Rebekah Letch loves to move. She took her first ballet class when she was 4, attended Juilliard for dance and discovered her love for yoga as a student at the school. Now she practices every day, teaches yoga at our Soho studio and credits the practice for transforming her life in ways she never expected, like healing injuries and building upper body strength. As a natural extension of her healthy lifestyle, she also co-founded Radha Beauty, the best-selling beauty brand on Amazon! The yogi may make it look easy on Instagram, but rest assured, her journey has been anything but. Originally from Singapore, she grew up as a minority in Southeast Asia and moved to the U.S. for Juilliard after winning a national ballet competition as the only dark-skinned woman and dancer without a teacher to enter. Get the full run-down on Rebekah's yoga journey, plus, her advice to new yogis and fellow women of color following their dreams, below.
How did you get into yoga?
When I was at Juilliard I suffered a very bad meniscus injury. My friend took me to a Latin dance class, and the director did a yoga warm-up at the beginning. I went every single day, and I started getting stronger and even more flexible. I didn’t know what yoga was at the time, but it made me feel so good and grounded.
What role does yoga play in your life? How does it complement your love for dance?
I start my day with yoga and meditation, and it helps me stay grounded and in tune with myself. There are days when work and life get hard, and yoga is like movement meditation for me. Practicing yoga has definitely made me stronger and a healthier dancer—I eat better, and I don't get injured as often as I used to. As a ballet dancer I always lacked strength in my upper body, but yoga changed all that for me.
What can students expect when they take a class with you at our Soho studio?
It is going to be so fun!! I mean that. Classes with me are energetic, and you can definitely expect a dance/ballet vibe. I love graceful movements!
What has been the most challenging part of your yoga journey and how did you work through it?
The most challenging part of my yoga journey has been maintaining and building strength. I never had any, and my wrists are as tiny as a baby's. But I work hard every single day to get stronger and not give in to that voice that tells me to give up because I will never be as strong as some of the yogis on Instagram. I am getting there, and even though it has been a struggle, the process has been so gratifying.
In what ways has yoga affected your life, big or small?
Yoga has helped me calm down and not be anxious—I have learned to be patient with myself and work through any issue or struggle slowly. It has also helped me accept my flaws and limitations. Yoga has definitely changed my life.
From growing up as a minority in Southeast Asia to being the only dark-skinned woman and dancer without a teacher to enter the national ballet competition that brought you to Juilliard, you’ve worked extremely hard to get where you are. How have these experiences shaped you?
I don’t believe we have limits to what we can achieve. It’s as simple as setting your mind to something and doing everything it takes to achieve it. I know from experience how fear and disbelief can hold you back from achieving great things. Let that go, and you’ll surprise yourself.
What would you say to other women of color who are chasing their dreams in the face of adversity?
I have always been minority, even living in Southeast Asia. However, I think it’s because I am so different that I'm able to stand out, It gives me the upper hand when it could be limiting. You have to believe in yourself and know that you are enough and can achieve anything you set your mind to. Believe, and watch the magic unfold in your life.
You co-created Radha Beauty, an amazing line of natural skincare and beauty products! How did this come about?
I created Radha Beauty when I was living in Mexico with my business partner. I grew up using essential oils to heal my body and taking natural baths with turmeric and rose water, and I wanted to share that lifestyle with the western world. We did good—Radha Beauty became the best-selling beauty brand on Amazon.
What are your top tips for leading a healthy life?
Be physically active every day, eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean protein, vegetables and fruits (be sure to get enough vitamin D and calcium!) and challenge your mind.
What advice would you give to yogis just starting out in their practice?
Throw away the idea that you should already be flexible, that you’re too old to do yoga or that yoga is the only thing that will help you lose weight! Yoga is a process, not a pose. Whether or not you touch your toes is irrelevant—what matters at the end of a practice is the state of your body and mind. Before you start moving on the mat, set an intention. This will help set the tone for your practice and prepare your mind for an introspective experience. Learn to savor the moment and allow your body the rest it deserves after a long practice.
Follow Rebekah's inspiring journey on Instagram at @rebekahletch!