Robert first began suffering from the condition alopecia areata in 2005, initially affecting just his beard (alopecia barbae), and then within a year it extending to his hair. This, in his opinion, was due to a build up of stress in his work life.
It was while on holiday in Kerala, India in February 2008 that he was introduced to yoga, quite by accident. He went to see an Ayurvedic doctor in Varkala about asthma, having been an asthmatic since his teenage years, with a desire to reduce his use of inhalers. The first thing the doctor advised was to lose weight and to start yoga, which, she said, would increase lung capacity and promote better breathing and posture. Being in India, the birthplace of yoga, it was the perfect opportunity to try it out. He went to a couple of practices and was instantly hooked, experiencing a wonderful sense of exhilaration. On his return to London he took up yoga at his local gym.
During 2008 the alopecia had partially improved, the bulk of his hair having grown back, having also received steroid treatments, including injections, during this time. Unfortunately the alopecia areata returned again in 2009. This time, however, he found he could deal with it a lot better through his regular yoga practice. This was helped enormously by being able to practice with some of the best yoga teachers in London, including Ladan Soltani, whose unique practices were so uplifting, bringing a much greater awareness of self, and Valentina Candiani, with whom he would eventually go on to train as a yoga instructor. His alopecia areata was finally defeated in mid-2010. The beard was the first to go and the last to return.
Robert attributes his recovery to the regular practice of yoga, as well as the prescribed medical treatments. But it was solely the practice of yoga that helped bring back the self-esteem and self-worth that he had lost as he was trying to deal with his condition, along with meditation and pranayama exercises, and subsequent weight-loss.
Although for approximately two and a half years he did not work in his regular job as a graphic designer, principally due to the debilitating effects alopecia had on him, he did keep both a written and photo-diary of his experiences. In 2011 he used this as an inspiration to document this period of his life as a set of screenprints, entitled The Alopecia Diaries, which was exhibited at the Imperial College, London, from September-December.
It was also during 2011, as he travelled further along his path of yoga, and the confidence and physical benefits it gave him, he decided to train to become a yoga teacher. At the end of the year he qualified as a yoga instructor in Ashtanga Yoga, under the fabulous support and guidance of Valentina Candiani at Shakti Power Yoga.
Robert firmly believes that others, whether they suffer from a similar condition or not, can benefit greatly from the practice of yoga, promoting not only well-being, confidence and regained self-belief, but also physically, greater flexibility and strength, improved posture and breathing, and generally an all-round sense of increased vitality. Robert’s intention now is to try and help others who live with the condition alopecia, via a regular yoga practice, to regain their confidence and rediscover the huge potential we all have within us.