Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why I Love Teaching Yoga

By Alexis Corchado 

©Jeffrey Vock

I’ve always been told that I have a natural teaching ability... So after a while, I accepted this opinion as fact and majored in Elementary Education in college and substitute taught as well.

But my major of choice became a drag and substitute teaching on and off for ten years in one of the worst school districts in the country wore my patience very thin. Many times amidst the chaos of the classroom I wondered to myself, “Why aren’t you teaching something you truly love with individuals that will appreciate your effort and commitment and in a loving and nurturing environment?” It was time for change and the immediacy could no longer be ignored.

Fast forward to last spring when the decision for change was finally made. After being re-acquainted with Yoga after a few year hiatus, it dawned on me: This is it! This is that “thing” I had been searching for.

I had instantly fallen in love with Dharma Yoga because I felt as though this was the Yoga of millennia ago; it felt authentic, natural and classical and I was in a state of fascination after that first asana class with Sri Dharma Mittra. It took me a nanosecond to decide that not only would I be a student at the Dharma Yoga Center, but that I would also enroll in the next Life of a Yogi 200-Hour Teacher Training scheduled. I decided then and there that I would teach Yoga and I knew that this would bring me joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

©Jeffrey Vock

Upon completing the LOAY Teacher Training (which was an experience worthy of its own blog post!), I was profoundly changed physically, mentally and spiritually and I was ready to take the gift of knowledge imparted to me by Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga teachers and share it with the world, or at very least anyone receptive to yoga!

As I sit here typing these words, I know that it was a wise decision to pursue Yoga as a vocation. 

So what is it that I love most about teaching Yoga? 
  • I find great enjoyment in sharing that which has impassioned me. Yoga has become my life to a significant extent. It is a love affair of sorts, and having the opportunity to expose another to the subject of my new found love is priceless.
  • I’m sure many teachers can relate to the incomparable feeling of taking a newcomer to the practice, (one who is sometimes full of judgments and reservations) and completely changing their outlook at the end of a class.
  • I’ve experienced with my students a shift in their perspective as well as their new found body and health awareness. I’ve observed long held misconceptions shatter and this fills me with a tremendous sense of contentment.
  • But it is the progress I observe in my students practice that is perhaps the reason I most love teaching Yoga.  In just a couple of classes I’ve seen students with very little flexibility and strength improve drastically. It is a wonder to share this with the students, some who have a tendency towards pessimism about their own abilities.
  • But Yoga being far from just a physical experience has also provided my students with a sense of what can be and what is possible on the mental and spiritual planes. I’ve taught public school teachers, who are some of the most stressed out individuals I have ever taught, and heard their praise of the limitless fruits of relaxation and gentle Pranayama. They speak of their sense of being transported to a different place, one where life is allowed to play itself out free of constraints created by time or obligations.
  • I’ve observed my students roll up their mats less jittery and unhappy than they were one hour previous. For 15 minutes at the end of class they experience a little slice of bliss. The fact that I facilitate this experience is one that I don’t take for granted no matter how many times it happens.
  • Yoga is amazing because it is a form of therapy for the teacher also.  When I’m fully present and in the teaching zone, not talking too much and giving my students the space to experience their poses, I find myself losing track of time and my own mental preoccupations. It’s just my students, their mats, and I, in one cohesive unit.
©Jeffrey Vock

As I complete my internship, I find myself increasingly excited about the prospect of teaching Yoga on a more full time basis. The more I teach the more aware of my student’s needs I become. Whether it’s the ongoing process of simplifying cues, offering variations to practitioners with different needs, or learning the art of pacing within a class, the challenge of instructing Yoga within itself is an element that makes me love teaching it even more.

