Category Archives: teacher training

Social Media Release: Yoga Master Sri Dharma Mittra Celebrates 75th Birthday

Dharma_Mittra_©Eleanor_KaufmanOur Year Long Celebration will be marked by a special weekend long immersion in NYC

New York, NY, April 2014: Sri Dharma Mittra turns 75 years old on May 14, 2014. Events will open with a special Master Class taught by Sri Dharma Mittra on Wednesday, May 14 from noon to 1.30 pm at the Dharma Yoga New York Center (61 West 23rd st, New York, NY). Vegan cake and treats will be served after class. All are welcome.  Following this, a weekend immersion will be held from May 16 – May 18. The immersion consists of classes on asanas (physical poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation, deep healing relaxation and partner yoga. The retreat-like immersion is unique in the sense that it will be held in the heart of bustling New York City. Sri Dharma Mittra and his senior teachers will lead the classes which will be held at the Dharma Yoga New York Center. The first class of the Immersion starts on Friday May 16 at 5 pm and the last class concludes on Sunday, May 18 at 3 pm. The final program is a by-donation event and includes satsang and chanting with the Dharma Kirtan Band followed by a vegan potluck extravanganza. Longtime students as well as new practitioners will attend the immersion and celebration.

Legendary Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra, teaching since 1967, founded the first independent school of yoga in New York City in 1975, and has taught tens of thousands the world over in the years since. He is known as the “Teachers Teacher” and “Asana Master”. He authored the “The Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures”, Yoga Course Chart, ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses, and the “Maha Sadhana DVD set, Level I – A Shortcut to Immortality, Level II – Stairway to Bliss”. Students and teachers from around the world flock to his practices and renowned “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training Immersions for 100, 200, 500 & 800-hour certification programs. It is said that “Dharma Mittra is Yoga; he is the living embodiment of Yoga.”

Dharma_Mittra_Krishna_Das_2007

Krishna Das says “Sri Dharma Mittra is a true friend of the Dharma, and with love and tender strength help all those who meet him to be better human beings through the practice of Yoga.” Known for his humble nature, Sri Dharma has quietly devoted his life to the service of others through teaching classical yogic techniques. Adam Frei, the director of the Life of Yogi Teacher Training Programs says, “Studying with Sri Dharma is like one-stop shopping for all your yogic needs. Whether you want to learn asanas, meditation, kriyas, scripture, pranayama, or karma yoga – Sri Dharma has mastered all of these practices and is willing to share them with all earnest students.” Swami Kailashananda has called Sri Dharma the “greatest hatha Yogi in the West.” He is also referred to as the “Rock of Yoga” and the “Teacher’s Teacher.”

Dharma_908_Poster

Sri Dharma Mittra is well known for his famous Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures that hangs in studios worldwide. Created in 1984 the chart depicts Sri Dharma in 908 yoga poses, many of which are rarely seen today. Sri Dharma continues to teach classes for all levels in New York City and gives workshops around the world.  Contact information:  Eva Grubler, Dharma Yoga Center, 61 West 23rd Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY,  10010 eva@6a2.4af.myftpupload.com  Phone 212-889-8160 . Check our our Website or join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for the Dharma Yoga Spring Immersion: A Legendary Yoga Master Turns 75

 

Reflections on a “Life of a Yogi” 500-Hour Teacher Training

By Rachel Carr

First: if you have the chance to take a class with Sri Dharma Mittra then do. He’s a true yogi and taking class from him has transformed my life in so many ways.

Second: if you’ve ever wanted to push, pull and stretch yourself in amazing ways (big and small) then consider taking the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training offered at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC. You may just be surprised by what you uncover about yourself and your practice.

Third: teacher trainings are intense. They are designed that way in order to shake you up and wake you up. The days I spent immersed in Dharma Yoga were amazing, but also the most challenging of my yoga practice to date. At the conclusion of day one, after we spent 12 hours practicing pranayama and asana and learning new sequences, I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this for the next seven days?” It all seemed so daunting and my mind flooded with so many doubts. “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. I just want to go home and be comfortable.” But I kept pushing because, deep in my heart, I knew it was where I needed to be in order to evolve personally and professionally. Somehow, whether by willpower or fierce determination, I made it through the rest of the training relatively unscathed and those feelings of doubt slowly slipped away.

LOAY_Trainee_class

The First Module:

What came out of my first module of teacher training? There were many realizations, but here are a few.

Although I hate to admit, I realized that I had seriously neglected my personal practice. My practice has always been a place of rejuvenation for me and I had let that slip. How? Frankly, I’m doing too much, saying yes too many times and giving so much energy and care through my teaching to the well-being of others that I have completely neglected my own well-being. So, after the first module I decided to step back a bit and make time for my own practice so I can be a better teacher for my students.

Yoga, when done correctly and with experienced and qualified teachers, is incredibly healing and I needed this training to remind me! When I left for the training I had some digestive discomfort that I was working to tame. At some point during my asana and pranayama practice, it went away, and even though I got a head cold while I was there, my digestion was never better, my skin cleared up and random bouts of anxiety slipped away. Sri Dharma says, “With constant practice comes success.” It’s true. If you want to see the benefits, you have to do the practice.

Coming home there was lots of homework to follow, including daily pranayama, meditation and asana practice. At times I felt overwhelmed with getting the practice in as well as my other commitments, but Sri Dharma’s words keep ringing in my ears. “Do it because it needs to be done.” 

Namaskarasana

The second module:

The second immersion week of my teacher training was just as amazing, but far more challenging than the first.  Given the success of the first immersion and my dutiful attention to the inter-module homework, I felt ready for the second half of the training in December. Leaving my family right after the Thanksgiving holiday was hard, but I was ready for the endeavor. However, all that preparedness came to a screeching halt about 45 minutes in to asana practice on the first day when I was feeling so out of sorts that I left and started crying uncontrollably in the bathroom. My body was heavy and foreign to me as I moved through the practice. I felt like my world shifted and I didn’t know which way was up. After class was over, I spoke with a mentor and felt better knowing that I was not the only one feeling out of sorts that day. Maybe the holidays had a greater effect on me than I’d realized?

I kept telling myself that if I made it through the first four days, I would be okay. However, the first days of the training were some of the hardest of my yoga career! Physically I started to feel much better about things, but my ego was literally crawling out of my body and demanded we leave right then and there. I did not give in, although I thought about it a lot, because I know that when things get really tough, the good stuff starts happening, so I kept moving forward, doing the work that needed to be done and reflecting on what was coming up for me from practice. Was this some sort of ego detox, I wondered? I don’t have that answer, but I do know I felt defeated on so many levels that at some points I felt so paralyzed by it all that I could barely move on my mat.

Luckily, two very good friends came to visit mid-way through the week. It didn’t take much, but a hug and a friendly hello from two close outsiders of the training made my heart so happy I nearly burst. Also, the amazing mentors and teachers of the LOAY program kept pulling me forward. They were always open and ready to help me through anything, patiently listening and helping me observe the onslaught of internal messages I felt overwhelmed by at times.

Sri_Dharma_Mittra

Sri Dharma is always there to remind me of what I need to hear at just the right time. Every day I listened intently to his discourse and instructions. The more my ego calmed down, the easier it was to take in, and the more being there made sense. I truly felt that “everything was perfect.”

The last four days of the training were just as intense, however, less so emotionally for me. I still struggled with some asanas, but my body didn’t feel as heavy any longer. I didn’t realize this until the end of the week, but I had become so strong from the inter-module homework, that I rarely felt sore and injured. I even started moving my mat up front for practice. I think it’s best to sit close to Sri Dharma if possible. I was coming out of my shell…finally.

On the second to last day we participated in an inversion clinic. Inversions are not my strongest area, but I’m determined to work on them. In the beginning of the workshop I started to get really anxious. However, my partner was very supportive as we worked though the exercises together. In fact, all of my fellow trainees were so supportive that I started having fun again as we “played” with asana instead of “working” on them.

