Leslie Rangel loved her job as an on-air reporter at a television station in Oklahoma City. But covering devastating fracking-related earthquakes, chasing tornadoes, and interviewing people on their worst days started to take a toll on her.
Rangel found some balance in the yoga classes she’d taken since her days as a student at the University of Texas at Austin back in 2008. Then, in 2015, she started a 200-hour yoga teacher training at Ashtanga Yoga Studio in Norman, Oklahoma, and something clicked.
“The big question posed to us as students was, ‘How are you living your yoga off the mat?’ ” says Rangel, who is now a morning anchor for a television station in Austin. The training led her to completely reevaluate her life. “I knew that there was a way to continue in this mission of journalism, but to have it be different.” She began applying yogic principles to her reporting life: meditating and using pranayama techniques like nadi shodhana, or alternate-nostril breathing, to stay balanced before big interviews. In 2017, she completed her 500-hour teacher training.
Three years later, in May 2020, Rangel launched The News Yogi, a virtual yoga studio to help other journalists who were struggling with similar job stresses, and to promote healing equity for journalists of color. Shortly after founding her studio, she was tapped to lead remote sessions at national journalism conferences during the pandemic.
Healthy coping tools
Rangel cites research collected by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism that suggests between 80 and 100 percent of reporters have been exposed to some form of work-related trauma while covering human suffering and mass disasters. For Rangel, that on-the-job stress was layered on top of the trauma inherent in her background as a first-generation Mexican American. “I started feeling [like I was] not enough and feeling broken in this industry,” Rangel recalls. Yoga, she says, gave her healthy coping tools that she felt could be helpful for the worn-out colleagues she saw turn to alcohol or leave the media entirely. Journalists of color, who are underrepresented in newsrooms and often come from a starting place of generational trauma and systemic racism, can be particularly affected, she adds.
“I’m on a mission to not only help journalists de-stress, but also to keep them in our industry,” she says. “We need journalists of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders. It’s important because the moment you don’t have diversity in journalism, you don’t have diversity in the stories that are getting amplified.”
See also: Trauma-Informed Yoga for Healing
Rangel recently launched an online workshop, “Yoga for Journalists: Managing News Stress and Reconnecting to the Storyteller Within.” Exploring breathwork, doshas, and mantras, the six-week course is designed to help journalists all over the world “find their sankalpa, to find their why,” Rangel says. “When we can remember our why in this industry—and that is to story tell—it 110 percent makes us better journalists because we can cut through all of the red tape that comes with a newsroom.” Then, she continues, we “can show up to any story and really tell it, to see the basic human issue that needs to be told.”
Prioritizing mindfulness isn’t only helpful for people reporting the news, but also for readers and viewers who feel barraged by the mind-numbing 24-7 news cycle, Rangel says. Ultimately, practicing yoga helps us to “ride the waves of life and have the tools to respond,” she says, “whether you’re a journalist and it’s just life and this career you picked, or a human consuming all of these headlines.”
Take the yoga for journalists workshop and find out about upcoming initiatives by visiting thenewsyogi.com.