The fruit of Yoga manifests itself in a myriad ways: confidence, physical and mental health, and a sense of who we really are beneath the veil of Maya, or illusion, are increased and nourished by this ancient practice. Being a guide for individuals on this path is what makes being a teacher of Yoga one of the noblest professions. Oh, and not many jobs allow you to come to the workplace in Prana Pants and a tank top :-) 

Alexis Corchado lives in Union, New Jersey. He has been practicing Yoga for about two years and is in the internship phase of his LOAY 200-hour Teacher Training. Off the mat you can find him playing in the mountains or on the beach or dancing the night away to Salsa and Merengue. Nature is his biggest inspiration and having a sense of place is part of his passion. Alexis is forever grateful for the presence of Dharma Yoga, and all that it represents, in his life.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How To Use Kriyas To Soothe Nasal Congestion

By  Liz Schindler 

Kriyas are ancient cleansing techniques designed to purify both the physical and spiritual bodies. The kriyas are effective processes that facilitate both physical and subtle purity. Purity, or Saucha, is one of the niyamas or yogic observances that yogis strive to achieve.

Some kriyas are morning practices, preceding pranayama and asana, and often facilitate clearing of the nasal passages, the digestive system and the psychic channels, as well as help ready the system for morning sadhana (practice). The kriyas shared here are especially helpful during allergy and flu/cold season to remove phlegm, clear the sinuses and airways and alleviate sinus pressure. For best results perform these kriyas daily.

Jala Neti

Jala neti is possibly the most widespread of the kriyas in the west. It consists of rinsing the nasal passageway with lukewarm saline solution or salt water, by using a small pot with a long spout to send the solution in one nostril and out the other. Neti pots are available in most drug stores, as are pre-mixed packets made for mixing with warm water and pre-measured for a net pot.

Jala neti clears the nasal passages, thins mucus and decreases the intensity of inflammation, making it very helpful in easing symptoms of allergies and sinus congestion and/or sinus pressure from a cold or flu. Jala neti also helps to flush the tear ducts, clearing mucus and debris from the eyes. Jala neti is associated with the ajna chakra or third eye and may help fine tune intuition, concentration and visualization.


1) Warm some purified water in a kettle and test the warmth on the inside of the wrist or forearm. The water should be a comfortable warm temperature and not too hot. Next fill the neti pot and mix in either one pre-mixed store-bought nasal rinse of your choice or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

2) To rinse the nasal passages, stand over a sink in front of a mirror and tilt your forehead forward. Begin by placing the spout in the right nostril, tilting the head slightly to the left and pouring the solution into the right nostril. You may feel pressure at first but the water will slowly start to come out of the left nostril, sweeping out debris in it's path and clearing the nasal passageways. After pouring about one half the contents of the pot, switch nostrils and reverse the rinsing process.

3) When you've emptied the pot perform a few exhalations through the nostrils to remove any leftover solution. Restrain from holding the nostrils and blowing the nose as this may force water and pressure into the ears.

4) Next, fold forward and left the head hang as you perform a few more exhalations through the nostrils. All water should be drained from the nostrils to avoid infection.


Kapalabhati is both pranayama as well as a kriya, and an element of a daily practice for many yogis. Translated as "skull shining breath," it is renowned for powerfully cleansing the entire respiratory system. Sri Dharma Mittra recommends practicing two rounds of kapalabhati daily for all those living in a large city because it is an excellent way to rid the airways and lungs of pollutants. In addition to cleansing the respiratory system, it offers the benefits of oxygenating the blood, clearing the mind, strengthening the abdominal muscles and diaphragm and is a simple warm up for any pranayama practice. Kapalabhati is the opposite of natural breathing as it consists of forceful exhalations and passive inhalations. Kapalabhati is a very powerful practice and is not recommended for those with heart disease, high blood pressure, a hernia or during an asthma attack.

Click here for a short demonstration: Kapalabhati 


1) Find a comfortable sitting position and a tall spine. Begin by passively inhaling or taking in just half of a normal breath through the nose. Exhale forcefully through both nostrils as you push the abdomen back vigorously (note: it may be helpful for beginners to place one hand on the abdomen to feel the correct sensation of the belly moving towards the spine during exhalation). Continue passively inhaling and forcefully exhaling, pumping the breath out in a rhythmic pattern. The exhalations should be faster than the inhalations and there should be one or two exhalations per second.

2) After completing a round of kapalabhati, breathe out completely. Then inhale deeply and hold the breath for as long as comfortable. Exhale slowly and begin the process again for the second round of kapalabhati.

* Beginners should perform kapalabhati for 10-15 seconds per round and can work up to two minutes per round as they become more advanced.

**If kapalabhati is inaccessible due to severe congestion, I sometimes employ bhramari pranyama (humming bee breath) as an alternative. The sound literally vibrates the sinus passages and facilitates drainage. To try brahmari pranayama make your hands into fists and point your index fingers, plugging the ears. Close the eyes and inhale and as you exhale make a high pitched humming noise with the mouth, as Sri Dharma says "like a female bee." Chanting mantra and om has a similar effect of vibrating the nasal cavities. The humming exhale should be loud and long. Perform three rounds.

Kapal Randra Dhauti

Kapal Randra Dhauti is a very simple kriya that can facilitate drainage of the frontal sinuses. It is recommended to perform this kriya dailu upon waking, after meals and again at night.

While sitting upright, use the thumb of the right hand to rub the space between the eyebrows.


Liz Schindler found yoga during a stressful period of her life and has returned to it again and again for over ten years to calm both body and mind. After moving to New York and beginning to study with Sri Dharma Mittra, she soon came to realize her need to share her love of yoga with others. Liz is a 200-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher. She currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yoga Nidra: Exploring the Deepest Relaxation Practice

by Marija Kundakovic

 “Yoga Nidra: Extremely deep relaxation with psychic instructions.” ~ Sri Dharma Mittra 

©Natasha Phillips
I fell in love with yoga because of savasana. This may sound strange (or lazy...?) to many people who practice yoga to improve physical strength and flexibility, because savasana involves simply lying on the mat for 10-15 minutes and relaxing. But it was exactly there, in my first savasana, that I started feeling that yoga was truly "working" for me. I could feel my busy mind finally getting less noisy, and I started being receptive to the present moment.

The majority of us are very busy and distracted by our daily duties, worries and little desires, without having the chance and time to stop and try to understand our true nature and what really lies within us. We identify with our ever-changing bodies and minds and with our egoistic constructs of ourselves that make us feel efficient and safe in the environment that we live in. We are constantly projecting ourselves in the future or getting caught up within the past. But how do we go beyond that? How do we reach our essence and improve our understanding of our surroundings and of our purpose in life?

For me, the answer lies in the practice of Yoga.  The Asana practice is only an introduction to what yoga can offer in terms of self-knowledge and self-development. Slowly, with my constant practice, I started being able to lose my body sensations and quiet my mind during relaxation and meditation, and to go beyond the regular frame of body and mind. This gave me a completely new perception of myself, with more subtle levels of existence and the awareness that there is certainly much more beyond my ego and its little wishes and concerns. Within my six-year yoga practice, I think that my first class of Yoga Nidra with Sri Dharma Mittra was one of the biggest milestones. 
©Natasha Phillips

Sri Dharma Mittra likes to say that, "relaxation is the best antidote for all impurities". Once after savasana in his regular asana class, he suggested we come to Yoga Nidra, in which you lie down in savasana and relax for an hour. As a long-time savasana lover, I thought, “Oh, that would be really nice,” and I decided to check out this class, expecting it to be, literally, a long, one-hour savasana. I went to class.  We were instructed to lie down in savasana, not to move or fall asleep, and to stay attentive throughout the practice while listening to the instructions.

