#yogasocialjustice

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.




Give Your Power a Voice

I knew as a child I had a great power inside of me.  When I became brave enough to glimpse its marvelous magic I felt as if it’s magnitude could swallow me whole. I knew that my voice and my power were uniquely mine. A synonym for power is magic and this power is inside all of us.  For most of my life I have been in the process of discovering and hiding my magic power all at the same time.

My teacher says if it isn’t a paradox it isn’t divine. From a young age we’re taught to keep our  “power” in a small box to fit the mold and expectations of others. When we are young, it seems as though we can’t hide our power. Over time we adapt to our circumstances, learning how to let just enough of our magic show to keep us interesting but certainly not enough to make us different, unique, or stand out.

When I started my 200 Hour Vira Bhava Yoga Teacher Training I knew walking into our first practice that I was about to take the top off my perfect small box. I was terrified, trembling with anticipation, fear and excitement. Through my yoga practice I could feel the layers peeling away to show the innate, golden authentic-self that had been patiently waiting to emerge. This was a profound embodied experience that cultivated yoga in the core of my heart.  Through this practice with Vira Bhava Yoga. trust and respect were formed; I restored my power in its most lustrous, immense grandeur.

We all have a unique power inside, we have just forgotten.  In these times it is our job to remember. It is our job to ask questions. Our world in its current state of discomfort, fatigue and grief needs NOW more than EVER our unique power. That is why its time for each of us to give our power a voice.

It is our job as yogis to cultivate trust in purpose. When we come to the mat, we work to create and build energy as purpose. To notice each moment when we show up for ourselves on or off our mat has powerful purpose.

This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and quit your job because your purpose doesn’t match up with your profession… I mean maybe it does.  For most of us this isn’t the case. What we learn in the Vira Bhava Yoga 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training is how our purpose and power can express itself in many different areas of life.  We bring our power to every moment. We learn to use the strength of our power to continually guide us on our path.

One definition of power is to move or travel with great speed or force; this is a power of a Vira Bhava Yogi.  We are warriors. We are courageous. We are unapologetic in our greatness and we walk together in community. We know that by boldly expressing our power we are inviting others to do the same. Seeing ourselves in others, knowing that by first healing ourselves we can then heal as a whole.

I want to live in a world where every person has the opportunity to live more authentically while empowering others to find and share their unique voice. If this sounds like something you too seek… Join us! Vira Bhava Yoga is coming to a town and studio near you. We are excited, whole hearted individuals striving to support each other in being great! Learn more and Register for our programs here!

 

Shifting Your Perspective

Photo by Juan Diego Reyes

Photo by Juan Diego Reyes

Years ago I picked up a book on impulse at a bookstore.  Something about managing your time to grow your business.  I was in the fledgling stages of creating Vira Bhava Yoga, and was feeling mostly discouraged, frustrated by my slow movement toward my desires, and yet propelled by a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed to be doing. So, I did what I always do when I feel stuck, I bought a book about it.  My background is not in business, but I am the definition of an entrepreneur (unemployable).  So I decided to educate myself about ways I could turn my dream into reality.  

The best advice I received from this book of essays specifically targeted to tech start up businesses (wtf) was this:  at the end of the day reflect on your successes.  Instead of going down your to-do list and focusing on what you didn’t get done, which most of us do.  Instead of dwelling on the typical obstacles of “not enough” time, capital, energy, support; you fill in the blank, turn your focus to your accomplishments.  If you are working to manifest your purpose in the world, it’s an admirable feat, and it takes time. Committing a little bit of everyday toward that intention goes a long way.  Yet our tendency to focus on our failures instead of our successes veils the recognition of our own brilliance.

It’s not so different than watching my kids grow.  They are constantly changing, shifting, expanding, in body, mind and heart, but the day-to-day demands often keep me from noticing.  Until something huge happens (like my oldest is taller than me all of a sudden) or someone else points out the shifts, they often stay just outside of my awareness.  Not completely unknown, but not really acknowledged or celebrated.  Then in a moment, I realize how time has passed us by, and my little babes are full fledged people.  

So many of us get caught in the spin of overlooking how much impact we are making. Until one day, we wake up, haggared and hardened, and our dreams have come true, but we’ve missed it! We’ve lost ourselves in the never ending race to 'get things done’ and forgotten to reflect on the ways we are creating the life we desire RIGHT NOW!  

So, I started making a new list.  Every night before I would fall asleep I would write the list of things I had accomplished that day.  From “did the dishes” to “opened a business bank account,” from “wrote new content” to “taught two yoga classes,” I started to honor myself for my hard work and commitment. This simple thing shifting the most important aspect of my journey, my perspective.  I started believing in myself and what I was capable of.  I celebrated my successes instead of overlooking in an effort to move on to the next thing.  And, slowly but surely, the evidence of my hard work started to show itself.

There is a teaching in Tantra that states if you want to worship the Goddess, you must become her.  More than anything I wanted to be in the easeful flow of living my dharma, I wanted to receive the abundance that I felt certain was the outcome of working with such unwavering determination to manifest that truth that whispered inside me every day, but it didn’t feel like it was coming.  I spent most of my time lamenting the discrepancy between how much I wanted it, and how little it seemed to be manifesting. The yearning that was the evidence that I was on the right path would become the pain of defeat.  They key is to see the yearning as the force propelling you in the right direction, and not get stuck in the pain of not receiving. For most of us, when we are in that pain, we throw up our hands and change directions instead of seeing the yearning as something to turn towards, not away from. The yearning is the call, and when we attach only to the outcome of success and not to the reality of our own efforts, that’s when we get stuck.  When we feel stuck, we think about whether or not we are doing the right thing, when we could be reflecting on our challenges as the lessons we need to be learning to grow in balance.  The barrier to our success is simply the gap between the yearning and the achieving. One which can easily be remedied by self reflection and trust in our purpose. When we change where we place our focus, we are freed from defeat, and reenergized toward what we are so ready to do.

So when I was stuck, I decided to change my perspective.  I turned to the sweet and absolute abundance of Shakti in the form of Lakshmi, and I began the process of recognizing the parts of my life that were already abundant.  I gave thanks for my family, my friends, my practice.  I honored my growth as a teacher, I cultivated enthusiasm about educating myself in new systems. And it all worked. Here we are. Vira Bhava Yoga has grown and continues to grow.  We share and celebrate the path of Tantric Hatha Yoga in 7 different states, with more planned for the coming years. We have outstanding teachers, mentors, change-makers, and students all over the world.  

I still move in and out of remembering, just as the teachings say we will.  But when I can see the ways that Lakshmi shows up everyday in my life, not just in material wealth, but in love, connection, spiritual growth, joy, generosity, receptivity, openness, and ease, then I feel that energy enhanced.  The abundance that Lakshmi brings only grows when we acknowledge it, and from that place, open ourselves to receive more than we thought possible.  Because that’s the way it works, surrender isn’t giving up, it’s leaning into the whole truth, not just the one to which we have become accustom.

Recommended Readings:

The Soul Money, By Lynne Twist

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind: Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei