Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark

Talking Shop with Dharma Mittra

Dharma Mittra—the master teacher behind the 908 yoga asana poster—shares his insight on the practice.

By Nicole Phelps

He's perhaps best known for creating the "Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures." However, Dharma Mittra's influence on the yoga world extends far beyond the nearly 50,000 copies of that poster that have been printed since Mittra completed the laborious project in 1983. (He cut and pasted every one of the tiny black-and-white images of himself on it; this was before Photoshop.) Many of his former students at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York have opened their own studios and introduced his style to tens of thousands of yogis across the country.

A vital 65, Mittra teaches weekly classes (still demonstrating poses) and holds teacher training courses at his Catskill Mountains retreat as well as in Miami and Brazil. He has also put together a book called asanas: 608 Yoga Poses (New World Library, 2003), a compendium of photographs from his groundbreaking poster.

Yoga Journal: How did you discover yoga?
Dharma Mittra: I grew up Catholic in Minas Gerais, Brazil, but I never liked it. I preferred the ideas of reincarnation and karma that I read about in my younger brother's yoga books. I was also fascinated with gymnastics and won titles in bodybuilding as a young man. Then I hurt my knee in the Brazilian air force in 1961 and was forced to spend six months in a hospital bed in Rio. I began practicing deep relaxation, trying to go beyond the body. In 1962, my brother left for America. Soon after, he wrote to tell me that he had found Sri Swami Kailashananda, also known as Yogi Gupta. There were no masters in Brazil, so I spent time gathering money and arrived in Greenwich Village on September 14, 1964. On my second day, I had an appointment with the guru, and that was when I became a full-time yogi.

YJ: When did you begin teaching?
DM: Not until 1967, when Yogi Gupta said I was ready. I lived in an ashram in a brownstone on 56th Street with my guru's other disciples, and I taught day and night. I was fortunate, because I was assigned to live with Yogi Gupta when he was in New York. I cooked for him, shaved his head. I was lucky to be near a saint, and I was completely devoted. Then, in 1975, I left the ashram and founded the Yoga Asana Center [now the Dharma Yoga Center].

YJ: How has the practice of yoga changed since you opened your studio almost 30 years ago?
DM: Some classes at some schools are getting too much into the physical. It's only about their figures for some people. Others do yoga to prepare for meditation, which they do only in order to succeed in their job. Too few practitioners today are looking for self-realization, which is the true purpose of yoga.

YJ: What's the best advice you can give to new students?
DM: If you have a guru, the most important thing is to copy them. Mimic their posture, move your head and your body the way they do. One day a long time ago, Yogi Gupta noticed that I was copying his body language, and he said, "That's the secret." That's how you learn.


Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark
Full Name
Address 1
Address 2
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email (req):

Reader Comments

Brandye

Sri Dharma is first and foremost a spiritual teacher. He always says "without yama and niyama, there can be no success". Ahimsa is the foundation of everything he teaches and practices. Yes, he can perform amazing physical feats, but he is the first to say"that is just for fun". He is a living master and the holiest being I've ever had the honor to be near.

Sam

I believe that Dharma Mittra is a great asana master. But yoga masters are spiritual teachers, not acrobats.

Dorothy

There is no one in Sri Dharmajis league.
He is the hidden treasure of Yoga in the United States.
Let he contiue to share his love of the teachings for many many years to come. He is the honest to God real deal.

See All Comments »      Add a Comment »

Your Name:

Comment:

Stay Connected with Us!

Yoga Journal Live events
sd14 San Diego
Sheraton San Diego
July 10-14, 2014
Register
2014 new york live New York
Hilton New York
April 24-28, 2014
Register

More Events

Join Yoga Journal's Benefits Plus
Liability insurance and benefits to support
teachers and studios.
Learn More
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 4 FREE GIFTS
Your subscription includes
Yoga for Neck & Shoulders • Yoga Remedies
Yoga for Headaches • Calm, Cool, Collected
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Yoga Journal
and my 4 FREE downloadable Yoga Booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions