Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LOAY 500-Hour Immersion

The Life of a Yogi:
500-Hour Edition

After the recent popularity of the 800-hour teacher training blog, we at Dharma Yoga had a feeling that our followers would love to dive deeply into the upcoming 500-hour teacher training course by seeing it directly through the eyes of another trainee!

Follow yogi Danielle Gray through her daily experiences in the upcoming 500-hour Advanced Teacher Training course held here at the Dharma Yoga New York Center...

The program will be held September 2nd through 9th and November 4th through 11th; daily entries will be posted within 24 hours. 

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this teacher training course:
The 500-hour teacher training also involves a great deal of independent study between the two sessions held at the center… So we will be checking in with Danielle about once a week during this period, as she develops a home practice and completes the required home assignments for our 500-hour Life of a Yogi program!

Past participants of the 500-hour teacher training program report:

“The 500-hour LOAY program changed my life in all positive directions (beyond my little mind’s imagination).” ~Ka Mei Marilyn Cheuk

“When you go back [home], you'll be a much better version of yourself. It will all be worth it!" ~Brittanie DeChino

Be sure to check back soon for pre-training reflections…

Danielle Gray first experienced the delights of Dharma Yoga at a summer dance training program in 2010 (the summer after her sophomore year of college). For two weeks, her daily schedule began with these practices, and after the conclusion of the program, she found herself continuing to practice Dharma Yoga with great devotion every day for the remainder of the summer. By the time she returned to school in the fall, she knew she had to obtain the tools to share Dharma Yoga with anyone who wanted to learn. She attended the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June of 2011 and became officially certified (in Dharma Gentle and Dharma I) the following April. Practicing and teaching Dharma Yoga has been a source of great healing and joy for her on many levels, and she is truly thrilled at the opportunity to attend the 500-hour program.

Monday, August 20, 2012

LOAY 800-Hour, Day 8

 The Life of a Yogi

“It’s like that movie I like, Men in Black. There is someone with a marble ball, and inside that there is millions of galaxies... Who knows, maybe we are just in a piece of sand somewhere on a beach!” ~Dharma

We just finished the Satsang and Aarti and Oh! The magnitude of what just happened to us here is still whirling about, and probably won’t sink in until the months and years following this training. Of course, the best parts were the internal, subtle things that happened, and even though blogging is a cool way of getting the information across, it is is in no way comparable to actually being here and doing it. So if you can come, COME! I probably will never look back at time spent with Dharma and think, “Meh. I was young.” NO! This time spent with him is the process that has turned my life around.

I have mixed emotions about today being the last day. Of course I want to stay for the rest of my life, sitting around on a cushion and Om-ing. But the reality is that I miss my children, and that my dharma is to go out into the world and spread the knowledge, keep a household, etc. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I was around Sri Dharma’s physical form, but he summed up that notion in the following quote:

“How to overcome distance? When you are everywhere, there is no distance.” ~Dharma

Usually I give myself a buffer time zone after a training of two or three days, but tomorrow morning I am doing a 4 a.m. trip to the airport, so I can be back in time to pick my daughter up from school. Three months of personal practice starts tomorrow and I have a vegan cafe opening next week. Love, duty, devotion and service are going to be the fuel in this tank!

“It is our DUTY.” ~Melissa Capezzuto (regarding teaching Dharma Yoga)

Today was a really fun partner yoga workshop with Kim and Yoshio (see pictures below). We also reviewed the 800-hour internship guidelines and had a one hour Om japa followed by Yoga Nidra. I was floating around like that genie head from the show Pee-Wee’s Playhouse from many years ago. The return to the “real world” will hopefully not be a rude awakening, but rather a thrust into everyday life charged with shakti and inspired to help others.

Here are some quotes that I found scribbled in my notebook:

“For savasana, make sure they have all the props together so there’s not a big kafuffle at the end.” ~Andrew Jones (Speaking about preparing students for meditation followed by relaxation. FYI apparently the word “kafuffle” means fuss... I never knew that!)

“For the last two minutes, you can do whatever poses you want...except nothing.” ~Dharma

“You have to find God in your silent meditation.” ~Dharma

~Olivia Foss

 Dharma Partner Yoga with Kim and Yoshio

 Myself and fellow trainee Nicole Sopoko


The last day… The photos below document the activities that took place today. I just want to briefly express gratitude to first and foremost Sri Dharma for sharing his knowledge both verbally and psychically; this high knowledge that we all will respectfully cherish and absorb, the phenomenal and dedicated teachers; Adam, Andrew, Bernadette, Kim, Melissa, and Yoshio… Joann, for being such a wonderful
and sweet host, and Enid for maintaining organization and being such an accessible and friendly contact, and the other 21 trainees, who were all so kind, knowledgeable, and full of love. Words really cannot describe the feelings that not only I have, but the others as well. It was an honor to have been a part of this inaugural 800-hour teacher training group. Thank you all.