Maha_Sadhana

On the final day I got up the nerve and mentioned to a mentor just how nervous inversions make me and to my surprise, he helped me out through practice for so many inversions I am now confidently practicing on my own. It only took eight full days of training, but I had a breakthrough! Of course, there’s more work to be done, but I was happy I finally let go because when I do, amazing things always happen. In our final Satsang, I sang my heart out and felt so light and joyous. I was sad to leave, but at the same time I was ready to come home.

Thirty days home and I miss my Sangha dearly. It was hard jumping back in to practice and the holidays made it even more difficult, but, as always, I am striving to do my best. I continue to have many breakthroughs and worry less about how well I do some of asana as opposed to the journey they provide me. I’m stronger and feel more grounded now than ever before and continue to learn more and more about myself through this amazing practice and the teachings of dearest Sri Dharmaji.

(All pictures by Jeffrey Vock. This post first appeared on the blog Capricious Yogi.)

Rachel CarrRachel Carr E-RYT 200, RPYT is a DC based yoga teacher currently working on her 500-Hour LOAY certification with Sri Dharma Mittra. She completed an inter-disciplinary 200-Hour yoga Teacher Training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

by Rachel Carr

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison and competition go hand in hand. Without comparison, there’s no need to compete. Without competition, there’s no need to compare. If there is one thing that yoga has taught me, it’s to let go of my competitive edge and “release any expectations of the fruit of my actions.” The practice is not about the achievement, but rather, the journey. In order to succeed on the path of yoga, one must refrain from comparing oneself to others.

I like to think I have a good handle on this. However, recently I almost walked away from my hard earned career as yoga teacher. That’s right, this Fall, I became so frustrated with the yoga industry that I started polishing up my resume, convinced it was time for me to get a “real job.” Even participating in the life-changing experience that is the LOAY 500-Hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra did little to pull me out of how I was feeling. I was losing my footing on a path to which I felt so connected, and what is important to me as a yoga teacher and student started to become very unclear.

After much introspection and self-reflection I realized that the reason I was feeling this way all boiled down to comparison. Without knowing it, I was comparing myself to all of my peers in my community, especially in the digital and social media world, and it was making me second-guess everything I so fervently believed in. This realization completely humbled me, but at the same time propelled me forward.

My comparison to others was stealing my joy. 

I was so unhappy with how I was measuring up to others’ perceived success, that I was stopped paying attention to the good work I was doing. I have always believed there is a yoga practice and teacher for everyone. Like attracts like. You serve the students who show up to your classes and remain unconcerned by those who don’t. I have never believed that standing on your hands is a prerequisite for being a good yoga teacher, but in these past few months I let my ego lead the way and started to believe that was true. Self-defeating stories swirled through my head. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not popular enough.” “Why can’t you do more?”

On second thought, perhaps my intention should be to stop caring so much about what others think about me. 

When you think about it, they go hand in hand. I wouldn’t feel the need to compare if didn’t worry so much what others thought about me and my ability to teach and practice yoga.

In theory, letting go of comparison seems easy enough, but in reality, there is a lot of work to be done. My first action step is to take breaks from social media on regular basis, and spend more time on my practice, relationships with friends and family, and writing. It’s so easy to be consumed by what appears before your very eyes. We are inundated with so much unwanted messaging these days.

Further, when the stories start to swirl, I’ll reconnect with the teachings. Sri Dharma says that instead of comparing yourself to someone else, you should see him or her as yourself. For example, if someone is doing an asana that you are still working on, then you think, “look, that is me. Look what a good job I am doing!” Instead of the ego driven, “why can’t I do that? I’ll never be able to do that. I must not be that good.”

This brings to mind Yoga Sutra 1.33 and the four keys to happiness. We are all made of the same eternal consciousness, so everything we experience is already experienced by all. What you can or cannot do is based on conditions from your karmas (previous actions). So you do your best, but know that everything is perfect just as it is. This is true contentment (Santosha). It doesn’t really matter what you can or cannot do physically, but what’s happening on the inside that matters most.

 

This post first appeared on the Blog Capricious Yogi.

Rachel Carr

 

Rachel Carr, E-RYT 200, RPYT,  is a Washington, DC based yoga teacher currently working on her Dharma Yoga LOAY 500-hour Teacher Training certification. She completed an interdisciplinary 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.

