Rachel Brathen, is the 26 year old Swedish born and Aruba based yogi with the largest yoga Instagram following in the world. With over 1.6 million followers, she posts daily snaps of yoga life; think bikini clad poses on a paddleboard in the middle of the Caribbean sea and sunset running on the beach with her dog Ringo the Gringo and super hot surfer husband. It all looks pretty idyllic, but it's her brutally honest posts about her trumatic teenage years and struggle with depression that viewers really relate to. On a worldwide promotional tour for her book Yoga Girl, part self-help and part memoir, we caught up with her to chat poses, cheat days and why it's ok not to immeaditely fall in love with yoga...
On getting to love yoga...
'My first class ever was 16 or 17 on vacation in Thailand. It was not something that changed my life or anything like that, it was just something I tried. It would be another two years or so before I found yoga, getting to like it was a very gradual process. When I started practising yoga every day I had a lot of back pain so it took me some time to get over that. I had to be really patient with my body to be able to start enjoying the practice. I really like to move a lot so the vinyasa style is perfect for me. In vinyasa you alway coordinate the movement with the breath, usually for every single breath you have a movement that is very dynamic. There's lots of variations and it's not always the same, so I like that.'
On fueling her body...
'I always drink hot water with lemon when I wake up. I like to mix it up for breakfast. At the moment I love chia puddings, or some mornings I have avocado on toast. My go-to smoothie recipe is always banana based. I then add whatever fruit or veggies I have in the fridge so like a peach, or apple and kale. Frozen berries always cut a little of the bitterness of the kale. And then I add some ice or either water or coconut milk. Lunch depends where we are, it could be anything from salad to curry, it's just always on the go. Then in the evenings, I like to cook mostly with whole foods and plant based ingredients. And I eat a lot of chocolate! Everyday is a cheat day. I eat whatever I want. I try to just keep it as sensible and plant based as possible. I don't believe in there being guilt in your diet.'
On making time for yoga practise...
'I always practise everyday at some point. Yesterday I had like 15 minutes on my mat before I went to bed because that was all I had time for. But when I'm home it's like usually an hour to an hour and a half every morning. But I have learned to cut myself some slack if we're travelling as it's not always easy to keep that routine.'
On what to do if you just don't 'get' yoga...
'I think a really common mistake is thinking that (yoga) is the same for everyone. You might look around the classroom and see people flowing with ease or it looks like they've been doing this forever and think it's so easy for everyone except for me. But that's not really the case, everybody struggles. So comparing yourself to others I think is the biggest, not mistake, because everyone does it but you should try to avoid it. I would really suggest taking an actual class. So going to a studio with a teacher and people around you. When you're at home following instuctions in front of a computer or doing yoga on your own it's easier to be distracted, and just leave. But when you are in a classroom there's definitely more social pressure to stay on your mat and do the poses. And then with time usually you learn how to focus.
Check out the following poses created by Rachel to help you out whatever the mood...
The one to help you wake up and energise in the morning
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
'Come to a standing position. Move your weight to the left foot and lift the leg off the ground, placing the right heel toward the inner left thigh. Reach your arms up and bring the palms together. Let the right knee point outward.'
The one to help you unwind after a long day at a desk job
Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
'Come into a seated position with both legs extended straight in front of you. Bend the right knee, placing the sole of the foot on the mat by the inner left thigh. Cross the right leg over the left, now pressing the sole of the right foot into the mat outside the left leg. Bend the left knee so that the left heel ends of close to the outer hip. Start twisting toward the right, bringing the right hand behind you, fingertips pressing into the mat. Ground down through both sit bones and lengthen the crown of the head toward the sky. Place the left elbow to the outside of the right knee, gently deepening the twist. Gaze over the right shoulder. Stay for 5 deep breaths, untwist slowly, and repeat on the other side.'
The one to help destress when you're feeling tense or sad
'Child's Pose is a beautiful place to slow down or take a little break between longer yoga sequences. Here you can allow the breath to slow down, and it's a safe place to ground yourself with the forehead touching the mat. Child's Pose is very healing for both the body and the soul, and is often used as a counterpose after advances poses to rebalance before we continue to the next step. Come to Child's Pose as often as you like in a yoga class!'
YOGA GIRL: Finding happiness, Cultivating Balance and Living with your heart wide open by Rachel Brathen is available now (Yellow Kite, £16.99)