After spending this past weekend with Sri Dharma Mittra, I am convinced there is no reason to travel to India or some far away land to experience the best of yoga. Teaching yoga since 1967, Sri Dharma founded the first independent school of yoga in NYC in 1975 and is known internationally as the “Teachers’ Teacher”. Smack in the heart of Manhattan, he has been sharing the secrets of success not just in yoga but in life.
As he stated on Sunday, there are just four things you need to do to experience yoga: healthy diet, fitness, compassion and self-reflection. Here I will delve into each.
Healthy Diet means vegetarian (preferably vegan) and 80% of it uncooked/raw foods. Why you may ask? As Sri Dharma often states “If you eat dead, toasted, fried or frozen food, you will feel dead, toasted, fried and frozen.” Do I need to say more?
Fitness has always been a big part of Dharma’s life. Celebrating his 75th birthday last Wednesday 5/14/14, the former Brazilian body builder, still goes to the gym 2-3 times a week to lift weights. Asanas (yoga postures) are great but may not be for everyone. Sri Dharma always says “Move the joints a little every day.” So it doesn’t mean you have to do yoga postures necessarily to achieve yoga; just move in a way that challenges (as well as honors) your body.
Compassion for all beings is an essential part of Sri Dharma’s teachings as well as many of the great yogic texts. Take for example, Ahimsa – the first ethical rule of the 8-limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras thousands of years ago. Ahimsa translates as non-violence and is often described as non-violence in thought, word and deed. Compassion is the ability to see yourself in everyone you encounter. Extend your compassion beyond your pets (i.e. chickens, cows, buffalo, etc.) Be kind to all beings – no exceptions. Refer back to Healthy Diet.
Sit still daily and meditate. Meditate on compassion. Reflect on the infinite. Meditate on bliss. Pick one and go deep within. “Become your object of concentration.” Also, during your sitting time do a few minutes of the calming breath (inhale 4 counts, hold a second, exhale 4 counts). If that’s easy, increase the count (aka breathing ratio) to 8:4:8. Also, do at least 12 round of alternate nostril breathing everyday. Another Dharma quote seems appropriate here…“When you are quiet, you see everything with love.”
As simple as these secrets sound, they can be hard to put into practice daily. Do your best. Personally, I don’t always follow them perfectly to a “T” but I try my best. I’m hoping with continual effort they will become natural habits in my life. Thank you Sri Dharma for freely giving us the secrets of success in yoga. Now it’s up to us to put them into practice.
Here’s a bonus secret: The Dharma Yoga Center just announced yesterday there will be a Summer Dharma Yoga Retreat in August. If you haven’t experienced time with the “Teachers’ Teacher” be sure to sign up now (this past weekend was sold out!). Whether you teach yoga or not, you will have an amazing experience that will take you beyond your yoga mat. Look forward to seeing you there!