Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
Over the years, Rob Schware has become one of my most trusted confidants in an often oxymoronic yoga/business world. He is a dear friend — an “uncle,” if you will — who speaks at every Outlaw Yoga teacher training, and provides valuable accountability for me personally.
When he says, “Justin, answer your emails, damn it,” I do it.
A daily runner who “seldom stretched,” yoga “found him” when he strained his back pulling his son from a tree. Six months later, he found himself at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies; that was 23 years ago and he’s been practicing yoga on the mat — and in his marriage — every day ever since.
It was during his intensive studies with Beryl Bender Birch, founder and director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute, that the idea for the Give Back Yoga Foundation was born.
Over time the simple desire to give back has grown into a charity that funds Yoga4Cancer, Yoga for 12-Step Recovery, Eat Breathe Thrive, and has given out over 10,000 yoga mats to kickstart yoga service programs around the world. Admirably 89 cents out of every dollar donated to Give Back goes directly to projects.
Amidst this mission, we talked about the biggest challenges facing the yoga community, like systemic racial inequality.
“I’m continually aware of how hard it is to just show up and practice — whether in my marriage of 34 plus years, or as a white male with unconscious attitudes that the social system has awarded preferences to … I try my best to be at ease with, not defensive of, healthy challenges on anylevel.”
Regarding the vast array of challenges facing the planet as a whole, “We can’t wait any longer to act on climate change,” he said. “We are running enormous risks. In an earlier career, I was a social scientist working with a distinguished group of well-known climatologists and policy makers on the impacts of climate change. It was the consensus of the international climatological community back in 1980 that if worldwide use of fossil fuels continued to increase, humans would likely cause a significant average warming of the Earth’s surface within the next 50 years … the long-term effects of changing climate on Colorado will mean a reduction of between two weeks to nearly three months of our beloved ski season. For millennials reading this article, I’m not optimistic your grandchildren will ski here.”
If a shortened ski season isn’t enough to get, at least, the Colorado Yoga Community to act, then I don’t know what is.
“Imagine the positive impact,” Rob implored, “on the climate if every child in the world could learn the transformative life skills of yoga from childhood.”
I didn’t necessarily hang up the phone with any more hope for solving either (when it comes to the environment, I’m preppin’), but I did walk away with an enhanced sense of confidence … in myself.
See, at one point Rob outlined a recent business challenge that he and Give Back had faced; within the intense consideration they went through, he voiced the constant struggle of “identifying right action,” of determining whether our efforts are pointed in the right direction.
In a weird way, listening to him voice his own doubts were the most hopeful words I heard from him that day.
Rob’s approachably wise; he doesn’t know it all and is still confused every damn day — a place many of us reside in these days. He’s unafraid to be vulnerable, a state that makes one supremely reliable if you ask me.
When pressed for real advice on these bigger issues, he suggested “moving to higher ground,” Googling Gail Parker, and connecting with the “Justice Movement”; never mind that he could easily connect me on an email to either — Rob comes from a generation that believes in doing things for yourself, that hard work is its own reward, and he had to get back to cleaning out his basement before his “wife killed him” after all.
Frankly, it’s these and many other positively stubborn attributes that I admire him for: his vulnerability and his willingness to get up every day, practice and try his best to make a difference.
Justin Kaliszewski is an award-winning artist, avid adventurer, and the renowned creator of OUTLAW Yoga. Author of “The Outlaw Protocol – how to live as an outlaw without becoming a criminal,” and the children’s picture book “The Adventures of Babu – from there to here.” He creates connection by delivering transformational yoga-experiences across the country, and at the Outlaw Yoga Littleton studio. Find him at justinkaliszewski.com.