“We are not this body and we are not this mind. We are love, knowledge, & spirit absolute”
Just yesterday, August 30th, Dharma Yoga LA (originally named Dharma Mittra Yoga LA “DMYLA” in honor of beloved guru Sri Dharma Mittra) celebrated its seven year anniversary. Honoring seven years of DMYLA fills my heart with gratitude and serves as a reminder of all that this sacred space has cultivated for the Mid-City/East Los Angeles yoga community. Seven is a particularly significant number. There are seven energy centers (chakras) in the human body, through which the sushumna nadi (central energy pathway) runs. This pathway carries prana (life-force energy) from the base chakra (muladhara charka) to the crown of the head (sahasrara chakra). It is through the refinement and opening of these chakras that prana may flow freely. This means elimination of energy blockages. One specific blockage that DMYLA has cleared from my body was a deep attachment to my practice and my life, the singular “me and I.” Even now, I find myself reflecting on the impact that this studio has made on my personal existence. The difference is that I now realize that this individual experience is not mine. Rather, DMYLA is ours; this studio is something shared and carried within all of us.
Rene Descartes famously asserts in the Discourse on the Method that there is something about thought that indicates undeniable existence. The timeless claim in his Second Meditation, “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes 80) frames one’s stream of consciousness as evidence for existence. For Descartes, thought alone is inseparable from “me” or “I” (Descartes 82). However, long ago before Descartes, yogis were experiencing the enlightening bliss (samadhi) that requires stilling the mind and essentially turning one’s thoughts off. A state of samadhi entails merging with one’s environment, engrossed in deep meditation and spiritual devotion. In surrendering identification with the body and the mind yogis discovered the true self.
Perhaps as yoga instructors, our ultimate goal is to guide students away from the modern reliance on one’s personal thoughts (as illustrated by Descartes) to affirm one’s existence. Sri Dharma Mittra passes down the ancient wisdom to us through his teachings and through his practice that moving outside of oneself is necessary in order to meet with the Divine Self. In abandoning the notion “I think there, therefore I am” us yogis retreat to the mantra “So Hum,” which literally translates to “I am.” Often in class Sri Dharma Mittra guides the So Hum meditation prompting students to recognize I am you and you are me: I am that, that I am. Repeating “So Hum” quickly, the mantra transforms into “Hamsa,” (the So and Hum blending together). From this, the full knowledge that all things are one becomes inescapable. As Sri Dharma Mittra always says, we pop the bubble of individuality and isolation to join the whole.
Ironically, yoga actualizes the manifestation of the true self by offering a way to escape one’s worldly sense of the self. A precise translation of the mantra “Hamsa” is “I am the swan, the liberated spirit.” Yoga liberates the yogi from the physical vessel through which the Divine Self navigates the world (the Adhara). Be it through Hatha Yoga (physical devotion), Pranayama (breath-work), or Svadhyaya yoga (spiritual discourse), the goal is to integrate and unionize with the collective spirit.
In celebrating the seven year anniversary of DMYLA we also honor the fact that yes, seven is a special number. Seven signifies that shared chakra energy buzzing throughout all of us. Therefore, we are also celebrating our own personal history and the unique energy blockages we carry. Recognizing such blockages grants us the opportunity to grow and transform. In practicing yoga we leave behind what does not serve us to find our truth.
As Sri Dharma Mittra would say “We are not this body and we are not this mind. We are love, knowledge, & spirit absolute.” Here’s to seven years of our Dharma Yoga Bliss. May we continue to seek self-realization by evolving together.