When a gunman armed with an AR-15 and handguns opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week, yogis everywhere retreated to their safe haven: their yoga studios. Now, after a gunman opened fire in a Tallahassee, Florida yoga studio, shooting six people and killing two, yogis around the world are grieving for the victims and their families—and wondering if their sanctuaries are safe after all.
Here’s What We Know Right Now
Around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, police arrived at Hot Yoga Tallahassee in response to a call about a shooting. When the responding officers arrived, they found suspected gunman Scott Paul Beierle, 40, of Deltona, Florida, dead. Police believe he shot himself after pistol-whipping one, shooting six, and killing two people, who were identified as Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21.
“As we process the gut-wrenching act of violence that took place this evening in a place of peace in our community, we hold in our hearts everyone who is affected and lift them up in love,” officials tweeted from Tallahassee’s Twitter account.
According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings in the United States, the Florida yoga studio shooting marked the 304th mass shooting this year.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With gun violence reaching now reaching the places we view as sacred sanctuaries—church, synagogue, and now the yoga studio—we understand the hurt and fear the yoga community is facing as a whole.
“We are saddened and angered by yesterday’s senseless shooting at Hot Yoga Tallahassee,” says Tasha Eichenseher, Yoga Journal’s brand director. “Our compassion goes out to the victims and their families, and to the yoga community at large. Studios are sacred spaces where we go for self-care and to feel safe. We cannot let these acts of violence scare us from practicing and congregating with community; from finding solace and serenity. Please vote on November 6 and know that your vote does matter in making the world a more peaceful place.”
Amy Ippoliti, world renowned yoga teacher and co-founder of 90 Monkeys training programs agrees: “My heart is with the people suffering right now,” she says. “Sadly, it’s no surprise that gun violence has now entered our yoga community. We are all connected to those children in the schools, the people in the movie theater, those worshiping in the churches and synagogue, and our fellow yogis in Florida. It was only a matter of time that gun violence would touch our community; this should be a battle cry to take up the charge and get out and vote.
“The only way to change gun violence is through policy and politics,” says Ippoliti. “If you think yoga isn’t about politics, you need to think again.”
Meghan Rabbitt is the executive editor of Yoga Journal
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