Yogi Favorites (4) Dharma Salad

Avocados and tomatoes are both superfood fruits in their own right, but together they make a true power couple! 
 
The Dharma Salad is a great example of how good food combining can provide even more nutritional benefits. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is better absorbed by the body when consumed with fatty foods like avocados. Lycopene is a pigment-rich nutrient from the carotenoid family that gives tomatoes, among other fruits and vegetables, their red hue. Studies have shown this powerful antioxidant’s potential to reduce risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

For the purest benefits, try to purchase organic and locally grown tomatoes. 

Here’s how to do it:

Cut one avocado into cubes.
 

 

Slice two large tomatoes.

 

Mix a splash of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil with a splash of Bragg’s liquid aminos or sea salt. Add the sprouts (any kind). Stir all ingredients together and enjoy!  (Serves 1-2)

Text: Lana J. Lee Pictures: Cayla Carapella & Enid Johnstone
Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Tapas for Teachers

By Liz Schindler

“Yoga is the path of purification of character and conduct (the cleansing of one’s physical and mental nature) wherein the highest state of reality and truth may shine undiminished in the hearts and minds of all beings.” –Sri Dharma Mittra
 
©Jeffrey Vock

 My Life of A Yogi Teacher Training Training wasn’t all rainbows and kittens! Well, it was mostlyrainbows and kittens, but also a whole lot of tapas. Tapas is perhaps the most transformative of the niyamas, or personal disciplines, set forth by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras as well as the basis for the “path to purification” that Sri Dharma Mittra refers to in his definition of yoga.
According to the LOAY manual, tapas is defined as heat, austerity, or burning away impurities through self-discipline.Tapas was at the beginning of my transformative journey and it fueled my passion to learn and grow and to push through self doubt. Tapas caused the deepening of my physical practice throughout the intensive ten days, fueled by my own fire and sweat. It was tapas that drove me to the training, got me through it, and forced a change in my body, mind and spirit.
       
Sri Dharma Mittra is referred to as the teacher’s teacher and for good reason! Sri Dharma is the perfect shepherd to the trainees because he didn’t only show us how to teach yoga classes, he shared his limitless experience, knowledge and wisdom.  The morning pranayama and spiritual discourse sessions were the highlight of my day and I cannot stress how challenging but rewarding the breath work was. I soaked up all the information on the kriyas, mantra, chakras, bandhas and mudras.  
©Jeffrey Vock
 
Yet there was still the element of tapas and the floor seemed to harden with each passing day and by day six easy poses were no longer easy. The pain of sitting with a tall spine (out of respect for Sri Dharma) was distracting at times but looking back I’m happy that I did it. It broke a mental barrier in my mind and got rid of “I can’t do this any longer” and replaced it with “I’m still doing this.” I read a quote somewhere that says “your mind will always give up before your body, just keep going” and I did.
The hard part was putting myself out there as a teacher and I cannot adequately express my horror as I taught my first Dharma I class to my group during the training. In contrast to my inexperience, my group was so advanced! Two of my group-mates had mothers that taught yoga and two others were already certified teachers. This was my first teaching experience ever and I was mortified. I remember my disappointment as I taught and how frustrated I was over the shakiness in my voice and the inaccuracy of my cues. But why was I so nervous? I had been falling on my sweaty face and loudly farting in front of these people for days! But suddenly their opinion mattered more than anything and I thought I was bombing it.


©Liz Schindler
 
After finishing my first practice teach (which felt like hours) my mentor Hannah Allerdice gave me an honest review of my teaching. She stressed her opinion that I would be a wonderful teacher because she could sense how much I cared about my students. At the time I thought she was just being kind, but looking back through my handy 20/20 hindsight goggles, I see she was on point. Because I care so much I was nervous and horrified while practice teaching. My drive to teach yoga stems from my gratefulness to all of my teachers for helping deepen my yoga practice and to open my heart. All I wanted then and now is to be able to share that same gift of yoga with my students.
       
By the end of the training I had more confidence in my teaching and a greater sense of sympathy for my own feelings. I made strong friendships and have new role models to look up to. I surpassed my own expectations and in turn have raised my self-expectations. The LOAY teacher training experience was truly life altering for me and I am forever grateful to Sri Dharma and all of his teaching staff. 

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Liz Schindler found yoga during a stressful period of her life and has returned to it again and again for over ten years to calm both body and mind. After moving to New York and beginning to study with Sri Dharma Mittra, she soon came to realize her need to share her love of yoga with others. Liz is a 200-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher. She currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY.

 

    

      

Why read the Dhammapada?

by Fay Inger
 
©Enid Johnstone
 
When reading through the Dhammapada, I found that many verses resonated with me and I wonder if this is because I read the verses with yogi colored glasses because I studied with Sri Dharma Mittra
 
When a modern day Guru such as Sri Dharma recommends a book, it makes it less obscure and more approachable. Certainly, many verses touched upon themes I learned in the Life of a Yogi (LOAY) Teacher Training program, and when reading, I imagined seeing Sri Dharma’s face with a glimmer in his eye! 
 
Because of the similarities between the words of the Buddha and Sri Dharma, it is no wonder that Sri Dharma recommends this text as an important read for any new or experienced yogi. 

 
There is a misconception that you must be a Buddhist or a person on a spiritual path seeking enlightenment to study the texts. In reality, this text is an important read regardless of one’s religious affiliation, because it transcends religion. In fact, there is no mention of religion at all. The book is not about religion or a higher power; it is about empowering the reader to be his or her best possible version by realizing that all the power is already within. (As I type this, I am aware of the strong correlation with how Sri Dharma encourages students to find their inner Guru). 

 
Jack Kornfield, who wrote the foreword of the Gil Fronsdal translation of the Dhammapada, himself touches upon this very concept in the introduction, where he points out the contrast between the opening verse in the bible and the opening verses in the Dhammapada. As the author points out, the bible “emphasize God’s role as creator and, by extension, our reliance on God’s power.” This implies that we are weak in God’s shadow. Conversely, the Dammapada reflects “the importance and effectiveness of a person’s own actions and choices.” This observation highlights how we are in charge of our own path and indeed, the masters of our own destinies. The entirety of the text is reminding us of this fact in every capacity and function. 

 
As the Buddha points out in the very first verse, it is our minds. “All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind.” This sentiment reflects that Sri Dharma taught us that it is not we who are “bad,” it is our minds. It’s an important distinction, as it allows the individual freedom from our own thoughts and therefore actions – not to shirk responsibility of our deeds, but rather as a way to reflect on our own thoughts and regulate them before they turn into actions. 

 
According to the Buddha, our very experiences start with the mind! Is it any wonder, then, that when going into a situation thinking it will be bad, it usually is? To tie this into asana: if, before attempting a posture, the thought is, “there’s no way I can do that,” you are right and it will indeed be impossible to do.  Sri Dharma, in his infinite wisdom has said, “If you can bend your mind, you can bend your body.”  How liberating then to take ownership over your own experiences! 

 

 
The verse that I believe sums up the blueprint to living the life of a yogi is found in Chapter two, verse 25: “Through effort, vigilance, restraint and self control, the wise person can become an island no flood will overwhelm.” This is a powerful lesson to heed, as it sums up so much of Sri Dharma’s teachings. The Yamas and Niyamas, making an effort in asana — regardless of what happens around you, inside you are unchanged. This is essentially the same lesson from the Buddha to Sri Dharma just in different words! This concept is again reflected in Chapter 3 verse 38: “For those who are unsteady of mind, who do not know true Dharma, and whose serenity wavers, wisdom does not mature.” In essence, if you want to be wise, the reader is given the exact route to take to achieve wisdom.  It is through steadying the mind, finding your Dharma and becoming serene. And the ultimate goal is to conquer oneself. 
 
According to the Buddha: “Greater in combat than a person who conquers a thousand times a thousand people is the person who conquers herself.” 

 
And if one is simple and does not wish to be wise or to conquer him/her self? The Buddha has a blueprint for this person as well: “Doing no evil, engaging in what’s skillful, and purifying one’s mind: This is the teaching of the buddhas.” 