It turned out that Yoga Nidra is an active meditation. Sri Dharma first guided us to bring the awareness to each part of the body, slowly starting from the left hand thumb and then moving through all the limbs, ending with the individual facial features and back of the head. This was followed by the stage in which we were asked to evoke the experiences of opposite sensations and feelings, such as sensations of extreme hot and cold, and very busy and quiet environments, briefly, one after another. We were then asked to visualize some images and landscapes and were led through an enjoyable imaginary journey.

I don't remember when exactly, but I can clearly evoke an amazing moment when I lost all my body sensations while being aware of everything that was happening. And then I felt like I was floating... And then I heard Sri Dharma say "you are everywhere" and I felt ... I was ... indeed ... everywhere...

©Natasha Phillips

The practice of Yoga Nidra ended with a resolution, "my will power is rapidly improving," repeated three times and we were then slowly brought to the regular waking state. I came out of the class transformed. I felt lighter, elevated, and refreshed. (Someone met me just after the class and asked me if I had a facial -- no kidding, inside and out!)

I wondered what exactly happened in that hour of Yoga Nidra (a.k.a. Psychic Sleep) which Sri Dharma said could substitute for several hours of ordinary sleep. As a scientist (that's my profession), I started reading articles and books to better understand with my mind what happened beyond my body, and beyond my "regular" mind in that class. 

Briefly, this is what literature says: Yoga Nidra is a method of inducing deep physical, mental, and emotional relaxation in which the body is in a sleep-like state somewhere between being awake and being asleep. Unlike regular sleep, the consciousness is maintained in Yoga Nidra. And, unlike the fully awakened state in which only the intellectual mind is operating, when you are able to completely relax in Yoga Nidra, the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind open, allowing the penetration into the depths of the mind that are not normally available. For instance, rotation of consciousness through different body parts induces physical relaxation while evoking the opposite, intense feelings in Yoga Nidra enables emotional relaxation. 

©Natasha Phillips

The visualization stage of Yoga Nidra, which usually involves images that have universal significance and powerful associations, brings the hidden contents of the deep unconscious into the conscious mind. The practice of visualization develops self-awareness and induces deep mental relaxation.  This practice also sets the mind into a peaceful and calm state that makes the unconscious mind very receptive to positive thoughts and suggestions, and this is why the practice ends with the resolve to increase will power (or any other resolution that the practitioner would like to achieve through practice). Please do not mistake this for hypnosis because the resolve in Yoga Nidra is made by practitioner, who is aware of it, and the teacher is there only to guide the practice.

During practice of Yoga Nidra, one’s consciousness travels from one layer to another, according to its current state and capacity. In some cases, the practice will bring only some sort of relaxation, sleep, or pleasant experience. Sometimes it may go very deep and bring fantastic experiences. The ultimate outcome of Yoga Nidra, similar to meditation, is total harmony and integration between all levels of consciousness and merging with the universal consciousness or achieving the highest level of consciousness, known as samadhi. 


Marija Kundakovic has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is currently a Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University in NYC. She is an epigeneticist studying how life experiences leave an imprint on our genes shaping the brain and behavior throughout life. In addition to her scientific quest, her yogic path has been essential for her self-inquiry and search for understanding of life. She is thankful to all yoga teachers that have left the imprints on her yoga practice, including the teachers from Chicago Yoga Center, Mandiram Yoga Barcelona, and Jivamukti Yoga NYC. She is particularly thankful to Sri Dharma Mittra and the teachers at Dharma Yoga New York Center. Marija completed the Dharma Yoga “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training under the guidance of Sri Dharma Mittra in June 2013. She is currently in the last stages of her internship and looks forward to sharing her knowledge of yoga with others.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Four Core Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita

By Gary Mark

Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, c. 1830 painting

“Bhagavad” means “God” and “Gita” means “Song.”  “Bhagavad Gita,” therefore, can be translated as “The Song of our Lord.” Krishna, one of many incarnations of The Lord, explains that he lives in each and every one of us, meaning that “Song of our Lord” is also the song that praises the beautiful divine within each one of us! As I type these words my heart cries tears of joy. I feel so fortunate to have found the Gita and to have found Sri Dharma Mittra.