I am having a difficult time expressing myself tonight… The feeling is very overwhelming, but hopefully the pictures below will say more!

~Cindy Ley-Sepe

Last spiritual discourse

 Olivia in partner yoga. The intention is to become ‘child-like’ again.

Kim in Kurmasana; Yoshio in Tittibhasana

Erin and Andrew doing a partner backstretch

Partner savasana

Penny and Danielle

Closing Satsang ceremony

Lynn receiving her certificate

Aarti ceremony

A little blurry… Dharma using the gift card he received from trainees at Terri

Dharma leaving the center with Baxter (in the white carrier) on the segway

Sunday, August 19, 2012

LOAY 800-Hour, Day 7

The Life of a Yogi

“You ever see Krishna eating a hamburger? No. You ever see these Yogis at McDonald’s? No.”

~Sri Dharma (regarding compassion, health, and diet)

Day 7. Tomorrow is the last day, but time doesn’t seem to exist when you are living like this. I wouldn’t have any idea what day it was if I didn’t have to look at the schedule. I wouldn’t know what time it was, what season it was, if it weren’t for the fact that this is just a teacher training. Or is it? The name of the program, “Life of a Yogi” could not be more accurate. What happens when you devote your every breath during the day to the Highest and practice all these divinely realized ancient techniques over and over, imagining that “the best of the best is taking place” as Dharma says? What results is a glimpse of the Ultimate Reality...a little taste of the spiritual bliss that comes with such depth, and a genuine teacher.

This evening during the hugely-attended (85 bodies!) Maha Sadhana, Dharma explained what happens when you get all of your happiness from external things. It goes away eventually, and leaves suffering in its place. He explained that when you start practicing, you start to get more and more of your happiness from inside your own heart. I love this idea, and I love that he emphasizes that “practice” doesn’t have to mean being proficient at crazy poses.  It means that you sit and meditate for five minutes a day, that you renounce all the fruits of your actions to the Lord, be nice to people, think of God when you get up, and when you go to sleep. I always tell students this. They say, “I am sorry I haven’t come to practice.” I always tell them that practice happens constantly, all day, every day. This is perhaps the most important thing I have ever learned from Dharma.

Earlier in the day, we had the last of our small group teaching sessions. I taught the full length Dharma IV class in my small group, and was amazed at the effect the Psychic Development and Yoga Nidra has had on my teaching. I felt very subtle energies coming from each student, and was able to intuitively perceive their subtle needs and desires. I have taught this class once a week for a year and a half at Dharma Yoga Missouri, and I definitely noticed a difference.

As part of my Karma Yoga duties, I often stand at the entrance of the Temple and greet people coming in for classes. Earlier, Baxter the doggy was running in front of Dharma, and got distracted. He slipped and crashed into the door and Dharma yelled, “Watch out!” But it was too late. We looked at each other and laughed because Baxter went right about his business, hardly noticing. During the Maha Shakti this morning, when Baxter jumped up on the little wooden stage, Dharma went to gesture him away, but Baxter had so much momentum that he skidded right off the other side and into the lamp table, and yelped. Immediately Dharma went over to him and said with so much emotion, “Oh, I am so sorry!” He stroked Baxter until he calmed down, then said, “Maybe you should cut your nails sometimes!”

One of the highlights of my day today was Dharma’s 90-minute Deep Healing Relaxation class after the Maha Shakti. I highly recommend this class for anyone, regardless of your experience, or lack thereof, with Yoga. You don’t do any postures, you just do some breathing exercises, some meditations, lie down and have a guided relaxation. If you are ever in NYC, come do it! There is nothing better than being blissed out on a Saturday morning. Just make sure you remain silent for a long time afterwards, otherwise the effects wear off too quickly.

When I see Dharma in the morning light (or any time for that matter), I have a rush of unconditional Divine Love. I have only felt that towards a couple people in my life, mainly my children. The woman who is my roommate feels the same way, and I realized that part of coming to this kind of program is to reconnect with your spiritual brothers and sisters. I feel like twins with her sometimes. We share our days like this:

Every morning we wake up to her alarm at 5 AM. We get up, get dressed. She takes a shower while I put on the kettle to do the kriyas jala dhauti and jala neti (AKA drink hot lemon water and then use salt water to wash the sinuses). She cuts up some fruit for the day, gets a little bag of sprouted almonds for us to share at lunch, then we walk to the center at 6 a.m. It is good for us to be together while walking because we can support each other through the craziness of NYC streets.

We get to the center around 6:25 or so, and get our materials ready for the day. Then she sits and meditates until 7 a.m. when the program starts, I do mantra with my mala beads. Throughout the day, we observe silence, unless we need to ask someone a question. The other day she said, “I don’t know how anybody can talk or eat with what we are going through!” It was true. I didn’t know either. I often find myself next to her when we do our classes, because I feel very comfortable with her pure, humble vibration. I make her laugh a lot. Too much I think, sometimes. We often sit alone, in silence and eat our lunch of sprouted almonds and fruit next to each other, not needing to say much.

By 9 PM or so when the daily program ends, we go into the Temple and clean, put stuff away, and leave around 10:30 or so every night. After we walk home, I bathe, she makes a sprouted almond shake or another little bit of light food. We both sleep on the floor in the living room of the apartment we are staying at with two of our other spiritual brothers. Just a rug, a pillow, and a blanket to lie on. And then we go again the next morning.

The photo that is included was a little piece of paper she wrote to me and slipped under my leg at lunch (she was observing silence). It says, “Just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. Dharmaji. The Science of Yoga. Everything is true. I know it from the depths of my soul.” I took a picture of it, because it was so simple and profound, like Dharma himself. I told her I was going to keep that piece of paper so we could look at it when we are old ladies. I am glad that we finally found each other again, and I want to make sure that I find her in the next life.

~Olivia Foss


“Only children are allowed in the kingdom of God. So, you are going to have to give up diplomacy and become the child”
~Sri Dharma Mittra

Kim beautifully prepared us for the day, leading the pranayama, dhyana, and Surya Namaskar. The daily morning practice led us into Dharma Gentle. The trainees were profusely thanking Kim for teaching the much-needed class…

The scheduling of sessions for this training couldn’t have been more perfect. The Gentle and Yoga Nidra classes were strategically and compassionately placed to aid in the recovery and healing of our bodies. Sri Dharma’s regularly scheduled Maha Shakti and especially Yoga Nidra on Saturday was much anticipated! Following lunch, the small groups still had to practice teaching Dharma IV, Yoga Nidra, or Psychic Development.

Our group was seated near Andrew’s group, and as much as I was trying to concentrate, I couldn’t help but hear laughter that, with time, increasingly became louder. Following our sessions, I had asked one of the trainees from Andrew’s group. They had completed four consecutive Psychic Development classes that clearly charged them to almost delirium.

Dharma mentioned today how important it is to laugh, be cheerful. They all displayed cheerful dispositions, to say the least! Maha Sadhana concluded our day. The power of collective consciousness and moving together as if we are in “a parade”. Eighty- five people participated in Maha Sadhana tonight. There were many opportunities to make an offering and to chant. Dharma played several songs and sometimes during Maha Sadhana , it’s just been one song . People didn’t want to leave but we know Sri Dharma is with us wherever we go.

~Cindy Ley-Sepe

Baxter is ready to go home after the morning’s Maha Shakti

The aforementioned Maha Shakti

 Baxter preparing for Yoga Nidra

Kim’s much-appreciated Dharma Gentle class

The start of Maha Sadhana

Maha Sadhana: “You have two minutes, do whatever you want.”

One of Sri Dharma’s offerings during the asana jam

Saturday, August 18, 2012

LOAY 800-Hour, Day 6

The Life of a Yogi

Today was a heavy day for me for lots of reasons.

“I see all the old ladies on the street as my mother. They look at me indifferently because they don’t know [we are the] same.” (Regarding how everyone is you, and you are everyone)

I always think that Dharma is full of the most useful advice, but it is not always complete. He leaves quite a bit of room for people to have their own experiences, and figure things out for themselves. The above quote was not a revelation to me, but it was on my mind as I left the studio to go buy food.

I haven’t really left the studio unless it has been at the end of the day, because the very advanced practices whose results I am experiencing are making me ULTRA-sensitive to the vibrations around. Walking down the street, one sees all the different faces of the Almighty One. And, as I found out today, it isn’t always Heaven and Love. In fact, today at noon walking around reminded me of coming off some terrible drug trip (not that I have ever, ahem, done that). Down on 23rd Street, everything was bizarre, busy and loud, and I wanted nothing more than to go up to the sixth floor and sit still and quiet. After exiting Whole Foods with my roommate and spiritual sister, we noticed a commotion on the street. As we approached the corner, a man was yelling very loudly at another man, who was on the ground. The man standing had a pole, and I heard the sound of it hitting the man on the ground’s bones. I became very frightened, because for all the love and bliss I have gotten to experience over the years in NYC with Dharma, I was all of a sudden seeing the Devil, and Hell, and seeing it very clearly. Naturally I was frightened (I couldn’t even look at "normal" faces, much less that situation) so I made a mad break for the other side of the street. Erin later told me that she had had the impulse to help the man, but by the time we had reached the other side of the street, we heard cop sirens probably summoned by the numerous bystanders. I was near tears and very shaken when we got back up to the Temple because I could feel both men’s fear and suffering. But where Guru is, there is an abode of peace so I had nothing to worry about. This story happened after experiencing a very disturbing dream during savasana after the Dharma IV class where I saw a very graphic motorcycle wreck and the sound of crunching bones jolted me awake. Yikes!

This is not a story meant to scare anyone away from these practices, but it certainly has reinforced my belief in proper preparation for them. Personally, following the vegan diet, constantly trying to follow yama and niyama, using techniques that reinforce the personal aura, etc. can not only be tremendously helpful, but are absolutely necessary. I can see why the Psychic Development series should not be shared with just anyone, and I will not be sharing it with the public when I return to Dharma Yoga Missouri, as people with weak psychic faculties could be subject to attack. It is imperative that they exercise themselves (ESPECIALLY deep relaxation and Yoga Nidra) and practice in a purified space, where there is very high, sattvic energy (Dharma talks about how to prepare a space in his Maha Sadhana DVDs if anyone is interested). Having been practicing this series once a week for the last couple years has made me very familiar and comfortable with it. Someone in my group today was practice teaching and presented many of the techniques incorrectly. In the same way that Dharma says that using your left hand during pranayama will make you “kooky”, I can only imagine what doing Psychic Development techniques incorrectly would do. It is very humbling.

As for the rest of the day, I was quite frustrated. I get upset when I see people disobey Dharma or when they are not reverent. I consider Dharma to be God in the physical form, and to think that people practice in front of him with so much skin showing, or do not observe the silence, or are constantly late makes me really upset. I am ashamed of judging people, and not being more compassionate, but I have devoted my life to being a channel of him, and I get angry when I see people being disrespectful (sigh). I may not have known him for very many years in this life, in this body… but I know that I love him so deeply that it must be some impressions from previous lifetimes.

One of the best classes today was Andrew Jones giving us the lowdown on teaching basic Raja Yoga. I love that guy too. I think he may have been my uncle in a past life.

Earlier, Adam told Cindy (the other blogger) and I that this blog experiment has had over 50,000 hits (I’m not all that literate in technology, so I am not exactly sure what that means). I want each of you reading this to know how humbled I am by this opportunity to be one of the voices of this training. May reading this bring you something helpful. May all beings develop a strong desire for liberation. May Brahman bestow upon us the fruit of knowledge. May we cherish no ill feelings towards each other. OM shanti shanti shantih!

~Olivia Foss

 Yogi Brian Burturla grabbed my phone and took a picture of me this morning doing japa with a mala at 6:30 this morning.

 Beloved Guru between classes, and my Cosmic Bro Andrew doing what he does best... meditating!

Study materials

In between sessions


“Engaged in the yoga of constant practice and not allowing the mind to wander away to anything else, he who meditates on the supreme, resplendent Purusha reaches Him, O son of Pritha.”
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8, verse 8

Anyone who knows Sri Dharma and his history knows how sacred The Bhagavad Gita is to him and how it was the first book he found when he arrived in New York. It is the foundation of his practice. During spiritual discourse, after Sri Dharma explained how to teach Psychic Development, he read from the chapter entitled The Way to the Imperishable Brahman. He reminded us that we move in this world of name and form according to previous conditions, and even when realized, we still function through this world; but deep inside, one is hooked to the Supreme Self, and nothing can break it. Yoga, with constant practice, will not allow the mind to stray, particularly when one meditates on the supreme Self.

Bernadette’s noon class: long, long holds. Again, I remind myself, “I am not this body, I am not this mind”. Yesterday, dizziness developed suddenly during Dharma’s class and still continues when I practice backbend type poses. I suspect it is the increased amount of breath retention in pranayama and many Psychic Development classes.

Adam led a discussion on teaching Dharma Yoga. Kim, Bernadette, Yoshio, Melissa, and Andrew shared their experience with teaching the many different practices.  Dharma Yoga includes both outward and inward elements that complete the practice, and those elements are special because of Sri Dharma’s distinct voice. His Yoga has something for everyone. It is amazing how, over the 50 years he has been teaching, hundreds of thousands of students have practiced with him and he constantly adapts to meet people’s needs. Melissa added, “As teachers, it’s better to honor him and to share his teaching in the purest way. It is our duty.”

That statement really impacted all of us. He has given us so much and each one of us has been impacted in different ways.  We, as representatives, must prepare ourselves to be of service and must obviously observe the yamas and niyamas, ethical restraints and observances, first and foremost operating with love and compassion, ahimsa. We must model integrity at all times and adhere to the yogic code of conduct.  As Sri Dharma says, “copy the teacher”, lead by example, and develop sensitivity to all. 

Sri Dharma is so humble and ego-less, that he doesn’t expect or require special attention. But we are also eager to express our gratitude. Dharma does say to be ‘obedient to the teacher’ – to be reverent… “perfect obedience is to listen to the Guru”.

~Cindy Ley-Sepe

Spiritual discourse

Small group teaching