 
I find this book to be a perfect companion to Sri Dharma’s teachings for a student like myself who is across the country from the center, or for a student who has never participated in a LOAY teacher training. While the words are different, the direction and ultimate goal is the same. If it is mastery of the self one is seeking, then the Dhammapada is a text that will help set one on the right path. 

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Fay Inger is a 800-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga instructor living in Los Angeles, California. Fay is a private yoga instructor, writes blog posts on yoga and wellness and is learning nutrition to better help her students reach their health and fitness goals. As she always says, “yoga is a gift” and it is her favorite gift to share!

 

Remembering Bernadette Duthu

by Adam Frei


My first summer at the Dharma Yoga Center which was then located on Third Avenue was one where Sri Dharma Mittra already had a rather heavy travel schedule and was gone for most of it. I had already changed my work schedule so I could take class at least twice a week at noon most weeks and decided to keep to that schedule and get a chance to take class with some of Sri Dharma’s senior students. That was how I really first came to know Bernadette Duthu as I think she subbed more of those noon classes in those years than anyone else. 
Bernadette was very similar to Sri Dharma in that you didn’t always notice when she entered the room, but suddenly she was there and the class was starting. As a teacher, Bernadette was strict, but always still caring and extremely encouraging. In her classes, we seemed to hold poses longer than at any other time and meditation at the end of class always seemed to last twice as long as in any other class. When I asked her about this once, she told me that most people don’t give enough attention to their meditation so she always made sure they would when they were taking class with her.



Bernadette was a certified Dharma Yoga instructor, and also a certified Bikram instructor. Over a number of years that she was a regular fixture in most every noon class Sri Dharma taught, her warm up was to take a Bikram class first and often teach one, as well. Bernadette also worked both through the French Institute and independently as a French tutor. She was extremely well-read when it came to yoga, Buddhism and related topics, but, like Sri Dharma, she often claimed that she knew and understood only a little beyond the basic subject matter. This touches perhaps on one of her greatest qualities: humility. 
I was fortunate to take part in the “Life of a Yogi” 200-hour teacher training program as a student in February of 2007. Bernadette was one of the people who made that experience extraordinary for me. She was a constant source of support and knowledge, and her discipline in terms of the practice was truly an inspiration.


I think that being involved as a regular teacher and as faculty for the “Life of a Yogi” teacher training program over a number of years was an important part of her life as a whole. She respected, admired and was devoted to Sri Dharma, to the school and to the students in way that many only wish they could be. She had a sweet, even disposition and a deep love of classical music. She also had endless curiosity about the world around her that allowed one to feel that she was much younger than she actually was.


Her enormous strength and determination allowed her to return to France for a year to tend to her then ailing Mother and Father. She rose at 4 a.m. every day there as she had back in New York, did her practice, then devoted her day to serving others. As she once expressed to me personally: “My sisters have their families and their careers — I am lucky now to have neither and to do this is not so big a deal for me.” 


It was during this time that she had her first go around with Cancer. Unfortunately, that became a big part of the final few years of her life. That she lived her life as she did almost to the end was truly remarkable to those few who really knew what she was going through.
Her loss is a great one to the entire Dharma Yoga community. She was a teacher and friend to so many, and her memory will live on as the teachings she helped transmit live on. Bernadette, we love you and we miss you, but we are glad you are now at peace. Thank you for all you gave to all of us.


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Adam Frei was born in Stamford, Connecticut, grew up in the wilds of West Redding, and is now a New Yorker. After years of mostly solitary Sadhana practice, he found his way to Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra. His entire practice changed during that first Master class, and he must have done something extremely rare and good in a previous incarnation to have finally met the teacher in this lifetime. He is grateful to have taken part in the transformative Dharma Yoga 200 and 500-Hour “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training intensive immersions. They helped him understand that teaching is just one more component of practice as we all strive to copy the teacher in word, thought and deed. He has been teaching at the New York Center and beyond ever since his first teacher training and, after years of involvement with the Teacher Training programs on the staff side, is now blessed to be the director of these programs. 

Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Your LOAY Teacher Training

By Jennifer Helgren

©Jeffrey Vock

First and foremost: GO



“Always do what you are afraid to do”   –Ralph Waldo Emerson



When the thought of attending the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training first entered my mind, I almost automatically dismissed the idea.  I had so many reasons NOT to attend (mother of two young children, travelling husband, a plane ride away from NYC, no housing in the city, etc.)



