Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dharma Yoga Across the US

Q & A with Dharma Yoga teachers in the US...

This week: Ishvara Pranidhana Om
– Jefferson City, Missouri

  By Nicole Sopko

Ishvara Pranidhana Om, simply called “Vara” by her students at Dharma Yoga Missouri, is a dedicated and reverent student of yoga. She has fully incorporated the practice of yoga in her life, running Dharma Yoga Missouri as well as the attached vegan café, Vitality (

Where do you live?
I live in Jefferson City, Missouri. It’s the capitol, in the heart of the state that’s in the heart of the Midwest. I lease a building that has Dharma Yoga Missouri along with Vitality, our vegan café, on the first floor. I live in the apartment upstairs with my two daughters and two cats. I like just walking downstairs and being at work.

Which LOAY trainings have you completed? How did you come to do those trainings?
I completed my LOAY 200-hour in June 2010 because I started subbing and needed to have formal training. Also, I took a weekend workshop with Dharma Yoga Teacher Rebecca Kovacs in San Diego, CA, that blew my mind and blew all of my perceptions about Yoga out of the water.

So I took a 24-hour trip to meet Sri Dharma Mittra for a Maha Sadhana the day before Valentine's in 2010 to check out the facility and the teacher. I had watched his Maha Sadhana DVDs and his voice was something so old in my memory that when I met him in person I started to cry.  Sri Dharma asked me, "What's wrong with you, did you break up with your boyfriend? Oh, you just have some Shakti rising up" as he gestured to his heart. I was stricken and all I wanted was to be with him. So I signed up for the LOAY 200-hour teacher training.

I took the LOAY 500-hour training because I was so happy about my first training and also so that I could teach all the levels at the center. When I heard that there was going to be a LOAY 800-hour I was like, "PUT ME ON THAT LIST!" At this point I have an overwhelming burning desire for liberation, it's all I think about and I think that is certainly a result of such intensive immersion experiences. I think the LOAY 800-hour TT has been the one of the best experiences of my life so far.

How have the people you met in the training inspired you?
The people I met are a varied group of people, some whom I remain very close with to this day. There are people from every walk of life, all different ethnicities and from different parts of the world.  I am inspired by the fact that we can all be so different, yet are all reflections of each other in our love for Sri Dharmaji and our quest for Self-Realization.

What is one practice that you do every day?
I watch the activities of the mind and pray constantly. I devote every action to God, and try not to be concerned with the activities of the mind, but I am always trying to observe it. I am consumed with thoughts of liberation, so I ask for Divine Help all the time.

This is the easiest practice for me because I don't always have time for asana and pranayama, or reading scriptures every day.

What are you currently working on?
I opened Dharma Yoga Missouri in 2010, and three other trainees have taken the LOAY 200-hour training since then. I’m letting them take over most of my classes for the summer so I can focus on the Vitality Café. I will return in September with emphasis on teaching the Deep Healing Relaxation Series.

I opened the Vitality cafe in my town because there is nothing like it for 150 miles in any direction! Vitality is named after the Vitality diet that I was required to follow during my LOAY 500-hour training. Vegan food is considered to be fairly radical here! Starting in September, our studio and cafe will be doing Fresh Start, a one month program on just raw food.  Every day there will be recipes, inspiration, and a Dharma Yoga Asana mini-class.  I am also doing some half-day intensives with raw vegan dinner afterward.  All info can be found on our website.

I admit that I am using customer’s senses to trick them into making a compassionate decisions about food. If I give someone chocolate cake and please their senses to the point that they might consider having vegetarian food next time they eat something, then that is better than me trying to feed them a bunch of sprouts which they will simply reject and classify as "health food." So we offer food that is not sattvic, but we have to get them hooked on vegan food somehow…

How has your experience in the Dharma Yoga LOAY program affected your life outside of training?
The name of the program "Life of a Yogi" is exactly that and has turned me into an aspiring Yogi. I went from a drugged-out meat eater, deluded, with total lack of self-control to a person that my family and old friends have a hard time recognizing. I don't think I will ever look back to this time and think, "Oh well, you know...I was young." I can't imagine going backwards from this point. The love and discipline and other qualities that Sri Dharma and my other teachers exemplify is so far-reaching that Self-Realization seems the only way out!

What books are you currently reading or studying?
Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta (because it pertains to my 800-hour training and Psychic Development). Plus, I am always reading and re-reading the Gita.

