musician who was also homeless. Through Sri Dharma Mittra’s inspirational teachings on Karma Yoga (and the fact that I too am a musician), I knew I needed to help Reggie.
Sitting with Reggie in the park that day, with his new guitar and only a single duffle bag full of his possessions, a roof over his head was evidently his biggest need. The first and most obvious thought was a homeless shelter but Reggie refused. In his words “I rather live on the street.” The biggest problem with a shelter is “lock-down” at 7pm, the time when Reggie does best playing music on the boardwalk for money. Also, since Reggie was not suffering from any form of addiction he did not want to be around others whom are often in this unfortunate state.
I brainstormed with the fundraising group and after many hours of making phone calls and surfing the internet, I found a room in The Whitfield Hotel, a very large hostel-style hotel just one block from the beach. With the help of the nearly $1,000 left over from the guitar collection fund, by the end of that afternoon, Reggie had a roof over his head.
Over the next several weeks I continued to contribute to Reggie’s well being however I could. Tapping into my work in Finance, I created a “project plan” to organize efforts around Reggie’s needs. I outlined and prioritized various aspects that the fundraising group could do together to help Reggie establish himself in Ocean Grove. On the list: (1) find a part-time job (2) obtain a pre-paid cell phone (3) resolve an outstanding court fine (4) seek medical attention, and (5) play the music he so loved in local venues. Working together with the fundraising group we were able to accomplish everything on the list.
Reggie worked part-time mowing lawns for a local real estate company and slowly adjusted to his new life. But above all Reggie loved playing music and to see Reggie do what he loved to do and having played a small part in making that happen for him was special. Some of my best memories from the summer was rehearsing and performing with him several summer nights at the Barbaric Bean and Day’s Ice Cream Shop.
When summer passed into fall Reggie came to me because he wanted to move to San Diego, California where he had some friends. Although he had established some roots in Ocean Grove, he was concerned about playing music for money through the winter. It was late September and the New Jersey boardwalks were basically deserted. Although my first reaction was think of all the reasons why he shouldn’t go, I quickly realized that it was Reggie’s life to live and not mine. Reggie had his own Dharma and it was essential for him to go and pursue his dreams, wherever they make take him.

As Sri Dharma says, do it because it has to be done,” and I had been there for Reggie because it had to be done. By doing selfless service (seva) I found that I had also served myself. We can all make a difference, no matter what. So next time you come across someone in need remind yourself that yes,I can help. Yes, I will do this. Yes, change is possible.

Check out Reggie Deas
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Freddy was introduced to yoga by his wife, Amy Pastore (E-RYT 500 Hour yoga instructor). At first, practicing yoga was an excuse to be around Amy – even if it meant enduring 26 excruciating posture holds in 105 degree heat! Over the years, the practice of asana gave way to the deeper purpose of yoga. This resulted in physical, mental and spiritual transformation. Freddy has attended many yoga workshops with world renowned teachers and in 2012 he completed the Life Of A Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training Program with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Freddy also holds a certification in Basic Thai Massage from the Loi Kroh School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Together with his wife, Freddy is the co-founder of iflow Yoga, a modern, eclectic Vinyasa style yoga drawing from their diverse yoga experiences.  Freddy is also an accomplished bassist who has performed and recorded with many of New York City areas top jazz, rock and pop musicians.

