Skins: Rachel Brathen – Citizen of Sport

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RACHEL BRATHEN – PROFESSIONAL YOGI

“Yoga is like coming home to yourself. When you get back to your body, you’re equipped to deal with whatever comes your way.”

When most people think of yoga, they think ‘body’ not ‘mind’. They start it for the physical practice and benefits like learning to become more flexible, tightening their cores, recovering from an injury or learning to balance upside down. For me it was the other way around. I found meditation first.

I came from a challenging background. My parents divorced when I was little, my stepfather passed away and my mum, suffering from severe depression throughout her life, tried to commit suicide a few times. Because of this, I never felt safe in my home environment and was always very tense and fearful. Meditation for me was about learning to direct awareness away from my crowded mind, discover a safe haven inside my body from the storm outside, and just make peace with the moment, whatever and wherever it was. It was a huge eye opener and really changed my mindset in life.

I’d always suffered from back and neck pain, and about two years’ after I’d started meditation someone suggested that I couple my meditation with yoga. I was always anxious about throwing my back out, so it wasn’t a natural instinct to become a yogi but after trying it, I discovered it was an amazing outlet for the challenges I was facing. Yoga creates a safe place for you to return to where for one hour a day you just get to tune into your breath, find focus, and become one with your body and the air in your lungs.

Physical movement and meditation is the best way to snap out of those negative thoughts and drown out the judgmental voices in the back of your head that bring you down every day – the voices that say ‘you’re awful’ and ‘you’re never going to succeed’. I know there’s a preconception that you have to be skinny, flexible and live a glamorous lifestyle to take up yoga but it’s not true. Whether you’re old, young, big, small, pregnant or injured, it’s a flexible practice that can be modified to suit your state of body and mind. You don’t even need to have a yoga mat – although it helps, trust me.

When I started teaching yoga I realised pretty quickly that I wanted to dedicate my life to it. And so I did just that by founding a virtual yoga community, oneOeight.com, which has become the most successful yoga-related, crowdfunded project in the world. We like to call it the Netflix of yoga – an online platform for body wellness and meditation. When you subscribe to our video content, you gain access to thousands of classes taught by incredibly skilled instructors and can take the platform with you wherever you go.

I think the core ingredient in the practice is the community. Whatever your journey, we believe that you should never have to walk it (or inchworm it) alone. When you grow with a community and have someone to practice with or a teacher to guide you, you become committed to the process. That’s what’s great about oneOeight – it began because of a community, gained momentum and evolved with them and is constantly getting better because of them.

Yoga changes your life – that’s a fact. You can feel it from the minute you manage your very first pose. And you’re always going to remember how you got there and what inspired you to take it up in the first place. I receive a lot of stories, letters and emails from people who have used the yoga practice to rebuild their lives and heal themselves from depression, eating disorders, anxiety or other hardships.

I’ve been there, and I know how it feels. That’s why I believe it’s so important to be honest with my social media community and say it how it is. I have realised this even more since I had a baby. If you’re having a bad day, share it. If you need help, reach out to the community and ask for advice – you’re in this together. You don’t have to put on the façade of always being healthy, being a pose pro and living that ‘perfect’ yogi life. You don’t have to fit the mold that people sell or feel you don’t belong if your legs touch at the top.

Yoga is as raw and real as the challenges you face every day, and so are the rewards.

It’s sanctuary for the soul. It’s what I call coming home.

– Rachel Brathen / Professional Yogi and Citizen of Sport