The Real Dharma

This post was written in celebration of Sri Dharma Mittra, who’s 80th birthday is this May, 2019. To find out more about Dharma Yoga and the studio’s celebratory plans, from May 10-14th click here.

Everybody has a unique way of being. A way of talking, a way of walking, a tilt of the head, or a facial expression reveals a thought or emotion. During a conversation, some people are quiet, some constantly interject, some speak at a slow pace, and others barely breathe while talking.

You receive so much additional information about people when you’re live in their presence, observing their idiosyncrasies. And you learn so much more about a teacher – and the teaching – when you experience it in person.

With written words from books, blogs, and websites, we don’t hear the voice or see the facial expressions of the teacher. Even with video recordings of live lectures, the instruction is broken from its context – where did it happen, who was there, what happened just before, and what is to follow? A teacher’s words and tone speak to the live environment, and when you watch the video, your own environment won’t match the original. You won’t be part of the collective conscious of the original listeners, and therefore some of the conditions that inform you about how to listen to a lecture won’t be in place.

All of your past experience informs how you experience the present. When you read a letter from a dear friend, don’t you hear their voice? When you recall a memory or dream, doesn’t it bring the past alive again, as if it was happening in the present moment?

So if you truly want to learn, if you truly want to discover something new, and not have your expectations, environment and past experience dilute your understanding, then you must study live, face-to-face with your chosen teacher.

I learn so much from my teacher, Dharma Mittra, whenever I see him live.

I recently enrolled in a 500-hour teacher training at the Dharma Mittra Yoga studio, along with 49 other yoga teachers. Many of us joined a Facebook group, friended each other on Facebook, and followed each other on Instagram. My peers have shared so many beautiful, profound, inspirational quotes from Dharma via these platforms. And even though I was in the same training, awake and paying strict attention, this is not the only Dharma Mittra I know.

The Dharma I know is indeed the authentic Yogi who has earned the adoration and respect from the multitude of students who travel the world to study with him. But there is more to him than that. The Dharma I know also tells fart jokes and makes poop gags. The Dharma I know is slightly rebellious: he used to smoke, and sometimes sports a Mohawk. He gets frustrated with his spouse from time to time. Sometimes in class he forgets to do the Asana on the other side. And sometimes he goes off on tangents during his spiritual lectures until he notices that everyone who was listening is now completely lost.

Yes, the Dharma I know does inspire us to be better Yogis through being the most perfect example of a Yogi I’ve ever been so lucky to witness. And yet, Dharma also inspires us as a powerful example of how to be a regular human. I would never have known how important this is had I only seen the endless stream of perfect Yoga quotes and YouTube lectures.

Studying with Dharma live and in-person has demonstrated to me what a real Yogi looks and sounds like. And I can relate to it. Reality is human – not simply the perfect ideal we imagine it to be. As a result, I very much appreciate the opportunities I have to study from and be around Dharma, and I highly encourage you to seek out opportunities to study with him live. Who knows what you’ll see and learn? It may be everything you imagined and more.

About the Authors

Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata® Aerial Yoga, is an E-RYT 200 certified Yoga instructor of close to 20 years, while during most of those years also being a professional aerial acrobatics performer. Her most influential Yoga teachers include Dharma Mittra, Alan Finger and Cyndi Lee.

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