What's Tony Thinking

Notes of a New Yogi


I asked my dear spouse if I might re-print an article (see below) that appeared in the current newsletter of “Yoga Behind Bars.” The article is about her and her yoga class. She said, “yes,” on one condition — that I share what yoga, and her class, have meant to me.

First the article about her teaching from the Yoga Behind Bars newsletter. Linda designated YBB as the recipient for financial gifts from her students. It’s a great article, and photo, and I’m proud of her. Then a few thoughts on what her class, and yoga, mean to me.

YBB Community Spotlight: Linda Robinson

As with most things, the pandemic ended Linda’s accessible yoga classes, a volunteer position she loved. When she embarked on virtual offerings, Yoga Behind Bars became a very grateful beneficiary of her incredible generosity. We have been so inspired by Linda’s story and asked if we could share more of her story with you. We hope it just might inspire you too. 

“I so appreciate the opportunity to partner with Yoga Behind Bars. The concept of Seva (selfless service) may be in my DNA, coming as I do from a family of educators and social workers. As a retired educator myself, I find joy in bringing together two of my passions, yoga and teaching.

I began practicing yoga in my 20s and it has been central to my sense of well-being for decades.

Through change and struggle, yoga has been a mainstay. I have a core belief in the healing power of yoga to transform lives and to bring compassion and loving-kindness to the world.

I retired from Seattle Public Schools in 2012 and in 2016 completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training.  After completing my training I began to volunteer as a teaching assistant with another wonderful organization, Accessible Yoga NW.  My love of accessible yoga and the wonderful students I met, led me to conferences and additional training. I began to work privately with clients in their homes and later to teach senior chair yoga as a volunteer with Lake City Community Center through Two Dog Yoga.

The pandemic brought an end to my volunteer work. I was initially intimidated by the idea of teaching on zoom, but I missed my students and yoga work. I finally took the plunge and began our zoom chair yoga class in November 2020. It began with family and friends but has grown by word of mouth and we now have 40+ students on the roster. We come from as far away as Ecuador, the Big Island of Hawaii, the Midwest, East Coast, and of course the Pacific Northwest. It is miraculous.

I knew when I started the class that I would not charge and that it would be my pandemic gift.  I am, however, sensitive to the need to express gratitude for gifts given. Our gifts to Yoga Behind Bars are the way we express gratitude. This expression has brought me great joy and it is an honor to support your organization in this way. I emphasize connection, sangha, in my classes and that connection now includes our brothers and sisters behind bars. Thank you for your work.”

I (Tony now) participate in Linda’s weekly class. While it isn’t the first time I have practiced yoga, it is first time I have done yoga regularly in quite a few years.

What has it meant to me? I am of an age to have grown up with the maxim of coaches and PE teachers, “No pain, no gain.” Well, that’s not what yoga — at least as Linda teaches it — is about. She often says, “If you experience pain, stop.” “We don’t do pain.”

I take that as a kind of paradigm shift in how we come at life and the world. One perspective, “No pain, no gain,” communicates that our bodies are an adversary. They need to be beaten  into shape or submission. Yoga has a different take. The body is a friend, a teacher, and a guide.

While there can be value in pushing yourself physically, and even pushing through some pain, at this point in life befriending the body and letting it guide and teach me is more resonate and helpful. I could say more, but that’s enough for now. The body as friend and teacher is something I am leaning into thanks to Linda’s instruction. If you are interested in her class, via Zoom, contact her via her email at ljambor7@comcast.net.

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