What is your name and what is your favorite style of class to teach, and why?
My name is Marci. I love teaching Dharma Yoga. The practice and teachings of Dharma Yoga fundamentally changed my life. I feel a deep connection personally to the practice and it remains my own personal yoga practice. As a classical tradition, it is considered a complete practice. This sense of completeness feels very experiential for me. I have seen a significant reduction in my stress since I started practicing many years ago along with an immense increase in the amount of awareness I have in any given moment about what I’m thinking and feeling. My heart and mind has really opened up to possibility, I love people I care about in my life more deeply than I knew was possible, and I really savor the simple things life. It feels like a hardened shell that I was wearing for so many years to survive and get by in life as an overwhelmed go getter has melted away with this practice more with each time I show up to my mat. And as that hardening melts away, a softness that is open and receiving comes in.
I realized after practicing for many years that I spent a good portion of my life extremely disconnected from my body where some of the best information about ourselves lies. From emotions and feelings to guide me to what is best, to indications of when I’m stressed, the body is a miraculous wealth of information that I was missing for many years that Dharma Yoga uniquely reconnected me to.
I feel more whole, more complete, more authentically myself. I love sharing this practice because of how much it transformed my own life and how I’ve continued to be blessed to a witness to watch how it transforms others. Sri Dharma Mittra is really a living example of dedication, love, and the spirit of Yoga. His generous sharing of these teachings until now at at the age of 77 inspires me to share them with others. When a practice changes your life and you uncover a new level of joy, peace, and self love, how would you not want to give that away to everyone you know?!
Describe your personal circumstances or experiences that made you want to share yoga.
I tell people I came to yoga backwards, starting first with mediation and mindfulness. I had in my mind that I would become a religious scholar many years ago and was training for that, studying under the tutelage of different teachers of diverse traditions. And then yoga entered my life and everything changed. My meditation practice deepened, my mindfulness practice became far more profound, and I found myself yearning to be on my mat. Upon the urging of one of my teachers, I agreed to enter my first yoga teacher training. I took the stop to deepen my own personal practice and study. Then the opportunity to teach came up and the same teacher encouraged me to start teaching, so I did. I recognized it as an important responsibility of mine and blessing to share all the teachings I’ve received and continue to receive. Knowledge that we receive is a gift to be shared and passed on, not kept for ourselves.
When yoga entered my life, it created a pivotable shift in my life towards cultivating a level of joy I had no idea was possible in my life. I’m dedicated to sharing the practices and teachings that created such a beautiful level of empowerment and freedom for me with others, knowing that all practices, when practiced consistently, end up at the same beautiful watering hole of freedom.
What advice do you have to other sharing or seeking to share yoga with others?
First, share, share, share! Nothing is coincidence. Everyone who feels deeply connected to yoga and called to share the teachings should follow their heart and share. Each of us have a unique role in being a channel for something Greater and how those teachings are transmitted through each of us is entirely unique. And THAT is beautiful.
Second, share what is true for you. The practices that spark inspiration, awareness, joy, and peace. I think the most important piece of sharing yoga is to share the teachings and practices you have experienced yourself first hand. This keeps you grounded, focused on your own practice which can often get lost amidst sharing, and ensures an authentic transmission.
Third, be yourself. You could read a million articles and opinions about what to and not to do. How to and not to share. Share in a way that feels true for you. That feels joyful for you. If you’re experiencing joy in sharing, that is infectious and those you connect with will share in that joyful energy.
Please describe a challenging moment that you have experienced teaching, how you faced that challenge, and what you learned from it.
I recently received news from my mother that my uncle had passed while transiting between studios to teach. As a well of emotion started to rush over me in the taxi ride I found myself facing some important decisions. I was scheduled to teach my next class and I checked in with myself to make sure I felt that I could be present for my students. The answer was yes. Then I checked in with myself to see if I thought I could connect with a joyful energy for them, and I said yes. I choose to greet my emotion with a lot of love, acknowledge the mixed emotions of sadness and relief for the end of his suffering. When I showed up to the classroom I used it as a teaching opportunity before we began moving to share the recognition that life is always changing and the choice we have in each moment to celebrate the blessings we have that are easy to forget when we get caught up in the business of life. How I handled this news for me was a turning point in recognizing how much self love and compassion I have cultivated inside through my practice. And most of all, that as I give myself more and more permission to be human, I give my students permission to do the same. To let go of the pressure to be anything other than who we are. As students received my story with grace, it was a reminder of how much a softened heart with ourselves can create a softened heart in others.
What pose or practice do you like to teach to help students feel empowered? To relieve stress? Please describe how you saw this practice work with an individual or group.
For poses, I love teaching arm balances and inversions because students often have stories inside their minds about what they cannot do and when approached with an attitude of possibility, they often discover they can do more than they thought. One of my favorite moments in the classroom continues to be when a student gets headstand or an arm balance for the first time. The look of surprise on their face is one of the best gifts I receive. This process empowers them to open up beyond the limits of their mind of their mats as well. To go for the job they want. The relationship they want to cultivate. The article they want to write. Whatever it is, these poses that evoke a sense of fear in many teach us that if we have courage to show up regardless of our fears and believe in possibility, miracles can happen.
I also love integrating mindfulness and meditative teachings. This empowers students to realize the power of their mind and that with the turn of a thought they can fundamentally change their experience of reality. It’s empowering to realize that the only person that can steal our joy is ourselves. When we decide to stop being our own thief, we start being our best cheerleader.
And finally, chanting. When I first started chanting in a classroom as a student I found it awkward and strange. But I kept doing it. Soon it became my favorite part of the practice as I found myself relaxing into giving myself permission to sing without limitations, like a child again. It was so freeing to let go of the “”should’s”” and just enjoy the opportunity to sing in community. This celebratory practice is something I believe we have lost over time in modern culture and I love to reconnect people to in my classroom.
Describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice for which your students taught you a practical application.
My students teach me the power of receptivity. Without fail, I am often blessed to have a student come up to me after class and share how they have gotten into a pose they never knew was possible. Or how a teaching has transformed their job, relationship, or career path. I’ve had the blessing of seeing students move past their fears to recreate their lifestyle in big and small ways with a dedication to staying open. To believing possibility exists. To noticing when they are closing off and opening back up. My latest practice connected to receptivity is to notice when fear is coming into my life, to pause, and to connect with the mantra “I trust.” It is the knowing that if I trust myself, I trust possibility, and I trust that regardless, everything is always perfect…there is nothing to fear. This pause and mantra reopens my mind when its feeling constricted.
Please describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice that any of your students connect with and why. Have they taught you a practical application for this or any other pose?
I have seen many of my students connect with the meditative practice of gratitude and the power of how it transforms our minds. The energy of gratitude fills our internal well of fullness and creates a certain level of resilience that when challenges meet us (which is inevitable in life), we are able to meet them with more presence and bounce back more easily. I often encourage students to write a gratitude list on a daily basis, to start their yoga practice as an offering to someone or something they love, to celebrate the blessing of making it to practice when they could have gotten stuck in transit, to be grateful for the movement their body creates, the breath that their body initiates without even asking, and to their neighbors for creating the practice together at the end of the class.
How has sharing yoga affected you?
Sharing yoga turned my life upside down in a beautiful way. I fell in love with it so much I ended up leaving my office job and dedicating my time full time to sharing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, to teaching stress management programs, and intuitively coaching people to move from feeling overwhelmed to thriving much like I did over a healing journey process. Sharing yoga several times a week reminds me of the beauty of humanity, the richness of human connection, the inherent goodness in people, and the power of consistent practice to transform our lives. My students are some of the greatest blessings and teachers in my life. At the end of each class I feel more open than before, I feel more love, and I am reminded of how special these teachings are. I often learn something from my students questions, conversations with me, and how they engage the practice. My students keep me connected to my personal practice and spiritual path more than they realize and I can ever express. I am definitely the lucky one, so thank you for the opportunity to continue sharing with Yoga District!
Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes?
Non attachment, nonjudgemental awareness of what’s arising, gratitude, courage, and loving-kindness are the practices that guide my life most and I love bringing into the classroom. Non attachment, experiencing life without expectations and clinging is the single factor that allows me not to suffer. This means that sometimes the body has energy and can do a full energetic practice and sometimes the body needs ease and asks us to choose the first easeful options offered in a classroom. Nonjudgmental awareness of what’s arising helps to cultivate the sense of being the Witness. Connecting to that deeper changeless part of ourselves that can see what we think, feel, experience at any given moment. From this place of awareness we can choose the pose options, the thoughts, the actions, that cultivate our wellbeing, balance, and happiness. When we are unattached and aware of what’s arising, it creates space in our minds for facing our fears, expanding our minds and our hearts through gratitude and loving-kindness practices. I encourage students to exercise courage by trying options they believe their body cannot do and discovering for themselves what is possible. Each class includes an opportunity to dedicate the practice to someone or something each student loves. This act of an offering is both a way to connect with non attachment and gratitude for all the support we have in our lives at any given moment if we open our eyes to it. And finally, loving-kindness which is the cultivation of friendliness, love, kindness, and compassion towards ourselves and others. I love to include mantras and chants that connect our minds to this essence, and encourage students to exercise a lot of love and compassion towards themselves in their practice and their neighbors around them. Ultimately, whatever we cultivate on our mats helps us as we walk out the door of the studio. So the question is, what are you cultivating on your mat? Because it will follow you when you leave. This means that huge transformation can happen if we dedicate ourselves to cultivating specific qualities, skills, and states of minds on our mats. Science tells us we can literally rewire our brain. And that, is pretty miraculous. I love being a part of that process with community in the classroom.
What is your favorite thing to do around town?
My all time favorite thing to do in the city is walk, people watch and chat. I find DC to be such a rich place with fascinating people and places. I love striking up conversations with strangers since everyone has a unique story and perspective. I’ve had some of my biggest moments of insight from unexpected conversations on the metro and while waiting for tea/food. DC has taught me how to find wonder and beauty amidst the busy buzz of the city. I also love the arts, music, and creative scene in the city along with good food.
What is your favorite thing about the DC yoga community?
Diversity and size. As the community continues to expand, it feels like there is a class and teacher for everyone around the city. This makes the practice accessible and more likely that people will find their “yoga home.” I am constantly hearing about new gatherings, new styles, new events, and activities.
The people that compose the DC yoga community are pure soul gold. Most of my closest friends are from the DC yoga community, so I’m extremely grateful for the community and the opportunity to connect with some of the most beautiful people I know. These last few years have led to a cultivation of friendship at a level of depth I never knew was possible. That’s pretty special.
If you had to describe your life in the form of a yoga pose, which pose would it be?
Headstand. I recently had to stop practicing headstand personally because of a neck condition. This pose took me many years to finally master and soon became my favorite pose. It represented the fear that I decided to face and walk straight through every time I showed up on my mat to practice. When my doctors advised me to stop practicing headstand, the pose taught me how to let go and surrender. I’ve come to realize that fear is an invitation for spiritual growth, and letting go and surrendering to “what is” in any moment is how I can experience joy as life continues to change. This pose reminds me of how I conquered my fear and how I later had to let go as my body changed.
How long have you been in DC?
A little more than 10 years.
Meet Marci in the yoga classroom and/or sign up for her free, extended Dharma Yoga Maha Sadhana workshop-style practice and community potluck on Sunday, 11/13.