Rachel Brathen, also known to her two million social media followers as @yoga_girl, is a Swedish born hip international yoga teacher, New York Times best-selling author, and motivational speaker who authentically shares intimate pieces of her life experiences, both the good and the bad. Her recent book, Yoga Girl, is a memoir intermixed with self-help and thoughtful yoga sequences. She shares her adventures from her rebellious, formative teenage years to learning self-love through yoga and meditation, which helped shape the beautiful life she has now. Rachel shares her kind heart through her inspirational teachings on land, in the water, and through a social media community rich with human connection.
I was happy to catch the fun-loving bright Bohemian for a Skype interview from her home in Aruba after teaching a morning SUP yoga class, in-between phone meetings, and popping her favorite banana bread in the oven… Read on for inspiration from the truly sincere and sweet, (I feel like I’ve known you forever and want to be your best friend) @yoga_girl, and for her yummy banana bread recipe!
AN INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL BRATHEN
Hi Rachel! You are like a spiritual volunteer, sharing your open and genuine heart not only with the Internet galaxy, but also with all those you encounter, dogs included! YOU are inspiring! Who inspires you?
I get that question a lot and I always come back to the same answer, it’s always my students. They make the effort to come to my classes and retreats. I have a core group of dedicated people. They are the reason I do what I do everyday.
I love your recent TEDx talk, “Lessons I’ve Learned Through Social Media.” The second lesson is “Being vulnerable is everything.” You said being vulnerable allows for healing and when you share your story, you let it go, and when you share your emotions it creates human connection. How do you make friends with vulnerability?
It’s the whole act of actually feeling and fully experiencing life. You can’t, if you aren’t vulnerable to it. People look at vulnerability as something that is really scary and terrifying because it means you are open to pain, grief, sorrow or sadness, or whatever. But, it also means you are open to love and magic and all the amazing things that the Universe is ready to throw your way everyday. So if you close off to one side, you close off to both. Vulnerability is a good thing.
With an intense past year of traveling 40+ weeks, running four businesses and two non-profits in three countries: Sgt Pepper’s Friends (an animal rescue), 109 (a global social mission organization), oneOeight (an online community for healing with a foundation in yoga) to name a few, working on a second book (yay!), opening a yoga studio (yes!), hosting retreats and teaching workshops, managing a massive social media following of over two million, and enjoying life newly married… how do you juggle it all and maintain a practice of self-love?
For me, I think routine is a huge, huge part of that. I make sure I have time to practice everyday and that I get to walk my dogs or go for a run or do whatever it is I need to do to feel like I had my “me time.” As soon as that goes out the window everything just starts to seem crappy. Being on the go and traveling constantly, at least for me, makes everything much more difficult. It’s just draining. My goal for next year is to travel less and more mindfully when I do, so it doesn’t seem so crazy all the time.
As a physical therapist and yoga teacher I hope to guide students to FEEL their physical body through specific detailed alignment cues. I believe when people feel their body and breathe correctly, they may feel their emotions and get to know themselves on a deeper level. As a yoga teacher what is your intention for your students and followers?
I always come back to the message of self-love. It comes back to learning how to deal with our past and noticing the patterns that hold us back. It’s something that we can bring out in the practice because a lot of it gets stuck in the body. The yoga mat is a really good place to start. I think it’s a good accessible tool.
In The Body Book, Cameron Diaz emphasizes health, fitness, food and fun, and most importantly loving your amazing body! What is your relationship to your body?
It’s always changing: the body changes and our relationship with it. Anchoring ourselves in acceptance for who we are and being in love with ourselves no matter what, really is the foundation to being happy. It really depends on how I feel as a whole in life. I think it’s one of the biggest challenges for a woman no matter where you are or what your life looks like to accept and embrace it fully. It’s really the foundation for how we move through life. Either we are at peace with who we are and from there we can manifest really good things, or we are in this constant war and struggle. It’s really hard to create really good things in life and to live the life that you dream of if you’re constantly at war with yourself. And that’s something that I see EVERYWHERE. And it’s something I wanted to create with oneOeight. We are never going to have “how to lose ten pounds in two weeks.” We won’t ever have those videos, but there are people asking for weight loss tips. There are people who need or want to lose weight, and our videos are about the “why?” first, before you go into this process of needing to change, “why?” And where does that come from? And can you find a practice of self-love first? If it’s yoga or meditation or whatever works for you. And from there, inspire positive change if you need it.
Cameron’s new book coming out in the Spring is on longevity and aging. You are 27 years old and radiant, what are your thoughts on aging?
I’ve always felt older than I am, even when I was 16. Even when I was really young, I never had that fear of aging. Even now, I’m excited about reaching this space of being married, and eventually having kids and a house. It’s a nice change. I look forward to it.
Thinking back on your career so far, is there a specific event or memory that warms your heart?
