Is it Yoga if it Ignores Injustice?

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I’ve had the privilege of practicing Yoga since I was nineteen years old. At thirty-one, I’ve explored, experimented, and internalized as much as I can. I am full of Yoga. I’ve cultivated a “safe” practice for myself that now feels stifling. I’m stepping out of the incubation of my practice and weaving my practice into my life. And I’m doing that because I can see and feel Yoga’s opposite so resolutely.

Divisiveness; I’m talking about the nature of hate, racism, and othering that we are experiencing ripping through our country, communities, media, and social constructs. I cannot ignore the violence, mass murders, poverty, and helplessness any more. The level of dichotomy in our world calls for my practice to evolve and be inclusive of these realities too.

There is a popular Sanskrit mantra that goes “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” it means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” How though, if we are only using our practice to perpetuate our own safety and wellbeing do we cultivate thoughts, words, and actions that contribute to the happiness and freedom of others?

Over time my practice has matured me beyond the need for only safety and has propelled me into the Yoga of Action, into Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga states that one should act, but not be attached to the fruits of your labor. One of the powers cultivated in this practice is the ability to witness how the mind reacts to external forces.

Once we understand the impact the mind’s reactions have on our willingness to engage, we can begin to investigate how and why we avoid, shy away from, and detest certain people, circumstances, and feelings. When we move through our resistance, we can identify and overcome the illusionary fears that keep us in avoidance.

As I act and educate myself of the injustices in our world, I am learning that they get stronger the more I (we) avoid and reject them as truth. I am seeing and feeling the dichotomy, the violence, the hate, the racism, the systems that oppress and it hurts.  

As I embrace these realities my worldview is challenged and my “safety” feels threatened. What I’ve been able to understand through strong practice, educating myself, and action is that right now it IS unsafe, violent, and dangerous and it isn’t my safety that feels threatened it’s my privilege.


If you are feeling safe it is because you have the privilege to be unaffected by the violence, the hate, and the racism that are thrashing about in our world. I believe that a practice that only cultivates the ability to tolerate the good, the ease, the righteous creates a fragility within us. The need for only good means we turn away and avoid the bad this action perpetuates and emboldens privilege.


When we ignore the hate, judgement, and fear inside of ourselves it is easy to avoid it out in the world. This kind of avoidance stunts our growth, endangers the future of inclusive progress, emboldens violence, hate, and racism and is out of integrity with the purpose of Yoga which is to create union. There’s a word for this tendency it’s called  Spiritual Bypassing.


I encourage each of us to investigate the practices we cultivate. Are our practices only perpetuating our privilege and our relationship with that which is comfortable, safe, stable, and easeful? Or are our practices also fortifying and preparing us to sit with, tolerate, and welcome the realities that are uncomfortable, violent, hateful, racist, and oppressive?

To the spiritual white women reading this: It is time for us to begin practicing Yoga as action rather than using it as a tool to further isolate. We can only really do this if we can sit with our own shadows, our hate, our racism, our violence, our rage, and the oppression we experience and internalize, and witness, welcome, and weather whatever confrontation it brings.

You may feel like this action will tear you apart, impact your mental stability, or break you. I ask you to take that belief into your practice and test it. Karma Yoga states that we find ourselves in these times (Karma) and should act in line with the tenants of Yoga for the sake of Union, but not be attached to the fruits of our labor or let our attachments guide our actions.

The Sanskrit mantra “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”; it really does mean FOR ALL PEOPLE. If we are only practicing love and light and celebrating the beauty in the world we are doing an injustice to the practice, to our Self, and to others; we are Spiritually Bypassing.

I challenge you to call in the other half of life, the violence, the hate, the racism, the systems that oppress and the shadows. If we do not start to take accountability for the internalized shadows that are part of our nature; we will only prolong the hate, racism, and othering happening in the world. If we cannot dismantle our aversion I am not sure our Yoga practice or mantras like “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” can benefit all.

If you call what you are practicing Yoga, yet you’re ignoring the injustices happening outside of yourself, I ask you to reconsider what it is that you’re practicing and teaching others. Is it Yoga, if it ignores injustice or is it Spiritual Bypassing.

I would like to hear your reaction to this blog, please email me at Rachel@ViraBhavaYoga.com.


