There are certain people who emanate light. Shining their soul from within their body and out into the world. Alec Vishal Rouben is one of those people. A yoga teacher and a university student at CU Boulder, I met Alec as an 18-year-old, newly back from my first semester of college.
On the first night I met Alec, I sat with him and his roommates on a big, slightly worn-out couch in their living room. It was a typical scene – a room of young people enjoying their evenings in a room covered with tie-dye tapestries and warm, hazy light.
Alec and I created a connection through our love of Colorado, a few close friends, and ultimately through the joint-belief that the practice of yoga will lead you down a transformational path.
One afternoon, I sat down with Alec after attending a delightful yoga class he led at PrAna’s small studio next door to Ku Cha House of Tea, where we settled down onto ground cushions to discuss life and LOVEtriBE.
I’ve often noticed that those who have gone down a more spiritual or non-traditional path in life often have a pivotal moment when that all changed. And Alec’s story is no different. For him, the moment happened beneath a willow tree.
“Do you see this tattoo on my ankle?” Alec asks me, as he pulls up his pant leg to reveal a beautiful gray and black inked image of a willow tree resting atop his right leg.
“It was my senior year in Kentucky.” Alec explains. “I was going through some hard times and I was experimenting with a lot at that point in my life. One day, I was sitting under this willow tree and I was meditating. This huge, beautiful willow tree and in came an epic rainstorm. Trees were falling, it was incredible. As I sat there, I went outside of my body. I went out into the Milky Way. Way, way out. I saw all these humans living their lives. And, I saw myself. I saw myself worrying about all of the insignificant things that I did. I saw all this pity. I realized that all of my worries were coming from small things. It was about stupid stuff.”
Alec gingerly sipped his tea as he continued, “In that moment, I realized: why am I worrying about this? Look at my life, look how blessed I am. And then I woke up. I had been asleep under the willow tree during the storm, and I opened my eyes and I had this huge epiphany; this huge realization of how blessed I am and how much gratitude I really should be having in my life.”
A small smile touches Alec’s face, and then vanishes. “I went inside and I instantly had a seizure. I fell on the ground in front of all my friends and my dad, I’ll never forget it. I thought I was dead; it was as simple as that. I thought I had transitioned and I was done. Game over, boom. It took me five minutes to realize I was alive, and when I realized I was living, I wrote this paper, which I still have, and the last two words that manifested were: love life. I’ve carried that with me ever since.”
Those two words: Love Life, have, indeed stuck with Alec since that day.
Alec was driving with a group of friends to a concert for his birthday in April of last year. As he drove, his friend Joey stuck his hands out the window and formed the shape of a heart with his fingers. Alec snapped a picture of the moment and captioned the image: Love Tribe.
“So I posted this picture on Instagram and the caption was: Love Tribe – because we were going to a show to meet up with our tribe, our community and we’re all lovers. Then I capitalized some of the letters, to make it LOVEtriBE – because you have to BE who you are and LOVE what you do if you’re going to be in this world and be in full presence of who you are.
“About a month went by and I would come back to that picture. As I looked at it, I realized: That’s an idea, it’s more than just a picture, it’s a theory.”
Alec spent $300 and bought 500 wristbands, as a prototype.
On one side of the green bracelets there were those words printed: LOVEtriBE, and on the other side there was an infinity sign next to the image of a heart, for “infinite love.”
“I passed them out and they were gone within a week. I thought “oh my god, I just hit something. It’s not even big right now, but it’s something”. So I asked my friend Joey if he wanted to go in on it with me. We both spent $240 and bought 1,500 wristbands with the intention to spread them out everywhere.
You can see the passion grow in Alec’s face, his whole being brightening as he continues.
“Eventually a Facebook group got started, which was slow, and the Facebook group isn’t the intention, instead it’s this theory and idea: We all have these communities, my tribe is yoga, my tribe is Boulder. Joey’s tribe is music. For these guys, maybe their tribe is tea.” Alec gestures around us and we laugh. “Those communities or tribes…what connects them is LOVE. That inspired me.”
LOVEtriBE became known for both its iconic green bracelets – designed to connect you with anyone who was wearing one, anywhere in the world – but also by Alec’s signature ‘Love Life’ totem. This sign –created by one of Alec’s dear friend Keifer, who has a matching totem that says ‘Shine On’ – because famous in its own right.
As Alec visited music festivals across the country, teaching yoga and spreading his LOVEtriBE bracelets, he, and his sign, were pictured everywhere. Even making an appearance in the background of one of Rachel Brathen’s (the Instagram influencer with over 2 million followers) website.
I ask Alec about his future plans, as the tea in our glasses begins to turn into final drops.
“I wanted to be a yoga teacher for so long, ever since 2011. I walked out of my first class knowing this was a life path. I didn’t know I wanted to teach but I knew this was it. I knew I’d found it and I’m so young. It’s incredible. I knew that if I asked and I believed then I would receive. And I’m asking and believing and I’m receiving. I know one day I’ll have a yoga studio, I don’t know what it looks like, I don’t know what it smells like, what it tastes like, but I know it’s going to happen.
"My whole family, they’re super smart, they’re all doctors and my mom was saying, “You know Alec I’m having a hard time swallowing the fact that you’re not going to have a career, or that you don’t want one.”
I said: Mom this is the difference in my generation – I am yoga. I practice and I teach and I spread the love. Maybe I won’t be traveling the world as much as I want. But I could be leading yoga retreats around the world, one day people will pay me to take them to Bali, pay me to do what I love, and that is that. That is LOVEtriBE.”