The funny thing is, I can’t remember when or even how old I was when I saw his photo. I wasn’t even practicing yoga at the time. But I knew there was something special about him and that I would study with him one day. It is said that when you find your teacher you feel an immediate strong and intense love for their teachings. Your heart will feel open and elevated when reading the person’s words or sitting in their presence. This is how I felt when I met Dharma. This is how I feel when I am with him.
I think the most amazing thing about watching Dharma over the years is his true Tapas (which I believe he calls “angry determination”, although I’ve never confirmed the phrase with the link to that Niyama). The first time I met him, he said something like, “Every year I lose so many poses…” It made me sad at first because he seemed to be a bit sad about it. I think about that all the time as I grow, too. But the thing is, at almost 80, Dharma is going so strong and can still do so many things people only dream of doing that it is very inspiring.
Dharma always teaches to everyone. No one ever feels intimidated. Recently, I brought students to Ohio to see him. Many of them were very nervous and one almost backed out. Of course I did not let this happen. Since meeting Dharma, they are completely changed! No one felt intimidated, only inspired. And the woman who almost backed out, it’s as if Dharma knew. He adjusted her several times. She was so excited and so glad she got to be there!
Dharma always inspires me. I try to apply his teachings to my life and to share with my students. I am constantly evolving – it’s one of the reasons I chose “evolve” for the name of my studio. I have a challenging life, as we all do. I am a single mom, home owner and business owner. Without this practice I might have lost my mind by now.
Dharma Yoga is special because it includes the ethical rules as well as other parts not always taught in our modern society yoga classes. It is accessible and easy to understand the way he shares it. The asana sequencing is intelligent. There are very challenging physical aspects of his practice, but there is always a path to that and he clears the way. People are attracted to that. And then he gets the spiritual side in too, which is so beautiful and so necessary. The life Dharma has lived, and because of his books and teachings, and the fact that he continues to share it, makes it so special. because he has lived the life of a guru.
It’s important we follow ALL of the limbs of yoga, the ethical rules… and that is just not happening in a lot of studios where mostly asana is taught. Studios are cranking out students quickly through teacher trainings with no depth and no true guru. This does concern me. It has been watered down. It has become a work “out” where it truly needs to be work “in”. A student recently blurted out after class, “wow, I really like the spirituality and yoga philosophy part of your class!” She’s a yoga teacher and had never been to a class like that before. I owe it to Dharma.
Being vegan has become a dedicated way of life for me and a lot of my students have “turned” as well. 🙂 I try to be the very best version of myself and to try to live my life like Dharma would live. Compassion helps to see everyone has the same struggles, hopes, fears, loves… I teach 22 classes a week and hope that I am a portion of the teacher that Dharma has been to me. It is said a good teacher or even master can help guide people on the road to their own spiritual discovery and growth. I dedicate my life to that, too. But I have to LIVE that, otherwise I am not honest. So I try to do that every day. Last month in Ohio, Dharma said: there is the same portion of God in every one. It’s best to keep this in mind when dealing with people you don’t see eye to eye with! A constant practice for sure, but it works!
I have a funny story… during the second half of my 500 hour training, one day I didn’t make it in early to sit in the front row where I like to be. I settled on a spot in the back, and was disappointed with myself about not being able to be closer to Dharma. It was early and I was particularly tired. My mind started to wander a bit during his talk and I kept wondering, does Dharma even know my name? All these people he teaches and I’m just not even sure! I think I’ll tell him my name is Cinderella. That’s what I tell a lot of people who forget my name. And my mind continued to wander. All of a sudden Dharma said, “Did you see the movie Cinderella?” He looked right at me! The guy sitting next to me leaned over to me and said, I think he means “Barbarella” and laughed… I’m quite sure he said the movie he meant to. My mind never wandered again!
I am hoping to be accepted as a Dharma Yoga affiliate. As my studio continues to grow and flourish, I can think of no greater way to continue to share Dharma’s teachings and I am so grateful and even proud to be a part of this lineage I want it to continue and be strong here in Michigan. Especially now with Erica Smith coming on board at Evolve, I hope to add more Dharma classes and change some of mine into Dharma classes. All of his teachings are woven in and out of ALL of my classes, but for now in this area, I teach what is “popularly known”, i.e. Slowflows, Vinyasas, and Hatha.
This post was written by Cinda Lark, Owner of Evolve Yoga
Dharma Yoga LOAY 500, 800 hrs certified | Keego Harbor, Michigan