Tara (they/she) is a South Asian yoga teacher and facilitator. Tara co-owns the Bhakti Yoga Movement Center (BYMC), a yoga and embodiment studio based in Portland, Oregon, and co-directs SOMA School of Yoga and Somatics, which offers Foundations Yoga Teacher Training and Continuing Education for yoga teachers and movement practitioners. They received their YTT 300 hr from the Bhakti Yoga Movement Center under its former ownership, and completed further study in Advanced Hatha Yoga, Yoga Nidra, and Meditation with Khushi Malhotra of the Light on Yoga school, and anatomy and somatics with Trina Altman. Tara feels and believes in the liberatory power and potential of yoga. In its capacity to move us deeper towards individual and collective healing, into true interdependence with each other and with the earth. In their personal practice, teaching, and stewardship of the BYMC, they strive to center this potential in all its complexities, and to create a trauma-sensitive container that facilitates curiosity, rest, stability, ease, play, connection, and release. Tara teaches all levels yoga asana and meditation, Restorative Yoga, and Yoga Nidra, including specialized classes for Queer and Trans communities and BIPOC communities.
I began my committed yoga practice after taking a yoga class with my mom in the place where our family is from, Kerala, India. It was a transformational experience to practice outside on the banks of a river, with the lands and waters that my people come from, and in a community of other practitioners. At the close of the final meditation, my mom and I blinked open our eyes, looked at each other, and in that moment, we committed to each other that we would no longer let the yoga industry’s Whiteness, cultural appropriation, size-bias, classism, and perpetuation or willful ignorance of Hindu nationalism keep us from accessing practices created by our people. We promised each other that we would attend classes together, so that we’d never be the only brown person in the room and, ultimately, so we could access the liberatory potential of these practices.
The fuel that sparked that day turned into a passion for deepening my own study and expanding access to that potential liberation for all beings. I have witnessed time and time again the power that yoga has to ignite deep transformation for individuals and collective healing, when that transformation is channeled into reflection, relationship, and movements for justice.
This liberatory potential of yoga is what inspires and sustains my work as Co-Steward of the Bhakti Yoga Movement Center (the BYMC). When my mom and I originally committed to practice yoga together, I chose the BYMC because of the studio’s commitment to redistribute funds to radical organizations and individuals, a legacy that I am proud to continue today. Through relationship-building with teachers and willingness to engage in discomfort and conflict about appropriation, Brahminism, and whiteness in the yoga space, I found a yoga home and my first yoga teacher training. I had never considered owning a yoga studio, but when the former owner of the BYMC invited me to take on ownership with my friend and teacher, Zeyah Rogé, it was the yoga practices that helped me identify a resounding, embodied yes.
The experience of being actively excluded from wellness spaces, from being made to feel like I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t strong enough or flexible enough or calm enough or white enough or skinny enough or straight enough to be there, and then finding a community that created space for me and allowed me to access the healing potential of yoga, even in its imperfection, fuels my work as co-owner of the BYMC.
I’ve learned that yoga spaces can be healing and liberatory when we are encouraged to arrive to practice as we were, to allow rather than bypass our rage and grief, to get curious and play - prioritizing our own experience over the image or idea of a pose, to cry and laugh, to bring the messiness and devastation and joy of our world onto our mats and into our collective practice. I am inspired by the incredible potential of showing up in practice community with honesty and care, by queer love and the way that queerness mirrors the expansive possibility that yoga holds, and the way that all oppressed communities throughout the world continue to dream into the potential for collective liberation.
As the only South-Asian owned yoga studio in Portland, and one of few in the United States, our Center holds an important place within the wellness community and ecosystem of yoga. I’ve had the fortune to receive so much from these practices, and it’s heartbreaking to witness the ways that culturally appropriated and commodified versions of yoga have alienated the very people who could benefit most from them. This fuels my passion to keep our space alive and thriving. When people who have been marginalized from mainstream yoga and wellness step into our space, they often remark on the energetic warmth and open-ness, the way that they feel at home, welcomed, and free to express themselves, to take up space. Our students show up because they crave a space where they can arrive to their mats not to escape the world around them, but to get more present to it and how they inhabit it. Many students share that our space has made them believe that they deserve not just yoga, but healing in general, and that is why I do what I do. This warm energy is supported by our small altar, which contains offerings brought by our students and teachers, in alignment with their own cultures and spiritual traditions. I see the altar as a physical representation of the connection we weave together through our classes.
Attend our classes (livestream, in-person in Portland OR, and through our On Demand library); share/follow/like on Instagram; donate to our Community Practice Fund to support our Equity Pricing Program to make yoga accessible to all; donate to our BIPOC scholarship fund to support new BIPOC yoga teachers in our Yoga Teacher Training program.
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