Q&A: Gabriel Halpern

Gabriel Halpern, the director of Yoga Circle in Chicago, leads a workshop June 19 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lake Zurich studio. The cost is $38 for PULSATION PERFECT FIT members and $42 for non-members. Register at the studio or by calling 847.989.7792. 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  

Since 1970.

Why did you become a yoga teacher? Who and/or what are your biggest influences?

I lived in an ashram that was a teacher-training one. I didn’t enter it thinking of yoga teaching as a vocation at the time. But I did have a back injury and that prompted me to continue. BKS Iyengar has been the biggest influence in my life.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

I live an ethical life of service and compassion much more than before I practiced yoga.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

Be as generous as possible, always giving more than I take.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Commitment to personal practice and lifelong study. Honesty in perception of what the student needs and fearlessness in saying that truth in a non-shaming way. Ultimately, it is about blessing the student with encouragement and inspiration.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

The most depressing experience has to be having a student come in with horrendous pain and not being able to find any pose that helped.

What do you recommend to the beginner student? To the seasoned student?

Beginners: hit the mat. Practice first. Read books 2nd. Seasoned: hit the mat first. Read books 2nd.

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

I bring awareness into my daily life and project the best energy I am capable into whatever is in front of me to do or give my full attention to whomever I am with.

What is the one pose you are most proud of getting into?

Padmasana in Sirsasana (lotus in head stand). First, because I hurt my knees playing football in high school, so being able to regenerate them to the point of being able to do the pose in itself was an achievement. Second, because watching my teacher whip his legs into that pose with authority inspired me to do the same.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

2 p.m to 5 p.m. I feel my bio energy is at its highest, in terms of my body feeling the best during those hours.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

Practicing at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India, has to be the highlight of places to have practiced yoga.

What is your favorite music to listen to while practicing yoga?

I do not listen to music when I practice. If I did it would be Tony Scott-Zen clarinet.

What else do you want students to know about you?

I am blessed to have studied with BKS Iyengar and be able to transmit some of his genius to others. I also am madly in love with my wife and two daughters who keep my spirituality grounded.

What is the best part of traveling to different studios and leading workshops?

Seeing the heart space is the same all over the world. Being an elder in the community and being able to share my love of the Dharma with everyone. Want even more Gabriel? Check out this interview with him from The Glowing Body.