Stressed out? Stretch out!

‘Yoga With Adriene’ is the YouTube channel that changed my life

Emily DiSalvo, Arts and Life Editor

Adriene Mishler has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Health, The Jerusalem Post, Vox, the Atlantic and more since the pandemic started. She has 8.75 million YouTube subscribers as of Dec. 5. She’s an internet yoga sensation, offering a free way to do yoga from home — something that sounds like a dream during a pandemic that closed gyms and canceled fitness classes.

Screenshot from YouTube

I have been a fan of Mishler before the New York Times noticed her and before the pandemic necessitated her. I have been a loyal subscriber since 2015. 

Now that I have bragged a bit, I am willing and excited to share with you why I love the “Yoga with Adriene” channel so much. If you haven’t already seen her blowing up mainstream media, then hear from me about why I have been a loyal fan for so long. 

I turned to yoga in 2015. I was a sophomore in high school dealing with typical teenage stress along with a fair amount of body hate. My swim season had ended in November, so throughout the winter months, I was eating a lot of cookies and not doing a lot of movement. My mom had been consistently pestering me to try yoga and was sure I could find some videos online. 

A quick search on YouTube led me to “Yoga with Adriene.” I wish I could tell you that it was love at first stretch, but it wasn’t. The first video on her channel that I decided to try was a beginners yoga class. It was only about 20 minutes long, but it felt like eternity. We spent six whole minutes sitting on the mat breathing with our eyes closed. I was antsy. Didn’t I have homework or something to do? My back hurt from sitting upright, and I kept on forgetting to breathe deeply.

Of course, she reminded me to breathe deeply — in her soothing and non-judgemental voice that sort of, no definitely, annoyed me. How was she able to sit up so straight? And stretch so deeply? And why did she always look so composed and cute with her coordinated leggings and workout tops?

Five years later, I have yet to meet Mishler, but I consider her a friend. I do yoga to one of her videos every single night, and it has completely changed my life. This isn’t a cliché. It’s a reality.

After the first yoga video, I decided to commit to her 30-day yoga challenge because I was frustrated that something as simple as sitting up straight was so hard for me. Mishler usually features multiple 30-day challenges on her account each year. She posts a new yoga video every day for 30 days. You follow along with her and the rest of the “Yoga With Adriene” community. By the end, I always feel amazing and accomplished — except on “Day Six: Six Pack Abs” because that one always gets me.

But failure isn’t something to be ashamed of when it comes to YouTube yoga with Mishler. Alone in my room, I feel free to make mistakes, take a break or modify a pose without the judgement of other people. Her reassuring voice always reminds me to “accept my body where it is today” — one of her many mantras along with “I am strong,” “I choose to let go” and “heart over head over pelvis.” She has taught me so many breathing techniques that I can use on and off the mat to calm down like a lion’s breath, alternate nostril breathing and ujjayi breath, which is breathing sort of like the flow of ocean waves.

Screenshot from Yoga With Adriene

 

When I get frustrated and can’t nail a pose, it’s almost as if Mishler can tell I am getting frustrated. In each video, she always includes modifications and encourages viewers to take on challenges but to keep up the self love even in the midst of defeat. 

“Yoga With Adriene” is not a weight loss channel. She has a “Yoga for Weight Loss” series, but that was never my area of interest. I have always found myself pressing play on videos like “Yoga for Self-Doubt,” “Yoga for Bedtime” or even “Yoga for When You Are Dead Inside” — a Halloween special. But even if the video includes some “weight loss” style exercises like ab work, Mishler reminds the viewers that they are not “crunches” or “sit ups.” She reminds us that “crunching” our bodies is actually detrimental and could injure our necks. Instead, she shows us the yoga way. 

Doing “Yoga with Adriene” has made my arms and legs stronger. It has given me core strength that helps me sit up straight. It has increased my flexibility. But, it has also reminded me to breathe.

That first yoga class I did with Mishler was so hard for me because I needed yoga. If you start yoga and realize it’s super difficult, that probably means you should do more of it. Now, sitting up straight with my eyes closed and breathing is second-nature. And it feels wonderful.

The most unique and special thing about Mishler’s channel is how she embraces the at-home nature of it. Sometimes her adorable dog Benji will wander in and lay on her mat during the practice. Other times her floor will creak, and she will laugh. Sometimes she will have a cold and acknowledge that yoga is a wonderful way to clear the sinuses and cure headaches. It makes me in my cramped room on my old yoga mat, surrounded by my cats and textbooks feel like I am right where I am supposed to be.

It makes me in my cramped room on my old yoga mat, surrounded by my cats and textbooks feel like I am right where I am supposed to be.”

— Emily DiSalvo

Mishler is of renewed interest these days because of the pandemic and people’s interest in doing workouts from home. What I have realized is that working out from home is always a good option. You can pause the video and try again on a move you messed up on. You can stop for a water break. And you can do yoga in the intimacy of your own space. Yoga is very intimate — or at least Mishler’s form is. But the intimacy and the grace of her practices does not sacrifice any of the strength building or flexibility found in a traditional yoga class. If anything, it enhances it.

Heading into January, I am excited to start Mishler’s next 30-day yoga challenge. But entering my sixth year of yoga, I know it won’t be a challenge anymore. It will be a pleasure. 

How to experience “Yoga with Adriene” to the fullest:

  1. Subscribe to her weekly emails, or love letters as she calls them. Not only are they full of inspiration, but she includes a monthly calendar of yoga practices. Check out December’s calendar.
  2. Try a 30-day yoga challenge! Here is the link to one she did in January 2020.
  3. Check out my personal favorite videos.
    1. Total Body Yoga: 45 minutes might seem like a long time to do yoga, but you’re going to want to savor every second of this complete body stretch.
    2. Yoga for Inner Space: Mishler dresses up like an alien for this practice.
    3. Upper Back Love: This is the perfect practice to do after working at a desk all day and your upper back feels tight.