What I learned was that when I committed to my dream, the obstacles fell away. It may take some time, and definitely some effort, but the result – well, is simply too great to put into mere words. Dive in, take a chance, and find a way to GO.

Second:  Open your mind and heart



“Be Receptive” —Sri Dharma Mittra



There will be moments in the training that will challenge you – physically, mentally, spiritually – and you must always remember that is why you are here. Open the whole of your mind, even the places that you are least aware of: the places that hold onto resistance.  Allow the words, people, experiences, and lessons to pour into those hidden places. Listen with an open heart and mind, and the information will be absorbed.  Weeks, months after you leave, you will hear these words and learn these lessons…they will reside in the mind and heart, and the space you created within. 



©Jeffrey Vock
Third: Put forth effort and use imagination



“Imagination is powerful. You go as far as you can imagine”– Sri Dharma Mittra



You are going to be tired at some point. You will physically and mentally hit the proverbial wall.  You will move past it. I promise you, a second wind comes along and you will be renewed.



I second-guessed myself initially, but that fell away after time. My mind let go of the attachments to thoughts and emotions that often distract us and inhibit us from fully committing to something.  We live in the real world, and the world does not like to be left behind. It will pull at you, distract you, and sometimes overwhelm you.  Give yourself time to allow these things to come up. They are natural and they will pass.



Apply disciplined effort to your practice. Let the physical practice act as a brush to scrub away at whatever negative tendencies you may have.  Let it invigorate you, regenerate you. Your physical practice will grow by leaps and bounds through dedication and practice, practice, practice.



Finally, use your imagination – Sri Dharma talks about this often and it truly resonated with me. Imagine yourself to be a better person, mother, father, daughter, son, friend, partner – a better yogi. Use your imagination as fuel to show yourself that what you pursue is attainable through effort, dedication, study, and time. 

Fourth: Be a Student



“In learning you will teach and in teaching, you will learn” Phil Collins



Lose all preconceptions. Take off the teacher hat and allow yourself to commit to being a student. Listen and learn: from Sri Dharma, the mentors, your fellow trainees. Watch your own mind and learn how to apply all that you receive to yourself, your life, your teaching.  Apply the lessons to every aspect of your life. You will be amazed at how the things you are exposed to relate to your roles in life – as a person, yogi, teacher, parent, child, friend, partner, spouse. This is truly the LIFE of a yogi training!



Listen as much as possible. You will want to take notes, but if you can, take time to just be still and listen. Let go and simply absorb the information and the words.  Listen to other people’s questions and answers and try not to be too eager to answer them for yourself, even in your own mind. Let other people share, and let their knowledge and experiences become part of your own.

©Jeffrey Vock


Fifth: Smile, live, learn, laugh…and do your homework!



“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it” Lao Tzu



Enjoy the training! Every day, it becomes more of a part of you and integrates itself into your very being. 

Sri Dharma is always quick with a smile and a kind-hearted joke. He understands the power of laughter and the importance of joy.  The training will go faster than you think, so soak up every minute! When you leave between sessions or after the final interval, do your homework!  Remember that you are going to be able to do it and what’s more, you will enjoy it. After my internship ended, I found that much of the homework has become a part of my daily life.  After talking with many other trainees, this is the case with most of us.  Carry it forward. Apply it. LIVE it. 

Sixth and finally: Go back



“Well, sometimes home is a person” –B.Revis



I understand how hard to is to travel to New York City. Still, I would encourage you to go back as much as you can. Go home, and by home I mean return to Sri Dharma and be in his presence. 



However, if you are very far and it is not possible for you to physically go, keep in touch with people through the internet, the phone, however you can to maintain the connection. I have found myself using Facebook to keep in contact with other trainees and to touch base with the Center – daily! You can see pictures of Sri Dharma, the mentors, your friends. You can read quotes from Sri Dharma (and yes, you hear his voice!) You see familiar faces and smiles and all at once, you are home. 



