Buddhism on a Sticky Mat

Dharma Yoga

Words by Keith Kachtick  Photos Eric Morales

From novelist and Texas Monthly writer to Buddhist yoga teacher, Dharma Yoga founder Keith Kachtick brings Eastern mindfulness to stressed-out east-siders.

The road for me to get to the east side, like most things Austin, was weird. Thirty years ago, I was waiting tables at the Texas Chili Parlor, a gig that led to meeting the never-before-interviewed daughter of Lee Harvey Oswald, which led to writing for Texas Monthly, which led to moving to Manhattan and meeting a Buddhist monk who invited me to teach meditation with him in New York City prisons, which led to writing a novel about Tibetan “hungry ghosts.” In 2004, shortly after the novel was published, I returned to Austin to give a reading at Book People. Driving around the UT campus the night of the reading, after two decades on the east coast, perhaps inspired by the omnipresent smell of breakfast tacos, I decided to move back to Texas and open a Buddhist yoga studio. I had no training in business, no connection to the Austin yoga community, but opening Dharma Yoga was the best decision I ever made. Early on, the studio resided on Guadalupe, in the original Half Price Books. Three years ago, while biking through east Austin, I spotted a for sale sign beside a rare free-standing live-in commercial building on Manor Road, near Mueller Lake Park. I promptly relocated the studio and moved in with my dog. My commute to work is now a barefoot stroll down a pinewood hallway. There are no landlord hassles, and my front yard is a beautiful 30-acre greenbelt and pond. Moving Dharma Yoga to the east side is easily the second best decision I ever made.

Since we opened in 2005, over 10,000 Austinites have come to Dharma Yoga. Our visitors range in age from 15 to 80, with as many UT professors as co-eds, and include novelists Oscar Cásares and Mary Specht, east side chef Chris Turgeon, musicians Darden Smith, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and members of Arcade Fire, artist Stella Alesi, and Tibetan meditation teacher Lama Surya Das. Becca Hensley, an international travel writer specializing in yoga and wellness spas, says, “I’ve been to ashrams in India, studied yoga in the Yunnan, Bali, Mexico, the Caribbean, Switzerland, Italy, Africa and beyond. But this is the studio I want to come home to. Dharma Yoga is a treasure chest with its lid flung open.”

In addition to our 27 weekly public classes with everything from Gentle Hatha to advanced Vinyasa Flow, a morning meditation series, workshops, and musical events, we offer private one-on-one sessions with Dharma Yoga’s co-director Camilla Figueroa, MSSW, a clinical therapist who specializes in women’s issues, including trauma from cancer, sexual abuse, eating disorders, domestic violence, and peri-natal loss. We’ve trained and certified over 500 Dharma Yoga teachers, who now work in almost every yoga studio in Austin, as well as nationally and internationally. Adam Deatherage, a recent graduate, says, “I drove from Wichita Falls each weekend, over 7,200 miles, to take Dharma Yoga’s teacher training, and I don’t regret a single mile. I got a job within two weeks of graduating.” Erinn Lewis and Mark Herron, co-owners of popular Sukha Yoga in south Austin, are both Dharma Yoga graduates. “So much of my personal meditation and spiritual practice was cultivated during the years I spent with Keith and Camilla at Dharma Yoga,” says Lewis. “And now Buddhist teachings and practices are an integral part of what we offer at our studio.” However, you do not have to be a Buddhist to practice at Dharma Yoga; all are welcome.

The décor of the studio is Tibetan meets industrial Danish. Our practice room holds thirty mats and meditation cushions. Having no mirrors, we go inward, not outward. There’s no artificial heat, and no sense of competition. Classes festively blend asana, mindfulness exercises, Thai yoga massage, Kendrick Lamar-fueled “shaking meditations,” pranayama, and sacred chanting, with quirky themes like “Fibonacci Sequence as Metaphor for God” and “Zen Handstands.” The guiding, awareness-based principle of Dharma Yoga can be helpful for anyone who ever feels stressed out: rest in the silence between our thoughts, and eventually we realize we are the silence. We welcome you to our sangha!

3317 Manor Road

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