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Meet Raja Michelle of The Tree South LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Raja Michelle.

Raja, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In recognizing institutional racism and the compounding effects of police brutality, addiction, oppression, and trauma in our communities of color.

In 2013, I decided to open doors and offer the healing practices of yoga and meditation by donation that were not already offered in our community. This simple service set the foundation for our center to grow and become a gem in South LA.

In 2015, we began our 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training, training mostly teachers of color, not only to serve our direct community but further going out in the world to represent and share this practice with all people.

We now offer a myriad of programming, education, workshops, and trainings. This space is directed by our community and their needs.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There have definitely been struggles, how could there not be? LOL.

I think a general challenge, especially at the time of our opening, is our communities of color had minimum exposure to these practices. Since most of the images of yoga practitioners are of skinny, middle class, white women, and the cost of classes average $18-$25 per class, yoga & mindfulness in some ways, was a foreign offering to our community.

The first year of opening 99% of our students were brand new to yoga. There were misconceptions about what the practices were and are, and often based on false stories that sometimes get taught in certain fundamental Christian based institutions. In addition, being a non-profit offering service by donation, we have gone through many times of all volunteerism and limitations based on our resources. We just kept showing up and serving our community and trusting the unfolding.

And finally, myself as the founder being a white woman creates a certain set of challenges. Our community has been so hurt by the white supremacy of this country, and my responsibility has been to recognize my role in accountability of unjust systems and being aware of how relationship building organically unfolds with time and transparency and inclusivity.

I am in awe of the Grace of our community and the bridges that have been created between, that bring about healing on multiple different levels.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Tree South LA – what should we know?
There is truly no other organization like us. We are trailblazers in using social justice as the motivation to create access to wellbeing for individuals and community.

Most yoga studios are inaccessible spaces, so for our yogis of color to come to a safe space where teachers look like them and offer a space to address stress and trauma, it is everything.

We also bring in other aspects of social justice through our education, workshops, and marketplaces.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Everybody deserves credit, I couldn’t have done it without the donors, the teachers, the staff, the volunteers, and our community. Every Humane Being that has crossed our threshold is a part of this Tree and its growth.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 8227 S. Western Ave.
    Los Angeles, Ca 90047
  • Website: www.thetreesouthla.org
  • Phone: 3107100744
  • Email: raja@thetreesouthla.org
  • Instagram: @thetreesouthla
  • Facebook: @thetreesouthla
  • Twitter: @thetreesouthla
  • Yelp: The Tree South LA

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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