What is Dharma Yoga?

Alix Inness is a French dharma yogini, who teaches Vinyasa, Hatha Yoga and Yoga for Beginners on the Yogi2Me App. She’s just finished the 500-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra and his team of teachers in New-York. Dharma yoga has gained popularity in recent years but what differentiates it from other types of yoga? Find out what Alix has to say about this interesting yoga style. 

Dharma Yoga is named after Sri Dharma Mittra, a classical Hatha-Raja Yoga Master, who devoted fifty years of his life to the direct experience and dissemination of Yoga as a holy science.

Dharma Mittra learnt from Sri Swami Kailashananda i.e Yogi Gupta, who was one of the great sages of modern India and a complete master of all nine forms of yoga: Hatha, Raja, Kriya, Jnana, Japa, Yantra, Laya, Kundalini and Bhakti Yoga.

After spending over a decade studying with his Guru, Sri Dharma Mittra founded the Dharma Yoga Centre in New-York (DYCNYC); a temple for the body, mind and soul. I strongly recommend any yogis visiting New-York, whatever style of yoga they are practicing, to visit the Centre and have a direct experience of practicing and learning from him.

Without Yama and Niyama, there is no Yoga. ~ Sri Dharma Mittra

Dharma Yoga focuses on the Eight Limbs of Yoga of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga system and emphasizes the Yamas and Niyamas – the “Dos and Don’ts” on how we treat others (“Yamas”) and how we treat ourselves (“Niyamas”).

The first Yama:  Ahimsa – or nonviolence.

Dharma yoga is based on Ahimsa; – non-violence & love: love towards ourselves, and towards others. Sri Dharma Mittra is an engaged ambassador of veganism.  Yet, would never impose his beliefs or views towards others. He defines Ahimsa as not disturbing the comfort of anyone else, respecting everyone, and understanding that everyone advances at their own pace.

It is only when we are strongly established in Ahimsa that we develop what Sri Dharma Mittra considers as the most important attribute: Compassion; – The highest form of compassion is to see ourselves in others.  This is a sign of the beginning of Self-realization.  And the ultimate goal of Yoga is self-realization: realizing that we are not our body, we are not our mind, but the awareness behind; the supreme self.

Dharma Yoga weaves together many teachings in order to bring all students closer to the goal of self-realisation.

Work towards the full pose “with angry determination”

You have to get serious about your practice! ~ Sri Dharma Mittra Dharma Yoga as an asana practice is a graceful and challenging practice that encourages work towards the full pose “with angry determination”. Its grace carries practitioners to move in and out of the postures mindfully, like a dancer. Each movement unified: connecting the rhythm of the breath with rhythm of the body. Don’t teach too many postures; just the main ones, and hold them for a long time. ~ Sri Dharma Mittra

Classes are structured following his formula; a vinyasa standing series to warm-up every muscle in the body, followed by a carefully designed sequence of main Yoga postures, which are each held for a certain number of breaths. One of the most important asana, for Sri Dharma Mittra, is the king of the poses, Sirsasana – headstand.  Dharma Yoga includes many variations of the pose and each class often includes several of them.  Sri Dharma Mittra is famously known for standing on his head unsupported by his hands” – Niralamba Sirsasana! (Please do not try this at home!)

Finally, and most importantly, Dharma Yoga is a devotional practice, that encourages you to surrender fully to every pose, moving beyond expectation of any results, having acceptance of who you are and where you are in each and every moment. This surrender allows us to experience a release into each posture that can give us a taste of meditation; complete stillness and peace in the asana practice.

Experience mental clarity and radiant health

According to Sri Dharma Mittra, the asana practice is to bring “radiant health”, physical power and to become free from all diseases.  They purify the body and help to settle the mind.  But, the asanas are just a preparation for meditation.  They are not an end in themselves. If time allows, Dharma Yoga classes include pranayama (breathing exercises), to prepare for meditation which every class finishes with. Training with Sri Dharma Mittra was an amazing experience.  The sangha i.e the Dharma Yoga community, is a wonderful community, very loving and supportive.  I am very grateful to be able to share Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings in London.  You will be challenged in your practice, but always in a playful way, and you will feel the bliss at the end of each class.

A beautiful definition of Dharma Yoga I have come across is taken from the website of the Dharma Yoga Center.  Dharma Yoga is “a devotional practice that emphasizes good health, a clear mind and a kind heart.”

A piece of advice from me… Practice Dharma Yoga!


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