This week’s Blogger of the Week, Rachel Brathen (aka Yoga Girl) has built a large and loyal following through her amazing yoga techniques and friendly approach. GTG spoke to the lovely Rachel about the first time she experienced yoga, her life philosophy and how she began practicing on water.
Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?
It was a long time ago. It was mainly just a way for me to reach my students when I wasn’t in class. So, I first started online just to spread my classes, my information and my physical students here in Aruba [where she currently lives]. I got some other people following and reading and I just wanted to inspire people and that’s how it got started. But it started off really small.
So how long have you been blogging?
I don’t know! The actual blog, maybe a year and half to two years, but I’ve been doing social media for three or four years.
And how long have you been doing your classes?
A while! [laughs] Since I lived in Costa Rica, which is where I was before I lived here.
When did you first find yoga?
The first time ever, I was really young. I was around 15 or 16 and on vacation in Thailand with my parents. I tried yoga with my mum and I liked it, I mean I was a young teenager, I wasn’t really prepared for yoga at the time, but I remember really enjoying it and having a really nice experience. However, I really got into it when I was 17 or 18. I had a lot of back pain and somebody recommended that I tried yoga to help and it really worked.
What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides?
Sometimes, like with social, to keep it up and share something every day can get a little bit exhausting but I’ve started to take a few more breaks from it now and that helps. It’s a really good way to meet new people and introduce new people to yoga that haven’t tried it before, and to inspire and motivate.
What made you decide to start creating YouTube videos?
People were asking! [laughs] That’s literally why!
So what do you hope to do with your YouTube channel?
Right now it’s just been a little of everything. We have plans to start sharing actual classes and actual sequences so that people can actually practice in front of the computer. Right now, we do little Q&As and little sequences and things like that.
So this began mainly from your yoga workshops. What do you hope people will take away from your classes?
I hope they find a new perspective or maybe ease into their practice. I like to make things fun and very accessible and not so serious and difficult. Usually there’s lots of laughing and falling over.
What’s the structure of your classes?
In a regular workshop, usually we’ll flow and sweat a lot to get going then we’ll stop and kind of break things down and talk about the different things that we’re doing and explain why. Then, we’ll have them physically implement that one-on-one or in pairs.
How do you decide what to feature on your blog and YouTube channel?
Usually it’s just that I have an idea that I want to share or talk about. Sometimes it’s requests that I get – if I get the same request a million times then I try to make something of it.
What’s been your biggest request so far?
I think it’s that people want full classes rather than a little segments here and there, like a full hour class and people really want to connect live. So they want live chats. I’ve done that a couple of times. I’ve Skyped people and done a Skype chat roulette, which was a lot of fun.
I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.
It was kind of crazy. There were around 20,000 people calling me on Skype, it was pretty wild.
What experiences with yoga practice have you had?
I’ve experienced all or most of them. My specific style of yoga is Vinyasa flow.
What is Vinyasa flow all about?
It’s the dynamic type of practice where you move with the breath. So it’s constant movement and it’s very dynamic - you use the breath as your guide for everything that you do and the poses that you move into.
Was that the first type of yoga that you came across when you were younger?
No, I started with Ashtanga and went on to more Hatha-based classes. Then I found this type, which I really liked.
There are so many different types of yoga – how would you recommend finding the best one to suit you?
You have to try them all. It’s good to try a variety and figure out what really works for you – which side of yoga makes you feel comfortable and at ease, and then go with that.
You currently reside on the beautiful island of Aruba. What made you decide to settle there?
My fiancée is from here, so that’s how that happened.
You’re the first person in the world to teach SUP (stand-up paddle surfing) Yoga. How did you come across this type of yoga? When did you first start practicing yoga on water?
It was a long time ago – I think around four or five years ago - and we used to have this routine where my boyfriend would go surf and I would stay on the beach and practice yoga. I’d kind of heard of the idea of taking yoga to the water and floating while doing yoga, but I’d never seen it or tried it. He [her fiancée] was actually surfing the waves with the dog and I looked down at the dog on the beach and thought ‘Well, if he can take the dog surfing, I should do able to a downward dog yoga pose on the board’. But I couldn’t because a regular surfboard is too small and it doesn’t have a lot of volume, so you can’t stand up on it. Then they brought the first stand-up paddle boards to the island and I tried it with that board and it worked. It was great. After my first session, there was a big group of people on the beach saying ‘What was that?’ and I said ‘I don’t know!’ and they said ‘Do you teach it?’ and I said ‘Sure!’ and then I started making classes.
So what are the SUP classes like?
Everybody has their own board while I teach at the front. It’s so much fun!
You have overcome a lot to get to where you are today. What advice would you give to our readers on the best way to make the most out of life?
I think a good thing is to figure out what you want. I get that questions a lot, like ‘How do you go after your dreams?’ and ‘How do you make your dreams happen?’ and I think it’s really important that you identify and set your intention out there. I want to create that idea of believing that you actually can and taking the steps needed to get there. I think that if you can have that sort of practice in your life, where you have time for yourself, whether it’s yoga or meditation or running or whatever it is that makes you feel really present and calm, that helps to move you away from the chatter of the mind and into the body and into what’s real. I think a lot of the time we’re really set in our own ways more than anything else.
What’s your life philosophy?
I like to say that life takes you to where you’re supposed to be, which is a really good one that I try to follow.
What’s your day-to-day routine like?
There is no routine in my life - I kind of wish that there was! I‘ve had less than two weeks at home since December because of non-stop travel. I travel sometimes for six months. If you’re travelling every day then it’s different. I try to fit yoga in there every single day – whether it’s in the morning, evening or even the middle of the day. If I’m at home then I like to sleep in because I usually get up really early and teach and do retreats, so I maybe get up around eight or nine and practice. Then I always make really big juices when I’m at home in the morning and walk the dogs. Then there’s always a lot of time in front of the computer.
Where have you been travelling to recently?
Wow, okay, last week we were in Costa Rica and the week before that we were in Brazil and the week before that we were in Norway, and the week before that Sweden, before that Costa Rica and before that another island in the Caribbean and before that Amsterdam, London, Ireland - we did a European tour. Before that was Mexico. I could continue, it just goes on and on.
How do you feel about the reception that your blog and YouTube channel has received?
It’s really nice. I think people appreciate me being genuine and trying to keep it human and real and not be perfect all the time, but easy to resonate with -I try to stick with that. People are always really positive and really happy and excited.
Is there anything you’d do differently if you were to turn back time?
No. If it hadn’t been exactly that way then I wouldn’t be where I am right now. So sometimes difficult times have to be the way they are, or it would be different. So, no, I don’t have any regrets.
If you could invite anyone dead or alive to guest blog on your site who would it be?
I would love to talk to Oprah! She seems like she’s got it all going on but I haven’t heard her talk too much about yoga yet.
You should go on the show - you know how she gives everybody in the audience a gift? You could give a yoga class.
[laughs] Maybe next year!
What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?
Yeah there is, I’m writing a book right now so at the end of the year I’ll be releasing that, which is super exciting. I’m actually also launching a brand new website in a couple of months, so it’s going to hold a lot more people and offering more than it offers now.
What will the book be about?
It’s mostly inspiration, so it’s not just yoga but a little bit of everything. Mostly inspiration for a happy life.