Reflections of A Master Teacher: Dharma Mittra
This week we meet the legendary Sri Dharma Mittra who has been teaching yoga since 1967. Dharma Mittra first encountered yoga as a teenager. The founder of one of the early schools of yoga in NYC in 1975, he has taught hundreds of thousands all over the world. He is the model and creator of the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, the author of ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses, and has released two DVD’s to date – “Maha Sadhana” Levels I and II. Dharma continues to teach classes, workshops and lead his teacher trainings at the
Dharma Yoga New York Center and around the world.
Long-time student, teacher and Program Director at Dharma Yoga Center, Adam Frei, says, “It's remarkable that even having studied with Sri Dharma Mittra for over ten years, I am still learning new things from him, and that he still has the ability to present the most fundamental aspects of classical yoga in ways that I find to be revelatory. At almost 77, he is still so young both at heart and in his approach to life. When asked recently whether he would like to slow down and teach a little less, his response was that teaching is the best way he could spend his time. Sharing what he's learned and helping others.”
Kathleen Kraft: What does your yoga practice look like every day?
Sri Dharma Mittra: Since I already have my diploma, most of what I do now is just to address a specific condition or to keep the body healthy. For example, if the body and mind are not feeling positive due to some karma they are passing through, I might do Positive Breathing for 10-15 minutes to address this. To charge up for teaching, I like to do 10 minutes of Yoga Nidra when possible. I suggest the same for the teachers. When I teach a class including asana, this is my chance to get to do some of the poses and tune up the body a little bit. Occasionally, I like to go to the gym and, if the weather is nice and there is some water nearby or a nice pool, I love to swim. The diet is of great importance as we get older. It should of course be vegan if we are keeping the first ethical rule, but it should also include as many raw or just lightly cooked healthy foods and green juices as possible. I like to use the example of a car. If you have an old car, you need to put in the best quality fuel if you want it to run for as long as possible.
As for my teaching practice, I try to give people the best and most efficient techniques I have learned and practiced over the past 50 years. For example, if someone is coming for a class where the main area of focus is asana, I will try and include all the most important poses, as well as some deep relaxation/guided meditation in savasana. Really, most people who come to study with me need fewer poses, and more the relaxation and meditation. Also, even if it's a class where the main area of focus is asana, I will try and share something from my personal experience of yoga that might include pranayama, powerful mantras or some verses from The Dammapada or Bhagavad-Gita.
KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?
SDM: On both sides, I would say that receptivity and reverence are the most important. The student must be full of reverence to be fully receptive to what the teacher has to share with him. The teacher must show reverence for the portion of G-d within the right side of the heart of the student and be receptive to whatever is blocking the student from realizing it. If these qualities are there in abundance from both the teacher and the student, the student has a very high karma indeed.
KK: Which yoga sutra guides you?
SDM: My favorite is: Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. This is the best definition of yoga there is. We are so fortunate that we have all these beautiful techniques of yoga to help us to settle the mind. How truly fortunate are we -- we should all thank G-d every day.