by Ali Valdez
Photos by Wari Om
Yoga is in constant expansion mode in our modern times. As a fitness phenomenon, yoga has officially uprooted sports, dance fads and the gym to be the number one most popular ‘workout’ for Americans. So are we seeing expansion of consciousness as a result, or are we suffering contraction in yoga’s potency, purpose and meaning? What can we expect or observe from a thousands year old yoga tradition when many of us are relatively new to the practice, and most of us just understand and conceptualize it through the lens of asana, limb three on a ladder of eight?
Although the scions of the old guard have passed away, leaving a momentous gap at the top and to some degree, heightened ambiguity as to where yogis can direct their drishtis towards the future, one esteemed yogi does not appear too worried, nor too attached to systems of old or fear of the future state of yoga. This wise man, legendary teacher and yoga community leader is Sri Dharma Mittra, who first encountered yoga as a teenager before meeting his Guru in 1964 and beginning his training in earnest. Sri Dharma founded one of the early independent schools of yoga in New York City in 1975 and has taught hundreds of thousands the world over in the years since. This is a man with perspective, having witnessed the ebb and flow, evolution and convolution of popularized yoga for over fifty years and here are his thoughts on why yoga today as always remains beneficial for all.
Q: Can the true essence of yoga be compatible with the current direction yoga in the West is headed?
SDM: Well, I’ll be able to describe just part of the essence, because the true essence of yoga is indescribable. The essence of yoga is to realize that an eternal portion of this all-pervading Supreme Self is the inmost self of all beings. It’s imperishable, omnipresent and ineffable. The essence is Self-realization is to realize what is beyond form, name, movables and of even intelligence itself.