The article linked about has several foundational citations within it so that you can educate yourself further on topics touched on in this piece. I also recommend you follow Reverend Angel Kyodo Williams, Rusia Mohiuddin, Kerri Kelly (CTZNWELL), Rachel Cargle and Layla F. Saad for profound inclusivity work around racism, spirituality, Yoga, feminism, inclusion, and the revolution.



Rachel Tuck is the Associate Director and Operations Officer of Vira Bhava Yoga. She spends her time internally within the Vira Bhava Yoga Company supporting and co-creating the offerings, cultivating thought capitol, and intermingling with the forces greater than her to call in what’s next. You can also find her teaching in various weekends of Vira Bhava Yoga teacher trainings around the country and soon to be leading her own programs within the Vira Bhava Yoga School. Rachel is a 500 RYT who has been teaching Yoga for 8 years. She lives in Nevada City, California and can be found on social media as Rachelle Luck.




How We Are Different

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Hey Yogis,

Sometimes writing a blog post is hard.  I want to say something meaningful and impactful.  I want to offer something that is worth taking the time to read, and though my mind and intellect constantly churn ideas, capturing one to bring to you is sometimes like trying to catch the wind on paper. So, this month I’ve been thinking a lot about where we started. Vira Bhava Yoga was born out of a desire to revolutionize our study of Yoga to be relevant, modern, and most importantly applicable to the lives we desire to live without watering down the enormous power of the spiritual roots and practices that make up this immensely powerful life path.

We didn’t want to teach yoga as fitness, we wanted to teach yoga as a path to embodying our innate power and potential.  We didn’t want to teach a script, we wanted to teach yogis to PRACTICE and share the insights they discovered in the process.  We didn’t want yogis to all sound the same, we wanted yogis that were cultivating their own unique voice through experience. We didn’t want to strive for perfection in anything, we wanted to create a safe space for everyone to be right where they were in their practice and their lives, and know that where you are is OK.  After participating in the Yoga industry for over a decade, we knew back then that we wanted to do it differently, and we were guided by our hearts through countless mistakes and redirections to find the path that was uniquely ours, and to this day, this is the path we continue to walk and to refine.  Each experience, each interaction, each training helps us to understand ourselves and the needs and desires of our students more and more.

We are, and will always be a work in progress.  We are learning our lessons moment to moment, making adjustments, refining our processes, adapting our procedures.  Vira Bhava Yoga is not a static system. We DON’T have all the answers, and we don’t have it all figured out, but we DO feel great about what we’ve discovered and we LOVE sharing it with people who are ready.  We hold fast to our own foundational principles of catalyzing Authentic Yogi Warriors, by continuously challenging ourselves to WAKE UP in our lives.  To be in alignment with our deepest truths, we will move toward discomfort in our lives and our practice.  These discomforts are the source of friction for sure, but this friction lights the fire that burns away our confusion, that catalyzes our determination, our will, and courage.  

We know that Yoga can sometimes feel like another goal to achieve, another thing on the ever growing list of things.  We want Vira Bhava Yoga to feel like a homecoming rather than a striving.  We want to encapsulate the truth that one of my teachers, Angelea Farmer, shared so eloquently, “Yoga isn’t something you do, it is WHO YOU ARE.”  We want to come back to the place where Yoga feels like arriving home rather than working to succeed.  And, we want to teach how to share that experience with others. The striving to achieve levels of excellence in our Yoga practice can often leave us feeling disconnected or isolated.  These feelings become enhanced when the common yoga vernacular speaks of the oneness, the love, the connection that we desire to feel, yet at the end of our classes we feel guarded and alone. Maybe through our practice we get a glimpse of something more, but no one can seem to explain what we saw or how to get back there.  At Vira Bhava Yoga, we walk beside you on the path.  We know that Yoga is a solo journey, but we cannot do it alone, so we work to bring the personal back into the universal.  Making our etheric experiences tangible, giving them voice, and sharing them with others.

It’s been almost 8 years since Vira Bhava Yoga went from a dream to reality, and we are still dreaming it into being.  We are committed to the work we do, and we are so very excited to share it with you. And we want to know about YOU. What are your feelings about Yoga, your connections, your challenges?  What do you want out of your Yoga practice, and how can we work with you to make these desires accessible? Our evolution is guided by you. We want to listen and stay connected. We want to grow with you in your yoga journey.  If you haven’t checked out one of our programs yet, take a few minutes of your day to explore this practice (link), and check out one of our upcoming workshops or Trainings in your area.

Vira Bhava Yoga is not just for Yoga Teachers, we are a company committed to practicing our LIVES as YOGA.  If you want to explore these possibilities yourself, then join us. There is still space in our upcoming programs in ATL, our advanced studies program beginning in NOVEMBER and our intro level program starting in January 2019.  We also have only a few spots left for our Advanced Studies Program in Sacramento, CA starting in January 2019. We also have opportunities to join the Vira Bhava Yoga family by running programs in your area. Contact us directly for more details.

Finally, you can join our Director in Costa Rica in April 2019 for an exploration of Deep Ecology and Wellness with Yogatrade.com.

Blessings,

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Exploration & Discovery

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Do you consider yourself an explorer?  Are you curious about life and it’s details?  Are you compelled to seek an understanding of the big picture?  Are you turned on by the mystery? Then you may be an explorer, just like me.  Over time I’ve learned that exploring is a path of seeking without searching. That to truly explore, we must be lead by curiosity and not goals. When we explore, we know that our destinations are places to begin, not end.  Exploration requires us to let go of the plans and expected outcomes, which can be scary and disorienting. As explorers, we are called to experience what IS rather than change what isn’t to meet our expectations of safety and control. This is a place of unknowns, of questions without answers, of absence of security. And it takes a lot of courage.

Most of us are too uncomfortable with the unknowns to enjoy the exploration.  The irony of this being that nothing is truly known, and change is inevitable.  We invest all of our time and energy into creating stable, rigid outcomes, yet the nature of the universe is change, ask Steve Jobs.  You achieve the success, you have the wealth and security you desire, then bam! the game is over. No time left to enjoy the spoils of your victory. Our whole lives are built around the false edifice of accomplishment.  We truly believe that once we have enough ____________ (time, money, love, support, energy, you fill in the blank), then everything will be perfect. We work so hard to get to this place of enoughness that we forget to live the life we are creating.  We invest all of our energy in outcomes, and we forget that the point is to live our moments fully. We forget that WE are the point, not what we can do or achieve.

Because of our discomfort with the unknown, we build boxes of protection around ourselves. We construct walls of routines of security, stability, and protection. We seek to make our lives manageable, often sacrificing the JOY of living in the process. Our boxes become so small, tight and controlled that they limit our life expression.  We don’t have wiggle room, we can’t stretch ourselves beyond the container we’ve created, then rather than changing the box, we work to wrestle the vast possibilities of life into our little cage of existence. We learn to live with the discomfort of our limitations, and choose to focus all of our energy on maintaining and strengthening the walls we build around ourselves.  The irony is that the energy you try to fit, stuff, contain inside the box of safety is by its very nature unlimited and expansive. Rather than expand ourselves to hold it, we try to condense it into pieces that over time become dull or volatile, and then...things fall apart. Because you see, the divine's play is to liberate us...to burn our boxes of safety to the ground. THE DIVINE PLAN IS TO SET US FREE!

So, you wanna get on board? Do you want to align with the divine rather than work against it? It’s easy.  Explore your LIFE! What do you want to explore? How can you allow the unknowns to be the destination? Energy is constantly moving, flowing, creating, and permeating all things we do.  We can try to contain it, reduce it, control it from a place of fear and resistance, OR we can work with energy to shape our path, to propel us in the direction of alignment and ease. This is the practice of TANTRA!

When we reframe our understanding of our lives, we create the space for new possibilities and we heal old resistances. When we develop an acute awareness of how we feel and work to create a relationship with that feeling we understand more about ourselves. The intensity of our emotions, yearnings, and fears is the call of our Self. Can you hear it?  Our work is to commune with energy for the greatest outcome.

So what do you desire right now?  What does your heart whisper only to you that no one else can hear?  Are you feeling the nudge of something bigger in your life, something more innately YOU?  If you are reading this, maybe it’s time for you to step into a deeper level of discovery.  Maybe it’s time to get to know yourself better, to commit to your practice in a new way, to refine your offerings as a teacher.  If you are ready to stretch beyond your self created limitations, then we invite you to join us at any of our upcoming trainings. Learn more here.