Teacher Series: Dharma Mittra

I already gave thanks earlier this year for the monthly Maha Sadhana intensive at Dharma’s.  It’s a brilliant gathering of people, pranayam, asana, and meditation practice, topped off by an offering to the beat of funky tunes at the end.  Go on with your yogi self!

Today’s blog is dedicated to Sri Dharma Mittra himself.  I traveled several hours outside of Tucson, via rental car, to experience Dharma’s two day workshop in Chandler, AZ.  He was the inspiration behind my experiment with vegetarianism and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Dharma’s asana sequences are always challenging, throwing in headstands and advanced variations from the very beginning of class.   He has an uncanny ability to draw practitioners’ awareness to the eternal and the hilarious – a gift I so appreciate as a student, and deeply admire as a teacher.

Take today, when he began a discourse on how important practice is, he urged us “Find your own crack within.  The police will never catch you!”  Haha!  He speaka da truth.

Dharma helped me (and about 60 other practitioners) bring in the new year proper with a two hour session of practice, followed by free vegan food from Cinnamon Snail and a screening of Forks Over Knives.  So many good things under the same roof!

Thanks Dharma, for imparting wisdom, for offering space, and for being one of the many reasons I moved to New York.

To read more about this beloved teacher of mine, continue reading below . . .

 

 

Dharma

Sri Dharma Mittra has spent most of his life in service to humanity, disseminating the ancient knowledge of how to achieve radiant health and spiritual development. He was born in the late 1930’s and has studied Yoga since 1958. After meeting his guru (teacher), Sri Swami Kailashananda, he immersed himself in intense study and practice of the classical eight limbs of Yoga and nine years of dedicated full time practice of Karma Yoga. Sri Swami Kailashananda is known as the first Guru to bring the practice of Hatha Yoga to the west in the early 1950’s. Sri Dharma was accepted and initiated as a sannyasi (one who renounces the world in order to realize God).  During these years he had the esteemed honor of being the personal assistant to the Guru attending to all his needs.

Dharma Mittra spent many years as a full-time yogi and brahmachari (celibate religious student who lives with his teacher and devotes himself to the practice of spiritual disciplines). He then began teaching, only for his Guru and with selfless expectation. He was the main demonstrator for the Yoga asanas at the many lectures the Guru gave to the public in the ’60’s and ’70’s.  After many years as a celebrated teacher at his guru’s Ashram, Sri Dharma left in 1974 to found the Yoga Asana Center, currently known as Dharma Yoga New York Center.

Sri Dharma was one of the first independent Yoga teachers on the East Coast, initiating hundreds of thousands on the path of Yogic practice and teaching. Dharma Mittra began disseminating this knowledge before “styles” of Yoga became popular, and has remained truthful to the original classical practice.   Students from all walks and styles of Yoga love his teachings.  Sri Dharma has literally been teaching classes continuously every day since he started in 1967.  To this day he still makes himself available regularly to anyone who walks through the doors of the Dharma Yoga Centers in need of help and direction.  He is known as “the Rock of Yoga” due to his dedication and fortitude, and also as the “Teacher’s Teacher”  for his experience and knowledge. Sri Dharma continues to inspire, enlighten, and reveal the real meaning of Yoga to Yoga teachers and practitioners daily. Sri Dharma writes: “It is my greatest joy to share with students this knowledge that I have acquired in the past 50 years of practice and study. Dharma Yoga practice will give one’s body the power and strength to have resistance to common illnesses and diseases.  With proper encouragement and increased faith in the Guru, as one can improve his physical body and mental attitude rapidly, thereby igniting the higher motives of making one’s self useful to himself and all mankind.”

Sri Dharma is a most beloved Yoga Master, known for his humility, humor, joy and kindness in teaching.  Every student who comes to his practices is treated “as part of his family.” He diligently teaches the Yamas, the first step of Yoga, as he sets the greatest example for it in his life.  In every class you will hear “without the Yama’s,  known as the ethical rules, there is no success in Yoga.” He tirelessly promotes ahimsa (nonharming) through vegetarianism, veganism, a live food Yoga diet, and kindness to all living beings, especially our inferior brothers in the animal kingdom.

“When I am in his (Dharma) circle of love and kindness, I could really feel I’m surrounded by huge love of god and mother earth.”

Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures

In 1975, Dharma created the Sun Salutation and Yoga Course Chart.  This chart includes all hand-done drawings and art work, as well as photographs and two Yoga class programs.  In 1984, he completed the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures as an offering to his Guru for all Yoga aspirants. This original masterpiece was meticulously assembled from over 1,350 photographs of posture variations he took of himself, all hand crafted before the computer age.  Over 300 of these now-popular postures were created by Sri Dharma (though he will say they only “came through” Divine intuition). The poster has been an invaluable teaching tool for decades. It can be found in in just about every Yoga school and Ashram worldwide including in India.  The poster was also used as the tool and inspiration for Yoga Journal‘s book –Yoga, where he is featured in his headstand series.  Dharma Mittra is also the author of 608 Yoga Poses, published by New World Library and featured in American Yoga. His Maha Sadhana DVD set, containing Level I – A Shortcut to Immortality and Level II – Stairway to Bliss, has been widely acclaimed for its preservation of the main teachings of Yoga.  They contain 8 hours of posture practice, breathing teachings, holy discourses, and Kirtan, providing an amazing overview of Sri Dharma’s years of dedicated service to the tradition.

Mittra2Yoga Master Dharma Mittra offers over 50 years of gems from his practice in two beautiful, useful, high quality DVD’s from Pranayama.   Maha Sadhana (meaning the great practice) levels I and II are comprised of Asana and Pranayama (breathing) practices, meditation practices and spiritual discourses as the core content. Both are as amazing to watch as they are to practice with, since a man of Dharma Mittra’s age (he was born in the late ‘30s) wouldn’t be expected to have the strength, flexibility and muscle tone that he does. Lest we should be distracted by his perfection of postures, however, including such things as ease into full splits and the perfectly smooth flow between postures, Dharma Mittra emphasizes more than once in both DVDs that the postures ‘are only one of the eight limbs of practice, designed to prepare the body for breathing exercises and meditation.’”

Sri Dharma Mittra and his Dharma Yoga teaching staff offer Dharma Yoga “Life of a Yogi” 200-& 500-, and 800-hour teacher trainings focusing on the eight limbs and nine forms of Yoga.  These trainings are designed based on years of practices that Sri Dharma did himself to become a yogi.  Each participant receives handcrafted charts which Sri Dharma made in the 1970’s to record their daily practice records.  These too are beautiful works of art created in a state of bliss-consciousness by Dharma Mittra. Each student is prescribed spiritual programs that will totally charge and change each student’s life and help them to become a better, calmer and more content person.  The essence of these ancient teachings comes to life for each individual to use in this world of constant distractions and the results have been miraculous. These yoga teachers, thru Dharmaji’s guidance, become much more than just teachers – they become Yogis.

“Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life.  Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all.  Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed.” DM

Dharma Mittra conducts Maha Sadhana, Divine Purification, and Yogic Treasures for a Shortcut to Immortality workshops worldwide at retreats and weekend workshops. His practices, Dharma Yoga Levels I,II,III,IV,V Shiva Namaskar Vinyasa, provide a stairway to bliss that reintegrates the continuous flow of prana (cosmic energy) through the spinal column so that it emanates deep into all areas of the physical, metabolic, intuitive and bliss body.  Dharma Yoga I through V of Shiva Namaskara Vinyasa have been embraced by Yogis from all styles for their unique integration of the classical spirit of true Yoga with a thorough mobilization of the physical body. These bring contentment, merging complete identity with the true self, the goal of Yoga.  Many have told us of how they now know what Yoga is after meeting and studying with Dharma, even after they have been practicing for years. This is testament in itself of his great gift to Yoga practitioners, Yoga teachers, and society at large.

More information can be found in The Life of Sri Dharma and Dharma Mittra’s Answers.

dharma-mittra-yoga-center-nycShort Bio

Sri Dharma Mittra is the teacher with the most mileage. Since 1967, he has spent more than half of his life teaching many aspects of Classical Yoga, Advanced Postures, the Yamas and Niyamas, and how to lead a content, simple and happy life daily to hundreds of thousands of students. He was born in 1939 in the small remote village of Pirapora, Brazil, and was raised Catholic in a poor family of 5 children. In his early teens Sri Dharma became involved in esoteric teachings and Yoga through books his younger brother was studying. Sri Dharma practiced Body Building, Wrestling & Jiu-Jitsu. In 1962, he was awarded the title “Mister Minas Gerais” (a state in Brazil). From 1958 through 1964, Sri Dharma served in the Brazilian National Air-Force. He had only practiced Yoga through books when his younger brother Sattya went to NYC to study with their future Guru. Within a letter from Sattya to Sri Dharma, he wrote about Swami Kailashananda, and sent an invitation to come to New York City and stay with him. Sri Dharma immediately left the Air Force and desperatly gathered enough money for a flight to the United States. On September 14, 1964, he and his brother met on MacDougal Street, near his Leroy Street apartment in the heart of Greenwich Village, filled with the colors of the 1960’s. The next day he had scheduled a private consultation with the Guru, with his brother as the translator.

The path ahead was unfolding. Within the next two years Sri Dharma took every class and course, had private consultations, sat at the Guru’s feet, and immersed himself in Karma Yoga, self-less service. After intense tapas and learning, Sri Dharma was greatly honored to become initiated into the family of Bramacharya from his Guru, as a sanyasin, or one who renounces the world in order to achieve liberation.

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