When you are quiet, you see everything with love.
~ Sri Dharma Mittra
As you may know, in 2018 I had the honour and pleasure to study 500hrs Advanced Dharma Yoga in New York with Sri Dharma Mittra himself. Sri Dharma Mittra is a classical Hatha-Raja Yoga Master, born in 1939, who has devoted fifty years of his life to the direct experience and dissemination of Yoga as a holy science. In 1975, Sri Dharma Mittra, who had been teaching since 1967, founded the Dharma Yoga Centre in New York.
Dharma Yoga is an evolution from the classical Hatha yoga, Dharma Yoga focuses on the Eight Limbs of Yoga of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga system and emphasises the Yamas and Niyamas – the path to enlightenment which in yoga are often seen as ‘moral codes’, or ways of ‘right living’.
Dharma yoga includes a progressive series of sequences designed to allow the free flow of prana energy up and down the spine and throughout the physical body and mind. The postures include stretching, twists, balancing poses, backbends and inversions – and Dharma Yoga has several vinyasa series, it can be practiced by yogis at the level appropriate to their skills.
5 things to know about Dharma Yoga
- Dharma Yoga combines many schools of yoga – it can trace its roots to nine different forms of yoga, which include Hatha (will or force), Raja (self-discipline), Karma (kindness), Kriya (practice), Bhakti (devotion to a personal ‘god’), Japa (mantra recitation), Laya (the awakening of kundalini energy) and Jnana (wisdom or knowing). Dharma yoga, though, is more than the physical practice. In fact, it includes pranayama breathing exercises, meditation and even instruction on yogic philosophy and lifestyle with the ultimate goal reaching Self-realization, or knowledge of the true Self.
- Dharma Yoga emphasises good health and a clear mind – Sounds good, doesn’t it? Absolutely! Dharma Yoga is a practice that works to promote spiritual awakening, promote good health, and develop a clear mind and a kind heart. Not only do these traits make your yoga practice stronger, they also improve all aspects of life. Ideally, this is what yoga is meant to do – integrate seamlessly with all areas of our daily experiences.
- Dharma Yoga is based on love – the practice is based on the concept of ‘Ahimsa’. That is a Sanskrit word that translates to non-violence or love for all living beings.
- There is no one right way to do Dharma Yoga – It is always important to remember that each student will advance on their own unique path, and always at their own pace. The ultimate goal is not physical fitness (which helps, anyway) – it is about developing and cultivating self-compassion.
- Meditation is key – One of the most important aspects of Dharma Yoga is taking the time to calm the ‘crazy monkey mind’ and simply watching one’s breath. By meditating and practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, you can create a space for kindness, introspection, self-discipline, and wisdom.
Benefits of Dharma Yoga
Like with other styles of yoga, the benefits of practicing Dharma Yoga are varied and well documented. Here are just some.
- Increases flexibility: with this practice, you will notice some loosening in your body. You will have reduced pains and aches in the body.
- Strengthens the nervous system, calms the mind and improves concentration: Dharma yoga practice improves the blood flows, controls the body by strengthening the nervous system, and offers calmness and mental clarity.
- Promotes deep and restful sleep at night: Dharma yoga offers relaxation to the body by taking the person away from the hectic routine.
- Supports bones strength and development: the Dharma yoga practice makes your bones and muscles strong and enhances the flexibility. It makes your spine erect and helps you avoid poor postures. It increases bone strength by lowering levels of cortisol and increased levels of calcium.
- Supports cardiovascular health: Dharma yoga practice boosts up your heart rate which can help lower your risk of suffering from heart attack or depression.
- Reduces anxiety, worry, and depression: it relieves stress and improves your mental wellbeing.
- Improves balance and increases body awareness: regular yoga practice enhances the proprioception leading to fewer falls and injuries. It gives you peace and offers good mental, physical and spiritual health. *Elisa – just to note that I have grouped some of the above benefits together as it looked quite a long list J Thanks
Dharma yoga practice is not just a physical practice but rather a path to realisation. Because its base is Patanjali’s Ashtanga Eight Limbs of Yoga, during your 1-2 hour of practice you can have all the steps, from the first of the limbs, the Yamas (ethical considerations) to the last, Samadhi (bliss).
Meditation is an important part of Dharma Yoga. Dharma uses asana as a tool so the inward awareness is present throughout the entire lesson, to remind you that your mind is on the here and now. Gaining spiritual knowledge allows one to realise their full potential. This knowledge has the power to purify the body and mind, leading to a state of optimum health, general wellbeing and self-empowerment. Practicing Pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation bring cumulative benefits.
If you feel like Dharma Yoga may be for you and you’d like to give it a try, please do contact me for the latest information on this autumn’s classes.