Friday, April 26, 2013

Dharma Yoga Abroad

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers around the world...

This week: Sandra Petra Pintarić – Zagreb, Croatia
By Nicole Sopko

Sandra Pintaric travelled to New York City for the first time in early 2011 to study with Sri Dharma Mittra. Sandra is the only certified Dharma Yoga teacher in Croatia and a great ambassador for Dharma Yoga. She is also a Vastu Adviser, Interior Designer and Artist.

Where do you live?
I live in capitol of Croatia, the city of Zagreb. My life is oriented mainly around the paths of yoga, spirituality, and art. I spend my free time creating art or studying and practicing my Sadhana. I enjoy nature, cooking, and spending time with friends and family. 

Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-hour Teacher Training in 2011.  I came across Sri Dharma Mittra via the internet and was greatly inspired. He touched my heart and I am so grateful that I met him.

What would you say about the people who you met during your trainings? How have they inspired you?
I was very impressed with the many things during the training, especially the flow of it, the organization, and karma yoga. There were many different people in my group, mainly from the US, and I have formed really nice friendships. I really liked our smaller groups with mentors, who all inspired me in their own way. I feel very fortunate to have met such great teachers.

What is one practice that you do every day?
For many years now my Sadhana has remained mostly the same - it includes asana, pranayama, kriya, yoga-nidra and mantra meditation. I usually start early in the morning with Dharma III/IV asanas with some variations, also mudras, and twice a week I do the Psychic Development Techniques. This creates the foundation for the rest of my day. Several times a year I commit to a 40-day uninterrupted cycle of offering or cleansing, which means the same practice, every day, for 2-3 hours (alone or with someone else).

What are you currently working on?
Because I’m the first Dharma Yogateacher in Croatia and the neighboring countries, I’ve invited many senior Dharma Yoga teachers to be my guests. They’ve given our yoga community so much inspiration and support.

Croatia, with its beautiful coastline and numerous islands, is a perfect place for summer retreats and yoga workshops, which we organize every summer (on the island of Hvar, city of Hvar). We have Dharma Yoga retreats on the beautiful island of Silba, which is in itself a perfect place as no vehicles of any kind are allowed on the whole island.

Additionally, I’m working with the founders of “Mandala”, a non-profit organization, to create a retreat center with a focus on perma-culture, animal protection and higher education. The center will include a vegetarian restaurant and an “ashram-motel”. We’ve just produced our first organic harvest and even sold some eco-veggies to some members and friends.  I see my future in this project mainly because it offers a great opportunity for bettering individuals through the paths of yoga and knowledge.

I will be traveling to New York soon to spend time with Sri Dharma Mittra and all the other wonderful teachers at the Dharma Yoga Center. I’m greatly looking forward to it!

How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
It has affected my life in many ways. After seven years of yoga, and the past three years with Dharma Yoga, everything sort of clicked into place… My practice was completely refreshed, which made me more enthusiastic and inspired. The homework and practices we had during the LOAY Teacher Training implanted a special seed inside my heart. And as the title says “Life of a Yogi” - we are encouraged to live in this way, in every aspect of our life.

Can you share a little about your current teaching schedule?
Besides the regular classes I lead on a daily basis in Zagreb, I also conduct workshops. In my free time I travel and spread the teachings of Sri Dharma and Dharma Yoga in surrounding cities. My teaching is usually spontaneous and relaxed and I’m more interested in what’s underneath the surface of this body and mind.

My emphasis is on a daily Sadhana practice, reaching our higher potential by living yoga outside of the yoga room as well. One sentence from Sri Dharma inspires me greatly: “Everything I have is Yours”. I try to share as much knowledge as I receive. 

What else do you do?
I’ve been working on interior designand art. I have also upgraded my interior design degree with higher education in Vastu consulting. Vastu is a holistic concept of Vedic architecture and interior design which respects harmony with nature, and is also the precursor to Feng Shui.

All in all, I try to achieve balance and harmony with everything I do. As an artistic soul, I admire Sri Dharma’s beautiful posters and other things he hand-made, as well as his entire sense for art, beauty and harmony.

Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL where she teaches Dharma Yoga and operates a nationwide vegan natural food company alongside her (life) partner. She takes great care to be always aware of the ways in which these two responsibilities intersect and spends her time promoting compassion in all forms. She is a dedicated and loving student of Sri Dharma’s and visits New York as frequently as possible to absorb the benefits of his holy teachings in person.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra, Part II

You may remember our last collection of quotes from dearest Dharmaji; we thought it was about time for a few more!

Please enjoy, and share with those who may benefit…


2.   “Pain and suffering is for the purpose of cleansing the mind and subtle channels, or nadis. When the nadis are polluted, there is no chance of feeling even a little bliss. When the mind and body are cleaned, the energy can begin to move, and one tastes a little then the bliss.”

4.   “Don’t listen to your mind; listen to your heart.”


6.   “Most adults don’t sing anymore. We have to break that, and start singing the name of the Almighty One, try to cultivate the emotions. We have to elevate our emotions to the maximum, to the limit, and that then turns into spiritual bliss.”


8.   “With constant practice, one can improve his physical body and mental attitude rapidly, thereby igniting the higher motives of making one’s self useful to himself and all mankind.”


We thank Dharma Yoga teacher Katherine Labonte for compiling this fantastic list of Sri Dharma Quotes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

20 Ways Yoga Changed My Life

By Deanna Aliano

Practicing yoga on and off for fifteen years has led me to one conclusion: I need to be disciplined and keep a regular practice to maintain the evolution that yoga has helped me attain.

So I’ve begun compiling a list of all the ways yoga has changed my life. I share it with you in hopes that you will be inspired to begin a practice, or maintain or resume your current one.

1.        I am more relaxed and handle the daily stresses in my life better. Stress can’t be completely eliminated but it can be managed. Yoga is a path to achieve that.
2.       I am healthier. Yoga has helped me lose weight, increase my muscle tone and given me better posture, just to name a few of many changes.
3.       I am more focused. My time on my mat has taught me to tune out outside distractions while I am there. This sense of focus has been attained off the mat too.

4.       I have a strong sense of accomplishment. Nearly every time I go to class I notice an improvement on some level - going a little deeper into a pose, a little more balance, holding a pose longer. These little achievements make me realize I am getting somewhere.
5.       My daily interactions have improved. I’m more confident in my skin because I have found my center.  Therefore I am not intimidated by others or self-conscious.  I now enjoy my time with other people because I can be myself.
6.       I eat better. I went from being a carnivore to eliminating red meat, then poultry, and now I am a complete vegan. My body no longer craves sugar or animal products. 

7.       I am more patient with myself. My time on the mat has taught me not to push myself beyond what I am ready for. I no longer feel the need to have a practice like the other yogis in the room, but instead allow myself to be where I need to be at that moment – even if that changes daily!
8.       I am more patient with others. Learning to be patient with myself enabled me to look at the world and realize everyone is at their own place in life. Being judgmental or trying to change people gets you nowhere.
9.       I am less fearful. I learned to push myself past my level of comfort and into the unknown while on my mat. This same idea applies to life in a big way.
10.    I am more flexible both mentally and physically. Of course, you expect to become more physically flexible through yoga, but I didn’t realize that as my body practiced asana, my mind began to change, and I now accept & perceive everything from different angles. 

11.     I am stronger both mentally and physically. Yoga is not just about flexibility, but about finding the balance between flexibility and strength. Many of the poses take a tremendous amount of strength to hold! Sometimes the greatest strength is in keeping the mind from telling you that you cannot do it. Yoga taught me to refocus and tell myself that I can.
12.    I am able to sit quietly for long periods of time. My mind still wanders, but it is much easier to bring it back and become a silent observer.
13.    I better understand who I am and my purpose in this life. We all have a path, something we are here to do. Practicing yoga put me in touch with that purpose and allowed me to reconnect with who I really am.
14.    I better understand my true needs and can differentiate them from desires. This is hard and I often struggle with it, but it has become easier to recognize things I don’t really need to get by in life.
15.    I am more creative and expressive. This connects to increased confidence. I think it is why many creative people are drawn to yoga. While practicing, you find the confidence to express yourself. Also, when you clear the mind of excess baggage your creativity rises to the surface.
16.    I am more present. Clearing the mind allowed me to better focus on the things immediately in front of me and I’m no longer sidetracked. I am really present.
17.    I am more responsible. Developing discipline on the mat means more discipline in everyday life, and this has allowed me to see the things that need to be done and accomplish them.
18.    I am happy and content with what I have and where I am in life. I recognize it for a path and not a destination.
19.    I am more compassionate. By recognizing and letting go of my own stresses and pains, I am better able to recognize them in others, and perhaps help others to let go of their own suffering.
20.   Giving and receiving more love in my life. By being at peace, content, and present, I have cultivated space in my life for others to join and share the good vibes…

