By Yasir El Mahdi
Questions by Alex McRobs
Meet Rachel! A true power horse. Rachel first joined us in 2021. Ever since she’s been involved in so many programs including the 200 Hour YTT, Sober Curious YTT, 300 Hour YTT and now Yoga Sutras Study. She also joined the amazing group of women in the Mexico Manifestation Retreat last year! We love how committed she is to her healing journey. Read more about our recent 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Grad!
Tell us a little bit about you:
I’m Rachel, I have 3 kids aged 12, 10, and 4. I live in the beautiful Peak District in the UK, where we renovated a farmhouse several years ago. I’m married to Adam who I met at university and I have a dog, 2 cats and a rabbit! I’m a digital marketer and blogger/YouTuber, turned holistic coach, yoga teacher, reiki 2 practitioner and essential oils guide. I teach with the MLPC and trained with Alex in 200hr, then 300hr - and also the sober curious YTT 30hr. I have even been on the Mexico Retreat with the MLPC - and consider the MLPC a big part of my life, and my sober community.
How long have you been alcohol free for?
I recently changed how I use my words around this topic. I have been in recovery for 5 years, i.e. I started my sober curious journey in 2017. As I write, my day count is 45 days. And I fully intend this day count to keep on clocking up and up! I have done so much work leading up to this. For me it’s happened in spirals, which is something Alex taught me - we learn in spirals - we keep encountering the thing, and then one day it just lands. Well, it’s landed, not to say my journey has stopped, though. And the MLPC has been a big part of that for me.
What was the point that made you want to quit drinking?
There have been many. I consider myself a former binge / grey area drinker. My addiction was less physical (in that I didn’t need to detox), rather it was primarily psychological and spiritual - my brain had hard wired itself to crave when in certain situations, good or bad - or even ‘meh’ situations! Did I have a rock bottom? Not really. But I definitely had moments when I was hurting loved ones with my behaviour and also putting myself at risk. My daughter also had started to speak about it, and I’d promise her I was done - and then I wasn’t. That scared me - I was choosing wine over my kids. This gave me a big wake up call. Ultimately though, as one of my favourite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert (also sober) said, ‘one day you just tired of your own b*llshit’.
Who and what inspired your sober journey in the early days?
Sober groups, most of which I no longer belong to - as I really did find my people when I came to the MLPC. I also would find it helpful to think of cool people that I admire in the public eye that got sober - like musicians, comedians, writers, celebrities. That still helps me. Quit Lit I found deeply supportive, and sober podcasts too. Someone in the MLPC actually said once, “Wallpaper your world in sobriety” and that is so true in the early days. The biggest inspiration though is waking up early on a Saturday morning and taking your fresh coffee outside to birdsong. I mean, that never gets old.
When did your yoga practice come into your journey - was it before or after sobriety?
I had dabbled in yoga on and off over the years. In lockdown (the first one I did drinking a lot and the second one I did sober) I started to do yoga on YouTube daily. For the first time ever I completed a 30 day yoga challenge. After that a friend in the UAE introduced me to Alex on Instagram - she had been practising with Alex in person when Alex lived there, then had transitioned to online with the MLPC in lockdown. Almost immediately I signed up to do the YTT! Itwas pretty mad, I’m not even sure what drove me to do that. I blame the universe!
Who and what inspired your yoga journey in the early days?
I loved Yoga With Adriene to start with. Then Elena Brower, who is now my essential oils mentor. Mostly though? Alex. She is an amazing teacher. I once told her that I often found other people’s classes ‘dry’. By that I mean no connection. No music. No emotion. Even today I will practise online occasionally with very well known sites and famous teachers and turn the class off halfway through if I just haven't connected with it. For me, yoga is a deeply emotional and healing practice. I have to feel inspired, and Alex embodies that for me. She will make you laugh, cry - all the things. I hope my classes are similar in that respect. A yoga class should be like art – it should be confronting and create a reaction.
"I teach with the MLPC and trained with Alex in 200hr, then 300hr - and also the Sober Curious YTT 30hr. I have even been on the Mexico Retreat with the MLPC - and consider the MLPC a big part of my life, and my sober community."
How has yoga enhanced your sober journey?
It’s been at the core of my recovery. The idea of holistic healing is very important to me and that’s what my business is now focused on. We have all heard about mind, body and soul. But to be on the healing or recovery journey and then for that concept to actually start to land for you? It’s amazing. The idea of integration. Embodiment. Coming together of mind (awareness of thought), body (stretching and movement as a way to release trauma and stuck emotion), and soul (discovering a deep sacredness and connection to the universe). Yeah, it’s pretty cool! True Yoga (the eight limbs, of which Asana - the posture practice is only one) is what Alex teaches. Even in her asana classes she subtly does that. With reference to sobriety, addiction is a mind, body and soul problem. The only way to heal it (which is different to just ‘not drinking’) is with a holistic solution in my opinion. Your mind is likely anxious and depressed; your body is physically craving, and also holding onto some trauma - and your soul? You may feel disconnected - probably fairly cynical - and also separate to others. There might be judgement, tribalistic tendencies - an ‘us and them’ mindset. Like, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’. In Yoga, we dissolve separation. It is a system for living, and offers a solution to those things. It’s very simple, but also incredibly complex.
How has yoga enhanced your sober journey?
