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Racheal Weathers: How This Self-Taught Yogi Overcome Her Body Issues By Practicing Yoga

Posting her pictures on social media under the moniker Yoga Racheal has lead her from having a small following to teaching sold out classes

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The people are watching. As she slowly raises herself up from the floor and onto her hands, arms at 180, unfolding and then folding herself back into position like a collapsible chair, they stare in awe—then break out into accolades ranging from “beast" to “fuckin' goals" at her majestic display of strength and grace all in her tiny 5'1'' frame.

No, I'm not talking Gabby Douglas, I'm talking Racheal Weathers, an equally extraordinary talent in her own right.

A self-taught yogi, if we want to boast.

To her hundreds of thousands of followers, it's almost hard to believe that just four years ago the master of body manipulation was sitting at home twiddling her thumbs when fate led her to the page of fellow yoga queen Irene Pappas. Suddenly filled with inspiration, she tapped into her training as a former gymnast, pulled up a few YouTube videos, and began her own at-home practice.

“I was like I've done this before; it's definitely different, but I think I can do that," says Racheal. “People are always like oh you're good because you did gymnastics and I'm like no that's not the case; it's just practice. You don't have to have a background in anything to start."

Starting from home came with its own set of perks. For one, it kept money in her pockets. With the average cost of a yoga class ranging from $10 to $20, a person looking to make this into a daily practice would quickly find their wallets emptying. It also gave her a chance to become disciplined, and the lack of structure meant that she could go at her own pace and practice in a judgment free zone.

“I've definitely been to a couple of classes and I get stares and looks, and it's like I'm invisible. Then it's like, oh wow her practice is amazing, now let's talk. And it's annoying, it's very annoying."

She's not talking about the admiration experienced from her followers whenever she posts an inspiring photo or video clip of some seemingly impossible magic trick, but the slightly condescending gasps from those surprised that people of all races, genders, and genetic makeups can equally flex and contort their way into jaw-dropping positions, despite the growing popularity of the ancient practice.

“They're just blatantly ignorant to it even if they're not trying to be insulting. I'm coming in there and I'm not comfortable because you're starting at me. And I'm black and I got an afro."

Racheal's not one to talk about it without being about it. Instead of allowing the experience to consume her with anger, she instead channeled her energy into creating a space where people much like her and much different than her could come and comfortably reap the benefits of yoga and meditation.

“I don't care if you weigh 300 pounds, if you want to wear a sports bra and shorts you can and nobody is going to be staring at you or harassing you, you're not going to be ostracized."

As confident as Racheal speaks now, she wasn't always the person who could walk into a room, back straight and head held high. Growing up in Riverside, California, Racheal spent the majority of her childhood taking gymnastic classes, and by middle school became well aware that her thighs were a little thicker and her bottom a little rounder than her naturally thin counterparts. Though she was petite she says she was never skinny, and it became an insecurity that she carried with her even when she slipped her slightly-muscular frame into leggings and a t-shirt, and later into more skin-baring clothing.

“I was like okay, it's getting kind of hard to wear leggings and t-shirts, I need to just step outside of the box," says Racheal. “I was recording my progress on Instagram and I was wearing tank tops and shorts, and I really battled with that hard. So hard. And it's so funny to look back on it, but that was my reality at the time. I definitely give a lot of props to my yoga practice wardrobe for getting me into the mindset of 'okay Racheal, honestly no one cares,' which is a beautiful thing."

It's almost ironic, considering that many of her clients ask her how to get bigger arms and a toned body similar to hers, but Racheal notes that not everyone's body responds the same to the calistitenic-like workout. In fact, looks can be quite deceiving to where a person who appears to have no definition is extremely strong and the person who is flexing their biceps is barely holding their own weight.

But one thing that does appear to be beneficial for all is the spiritual and mental shift that often accompanies yoga. Although there are many practicing Buddhists and Hindus in the yoga community, people of varying beliefs sing the praises of what the practice has done for them mentally and spiritually. For Racheal, it was her relationship with God that grew stronger along with her body. “I don't know the requirements of what those religions are, but they say these certain things and I'm like I'm definitely not there. Those are the moments where I have to say either I'm going to stand for something or fall for anything—you can let them define you or you can define yourself. And it was almost like not defending my faith, but defining it. So from there, my relationship with God started to grow, things started to change, it was a whole 360 spiritually and mentally. Not giving practice the glory, but it was definitely a huge resource getting me to where I am today."

Who she is today is a woman who knows herself and knows what she stands for. She knows that her circle is a reflection of who she is and the direction her life will go, and that anybody with a lifestyle or mindset that doesn't align with hers can be kept at a distance.

“If I'm with you I want our lives to match up in a certain way, and there's a lot of people in the yoga industry that I've connected with. Sweet people, but I would not do a retreat with them because of how they conduct business. Even the yoga apparel lines, they pay amazingly but on your website you have all white women weighing 92 pounds, so what are you really saying? Yeah, you're a great person and you have a great product, but you're not here for everybody, and I am. So I can't connect with you."

In other words, nobody can kill her vibe. It's no surprise that she hangs out with fellow positive energy-enthusiast Alex Elle, who's also built a strong following by speaking her truth and staying rooted in who she is. The writer and entrepreneur took Racheal under her wing and helped her with the foundation of her product line Til.Co, which currently houses her Palm-Aid hand and foot mist to help keep yogis from slipping on their mats. Although she's not out to prove herself as a brand, she's thankful that she's been able to turn her passion into profit. Posting her pictures on social media under the moniker Yoga Racheal has lead her from having a small following to teaching sold out classes all over the country and Caribbean, as well as hosting retreats with some of the same women that she used to admire from afar. When she's not traveling, you can catch her at Green Tree Yoga in Inglewood teaching her weekly class, or pursuing other passions, such as voiceover work, as she transitions out of the Air Force and into following her purpose full-time.

“It's beautiful because when I teach classes and people are like you inspired me to do this, I'm like that's amazing to me—to be used for something so amazing and so much bigger than myself. It's literally all God; I had no hand in this."

And she's being completely humble when she speaks of the lives that she's changed by following her instinct. She's not only helped her many students with achieving things with their bodies that they never imagined possible, but she has even helped couples such as Shelah Marie and Ace Hood build stronger relationships and create a deeper connection on an emotional level.

If you ask her, it's simply a part of her purpose.

“I've come to the final realization that I was definitely destined to be a blessing to people. It's so bad because I always want to give stuff away for free, and it's just that part of me that wants to be a blessing. I definitely have to find a balance, but at the end of the day I found that it's what I want to be. If I had to put that on a tombstone it would say: Racheal Weathers wanted to be a blessing."

You can keep up with yoga on Instagram @YogaRacheal.

All images courtesy of Racheal Weathers

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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