There are so many! I went on a tour across the US earlier this year when I released the book, and I taught these huge classes of hundreds and hundreds of people. There were so many really intimate, vulnerable classes in a room with 700 people and people don’t expect that to happen, but I was continually blown away by how vulnerable people allow themselves to be in a space full of other people they don’t know. We had this one guy that was a highlight on the tour, a war veteran. He came to class all alone, stood in line afterward, and waited the three to four hours it takes if you want to get your book signed and a picture. As soon as I saw him, I was so happy because we don’t get that many guys and he’s this big, bearded military man. We hugged and he just started crying. It was very genuine. He found yoga through my Instagram account, and he said how yoga changed his life. Yoga is really for everyone. And those moments when you get that unexpected person who walks into class really feeling the same as I do, it’s the most amazing thing.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? Or as Elizabeth Gilbert states in her brilliant new book Big Magic: “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”
Everything I’m doing right now! (a happy, humble laugh) I have taken huge steps into the unknown, new adventures, new businesses, two non-profits, and possibly opening a yoga studio here. A lot of it’s really scary and terrifying. I have no idea if it’s going to work or not, but we have to continuously take those leaps of faith. If it’s comfortable and there is no risk, how can it be exciting?
Speaking of risks, you took a gigantic leap to create both 109 and oneOeight this year. I’m a part of your oneOeight community, and I love it! Tell our readers about this educational online yoga studio that has an array of 24 helpful guides to design your own yoga experience.
I was getting an overwhelming amount of questions and comments and emails from people needing support in different areas of life. It’s everything from depression, anxiety, and loss to eating disorders… All these people needing help and I had nowhere to send them. I’m not an expert in these fields! So I decided to create a community for healing, a place to truly call home where you can get hands-on help by real experts. We also have yoga, meditation, and nutrition; all the things needed for a balanced life.
I’m so glad you take these leaps, Rachel! You must be jumping for joy, too! It reminds us we are all capable; we just have to be willing… and vulnerable. Tell us more about 109 World and how it empowers positive change around the globe.
We focus on seven urgent global causes: environment, water, world hunger, animals, women, children, and education. We partner with different local organizations and run campaigns through social media that peak with a social mission trip. It’s almost like a yoga retreat, but instead of lying on a beach all day, you work! Our first campaign launches December 15. Stay tuned!
How do you and your husband evolve together spiritually and support each other in your careers and also in your relationship to keep continuing to grow together?
I think there is truth in that. You either grow together or you grow apart. It’s important that you have your own space. I do my practice alone, and my husband plays soccer and tennis and he surfs. We make sure we have some time apart at least. We sit in front of our computers and see each other all day long, and everything else kind of melts together – the workday with the rest of the day. I think it’s ok to be two individuals that are together and work together for the same goal.
Any advice for single ladies/men?
Enjoy where you are, and before you know it, you are going to be in this completely different phase and you are going to appreciate where you were because a lot of times we don’t see it in the moment. Being single is a good time to work on who you are.
How do you stay motivated when you get derailed from the health wagon or are feeling a heavy dose of jetlag syndrome?
I don’t really like the idea that you are on or off and that I have to do yoga for this amount of time and eat this way, and if I don’t it means I’ve kind of failed, and then I have to start over and I have to get back on the wagon. I like the idea that there’s this life and you’re going to continually change with your mood and surroundings, and your diet and your sense of balance may change along with that. Adjusting your expectations and accepting the slower parts, too, is fine. Maybe you get up in the morning and decide you’ll do yoga tomorrow. I think we spend so much time being really hard on ourselves.
You’re a creator! Your mindful vinyasa flow sequences, super fun Spotify playlists, and daily Instagram posts are unique, motivating, and playful. What hobbies inspire you to connect with your creative source?
I love to SUP, but also dive or go for a run. Cooking is a huge passion of mine. I make guacamole two to three times a week, and I’m in a banana bread phase right now. My recipe is on my website, it’s really good! There’s one baking right now! Teaching yoga is a challenge, creatively. You have to continuously change and add new things. They go really well together, and with writing, I can never force it. It’s either there or it’s not.
Thank you for sharing your creativity, for all your hard work, and for being vulnerable, Rachel. We really appreciate you!
After our call, Rachel’s day is stacked full of juggling appointments and projects, but she reminds herself to return to the basics and constants to find freedom again. A few quiet hours out on the water with her husband, yoga, and sunshine, bring her joy. She’ll even slow down to snuggle on the couch and watch The Office, while she waits for the new season of House of Cards (me too!). It’s here in the simplicity that she feels peace and happiness being surrounded by the love of her hubby and their three dogs, Ringo, Alike, Quila (plus a few or maybe a litter of furry fosters), as well as her dedicated followers who inspire her and are always present in her heart.
To follow Rachel’s journey, learn more about the community she has created, contribute, practice, and be inspired:
Photo Credit: Ben Kane Photography
Read more of our inspiring interviews from women we admire below. Who would you like us to interview next?
Affectionately described by many as a yoga scientist, Amanda Kriebel is an innovative Doctor of Physical Therapy and Yoga Teacher who humbly claims to be a student of life. She inspires her patients and students to find JOY through creative techniques to optimize their physique and health. She developed a clinical collection of short yoga routines called the Surf | E x p a n s i o n Yoga Series designed for all types of individuals and athletes curious to explore yoga. Amanda has assisted the sports medical team at World Surfing League events since 2011. She is an avid surfer/snowboarder/lover of the ocean and the mountains. As an adventurer herself she is dedicated to promoting health and longevity so that you dwell IN JOY.