Rachel Brathen aka @Yoga_Girl has been spreading some major sparkle. A New York Times best selling author, Rachel is a recognized yoga teacher well-known for her authentic online-sharing. Through the power of social media, she’s influenced a conscious shift in the minds and hearts of her nearly 2 million followers on Instagram. Seeping wisdom, via hashtags, into everyone’s digital corners her impact is immeasurable.
Philadelphia got up close and personal with this light being as part of her Gratitude Tour earlier this month. The Swedish born- Aruban based yogi, braved through some of America’s fiercest winters on a mission to thank everyone for their contributions not only to the @Yoga_Girl legacy, but also the ones made to themselves and the world as a whole. The tour shed light on life’s little blessings as well as its mysterious and grand unfolding. Gratitude is the attitude and Rachel chose to highlight that on this tour.
Due to a logistical error, the event over sold its single appearance and a second presentation was added to The Filmore Philly. Gracing the city’s brand new music venue twice that day, Rachel and her fans- let’s call them friends from here on out since the word fan does little justice for her deep connection to these individuals- were given the opportunity to practice yoga on the venue’s, barley-scratched-near-virgin, dance floor.
Initially scheduled for the sold out 7:30pm class, my ticket, along with many others, was bumped up to the 3pm presentation. I imagined the swap made for a smaller and perhaps more intimate class and for that I was blessed.
There were somewhere around 200 people in that small class. Ringo, Rachel’s miniature greyhound, hit the stage first and was greeted with a sweet “awwww!!!” from the audience. Although the temperature in the room was cold, the space itself was entirely warm.
As an older face in her crowd, I’d bet the average age, of mostly women, – I think I counted five men present- was about 24 or 25 years old. Many of these young, beautiful and strong women are at the beginning of their spiritual journeys. To them, Rachel’s way with herself and the world mirrors the way they’d like to show up for themselves in this life. Illuminating the path for so many, Rachel is the spotlight role model our young women (and men) have needed for so long; vulnerable, body conscious, friendly, the list of compliments could go on and on and on.
@Yoga_Girl soon followed Ringo across the stage and, absolutely radiating, planted her seat in front of a sea of wide-eyed yogis. After a huge smile and hello, she picked an Angel Card for the audience and revealed our group’s wisdom, “You are loved.” Rachel joked, with a playful sense of humor, that some of us would be totally into the card reading while others might find it too hippie hoo-ha. For the record, I was all about it and with a heart already wide open, my self-love engine spun itself a little faster.
Standing split, tree pose, pigeon and wild thing were just a few of the poses moved through during the event’s 75-minute vigorous asana practice. Flowing seamlessly, strangers found themselves linking arms with their neighbors for several virabhadrasana (warrior) threes. Connecting directly to one another’s path, the energy cultivating in Rachel’s space was so invigorating, I never thought I’d be happier in uttkatasana (quad-strengthening chair pose)!
When shavasana came along, nobody was ready for the final resting pose. An odd feeling, unfamiliar to most yogis (shavasana is a pose most looked forward to!), what we really weren’t ready for was our time with Rachel to be coming to its end! In this particular occasion, shavasana symbolized exactly that. And for some, this wasn’t just any ending; this was an ending to one of the best and most magical moments of their lives. Except, of course, for those who were on tour with Rachel and would be doing the whole thing again. I overheard several girls chatting about other stops they had caught and planned to catch along the Gratitude Tour, #groupies!
But it wasn’t over, for us, just yet either! After the body-melting-into-mat shavasana, Rachel’s husband, Dennis, brought a microphone around the audience for Q & A. Rachel was questioned on everything from social media to vulnerability, to losing someone important to her to how to do a handstand. Welcoming any type of question, we learned that Rachel makes her yoga classes up on the spot; she has strict boundaries around screen usage (no screens before 10am or after 10pm); she permits herself to cry when the emotions are flowing no matter where she’s at and that she doesn’t take selfies with large audiences anymore because its high demand interfered with her gorgeous well-being. Self- care for the win!
Once the Q & A finished, Rachel came down from her platform and gave every individual who wanted it-if only for a few seconds- her undivided attention. Jokingly, the idea of hiring a hug counter was tossed around the circle of love, formed in humans, surrounding her. Standing from the sidelines, I watched Rachel look into the eyes of dozens of girls, hug after hug, waiting patiently to just say hello and thank you. Most of them in tears, it was a gift to witness the impact she’s had on these young women; it was a gift to know these women had found her to look up to.
In my personal one minute with Rachel, tears filled my eyes almost immediately and glitter eyeliner dripped down my face. Hugging each other tightly, Rachel and I broke away only once for more eye contact before moving back into another deep embrace. As she whispered words of encouragement into my right ear, our hands found each other on one side and interlaced to form a tight grip, a soul sister grip.
Feeling prominently connected to source throughout the duration of the event, our brief, but intimate connection will remain a peak experience in my life. While I realize our paths might not cross as intimately again (I sure hope they do!), I’ll forever feel Rachel’s hand squeezing mine.
Rachel’s love and compassion is already palpable when accessed through a digital screen. To experience her live and in person is to amplify her kind heart and brightness; her rawness and her truth. By being authentically herself, Rachel has become a leader to us all. Next time Rachel’s in your town, be sure to step into the sacred container for happy healing she creates. Who knows, you might even find yourself on @Yoga_Girl tour!
On the front lines of world peace, check out some of Rachel’s initiatives:
- oneOeight, a subscription based online yoga community that has everything you’ll want for your spiritual journey. Catered to your own unique needs, oneOeight includes content on meditation, diet, asana practice as well as life coaching/counseling among other wonderful things related to healing.
- oneOnine World creates social mission trips around the world, giving participants the ultimate opportunity to grow into their human while practicing selflessness with other like-minded individuals. oneOnine heads to Nicaruaga, in a few months, to install a sustainable water system in an area without access to clean water.
- Sgt. Pepper and Friends, an animal rescue initiative based in Aruba.
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