Sri Dharma Mittra visited London this weekend bringing series of fantastic workshops (hosted by Indaba Yoga). I had the pleasure to study with Sri Dharma before in New York at the Dharma Yoga Centre, a fantastic studio welcoming students of all levels and intentions.
This weekend made me reflect on yamas and niyamas. We talked a lot about main causes of pain and finding contentment. I couldn’t help to notice the connection with the eight limps of yoga, especially yamas and niyamas. It was quite refreshing, as recently I have been attending classes rooted in anatomy and alignment where the link to the origins of yoga was quite often lost or not as manifested. Dharma yoga is based on Ahimsa, non-violence that should be applied to all beings around us, whether they are humans or animals, as well as it should be cultivated within ourselves. Treating our bodies with love, respect and compassion. Dharma kept reminding us to see ourselves in all things as 'when we start to see ourselves in all things, you can't do harm to anyone or anything, because you see everything around you as yourself'. To me, apart of Ahimsa it is also connected to Sara Pranidhana: seeing a tiny bit of divine in yourself but also Sacha: treating your body as a temple and not polluting it with unnecessary words, food or thoughts.
Following this Sri Dharma Mittra is a big advocate for veganism and vegetarianism. He won't demand students to go meat-free but he will mention it in all classes. He jokes about there being "a lovely vegan food place just under the studio" and he will say this in every class that finishes around meal time. This screams for Ahimsa but also Asteya - don’t take what is not yours, especially life!
From my studies in New York I remember Dharma constantly telling us: “see yourself in the practice you are not able to access right now. Imagine yourself in it.” Encouraging us to try a pose, regardless what our mind tells us and even if it means that you fall. Dharma classes are advanced and you can throw your Iyengar or Ashtanga alignment out through the window! He often says, “these poses have nothing to do with meditation or enlightenment.” As an anatomy nerd it’s a hard concept for me, however I strongly believe that we should move in a way that feels good! In Dharma classes first few poses may be advanced, we are talking crazy advanced! But to him you should move your body every day, no exceptions. It doesn’t have to be an asana practice, but maybe mindfulness and meditation. You rarely use props, or walls but instead you work with breath and concentration. Not in a violent way but with love and care and understanding that in life we fall, may even get hurt but we get back up. As a result we become stronger and with time can find that point of balance needed for staying upright. That’s your Tapas: discipline, generating heat and energy to do amazing, impossible things. This leads to Samosa: contentment where you are at and not trying to be greedy in your attempts (Aparigraha) but also the other yamas as Satya: truthfulness towards yourself and well as preserving and using your energy well (Brahmacharya).
To Dharma, meditation is the key. You can skip your asana but never skip meditation! It is incorporated in every practice and sometimes it can pop in bang in the middle of the class. He uses asana as a tool so the inward awareness is present throughout the whole of the lesson, to remind you that your mind is here and now. Same as Svadhyaya he invites us to take a very personal inventory.
Finally, he’s funny! Probably one of a very small number of gurus who doesn’t take himself too seriously! You definitely have to leave your ego at the door before entering a Dharma yoga class.