Archived Featured Teacher
Eric Walrabenstein, AKA Yogi E. | E-RYT - 500 | Yoga Pura, Phoenix, AZ
Back in 2001, I was at a yoga conference with the sole intention of attending a few sessions with Gurudev. Prior to that, I had attended a seminar where I heard him speak; and it was then that I established a firm intention to study with him. Although I had never really met Gurudev, it was clear from his talk that he had what I was looking for in a teacher and guide.
So there I was, talking with a group of my friends in this large hall awash in sea of hundreds of modern-day yogis of every size and shape. It was then that my friend Kim spotted Gurudev walking with his attendant through the crowd about a hundred feet away.
“Isn’t that Amrit Desai?” she said.
I glanced up. “Sure is.” I smiled and then went back to the conversation at hand.
A few second later, Kim chimed in again: “Looks like he’s coming this way.”
“Uh huh.” I mumbled still engaged in my conversation.
“No really!” she said. And as I looked up. I saw Gurudev making a bee line for us. As he walked the final few steps toward our group, our circular huddle opened up and Gurudev stepped inside.
He looked right at me and asked: “Do you have a car?”
My friends’ jaws dropped.
“Huh, what?” I looked over my shoulder, and then pointed toward myself.
“Yes,” he repeated, “Do you have a car?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
“Can you give me a ride to my hotel?” Gurudev asked, “It’s not far…”
I shrugged, still in a bit of a state of shock. “Sure.” I said.
Now again, let me restate at this point in time, I had never met Gurudev; and he had never met me. Nevertheless, he walked through this giant hall of over five-hundred other people, all of whom had cars (let’s face it, this was in Arizona), to ask me. Why? I don’t know. And if you ask Gurudev he doesn’t remember. So I just chalk it up to karma and intention. In any event, you can see how I might be knocked a bit off balance by the whole thing.
Next thing you know, his attendant hands the Guru off to me and away we go. Once outside, Gurudev asks where my car is, I point, and then he dashes across four lanes of speeding traffic—robes and hair flowing wildly behind him. I give chase and wonder what kind of karmic hit I’d take if the Guru was plowed down by a Hyundai while under my care.
On the way to the hotel, we chatted. I invited Gurudev to my studio and he invited me to teacher training. He came to my studio the following night; I took teacher training a few months later. And from there I began working with Kamini on curriculum enhancements for the teacher training programs. Next we started teaching together, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Where do you teach now?
I teach primarily at Yoga Pura, the school I founded in Phoenix back in 2001. While I do teach a fair amount of retreats and workshops around the country, including my work at the Amrit Yoga Institute, for the past two years my out-of-state teaching schedule has been greatly reduced because of my work on BOOTSTRAP.
What is BOOTSTRAP?
BOOTSTRAP is a program I have been developing and testing for the past three years. It’s a ten-week program to help our troops and veterans heal from the psychological wounds of war. Combining modern psychology with the wisdom of yoga, this home-based program has been specifically designed to get help to the hundreds of thousands who have been left to suffer alone by more traditional treatments.
Why did you focus on our troops?
I have a tendency to gravitate to where the need is greatest. Although it’s not commonly known, ten years of war have taken a terrible toll on our troops and veterans; and post-traumatic stress and other psychological wounds are rampant. With a veteran taking his own life every 81 minutes, it is a national crisis—and not nearly enough is being done to help.
When you add to this the fact that I was formerly a U.S. Army infantry officer, it becomes pretty clear that I was uniquely positioned to help.
How much will BOOTSTRAP cost?
Our pledge is to never charge a fee to a troop or veteran in need. So BOOTSTRAP will be free to our returning warriors. Even so, there is a cost to deploying the program and to providing expert staff to assist our troops as they go through the process. This will be funded by Operation BOOTSTRAP.
What is Operation BOOTSTRAP?
Operation BOOTSTRAP is a nationwide initiative that is designed not only to heal our troops, but to demonstrate the effectiveness of yoga as a practical and potent healing modality to those outside the yoga and mind/body healing worlds.
Since BOOTSTRAP brings yoga’s mind/body wisdom to bear on a population considerably outside of the typical “yoga market”, it will make a bold statement about the applicability of yoga and Eastern wisdom to solve real-world problems.
And of course, by doing so, all of us in the yoga world benefit—as they say: a rising tide lifts all ships.
How can people help?
On September 11th, 2012, we’ll be kicking things off with the launch of our crowd-funding initiative which will enable all Americans to give back to our troops in two simple steps:
- STEP 1: GIFT a minimum of One Day of Healing in the BOOTSTRAP program to a warrior in need—for only $3.
- STEP 2: GATHER at least 10 friends who will support the effort by GIFTING and GATHERING too.
The key here is to get as many people involved as we possibly can. And with gifting a Day of Healing costing only $3, virtually every American can get involved.
We already have thousands of requests for the program from troops and veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress. And with literally hundreds of thousands more in need, we need all the help we can get. That’s why we’re asking everyone to GIFT and GATHER.
To learn more or get involved visit: www.bootstrapUSA.com/give.
What do you enjoy about being a yoga teacher?
I don’t consider myself a yoga teacher as much as a servant of others. Way before I knew anything about yoga, I was consistently engaged in helping people tap their full potential for happy and empowered living. I’ve done this in professional settings and my personal life. It’s not something I really set out to do, it’s just who I am. The real gift of yoga is that it has given me some incredibly powerful tools as well as a context within which to serve.