Yoga social media star and author Rachel Brathen is well-known for her openness and authenticity. She tells Stacey Carter why she wanted to write her book and how she navigates sharing…
Within a few minutes of talking to Rachel Brathen, you can tell that she’s not someone who set out with the intention of having people being privy to her life. In fact, she tells me, she actually dislikes the word ‘influencer’. She prefers yoga teacher, a title that’s perhaps a tad modest, considering her two million Instagram followers, but yoga is what weaves the themes of her new book, To Love And Let Go, together; a journey of self-acceptance, love and grief. And while her life may seem idyllic she’s quick to say that it’s not all as it seems. Here, she tells us how vulnerability can sometimes feel like a hangover and why you’ll never find the best yoga teacher via Google results.
I wanted to put the story together for a while, it’s just taken lots of time to do it. I’ve been writing it (the book) for almost five years. The book is more than just the feeling of grief. It’s for people who have moved through hard, heavy and horrible things. I hope that when people read it they’ll feel less alone.
As well as doing yoga, I run really fast after my toddler everyday, which, as all mums know, makes for good exercise. We have little dance parties around the house as well. But I always come back to yoga or meditation. I’m not naturally a super-calm, zen person, so I don’t sit for hours at a time meditating. I try and do 20 minutes in the morning first thing, or around my yoga practice. I find that if I make an effort to keep a consistent meditation practice, then that helps my body.
I recognise the areas of my life where I easily get stressed. If I’m with my daughter and I have to engage in other things at the same time, that totally stresses me out because I don’t like to have to divide my attention between her and other things. I schedule my work hours for when she’s at daycare and I try and be super-efficient with my time. I feel like us mums tend to multitask all day long, but actually, I get more done when I’m really focussed.
A couple of years ago I used to use social media several times a day, now I’ll share maybe one thing. I started feeling stressed rather than feeling joyful about the community I was building. It was almost as if I had to feed the beast. Now, it’s when I’ve had a realisation about something, or an epiphany about a situation, that’s when I feel inspired enough to write and I think, yep, worthy of a post.
I think there is such a thing as a vulnerability hangover. I’m a transparent person and I try and turn a problem or an issue into learning and then communicate it in a way that makes people feel like they can relate. I know that when I’m vulnerable I give other people permission to be the same. Having the perfect workout, the perfect trip, the perfect kids – it’s not a reality that you should aspire to. No one’s life looks like that.
I think an awakening for some people can be a slow process. Having a traumatic childhood or traumatic things happen is horrible, but for me, I can see how everything happened the way it did. Our baggage shapes us and we can learn to take the trauma and do something positive with it, rather than letting it eat us slowly.
My biggest piece of advice to people who want to start doing yoga is to not use social media or the Internet as a way to find your next teacher. Don’t be afraid to try different studios and teachers. The best teachers in the world are not on Instagram and they’re not in their 20s. They’ve got decades of experience studying the practice and you’ll find them through word of mouth – trust me!
Rachel’s book To Love And Let Go A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Gratitude from Yoga Girl (Octopus Books) £1º1.59, is available from amazon.co.uk
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