yoga 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.




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!

 

Welcome to the Edge

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What is the edge?  The edge is a precipice between one place and another.  The boundary between what is and what could be.  The experience of the edge is often characterized by intensity and extremes. The edge is a place of unknowns and risk, and a place where there is very little clear direction about the next step. It is the space of transition which often leads us to be both excited and afraid. Hopeful for the movement to the next place, and simultaneously terrified about leaving the comfort of the familiar. It seems that we find ourselves on the edge often in our lives.  It can emerge during big shifts like the edge of a career or the edge of relationship, but it can also happen with something as seemingly insignificant as the edge of a choice.

It is an intense place to occupy, and often we express that we feel frozen, stuck, unclear, and without direction.  So, to stay “safe”, we prolong the process, and hold fast to the familiar and comfortable.  We begin to develop a fear and mistrust about the space between, when in truth it is the space of pure potential. This space just outside of the familiar is where we learn to TRUST, to understand that it is all about us, but it is so much bigger than us.  The less we cling, the more we can feel supported to make the choices that will lead us to greatest ease on our path. Once we step out into the unknown, the next phase of our lives opens to us. But that first step, for most of us, is the hardest one.

The choice to leave the familiar for what is right or good for our life takes a warrior’s heart.  When we take that initial step into the unknown and in doing so, we open a path straight to our center.  For so many of us, this is scary.  We’ve invested so much time and energy into becoming  that we have forgotten our own true being, the unchanging, purposeful, power within.  

It is here at the edge of a quiet moment, or a dramatic life change, where we have a choice. We choose to step out into the unknown away from comfort because we sense it will bring us closer to who we really are. Taking this step will bring us closer to who we are becoming.

Friends and family may think we are crazy.  Our colleagues might question our sanity.  But when we make the choice to honor the call home to ourselves, we become courageous warriors and we feel aligned.  The doubt and fears that we once had don’t disappear, but they begin to ttake a backseat to the hope, excitement, and knowing that surface when you step over the edge. We may do unexpected things like quit our jobs or leave a relationship.  We might become unpredictable and spontaneous and go back to school or become a yoga teacher.  We might allow our true selves to show up in ways that we never allowed before by falling in love or planting seeds in the ground. Regardless of the way your choice will manifest, the edge that we surf is terrifying and exhilarating, and entirely worth it.
 

If you find yourself at this edge, welcome. You are not alone, you are among good strong faithly company. Together we are stepping over the edge and supporting one another as we wake up, feel more authentically, dive into practice, and make choices that will change our lives and in doing so change our world.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Establish yourself in TRUST.  Trust in the process, trust in yourself, your inner voice, your preparation.  Remember YOU are the point.

  2. Be cautious about leaning too much into faith.  Faith requires us to cultivate belief whereas TRUST requires no believing, it is belief itself.  When we TRUST, outside evidence becomes an added bonus instead of the needed proof.

  3. When you are in the intensity of the edge, the only practice is to keep going.  Focus all your energy in what you know is true. Keep going, even if you are tip-toeing.  Keep showing up to whatever is offered.

  4. Be in relationship with your inner voice.  Do a practice every day that tunes you into YOU.  Your inner guidance, your truth. Don’t worry about what anyone else says, inhabiting the edge is ALL about YOU.

  5. Don’t wait for Perfection. The desire for things to be perfect in order to make choices is a way we orient ourselves to what’s right/wrong, good/bad.   So when we have no orientation, the absolute definition of the edge,  we feel that it’s imperfect and something is wrong. Act from your gut instead of from proof.

  6. Be fully engaged in the process.  It’s the process itself that is the point, so don’t disregard it in an effort to escape discomfort.

  7. Choose growth.  When things are most challenging or confusing, see these experiences as an opportunity to refine and grow.  Riding the edge is an opportunity to become more mature in our efforts.  Apply your intelligence to your experience.  Slow down, invite presence, feel your emotions, and watch how you evolve.

  8. Be gentle with yourself.  The edge is scary.  It’s a difficult place to be.  It’s exciting and full of potential, but often without clear and predictable outcome.  If you find yourself seeking old comforts, or feeling discouraged, it’s ok.  Be accepting of your humanness and recalibrate your efforts.

  9. And lastly, take care of yourself. The edge is hard and you will likely be questioned rather than supported. Show up for yourself like you wish others would show up for you in these times.

If you are ready to step over the edge and are seeking a support consider joining us for one of our many 200/300/500 Hr Yoga Teacher Trainings.