Tuesday 28, 2015
A LOOK INTO YOGA GIRL’S WORLD
Rachel Brathen — you might know her better as Yoga Girl — is officially living the dream: After leaving her native Sweden after high school to follow her palm-tree ambitions in Central America, she began to showcase her yoga practice on social media — particularly on Instagram, where she shares photos of her beach lifestyle, mainly on the island of Aruba, with her 1.5 million followers. We spoke with her about the secret behind her success, her plans for the future and the yoga pose that totally kicked her butt.
B: How did you first get into yoga?
R: I was 17 or 18 years old when I started meditating and from there I was introduced to the physical practice. I had a lot of back pain growing up — I had scoliosis and was in two severe car accidents. Then someone told me that yoga could help my back pain.
B: You don’t necessarily think of Sweden and yoga together.
R: I took my first class ever in Thailand while on a vacation with my family. Then straight out of high school, I moved to Costa Rica and spent three years in a town called Dominical — that’s when I really got into it and started to practice properly.
B: But you ended up in another Caribbean destination — Aruba.
R: Aruba is kind of a mix between Sweden and Costa Rica. The infrastructure is more solid, people have universal health care, salaries are good — it’s more of a structured version of the jungle.
B: What was the first pose you really mastered?
R: I’ve been practicing for almost eight years now, but I had a really hard time with even really basic poses. Now, my practice is pretty advanced — that’s a lot of what I share on social media, which allows people to assume that this was always easy for me. But that’s part of the reason why I wrote my book — I wanted people to know that it was a long struggle. One of the hardest poses was triangle pose, which is really basic — it’s taught in beginner classes. I had so much back pain that moving into that type of twist was really hard. Of course, after that, I mastered a lot of advanced poses — but triangle pose always stuck with me as this mountain that I climbed.
B: Was there one moment when you realized you could really connect with an audience?
R: I realized pretty quickly that especially in the social media world, there’s a realness lacking online. Looking at social media feeds is like watching a highlight reel of that person’s amazing life. No one really ever shares the regular stuff — the boring things or the hard things or the insecurities, the pain, the sadness. I realized the more authentic I can be, the more people I would resonate with. It’s a combination of that and allowing yourself to be really human and raw while also being able to inspire. Of course, living in a Caribbean island really helps, and living a healthy lifestyle is inspiring. But there’s a difference between inspiring and inspiring jealousy. I try to find a balance.
B: How do you see your work evolving in the long term?
R: I definitely want to do more social awareness and better things for the world. I’m part of two new projects launching in October. I just founded a non-profit organization that focuses on social missions — so instead of doing yoga retreats, we’re doing social mission trips. I really want to use this huge platform I have to create actual, positive change. Not just individual change — eating healthier that day or accepting ourselves the way we are — but allowing that to spread to the community and allowing that power to harness real change. It’s actually not so difficult — we have a small animal rescue foundation here in Aruba, and it’s getting huge momentum in just a couple of months. People want to do good things. It doesn’t have to be about fitness or thigh gaps.
B: We’re intrigued by the social mission programs. How can one contribute or participate in this social awareness?
R: We haven’t launched yet but we have an Instagram called 109World. It’s growing super-fast ! We’re launching October 9th.
B: What can you tell those who want to pursue a beach lifestyle but are hesitant?
R: People think it’s a huge deal to pick up and move to live in the tropics. It seems daunting — but it’s really not. We always tend to make things scarier in our minds than what they actually are. If you have a dream, you have to try it — try new things! If you have a dream of living a different lifestyle, you have to give it a try. Worst case scenario, you’ll still be fine, and you can always go back to what it was. It’s better than remaining in a place where you are not OK or cared for. I always tell people when they ask to go for it! It’s usually not about money. It’s not about having everything figured out before you go — it’s more about doing what you feel is right.