In 2010, I walked into a master class with Sri Dharma Mittra at the studio on 3rd Ave. I had been a yoga teacher for five years, and I had a set of “rules” in my head around how a yoga class was “supposed” to be structured. Sri Dharma Mittra broke all those rules. When we did a forearm stand during our first sun salutation, I knew I wasn’t in Michigan anymore.
Dharma took time to sit and chat with me after class, and I remember standing on the corner of 3rd Ave vibrating with prana, and wondering what it was that just happened. The next time I visited New York, I took another class with Dharma, and he put me in a couple poses that I had no idea I could do. About a year later, I received an email from Dharma Yoga Center that contained some info about upcoming teacher trainings. In that moment I felt my whole body come alive with a knowing that said something to the effect of, “You need to take every training Sri Dharma Mittra offers.” And that is exactly what I did, and I am so happy that I did.
In Sri Dharma Mittra, I had found a model of what it means to be a life-long yogi. I was immediately struck by his balance of compassion and strength, his humility and profound wisdom, his playfulness and dedication. In a word, he embodies the quality of sattva. As I began practicing Dharma Yoga, (and pretending that I was Sri Dharma Mittra when I practiced), I began to see my practice open up in new ways. The subtlety, simplicity, and intuitive approach of Dharma Yoga really appealed to me, and somehow helped me personally discover new territory within the yogic landscape. With each training I did, I had the feeling that I was receiving the distilled essence of Sri Dharma’s 50+ years of yogic practice. I knew that the nuanced instruction he was offering us was something extremely precious – that you can’t find in any book, but can only glean from having satsang with an authentic yogi. Having received this transmission of living knowledge, when I returned to Michigan, I joyfully began passing along the tips, tricks, and shortcuts I had gathered from studying with Dharma.
In the Bhakti Yoga tradition, there is an idea that a true spiritual aspirant is meant to become a rasika – a connoisseur. One example of this ideal is the chataka bird, who is said to be unwilling to drink rainwater found in puddles, and instead chooses to drink only fresh rain drops as they fall from the heavens. Today, there is no shortage of yoga teachers, and therefore sincere students need to be discerning like the chataka bird – refining their tastes in order to discover the highest quality nourishment. For me, studying with Sri Dharma Mittra, and having the privilege of sharing Dharma Yoga with my students, is like drinking pure water. Once a person gets a taste of that elixir, you can never forget it.
This post was written by Alan Haras, Yogi Bhaktadas Om
Dharma Yoga LOAY 800 hour certified | Lake Orion, MI.
Hamsa Yoga Center | Dharma Yoga Affiliate