She lives full time in Aruba. She teaches yoga around the world. She has 1.2 million followers on instagram. She’s @yoga_girl. Oh, and she has a new book, also called Yoga Girl. It’s a book about yoga, of course, and “spectacular photos” of her practicing yoga “with breathtaking tropical backdrops, along with step-by-step yoga sequences and simple recipes for a healthy, happy, and fearless lifestyle.”
Lest the spectacular photos lead to you think otherwise, Rachel Brathen (her real name), international instagram yoga star, is indeed a living, breathing human, and she made an appearance on Fox News today to help prove it – a stop along her international book tour.
How did it go? I’ll let the banter speak for itself, featuring news anchor Rosanna Scotto, Fox News Guy (I don’t watch enough to know his name) and Rachel Brathen, slightly condensed from the video:
Rosanna: But you know what? Besides, that she can do these great poses, she is an instructor. She knows what she’s doing, you know?
Oh, how pretty these shots are!
Fox News Guy: There are a lot of yoga instructors out there. But you’re, like, probably the most popular in the world. How did that happen?
Rachel: I don’t know. I try to be as real as I can. I try to not show only the perfect side or having a good life. I try to show the realness of actual human living.
Fox News Guy: These pictures look pretty perfect!
Rachel: I know!
For some background:
Last year, the newlywed spent 40 weeks traveling the world teaching yoga. Much of her travels are documented in photos. Brathen posts up to four times a day. But there’s more to it than handstands and complicated balancing sequences.
“It’s not just about the poses we do. It’s more about what comes from the heart and how you feel,” said Brathen.
It also doesn’t hurt that the backdrop for many of her IG photos are stunning sunrises, sunsets and everything in between from her island home.
“My husband takes most of the photos and we have a friend who is a photographer who helps us,”said Brathen.
Must be nice. Here goes my spiel.
Criticizing Rachel for having a slim body or being a blonde gal living in Aruba isn’t what we’re all here to do, because that’s just as wrong and mean. But (you knew there was a but coming) I find this sort of popularity and level of instagram yoga celebrity to be all of fascinating, frustrating and perplexing. Fascinating and perplexing because there are actually 1.2 million people who are that interested in a thin, attractive, blonde woman bending and contorting her body wearing very little clothing…er…wait. Nevermind. This is the internet.
Frustrating because she is perpetuating an image of yoga that is super exclusive to bendy, young, fit people who have to do fancy poses (yes, the stigma still exists…see Rosanna Scotto’s comments and the reaction from the third grader who can’t stop making dumb jokes). And maybe it’s even unintentional on Rachel’s part – is she supposed to gain weight, change her hair color and only do savasana just because? The frustration also comes because as much as she wants to show how “real” she is, what we actually receive is an instagrammed version of Better Homes & Yoga, or Cosmoyogaton. I’ve seen her book, and unfortunately it’s just a coffee table book version of her instagram feed.
Why do we obsess about yoga on the beach in front of a sunset, anyway? Skinny bodies and the perfect quinoa bowl recipes? Terrifically difficult balancing postures that 90% of us don’t need to ever do in our lives to practice our yoga? And by “we” I mean the many (millions?) of people who look at those photos on @yoga_girl’s instagram account and feel envious, wishing they could have just a slice of that gluten free, soy free, dairy free paradise pie.
That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate her for who she is. Rachel manages to handle the juvenile Fox news team members rather gracefully as she tries to teach them a little eagle arms, and that’s no easy feat. And in her interview, she does seem a little more down to earth than she may appear in her perfect photos. She’s a hardcore yogapreneur and it’s not like she hasn’t put some work into it.
We all want to live our best lives, sure, but I’m going to guess fawning over idyllic scenarios probably isn’t the way to do it. That may be Rachel Brathen’s real life, but, taking a look around, it’s not mine, and it’s probably not yours either. The good part is, that’s perfectly OK. What makes me sad, and the problem I feel this causes, is that I’m not sure how many of the 1.2 million followers remember that.
hollypenny is a writer, yoga practitioner and dimply-butted gal living in New York City. Her interests include taking long walks, meeting smart people and trying to make sense of the world. She appreciates those who dig instagram though she has somehow managed to stay far away from regularly using the app herself.
- Lady Gaga Does Yoga In Her Underwear (Again) But Her Message is Surprisingly Disappointing
- Body Positive Yogis Make a Statement on Instagram – BuzzFeed
- Why Yoga Really is All About the Body