There are four core concepts from the Gita which extolls the beautiful potential that exists vibrantly in each one of us and, indeed, in every atom of the entire cosmos, known and unknown, seen and unseen.

Concept one:  Look to your Dharma

Dharma can mean “law of the universe,” “social and religious rules,” and/or one’s own individual mission or purpose.  On the individual level, it can also mean a number of things. For example, in the Gita, Krishna points out to Arjuna that his Dharma is to be a warrior whether he likes it or not. He cannot escape his Dharma and he must fulfill it. Arjuna is a warrior for what is right and just. He is not just a warrior for fighting’s sake. His Dharma must be grounded in a proper purpose. Whatever role we are fulfilling at the moment is our Dharma at that moment.

Applying this on a personal level, I followed my Dharma as a Finance and Accounting professional for the last 30 years. Recently, coinciding with my new practice of Yoga Asana and study of Hindu or Yoga scriptures, I began to find less and less meaning in my profession. I am now in a period of transition, seeking to find a new and more meaningful personal Dharma.  I am a “householder” (someone who lives among and provides for his or her family), and as much as I would love to throw caution to the wind and become a Sadhu, I need to be mindful of the effect of my actions on those around me. Therefore, following the counsel of the spirits, I am proceeding on a step by step basis, finding my way with the Lord’s merciful guidance.

Concept two:  Do it full out

Both Hinduism and Buddhism extoll this virtue of absolute commitment.  In fact, many books have been written about the power of focus and single-mindedness, including the Gita. I first learned about this concept when I began practicing Buddhism in 1977 and I poured myself wholeheartedly into my career development. As a result, I was very successful from a materialistic standpoint. Success in life is no accident and it is a result of pursuing one’s Dharma full out, no holding back.

Upon looking back, I see that I did not always carry out my Dharma as a husband and father and I have made mistakes that have impacted others’ lives unfavorably. Had I had the vision to take the longer and broader view on things, I may not have made these mistakes. I feel that I was more concerned with material success at any cost, even if others had to pay a price. I now see that I was not acting properly in these and probably many other cases. In this last chapter of my life, I would like to pursue my new Dharma with more mindfulness and focus on proper context and big picture focus.

Krishna displays hisVishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 11).

Concept three:  Let go of the fruits of your labor

When we invest our efforts or resources, it tends to take on our self-identity in our minds. Subconsciously, we associate this identity with life/death.  This mistaken association leads us to regard all critics or those who appear to get in our way as mortal threats to be neutralized, lest we “die.”

The Gita exhorts us to release this incorrect view and to realize that our self and the phenomenal world at large are not real.  What is real is “Self,” the divine within all life, sentient and insentient. Even the air we breathe has the divine nestled in every particle. Therefore, instead of jealously guarding our self-worth, we are much better letting all that go and acting out of gratitude for the opportunity to work on our Dharma. Krishna says we our entitled to work, but not to any of the fruits of our work. When we adopt this attitude, all we can feel is gratitude, no matter what happens.

I have found that as I endeavor to embrace this concept, I am shown which areas need work and I am grateful to be shown these things and grateful to be able to improve so I can one day serve others with gratitude and without attachment to the fruits.

Concept four:  Offer it all up to the divine

I feel this concept is closely related to its predecessor. How much easier it becomes to let go of the fruits when one is offering every moment up to the divine. The ultimate form of this is when one feels that God is acting through him/her.  In truth, this is what is happening all the time, we just fail to see it and that failure results in suffering and angst.

Sri Dharma Mittra has a saying on his website and in his teachings.  He says, “Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed.”  

I believe this last sentence resonates with this fourth core concept from the Gita upon which this post is focused. It provides a very practical way to begin to incorporate this concept in one’s life. Begin the day focused on God and end the day focused on God.  What a beautiful way to live! Om Namah Shivaya.


