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Dharma Mittra Biography

by the Dharma Mittra Yoga Center

Dan Kaplan

Legendary Sri Dharma Mittra has spent most of his life in service to humanity, disseminating the ancient knowledge of how to achieve radiant health and spiritual development. Dharma was born in the late 1930s and has studied yoga since 1958. After meeting his teacher guru, Sri Swami Kalaishananda, he immersed himself in intense study and practice of the classical eight limbs of yoga and nine years of dedicated full-time practice of karma yoga. He was accepted and initiated as a sannyasi, one who renounces the world in order to realize God. During these years Dharma had the esteemed honor of being the personal assistant to the Guru attending to all his needs. Sri Swami Kailashanada is known as the first Guru to bring the practice of live-food Yoga Diet, Zone Therapy, and hatha yoga to the West in the early 1950s.

Dharma taught only for his Guru with selfless expectation, after years as a full-time yogi and bramachari, a celibate religious student who lives with his teacher and devotes himself to the practice of spiritual disciplines. He was the main demonstrator for the yoga asanas in the Guru’s public lectures in the ’60s and ’70s. After being a celebrated teacher for many years at his Guru’s ashram, he left in 1974 and founded the Yoga Asana Center, currently known as Dharma Mittra Yoga New York Center.

Dharma is the first main independent yoga teacher on the United States’ East Coast, inspiring hundreds of thousands on the path of yogic practice and teaching. Dharma began disseminating this knowledge before “styles” of yoga became popular and has remained truthful to the original classical practice. Dharma has literally been teaching classes daily since he started in 1967. To this day he still makes himself available regularly to anyone who walks through the doors of Dharma Mittra Yoga New York Center in need of help and direction. For his dedication and fortitude, he is known as “The Legend” and “The Rock of Yoga,” and for his experience and knowledge as the “Teacher’s Teacher.” Sri Dharma continues to inspire, enlighten, and reveal to yoga practitioners today the real meaning of yoga.

Sri Dharma, an important yogi, is the creator of so many of the advanced yoga postures and variations that have been popularized today. His book and poster removes any mystery. His postures are on the covers of so many magazines today. This is a little-known fact due to his indivisible humility. His almost 70 years represent a living version of the benefits that yoga’s ethical and physical practical teachings can bring us all—he is the proof itself. Students of all ages are inspired and in awe of his abilities in his advanced postures. Dharma is an always accessible living link between classical and modern yoga today. Teaching daily for the past 42 years, Dharma continues to give with no end in sight or strings attached. He serves humanity, making the impossible possible and preserving and restoring the true meaning of life and yoga as only he can. He has influenced so many of the known teachers of today.

It is my greatest joy to share with students this knowledge that I have acquired in the past 50 years of practice and study. Yoga practice will give one’s body the power and strength to have resistance to common illnesses and diseases. With constant practice, one can improve his physical body and mental attitude rapidly, thereby igniting the higher motives of making ones self useful to himself and all mankind.
—Dharma Mittra

Dharma diligently teaches the yamas, the first step of yoga, setting the greatest example for it in his life. He tirelessly promotes ahimsa through vegetarianism, a live-food yoga diet, and kindness to all living beings, especially our inferior brothers in the animal kingdom.

I am so happy with how Dharma’s training has changed my outlook on life, and how it has made the way I teach so much more heart felt and effective.
—Student

Dan Kaplan

In 1984, Dharma completed the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, as an offering to his Guru and for all yoga aspirants. This original masterpiece was meticulously assembled from over 1,350 photographs of posture variations he took of himself, all hand done before the computer age. It has been an invaluable teaching tool over the past decades. In 1975 Dharma made the Sun Salutation and Yoga Course Poster. This includes all hand-done drawings and art work, as well as photographs and two yoga class programs. Dharma is the author of the book Asanas 608 Yoga Poses, published by New World Library, featured in American Yoga, and is the inspiration for Yoga Journal’s book, Yoga. His Maha Sadhana DVD set, which includes Level I: A Shortcut to Immortality and Level II: Stairway to Bliss, has been widely acclaimed as a preservation of the main teachings of yoga. Dharma Mittra, A Friend to All, is a biographical book documenting experiences of his students from the 1970s on.

When Dharma came into the room, my immediate impression was that he was someone of such great physical and spiritual presence, but that it was as natural as his skin to him. I had placed my mat near the ’back’ of the room so as to be inconspicuous, but then of course we were turned around and I wound up sitting right in front of him for his talks! And I was so glad that happened. Looking into his eyes as he talked to us, such a clear and calm light shone from them. I tried to listen intently and retain what he was saying, as each small comment seemed very important. And the asana practice, while definitely one of the hardest workouts I’ve had, was immensely rewarding. At the end of the workshop, I felt very light and energetic, and my headaches which are usually a constant in my life, were just not there!
—Student

Dharma continues to travel the world in order to disseminate his powerful message and sacred teachings. The 200- and 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings he leads have brought about many of the young accomplished teachers of today. These certifications are now being held worldwide. Anyone having the opportunity to study with this living master is highly encouraged to do so. There are not many of his stature remaining in the world today.

Dharma Mittra, with an engaging personality, stated honest, raw, uncompromising yoga philosophy straight from the Upanishads, Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad-Gita. I know his physical prowess drew many people who would otherwise never have heard someone talk about real yoga.
—Student

I really enjoyed the practice, and I greatly appreciate the chance you gave me to learn something from one of the Greats of Yoga. I hope to be able to effectively incorporate into my classes and my own practice some of the breathing and other techniques presented by Sri Dharma Mittra.
—Student

Find out about Dharma Mittra’s upcoming programs at Kripalu.