Category Archives: thoughts

The Effects of Pranayama on Thoughts and Actions

By Jonathan Rosenthal 

©Jeffrey Vock
Pranayama (control of Prana through breath) is themain focal point for managing thoughts and actions, according to The Science of Pranayama by Swami Sivananada.
Even before I started practicing yoga, I foundthat inhaling deeply, holdingmy breath as long as is comfortable,and exhaling very slowly was themost effective technique to regulate my thoughts and actions in moments of indecision and doubt.

“Before he eats, before he drinks, before he resolves to do anything, Pranayama should be performed first and then the nature of his determination should be clearly enunciated and placedbefore the mind.  – Swami Sivananda.

Prana, however, is not solely breath. Breath contributes to prana, but not all prana is derived from breath.

Swami Sivanandasays, “The Prana may be defined as the finest vital force in everythingwhich becomes visible on the physicalplane as motionand action, and on the mentalplane as thought. The word Pranayama, therefore, means the restraint of vitalenergies.” Thisseems to suggestthat prana is fed by the needs of air, water and food and then directed towards the vayus, like thoughts and actions. Prana is hard to conceptualize, and therefore visualize and manipulate directly.

Perhaps the control of breath is a startingpoint to control prana. According to Swami Sivananda, “If you control the flywheel (the prana) you control the wheels (the other organs). Similarly, Sri Dharma Mittra says,the attention is a magnetfor prana. Perhaps combining control of breath with the guidance of attentionallows one to indirectly manipulate prana.

Breath is the most compulsory need for survival. Itis impossible to survive without breath for the amountof time one can survive withoutfood and water. This is why controllingthe breath is such an important tool, both in and out of yoga. Returning to this basic need shatters the illusion of all the other needs (e.g. fears, desires, doubts)” – almost like throwing a wrench at a triangular enclosure of mirrors that reflect and deceive you endlessly.

Fears and doubts are no match for Pranayama. By removing the focus from these ungrounded anticipations  and placing the focus on the most basic and essential need, Pranayama shatters the mirrored labyrinth of imaginary and illusory needs.

I imagine that allneeds”are really illusions. We are not really hungry, it is thebody that is hungry; we are not cold, it is the body that is cold. In fact, Swami Sivananda describes Pranayama techniques that eliminate needs like hunger, thirst, and sleep and these same techniques can even cool or warm the body – sitkari and sitali are cooling,suryabheda and ujjayi are warming, and bhastrika restores normal temperature. Further, sitkari and sitaliboth trump hunger, thirst, and sleep. All of theseseem to suggestthat pranayama is a practice mainly used to shatter the illusion of needs.

It is interestingthat Swami Sivananda advises specifically to avoid straining while doing Pranayama: “Some people twist the muscles of the face when they do Kumbhaka (breath retention). It shouldbe avoided. It is a symptom to indicate that they are going beyond theircapacity.

If practicing Pranayama becomesa need in and of itself,it has become an illusion extraordinaire. This is much like a drug given in excess quantitythat then becomesa poison. In pursuingPranayama as a need in and of itself,the practitioner has only replaced an unnecessary “need” with a new one.

Pranayama should be practiced each and every day, but it is not the end of the world to miss a day; Pranayama should be practiced not as a need in and of itself, but as a technique that, by focusing on the only real need, prana, shatters the illusion of the others.

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Jonathan Rosenthal took his DharmaYoga Life of a Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training in June 2013. His motto is: “With everything I do, I try to remember we are yogis first and foremost and that we should view life as a task to be done, but with compassion, sincerity, angry determination, and a renunciation of the fruits of actions. I am grateful to the teachers who made this perspective possible and try to return the favor by teaching others.” He is in the internship phase of his LOAY teacher training.

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. 

Five Ways To Conquer Cravings

By Sara Schwartz



I used yoga to quit smoking. I did so after I noticed that after my Power Vinyasa class I was less eager to grab a cigarette. It also turned out that I liked the taste of fresh air, so when I decided to give up smoking, I just figured I would do a ton of yoga and it would be easy.

Turns out that quitting smoking was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The craving struck and sat like a piece of lead on my throat and tongue. Sometimes, it settled around the center of my chest. The craving created a real physical ache as well as annoying mental repetitions. “If I only had… I would feel better…”

To break a habit you have to use the force of willpower and willpower is essentially the movement of the spirit. You need willpower to move through a craving. Logically, cravings just cause us mental pain, and this mental pain is the feeling of an old habit breaking. To pass through cravings is to be in touch with the divine force of will. In a craving you can sense the movement of your spirit, strengthening your connection to your spiritual anatomy.

The second time I came face to face with intense cravings was during my Dharma Yoga Life of aYogi 500-Hour Teacher Training when we were instructed to follow a fairly strict vegan diet.

“Food is a very emotional experience,” LOAY Director Adam Frei told us. I thought to myself: I don’t have any emotional issues with food – I’ll eat anything!  But then, I realized I couldn’t have my Chai Tea Latte and I cried! Chocolate cake, even though I never ate it, became my newest obsession. But I stuck with the diet; I ate my salads and drank my juices. At first my body didn’t feel very good. I was tired and hungry all the time. I realized I was detoxing. Then I adjusted and began to feel calmer, cleaner, and my yoga practice felt solid.

