Master Teacher: Yoshio Hama
A serious place for learning, Yoshio Hama’s class is not without levity. Recently while teaching a complicated sequence of arm balances, he said, “You have to get a little mean if you want to come into this pose… I do it instead of getting mad at my wife.” Hama started practicing yoga in Caracas, Venezuela in 1999. He studied Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Iyengar Yoga under the guidance of different yoga instructors until 2008 when he came to New York. The first studio he visited was the Dharma Yoga Center, and his first class was with Sri Dharma Mittra, marking the beginning of his spiritual path. He is a 200, 500 and 800-Hour Dharma Yoga Certified Teacher and teaches in several locations throughout New York City.
Devoted student and yoga teacher Sasha Petukhova said, “Yoshio changed my life. And he continues to with his real life grace, humble attitude, inner strength, and firm yet gentle approach. He taught me how to focus my mind and develop determination through regular practice. Yoshio is not just a yogi in a classroom; he is an example of a person living their yoga every day. He is a spiritual light to all his students.”
Kathleen Kraft: What does your spiritual practice look like day to day?
Yoshio Hama: My daily practice is to constantly reflect on the yamas and nyamas to act better in all situations in life.
My practice keeps me happy and ready for work. It’s my medicine. I wake up early morning and practice pranayama to heal the body and calm the mind, asana to keep the body in a good shape to serve others, meditation to keep attention on the Self, and relaxation to recharge the body and prepare me for the long journey ahead.
Through self-practice I can recognize my weaknesses and work on them, but I like to be a student as well. I love to take classes with teachers who inspire me and help me practice discipline, obedience and determination. It’s a time to go deep into my practice; there is nothing to worry about. I can close my eyes and concentrate. I attend Sri Dharma's Master Classes at least twice a week, and I try to take others teachers’ classes to understand different ways to experience the process of learning.
I’ve always taken my spiritual practice seriously, but I can't deny I am an active person. I like challenge. I like to get more flexible year after year, and go beyond my present limits to improve my physical, mental and spiritual practice.
KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?
YH: I've been practicing and taking yoga classes with different teachers for 18 years, and I’ve learned that the only way to build a good relationship between teacher and student is to attend their classes regularly. Being there day after day creates a space to know each other and to develop confidence, respect and trust.
Every person is different and comes to class for different reason, so the yoga instructor has to develop a sixth sense and use that intelligence to recognize different needs. Sometimes it’s necessary to feel the energy in the room before the class starts—sometimes people need a dynamic class with no pause, and other times people need a calm and deep practice.
For me, it is God’s blessing that I can teach and guide so many students through the physical and spiritual path. I agree with Sri Dharma when he says that teaching yoga is the best job in the world.
KK: Which sutra is guiding you and why?
YH :"Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah" is the yoga sutra that I connect with most. It means yoga is the way to place the body and mind in absolute silence. As soon as we develop the power to practice stillness, an amazing feel of quiet takes place. It is then that we can experience the Eternal one, the guidance of the Supreme Self that is deep within all of us. The Self is beyond the forms and names; it is through Him that all the answers will be revealed.
KK: Who has been a major influence on your life, your work?
YH: I came to New York 9 years ago from Venezuela to study directly with Sri Dharma. In that moment I didn't know that a teacher could change my life the way that he has. He taught me more than I never expected—not just asana, but how to live by the ethical rules of yoga and apply them in our regular life.
You can perceive his enthusiasm—he is always making jokes, playing with us and trying out different ways to try a pose. He pulls me up to another level of practice. Working next to him for the last 6 years had been the greatest experience in my life. With him I learned how place my Self in the service of others and how to teach yoga with compassion and love.
The books of BKS Iyengar have also been a big influence on my spiritual path.