In a nutshell, what is your life story?
“I was born and grew up on a small, wonderful farm in southeast Oklahoma, 15 miles outside Idabel, in a community named Harris. I had the typical farm-boy chores and for recreation rode horses every day, fished and even participated in the local junior rodeo.” And, yes, Robert says, he wondered about life in the city.
“I had the wonderful experience of hanging out with my grandfather, my mother’s father, named Robert. He was born in 1889, the same year Oklahoma was made a state.” Robert was 12 years old when his grandfather died.
“His age and connection to another century allowed me the privilege of reaching back in time. Being the youngest of five children, with all these family members before me, allowed me to absorb so much. You learn from others’ experiences.”
In school, Robert says, his three older sisters set the family academic standard. His older brother was a high school and collegiate superstar, both academically and athletically.
From elementary school on, Robert competed in track and field and football. Track and field became his passion, and in high school he was part of a team that won three straight championships. Later, he studied computer science and economics at the University of Central Oklahoma and participated in track and field for two seasons. “As a sophomore,” Robert says, “my interests were quickly redirected when I was offered a job, effectively starting my professional career in information technology at age 19.”
Robert and his wife, Gracie, have been married 26 years and have one daughter, Saxon Rae Henderson, who just graduated from George Mason and lives in Fairfax. She works in global public health.
How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?
After Robert’s third knee surgery, his physical therapist recommended that he stop running and take up golf or yoga. “Having been a passionate, 25-plus miles per week runner for more than 20 years, I was bummed about her recommendation and proceeded to do nothing for two years,” Robert says. But eventually he wound up at Bikram yoga. “It took me six months to consistently get through all the postures,” Robert says. But he stuck with it. “I was driven by the realization of just how bad my fitness and overall flexibility had become in just two short years. That was a hard lesson, but I learned that as I age, the more I should be focused on my fitness. It simply improves the quality of my life at so many levels.”
What do you do when you’re not doing Bikram yoga?
Robert confesses that he is a workaholic. “Lucky for me, I love my work,” he says. When he is not busy growing his company–an IT consulting firm–he can be found on the golf course or expanding his extensive music collection.
How has Bikram yoga changed your life?
“For me, nothing can replace the exhilaration of a ‘runner’s high,’ and only a runner knows that to be true,” Robert says. “But because of the stress on the joints, I could not continue long-term.”
Robert says he finds parallels to running in yoga. “Running is a solitary sport,” he says. “It’s not about pushing other people down to win. Yoga is also a solitary sport. I like that a lot. It doesn’t require that you damage anyone else or stop someone else in order to win.”
He also finds similarities in technology. “You have to turn off the computer now and then, and then turn it back on. If you don’t, there is a strain on the computer, all those programs lining up in the background. Yoga allows you to turn off your brain, refresh. It allows you to reboot yourself. After 15 minutes of yoga, I shut down and focus on what I’m doing. I can be totally present. This restores me.”