Now more than ever, we need “dharma”. Dharma, synonymous with being connected to nature, is about doing things that reduce stress and bring you back to the truth of who you are. Have you heard the new rage? It’s called Forest Bathing – It’s a kind of therapy or guided meditation that gets you to put down your device and go into nature to just be, open your senses, and experience the natural world. We are part of the natural world. But as we’ve become more digital, we’ve lost touch with nature.
Dharma, from the Sanskrit root, dhr, to make firm, to nurture, or to sustain, is the fabric of truth that underlies all reality. Sva Dharma means “one’s own dharma”. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches, “Better to act upon one’s own dharma poorly than another’s well.” He encourages us to be our unique self even if we aren’t perfect. The Tantra teaches that you are an original, a one-of-a-kind, a masterpiece of divine perfection – including your imperfections.
Dr. Douglas Brooks says, “Dharma is principled argument, law, and the deep feeling that the world has spiritual value. Without Dharma, we are doomed and with it we are held to rigorous account.”
Here’s another one of my favorite wisdom teachings on Sva Dharma from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you’er than you.”
One of the key aspects of the yogic path is the process of finding your dharma – your purpose in life. But often our dharma is buried under our “drama”. We all get caught up in the ups and downs of life. We remain like buoys on the surface of the ocean, always being thrown around by the waves. Dharma is your capacity to sink your anchor into the truth of who you are. For this to happen you must calm the waves of the mind.
It took me a long time to find my sva dharma. Like most people, my journey was circuitous. I went from being a classical piano performance major, to getting a BA in jazz. Then I found yoga, lived in an ashram and became a yoga teacher. After almost becoming a monk, I got married, left the ashram after a guru scandal, joined another community that ended with a leader scandal, and finally created Ashaya Yoga. I had no idea I was moving toward my dharma all along.
Yoga gives you the strength to follow your heart and do your dharma against the greatest odds. Yoga leads to truth – dharma.
Lying creates stress because you must fabricate a story, convince others of the lie, then remember the story so you tell a consistent lie to everyone. Honesty, as dharma, brings lightness and clarity. It sets your heart free. No burden to carry. Moreover, dharma is good leadership because you become a role model that empowers others to rise and stand for something they believe in.
In the Gita, when Arjuna sits down in his chariot and refuses to fight, Krishna tells him that he can’t dispossess his dharma. You must face the challenges in life and choose. Because you are free, you can choose not to act. But choosing not to act is adharmic. It goes against nature. You must stand up for what you believe and follow your heart even when it’s difficult.
America might run on “Dunkin”, but the heart runs on “Dharma”.
Dharma in Alignment of the Lower and Upper Arms
To build strength and prevent injury to the elbows, wrists, and shoulders, there is a technique in Ashaya called “Arm Rotations”. The lower arm rotates inwardly while the upper arm rotates outwardly. The arm rotations need to be balanced and aligned dharmically for optimal strength and power. But how much do you turn the lower arm in and the upper arm out? It depends on which way the elbow creases face. The elbow creases become the dharmic measurement. They are the litmus test and the way you ‘fact-check’ your rotations. If your arm rotations are out of sync, you could get injured.