Check out the Vitality Café on Facebook for beautifully styled and delicious vegan food.

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.Nicole Sopko(Gopi Om) is a Dharma Yoga teacher living in Chicago, IL 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

15 Truths I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra

By Sorsha Anderson

Picture by Natasha Phillips

  1. To make progress you must learn to do three things: Fast, keep silent and wait...
  2. Breathe as slowly as possible for an hour and watch your cravings disappear. 
  3. See yourself in the practice you are not able to access right now.  Imagine yourself in it.   
  4. Do the work.  Not because you expect results, but because it’s work that needs to be done.  
  5. In the beginning, do the poses any way you can. 
  6. You can become king of the gods by watching…
  7. Cultivate compassion--the rest will come. 
  8. Expect nothing.  Do it because it has to be done. 
  9. Avoiding discipline is a trick of the mind.  It enjoys its pleasures.  The mind will throw you down.  It is powerful. 
  10. There is no ‘mine’.  Where there is ‘mine’, there is bondage.
  11. Be kind to all beings.  Everyone passes through the same obstacles.
  12. You can reach higher states with drugs, but there is a blackness behind it.  You despair because you know you cannot get there without the help.  When you achieve higher states with meditation, you feel bliss because you realize no one can take it from you.
  13. Yoga is…perfect obedience to the teacher.
  14. Drop the elbows. Don’t think!  Forearm stand!
  15. After enlightenment, there are plenty of exciting jobs for you to do! 


Sorsha Anderson is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher who lives and teaches in Vermont.  She has been practicing since 1991 and worked with very gentle and restorative yoga until her 30's when she wandered into a hot and sweaty, but meditative vinyasa studio.  Neither a dancer nor gymnast as a child, and after having had two children, she surprised herself by balancing in crow for the first time at 36.  She never looked back.  Sorsha approaches each new pose with a sense of optimism and adventure and delights in encouraging others to try what only seems impossible at first glance.  She particularly enjoys teaching older women who are trying to find their way back to their bodies after a sometimes very long absence.  Sorsha is thankful to have found her way to the Dharma Yoga Center and makes the trip from Vermont as often as she can.  She offers gratitude for the beautiful physical and spiritual teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Tool of the Divine

By Elle Swan 

Sitting behind a dumpster as a homeless woman is where I first experienced the self-less nature of Karma yoga. The LOAY Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra gave a name to the moment that forever changed my life. 

Karma yoga is often defined as being a “tool of the Divine.” There was no hope in my life that day as I sat in that alley and the woman-- who I have never seen again and who wanted nothing in return-- assisted in shifting the course of my hopeless life. 

She was on her way to work when our paths crossed. She was getting gas and I was standing there begging for change. A few people tossed dimes and pennies my way, which ultimately led to a can of beer. More than a decade ago, it would be my last drink, thanks to a woman who allowed herself to be used by the force that holds this world in place.  

Instead of getting in her car and heading to the responsibilities of her day, she turned around and asked me if I needed help. She took me to safety and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today, as I speak to audiences around the world, I’m often asked her name.  I never got her name, but I will never forget her spirit. Her soul touched mine, and, as a yogi, I try on a daily basis to let my actions in some way demonstrate the self-less love I experienced that fateful day.

Thank you, Sri Dharma Mittra, for introducing me to the appropriate meaning of such a beautiful term: Karma Yoga.

For years, Elle Swan wanted to die and couldn’t. Her darkest days left her addicted to drugs and alcohol, 67 pounds overweight, penniless and living on the streets of California. On May 29th 2000, during an overdose in an abandoned van, her misery merged with death and Elle suddenly crossed over. “But, when your soul knows you belong here,” she says, “it won’t let you go.” Her miraculous journey from deprivation and despair, to a life filled with inner peace is a miracle, and she truly believes she was given a second chance. Her dramatic personal transformation unfolded into quest for knowledge in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Yoga, Nutrition, and Hypnosis. The synthesis of these modalities combined with her near death experience shapes her uncanny ability to pin point lasting solutions to teach others how to make a comeback in their own lives. Today Elle Swan is a Life Coach and speaks all over the world. Her story and strategies have been featured on TV and in The Wall Street Journal. Elle attended the Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Program in 2011 and is in the process of becoming a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Psychic Transference

by Sara Schwartz  

When I first heard Sri Dharma Mittra say, “Psychic attack” I wasn’t sure I heard him right. How can an attack be psychic? Does it hurt? Then I pictured an exorcist type of event with convulsions. I was skeptical.  