How I Found My Teacher

by Dina Lang

I first came to know of legendary Sri Dharma Mittra several years ago when investigating Yoga Journal’s annual conference in San Francisco. Each year I would read through all the bios of the featured instructors, research them online and plan out whose classes I’d take, should I ever actually attend. Sri Dharma always stood out as that instructor I felt I should take a class from before I die. In January of 2012 I finally got my chance in San Francisco.
My typical M.O. in a yoga class is move straight to the back of the room and hide myself in the corner. Uncharacteristically that day, I deliberately arrived early enough to set my mat in its usual place, but instead set up in the second row. (I’m still working on that front row thing!) The moment Sri Dharma walked in, took his place seated on his chair on the stage, closed his eyes and began to chant Om, I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. The two-hour practice was physically challenging, but completely accessible. He wove his message of ahimsa and the ethical rules throughout our every breath and posture. He guided us with as few words as possible, but we knew exactly where he wanted us to go. Simple clarity was his style… and I loved it!
As he taught, he would occasionally pop up into a headstand, handstand or forearm stand variation, talking all the while with humility and humor. His light-hearted manner created a warm, inviting environment, and yet we never lost sight of the sense that we were in the presence of a deeply respected teacher whom we should follow. He spoke about vegetarianism; he spoke about compassion; and he challenged us to examine ourselves with honesty and to compassionately embrace a commitment to our own betterment as human beings.
I knew then what was missing from my practice… a true teacher! It was like coming home on my mat for the first time in fifteen years. It left me hungry for more. I picked up his information after the class about teacher trainings. Having already completed my 500-hour certification, I was interested in his 800 hour Life of a Yogi training. I spoke with one of his representatives and they told me the prerequisite for his 800-hour training was his 500-hour and my previous work would not be acceptable. Disappointed, I left with the information in hand… chalking it up to a wonderful glimpse of something out of my reach.
The next six months crept along as I searched locally for a teacher to guide me in my practice with that same sense of spirituality I had experienced with Sri Dharma. Feeling dejected, one day I went online and researched again more closely what it would take to study with Dharma in New York City. I researched flights, hotel stays, the training itself and of course, my financial resources. I realized it was time to either commit and leap or walk away with no regrets. I decided that if I continued to allow my personal practice to wane and didn’t do something to restore my enthusiasm for yoga, I didn’t deserve to teach others. As yoga teachers I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than our students… faking it just isn’t good enough.
So I made the leap. I signed up for the Dharma Yoga 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training and began my journey with Sri Dharma Mittra – committing myself to another500 hour teacher training so I could learn what it is to truly be a yogi…
Of all my trainings to date, this has been the most demanding of my time, physical energy, self-discipline, and unyielding commitment. And I have not been happier in many years.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m exactly where I am supposed to be – studying, practicing, meditating, living the yamas and niyamas and practicing karma yoga (selfless service)…being a dedicated student of yoga, and I am filled with gratitude. Sri Dharma’s practices are a lifetime labor of love, created by the ‘real deal’, and I feel so honored to be a conduit for his wonderful practice and message. For me, yoga is an opportunity to create the very best version of myself, to practice that which is difficult, find grace through the process, and walk in the world with my best intention leading the way. With Sri Dharma’s voice in my head, his message in my heart and his commitment to yoga as my inspiration…I believe I am finding my way at last.
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Dina Lang, RYT and co-owner of Santosha Yoga in Bethany Village (Portland, OR), discovered yoga many years ago and found that the practice brought a deeper awareness of all life’s gifts to her senses. She is the mother of two grown children. She turned her nurturing energy toward building a yoga community in Bethany Villagein 2010 and, when teaching, consciously holds a space for others to discover for themselves the transformative power of yoga. “Like many yogis, it was during one of life’s lowest points that the power of this great practice began to take center stage in my life. I embarked on the teacher training path with hopes of simply deepening my own practice, never considering actually teaching yoga. After my personal practice really took hold and my perspective grew clear, I suddenly felt eager to help others by sharing what I learned.”

“Must Read” Yoga Book Review: Yoga and Long Life, by Yogi Gupta


Katherine Labonte

The book Yoga and Long Life by Yogi Gupta is an absolute gem. It is one of my favorite yoga books. It is amazing how simple and yet in-depth it is at the same time. I am not sure I know any other yoga ‘manual’ that covers so much in such little space.
Yogi Gupta was obviously an intelligent man, and well learned. He starts out with such a clear message right on the cover page, with the symbol of Om and jnana mudra – symbolically representing the purpose, path, and result of yoga all in one.
The following topics are covered in the text: the definition of Yoga, Yoga and Christianity, philosophy of Yoga, types of Yoga, principles of relativity and duality, effects of Yoga, Yoga and Ayurveda, Yoga and Longevity, Yoga postures (asanas), breathing techniques, meditation, importance of Yoga, the necessity for a teacher, food and health, color and health, relaxation, and practice courses. Throughout the book, one can see that Yogi Gupta was familiar with all the main yogic texts. He refers to the following texts and authors: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Goraksha Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Rig Veda, Bhagavad Gita, Swami Vivekananda, Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, and Dr. Henry R. Zimmer to name just some.
What is a Yogic text, without a definition of Yoga? He defines Yoga as “a science of living.” What a beautiful definition. It is all-encompassing. He also states: “Yoga is a system of philosophic meditation and asceticism designed to affect the reunion of the soul with the universal spirit.” He makes it clear that it is not just for the body or mind, but for the spirit.
I love that he included a chapter on Yoga and Christianity, as, in my experience, so many Christians have been misled about Yoga being a cult or a religion, or “opening one’s mind to the devil.” He talks about Ghandi and Patanjali, and compares their teachings to Christ’s teachings. One example given of this is the yamas, or ethical rules. “Through Yoga a Hindu becomes a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, a Mohammedan a better Mohammedan, and a Jew a better Jew!”
Yogi Gupta refers to this text as a “handbook,” but I feel it is so much more. He says that we need to “transcend, as did the saints, the limits of the ‘gross’ physical self,” hence needing the techniques of yoga to bring us there. His explanation and diagram of the Ida and Pingala nadis and their purpose is very thorough. “It is by achieving a perfect equilibrium between these negative and positive influences in the body that the Hatha yogi reaches his goal.”
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There are a variety of places in the book where he refers to such things as the importance of a guru, the yamas and niyamas, the eight limbs, maya, karma (or, with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), but ultimately he says, “in the highest forms of yoga (like Raja-yoga), he [the yogi] transcends it [maya] in Samadhi when he becomes part of the Primal Force.” All yogis (and non-yogis alike) should read such a book so that it becomes clear how inter-related the entire body is. He portrays this message through his discussion on the glands, Ayurveda, and the Chakras.
To me, the main value of the book is to very clearly show the interconnectedness within the body-mind-spirit complex; and Yogi Gupta demonstrates that through diet, concentration/meditation exercises, asana, and pranayama, one can have a positive effect on the state of one’s mind, spirit, and physical health. So, if one is not yet deeply connected spiritually, the “hook” will be on the physical health.  He says, “prevention is better than cure.” He also says, “One should try to restore one’s health while remaining in one’s normal place of residence and continuing one’s work. One does not achieve a healthy body merely by fleeing to the Himalayas, California, Florida or other health resorts.” He is showing that it is accessible to anyone who puts forth the effort, finally stating, “it [health] cannot be bought.”
Today, we think of such things as color therapy and raw foods as “new age”. But, Yogi Gupta lived on raw foods for more than twenty years and says, “I feel much better for it.” It is amazing how much he knew about the increased nutrient value of food, long before there was much publicized on that. I can see why green juices are so valuable! The color green “influences the heart, blood pressure and the emotions, and vitalizes the nerves. It also imparts wisdom, peace, harmony, sympathy and generosity.” He connected the concepts of our raw food with the color of the food, and their vibrational qualities.
I am grateful for Yogi Gupta’s work in the Americas, with Sri Dharma Mittra, and now, God willing, through me.

Yoga and Long Life can be purchased at the Dharma Yoga NY Center boutique or through the online store.       

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As a young woman, Katherine was a high school mathematics teacher about to embark on a Masters of Mathematics program. However, at the age of 28, Katherine recovered from a life-threatening and debilitating illness through Yoga and Colon Therapy. Ever since, she has been on a mission to share the profundity of both modalities, and to motivate others to delve deeper – both physically and mentally/ emotionally. Healing is found in the not so obvious ‘nooks and crannies’ of the body and the mind. She teaches private yoga, is a colon therapist, nutritionist, and instructor of colon therapy. She is eternally grateful for finding Sri Dharma Mittra and his complete Raja Yoga methods of healing, and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing this with others.

Transitions


Gina Lee

My journey towards vegetarianism is not the one that you would normally hear of in a Dharma Yoga class. In fact, for years I attended classes and other teacher trainings in which they espoused the virtues of the yogic diet and I would politely nod my head knowing that as soon as I left I would be headed towards a meal with meat as its centerpiece. Even when I heard Sri Dharma give his classic comparison of our refrigerators to morgues and our stomachs to graveyards I went back to eating meat albeit with some food for thought (particularly thoughts that equated parts of my home and body to death). 
As a yoga teacher I was perplexed to hear from teachers that I had great respect for, that I was not living ahimsa by eating animals and I did my best to consume less by getting educated about where my meat was coming from and by choosing to eat only organically raised free range meat. This helped reduce the amount I was eating but I still felt the urge to eat it. Something was missing and I wasn’t really sure what. What would it take to give me the conviction that I needed? 
I was curious about how to possibly begin to incorporate more vegetarian options into my diet but it wasn’t until I met Sri Dharma that I felt a deeper pull to give vegetarianism a hard look. In my first immersion weekend with him he made his point clear: beyond the moral implications of eating animals, we could never realize the full potential of our meditation or yoga practice or feel the subtlety of the energetic impact of what we eat until we gave up meat and increased the amount of live foods that we consumed so we could see the difference for ourselves.
The idea of giving up meat cold-turkey (pun intended) scared me. But if there is one thing I’ve learned on my yogic path, it is that if something scares me I am headed in the right direction and that further investigation is necessary before drawing any conclusions or making a decision. 
As I started to root out my fears bit by bit, the first area that surfaced for inspection was my emotional connection to meat through my family of origin. Meat was a part of my psyche and identity as an Italian American. For us, meat was not only a primary source of protein but also one of pride and love. My mother’s meatballs are the stuff of legend; my Grandmother’s meat sauce has been passed down for generations, a rite of passage to be in the kitchen alongside her learning how to make it. To renounce meat would be to renounce them, to look upon my family’s rich tradition as barbaric and outdated.  
I also realized that my love for food and for cooking was heavily rooted in recipes for meat. For us, vegetables were always an afterthought or something meant to be choked down, certainly not enjoyed as a main course.  
As I peeled through the layers of awareness around my food habits I began to uncover hidden truths buried about myself within them. One that surfaced quickly was my emotionally reactive and addictive relationship with food that went far beyond meat. This particular fact was what led me to be 50 pounds heavier than I am today.   
My meals consisted mostly of highly processed foods, contained some fried element and had a super high fat content. My emotions and connection to food went something like this: 
Happiness=celebrate with food
Sadness=comfort yourself with food
Excitement=celebrate with more food than usual
Holiday=Plan entire day around preparing food then gorge yourself on food
Grief or depression=numb yourself with food
I knew I had a problem when I could remember more good meals than the names of acquaintances. I simply did not want to live in a world where pork fat was not a part of my diet. I derived more pleasure from eating bacon than any human should. Eating salad depressed me… you get the picture.
Through the careful practice and study of yoga I finally came to witness the feelings of emptiness and disconnection to my spirit that was driving me to eat the way that I was. I also realized how much my familial conditioning was holding me back from thriving as a healthy adult, and I wanted to be a better model for healthy eating habits for my children. Perhaps I could do the hard work of eating less meat and influence the ones I loved in a positive way.
I knew that I was ready to take the next steps on my path when I had successfully begun to add more and more vegetarian items to my cooking repertoire that didn’t depress me and were actually quite delicious (a shock even to myself) and more days passed before I had a meal with meat.  I was preparing myself for the next stage, my Dharma Yoga LOAY 500 Hour Teacher Training.
