Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ॐ Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra ॐ

Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra

I am filled with gratitude for this teacher.  When I lived in NYC, away from home, I found a home for my mind, body and spirit on my yoga mat in the Dharma Yoga Center.  When it was Dharma Yoga East, and I was recovering from an injured ankle amidst a sea of the most inspirational advanced yoga practitioners, Sri Dharma came over and gently adjusted me into full pigeon, and it felt amazing.  He was quick to remind me and the group, we can do more than we think.  Another memory was when a fellow yogi invited me to attend class, and we did Vasisthasana (Side Plank) into Chakrasana (wheel pose), and then back to Vasisthasana, again into Chakrasana (wheel pose), flip over and over and over and over and over and over again, It was bliss.  I stopped at one point, looked at Andrew with an expression "is this for real?", Sri Dharma charmingly reminded the entire group that he never said to stop.  Dharma encourages students to make the asana an offering, so the yoga classes leave your body drenched in blissful sweat, and your mind and heart grateful for the chance to explore closing meditations.  

I personally have a tendency to practice in the back of class, but Sri Dharma sees everything. 
One time in practice at Dharma Yoga West, the room was packed, I had my eyes closed, and on the "second time is the best" as he calls it for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), I looked up and saw Sri Dharma Mittra, he somehow jumped off the platform, and like a yoga ninja made his way over to me.  He guided me to place one hand on the ground, change the position of my other arm, and he gently put his hands on me like a potter does to clay, adjusting me into full bow pose.  I LOVED IT!  I never realized I could do that pose, and never bothered to try.  Then he read my mind (something I am convinced he does), and joyfully said "I bet you are wondering how to get out of the pose".  My brain freeze and inability to conjure a poker face was evident, I laughed and nodded, while ironically still in the pose, and he simply told me to let go one hand at a time.  Classes with Sri Dharma feed the soul, and that is why I have encouraged my students all over the world to take his class.  When I was in NY, on many occasions I would go with my friends and students to participate in the classes.  Many people feel intimidated to take class, because they feel they are not at a certain level, but once we lose the judgement, expectation, comparison, and just surrender to our breath, it becomes an awesome experience.

There was a time I was leading my 200Hr Riya Yoga Teacher Training Course (which was then called Zoga Yoga) and while I had some unexpected personal financial stress, at the time I was also recently in a car accident.  I knew my heart and body needed some Dharma time, but I knew I would not be able to do everything.  I got over my ego and went anyways.  The platform or stage was on the right side of the Dharma Yoga West room, and the temple was full, so I placed my mat on the wall at the furthest end.  I was basically in my own row.  My neck and upper back was in extreme pain, but I surrendered to my breath, modified where needed, and let my practice be an offering.  The sun salutations, the breathing, the collective consciousness of the room made me lose awareness of any pain in my neck.  We came to headstand time, and I knew I could not do it.  I decided to go into childs pose and shed a few silent tears.  While I figured I was invisible in a sea of headstanding yogis who were all facing me in my childs pose.  Sri Dharma again like a yoga ninja, jumped off the stage and came right to me and said "you hurt your neck".....I thought how does he always know this stuff?  he then asked what happened and suggested I do shoulder stand, at least I will be inverted, I did and it actually helped the healing process in profound ways. 

Dharma Yoga Center is a place where yogis gather to transform their hearts with the power of yoga asana, and the wisdom of a brilliant teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra.  For me it was the only place in New York that allowed me to deepen my physical practice and spiritual practice as one experience.  This teacher embodies his practice in so many ways.  He joyfully challenges you to pursue your practice with "angry determination" and ignites excitement when approaching Surya Namaskar "Follow me now, and don't get late!", he reminds you to "be receptive" to the grace of God that dwells within your heart, he encourages you to improve your health “If you eat dead, toasted, fried or frozen food, you will feel dead, toasted, fried and frozen” and guides yogis to honor the Yamas and Niyamas “With the Ethical Rules and a little concentration, anything is possible”.  He is the teacher who guides us on our path of self-realization with encouragement "Develop a strong desire for liberation" and wisdom, "when you are quiet, you see everything with love".  My favorite quote from Sri Dharma Mittra is "Second time is the best, third time is the best....etc"  after we complete holding a physically challenging asana for what seems like an eternity of breaths.  While living in NYC, I made a point to offer my Karma Yoga at the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx for years, and if you are in NYC, I encourage you to reach out and help the sisters as they provide meals to the homeless.  When I realized I was leaving NYC, I made a point to do some Karma Yoga at Dharma Yoga Centre, and I feel blessed for the experience to give back to the person who inspired my yoga practice in so many ways.

There is so much this amazing teacher has done for the yoga community.   I am inspired by his humble dedication to yoga, I am grateful that he has been my teacher, I am grateful for every life changing class I have taken, I am honored to learn from him.  Thank you Dharma ji for an incredible 75years of life, and for shinning light to yogis everywhere.

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