Book Review: Yoga Girl By Rachel Brathen

I just finished reading Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen and wow, what a beautiful book! Part memoir and part yoga reference guide, Yoga Girl is full of stunning photos that capture Rachel’s radiance, strength and positivity, as well as her life living along the beautiful beaches of Aruba. It features broken down sequencing and proper pose technique, and contains enough inspiration to set you up for a lifetime of positive thinking.

But what I like most about it is how real it is. It reminded me of how my own yoga journey began.

Like Rachel, I too found yoga after a few too many years of not properly looking after myself.

I was stressed, depressed and insecure. I found myself one night tempted to try a yoga class at my gym. I wanted something to relax my body, but since I didn’t know much about yoga, I ended up at a Vinyasa class set to a pace I could hardly maintain. Between not knowing the poses or the sequencing and lacking the strength to hold poses for longer than two seconds, I quickly became frustrated. Breathing heavy in downward dog, the instructor came to me and said, “Don’t worry, one day this pose will be a relief pose for you.”

I thought she was crazy of course. To the newly acquainted, downward dog is no walk in the park. It’s a challenging pose with a lot going on, one that works and engages your entire body. But she was right. Over time, the pose became not only a relief pose, but an essential pose. My body craves it now and I do several downward dogs a day, usually as part of a sun salutation but often on their own as well.

Yoga changed me.

I first mentioned Rachel back in November when I wrote about authenticity in social media. I was really drawn to her take on being true to your authentic self and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, which I had hoped (and still hope!) to bring more of to my own posts. Rachel talks about how yoga makes it easier to accept things. As I grow as both a yogi and a woman, I realize there is more truth in this everyday. To accept is to let go.

Rachel’s honesty is so welcome. A lot of people expect yogis to be pinnacles of health and wellness, but many fail to realize how much of a yoga practice is about finding that balance. When things take off for her, she eventually finds herself exhausted and her own health is sacrificed. We are not perfect. And that’s why I loved this book. Rachel fills it with all these positive affirmations and loving insights despite her challenges, and while I had heard many of them before, they still resonated with me. It is always important to remind yourself to treat yourself with love and kindness.

These are a few of my favourite “loving insights” that she shared:

  • Even if you can’t see how your dream is going to come true, focus on the idea of it happening. You don’t need to know every step ahead of you to be able to move forward.
  • It does not matter what brings you to the mat. What matters is that you get there!
  • Nothing is more important than your own well-being. Sometimes saying no is caring for yourself. (*side note* just read another great essay on this topic by Lena Dunham)
  • Do no harm, but take no shit!
  • Worrying is praying for what you don’t want to happen. Focus on what you want, not what you fear.
  • Allow yourself to feel.
  • No matter where you are in life, you will always be okay.

I know this post is kinda hippie dippy, but that’s the direction I feel myself heading in these days. Yoga is no longer just something I do on my mat. It is part of my life. The music I listen to, the people I associate with, the books and blogs I read, the things I eat, the love I give myself, the love I give others, the way I divide up my time, and the projects I say yes to.

If you feel like your life is heading this way too, then Yoga Girl is definitely a book for you.

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