By Rob Schware

My sister introduced me to meditation.

In 1970, when I was just eighteen years old, my elder sister introduced me to the Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I then began twice-daily transcendental meditation sessions, as a way to make the world a better place after the war in Vietnam. Maharishi frequently held question-and-answer sessions on a wide range of topics, including the purpose of life and the development of higher states of consciousness. I was especially interested in these discourses. To this day, I maintain a daily transcendental meditation practice.

Physical injury: My Catalyst for Change

For many years, running was my primary physical activity. After I weathered an injury from lifting my seven-year-old son Jordan from a tree swing, I was faced with a body that was changing. Although change had been going on for some time, I wasn’t good at detecting subtle changes. The big injury was the wake-up call I needed!

As I moved into the middle of my life, unable to run for seven months, I enrolled in a workshop on Mastery and Personal Growth at the Omega Institute. Something was gnawing away at me: I didn’t feel like a master of my subject-matter at work, and I yearned to know deeper meanings of life.

I tried a sampler yoga class—and I was hooked!

During the workshop I enrolled in a sampler Ashtanga Yoga class, taught by Beryl Bender Birch, Thom Birch, and Tim Miller. I knew about yoga from years of being with followers of Maharishi, as well as working in India, and I wanted to try it. In one class, I moved from postures to energy control, concentration to meditation. Oh boy! That was it for me!

The Seeds for the Give Back Yoga Foundation

I decided to take early retirement after twenty-three years at the World Bank, where I was the lead IT specialist. I called my yoga teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, in New York, and asked her how could I serve the yoga teachers who had done so much for me the last decade. She shared that, as part of her 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training program, she required students to do a “give back” project, to write it up, implement it, and report back to the class. This was the seed for what has since become a great yoga service non-profit organization: the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

My “Eureka!” Moment

M “eureka” moment in yoga, however, came to me one morning towards the end of my Ashtanga teacher training. That morning, I woke up and doubts set in. I shared with my wife, Alice, that I didn’t think I would be a very good yoga instructor. I then spent the day asking myself, “What am I good at?” After so many years managing large investment projects at the World Bank, working with inspiring colleagues from around the world, and being socially committed to helping what my father called “the underdogs” of our society, I made the call to Beryl and asked how I could help the yoga community.