Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Rachel Brathen says you can let your personal challenges and trauma obscure the big picture or use them as motivation to create change.
Even Rachel Brathen (aka, “Yoga Girl”), the 27-year-old Instagram star and best-selling author who amassed 1.8 million loyal followers in just a few short years has setbacks. In 2014, Brathen lost her best friend, dog and grandmother, all in a matter of months, which left her rethinking her purpose, she says. “I had an existential crisis. I was questioning everything—the reason for the online world, social media and the point of it all. There was soul searching, and I arrived knowing that the influence and power I’ve attained should be dedicated to creating a better world,” Brathen says. When personal trauma hits, “you can go in one of two directions: It either sparks you to do something bigger and use your pain to make a change, or you go in the opposite direction and lose sight of its purpose in the big scheme of things.”
To put such defining thoughts in to action, Brathen recently launched oneOeight.tv, a partially crowd-funded digital wellness platform with a foundation in yoga. Through the subscription-based site, viewers can access video content focused on yoga, meditation, food, and travel, hosted by experts specializing in areas like body image, eating disorders, and psychology.
She also co-created 109world.com, a non-profit foundation dedicated to change-making worldwide through social mission trips and campaigns that target pressing issues, including the environment, female empowerment, world hunger, animal rescue, wildlife conservation, education, the well-being and safety of children, and clean water.
Slated to lead the organization’s first do-gooder expedition to Nicaragua this April, Brathen and participants will set up a sustainable water system in an area severely lacking this natural resource. Keenly aware of such global disparity and suffering worldwide, Brathen keeps her soul from deflating and stays motivated by allowing herself to internalize the harsh realities she encounters.
“We run an animal rescue organization and find homes for fifty-plus dogs. I’ve lost dogs in my arms and have been completely overwhelmed,” Brathen says. “I have to take a day or two off to let myself feel sadness. It’s important to bear that pain, as opposed to soldiering on. It’s why you got involved in the first place. It’s why we do what we do. I end up much more empowered.”
If building a change-making empire like Brathen’s is out of your scope, don’t be discouraged. “We each have the power to change the world,” she says, echoing her non-profit’s tag line. “Find what your true passion is—what makes you angry—and identify an issue to get involved with. Making a change takes a bit of work. Many of us are so content having a comfortable life, but even at your local community level there are people struggling, too.”
How to Cultivate a World-Changing Spirit
1. Take care of yourself.
People worry about their family, work, abundance, money. Knowing that you’re okay and cared for is comforting and will allow you to come to a place where you want to make a positive change in the world around you.
2. Get outside.
During very busy days, we sometimes forget about the bigger picture, as we get caught up in our to-do lists or problems and issues at hand. Spending time outside connects us to nature and mother earth and reminds us that we are part of a whole planet; a planet that in many ways needs support and healing that we have the ability to offer.
3. Open your heart.
Engage with your community. Make connections at a local yoga studio that offers opportunity to do seva (selfless service). Meditations for the heart can also help foster feelings of love and compassion that are greater than on a personal level.
Try a guided meditation:
4. Establish a loving intention.
Whatever you set out to do—whether it’s starting a new business or healing the world—a loving intention should inspire the project. There’s a lot of hard work involved as well; stay on course and don’t forget why you started out in the first place.
5. Tap in to your inner child.
As a kid, I wanted to be a Doctor Without Borders and travel the world to make a difference. As a teenager, I traveled to South Africa to visit orphanages for a school project. I have always been drawn to wanting to make a change.