As Michael Talbot explains in his book The Holligraphic Universe, “Psychic and spiritual phenomenon have played a significant role in aspects of our culture, but because they are not easy to rope in and scrutinize in a laboratory setting, science has tended to ignore them.”  

©Jeffrey Vock

Luckily, Sri Dharma is not bound by conventional scientific thought processes, and openly invites one to explore psychic phenomenon. Through the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-hour teacher training, I began to learn what a psychic attack was. Slowly, the skeptic inside me turned from a judge into an observer. 

I learned that a psychic attack might be a thought that is not yours. A psychic attack might feel like you have a dark thought or craving that isn’t yours. For example, I might be walking down the street and suddenly crave a hot dog. I know I don’t like hot dogs, not even vegan ones. Perhaps it’s the person next to me who sees the cart and is tempted by its fare. Because we are all a part of the giant mind, her thought became my thought. 

A more obvious example might be when someone gets mad at you. His or her anger jumps into the pit of your stomach and you can feel it! That’s a psychic transference. Nothing physical actually happened between you, but you can feel the anger physically and emotionally. 

Subliminal advertising is a tangible example of a psychic attack. In 1957, James Vicary flashed, faster than most people can register, an image of popcorn and soda on a public movie screen. He found that the concessions sold more with this subliminal imagery. While this study was later debunked, it set off subliminal advertising fever. Later studies found that we are stimulated by these subliminal (often sexual) images in advertisements.

A psychic attack might be a mood. These moods can pass between lovers, friends, or even strangers. Riding the subway without your psychic defenses up can be a really harrowing experience. People are already in a bad mood when they have to be trapped in a small metal container and hurled through space at more than human speeds. Airplanes have the same general anxiety about them.

(Sometimes you can see a smile or hear good music, so these journeys aren’t always all bad!) 

©Sandra Pintaric

How do you combat a psychic attack? By strengthening your aura.

Yogi Gupta, Sri Dharma Mittra’s guru, in his book Yoga and Yogic Powers, instructs, “Rhythmic breathings, Nadi Purifier Breathing, Nadi stimulator breathing and Nadi Vibrator breathing are some of the techniques which will enable you to create a strong psychic aura of thought...”  

The psychic aura of thought happens on the subtle plane, which exists within the stage of the gross plane. The gross plane is your physical body, people on the subway, the subway car. The subtle plane is the amount of energy you feel you have in your body, all the thoughts and emotions of you and the people around you, and the hum of the engines. 

Because the gross and subtle planes are interwoven, he says, “...a strong psychic aura of thought, mingled with the forces of life, mind and prana, will serve as protection against a psychic attack.” 

Practicing the pranayama techniques will build your subtle psychic defenses and keeping your body healthy will help you on the gross level. Try an asana practice, cardiovascular exercise, drinking plenty of fresh water, eating raw/unprocessed foods, and reducing your consumption of animal products (where the fear of the animal might psychically make its way into your body). These are all ways you can help the prana energy flow clearly through your physical body.  

For your mind you need positive thinking so that the prana can flow freely. Yoga Gupta describes, “If the Great Lakes are full of sand, the ships can’t move through them.” So you have to clear your mind of heavy thoughts so the prana energy can sail free on the still waters of your mind. 

For your spirit, to purify your 72,000 psychic channels- the Nadi’s- that conduct prana through you, you can attend Sri Dharma Mittra’s Psychic Development classes twice a week.  The psychic development techniques help clear out and strengthen this weblike psychic shield of your astral body. 

Sri Dharma and any of his teachers can help you learn Rhythmic Breathings, Nadi Purifier, Nadi stimulator, and Nadi Vibrator breathings. Additionally, Sri Dharma recommends regular chanting of the Mantra for Purification, to purify your body and surroundings. 

Awareness of psychic attacks is key. Please, do not be afraid of psychic attacks or resentful towards anyone you feel is psychically attacking you. The goal is to strengthen your resolve to live a strong, positive, and healthy life. Keep your mind tuned into this positive direction and, as Sri Dharma says “may you acquire enough energy for the practice.”


Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. "Offer up the fruits of your practice" is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is so grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.