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. Dharma Mittra 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 to attend the conference in SF and the first class I registered for was Sri Dharma Mittra's Maha Sadhana.
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 he 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 Mittra. Feeling dejected, one day I went online and researched again more closely what it would take to study with Dharma in New York City; flights, hotel stays, the training itself, and of course my financial resources. I dug deep, examined myself honestly and 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. It was time to either commit and leap or walk away with no regrets. 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 training and began my journey with Sri Dharma Mittra. Committing myself to another 500 hour training so I could learn what it is to truly be a yogi. Of all my trainings to date (and there have been many), this has been the most demanding of my time, physical energy, self-discipline and unyielding commitment. And I have not been happier in 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, practicing karma yoga (selfless service), being a dedicated student of yoga...and I am filled with gratitude.
If you have attended one of my Dharma internship classes, thank you for your openness and support. If you haven't attended yet, please come and give it a try. Dharma's practices are the product of a lifetime labor of love; created by the 'real deal' who has been practicing for more than 50 years. I feel so honored to be a conduit for his wonderful practice and message. I see yoga as 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.
drg darsana saktyor ekatmatevasmita ~ Yoga Sutra II-6 (Be sure to check out the YouTube link below!)
My favorite translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is by Sri Swami Satchidananda. He gives a great description of sutra 6 of book II regarding where the ego lies in our yoga practice. He speaks about the difference between our true self and our ego self, describing these two as capital I and little i. He says that the ego self or little "i" looks an awful lot like our true self or capital "I" but is blemished by that single, simple dot...the one that always seems to undermine our authenticity.
In our yoga practice, I think the ego manifests itself in a few ways. First, we struggle with the challenge of truly listening to our bodies when entering the asana practice. We sometimes get caught up in a competitive state of mind and stop listening to our body's intuition. Second and conversely, sometimes the moment our teacher cues us into a pose that we find challenging, we give up or more truthfully give in to our ego's desire to only do the poses we know we can truly rock. Ultimately, both of these ego driven thought processes are an impediment to the unfolding of our practice and the discovery of our true self.
The next time you step into the yoga studio, place your ego right next to your shoes on the shelf in the lobby. Bring only what you need through the double doors...your mat, your breath, your intention and your capital "I".
The question..."So boot camp isn't yoga?"
The answer..."Nope, but it'll make your yoga practice stronger, deeper and more meaningful."
As a studio owner I am questioned constantly by students about the decisions we (Katy and I) make regarding our yoga business. Why don't we have classes at times that seem more logical to them? Why do we have more of this class instead of that one on the schedule? Why would we consider offering a class that isn't yoga? The list is endless.
Here is my short answer..."everything is yoga."
'Logical' to another person conflicts with your ideas? How you consider that = yoga.
The studio schedule doesn't make sense to you or fit your needs? How you handle that = yoga.
Classes being offered that aren't yoga at the yoga studio? What you do with that = yoga.
I signed up and paid for Boot Camp at the studio as I do every workshop, clinic and program that I possibly can. I do this for the simple reason that I love learning new things. I am curious about new ways to explore and understand myself better. The more I am asked to examine my knee-jerk reaction to challenges in my body, mind and spirit, the more thoughtful I become about how I move through my life.
Boot Camp is the latest of these experiences. We push ourselves to work every inch of our bodies, we support one another, we turn inward to see what's there, we breathe. It's not yoga? Consider this...
Commitment : I mindfully choose to wake up at 4:45am for this every morning.
Perseverance: I have to push myself way beyond my perceived boundaries to meet this physical challenge.
Humility: I have to keep it real and see my strengths and, more visibly, my weaknesses...and smile still.
These are the qualities that I strive to find on my mat. I love that fact that I can strive to find them when I fold the laundry, mop the floor, take care of my family, do tedious paper work, and yes, when I wear my running shoes.
Thank you Aaron, for showing me yet another way to live my practice! Awesome class this morning...still feeling "the effects" :-)
Those of us who practice power vinyasa on a regular basis know there are simply some days when the practice seems to knock the stuffing right out of us. When you feel fatigue creeping up on you perhaps it's time to take a more gentle approach. Coming to a less rigorous class doesn't mean 'skipping your practice'. It is yoga in it's truest sense when you have the wisdom to listen to your intuition and take your practice to a different level. Giving the body a break is often just the ticket to allowing mind and spirit to take center stage in your practice. Focus your full attention on your breath and linger in the vibrant feeling of complete surrender. Give yourself the gift of occasionally shifting the focus of your practice away from the 'work-out' mentality and you just might find a stronger, better you on and off the mat.
If you've ever been in one of my classes you've heard it many times and yet it's still a challenge to simply "be in the moment" and not anticipate the next. In our culture we are extremely preoccupied with where we are going, what's coming next. Being completely present exactly where we are takes a great deal of concentration and practice. The next time you're in class, observe your natural tendencies in each pose. Are you always arriving in a pose ahead of the breath or instructor's cue? Are you always rushing the pose and breaking it down to move on before you've really felt anything in it or been instructed to move on?
You've taken the time come to a "guided yoga class", try putting your patience and your trust in your yoga instructor and moving when and where they instruct you (obviously using any modifications you need.) Let go of anticipation and expectation and allow yourself to be led safely through the experience so you can FEEL EVERYTHING.
Even though you know where you're going, be where you are...and enjoy.
Over the weekend I participated as a teacher, a yoga student and a volunteer at the first annual "Stretch 4 Survivors" event benefitting Sisters 4 Survivors and their great works helping women during treatment for breast cancer and after. It was 24 hours of back to back yoga, pilates, meditation and kids yoga classes. Very special to be part of something that was so empowering to all of us. We are all touched by this disease in one way or another and Tiffany Cruikshank said it so well in her event opening class. While I can't quote her exactly, the message I took away from her class was this, 'we all have dark places we've been to or are in, in our lives. Yoga gives us the chance to look at those dark places rather than avoiding them. Its when we look at them squarely and breathe there that we have the ability to move through them and come out on the other side, into the light.'
A personal thank you to all of the amazing teachers I had the opportunity to take classes from. And thank you Tonya Priestly for creating Sisters-4-Survivors and putting on this wonderful event. I look forward to being a part of it again next year!
We've been working on our January Challenge for the past few weeks here at the studio, 5 classes per week for 4 consecutive weeks. It has been wonderful to see the commitment of yogis and yoginis as they dedicate more time to building a strong practice. The jokes around the lobby about the importance of those goofy little stickers on our progress chart have made the experience so much fun. Incentive is a powerful thing. Who knew a little heart sticker, in frankly "girly colors", could make such a difference in our motivation. So, what will happen when the challenge ends and the progress board and stickers are put away? Perhaps it's a matter of realizing the way we feel when we practice yoga is the simple motivation. The smiles on our faces are the best stickers in the world!
YOGA CURBS WEIGHT GAIN
Stretching yourself thin? By Selene Yeager (article from Prevention Magazine)
The average American adult gains a pounds a year. New research suggests that yoga may help stave off that middle-age spread. A survey that tracked weight gain in 15,500 adults from age 45-55 revealed that the normal-weight-people who practiced yoga at least 30 minutes a week for 4 of those years gained 3 fewer pounds (9.5 versus 12.6) than those who didn't. Even better, overweight yogis lost 5 pounds over the decade, while their non-yoga-practicing peers gained an additional 14.
"Yoga may not be a big calorie burner, but it helps you become more aware of your body, so you're more sensitive to feeling full from overeating" says lead researcher and yoga practitioner Alan R. Kristal, DrPH, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Yoga also relieves stress, so you may be less likely to mindlessly stuff yourself."