Robin Shepard: Yogini Living with Trust
By Sarah Hodges
One of the great joys life has to offer is its unpredictable nature. Some people choose to plan meticulously, making earnest efforts to chart a clear path, while others throw their arms open to the wind and vigorously pursue the less charted roads. People like Robin Shepard trust that life itself will guide them to where they need to be.
Robin, one of Still & Moving Center’s treasured yoga teachers, found her joy and passion in teaching a unique style of yoga that is more explorative, less regimented than many. A couple of decades ago when Robin the competitive athlete walked into the university gym for her first yoga class, she never in a million years would have imagined that she’d later become a yoga teacher herself – which we are happy to say that she is now at Still & Moving Center!
Robin lives with a big serving of trust, not feeling the need to make plans too far down the path. Her early foundation from her Quaker grandparents instilled values of pacifism within her, and a passion for seeing the world and having a global perspective. These foundational values provided a clear guide to always light her way.
When Robin sees the way, she’s willing to work hard to get there. Friends often tell Robin how extremely lucky she is. More than luck, Robin says she was just really good at seeing opportunity when it arises, then applying herself to grow in that opportunity.
As a highly competitive track and field athlete in her youth, Robin saw exercise strictly for the purpose of training to compete better. Only after working at her university athletic center, observing non-athlete students coming in routinely, laughing with friends as they played racquetball or basketball, did it dawn on her that athletics and movement could also serve a different purpose: fun! Robin’s first yoga class surprised her with a positive shift in both her physical and mental states after the class. Despite being very confused as to why the yoga teacher instructed everyone at the end of class to just lay motionless on their mats for a few minutes in silence, she returned to take more yoga classes for the rest of the semester.
Upon finishing her psychology degree, Robin had no clue what was next for her. She had studied based on what interested her rather than what career she wanted to pursue. By seeing the next opportunity each time, like lily pads across the pond, Robin stepped into a series of temporary jobs which eventually led her to a position at Nike headquarters. From there, she saw a golden opportunity to move into marketing and the textile industry, which she entered with her characteristic work ethic. Robin then returned to school to learn about textiles, even taking garment and sewing classes and learning to sew. By the coming year, she was joining the marketing team for the apparel branch of Nike. Robin loved the rigor and involvement of this job. For the following decade, she continued on this path, though not without other wonderful opportunities catching her attention.
Working at Nike brought Robin the fortune of meeting her husband. They not only shared the same workplace, but they also both had a strong interest in living internationally. A wedding, some years, and a couple of children later, Robin and her family were presented with the opportunity to take a job with Nike in Asia. Their family of four packed up and took off.
With two young children, Robin felt it was time for her to transition from her corporate job and step into a new chapter. She loved learning about children’s developmental processes and wanted to be there for her children as much as possible in their early years. So, she enrolled in an early childhood education program and then saw the opportunity to open her own class at a preschool. Giggles, learning and lots of little kida filled her following years.
Robin also found a yoga center where she and her family lived in China. Over the years of practice, she developed a strong Ashtanga practice. The rigor of Ashtanga constantly pushed her body to become stronger and more flexible. She was an athlete again! At the same time, Robin moved from teaching her preschool class to working with special needs children. Her job with the kids required just as much strengthening and stretching on the internal plane as her Ashtanga yoga did on the physical level. As her and her family’s time in China came to a close, Robin was exhausted to the bone and also was ready to close that chapter and open to a new page. Then came Vietnam.
“I got to a wonderful yoga community in Vietnam. I found a yoga teacher who had the right medicine at the right time for me,” shares Robin. This yoga studio taught a more inward nurturing approach to yoga. “Something lit up inside me when I started taking classes in a more balanced hatha yoga practice. The movement felt tempered with introspection,” says Robin, describing the transition from an Ashtanga yoga practice to Hatha yoga.
Robin also identified another opportunity. She just knew that her yoga teacher in Vietnam was the one she wanted to learn more from. There in Vietnam, Robin attended her first yoga teacher training, continuing her thread of teaching kids. Within months after completing the training, she jumped into teaching children’s yoga classes. When she later attended her 200-hour teacher training to instruct adults, she found that her 20+ years of experience as a yoga practitioner gave her a lot to offer. She had arrived in Vietnam in August of 2016 and was teaching her own children and adult classes by January of the following year. “I saw the opportunity, and I was ready,” says Robin.
“As all good things come to an end,” Robin affirms. “My husband’s assignment in Vietnam was coming to a close and we had a choice to make.” Robin and her family weighed the options of coming full circle back to the Nike campus in Oregon or taking a completely different path.
Having a home in Hawai’i was always a dream of Robin’s, ever since her early years of traveling to O’ahu where her mother grew up. Her husband felt ready to leave corporate life, and Robin really didn’t want to spend winter after winter in the rainy gloom of the Pacific Northwest, and they had already invested in a house on O’ahu. Their children had never been in school in the US, and it seemed to Robin and her husband that the culture of the continental US might be a big shock for their young high schoolers. So, weighing their options, Robin and her family decided to make Hawai’i their next home. They packed up and made their way across the ocean, Robin trusting in the opportunities she would no doubt find her on O’ahu.
Their move happened just as the world swung into the deep unknown in early 2020. Upon arriving on the island, Robin and her family suddenly were living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. Each teenager got their own room, Robin and her husband slept in the living room, and all four of them shared one bathroom. The larger part of their house upstairs was under renovation, and they decided they could all manage to share the small attached unit downstairs for some months while their home was getting fixed up. But, they hadn’t known the pandemic would hit, and the usual activities of going out to school and work would come to a halt. With construction dust and noise filling their lives, and the four of them operating in the tight space, Robin could not find a single space to unroll her yoga mat.
“I started calling around to different yoga studios on the island asking studio owners whether I could rent studio space to do my own practice,” says Robin. “I needed a clean space to practice yoga again.” Robin ended up renting a room in Still & Moving Center with a work trade arrangement. “I saw an opportunity to bond with a beautiful space, and slowly I got the chance to get to know everyone working there,” Robin explains. “I met Renee, we talked about teaching, and then it all followed from there. From the simple need to find a place where I could just put a mat down and do yoga, I found a community in Still & Moving Center and the Academy of Mindful Movement.”
Robin continues to teach a unique style of yoga, blending all the many ways of practicing yoga that she learned over the years. In 2021 she attended one of the first Academy of Mindful Movement trainings, where she discovered new inspiration and tools to make her practice even more meaningful. In this new year Robin will take an incoming yoga teacher under her wing at Still & Moving Center to share the principles of mindful movement and mindful teaching. She didn’t see that opportunity coming, and she embraced it as soon as it came her way.
“I’ve never planned things out from start to finish,” says Robin, “I believe and trust that things turn out as they should.”
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)