Jungle Magic: On Retreat with Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl

Jungle Magic: On Retreat with Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl

At the beginning of March I spent just under a week with one of my favourite yoga teachers (despite never having met her), someone who I had been following on social medial for 2 years – Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl. Think handstands on the beach combined with very honest posts about her love, life and everything, displayed on the instagram feed of 1.9 million followers. Let’s not forget her love of animals – who can resist a yoga video featuring a cute little goat?
Why Yoga Girl? I started following her during a year out for travel. The year started with a wonderful yoga retreat in Costa Rica hosted by Twist and Sprout (Susan Reynolds teaching the yoga). I had gone to a yoga and music festival by chance while still in the country and Rachel was there teaching a workshop although I had never heard of Yoga Girl at that point. I saw the word ‘Handstands’ in the title and shied away. Having just spent a quiet week with 7 people, I was already overwhelmed by all the semi-naked festival go-ers dancing around smothered in blue clay.

I was in New Zealand when I discovered her very personal and emotional posts relating to the death of her best friend which sadly happened shortly after that festival. From then on, probably along with millions of other people, I felt a connection to her – it’s hard not to when you’re given such an insight into her private world.
I’ve since backed her 108 online platform and taken her online classes which I love, all the while hoping that the time might arise when I would be lucky enough to meet her. I couldn’t believe it when her husband Dennis emailed to say I had a spot on their retreat!!! “Will you meet Penny the Goat?” was the most common response I got from people when I told them I was going, but that wasn’t to be. However, Ringo, aka Ringo the Gringo (also now an instagram legend in his own right), accompanied Rachel and Dennis and I was surprised at how much smaller he seemed in real life. One of my favourite moments was when I was a bit teary lying on my mat and he came over and nuzzled into me, making me feel loved. Animals are so intuitive.

What was I expecting? Well, I was secretly hoping for a few things:

  • Life-long friendship (of course – who wouldn’t?!)
  • To absorb all her awesomeness at teaching
  • To return full of vitality, bubbling with energy and feeling healthier than ever
  • Maybe to master handstands but I really wasn’t holding out on that one
  • A warm, sweet person who would give the best hugs

Fears? I would hug her then not be able to let go. I wouldn’t be able to relax around her. She would actually be really annoying and the bubble would be burst forever.
What was Yoga Girl like? I have to admit I didn’t feel an instant connection but by the end of the week I felt relaxed around her and like we’d gotten to know each other as much as possible in the time. For some of the retreaters there, this was their 3rd retreat with her, but that helped to create a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. Her passion and ambition for her work is obvious but she is caring, sweet and fun-loving. She can be feisty and is obviously used to attention, but she’s 27 and also just a normal person, albeit I do think she is at times beyond her years. She was with us pretty much the entire time, her lovely husband Dennis was there as was her sister so it felt a bit like a big family holiday and I suspect this retreat was as much for her as for us.[/fusion_text][images picture_size=”fixed” hover_type=”none” autoplay=”no” columns=”5″ column_spacing=”13″ scroll_items=”” show_nav=”yes” mouse_scroll=”no” border=”yes” lightbox=”yes” class=”” id=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”×225.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”×300.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”×225.jpg” alt=””][/images][fusion_text]We practiced yoga on a wooden outdoor platform surrounded by the forest and all its loud noises feeling privileged to be allowed to invade the space of so many plants, animals, birds and beautiful insects. I love Rachel’s classes, I find that her words flow effortlessly and always seem to come from an authentic place, genuinely speaking to each and every one of us. We experienced the ancient ritual of a cacao ceremony, took a boat trip to a secluded beach, swam in a waterfall, had an outdoor jacuzzi with sweet smelling flowers and generally lounged around chatting by the pool not to mention enjoying the odd glass of wine over dinnner.
However, what I realised was the most special thing about the retreat was practicing yoga outdoors – something I very rarely ever do. Lying on my mat, some days feeling terrible (I got ill but that’s another story), I would turn my head to the right and every morning there’d be the same beautiful butterfly there delicately flirting with a flower. And I know this sounds corny but I would match my breath to the slow opening and closing of its wings. In such a place it’s hard not to feel completely connected to everything. Reconnecting to nature is so special and I believe it’s one of the main appeals to Costa Rica as there’s an abundance of opportunities to do so there.
Would I do it again? I feel so lucky to have been able to experience this retreat, not my first in Costa Rica, but unique in that Rachel is fast becoming a social media superstar in the yoga world and to have been on such a secluded, intimate retreat with her was really special. I love her classes and will definitely seek them out whenever possible, but I’m not sure I would go on another retreat, I am content with the time I had.
What will I take away? Well hopefully a lot of inspiration to bring into my yoga classes – I have felt a lot more relaxed in my teaching since returning home. I learnt more than anything, to let go of expectations – of other people and of myself. Unfortunately I didn’t come home full of energy but instead full of gratitude.

by Frances Culpin[/fusion_text]

Frances Culpin