The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.
This rock represents the person I’ll be helping over the next few months during my yoga therapeutics apprenticeship — someone I have yet to meet.
It is someone who is carrying a hardness, not unlike the hardness of this beautifully polished rock. It is someone who is experiencing pain and will look to me to help alleviate that burden through yoga. This rock is a reminder of my commitment to this person.
It is also a reminder of my own hardness, my own pain — and my willingness to explore this shadowy area as I work to help this student.
The master teacher overseeing this progress over the next few months is Gabriel Halpern. He has 40-plus years of continuous yoga practice and is among the most highly regarded teachers in the Chicagoland area, if not the country. The man was trained by BKS Iyengar himself. “Working on someone else is another way of healing yourself,” he said after he invited all of us to choose a rock at the top of our first training and began explaining the symbolism behind it.
Gabriel is not a touchy-feely-kumbaya sort of yogi. Far from it. He is one tough cookie — at least on the surface. But this is not by accident. His purpose — which he made quite clear at tonight’s first training session by practically yelling at us — is to keep us grounded, to humble us, to toughen us up as yogis and yoga teachers. He wants us to be scared of the work we’re about to do. It’s just that important.
“You can’t be flying around on your sixth chakra when you’re trying to help someone,” he said. I chuckled at this.
Gabriel is direct. He barks at trainees. He hates tardiness. He adjusts students in poses with sharp precision. He is little rough around the edges. One of my fellow teacher trainees confessed her trepidation of signing up for his apprenticeship given his “stern” reputation. (She also recognized it as an opportunity to overcome that fear because she’s wise like that.)
But Gabriel definitely has another side, one that he isn’t so quick to reveal upfront to us trainees. Glimmers of it came through this weekend. He tells jokes — he is told us that he used to hang out with Jewish comedians in upstate New York’s “Borscht Belt” in the Catskills. And sings Pink Floyd songs — he actually sang part of “The Wall” tonight.
Gabriel is going to teach me a lot. A lot. He may make me cry. So be it — I’m ready for the challenge.
And now I’ve got this rock to remind me of my commitment. It’s a commitment not only to a student whom I’ll meet in less than a week — ! — but to my own person growth during this chapter of my yoga teacher training.