When it was time for me to seek out a 500-hour training, it was with careful thought and consideration that I chose Sri Dharma’s program. I knew that it would require a commitment to being a vegetarian for the duration of the training and I was inspired by the depth of devotion that Sri Dharma clearly had to his commitment to being not only vegetarian but mostly vegan. I was also genuinely curious about the energetic implications to what it would mean for me to have no meat for that great a length of time, the longest I would ever go without meat in my life thus far. 
At first, finding alternate replacements for protein was difficult; there was only so many sprouted almonds I could reasonably consume in a day. Once I got into my flow of morning smoothies and making tasty salads with tahini and avocado as suggested in Sri Dharma’s Ahimsa diet, I began to experience what they said about feeling lighter in my body and less disturbed in my mind. I also felt the digestive impact right away. The fresh green juices left me feeling energized and mentally sharper. I found I needed less sleep and that my emotions were more balanced. I was finally feeling something other than overwhelmed by what I initially felt was a restrictive lifestyle.
My family was largely unsupportive, which wound up being the more challenging thing for me to face.  My husband actually felt directly threatened by it, even though I still continued to cook meat dishes for him and our children. My mother and siblings outright taunted me at family gatherings. I stood firm but saw how challenging it would be to holding the diet for the rest of my life if I were to choose to do so once the training and all of my requirements were completed.
After all of my required months of steady diet journals and training, I felt my body (and perhaps mind) asking for meat so I allowed myself the ability to choose and see for myself what would happen to my energy and digestion again. I immediately found that my energy dropped and my digestion was impacted when I ate beef or pork. Chicken and fish seemed to do nothing so long as I watched the quantity and frequency. My decision was clear – beef and pork were officially off my plate (a major victory for cows and pigs everywhere, given how much I used to consume) and I would be greatly limiting the amount of chicken and fish I ate allowing it only when my body really gave me a message for it which is happening less and less frequently.  
I’m also happy to note that my family has backed off their incessant teasing to a certain degree; they are respecting my choices more and more and are even enjoying my creative interpretations to Italian classics such as mushroom “burgers”. They do still get mildly insulted when I turn down the food that they made with love and pride, but they are at least taking it a little less personally which is another victory to say the least.  
The lesson I learned through all of this is that even old habits and ways of being can change – even the strongest ones that you thought were an inextricable part of your being (if you give it enough time and self-reflection). I am gentle enough with myself to know that I will probably be in transition towards total vegetarianism for a while, but I know enough to not speak in absolutes or to attach too strongly to rigid timelines or expectations. Sri Dharma gave me the tools & strength to try, and I feel stronger in my convictions because of it. Life, like yoga, can be a work in progress.
Need some help with your transition? Join us on New Year’s Day for a special asana practice with Sri Dharma Mittra, followed by a FREE film screening of Forks Over Knives (Still have doubts about plant-based eating? This is the film for you.) Plus, free vegan snacks throughout the day, provided by the unbelievably delicious Cinnamon Snail food truck.
Make sure to pre-register for the festivities! 
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Gina Lee has been practicing yoga for ten years, teaching for five, and is the owner of Bearfoot Yoga & Wellness Center in Bay Shore, NY, which opened in May 2012. She is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher (levels II and III) and a 200-hour level Integral Yoga instructor, as well as a certified Prenatal Yoga teacher. She has two beautiful, energetic sons and enjoys living her yoga in many ways, making her whole life a sadhana (spiritual practice). She enjoys making regular pilgrimages to the Dharma Yoga New York Center with her students in tow, spreading the light of Sri Dharma’s particular brand of yoga far and wide. 

