Robert at Asha Yoga in Sacramento
I met Robert Hallworth in a Power Yoga class at the Capital Athletic Club in Sacramento about seven years ago. I was both impressed and intimidated by his level of practice. I was new to yoga and only took “gentle” yoga classes. After that initial exposure, I never attended that particular class again. Still, many of the students and teachers I practiced with spoke of Robert in a very respectful, almost reverent tone.
When COVID-19 hit, and my club, along with all the other gyms in Sacramento, closed, the yoga teachers who had day jobs–attorneys, teachers, and State of California employees (in Sacramento, we are legion!) may not have felt the financial hit. Still, people whose primary or sole means of income was teaching yoga, like Robert, had to become creative and turn to social media to keep the lights on. In Robert’s case: the online Yogi Bob persona was born.
When my club re-opened, the group exercise pickings were slim: the yoga classes were few, and I could only attend two that were led by Robert. While I was in the worst shape of my life, Robert was very accommodating. Mercifully, neither of his current classes are Power Vinyasa classes. However, when more people re-join the club, one of these classes could become a Power Vinyasa class. Hopefully, the club will have more classes to offer someone at my level.
In the meantime, I enjoy and learn from Robert’s practice and from his brief talks before we practice. And even if he leads the classes through many balance postures, I am doomed never to stick (thanks to being heavily medicated); I appreciate his practice. So here’s a short interview with the yogi.
BurgerScoot: I’ve always known you as Robert. How did you come up with Yogi Bob? Was it for social media?
Robert Hallworth: Yes for social media and easy to remember, but also as kind of a joke 10 years ago, of two diametrically opposite sort of personality types, one mindful, compassionate, content, low key, and the other ignorant, brash, in your face, reactionary, not cosmopolitan. In other words, a yogi redneck.
BS: When were you introduced to yoga?
RH: I was introduced to yoga at Sac City college around 1999 by Trinidad Stassi, who happens to teach Spin [cycling] at Capital Athletic Club, wonderful teacher and motivator.
BS: I know you teach some Vinyasa yoga, but do you practice any other kinds of yoga in and outside a Hatha?
RH: Well yes and as you know all physical Indian style yoga is Hatha (sun/moon) yoga, but it includes breathwork, concentration, meditation, sense withdrawal, personal and external ethics, that culminates in samadhi/ self realization. I bring all of these aspects into my classes subtly or not so subtly; but I also practice Tibetan tantric yogas and meditations, and kriyas.
BS: Do you meditate regularly? If yes, do you practice mindfulness meditation or something else like Transcendental Meditation?
RH: Yes, I meditate very regularly Shamata (tranquil abiding), mindfulness, tonglen (giving love and taking negativity), and Tibetan tantra.
BS: You teach chi Kung or Qigong and Tai chi, isn’t that correct? What are those arts? I have seen people practice Tai chi, but have never looked into it. Qigong is new to me.
RH: Yes I teach primarily Qigong which is a Chinese cultural flow modality of slow mindful/meditative movements for restoring vitality/subtle stretching. It is a very easy set of 21 movements that address all the major muscle, joint, ligament areas, as well as refining breathing and meditative awareness. On my own I’ve been practicing qigong & Tai Chi for about nine or ten years under Stan Yen, a very great practitioner-teacher here in Sacramento, who authorized me to teach his style.
BS: Do you have a guru?
RH: Well I have more than one guru (remover of ignorance) but my main or root Guru is Garchen Rinpoche and also Barbara Du Bois, both teach from the drikung kagyu Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and both live in Arizona. They both teach Mahamudra and Vajrayana which are meditative practice traditions over 1000 years old.
Robert rock climbing at Putah Creek, California.
BS: One thing you like to mention in our yoga classes is your love for rock climbing or bouldering. How did you get into that?
RH: I came to rock climbing at the same time as yoga bout 1999, as a departure from some older habits to definitely healthier and smarter habits primarily and they have helped guide me along with Buddhism since then.
BS: Do you use the same mental disciplines you have developed from yoga and meditation when climbing a rock?
RH: Yes there is such a crossover in all three disciplines as they all require mindfulness focus, strength, flexibility, and the ability to relax under duress.
BS: You combine yoga, meditation, and rock climbing on special retreats. Is this done independently or through a company?
RH: I do these retreats independently through my creation of Sadhanadventures as a way to combine these disciplines I love to share and teach on weekend camping trip excursions to special places.
BS: Thanks for doing this interview, Robert.