With more than 2 million followers on Instagram, you might think Rachel Brathen (a.k.a. @yoga_girl), is in it for the Insta likes. But behind the fancy poses and swoon-worthy Aruba backdrops, Brathen uses her platform for honest dialogue. She’s shared real stories about family struggles, death, and her bumpy past. Brathen even took a strong stance during the #MeToo movement, asking her yogi Instagram followers to share their stories of sexual misconduct and abuse that happened in the yoga space. More than 300 yogis sent Brathen their stories, often naming the yoga teachers who’d abused their power.
Brathen’s Instagram wasn’t always a place for this kind of social change. In 2012, Brathen’s Instagram account looked like other Insta-famous yogis’ accounts, filled with inspirational poses that @yoga_girl made look easy. In 2014, Brathen decided to switch up her content and talk about the suffering she was experiencing. “That year, my entire Instagram following changed,” says Brathen. “I used to get questions about yoga poses or pants, but then people started asking for serious help—with depression and loss, eating disorders, even suicide. I’m not a therapist, so my staff and I began looking for people to whom we could connect our followers. I realized I needed to go way deeper if I was going to actually be of service.”
A lot has changed since 2012, including the launch of the Yoga Girl® brand and the Yoga Girl® Foundation, which was created by Brathen and her mother, Shama Persson. The three main priorities of the foundation include child safety and abuse prevention, self-love and self-esteem empowerment in women, stress reduction, and anxiety prevention.
The Yoga Girl® brand recently launched a series of products—inspirational totes, shirts, and pins—where 10% of all sales are donated to the Yoga Girl® Foundation. Here are our favorites from the collection: