I remember the first class I took with Sri Dharma on 3rd Ave. It was a humbling experience. I knew I had found my place. After the class, Sri Dharma stopped in front of where I was standing. I didn’t know what to say or do – I guess I was nervous. Out of my mouth came: “I’m going to take your 500 hour teacher training.” I surely didn’t plan on saying that!
Dharma replied “I know.”
I’ve been practicing with Dharma ever since.
The first classes I took were very active. Every down dog was a forearm stand. I remember the seemingly impossible transitions through handstand into the next pose. I was exhausted in the first 10 minutes- I didn’t know all the poses and was exerting so much effort while other students looked like they were practicing with ease.
Over the years his teaching has evolved into the “charging practice.” While this style may be less likely to get your heart rate up to 160, it does offer exceeding benefits. Holding the poses for great lengths of time is physically and mentally challenging and allows space for meditation in the poses.
My own teaching is supremely influenced by Sri Dharma. Often times when I come up to practice or mentor I return to my home base and teach the exact same class Sri Dharma taught. My intention is to offer the Dharma Yoga experience to my community. Still, I offer those forearm stands often in down dog 🙂
My sense is that Dharma Yoga is not characterized by the postures themselves as much as it is the attitude and intention with which you’re practicing. Sri Dharma has said that form, breath, and focus are more important than the variations themselves and I think this is an important distinction from other styles.
One interesting thing that has changed since I first started practicing yoga in 1998 is that, unlike NYC, there were no dedicated yoga studios in the city or surrounding area of Baltimore, Maryland where I lived. And the gym where I practiced would not call their classes yoga because they didn’t think people would come so they named the class “flexible strength.” Now, everything has the name of yoga. Yoga is put on the end of many exercises just to attract an audience to it. How things change in a relatively short time! Yoga is now wildly popular and I choose to consider that a positive thing.
Sri Dharma’s teachings are active in my life and have contributed to the person I am. Sri Dharma’s most prevalent teaching is ahimsa. Through his explanations, guidance, and example I have become a more compassionate person and aim to apply this principle in increasingly subtle ways with regards to people, animals, and the environment.
The Dharma lineage is deeply rooted in the traditions of yoga and I believe this association has immeasurable value and helps facilitate a feeling of sustained connection within the Dharma worldwide community, of which I am grateful to be a part.
Thank you to everyone who keeps this spirit alive- the dedicated staff in NYC and the countless devoted Dharma yogis across the globe who contribute in creative ways. You all are a great inspiration to me.
This post was written by Gabrielle Sulc, Yogini Kali Om
Dharma Yoga LOAY 800 hour certified | Baltimore, MD.