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Keepin’ It Real with Yoga Girl

By Tina Causey-Bislick / Images by Steve Keith

She has upwards of two million followers on Instagram, is a New York Times best-selling author, and recently made Forbes’ list of the most important social media influencers in the fitness arena.  Most know her as Yoga Girl; I know her as Rachel.  And although I have known her since she first came to Aruba some seven years ago, it was not until last year that I fully grasped her reach as a worldwide social media influencer and Instagram darling.  On a visit back home in North Carolina last year, my teenage niece gushingly asked, “Do you know Yoga Girl?”  I replied that indeed I know Rachel—and judging from my niece’s response, I think I scored some major auntie brownie points and a status elevation with that revelation.  It was a revelation for me, as well.  Of course I knew that Rachel’s popularity on the international yoga scene was growing and something to be admired, but the true scope of her reach and influence—including connecting with a teenager from North Carolina via Instagram—really opened my eyes to how impactful she had become, and not just because of her yoga poses.

Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen - Aruba yoga

This woman gets real—very real—on social media.  I assumed that it was insightful timing (she entered the Instagram scene pretty early in the game and wisely recognized its potential reach and power) combined with images of a beautiful, bikini-clad blonde doing impressive yoga poses on an island paradise that brought her social media fame.  But between applications of mascara and lipstick by our makeup artist for our cover shoot, Rachel tells me that it wasn’t until she started including posts about her real-life struggles that social media responded in a big way, fueling a connectivity that catapulted her to superstar social media status.

From perfecting idyllic poses in paradise, Rachel’s social media persona has evolved to sharing life’s highs, lows, and just about everything in between.  No longer a 20-something gal traveling to exotic places like Costa Rica and Thailand, Rachel is now a mom with a new set of priorities, and although she has had her share of haters and naysayers on social media and has lost followers along the way—especially when she has delved into the heat of politics—the majority of her followers are loving joining her on this real-life journey, connecting to her stories of family life and raising baby Lea Luna, crying along with her during the heartbreaking and rewarding moments that come with heading an animal rescue organization (Sgt. Pepper’s Friends), following the trials and tribulations of opening and operating a new business (Island Yoga—lots more about that on the following pages), and relating to the everyday challenges that we all have to navigate.

Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen, founder of Island Yoga, an Aruba yoga studio

Life is not perfect—it’s messy—and Rachel is not afraid to share it all.  “We have a tendency to only share the good stuff or create an image of a perfect life—it’s just not healthy,” says Rachel, who is rightly concerned about the negative influence this can have, especially on young girls and women. In this Instagram post, Rachel opens up in her brutally honest way about her fears and motherhood:

yoga_girl: This could be an ad for Baby Björn. It’s not. Every time I post about this carrier I get shit because it’s not “ergonomic enough”. Whatever the hell that means. It’s easy as hell to strap yourself into and that’s why I wear it. Doing everything perfectly as a mom is fucking EXHAUSTING! I’m constantly worrying about everything I’m doing wrong. On nights when she’s up or when her naps are short I wonder; is she getting enough sleep? When she sleeps through the night and takes two-hour naps I wonder; is she sleeping too much? I worry about if she is too hot or too cold – we sleep in air conditioning and I agonize over whether the perfect temperature is 24 or 25 degrees Celsius/75.2 or 77F (with 24 I worry that she gets cold after a while? But at 25 I think maybe she should wear a pj without socks?). I worry about her eating – now that she is eating solids, should she still breastfeed as much? She loves oatmeal and cereal and only wants my boob a few times a day now. Is this normal? Is she eating too much? Too little? And her playtime – I worry we should be spending more time outside but when we’re outside I feel like she is getting too much sun. And of course this is not even getting into all the ways I worry she might get injured or die, something that’s at the front of my mind in absolutely everything I do. GODDAMMIT THE EXTENT OF MY WORRY IS ENDLESS. And not at all proportionate to what she actually needs. I know I’m doing a good job. A great job. She is so loved. She has everything she needs. Hell, she might be the luckiest baby of all time. She has a full time mom and a full time dad and a full time grandma and aunts and uncles that adore her and a whole tribe of people loving her so much. She is safe. Held. Everything is ok. And yes, somewhere along the way I’m going to fuck up. And that’s going to be ok, too.

I’m writing this sitting on the floor at the top of the staircase outside our bedroom, drinking a beer while listening to her fall asleep in her crib because our monitor is out of battery. All is well. This beer tastes so damn good. And right now, after writing this, I feel like a damn good mom.
Thank you, vulnerability. You save me every time.


Did I mention Rachel can be brutally honest?  By the way, this post garnered over 65,000 likes in less than a day!

Although bringing the joyous Lea Luna into the world and raising her with husband Dennis is by far Rachel’s proudest achievement, the past year has also marked another major milestone—the opening of Island Yoga.  Go here to learn about Island Yoga, the Caribbean’s largest yoga studio.

Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen

Shooting our cover at Rachel’s home, we are surrounded by the day-to-day realness that she wholeheartedly embraces and unabashedly shares with her social media followers. Sitting at her kitchen table, she multitasks between working her social media platforms, communicating with a friend back home in Sweden, and pondering over wardrobe options that her right hand, close friend, and general manager, Amelie, and I present to her, while I pepper her with questions for my article…all this in the midst of a hair and makeup session, a consistent flow of doggies coming and going (yes, Instagrammers, I met Ringo), and daddy Dennis feeding baby Lea Luna some oatmeal and bananas next to her, as our production crew is in and out, setting up for our shoot.