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Yoga Mandala is a stunningly beautiful studio on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. It hosts a core kula (community) that seems to truly be following its dharma (destined life path). Yoga Mandala’s mission has a definite spiritual foundation, but with classes in hatha yoga, martial arts, philosophy and Ayurveda – the Indian system of traditional preventative medicine – people from all walks of life practice here. A core community of members spends its seva (selfless service) looking after the daily running of the studio, an element which makes it feel like much more than just a business. As testimony to this, the five co-owners of the studio have yet to make a profit as they have thus far chosen to invest their revenues right back into the space they have nurtured these past three years.
Each day seems to house a ritual at Yoga Mandala. This appearance is actually right on the money since, technically, it doubles as a classic Hindu temple – one of only two yoga studios in the United States that can claim this status. As part of this process, in August 2005, Yoga Mandala invited several Brahman priests to install the life-size statue of Natharaj, the dancing representation of the Hindu destroyer/renewal god Shiva, to whom there are daily public pujas (ceremonies). Numerous effigies and portraits of gurus, mahasiddhas (great saints) and deities inhabit the deep-orange walls of the studio.
Yoga Mandala offers classes in the Kundalini, vinyasa and hatha styles. Practitioners have the option of trading seva for yoga classes, an option that contributes to the communal feeling fostered here. In addition to traditional yoga classes, Yoga Mandala is a research and education center, offering the opportunity to learn about and practice classical non-dual tantra, a philosophy and lifestyle all too often misunderstood by westerners and pop culture. At the root of this philosophy is the unity of all things. Tantra teaches that each and every person has the possibility within his or her self to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. It is a family- and community-based practice incorporating daily life instead of renouncing it.
At Yoga Mandala, a current and unbroken spiritual lineage is available to students. Dharmanidhi, co-owner and primary teacher at Yoga Mandala, is a lineage holder of the Sarasvati order. He is a disciple of Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda Sarasvati (Satyananda), founder of Bihar School of Yoga, who was a student of Swami Sivananda Sarasvati, a great yogi and saint from the beginning of the 20th century.
Dharmanidhi has spent his life studying the spiritual and healing arts. From the age of seven, upon seeing a television show on meditation and yoga, he began practicing. He has also trained in kung fu and meditation, plus chiropractic medicine, Chinese and Western martial arts and Ayurveda. Originally from the East Coast, he lived for many years in Australia before meeting his teacher, a connection which has led him to his path today.
The seeds for Yoga Mandala were planted just over five years ago when Dharmanidhi came back to the US, per request of his gurus in India, to teach tantra to westerners. Since then, this is exactly what he has been doing. Initially, he started teaching students out of his East Bay home. As the group’s commitment and size grew, they decided to start a business to sustain their course of tantric study together and as an extension of their spiritual paths. The fruit of their efforts is Yoga Mandala, a home for practitioners, academics and healers who are interested in exploring this powerful practice.
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