Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen uses the web to go global

Rachel has built an enormous worldwide following of yoga practitioners with her Yoga Girl website and blog. Her commitment to helping others get in touch with their authentic, inner selves — set against the backdrop of Aruba’s beaches — appeals to yoga enthusiasts of all skill levels. “I went from teaching 15 people on the beach to teaching hundreds of people in another country very, very quickly,” Rachel recalls. She offers online classes via her website and in-person classes at her Island Yoga studio in Noord, Aruba.

Over the years, she’s expanded her digital reach on social media, including YouTube and Instagram, where she has 2.1 million followers. She’s published two books, including the New York Times bestseller “Yoga Girl,” and she’s appeared on many magazine covers. She’s appeared on many magazine covers and hosts a podcast

She also runs two nonprofits: Sgt Pepper’s Friends, an animal rescue foundation in Aruba, and Yoga Girl Foundation, benefitting women and children in need. “I’m so grateful that we have the Internet,” Rachel says. “It’s wild to think of where we would be without it.”

In a recent interview, we caught up with Rachel to learn how she used the web to build her worldwide Yoga Girl community.

Tell us how you got started with yoga.

I’ve had a lot of pain my whole life — back pain from scoliosis and from three car accidents when I was young. I found meditation when I was 17. Shortly after that, someone asked me, “If you’re practicing meditation, why aren’t you doing yoga for back pain?” I thought yoga was for super-flexible people, or you had to be up at four in the morning to do it. So I was hesitant in the beginning. I was lucky to find an amazing teacher and a style that was super helpful for my pain. In a few years, I started teaching and changed it my whole life.

How did you transition from yoga in a physical setting to a digital one?

I’m on a tiny island in the Caribbean. My original idea was to have an online presence so that the people who live here could find me. Then almost right away, people who didn’t live physically in my location started reaching out, asking questions and wondering about the practice or how to start a practice.

I entered the social media space as a newbie, with the idea of wanting to inspire, educate or invite people into the practice. But I had a lot of ups and downs, with a lot of trial and error. I realized early that what really inspires people isn’t so much the perfect poses, or the most beautiful pictures, or the green juices and the sunshine, which I was sharing — but the real, genuine, authentic stories about the good and the challenging parts of life.