In closing, ultimately this experience is a very personal one. I wish that everyone who is undecided about going could understand one thing – you will never regret going, but you may regret having never been. 


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Jennifer has a undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree with a specialty in Counseling.  She had a career as a counselor working with clients of all ages and backgrounds, in varying environments, with a wide range of needs and concerns.  After her time as a counselor, Jennifer began her life as a mother, the most rewarding and challenging career of all. She believes that her education, practice, and history as a counselor, and mother, play an important role in her yoga practice and her teaching. She believes strongly that a truly dedicated spiritual and physical yoga practice can transform, enhance, and expand the life of the practitioner. Jennifer had the honor to study with Sri Dharma Mittra for both the LOAY 200- and 500-Hour Teacher Trainings, and recently graduated from the 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. Jennifer studied with numerous other teachers, but continues to find her strength, inspiration, knowledge, direction, and guidance from Sri Dharma. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two children.  Jennifer teaches regular weekly classes in Virginia Beach and continues to travel to NYC at every available opportunity to study under Sri Dharma and the Senior Teachers at the NYC Center. 

Dharma Yoga Across the US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US…

This week: 

Gopi Om (Nicole Sopko) in Chicago, Illinois 


Where do you live?

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


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


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


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



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

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

What is one practice that you do every day?

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



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

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


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

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



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

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


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



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

What books are you currently reading or studying?

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

When You Hear the Truth, You Have To Take Action…

By Barb Cooper


©Jeffrey Vock

Before I left for my LOAY Teacher Training in February 2013, I snapped a quick photo of myself and posted it on Facebook.  “I’m about to leave for my yoga teacher training adventure. I took a picture just in case I come back completely changed,” I joked.

Little did I know that the person coming home from the training would be changed in every imaginable way EXCEPT visibly. (Well, okay, I even changed a little outwardly if you count the three pounds I lost.)
It is oddly difficult to describe the experience. I find myself speaking in terms of what it wasn’t.  It wasn’t bootcamp for yogis.  It wasn’t a cult indoctrination. It wasn’t me and a bunch of Cirque de Soleil performers. My fellow trainees were as varied as our number, all of us there for different reasons.  All of us at different stages on our paths. And all of us, every one, there because we had glimpsed something in Sri Dharma Mittra that we hoped to find for ourselves.



©Jeffrey Vock


What I end up telling people who ask about the training is this: Imagine yourself in a completely positive environment for ten straight days.  How many of us get that chance?  How many of us are surrounded by nothing but unbroken love and nurture and kindness and the best wishes for our development for even ONE day out of our lives, let alone ten days from before dawn until bedtime?
It was amazing to be surrounded by like-minded people.  To be able to ask deeply spiritual questions and be completely understood. To be in the presence of someone whose understanding of true Yoga far surpassed any living being I’d ever met. To find my spiritual home.

Yes, it was hard—but not in the way I thought it would be.  Although my body was pushed to its limit (I had to skip an asana practice one day because my back was on the fringes,) it was my mind and my spirit that had the biggest workout.  I came home utterly cracked wide open—with a new connection to the Earth, to my fellow humans, to the spirit world.

©Jeffrey Vock

The biggest challenges for me involved NOT moving—finding a comfortable position to sit and meditate, or finding a comfortable position to lie down in for the deep relaxation sessions.  It’s amazing how much I wanted to shift and move as soon as I knew I shouldn’t. I came to recognize this as my mind and body distracting me from my true work.
Many years ago, a friend of mind—a wise-cracking, sarcastic, realist –abruptly converted to Catholicism.  I was, frankly, shocked, knowing what I knew of her.  I asked her about it and she struggled for words.  “It’s…It’s just the TRUTH,” she said.  “When I heard it, I had to take action.”

That’s how I feel about the Yoga that Sri Dharma Mittra teaches—all aspects of it.  I’m still a neophyte on the path.  But it’s just the Truth.  And when you hear the Truth, you have to take action.




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Barb Cooper, 48, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York transplant, and a writer by nature and training. She considers herself a grateful observer, a recovering perfectionist, and no longer shy. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013. She is beginning to become the person her pets think she is. Barb@sothethingis.com