“He expects us to just do these poses? What about some more prep or explanation? Do you really have to hold a headstand that long?” I thought.
It wasn’t Sri Dharma, it was me. I had to deepen my understanding of the practice to be receptive to the teachings. In time, Sri Dharma changed everything about my practice and my life.
I started my yoga journey in 2010 during a shamanic retreat in Brazil’s majestic Chapada Diamantina National Park. Before that, I practiced martial arts and was full of vices such as meat eating, drinking too much, and promiscuity. I thought yoga was something women did in heated rooms.
But as the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
During the retreat in Sri Dharma’s home country, yoga was offered and I felt an instant connection to it. I could feel the changes coming right away.
From Brazil I returned to South Florida where I lived at the time working as a crime reporter for a major newspaper. But I wasn’t the same. I no longer had an interest in my low vibration habits and I had a thirst to find a place to practice yoga. I found some good studios that carried me into the practice.
A little over a year later, I decided to quit my job, move back to New York and become a yoga teacher. I pinpointed Rishikesh, India, as the place to do my teacher training. It’s known as the “Yoga Capital of the World,” and it was good enough for The Beatles to spend time in an ashram there, so I thought it would be good enough for me.
I now see my studying in Rishikesh also as a connection to Sri Dharma, as that’s where his beloved guru did a lot of his work. So I started my yoga journey in Sri Dharma’s native country and made it official in the land of Yogi Gupta, his guru. I needed to go to India to come back to be receptive to the grace of Sri Dharma. I had to get on to his level.
As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
India was another one of my great teachers — meditating, bathing, and practicing asana beside the holy Ganges taught me what it is to do your work, but to also what it is to cultivate an art of effortlessness. As the Ganga flows, she teaches the lesson of living naturally without attachment or concern for the future or past. People come and go and still the Ganga flows.
This is how I see Sri Dharma’s classes. As I learned just by being beside the holy river, I learn by being beside Dharmaji.
It took me a while to discover this.
When I got back to New York City, I was determined to find a home studio. I didn’t even think of going to the Dharma Yoga Center because I went before I left for India and didn’t connect to it. For a year, I went to many big name studios and teachers in New York, but nothing clicked. That seemed strange to me. New York City seems to have more yoga studios than India and I couldn’t find one to suit me. I thought I’d just have to stick to a home practice.
But on Jan. 1, 2013, someone recommended I go to the 2-hour practice Sri Dharma offers on New Year’s Day. His yoga center was also offering free vegan food that day so I decided to go.
I walked in and sat close to Sri Dharma. The studio that I now call home was packed and silent. Sri Dharma started the class with closed eyes.
“Boo!” he suddenly yelled, and we got startled then laughed with him.
As we moved through the postures and Sri Dharma spoke, something shifted in me. After class, I told him what a great time I had.
“I saw when you came in here you were skeptical,” Sri Dharma said, then laughed and put an arm around me.
I was amazed that he knew that. And I was also content to have finally found my teacher and my home.