I always say, I’m not a ‘spinning on my head’ type of teacher (I mean, that’s not actually a pose but you get my point!). My yoga is slow and stretchy. It’s about coming home to your body. Quieting the mind. Listening to your body - where are the niggles? I cry sometimes on the mat. Showing up is yoga. It’s more and more about my life off the mat. This may sound like mumbo jumbo, just hippy dippy words, but keep showing up and you’ll start to understand. At least that’s my hope for everyone who tries yoga.
What made you want to become a yoga teacher?
Honestly, divine inspiration or something made me sign up to Alex’s training! I had recently quit an in-person YTT. It was very triggering for me. I did most of the intensive week, but in the studio I found myself feeling inferior, less than. Looking back I was very much still hurting, and in the early stages of my healing and recovery. I was still fragile. It was right that I left. When I trained with Alex I was lucky enough to get her 121, so it was awesome. Like a friend teaching you. I am so lucky. She gently brought out my confidence. I found my voice. I even sang to her in the throat chakra module!! I was so scared. But she inspired me. I sang Joni Mitchel’s River with my eyes closed. I was so nervous - and then she said she had actually dropped out (of Zoom) at the beginning. I laughed so hard! She’d missed the whole thing! Like I say, the MLPC is not a normal teacher training ground!
What does yoga mean to you personally?
Yoga is about integration. It means Union. Literally the bringing together of mind, body and soul. Recognition of our innate sacredness. Ending separation.
Has anything changed about your perspective on yoga since becoming a yoga teacher?
All of it. I thought yoga was about doing headstands. It’s actually about living with love.
What are your hopes and dreams for your sober yoga journey in 2023?
I’m working on a holistic healing program - a deep transformation in mind, body and soul as this is what I have experienced - and this is for ALL people in recovery. I’ve learned that recovery doesn’t always mean alcohol recovery either. Recovery from trauma, mental health challenges - we are all recovering from something. I feel that my own sober yoga journey will deepen and allow me to better guide others through practices of yoga, reiki and working with essential oils as a conduit to their deepest self.
What impact do you want to have on the world with your work?
I want to help people in their own healing - and in turn to create healers, who in turn help others heal. I see healing as a ripple effect and I think it’s the most important work in the world. This may sound grandiose, but if we look at the last century and what it taught us, it’s that traumatised people (sadly, mainly men) start wars. If we are to evolve as humans, I believe healing is the most important thing on earth. Raising women up to take their place at the table, and allowing men to be ‘male’ in a new way. The patriarchy in particular I believe will dissolve. And we will collectively heal into a new way of being. I see spirituality growing and holistic practices being taken more seriously, which is great. This is about the planet, politics, economics, everything. I think I have a role in that. We all do, actually.
What do you love to do when you’re not doing yoga?
Walk my dog with my ear pods in, listening to a podcast by Russell Brand or someone like that. Cook (I used to be a food blogger!).
"Showing up is yoga."
What are some of your self care practices?
I have a morning and evening practice which varies but is always there. In the morning at the moment, I do a Gabby Bernstein meditation and journaling, followed by a quick note in my Yogic Path journal. I also pull a card from my beloved oracle deck by Kyle Gray who is a British angel guide. This has become HUGE in my life. I never thought I would be someone who had a relationship with angels, but I do! There, I just ‘outed’ myself!I feel very strongly a connection to my angel guide. And it’s the most beautiful thing. Oils, too. Daily, for my body and mind. I journal every night in bed for quite a long time! Writing is how I get to know myself. Gabor Mate, who is a huge influence on me, says “I need to write to express myself, not so others hear me, but so I hear myself". I totally second that!
What advice would you have for someone who is just sober curious and dipping their toes into sober curiosity?
Dig deep. Explore spirituality - and what that means to you. It doesn’t have to be religious. Or angels. Maybe for you it’s nature. The stars. What gives you a sense of awe? Of magic? Reconnect with that part of you, that child. There is absolute gold there. Open your heart and mind and see how wonderful life can be. That wonderment will guide you home.
Favourite yoga, spiritual or self-improvement book?
Heart Minded by Sarah Blondin. The audio is mind blowing. Her voice and words will have you in pieces. I also love all of Gabby Bernstein’s work and probably The Universe Has Your Back is my favourite. Her work really opened my eyes to spirituality.
Go-to health food or drink?
I love a homemade juice - maybe kale, cucumber, apple, ginger - something spicy and fresh like that. Or a cup of cacao, all frothy and made sweet with some maple syrup.
Holistic remedy you swear by?
Many people know me as the oils girl! I am a huge advocate for essential oils and it’s even become part of my holistic business. The ‘energetic’ power for me of (only high quality - that is so important) essential oils has been a big part of my journey.
My favourite oil is Petitgrain, which is a little known, stunning citrus oil that is great for when you are working on your purpose. Or Spearmint, which helps when you want to lean in and hear the whispers of your soul.
Favourite/most inspiring quote?
When we were in Mexico, I had a full on mental meltdown midweek. The next day Alex led a yoga class and at the end played a song with Ram Dass’s words - I cried so hard through the whole class, sadness just enveloped me, and when I heard those words it changed my life - the idea that there is one ember (of hope) and that’s all you need: “Within each of us there once was a fire. And for some of us it seems as though there’s only ashes now. But when we dig in the ashes we find one ember and very gently we fan that ember. Blow on it, it gets brighter. And from that ember we rebuild the fire. The only thing that’s important is that ember.” The song is by John Hopkins and East Forest and is called Sit Around the Fire.
If you could take a class as a student with any teacher from anywhere and from any period of time who would it be with and why?
I would love to sit with Ram Dass and just talk. I would love to talk to all the greats. That’s my absolute favourite thing, to hear wise words and life changing ideas.