social justice

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.




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. 

Let's Start a Yoga Revolution

ALL REVOLUTIONS BEGIN AS EVOLUTIONS

I have worked for years trying to meet the mainstream examples of an adept yogi.  I stretched my body beyond it’s limits, I filled my mind with teachings and directions.  I approached my mat like a surgeon, ready to cut and repair my practice into perfection. Until one day I stopped practicing and started listening, and it was revolutionary.  Though not quite in my 40th year, I feel my body resisting the rigid structure of effort and achievement that I’d been striving to obtain for two decades.  I witness that when I threw caution to the wind and ALLOW my body to explore sensation, movement, and breath, the experience of Yoga, rather than the practice of it,  is the result.  I am mystified and terrified, but also excited.  Even though I’ve been teaching for years, it feels daunting to offer this new approach to my students.  For now, my teaching is evolving into a dialogue of trust and discovery rather than a demand to perpetuate the status quo.

Maybe this makes me a renegade or some sort of nuisance.  It definitely makes my classes an acquired taste.  The mainstream idea that yoga is about bikini clad arm balances is not the Yoga I want to be teaching.  Though the asana I teach is full of opportunities to be stronger, it is not a fast-paced,  fitness driven kind of strength.  Instead, we explore an innate strength that arises from within; an unshakeable trust in yourself.  That’s what I want to be teaching: THE FULL POSSIBILITY OF WHAT YOGA CAN BE. I continue to stand on a strong foundation of Millennia old teachings,  and trust that the forms of asanas shape and move our energy in ways that enhance our vitality.  And I will continue to study with amazing teachers.  Am I infalible? Hell NO!  I have blind spots.  I have places within me that I have hidden or locked away that need a teacher or a teaching to crack open.  But I no longer want to be solely dependent on the authority of others to guide my experience.

In this revolution, we will know that we don’t have to master a picture-perfect handstand in order to be a yogi.  We don't have to twist ourselves into complex shapes or harden our core to be successful. We don’t have to disregard the messages of safety that come from our brains and our cells.  When our Yoga becomes our revolution it evolves to embody the unique essence of beauty and perfection that exists inside of each of us.

The most challenging part of evolution is trust. We can’t get behind a revolution without it.  How do we quiet the voices of doubt and fear and criticism (both inside and out) that say that this approach isn’t yoga?  How do we allow the experience of yoga to rise up from within, rather than feeling like it is perpetually something we have create on the outside? WHAT WOULD OUR YOGA LOOK LIKE IF WE REALLY TRUSTED OURSELVES? What if we were the ultimate authority of what was best for us?  Here’s where the real revolution begins.

We are returning to our innate guidance.  Regardless of opinion, we are pursuing the possibility that Yoga is something that is sourced from inside of us and not something to achieve or attain. As we mature our understanding, our practice transforms, and if we are lucky, we get to share that with others.  

This is the new Revolution of Yoga, and we are on the front lines.  Are you ready to join us?