Cultivating Compassion

Dharma Yoga is is a heart-centered lineage that aims to fully exercise the eight limbs of yoga through every aspect of the practice, and to cultivate a deep reverence towards God, and boundless love and respect for all beings.

I attended the Toronto Yoga Conference in 2007 and participated in one of Sri Dharma Mittra’s workshops. I had never heard of him prior to the conference, but was intrigued by the class description.  I was completely blown away by the experience!  A packed room of 200+ practitioners, moving together and doing very advanced postures.  I was so impressed by this teacher’s charisma and incredible practice, and especially his extremely kind and gentle manner…there was no arrogance whatsoever in the way he comported himself.  I immediately felt a very strong affinity towards him and from that point onwards, became a follower of Sri Dharma Mittra.

The first class that I attended with him had a very long Shiva Namaskar sequence.  There was quite a bit of movement and there were many asanas (with many variations being offered for each family of postures) that were presented during the sequence.  Over the years, the Shiva Namaskar sequence has become considerably less dominant, but is nonetheless still very functional and effective for preparing the body for the held postures.  For the held postures, he tends to focus on the fundamental asanas, and encourages the participants to hold the poses for longer periods, in order to establish stillness in the body and mind.  Sri Dharma Mittra seems to possess an uncanny ability to read the crowd.  He always delivers a practice that is precisely what the participants will benefit from the most. 

I would say that my practice has evolved in a similar fashion.  At the start of my yogic journey, my practice consisted solely of asana.  Now, I spend an equal, if not more, time on meditation and pranayama.  My physical practice follows very much the same structure that Sri Dharma Mittra employs.  I find the Dharma Yoga Charging Practice to be a very efficient, well balanced and satisfying one!

I would describe Dharma Yoga as a form of hatha-raja yoga that is deeply rooted in the traditional Indian yogic methods and teachings.  It is a heart-centered lineage that aims to fully exercise the eight limbs of yoga through every aspect of the practice, and to cultivate a deep reverence towards God, and boundless love and respect for all beings. It is the strong spiritual inclination and the concept of making the practice a divine service of love towards all beings that sets it apart from other styles of yoga.

I would like to think that the global yogic community is constanly evolving.  As time moves on, people are generally becoming more conscientious, mindful and wanting to do good.  Although there are many different styles of yoga emerging constantly and some of them do not always appear to be established in the fundamental philosophies of yoga, I believe that people eventually catch on to the fact that some of these newer practices lack substance, and they acquire a desire to seek out the more traditional and holistic forms that will fulfill them.  The popularity of certain styles of yoga seems to depend largely on demographics;  for instance, in urban settings with a high concentration of students and young professionals, hot yoga is all the rage.  In areas that are dominated by Baby Boomers, the busiest classes tend to be yin or restorative yoga.  Most yoga classes will at least introduce the idea of bringing mindfulness into their practice, but they won’t necessarily explore this concept in much depth.  It sometimes frustrates me to see so many teachers and schools offering teacher trainings, when they themselves do not appear to have sufficient experience and knowledge to share with their students so that they can produce all at once sound teachers and true yogis.   Unfortunately, those who are just starting out in yoga may not be able to make this  discernment; however, as more people become further educated in yoga, there may gradually be a bigger demand for spiritual knowledge, and hopefully the yoga industry will adapt their practices to satisfy the needs of their clients. 

The biggest life lessons that I learned from studying with Sri Dharma Mittra and practicing Dharma Yoga all relate to the importance and consequences of cultivating compassion – making it the driving force behind all action. 

As I go further on my path, I have grown to recognise the potential impact that every thought, action and word has on my own life, and the lives of others;  it has brought my consciousness to an entirely new level.  Also, the teachings on the laws of karma and how they relate to suffering has helped me tremendously to cope with my difficulties and to find peace of mind even in the midst of turmoil.  Lastly, the shift to thinking of my practice (and all deeds, for that matter) as an offering and divine duty has brought about transformation in ways that I never could have imagined. I am always eager to share what I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra with others, in the hope that this knowledge can help them as well through their hard situations. As Dharma says, ‘the highest form of selfless service is to share spiritual knowledge’….for it is through the spreading of knowledge that we can overcome ignorance, which is the root cause of all suffering. 

One of the most rewarding things about the Dharma Yoga lineage is becoming part of the worldwide Dharma Yoga family.  The constant warmth, love and support that they demonstrate to every person that walks through the doors of the DYC is unparalleled.  I always look forward to my visits; it feels like coming home!  I am forever grateful for all the amazing people that I’ve met through this worldwide network…

I go around to different studios, yoga festivals and other venues in the local area and beyond, hosting Dharma Yoga workshops and immersions to propagate the practice.  Wherever I go, I find that people are very receptive and engaged in the practice.  It seems that finding a practice that exercises the full realm of the practice and that reflects the teachings of yoga in such a thorough manner is hard to come by.  So, when they do have an opportunity to explore one, they are eager to embrace it. 

This post was written by Justine Hoang (Anjali Om) 
Dharma Yoga LOAY 800 hour certified

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