Overcoming my cravings meant I had to stake out uncomfortable territory. I had to re-visit what I had done when I quit smoking. 

Here are five ways to get rid of cravings and live a healthier life:

    • Make a list of why you want to give something up and allow that to become your mantra. Why would I want to follow a yogic diet? Because “healthy body, healthy mind”. So when I craved chocolate cake I asked myself “does this cake cultivate a healthy body better than a banana?” Of course the banana wins this round!
    • Take one day, one moment, and one breath at a time. This is what they say in Alcoholics Anonymous and I used it to quit smoking. Each morning I would think, “today I am not going to smoke.” If during the day the craving was bad I would think: “right now, I am choosing not to smoke.” If I was in front of a store ready to jump in and buy a pack of cigarettes, I would think “now I am inhaling; now I am exhaling” as I breathed.
    • Read spiritual literature. Sri Dharma Mittra recommends this all the time! When you are feeling uninspired and uncertain, the Bhagavad Gita can point you in a good direction. Arjuna also didn’t know why he was supposed to fight, and Krishna gives him a ton of reasons why he should. Sometimes you might not be sure why you’re fighting your cravings, so you too can apply Krishna’s counsel.
    • Practice Pranayama. It can be as simple as a square breath: Inhaling for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four. If the craving is strong you might try a stronger, more complicated Pranayama: like Nadi Shodana with Kumbakha (alternate nostril breathing with breath retentions). As Swami Sivananda said “the veil is removed by the practice of Pranayama. After the veil is removed the real nature of the soul is realized.”
    • Remove the tempters. Clean your kitchen of those culprit foods. When you shop at the grocery store first go to the fruit and vegetable section. When I tried to quit smoking I stopped going to the smoker’s corner on my lunch break and I went to the park instead.
These are just techniques to test out in the laboratory of your own experience. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette or a piece of chocolate cake. After I had decided to quit smoking I slipped up for a good year before I was actually able to buckle down and commit to a daily yoga practice. During the LOAY Teacher Training Diet one day I walked into a Starbucks and had a cup of tea and a scone and enjoyed every moment of the sugary and caffeinated goodness. But the next day I woke up and was back on track.
Over the long run the cravings get less and less. And now, three years later, if I smell a cigarette it makes me feel sick. Now, most sweets are too sweet for me since I spent half a year not eating sugar.

You can create the life you imagine! It just takes time, awareness, and as Sri Dharma says, a little bit of ‘angry determination’ to get back up again after you fall.

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Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is very grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.

3 Ways To Cultivate Compassion In Your Life

By David Jozefczyk 
Ahimsa (non-violence/non-killing or compassion), the ethical guideline that stands in the forefront from the others, is life’s law of non-harming

Once this ethical guideline is mastered, all other ethical guidelines fall into place. Also true, is that the more compassion is studied, the more layers of understanding appear.



Most people understand Ahimsa in regards to non-killing or not causing physical pain to other human beings or pets.  But Ahimsa goes beyond that. Prior to learning about Ahimsa, I fell into this category.  The first time that I had the honor to receive Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings regarding Ahimsa, it changed my life.  This intricate ethical guideline (Yama) was explained to me with such simplicity and in such a compassionate manner that it brought tears to my eyes and struck a chord deep within me
A vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to practice Ahimsa as it covers three areas – through thought, word and deed. 

1.    Thoughts

With thoughts, for example, when eating with friends and family who are not educated in Ahimsa, my thoughts do not judge or think bad of them.  I have realized their true Self does not mean to harm, it’s just their physical mind is not ready at this point in their evolution and so I feel compassion for them.



Ahimsa of thoughts not only applies towards others, but towards the self as well.  Negative thoughts can manifest themselves, so any negativity or harm towards yourself (as well as others) should be avoided.  A good amount of bad karma can be accumulated in this regard and no one wants that!

2.    Deeds
In regards to deed, leading by exampleand consistently living as a vegetarian is a very powerful way to influence and it may eventually change another person’s outlook on diet.  

3.    Words

Lastly, being vegetarian and practicing Ahimsa in regards to word, conversation arises from time to time and I am asked “what made you become vegetarian?”  I always choose my words carefully, as some friends and family members love to play devils advocate by mentioning plants.  I answer that it is impossible for most people to be completely non-harming due to the physical body needing sustenance, so I chose what I feel to be the lesser of two evils.  This type of conversation has the ability to transform others not aware of Ahimsa.

Words can be very powerful and life changing in both a positive and negative way.  Even a simple “hello” with the right intention to someone passing by can brighten his or her day! 

I feel it is a good practice to keep your words to a minimum and positive and uplifting in nature.  Many yogi masters teach that if you do not have anything good to say then this is a good time to practice silence or Mouna, which Swami Sivananda describes as “Tapas of speech.”
I am still learning from the masters to eradicate negative traits and to bring more compassion into my life by practicing Ahimsa.  Through a steady and consistent practice this can be mastered and then applied towards all Yamas and Niyamas!