Life of a Yogi Graduation Satsang, October 2012


Twice a year, the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training team gathers together to honor the trainees who have completed all their requirements to become certified Dharma Yoga Instructors. Sri Dharma himself presents the certificates, and friends and family are always invited! Below you’ll find a collection of photos from the recent graduation in October, and some reflections from five of our 200-hour graduates (Kelsey Tangel, Amy Stinchcombe, Elaine Kantanas, Sabrina Vigilante, and Mike Hazzard). All photos by Gabriela Luiz; quotes attributed following each image. 

(MH)

(SV)

(KT)

(MH)

 

…It is where I learned firmness and resolve in my practice and in the great practice of daily life. It is where I turned a corner in my life to understand in the most profound way that there is a Great Intelligence woven into the fabric of all of creation and that everything is intimately connected.
(SV)

(EK)

(AS)

(MH)

(AS)


Compiled by: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

~Teacher Profile of the Month~

 
Jessica teaches a Dharma II class at DYNYC every Sunday from  10 to 11:30 AM.  
1.   Describe yourself in 3 words. 
JC: Strong, sensitive, compassionate 

2.  What do you do when you don’t teach yoga? 
JC:  I practice it in my own life! I sing, play guitar, study Spanish, dance Sabar, run, read, travel, smile, laugh, love, and dream. I am also starting a non-profit that gives scholarships to disadvantaged youth to attend international volunteer experiences (Moving Youth in New Directions).
3.  Favorite Dharma quote/best advice you ever got from Sri Dharma?
JC: Honestly, everything that Dharma says and does is equally important to me.

4.  Three things that are always in your fridge?
JC: Kale, almond butter, soy milk

5.  Favorite place you’ve traveled? 
JC: This is a tossup between Barbados and Iceland. Both were extremely pure and clean with stunning landscapes and unbelievably genuine, kind people.

Jessica Crow has an innate ability to communicate depth in her classes. She first started practicing yoga herself because she heard it would help her to cope with stress. In conversation, she speaks a great deal about the transformative power of yoga in her own life, and the way it profoundly shifted her overall lifestyle. She hopes to bring these same benefits to her students: “new perspectives, new access to self confidence, new seeds planted that excite and nourish their spiritual beings”. She loves to support people in stepping outside their comfort zones – to help unveil their own potential.

 She tells us that Sri Dharma is the reason she became a teacher. She loves that he never takes himself too seriously (a quality that flows into her own life and practice), and she greatly appreciates all the Dharma series’ capacity for rapid growth, physically and spiritually.

Author/interviewer: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC
Layout & design: Lorenza Pintar, LOAY teacher trainee 

 

Day Eight: The Beginning


The Life of a Yogi
          I’m pretty reluctant to even write this blog entry right now, because that will make it feel like this whole experience is actually over… Last module, the last day was so much easier, just knowing that we’d all be back in two short months. I was saying to somebody the other day how I wish I could do this eight-day intensive experience every two months for the rest of my life; it’s just what I need to ground me and remind me of all the reasons why I aspire to be a Dharma Yoga teacher.
          Today was a perfect ending to the training. We started with pranayama and dhyana with Sri Dharma, followed by spiritual discourse. It’s sort of hard to explain the things covered in spiritual discourse, because somehow, every single lecture, Sri Dharma gives us the very essence of yoga, and at the same time gives each of us exactly the thing we need to hear at that moment. I am more amazed as I watch it over time, because it never fails.
          We had a partner yoga workshop after discourse (lots of fun pictures below), and then Dharma IV with Yoshio – the last asana practice of the training. I felt like I was just giving everything in that class. It’s sort of interesting how hard you work when you know you’re coming to the end of something!
          After lunch we had an oral final exam, which was not nearly as stressful as it might sound. We did it in our small groups, and we just had a few general knowledge questions, some asana demos, and some assisting and adjusting situations to work out. Then we went over the internship guidelines with Adam… I think if I hadn’t already done the 200-hour that discussion would have stressed me out a little bit, because it looks like so much on paper. I mean, it IS so much, in real life as well as on paper, but I know from experience that it is manageable, and it will happen in time.
          Then we had the closing satsang and received our completion certificates for the contact hours of the training. We opened the ceremony with some kirtan, of course, and I have never felt more joyful. I feel like this week has sort of just washed over me, and it hasn’t hit me yet that everything is finished… Because I think it sort of isn’tfinished, you know?
          It doesn’t sound like much, reading over what I’ve written here. But this teacher training has changed my life, and will continue to influence my choices and my path probably for the rest of my life. Throughout my college years, when I was studying dance (which feels like a whole other lifetime now), I used to go to intensive summer programs where I’d get very close with other people… And of course we’d all be sad when they were done, but that was just nothing compared to this. The people I’ve met here are just beyond compare; the level of resonance and familiarity was astounding even from the very beginning. Dharma Yoga teacher trainings are pure bliss – there’s just no way to put it into words.
I could go on and on about how wonderful the whole thing has been, but I think Sri Dharma said it best (as always): You learn about something, and then “you have to check it out for yourself”.
~Danielle

