Back in 2012, Adriene Mishler started her YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene as an experiment. After becoming a yoga teacher to support her acting career, the Austinite thought it’d be an easy way to share her experiences with a larger community. But she never thought that eight years later, she’d foster a community of more than six million subscribers.
If you browse her channel today, you’ll find videos that range from full-body flows to those targeting specific parts of the body, as well as segments made to tackle stress, grief, chronic pain and more. In keeping with her overarching mission to make yoga free and accessible, Mishler posts a new video almost every week, providing a trove for those looking for a workout while practicing social distancing.
Mishler talked with us about how yoga can effectively be used to manage stress, advice on working from home, and more. Here’s what Mishler’s up to On Texas Time:
On providing free yoga
There was a pivotal moment after starting the YouTube channel where I started to notice that the cost of yoga and wellness in general in the West and in our culture was rapidly going up. Even I, who had established myself as a yogi, couldn’t go. It’s ridiculous and it really hasn’t changed. We’re just more used to it now, but back then I couldn’t even afford to go to yoga. It had moved from eight bucks to ten bucks to fourteen to twenty. Now thirtysomething dollars. And it just didn’t seem fair to me. It doesn’t seem fair that only a particular bracket of people could have access to these tools, so then we got pretty down and dirty.
So early on we started the 30 Days of Yoga Challenge in 2012, and about a year and a half after that things started to shift and we switched gears. We were like, okay, every single week of the year we’re going to put out free practices and it’s never going to be any gimmicks. It’s just going to be free for all. It went from being a little experiment that would maybe help some people to be a full-blown mission. And that mission really has not ever changed for Yoga with Adriene. And that is to provide as much free, high-quality yoga to as many people as possible.
On using yoga and meditation to manage stress
So when we think about managing stress, we have to acknowledge what I like to call the holy trinity of the self, which might sound a little deep. But literally, we’re just reminding ourselves that we are more than just our bodies. When we get stressed out, it’s important to remember all parts of yourself. For me, the holy trinity is the mind, the brain, and then our physical body—and not just our abs and our biceps and our booty—but the whole thing. It’s about keeping the body flexible, strong, balanced, and then regulating the systems of the body, like the nervous system, which has a direct effect on our emotional state. Basically we’re looking at our physical, mental, and emotional state all as one. And when we do that, even in just the slightest way, even five minutes, it’s going to have an effect on your stress level. So I encourage folks to remember a little goes a long way, particularly when trying to manage stress.
Advice for people new to yoga and meditation
I hear all the time, “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga” or “I’m not good at yoga, and I don’t know if I should try it.” I just want to lovingly remind everyone that you do not have to be good at yoga or meditation to do it. In fact, you never, ever have to be good at it. Also, remember the hardest part is showing up. I’ve worked hard to try to take [away] any obstacle or any excuse, any hassle, anything that might be in the way of you wanting to show up for yourself in some way [to get] you actually rolling out the mat or putting down a blanket or a towel and doing it. That’s been my mission, to support that moment in between you wanting to do it and you actually doing it.
So if you check out the Yoga With Adriene channel, hopefully, there’s something there for everyone. And once you commit, just get there, press play, and we’ll figure out the rest together. Even if you don’t do all the yoga, try to stick with it and be present. Part of the benefits of yoga is not actually doing the yoga, but just the presence that you allow yourself to sit in for that duration of time where we’re not distracting ourselves or busying ourselves. We’re really allowing the system with the body to calm down, to slow down, to regulate, which, of course, has a profound effect on our mental health and our bodies.
Advice for people new to working from home
It’s okay to remember that everyone is different. If you see that your office mate or friend or family member is making a written schedule for themselves, and that might work for you, then try it. Also know instead of it being like a one size fits all, you should experiment. We have the time. We all have the time to experiment with what works for us. So be gentle; go easy on yourself. If your coworker has written out a schedule for everything, great. But that may not be what’s best for you. You might have been waiting for this moment for years to hit the refresh button and work with less structures. So I say experiment.
On maintaining a community
One of the things that we did was we took the Facebook community off Facebook, which was so hard; I lost sleep on this for a week. We did not want to lose this incredible connection with the community that we had fostered together with people all over the world. But I also didn’t feel like I could take responsibility anymore for it because it had grown so big. And it was on this platform that I didn’t really have control over. People were being very vulnerable and sharing things there, and I didn’t want people to share something private or personal and then get targeted for ads based on what they were sharing.
So we spent a couple years working on this separate community that you can log in to. It’s just called FWFG Kula (“kula” is the Sanskrit word for community). And we’ve created this whole other space that’s totally free and totally ad-free. It has like an old-school AOL-style chat option. You can curate your feeds so that you’re only seeing the things that you did or that inspire you or motivate you or support you. So I’m really proud of that…and with things like Instagram and such, I’m trying to remember to just have fun and not feel the pressure to do it just because.
On staying connected while social distancing/isolating
I love that in just one week’s time, I’ve already had more phone conversations and video calls with my different circle of friends—even text threads. And if anyone is [seeing] this and going, “Oh, man, I’m so sad I don’t have my group,” don’t worry. This is the time to go inward as well. I think it’s going to be a balance of doing both and not getting too sidetracked by scrolling or the media.
Strike a good balance between taking time to really sit with yourself and then scheduling a few virtual dates, whether it’s a little virtual happy hour or sharing your recipe with someone. If you are someone that knows how to cook, this could be a really good time to help your friend who doesn’t know how to cook by making a little video and helping them navigate cooking. I think that it’s just going to be a little different for everyone too. So really listening well is going to be key here.