Friday, June 29, 2012

Positive Breathing

This breathing is considered a basic pranayama technique. What is pranayama, exactly? Well, prana is the life energy that animates our bodies and regulates respiration; yama means “control”. Therefore, Pranayama (the fourth limb of Astanga Yoga) is typically defined as “breath control”, and the overall purpose of these practices is to unite the upward- and downward-flowing energies in our bodies and travel them up the Sushumna Nadi (the main nadi, or channel, in our astral body, usually equated with the spinal cord of the physical body). This activates the chakras (primary energy centers of the body) along the way, bringing our consciousness higher and higher, until we realize Divine Perception.

Positive breathing, specifically, is intended to increase feelings of positivity, contentment, and peace (as you might have guessed). Before we explain Positive Breathing, though, we have to explain just a few more Sanskrit terms: "jnana mudra" and "vishnu mudra".

Mudras in this context can simply be thought of as ways of holding your hands (the word is typically translated as "seal" or “gesture”). Jnana mudra is easy, and you've definitely seen it before: just join the thumb and first finger of your LEFT hand and place the back of the hand on your knee or thigh. It's the classic position of the hands that you think of, when you think of someone meditating:

Vishnu mudra is a little more complicated, but don't worry.:) You do this one with your RIGHT hand during positive breathing. You fold the index and middle fingers in towards the palm and leave the thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger extended.

So your left hand will stay near your lap in jnana mudra, and your right hand, which is in vishnu mudra, will be used to seal your nostrils (you'll understand in a minute). In positive breathing, we breathe through the right nostril only; we accomplish this by using the ring finger of the right hand to block the left nostril.

However, the man pictured above is slightly incorrect; you don't want your pinky finger to touch your face at all (nor the fingers that are folded, which he shows nicely). Other than that you can follow this picture.

SO! Now that we've explained the hands, we can talk about the actual practice of Positive Breathing. Most pranayama exercises are composed of three parts, and Positive Breathing is no exception; we have inhalation (puraka), retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (rechaka). For positive breathing, begin by exhaling completely through both nostrils. With your left nostril closed (see above), inhale through the right nostril for 8 counts (you set the speed of the counts, but try to keep a reasonably slow and steady pace). Then, use the thumb to block the right nostril (in ADDITION to having the left nostril already blocked), and hold your breath for 6 counts. Then, release your thumb (still blocking the left nostril with the ring finger) and exhale through the right nostril for 8 more counts. This is “one round” of Positive Breathing.

So only your thumb should move for the duration of Positive Breathing. The right nostril is associated with the Pingala nadi, which represents masculine/solar/active energy in the body – we stimulate these energies by breathing only through the right nostril. Just FYI, Ida and Pingala nadis are secondary energy channels of the body that overlap and cross the Sushumna nadi (Ida is associated with the left nostril).

As stated in the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training manual: "Be sure to check that Positive Breathing is done only through the right nostril. This breathing increases positive feelings, improves digestion and generates heat…”
Sri Dharma Mittra always says, "After 20 minutes of Positive Breathing, you are ready to face a firing squad." 

Author: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hijinks at DYNYC

"Swami Pretendananda"


by Kirk Capezzuto

Uttanasana is listed as a standing pose, but it can also be categorized as a forward bend.  It is one of the basic asanas that comprise surya-namaskara, the salutation to the sun, which was the first series created by the masters to loosen the body.  The English translation for uttanasana is “intense stretch pose.”  Ut means “intense,” while “tan means to stretch, extend, lengthen out” (Iyengar, 92).

In preparation for uttanasana, you can stand up straight, inhale and arch back before exhaling and bending forward.  Then, with a flat back, you should inhale and look straight forward before exhaling with your hands to the floor or shins.  Although the legs are to remain straight, when first warming up you can have a slight bend in the knees so you do not hurt your back.  Your belly should be glued to your thighs to do this.

All these movements should be graceful and slow with no attachment to the results.  Remember that all asanas constitute only one of the eight limbs of yoga, and they are simply a means of preparing the body to be still in meditation.  There should be no pain.  Your breath should remain steady and calm.  And when you feel comfortable in the posture, the fruits of your actions should be offered up to the Lord, or at least to something greater than yourself.

There are several variations you can do in uttanasana.  Your hands can be placed on the backs of your heels with your forearms tight against your calves.  They can also be placed flat on the floor behind your heels with your fingers pointed toward your feet or away from them, depending on your flexibility.  If your hands touch your feet, you can bend your arms and grab the outsides of the feet with opposite hands.  And according to 608 Asanas, stork pose and standing splits are two more (advanced) variations of uttanasana.

          As in almost all poses, you should breathe through your nose and focus on the space between the eyebrows (the third eye).  Focusing on the third eye in most asanas should help prepare you for meditation by increasing your mental concentration.  Every asana, when locked in the correct position, should open your mind up to a specific consciousness.  But physically, the main purpose of uttanasana is to stretch the back and hamstring muscles.  It can cure stomach pains and relieves menstrual pain while toning several internal organs, mainly the liver, spleen, and kidneys.  Having the head below the heart also generates some of the effects of an inversion, such as bringing fresh blood to the brain.  It can also help to remove depression and calm excitement.  If you feel uncomfortable or get a head rush when trying sirsasana (headstand), doing uttanasana first will make it much easier and more comfortable.  After much deliberation, it appears to me that uttanasana is the standing version of paschimatanasana, which is one of the eight main postures of yoga.  And because they have similar physical effects, I can only deduce they both “balance the negative and positive currents in the spine” (Gupta 86).


Gupta, Yogi.  Yoga and Long Life.  Yogi Gupta New York Center, 1958.

Iyengar, B.K.S.  Light on Yoga.  Schocken Books, 1966.

Mittra, Dharma.  Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses.  New World Library, 2003.

Om, Chandra.  The Holy Science of Yoga.  North Carolina School of Yoga, 2009.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Surya Namaskara

by Teresa Lopes

The Surya Namaskara, or Sun Salutation, is a sequence of yoga poses linked together in a vinyasa flow with the breath.  The series is generally performed at the beginning of yoga practice to warm the body and create heat.  Although there are many variations of the sequence, the most basic involves twelve poses (one for each of the twelve Sanskrit names for the sun) ordered to alternately stretch the spine backwards and forwards.  It is said to “remove bodily and mental tensions, improve circulation, [and] stimulate the nervous system … joints are loosened and lubricated … the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and spine are toned and strengthened.  The breathing is regulated, thereby calming the mind.  If practiced slowly, it has a calming effect.  If practiced briskly, it is invigorating.”
The basic form of Surya Namaskara is as follows:
1.      Begin in either Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Pranamasana (Prayer Pose), with the weight distributed evenly between the feet, the legs strong, the spine erect, and hands either by the sides or in Anjali Mudra, with the palms pressed together in front of the heart.
2.      With an inhalation, raise the arms to Hasta Uttanasana, with a slight back bend of the upper body if possible.
3.      On an exhale, bow forward to Uttanasana (Forward Fold).
4.      On an inhale, plant the hands and step the right foot back to Ashva-Sanchalanasana (Deep Lunge).
5.      Holding the breath, step the left foot back to meet the right in Plank Pose.
6.      On an exhale, bend the elbows and lower to Chaturanga Dandasana or Ashtanga Namaskara, depending on strength.
7.      On an inhale, extend the spine in Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).
8.      On an exhale, press back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog Pose).
9.      On an inhale, step the right foot forward to Ashva-Sanchalanasana (Deep Lunge).
10. On an exhale, step the left foot forward to meet the right in Uttanasana (Forward Fold).
11. On an inhale, keeping the back flat if possible, lift the body and arms back upright to Hasta Uttanasana, adding a slight back bend if possible.
12. Exhale, straightening back up to Tadasana or Pranamasana.

The sequence is then repeated, switching the leg that steps back first.
In the physical realm, the sun is the manifested entity that most closely resembles God or the Divine—it makes all life possible and shines down its blessings indiscriminately on all creation.  Richard Rosen notes, “in many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination.”  In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda goes further: “The law of miracles is operable by any man who has realized that the essence of creation is light.”
It is thus right and just that the yogi, embarking on the sacred path/work of yoga, begins by honoring and aligning him- or herself with the divine force of light, represented by the sun.  Book 3, Verse 27 of The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali states, “By concentrated contemplation (samyama) on the sun, knowledge of the entire solar system is obtained.”  In “bowing to” or “adoring” (from the root namas) the sun (Surya), one acknowledges that the asanas are more than mere physical practice; they are dedicated to a higher goal, and they are what Sri Dharma calls the Maha Sadhana or great work.
The Surya Namaskara may be considered “a prayer in motion. It allows us to use the body as an instrument of higher awareness, so that we can receive wisdom and knowledge.”  It is a recognition of the ancient mystic truth “as above, so below; as within, so without.”  It is related to the profound spiritual vision that allows one to see the ocean in a drop of water, the earth in a grain of sand, the universe in a human body.  In bowing down to the outer sun, we simultaneously bow to the sun that resides in our heart center, the seat of our Christ consciousness, the place where God resides in each of us.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga.  1966.  New York: Schocken Books.
Dharma Mittra, Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses.  2003.  Novato, CA: New World Library.
Dharma Mittra, Maha Sadhana Level I and Level II DVDs.
Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi.  1946.  Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship.
Richard Rosen.  “Sun Salutation: Here Comes the Sun,” Yoga Journal online at
Shanti Yoga Shala website, “The Meaning of Surya Namaskara.”  Available at
Surya Namaskara, Wikipedia, online at
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda.  1978.  Yogaville, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dharma Yoga NYC is currently running a SPECIAL offer....

"June is for Friends 2 for 1 Month Unlimited Special" $120

Unlimited Passes offer a great discount. They allow you to take as many drop-in practices on the schedule per day as you wish. This includes all 60-, 75-, 90-, and 120-minute practices in Dharma Yoga.The Unlimited Pass does not include courses and programs such as Basics Courses, Kids Courses, Maha Sadhana, Asana Clinics or other special holiday practices or workshops. Unlimited passes are good for the purchaser only, non-refundable, non-transferable, not extendable, and expire on the date established upon purchase.

Be sure to check out our class schedule, and find out more information about class pricing!

Have a blessed weekend ~ Om shanti

Friday, June 8, 2012

DYNYC Celebrates

in honor of Sri Dharma Mittra
May 14 through June 14
By serving others, we release our ego, and that is a wonderful way to grow spiritually.

Ideas on how to serve others and perform acts of kindness each day
  • Be attentive wherever you are for opportunities to help someone. Do something nice for someone you don't know or don't know well. Spread the word of Karma Yoga. If someone you helped wishes to thank you, ask them to do something nice for three people they don't know, and then they should ask those three people to do something nice for three more people. Consciously increase the goodness of the world through selfless service.
  • Donate to a good cause.
  • Thank your taxi or bus driver, encourage or praise someone.
  • Smile at a stranger, help someone across the street, or buy a street person lunch.
  • Share your favorite book, give someone a compliment, make someone's day. Treat everyone you come across with respect, love, and compassion.
  • Organize free Dharma Yoga classes; organize events to create environmental awareness and respect for nature, i.e. cleaning expeditions on the weekend to keep a neighborhood or park clean.
  • Volunteer at a Senior Center,
  • Help at an animal shelter - bring old towels and blankets, walk dogs, help clean, or whatever the need is.
  • Promote vegetarianism. Teach others healthy habits. Cook a meal and invite someone over to share in it.
  • Serve the Dharma Yoga New York Center, thus serving your teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra. Simple and more involved help is always needed daily.
  • Recommend to others, as well as yourself to attend practices with all the teachers and fellow DY trainees on the DYNYC schedule. We are here to serve and so appreciate the help and support in bringing students.
Share your Karma Yoga Practices on the Dharma Yoga facebook page | We love to know!

Master Sadhana

with Sri Dharma Mittra
"A hidden gem in the middle of New York City"
Mondays thru Thursdays 12pm -1:45pm
Be ready for amazingly graceful yet extremely challenging practices steeped in 50 years of Sri Dharma Mittra's experience of the classical traditions. Dharmaji is the creator of over 300 advanced asana variations, and offers lessons in many of these unique and now popular poses of today. You will be guided through purifying yoga, cultivating the mind with invaluable and profound sacred teachings on the ethical rules, yama and niyama, karma, yogic diet, and ancient varied breathing practices. Sri Dharma Mittra helps guide each individual to quiet the turbulent mind in order to find peace, contentment, and realization of the divinity within you. What could be better?, or more important. Join us anytime.
"There is always expectation because we are still identified with the body, the mind and the ego. Only after Self-Knowledge becomes more "ripe" in the mind can the ego totally disappear. Then the string is broken. Everything depends more on the mental attitude. Be Good, Do Good. ~ Sri Dharma Mittra
Begins punctually, arrive at least 10 minutes early. Card discounts or $20 | walk-ins welcome | or sign up on line

Independence Day Retreat

The Eight-Limbed Universal Power
Behind all Action 
with Sri Dharma Mittra and DY Teachers

Join us in the natural beauty of the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts
Celebrating July 4th

Friday, June 29th to Sunday, July 1st
Friday, June 29th to Sunday, July 1st
  • Put power behind your thoughts.
  • Bring clarity to the mind
  • Restore radiant health and remove toxins
  • Unleash your full energetic potential
  • Amazing vegetarian meals three times a day
  • Sauna and Jacuzzi.
Sri Dharma Mittra invites you to take a journey into the life of a yogi. Come learn his challenging yet meditative Dharma Yoga Shiva Namaskara series, designed to unfold complete movement of the spine and unleash your full energetic potential. Breathing, relaxation, and guided meditations will bring the practice full circle, removing the body's toxic impurities and leading to higher states of health and well-being. Dharma's discourses will illuminate the practical and philosophical methodology of the laws of karma and yogic diet, strengthening inner intuition to manifest your unique desires in life. 
Make sure to reserve your spot early to get best rate. Call at 212.889.8160 or sign up online

Om Namah Shivaya!

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