Not always #cleaneating? How about a little #thinspiration? Social media has become a lean, mean, inspiration machine for those wanting to look and feel better about their bodies. Instagram is one of the larger #fitness platforms that provides the fitness junkies with millions of tips, tricks, and inspiring fit photos. I was lucky enough to speak to an Instagram fitness sensation with almost 300,000 followers.
Yoga_Girl, otherwise known as Rachel Brathen, shares her enormous passion for yoga and traveling with thousands of people daily. Originally born and raised in Sweden, Brathen currently resides in Aruba where she teaches a variety of yoga classes and uses her inspiring words to help people reach their everyday goals. Brathen is constantly traveling worldwide, and is able to maintain her social media accounts daily.
Here is the Q&A with Rachel:
1. Yoga_Girl has become a fan favorite Instagram page worldwide. Can you tell us a little background of yourself and your yoga/fitness background?
I’ve been practicing yoga since I was about 18, and teaching since I was 21. I originally started practicing yoga to help cope with the back pain I was experiencing at the time, and it completely changed my life. Yoga healed my back (I was born with an elevated hip and slight scoliosis, which left my spine in quite a mess). I started out with a very gentle practice, focusing on breathing exercises and meditation, but throughout the years my practice has evolved into a very physical time on then mat. I love dynamic power classes, and it’s also what I teach.
2. We LOVE your photos. Can you tell us how you first started using Instagram?
Thank you! I started about… 10 months ago? The account is not even a year old yet – it grew so quickly! I have been using Facebook to promote yoga and inspire for a few years, but I fell in love with Instagram right away. It’s just so simple, and you can connect to so many in an instant.
I noticed right away that the following grew when I posted yoga photos, so I focused on that with the simple intention to inspire. After I while i started adding captions to the pictures, little words of my own wisdom. It can be something i’ve been meditating on, something I’ve been thinking about – or small reminders to myself on how to deal with issues (a lot of what I write comes from my own ups and downs).
Whenever I posted a caption with the photo I got double the response – it was so wonderful to see that people were actually longing for connection, for love, for light… I love this community of yogis and beautiful souls!
3. What other forms of social media are you currently using?
I still use Facebook, but not as much. I realized my Facebook page was falling so far behind since all my attention goes to Instagram now (I was only posting a photo a week or so on FB), so I just decided to connect Instagram to the page. Now it’s all shared! I’m also on Twitter, but not very actively.
4. How has social media helped your business?
It’s helped me tremendously. It was a dream of mine to be able to teach and travel, but it’s extremely difficult to create a way to do that sustainably. Why on earth would someone in Sao Paolo, or Los Angeles, or Paris want to take my class if they have no clue who I am? Social media has put me in touch with thousands of people all over the globe, and I am blessed to be able to book classes wherever I go. It’s a dream gig! I am so grateful.
5. What is your favorite place you’ve taught a yoga class in?
I just taught in the mountains of Colorado – amazing! I loved seeing the snow capped mountains in the background. And I even got a sunburn – the weather was crazy! Costa Rica is another favorite… I did a retreat last year in Colombia and held classes on top of a 26-story building with panoramic views over the ocean. That was pretty epic, too.
6. How often do you use your social media and keep up with your social pages to share your love for yoga?
Instagram, daily. It depends on how busy I am and how much I have to share – if i’m experiencing a ton of exciting things I sometimes post seven or eight pictures a day. Other times, just two or three. But always something.
7. A hashtag that has blown up on Instagram and other forms of social media is #yogaeverydamnday. What is the story behind this clever phrase and how has it evolved on social networks?
I started a yoga challenge January 1 – to do yoga every single day for one month. I wanted the hashtag to be smile and direct, so I though of #yogaeveryday. My boyfriend, who owns a skate shop, was the one who came up with #yogaeverydamnday. He thought the first one was too boring, and it was true – the reason yoga every damn day works so well is that it’s edgy! Nike had a thing a while back where they did #skateeverydamnday, so that’s how he had the idea. #yogaeverydamnday has blown up like crazy! it’s the biggest yoga hashtag in the world, after #yoga. I love it. And the yoga challenge is still going strong! I give the participants new twists every month.
8. You came to our lovely home of Jacksonville Beach pretty recently! How was your visit here and how did Jacksonville become a destination for a yoga visit?
I loved it! it was a short visit though. I did a Florida tour and did Siesta Key, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and then all the way down the East Coast to Miami. The reason we decided to go up to max is that i got a ton of requests for classes up there, and a friend of mine (Jessica Taylor) had just moved there. The class sold out, i think 75 people or so, and the space was gorgeous! Check out Jessica’s classes at Bella Vida Yoga, she’s great.
9. Can you explain a little about your 2013 Yoga Challenge that you created?
There were a few yoga challenges popping up here and there where the challenge was “do this pose today” – every day for one month the host would give the participants a certain pose, and the challenge was to do the pose, take a picture of yourself and post it. I do not like these challenges at all as they promote putting your body in a shape, in an asana, and not the actual practice of yoga. People would be at work, walking their dogs, in school, whatever, and simply move into a pose with no preparation, terrible alignment in many cases, just for the sake of a photo or a challenge. As the challenges got crazier I’ve gotten so many emails from people over the months complaining about pain and injuries they’d gotten from doing advanced yoga challenges on Instagram – it’s nuts. So I wanted to create a real challenge – to actually start up or keep up a serious yoga practice with the intent to practice daily – #yogaeverydamnday. Yoga is not a pose. It’s a way of life, it’s balance, it’s breath… it can be wonderful and I thought doing a challenge with a real intent could get people out of their egos and onto their mats instead. And it worked! 5,000 people participated and some have been practicing every single day since January 1. It’s amazing.
10. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
I’m not sure. Teaching wise, I’ve taught to rooms of 300+ people for Nike, I’m teaching at Wanderlust this year, flying to Brazil to teach massive classes… But those things don’t feel like big accomplishments, just fun things that happen along the way. I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I really connect with people. I drown in emails from people, asking questions about everything from how to better their handstands, get rid of pain, improve their diet, follow their dreams, what have you… But I also get real serious emails about life and death and how my words have healed and helped. That sparks something in me. I got an email from a girl who is terminally ill with cancer who said my posts help her cope with chemo. A woman told me my Instagram account is what got her out of bed in the morning after her son’s suicide. Real people, with real issues, we’re talking things far beyond my reach, feel connected to what I write. That recognition, that right there… Someone reading my words and feeling hope, love, healing. That’s an accomplishment. That’s why I’m here.
And by the way…A big congrats on the new engagement!!! Void loves you!
Photo by: Alea Warner