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Dave Jozefczyk began practicing yoga in 2006 by taking class with his wife ‘chelle in his basement.  Having a consistent flow of friends who attended three days per week made it an official class.  The next chapter in Dave’s spiritual journey was experiencing a long weekend immersion with Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu in 2008 with his wife.  Since that transformative weekend, he has been faithfully practicing Dharma Yoga.  During these five plus years of practice and observing his wife’s transformation after completing her 500-hour LOAY Teacher Training, Dave realized that he also had the ability to help others and serve in so many different ways. In June of 2013, Dave was very humbled to experience the 200-hour LOAY TT at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  He is currently teaching at the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga Syracuse) to fulfill his internship credentials.  It brings him such joy to be able to share the Dharma Yoga teachings, which he continues to learn from Sri Dharma and the Dharma family.

Five Ways To Detox Your Thoughts

by Sorsha Anderson

Most of us have an idea how to detox our bodies:  eating right, exercising and juicing or fasting.  But how do we detoxify our thoughts and thought process?  In much the same way: by choosing which thoughts to feast on and which to pass up.

Think of your mind as a giant store that is stocked with unlimited food.  Further realize that this store is stocked in part by the world outside which is filled with unhealthy influences.  No matter what our intentions, our store is not always the health food store we would like it to be.  The good news is that no matter what state our store is in, we can examine carefully each item that we take off of the shelf and choose whether or not to put it into our cart.

Try the steps below:


  • Understand that you are not your thoughts. 

Just as the food in your cart may belong to you, it is not you. The same is true with thought.  Thoughts are a product of the mind, the mind is a tool of the self, but it is not the self.  As Sri Dharma Mittra explains, “the mind is powerful, it loves its pleasure. It will throw you down! But you are not the mind.”   

He continues with this analogy:  the higher self resting in the body is akin to a driver in a car.  If you are driving the car and the brakes fail and you are having trouble with the electrical system, you are having trouble with the car, but you are not the car.  Next: 



©Jeffrey Vock

  • Observe your thoughts

This can be done very simply in a short period of time.  Pick a quiet time during the day, or even as you lay down before sleep at night.  Close your eyes and observe the thoughts that come into your mind.  Do not engage the thoughts, do not dialogue with the thought or practice arguments in your head…just watch the thoughts come up and then let them go.  Even five minutes at a time will help introduce you to your thought patterns and begin to give you the sense of the ‘observer,’ your higher self watching the thoughts.  It will give you an excellent idea of what shape your store is in.  Is it a health food store or a 7-eleven?

  • Don’t fear your thoughts.

Even if after some observation you notice negative patterns, keep calm.   Everyone experiences negative thoughts.  You cannot help the thoughts that float through your mind.  Remember, they are thoughts only and they are not you.  You can begin to control your thoughts by using your discrimination.  You do not have to validate every thought that comes into your mind any more than you have to buy unhealthy food every time you enter the store.  If a troublesome or unhelpful thought arises, ask first, “Is this thought compassionate? Is it compassionate to myself, to my friends, to the world?”  If it is, engage the thought and let it tell its story.  If not then let it go; leave it on the shelf.  Leave room in the mind for something worthy.  As Sri Dharma Mittra says, “Cultivate compassion, the rest will come.”

  • Strike a pose!

Try tree pose, with the eyes closed. No matter how observant and vigilant we become, all of us have trouble at times releasing negative thoughts. If the mind is stuck in a difficult place, give it something else to concentrate on.  Vrksasana, can be done almost anywhere, any corner of any room, even a bathroom stall at work.  Stand in tree, feel your standing foot on the ground and close your eyes.  Tell your mind, ‘Nothing changes here; I am simply lowering my eyelids.’  The mind may fight; it may panic as the eyes close and it loses the visual horizon; but remember, you are the driver.  Use the breath, feel yourself in space; imagine you are simply a tree in the dark.  The mind will start to understand that it does in fact know where it is in space without visual reassurance.  It will begin to settle. The worrisome detail the mind would not relinquish may suddenly dissolve in the moonlight!



©DovVargas

  • Count to ten – upside down.

In addition to the physical benefits of inverting the body, the mind greatly benefits as well.  One of the elements of inversions that hooked me early on was the instantaneous quieting of the mind.  If the mind won’t stop, if it becomes filled with obsessive thoughts and won’t let go, dump it out!  Turn your cart upside down, empty it out and start again.  The mind will begin to concentrate on not falling over and start to let go of everything else.  Something about going upside down is also reminiscent of being a kid again.  We physically recall a time when we felt fearless and invincible and our mood instantly elevates. 

You are not your thoughts, but thoughts are energy and the vibration of that energy affects our mood, our state of being and our physical body.  Next time you are revamping your diet because the body is calling out for a change, also take stock of the contents of the mind.  Choose to leave those uncompassionate, un-helpful thoughts on the shelf, and over time, your store may stop stocking them altogether.


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