Gary Mark has practiced yoga for the last three years and studied Bikram and Dharma Yoga during this time. He has spent the last year studying intensely at Dharma Yoga Los Angeles and completed his LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training and Certification at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in June to September 2013.  Gary is currently enrolled in the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

12 Recommendations to Assure Radiant Success in Yoga in 2014 and Beyond

By Sri Dharma Mittra, edited by Adam Frei

1.    The secrets to success in yoga are constant practice, lots of repetition and perfect obedience to the teacher and the teachings.
2.   Do something occasionally to radically shift the mental state, i.e.: spiritual singing (Kirtan) with enthusiasm or try sneaking up on someone without a heart condition and scare them.
3.   Come to recognize that Asana (posture practice – the 3rd limb of yoga) is a great tool and help, is part of the overall process of purification that is yoga and leads to radiant health and wellness when done regularly, but on its own is not yoga.
4.   Hold the breath a little each day, i.e.: do the main breathing (Alternate-nostril Pranayama) each day.
5.   Meditate, but meditate in a way that's productive. Going into a trance state where you don’t know who or where you are may leave you feeling some bliss, but will not help you to attain Self Knowledge. Study the yoga scriptures and bend the thoughts to always trying to discover the how and why of everything. Then you will indeed make rapid progress in yoga.
6.   Remember G-d always and learn to recognize Him in everything. Be kind to everyone. By placing yourself in others, you develop compassion.
7.   Recognize that making your best effort each day is more important than perfection in the practice.
8.   Engage regularly in Karma Yoga. Taking action dedicated to others and with no expectation of any fruits from said action is a Sadhana or spiritual discipline that is available to all. Do it because it has to be done and expect nothing.
9.    Study scripture / follow something outside yourself to ensure that you are on the path, and not being led astray by the ego.
10.Observe Yama and Niyama – the Ethical Rules and Yogic Observances – the first and second limbs of classical, Eight-limbed Yoga. If you don’t know what they are, find out and put them into practice. Without Yama, there is no yoga.
11. Clean up the “house” (the body) and the diet, or else you go no-where. Eating flesh or other animal products represents a lack of compassion. Work on your compassion every day through the choices you make concerning the manner in which you feed this body since this has a great effect upon the mind and your spiritual progress also.
12.Be receptive. Discover your tendencies and do lots of what helps you to make rapid progress, i.e.: the style of yoga and / or the teacher and techniques best suited to you. Once you find what works for you, do it every day without fail. Then you will surely achieve radiant success in yoga. 

Legendary yoga teacher Sri Dharma Mittra first encountered yoga as a teenager before meeting his Guru in 1964 and beginning his training in earnest. Sri Dharma founded one of the early independent schools of yoga in New York City in 1975 and has taught hundreds of thousands the world over in the years since. Sri Dharma is the model and creator of the “Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures”, the author of ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses, has released two DVD’s to date – “Maha Sadhana” Levels I and II, and the Yoga Journal book Yoga was based on his famous Master Chart. Sri Dharma continues to disseminate the complete traditional science of yoga through daily classes, workshops and his “Life of aYogi” Teacher Trainings at the Dharma Yoga New York Center and around the world. For more information on all things Dharma, please visit:

Adam Frei was born in Stamford, Connecticut, grew up in the wilds of West Redding, and is now a New Yorker. After years of mostly solitary Sadhana practice, he found his way to Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra. His entire practice changed during that first Master class, and he must have done something extremely rare and good in a previous incarnation to have finally met the teacher in this lifetime. He is grateful to have taken part in the transformative Dharma Yoga 200 and 500-Hour “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training intensive immersions. They helped him understand that teaching is just one more component of practice as we all strive to copy the teacher in word, thought and deed. He has been teaching at the New York Center and beyond ever since his first teacher training and, after years of involvement with the Teacher Training programs on the staff side, is now blessed to be the director of these programs.