The Mid Collective + TRIP


Apprenticeship Winter 2009-2010
Gabriel Halpern
Yoga Circle
401 W.Ontario Street, #210
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-915-0750

I have taken a few Iyengar classes before and got very interested in the particular practice. Wanting to learn more about Iyengar; I received the opportunity for me to do an apprenticeship with Gabriel Halpern at Yoga Circle in Chicago, I became immediately excited.

Gabriel learned under B.K.S. Iyengar. As his website states, ” Gabriel Halpern holds a BA in Philosophy, As well as a M.A. in Health Psychology, He was trained at the Iyengar Yoga Institutes in San Francisco, CA and Pune, India. Gabriel has practiced since 1970 and gives workshops nationally. He is the founder and current Director of the Yoga Circle in Chicago, IL since 1985.

For the past twenty one year’s Mr. Halpern has also been a core performance faculty member at De Paul University’s Theater Department. In 2010 he will be harvesting 40 years of experience with Hindu Gurus, Buddhist Monks, Hasidic Rabbis, Christian Anchorites, Sufi Shaykhs, Native American Shamans, Celtic Wiccans, Occultists and Alchemists of all persuasions. Owing to the direct influence of BKS Iyengar and 4 decades of continuous study, Gabriel’s teaching is all that is yoga: zeal in practice, science, art form, lifestyle, and mystical mentoring.”

I did not know what an apprenticeship meant nor did I know much about the Iyengar style but, I knew I was very curious and very motivated to learn.
I e-mailed Gabriel and found out that he actually has an apprentice class twice a week and he invited me to join. I decided to take the 2 hour apprentice class once a week but in addition to also do his advanced 2 hour Iyengar class; which ends right before the apprentice class. I committed to 4 hours of yoga once a week with Gabriel.

Each class begins with chanting Om and the Invocation to PataƱjali, which is a chant believed to be over 2500 years old. This invocation is a prayer honoring and expressing respect to PataƱjali, the Indian sage and author of The Yoga Sutras.

After that introduction, we do a sequence of mudras. The last mudra is held for 5 minutes with closed eyes in silence. Next we begin the yoga poses, every one of them is held for 3-7 minutes, which actually timed by a stop watch. Gabriel talks while we hold each asana and shares different life and yoga philosophies. Note that although the rituals are the same each class is different and has a new intention.

The last class of the month is always a restorative class focused on restorative poses, they are traditional yoga postures modified and supported to cultivate physiological relaxation, release tension, and rest deeply. It is a great complement to an active yoga practice.
Iyengar utilizes a number of props such as: different shaped bolsters, various shaped blocks, straps, blankets, mats, benches, and even swings, ropes and straps, which are attached to the wall and ceiling.
Iyengar focuses more on the alignments of the different poses then Ashtanga does in comparison of the two styles. Iyengar Yoga is different and “emphasis on standing poses that develop strength, vigor, and correct alignment, supported inversions and backbends that passively relax the nerves, use of props to facilitate ease and depth of learning, specific sequencing of postures for general and therapeutic benefits, and careful, individualized adjustments.” The class always ends with Svanasana.

After the advanced class, the apprentices get ready for the next class. This class is a Gentle Yoga class, for those who are currently under medical supervision being advised to do yoga. Each student has a unique and different, usually medical issue and need for yoga. Most of the time there are enough apprentices to assign each student/client with his or her own apprentice. The apprentice then has to fill out a standard history and physical form by asking the different medical issues of the student/client and the reason for their visit to the Gentle yoga class. The medical history is being established and noted.

A second form is being used throughout the class, which notes the different poses done with the student/client, explaining the purpose, props used and effect of the performed asanas on the student
Gabriel then circulates through the room, talking to every student and apprentice to establish the order of poses and adjustments that need to be done for every different students needs. The apprentice assigned to the student/client gets all the props and sets up the poses with the student while Gabriel moves on to the next person. Each pose is being held depending on the individuals specific needs. We ask a lot of questions getting feed-back on their well being and adjusting the pose accordingly. Often additional props may be necessary.

I have been there approximately 20 times thus far and the different medical issues were for example: Stress, C-2, C-3 back neck and shoulder issues, herniated disk, thoracic outletsyndrom, myofascial pain and dysfunction, groin muscle and adductor pain and asthma. Every week, I assisted a new student/client and the same issues seldom occurred twice. Initially the students/clients often complained of back pain, however they were usually found to have different issues.

I feel very fortunate to have two master teachers, who have come from the Lineage of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Daren Friesen learned from Pattabhi Jois, who was a student of Krishnamacharya and Gabriel Halpern learned from B.K.S. Iyengar who studied under Krishnamacharya as well.

A number of friends I respect recommended that I find a style of yoga which I found favorable. I thought trying out different kinds of yoga would help me decide the right practice for me. I have to disagree with those people; I believe you do not have to choose one kind of yoga. They are all yoga and on different days different schools of thought works for me. I will continue with my apprenticeship with Gabriel even though we only have to take the required 10 classes. Excitingly, I am now an official member of his apprentice faculty. I love going through my teacher training with Daren and enjoy all the Philosophies I am learning from him. I plan on continuing my yoga and life journey by learning from both of those amazing teachers and will continue taking classes with other teachers along the way.
I am slowly finding my own path and started teaching a few classes myself. I have incorporated an array of my teachers into my directives some consciously and other subconsciously. I look forward to growing as a teacher and will change and adjust with more knowledge and time. Life and yoga for me are an ongoing journey and continue to go through endless changes. I am enjoying the adventure and journey and hope I will never be “done” evolving.

LIFE, and more:

Relevant to: Apprenticeship + TRIP