Deanna has been exposed to many different styles of yoga and has recently taken the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Being a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist, and fitness trainer, Deanna never thought she would find her higher self in a "fitness" class, but she did and has never looked back. She has developed Artasana workshops, exploring creativity through the art of yoga. She spends her time off the mat writing, illustrating yogis and enjoying her children at the New Jersey Shore.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are You a REAL Yoga Teacher?

By Melody Abella

As part of the 2012 Arts Festival Day at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, my friend & fellow Dharma Yoga teacher, Brittanie DeChino, and I volunteered to do a few yoga demonstrations to third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. 

 We taught them sound breathing (a breathing technique we learned from Sri Dharma Mittra), sun salutations, balancing poses, partner yoga and a few other fun things. It was a nice change from my daily office yoga gigs.

At the end of each 20-minute presentation, we opened it up for a few questions from the kids. In the last group, which was about 75 fifth-graders, one girl asked: “Are you real  yoga teachers?” Of course, we said with a smile. “We are real yoga teachers.” Though now I’m thinking, what is a real yoga teacher?

From an educational standpoint in the United States, the Yoga Alliance defines the educational requirements to be considered a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with their organization. Is being an RYT enough to be considered a real yoga teacher? I say no. In fact, you can become a RYT and not ever teach an actual yoga class. Or you can become a RYT and teach yoga classes every day – though I don’t think whether you teach yoga classes or not makes you a real yoga teacher either.

To me what makes a real yoga teacher is someone who shows up in life doing their best in every moment. Someone who shows up in life for other people – helping others, giving to others, and not expecting anything in return (AKA Karma Yoga). Someone who inspires others naturally through their actions.

To me a real yoga teacher honors the universal vows of yama (sutra 2.30) and niyama (sutra 2.32). And if a “teacher” only follows the first yama of ahimsa (nonviolence in thought, word and action), to me they are a real yoga teacher.

To quote my teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra: “Without ahimsa, there is no yoga.” He’s right. How we treat others is way more important than whether we can put our legs behind our head…

A real yoga teacher takes time to pause daily –whether it’s to move (asana), meditate, or just simply open a yoga text, like The Yoga Sutras or The Bhagavad Gita, and reflect.

A real yoga teacher is a truth seeker – someone who is following their heart and sharing from the heart. As Sri Dharma always says, the goal of yoga is self-realization.

So how is yoga related to art (a question posed by one bright fourth-grader later that day)? Brittanie explained to her that practicing yoga calms you, which creates space within you, opening you up to endless amounts of creativity. And as I type this, I realize that teaching yoga is an art, just as living yoga is an artistic journey. Both take constant practice, dedication and an open heart to whatever and whoever shows up in the moment. Isn’t this all art?

Passionate about sharing the power of yoga & its transformational benefits, Melody Abella founded a mobile yoga business (abellaYoga) in 2006. abellaYoga travels to corporate and private clients in Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington, VA to teach yoga in homes, offices, hotels, and conference centers. Grateful for experiences gained in the telecom/tech corporate world, this ex-marketing yoga-chick is happy to share all she knows about yoga. Believing through discipline and devotion we have the power within to make positive changes in our bodies, lives and this world, Melody teaches her students “anything is possible”. Or as Sri Dharma Mittra says you must have “angry determination.” Melody received her 500-hour Dharma Yoga Teacher certification in May 2012. She continues to hop the train from DC to NYC monthly to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.