In my first memory of Sri Dharma Mittra, I was attending one of his Maha Sadhana classes on a Saturday. It was on Valentine’s Day. The class was so full. I was very shy then in the Dharma Yoga family, but I remember feeling at ease while we were in practice. I didn’t realize it then, but I can see it looking back now – this was the first time that I had learned from someone who had no concern about what they would receive in return for what they were offering. It was almost like he was invisible, and just love was there.
In the last many years there have been changes, and a lot has remained the same. Whenever I notice some change, I wonder inside if it is Sri Dharma who has shifted, or maybe I just never noticed something before. The things that feel different to me are his deeper emphasis on and explanation of yoga nidra, feels like he really wants us to grasp this practice. He has changed from his more vinyasa – flow from one posture to the next – to his charging practice now, which allows for more time to stay steady in a pose. I feel this overarching message from Sri Dharma to do the practices that really serve us – but, like always, to remain committed to them, with ‘constant practice.’ I feel that Sri Dharma remains so much the same as the first night I met him – a living example of a Yogi, of a saint – one who is here to show us the way, past the pain and suffering.
My spiritual path is inspired always by Sri Dharma, and when I teach, I try to teach with him in my heart. I feel his teaching style – of creating sattva with a quiet strength, an ease, humor, a commitment to discipline, enthusiasm, and real love – has touched me to my core. I do my best to share these qualities in every class. Most of my activities are in family life now, and I feel Sri Dharma, his presence, his teachings with me always. I try to be in family life, as a mother and a wife, as a friend, as a neighbor, with compassion at the center. When it becomes difficult, I look inside and try to be with Sri Dharma in my heart and understand what he would share with me, and in this way, I feel like I am learning about Self Realization day by day. I share the knowledge of food and compassion with my family just by living the life, like I feel Sri Dharma does.
To me, Dharma Yoga is a community of people who study Self Realization with Sri Dharma Mittra. It doesn’t feel like a style of yoga to me. Anytime there is a pose that seems ‘essential’ for Sri Dharma, the next class he doesn’t teach it.
I hope it isn’t unhelpful to think of it this way – it is just that it doesn’t feel right anymore to say it is a style, it feels very different than much yoga that is in studios these days. I would say this about it: We have a big beautiful family of people who, through the humble and profound teachings of our beloved Sri Dharma, have been touched deeply to commit their lives to be free from the small, confused mind that is only concerned with itself, and therefore remains deeply entrenched in suffering. We do this in lots of ways – we do poses, and breathing techniques, and meditate, and chant, but mainly we practice compassion in everything we do, as much as we can. Sri Dharma has said he wants to create an Army of Yogis, and this is what we are, all together, lifting each other up, under the guidance and with the support of Sri Dharma. We all remind one another of the teachings and the practices, and of the incredible path that lies ahead of us – freedom for everyone, the evolution toward unconditional love.
I think there are a few ways to answer this question. On one level, it does feel like the trends toward fitness-focused and dance-oriented yoga, rather than the complete path of yoga, as a means to Self Realization, is concerning – because it isn’t really yoga, its more fitness and dance. But, I think the more concerning thing would be for us to start some sort of war with words, what is yoga and what isn’t. To me, this is the energy of the world right now, a war with words and identities. With this energy – people are scared to talk or they feel like they need to shout at people about what is right and wrong. The Yogi stands supreme. I feel as a Dharma Yoga community, we must remain consistent with the teachings, and share with full love, listen to everyone and love them deeply, and to let the arguments remain outside of our community. Even if the classes aren’t as full, share with all your heart, and help people find ease and steadiness. We also may have to share in new spaces and places, in new ways.
A few years ago, while Sri Dharma was in Washington DC, I was next to him on the stage, as I had just finished leading a chant. He told the students, “When I first met her, she was a devil!” I feel like I have learned everything from him. Honestly, my my eyes swell up to think of life without meeting Sri Dharma. The sort of easy-to-pin-down/tangible things that are easy to see are that I’ve learned how to eat, to rest, to treat the body, to help calm the mind and see past the emotions, to try everyday to lead with earnestness, honesty and compassion. I’ve learned the path of yoga from Sri Dharma, and learned by watching him, and imagining what he may have done if he was in my situations, how to live in a family life, to be in community with others. A lot of things are less obvious.
One of the first obstacles for me was a lack of believing in and trusting in my own goodness. I have been in his physical presence during some of the hardest times of my life thus far – and each time I was falling apart inside, I got this feeling that he was seeing all of me – seeing all of the nonsense that was in my personality, all of the ways I wasn’t compassionate, all of the ways I was failing to be a Yogi – and loving me fully. It was like he was sharing with me: it’s okay, you are doing great, keep going, everything is going to be okay. And, he’s had some incredible way to help me see, in those hard moments, when my mind has been so stuck in suffering, that he sees it, and it’s not a big deal. This has had a profound effect on my life and on the ways I share the path of yoga with others. I believe that friendship, honoring the other person, is the first step to being of service to someone trying to learn yoga. This is what Sri Dharma has really taught me, and I have a lot to learn.
There is so much more. Now I feel more prepared to learn about Self Realization, to trust that there is something beyond suffering, that I can have direct experience of it with commitment and practice and surrender.
The DC community has really taken to Dharma Yoga, and there are many Dharma Yoga teachers in DC and we recently created a non-profit to bring us together and start to share the teachings in other ways, like in public schools. Maybe one day all the stars will align and we’ll have a special space devoted to the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra, and where our family can gather regularly! Or, maybe we’ll keep eating kale and quinoa salads and dates with tahini-cacao filling at the dining room table. I guess it’s all perfect ☺
This post was written by Hannah Allerdice Bricker
Dharma Yoga LOAY 500 hour certified | Washington, D.C.