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Aug 8, 2018 10:14 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Sag Harbor Local Charity Joy Robinson Talks Her Journey As 'Facilitator Of Movement'

Charity Joy Robinson. COURTESY CHARITY JOY ROBINSON
Aug 8, 2018 10:14 AM

Twenty years ago, Charity Joy Robinson was 17 years old and living in central Wisconsin, building up a collection of yoga videos and trying to find out where to go in her life. That’s when she made a promise to herself to travel to as many countries and explore as many cultures as she could.

“I believed that if I traveled, I’d find a perfect place,” she said. “Through all of those moves and movement to different places, I found that there’s no perfect place. You can’t really be comfortable anywhere until you’re comfortable with yourself.”

Now, at age 37, Ms. Robinson, a Sag Harbor resident, has made a living of moving from place to place while helping others find themselves through a passion for yoga. She describes herself as “a facilitator of movement,” and has both learned and taught yoga and various forms of dancing all around the world, working with the rich and famous one year and local children the next.

She currently teaches “Shakedown Yoga and Movement” for a younger audience at the Ross School Summer Camp and works with adults off Noyac Road, at One Ocean Yoga in Bridgehampton and at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack. This fall, Ms. Robinson will offer a much richer experience, called “SoulJourn,” a week-long retreat from October 27 to November 3 at the Toucan Hill Villa on the private island of Mustique in the Grenadines. The retreat will consist of daily yoga sessions, fitness, meditation and healthy eating.

The program was created and fine-tuned by Ms. Robinson, who said the last few years she’s spent living and teaching in Sag Harbor have taught her that, for a yoga retreat, people look for both a routine schedule of activities and free time to experience new things they’ve never done before, like horseback riding and exploring white sand beaches.

One of the other elements of the retreat will be a Full Moon Intention-Setting ceremony, where participants write down on paper what they’d like to receive in life and what they’d like to let go and release those writings into the ocean. Ms. Robinson said that the ceremony is based on a Native American tradition called “prayer bundles,” where tobacco would be folded into a small piece of cloth while a prayer is made, as a means for someone to manifest what he or she hopes for.

Ms. Robinson said she also has a way of easing those who might be unsure about the “SoulJourn” into the experience.

“One thing is just basically sitting in a circle and talking,” Ms. Robinson said. “A really simple introduction: ‘What do you do to yourself?’ ‘How do you feel in your body?’ People are used to saying, ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m good,’ ‘Okay.’ There’s nothing about digging deeper.”

Ms. Robinson has been a Sag Harbor resident for only the last two years. Born in Canada and raised in Central Wisconsin, Ms. Robinson’s own spiritual journey started after she watched her mom, Cindy Martin, become a yoga teacher herself after getting into Jane Fonda aerobic videos, and bringing Charity to her classes.

When she was a teenager, Ms. Robinson started a collection of yoga videos of her own. She grew particularly fond of a tape about Kundalini Yoga, which incorporates movement, unique breathing techniques and mantras, including “Sat Nam,” which means “truth is my identity.”

“That was what I practiced with, and that started the teaching part of me,” Ms. Robinson said. “It was, like, ‘Wow, this is working for me. I want to share this with other people.’ For me, it’s a lot of physical movement that made me focus my energy to one specific movement, and it’s very repetitive. It pushes you to a limit where you want to stop—but once you get over that challenging moment, you just start to feel even more open and less burdened.”

When she was 19, Ms. Robinson began fulfilling that promise she’d made to herself, heading overseas to Europe and working as an au pair, spending time in France, Germany and Spain. She made her way to Asia as well, before returning to the states in 2008, settling in Chicago, where she trained to become a yoga teacher.

After a year there, she worked on the Caribbean island of Dominica, teaching yoga and African dance. Two years later, she moved to Mustique, another Caribbean island farther south and closer to Venezuela. She spent three and a half years in the very different environment of Mustique, a smaller private island she described as “manicured to the rich and famous.” She added that she worked with the likes of Nancy Shevell, wife of Paul McCartney, and Bryan Ferry, frontman to the iconic art rock band Roxy Music.

After seven years in the Caribbean, Ms. Robinson was looking for another change in scenery when some clients told her about the Hamptons. When she heard about the Bridgehampton Yoga Festival, she jumped at the chance to meet new people and explore a new scene. She’s been in Sag Harbor ever since.

The retreat to Mustique will be a bit of a homecoming of sorts for Ms. Robinson. She says the “SoulJourn” trip is less about a relaxation expedition on a lush island and more about discovering one’s self like she did 20 years ago.

“I’m looking forward to bringing people there to experience themselves and get back in touch with who they are,” Ms. Robinson said. “I meet people where they are in life, so there’s no expectation when they show up. Just come as you are.”

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