Yoga Journal - - Contents -

Clear ten­sion and stress from your body and mind with this yoga nidra prep prac­tice from Sri Dharma Mit­tra, founder of the Dharma Yoga Cen­ter in New York City.

YOU’VE STUD­IED YOGA AT YOUR LO­CAL STUDIO. And sweated through classes at work­shops and fes­ti­vals. But if you want to take your prac­tice or teach­ing to the next level, and have ever won­dered about study­ing with the world’s best teach­ers, Yoga Jour­nal’s new Master Class pro­gram can help. We’ve as­sem­bled nine world-renowned se­nior teach­ers, in­clud­ing Seane Corn, Sri Dharma Mit­tra, Aadil Palkhivala, and Shiva Rea, and we’re giv­ing you ex­clu­sive ac­cess to study with each of them for six weeks. From Aadil Palkhivala’s ex­plo­ration of Purna Yoga to Shiva Rea’s work­shop on the in­tri­ca­cies of Sun Sa­lu­ta­tions, you’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to study a unique va­ri­ety of es­sen­tial yoga top­ics that you wouldn’t get in a sin­gle teacher train­ing or work­shop. Over the course of this year-long mem­ber­ship, each Master Class teacher will of­fer his or her ex­per­tise and wis­dom in the form of weekly yoga prac­tices, dharma talks, guided self-study as­sign­ments, sup­port, and in­spi­ra­tion. Plus, you’ll get live we­bi­nars with all nine Master Class teach­ers, ac­cess to a pri­vate Facebook com­mu­nity, a one-year sub­scrip­tion to Yoga Jour­nal mag­a­zine, dis­counts on our events, and for teach­ers, ac­cess to low-cost li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance and a list­ing in the Yoga Jour­nal directory. Are you ready to get a fresh per­spec­tive, tap into an­cient wis­dom, and maybe even meet your life­long yoga men­tor? Start by check­ing out this is­sue’s Master Class fea­ture, in which Sri Dharma Mit­tra shares a home prac­tice de­signed specif­i­cally to pre­pare your body and mind for his in­ten­sive work­shop on yoga nidra. Then, visit yo­ga­jour­­ter­class and use the code MAS­TER­CLASS for a 20 per­cent dis­count on this in­valu­able learn­ing op­por­tu­nity.

Sri Dharma Mit­tra landed in New York City in 1964 and watched first­hand as yoga went from an ob­scure prac­tice to a com­mer­cial main­stay. At 77 years old, he has a few things to say about what he’s wit­nessed and how yoga is a prac­tice for all ages. We asked him to share his views on the evo­lu­tion of yoga, and why, as the once-master of con­torted asana (see his leg­endary poster, the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Asanas), he now places so much em­pha­sis on yoga nidra, or yo­gic sleep.

When I was younger, I bor­rowed a book from my brother about yoga and con­trol­ling the mind. It re­ally hooked me, so I de­cided to prac­tice. At the time, we were in Brazil and there were no yoga classes. But then, in 1964, I came to New York City, and my brother and I started study­ing with Swami Kailashananda. After three years, when my English was good enough, I started to con­duct hatha classes. In 1975, I asked my guru if I could open my own yoga cen­ter—the Dharma Yoga Cen­ter.

The ultimate goal of yoga is to re­al­ize that we are not our bod­ies. We are the seer, not the seen. We are con­scious­ness—the eter­nal wit­ness of body and mind. My

prac­tice now is fo­cused on the first and sec­ond limbs of yoga, the ya­mas and niya­mas, or eth­i­cal rules. I still prac­tice the poses to stay in good health, and I use tools like yoga nidra to strengthen my men­tal pow­ers and re­al­ize that I am more than my body.

I found yoga nidra many years ago, but it was only later in life that I dis­cov­ered its heal­ing ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing in­creased aware­ness and con­cen­tra­tion. It is a kind of ac­tive med­i­ta­tion. Some peo­ple call it psy­chic sleep. It is a com­bi­na­tion of tech­niques to place the body, like a corpse, into a deep, re­laxed sleep with­out dreams. I prac­tice ev­ery night. And when I’m feel­ing sick or tired, I prac­tice more fre­quently. I also prac­tice be­fore teach­ing work­shops, when I want to be more charged and en­thu­si­as­tic. And just like Savasana, ev­ery­one can do it and un­lock the se­cret to stay­ing re­laxed, which is to go be­yond con­scious­ness. Once you start a reg­u­lar prac­tice, you’ll be able to in­crease your pow­ers of con­cen­tra­tion. With con­stant yoga nidra prac­tice, you will be able to rec­og­nize that you are more ex­pan­sive than just your body; that you can achieve any­thing. You’ll be able to heal in all kinds of ways. I credit yoga nidra with stay­ing young. Yoga nidra will help you cope with all of the prob­lems of the world. Es­pe­cially here in the United States, peo­ple are more vul­ner­a­ble to tech­nol­ogy dis­trac­tions, which can cause at­tach­ments and there­fore prob­lems. But you can do some yoga or yoga nidra to calm down. You’ll soon see that you don’t have to be run­ning around like ev­ery­one else and al­ways on your phone. You’ll see that you don’t have to be dis­tracted; ob­sta­cles to

peace will be­come more and more sub­tle. Try prac­tic­ing yoga nidra at least 1o min­utes ev­ery day in or­der to not lose con­trol.

I keep vi­su­al­iz­ing the next time I re­turn to the world, 5o years from now. The world will be amaz­ing. There will be no need for the ya­mas and niya­mas be­cause peo­ple will be civ­i­lized. You won’t need to find a swami—in­stead, Googleananda will have all the an­swers. The planet will be al­most all veg­e­tar­ian; hospi­tals will be out of busi­ness be­cause ev­ery­one will be so healthy; there will be lit­tle vi­o­lence; and ev­ery­body will be liv­ing higher states of yoga, re­al­iz­ing they are all con­nected to each other.

In the mean­time, I am ded­i­cated to teach­ing the eth­i­cal rules of yoga. I want to pro­mote com­pas­sion and love for all be­ings. This in­cludes teach­ing about the ben­e­fits of be­ing a veg­e­tar­ian. When I eat an­i­mal prod­ucts, I can’t ex­pe­ri­ence higher con­scious­ness. If you eat too many an­i­mal prod­ucts, you can’t con­cen­trate— your mind can’t slow down. It is also a com­pas­sion prac­tice. Ev­ery be­ing is look­ing for hap­pi­ness, and ev­ery be­ing fears vi­o­lence, even an­i­mals. What we need in the world is more com­pas­sion—the abil­ity to see our­selves in all be­ings. When I was younger, I was ex­tremely sick and de­pressed, and look­ing for an­swers. I be­lieve be­com­ing veg­e­tar­ian helped me find good health, avoid colon can­cer, and ad­vance my prac­tice. The se­cret to hap­pi­ness is find­ing more com­pas­sion, stay­ing in good health, fol­low­ing the ya­mas and niya­mas, and hon­ing con­cen­tra­tion and other men­tal pow­ers.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll find a guru. If God and my guru were stand­ing in front of me, I would run to my guru and give him a hug first. Be­cause of him, I re­al­ized the goal of yoga. Through him, I have wit­nessed some­thing eter­nal, which is amaz­ing. I just want to share with the world what he has taught and shown me.

“The se­cret to hap­pi­ness is find­ing more com­pas­sion, stay­ing in good health, and fol­low­ing yoga’s eth­i­cal rules.”

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