A few weeks ago I went to Austin, in part to take a sold-out yoga class with Adriene Mishler, of the YouTube yoga empire Yoga With Adriene.
I start most mornings these days with a free Adriene video — she’s beautiful, generous, and friendly, with a low, slow voice that’s warm and calming. The videos can be short (I like the 10- and 20-minute ones), and the yoga feels less like exercise-exercise and more like vigorous, ritualized stretching. She has hundreds of them, and combined they make her seem like some kind of emotional genie, offering various doors to potentially walk through. A friend of mine who’s also a fan said: “Literally, I’ll just Google ‘yoga Adriene [CURRENT MOOD] or [DESIRED MOOD].’ She’s been doing it so long, there’s always something.” I’ve become attached to Mishler, too, as if we were actual friends. Which I know is wrong, and yet it kind of creeps up.
I got her newsletters for years before getting into the videos — the letters were loopy and funny, and they read almost like poems: “What if transformation was a product of you choosing to gently shed your [winter] bearskin and trot happy, pony-like, through a mysterious cool-warm Texas sunshine? I’m serious.” Also: “Hello, and how do you do? I hope this love letter finds you doing pretty good and if not, no worries.” (I wonder about her personal life as if she were a friend, too — she’s 34, a year younger than I am. Does she also worry about marriage and babies? What are her thoughts on money, work, purpose?)
Inside Austin’s soaring Fair Market event space, hundreds of us sat on colorful yoga mats, chatting and stretching, awaiting Mishler’s entrance. There were scented candles, as well as a DJ and free samples from Mishler-approved local vendors (cold brew, organic popsicles, tacos) and a table of Yoga With Adriene merch, too. My guess is that most of us were there in some way because of her YouTube channel, which since its 2012 debut has earned 4.7 million subscribers. Although there’s now also a membership service, international “road shows,” and occasional yoga retreats — her recently announced weeklong yoga-and-Spanish getaway in Mexico sold out almost immediately — as well as these monthly live community classes. (Her business partner is the producer Chris Sharpe.)
Amid the buzz of the crowd, Mishler eventually took the stage. She was wearing a “Find What Feels Good” sweatshirt (her motto), with her hair in a low ponytail. My first impulse was to pick up my phone, zoom in, and take a grainy picture of her. There she is! My next thought/impulse: That’s insane. Also: She is not my personal friend; this is her job. I think part of me was hoping that she would claim me somehow, or that the experience would wave some kind of transformative yoga wand in my direction.
The class was nice, and it was fun to move and jump around in a group. Mishler read a sweet poem at the end, which I have in my notes as “Feelings,” by Michelle Dobie, although I’m not finding it anywhere online. I was also glad to get home afterward — ironically, being there with her and hundreds of others in person felt lonelier than doing the yoga “just the two of us,” alone in our respective living rooms. In the end, it was relieving to realize that I prefer the intimacy and convenience of the videos. Like this one, for instance.