This Yogi Will Make You Want to Take Up Surfing

For surfing yogi Rachel Barrett, joyful daily movement—in the water, on a mat or around the kitchen—is the key to feeling positive and motivated.

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Rachel Barrett, a Halifax-based yoga teacher, starts each morning by dancing with her two-year-old daughter, Lola, in their kitchen. The dancing is a ritual that Barrett began years ago on one February morning, when she and a friend noticed they both felt colder, darker and more sombre during this time of the year. “We wondered, why don’t we make February a little something different? Show up for ourselves and do things that invigorate us,” she says. “Even if it’s just taking a minute in the morning.” Barrett committed to a daily mini dance party, something purely delightful that allowed her “to draw back into joy.” The ritual felt especially vital when Barrett was pregnant and postpartum. Now, she calls dreary February “FABuary,” and posts daily videos of her dancing on Instagram (@luminousandwild), hoping to inject some silliness into her followers’ lives over the course of the month.

Dancing isn’t the only thing that gets Barrett moving—aside from yoga, which she’s been practicing since 2008, she’s an avid surfer. It’s terrific exercise, but it also gives her a sense of peace. After experiencing a loss in her family, Barrett started visiting the water often. It became “a place of healing,” she says. “A place where I could be with my grief, and be with the hope and optimism…and challenge myself and show up for myself.” Since she started surfing six years ago, she and her partner (also a surfer) have tried to make it out onto the water every day. Living right on the Atlantic coast makes it possible, but so does prioritizing movement. Here’s how she does it.

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7:15am The soundtrack for Barrett and Lola’s kitchen-floor dance party usually includes Paul Simon’s Graceland, which is a long-time family fave: Even Barrett’s 95-year-old grandma stands up and grooves whenever a song from the album comes on. Starting the morning with dance “sets the tone for the day,” says Barrett, and allows her to “move through whatever I’m feeling, whatever heaviness, and embrace things as they are.”

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7:30am  Barrett likes to cap off her morning routine by reading with Lola—a ritual that is super important to her after so much wild activity. “Life with a toddler can be pretty fast. I’m quite chaotic at times, so it’s nice to find those little moments where we can sit together,” she says. Lola’s current favourite book is Peppa Pig’s Happy Diwali!

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8:30am For the last couple of years, Barrett and her partner weren’t sending Lola to daycare—COVID-related concerns and a lengthy waitlist meant that Barrett stayed at home with her. Now, Lola is in daycare from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., giving Barrett more balance in her life and the opportunity to take time for herself.

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10:00am  “Daycare drop-off is pretty hard,” says Barrett. Often, she says, it’s emotional, especially on days when Lola would rather stay home. Seeing Lola distraught makes her feel “a bit heavy,” she says. On days like that, she recentres by playing a couple of songs on the guitar and adding wood to the fire.

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12:00pm  Barrett teaches yoga virtually every day at noon, and she appreciates how online classes make it more accessible for people. “Making [yoga] something that you could do at home…I think it’s important,” she says. Barrett practices in the sunroom, where she can enjoy natural light during the day and see the moon and stars at night.

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2:00pm  After teaching, Barrett will walk 10 minutes to the beach—she tries to get out for a surf whenever there are waves or her schedule allows. She and her partner work together to ensure they both have time out on the water, and they will often take Lola with them. “I can feel glimpses of the old me, but I’m also here with my daughter,” she says.

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2:30pm  While Barrett didn’t start surfing until adulthood, she’s always been drawn to the water, and as a kid, she was fascinated by scuba diving. “Growing up as a woman of colour on the East Coast in New Brunswick, I never saw any representation,” she says. “There aren’t many women of colour in cold-water [sports].”

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4:00pm  Showing surfing to her daughter is Barrett’s favourite part of the hobby. “I hope she loves the water. I didn’t have a connection with the ocean until my early 20s, so I would love to foster that in her from a young age, to find that sense of comfort and confidence in the water,” she says.

Next: “I’m a 40-Something-Year-Old Skateboarder (and TikTok Sensation)”

Originally Published in Best Health Canada