Kim Crow Sheaner, Director of the Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County in Mountain Home, Arkansas, wrote in her nomination that “Tony Faiz Khayat’s Yoga classes are a long running success story. For nearly 30 years, Tony has consistently volunteered his time and expertise, teaching Yoga to over 750 students at the library, ranging in age from 18 to 94. This is especially impressive considering our small-town population of approximately of 13,000.
“His students are very loyal, many have been coming for years. There is no charge for the class, instead Tony accepts a small donation to the Library from students for each class. The amount raised through the years now totals over an estimated $80,000. Needless to say, he has made a big impact on the Library and our community in more ways than one.”
Khayat is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State with a master’s degree in business. He received his yoga training at the renowned Bikram Yoga Studio in San Francisco and began teaching yoga in 1978. Locally, he taught at his own studio from 1990 to 1993, in local health clubs, Baxter Regional Medical Center and North Arkansas Community College, now Arkansas Sate University in Mountain Home, until his retirement in 1995.
His wife, Gwen, said that when Khayat retired, a library employee asked him to start a yoga class for employees and library patrons.
“All of a sudden he was at the library teaching yoga, and the class kept growing and growing,” Gwen said.
Sheaner said that “his students are dedicated fans of his unique style of Yoga that promotes fitness and relieves stress and tension. Students report improved muscle tone and flexibility. Khayat is a walking example of yoga as the secret to remaining youthful.”
Khayat said “Yoga has kept me going. My students and classes keep me young.” In Summer 2023, at the conclusion of the class Khayat teaches twice a week at the Baxter County Library, his current students brought him a cake to celebrate his 81st birthday.
Vera has been a student of Khayat’s for 10 years. She regularly goes to the gym and plays tennis. “Yoga keeps me stretched and limber,” she said.
Khayat’s students are devoted to him and credit his classes and yoga techniques for keeping them healthy. Ninety-four-year-old Doris credits him for “keeping me young.”
“It has kept me agile,” said June who has been a student of Khayat’s since 1990. “It is good for anyone to keep stretching,” she added.
Student Vickie said, “I have been amazed at the speed at which I have gained flexibility and strength. It’s hard to go to the gym because of all the people that look good and are fit. (There is) no body-consciousness in Tony’s class. We all have physical challenges, including some folks with knee replacements. Tony’s philosophy is do what you can and find something that works. I recommend it for anyone at any age.”
The three women are enthusiastic in their agreement, “It is never too late to start,” they said.
Bill, a former student who studied with Khayat for many years calls Khayat, “A great instructor. He has a pretty simple technique that is all inclusive, just about all parts of the body, from the feet to the top of the head. You always feel better when you leave his class.”
“We’re all so glad that he does this, for our health and our well-being,” yoga student Ann said. “It’s good for us. We feel good when we do it. And we’re grateful to have Tony donate this time.”
June, has been a Khayat student for more than two decades. “He’s been so faithful, so regular to do this for the Library. He’s so interested and caring. He’s concerned about all of us,” June said.
Recently, the Little Rock Veterans’ Center heard about Tony’s classes and requested that he introduce the healing benefits of Yoga to a group of veterans at the Bob Davis Veterans Center in Mountain Home. Now, in addition to his classes at the Library, Tony regularly donates his time working with these veterans in coordination with a Vet Center Readjustment Counselor.
In awe of Khayat’s dedication, Library Director Kim Crow Sheaner said, “Seldom does a library partner like Tony come along — someone so talented, dependable, and inspirational. We realize how fortunate we are to have enjoyed such longevity with Tony and that he has chosen to devote himself to the Library and his students. We look forward to many more years of his classes.”
Learn more in article “Library’s yoga class honors instructor: Tony Khayat has raised over $60,000 for the Baxter County Library during his 25 years of teaching yoga classes at the facility”