Kim and Yoshio demonstrate some GORGEOUS partner yoga.
My yoga partner, Ana Cecilia, and I

More shots of Kim and Yoshio
A fellow trainee and her partner
We’ve been told several times this week that we look like sisters. Spiritual sisters, maybe?
My small group peeps!
The faculty organizes for a group shot
Sri Dharma sets up his camera
The final product

Me and my roomie, Lisa

Day Five: Clarity


The Life of a Yogi
          Nothing like a little kirtan to get you energetically charged for the last three days of teacher training. I think the actual kirtan session was a little shorter this module, but it was so vibrant that it totally didn’t matter. I’m buzzing, as I’ve become accustomed to feeling after chanting in such an awesome group of people.
          Today we started with sun salutations, pranayama, and dhyana with Andrew (who was my mentor last module, and whom I greatly miss this time around). I really appreciated the whole morning – his instructions were so clear, using just enough words and always taking his time. That’s something that I have trouble with in my everyday life: remembering to take my time with things. I realized this morning that starting to just change thatmight help me become more mindful and compassionate, and really live the teachings.
          Then we had the review of the Dharma III series with Sri Dharma himself (most of the pictures below are from that – Yoshio and Melissa demonstrated for all of us beautifully). That session ran almost an hour overtime, but I don’t think anybody was upset by this; Sri Dharma showed us so many fun (sometimes crazy) variations for use in our personal practices that I kind of felt like a little kid at Christmas.
          We had a short session of chanting with Adam (stellar), followed by Master Sadhana – the last one with Sri Dharma for this training. I found it less challenging than yesterday’s practice, but the noon class is never really easy… It almost gets harder as your practice progresses, because to do all the advanced variations that Sri Dharma offers is just completely exhausting (I don’t even do all of them yet and I have a hard time tackling that practice some days). Anyway, it was a beautiful practice, and savasana was glorious.
          After lunch we finished up with assisting and adjusting, which is sort of a hard session, but not in the way you might expect. It’s difficult because all the trainees are so good at all the asanas, it’s hard for any of them to act like beginners, or do the poses badly on purpose (so that the person “teaching” actually has something to adjust). I guess that’s why we have the internship process where we have to practice teaching – because the actual situation of teaching a room full of people who are unfamiliar with the series is impossible to imitate in these modules.
          We had another small group teaching session, followed by Maha Shakti with Adam, which were both great. I really love all my small group members, and it’s been super cool to see how they’ve progressed since the last module. Adam’s class was pretty challenging, but by the evenings I just get to the point where I’m too exhausted for it to make a difference whether it’s hard or easy. The best I can do by the night practice is to try and stay present.
          Although I still adore asana, I feel like I’m finallystarting to connect with the other limbs as well, which is a really awesome step for me! Everything is just sort of coming together, and I’m starting to discover a lot about myself, particularly the nature of my ego and the habits of my mind. But at the same time, I’m starting to be more compassionate towards myself too, instead of berating myself for things that are beyond my control (like my mind wandering away in meditation). It’s a cool thing to witness… And also to begin discovering my Self as the eternal witness.
~Danielle

Yoshio & Melissa demo for Sri Dharma.
Just before the kirtan…