This month we speak to Rob Schware, co-founder and executive director of The Give Back Yoga Foundation, who support and fund research-based, clinically tested yoga programs for marginalised populations. They also provide supplies to help kickstart yoga programs, inspiring grassroots social change and community cooperation in under-resourced areas.
First of all, tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today.
Like others - men in particular - I started practicing yoga for my health, after I strained my back lifting my son Jordan out of a tree swing. My first yoga class was an Ashtanga Vinyasa “trial” class in 1996 at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in New York, with Beryl Bender Birch, Thom Birch, and Tim Miller. After experiencing yoga’s benefits I began a 300-hour Ashtanga Yoga teacher training, but eventually faced the fact that I likely wouldn’t make a good yoga teacher.
I still very much wanted to serve in the yoga world, and encountered Beryl’s The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. As part of her 500-hour teacher training, she required students to complete a “give back” project, which included writing it up, implementing it, and reporting back to the class. It was Beryl’s inspiration to turn that “give back” project idea into a nonprofit organisation. The timing, as Mystery would have it, was perfect because I was seeking freedom from a stressful career with the World Bank in Washington, DC. Give Back Yoga Foundation was established to serve yoga teachers of all traditions to bring their skills and knowledge out of studios and into their communities. We had a mission, an intention to serve, a tagline (“Awaken, Transform, Give Back”) and, honestly, little knowledge how to run a nonprofit organisation. As Einstein said, “if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”
What’s the biggest challenge you face working in the industry you do?
Growth of any organisation is an ongoing process of gradual improvement and assessment that every successful institution and business experiences in some way. In Give Back Yoga’s case, our growth could not have occurred without the partnerships with, and tireless dedication of, yoga teachers sharing the practice of yoga to transform lives. Give Back Yoga will expand in 2019, and my hope this coming new year is that we continue working together to offer yoga as a tool for healing and transformation in our communities.
What makes you optimistic about the future of movement and wellness?
Collectively, our yoga programs are bringing hundreds of thousands of yoga classes to those who need it most around the globe, to people affected by addiction, incarceration, war, eating disorders and cancer.
Who - individual or organisation - is inspiring you at the moment?
There are now many successful women’s nonprofit organisations, but I’ve not seen one that aims to do specifically whatValkyries Of Valor achieves. This organisation serves veterans from all eras of service and first responders to meet each other and attend events in Nature for healing the wounds of war and trauma.
How do you get others excited about causes you care about?
We need you. Yoga works! So I proudly and shamelessly speak for the high-quality, service-focused and community-building work of our organisation.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer to someone wanting to use movement as a tool for positive change?
Our world is in a crisis. In many cases, the governments and companies that run the show have proved ineffective at providing timely access to the health care services veterans, addicts, and cancer survivors need to manage their mental and physical consequences of disease and trauma.
Working with nonprofits that have demonstrable social impact combines doing well with doing good—a double bottom line.