Dharma Mittra: Interview with the Great Yoga Teacher

Like his pose chart, Dharma Mittra still inspires yogis around the world.

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Dharma Mittra

In 1984, before Photoshop magic, former bodybuilder Dharma Mittra created his classic “Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures.” Today the 68-year-old continues to inspire yogis worldwide with his challenging sequences, compassionate charm, winning humility, and message of devotion. In class, he leads a vigorous workout while encouraging students to make each move “an offering to God.”

How did you find yoga?

I was raised in Brazil. My parents were Catholic, but my family also had spiritual seekers. I was in the Brazilian air force for seven years. I studied yoga books in the ’50s. My brother, Sattya Mittra, two years younger than me, came to the States in ’62 and met Sri Swami Kailashananda, or Yogi Gupta. In 1964, I quit the air force, came to New York, and met Yogi Gupta. I didn’t speak one word of English, so my brother translated. In 1966, Yogi Gupta initiated me as a sannyasin [renunciate]. My name had been Carlos but was changed to Dharma [“friend of good works”], and I moved into his ashram.

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How was your famous poster born?

In 1975, I left Yogi Gupta and founded Yoga asana Dharma Yoga Center. In 1984, I took pictures of myself in poses using a Nikon and a remote control. In some postures, I had to click the remote with my mouth and spit it out seconds before the flash went off! I took the photos to be printed on a poster, 43 inches by five feet. I sold them for 10 cents each. Now the poster has been in New Zealand, Russia, India, all over. I knew it would be something, someday.

You’re vegetarian?

Yes! My father raised pigs. Pigs have feelings. I watched them kill 50 pigs one day.