How Heart-Centered Yoga Heals Your Life and the World
Rachel Brathen, also known as Yoga Girl, inspires others to see that we are more similar than different. We all want the same things: peace, healing and connection. Rachel leads yoga retreats in Aruba and around the world, encouraging a “yoga lifestyle”. Yoga editor Ella Isakov talks to Rachel about what guides her on the path and how yoga and meditation keep her anchored and focused.
Parvati Magazine: You discovered yoga in your teens in Sweden, and have since captured the hearts of millions worldwide with your journey, both on the mat and off. How has the practice of yoga guided your life?
Rachel Brathen: Yoga for me has really changed in the significance it has had on my life since I found yoga as a teenager. It used to be a really important physical practice for me, but now it’s become a sort of refuge. It’s not so much a place I go for movement but a place I come to for stillness.
PMAG: You are a yoga entrepreneur. You’ve taken risks that have enriched your life, such as moving to Aruba, opening up a successful yoga studio and retreat center, running a podcast, creating OneEight TV. What is your intention for all you put out into the world? What is your message?
RB: Yes, there is a lot I put out into the world and we have some big launches coming later this year. I have a really basic core value that is at the center of absolutely everything I do. It’s my belief that for us to make a change in the world we have to first change and heal ourselves. So, yoga and meditation are really important tools to make space for that inner healing. Once we feel whole and we’ve found balance in our lives, we can use that inner healing and strength as a way to get out into the world and help make a change.
PMAG: How do you feel yoga cultivates empathy for and within all beings?
RB: Yoga is a place for us to come home to ourselves—that non-judgmental place of feeling at home within our own bodies. A lot of the judgment or malice or bad that we see in the world comes from negative stories that we tell ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves enough, it’s really hard to show up with love for the world around us. Yoga allows us to quiet that judgmental voice that we have towards ourselves and just be in the body where we are already at peace.
PMAG: You dedicate your life to sharing and giving back to the world. What three values guide your choices on a daily basis to be present for whatever comes up?
RB: First, whatever decision it is I’m making has to serve a purpose. It cannot just be for the sake of making money, or becoming more successful, or any other superficial reason. Second, I want there to be truth and authenticity in it. Whatever I am creating must fully resonate with the truth at my core. Third, I want to involve something lighthearted and fun into what we’re doing. There are a lot of hardships all around us. To continue feeling inspired to create change, and not just weighed down by the heaviness that sometimes surrounds us, I think there has to be joy in what we do.
PMAG: How does your practice help you stay true to these values?
RB: My practice helps me to quiet my mind. It helps me to recognize the stories I tell myself. If I get caught up in a story that I’m not enough, I’m going to operate from that place and it’s going to be really hard for me to stay authentic. By coming back to the practice again and again, I direct attention away from my mind and back into my body. Everything we do on the mat allows us to invite more space for love for ourselves in the in between moments. I think when you’re really anchored in the body, you become really anchored in the present moment and it becomes easier to do great things off the mat.
Rachel Brathen, known as Yoga Girl, is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, and international yoga teacher residing in Aruba. Originally from Sweden, Rachel moved to Aruba in 2010. She has sparked a movement focused on heart-centered yoga with an emphasis on personal inquiry, self-love and inner healing.