‘Yoga Girl’ Rachel Brathen: ‘A Fight With My Husband Changed My Entire Life’
Rachel says it inspired her to open up in a whole new way.
She may be known as “Yoga Girl” (thanks to her New York Times best-selling book by the same name), but this Swedish-born blonde and mother (she welcomed baby girl Lea Luna 10 months ago) breaks the mold of mindfulness.A rebellious, partying teenager, Rachel Brathen began practicing yoga in Costa Rica after high school. When she launched her social account a few years later, as a supplement to on-island teaching, she wanted to be “this perfect yoga person,” she explains. “It was not at all my personality or my style of teaching, but I thought I was going to be this awesome, proper yoga person.” (You know, a handstands-every-day vegan who never loses her cool or goes out to happy hour.)But a fight with her husband changed things: “I went on Instagram to post—something super rainbows and butterflies—and I just wasn’t feeling it.” So she was honest. “I wrote about how I was struggling at the moment and felt very insecure. When I picked my phone up later, I had hundreds of comments. People were so excited to see a real human being.”Now, as the CEO of Island Yoga Aruba—where she teaches everything from vinyasa flow to SUP yoga and leads 23-day yoga teacher training retreats—she’s all about authenticity. “If you think you have to be perfect to do yoga, no one’s going to do yoga,” Rachel, 29, says. “It’s about fitting yoga into your life as you are. It’s okay to drink wine in the evening and have green juice in the morning or go to yoga and then go out and dance. It’s okay to have both sides.”
Rachel insists it’s best to om with others. “You can’t re-create the same feeling of a really good class alone, at home, in front of a computer.” She shares four reasons why group practice matters.
1. It Helps You Improve
“Taking the time to learn proper alignment is crucial for staying injury-free. Really pay attention to what the pose feels like in your body and little adjustments your instructor makes so you can tell if you’re overdoing something when you’re on your own.”
2. It’s How You Stick With It
“In a class, there’s definitely more social pressure to stay on your mat than if you’re following a DVD solo. It might feel frustrating at first, but with time you usually learn how to focus in a way you couldn’t on your own.”
3. It Will Energize You
“Setting an intention together with a large group feels special, breathing and moving in unison. It’s also being surrounded by like-minded people. It’s different motivation. That community makes you feel stronger.”
4. It Will Boost Your Feels
“At our studio, our best classes by far are where the same students come two or three times a week. The moment we let our guards down and we get real, everything is vulnerable. People open up in a different way. At the end, everyone has left with a new best friend.”