It’s no surprise that the mid-August weekend workshop with Adriene Mishler completely sold out within a few days. With 4 million online subscribers to her Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel, and in person classes of up to 2,000 people in venues around the world such as train stations, theaters, and palaces, she's become a yoga sensation. But behind the numbers is a woman who is determined to follow the inner compass that guides her on what she still regards as somewhat of a surprising journey, one that's encapsulated in her tagline, "Find What Feels Good."
Whether she's teaching a more intimate group at a place like Omega or a large audience online or in person, she strives to embody the concept of "finding" instead of "doing."
“'Find What Feels Good' is both a bit of a protective talisman and a very practical tool,” Adriene explained in an interview with Omega. “What felt good yesterday might not work today, so by ‘finding’ instead of ‘doing,’ you’re exploring your yoga practice—which is life— just by being willing to show up and be present. It sounds simple, but it’s a grand act of self-love.”
Creating a Conscious Connection
Adriene’s earnest but easy going, girl-next-door persona (she starts her online classes by saying, “hop into something comfy and let’s get started”) belies the complex challenge of creating a feeling of intimacy during a 20- or 90-minute virtual class for people of all ages around the world. She wants to set her audience at ease, help them tune into what is going on in each of their lives, and become willing to reach beyond perceived limitations.
“I see my job as creating a safe and awesome space that will allow people to have their own experience, and then get out of their way. Of course, I talk too much and of course I use bad humor,” she continued. “But I’m trying to anticipate what will make the audience disconnect or want to quit—and keep them from doing that.”
In order to keep her audience coming back, Adriene knows they need more than the possibility that they might achieve the ease she embodies. Enter Benji the dog, a Blue Heeler mix who will sprawl unconcerned on her yoga mat and who seems happy to be used as an occasional prop.
“Benji’s presence serves in a couple of ways,” Adriene explained. “When you’re in a cat-cow and your mind is racing because you really want an espresso before your next meeting, just seeing him can make you smile and help keep you focused on the experience.”
In addition to that soothing effect, Adriene believes Benji mitigates her contribution to the increasingly competitive world of yoga, especially on social media.
“I want to use my voice to shine a healthy light on the business of consciousness and wellness and not contribute to how we can get caught up in comparing ourselves with others,” she said.
Propelled By Passion
Finding what feels good didn't land Adriene on yoga initially. Her first passion was acting. She discovered the power of movement, breath, sound, community, and other holistic health practices right out of high school, which she graduated a year early when she was only 16. She left home that summer, taking her first big trip from Texas to Saratoga Springs, New York, for a month-long acting intensive at Skidmore College with the Siti Company, where she received a scholarship and rigorous training in Viewpoints and the Suzuki Method. Returning to St. Edward’s College in her native Austin, she was looking for a way to stay strong and in touch with the breath and bodywork she had learned. Luckily, her college offered yoga classes.
“And then that thing happened that happens when people find what they want to do—I fell in love,” she said.
She found a series of work/study situations to help pay for classes and, over the course of the next decade, throughout most of her 20s, immersed herself in different yogic philosophies and influences, including hatha, Kundalini, vinyasa, and Iyengar yoga.
She also continued to audition for, and land, a variety of acting gigs on television, in film, and as a voiceover artist for the video game DC Universe Online characters Lois Lane, Starfire, Supergirl, Ursa, and others. But as Adriene’s practice grew, so did her awareness of the need to integrate the ancient principles of yoga into the daily realities of contemporary life—including the rising cost of yoga classes.
“Yoga classes had jumped in price from $5 or $6 to $17, which made it difficult for me to afford them, and that really bothered me—not just for me, but for what it meant for how limited access was becoming to this thing that I view as so important,” she said.
Finding Her People
In 2012, Chris Sharp, a Los Angeles-based producer/director and early YouTube adopter, who Adriene had met on the set of an indie film, approached her with the suggestion of starting a yoga channel. The idea was to bring free, online classes to people all over the world. Although from the beginning they consistently released videos that focused on the foundational postures and philosophy Adriene believes are the backbone of a successful at-home practice, the channel really took off when they offered their first 30 Days of Yoga series, which entices viewers to build a consistent practice one day at a time.
Since then, Yoga With Adriene has been releasing two new classes every week—one for the free site and one for her subscribers—with themes such as Respect & Replenish, Office Break, and Yoga for Grief. Adriene designs many of her lessons in response to requests from the community, but no matter the theme, the lessons stay true to her overarching commitment to "Find What Feels Good.”
For the Yoga With Adriene journey, that has recently meant sharing the platform with guest teachers, such as Marnie Castor, who offers classes focused on menopause and adrenal fatigue, and Rey Cardenas, who offers classes focused on symbology and alignment, to help expand what's available to the community. Not having to record every week also frees Adriene to focus on finding other things in her life that feel good, such as writing a book and studying Spanish—all the while continuing her mission.
“I love having a platform in which I can listen to the community, respond, and be of service,” she said.
© 2019 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies