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- By Frankie Graddon
It is no exaggeration to say that when we got the call confirming Adriene Mishler as our January cover star, we jumped with joy. Along with the other 10.5 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, we count ourselves as true fans of the Texan-born yoga teacher, and have come to count on her easy-to-follow, soul-nourishing practices – especially over the past couple of years.
Born into an artistic family (her parents are both in film), Adriene trained as an actor before pivoting to the wellness world. As well as her hugely successful YouTube channel, Yoga With Adriene, she is co-founder of Find What Feels Good, a virtual community with yoga tutorials, workshops and meditations for all levels.
But Adriene is as far away from the stereotypically unapproachable wellness entrepreneur as one can get. Speaking from Austin, where she lives with Benji, her faithful canine sidekick, Adriene’s warm, down-to-earth nature envelopes our phone call as we discuss finding balance, the importance of authentic self-care and why she’s feeling very hopeful for the year ahead.
How did yoga come into your life, and can you recall your first practice?
Yoga first came into my life when I was making the transition into adulthood – around 17 years old. My first class was here in Austin. I can remember the room, the teacher and moving through the flow, experiencing my body in a completely different way. At the end of the class, the teacher read a piece of poetry called The Guest House, by Rumi. There was something about the poetry that opened up my mind to yoga being so much more than physical exercise and so much more than the traditional practice – which, of course, I have a lot of respect and reverence for. It made me think yoga is actually a lot like theatre; you’re creating a structure where you are telling a story and where you can have a live experience. That really spoke to me. It was an anchor that has guided my personal growth in a major way. Who knows where I’d be without that practice at that time.
"It’s about feeling safe and strong, not just in your body but in your mind, too."
As well as your hugely popular YouTube channel, you have launched the Find What Feels Good app, which allows followers to download sessions and highlight favourites. It’s basically like having you in their pocket! Why was it important for you to create this?
All of a sudden, we had this big community from the YouTube channel and wanted to create a more solid structure. That was how the app was born. We’ve really taken our time with it, so it’s allowed us to get feedback from some of our original community members and figure out what does and doesn’t work. That was then, this is now, and we’re in a full virtual wellness age. I’m really proud of how the app has improved – we have an incredible team and we still receive a lot of feedback from our community.
What are your favourite features of the app?
My favourite thing about it is that it allows us to share more in-depth yoga practices. The Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel is really all about creating this open-door atmosphere. I still want the app to feel accessible, but I also want it to be a place where you can go down different rabbit holes based on where you are in your life, what your energy level is and where your curiosity lies. I think there is a lack of creativity in the wellness industry, and I am wholeheartedly interested in finding ways of being more creative in that space. It’s also been a goal of mine to create a strong and diverse faculty of teachers from day one, so I want to use the app to introduce my friends to new teachers and different points of view. I’m hoping to grow a big rainbow of voices.
"Yoga is so much more than physical exercise. It has guided my personal growth in a major way."
What would your advice be to someone curious about trying yoga for the first time?
I would say it’s OK to make it about you. Your yoga practice is an opportunity to know, understand, and eventually, hopefully, enjoy yourself more. I think a lot of people think they have to do yoga a certain way, but this is your time, your body, your breath, your story, your brain, your reality that you’re creating for yourself, so make it about you. When we create safe, healthy spaces for us to make it about ourselves and listen and check in, then it has an incredible ripple effect on how we show up for others. Yoga is about knowing and understanding yourself better, and when you actually give yourself that time then it’s not too far-fetched to say it puts you in a better position to understand the person next to you better.
Your motto is “Find what feels good”. What feels good for you right now?
Having conversations with wonderful people feels really good. We were doing a lot of posing in yoga for a long time, so it feels good to be having conversations about wellness, instead of just turning up for work and doing what’s been done. Right now, restructuring feels good, focusing on my energy and celebrating my evolution as a person, versus chasing all the things I felt like I should be doing. Benji always feels good, I’m so grateful for his companionship, and for my partner’s. In a lot of ways, 2021 was way more difficult for me than 2020, so it’s nice being able to transition into the new year feeling good.
What are your plans for 2022?
I look forward to nourishing Find What Feels Good. I’d really like to continue to nurture the growth there in a way that we haven’t before. I’m making plans to be with the trees and to travel, and hopefully work on new projects, too. I auditioned for a movie recently, so we’ll see if I get that. If not, I’ll be learning my Spanish and maybe I’ll write my book in 2022. I want to be brave and give it a shot.
You were a lockdown saviour for millions (including several members of the ICONS team), but how did you maintain a sense of wellness during the global pandemic?
It’s tricky to speak like the pandemic is over, because it’s not, and I find that just magnifies that we’ve gone through many stages of this experience. In some phases, I feel like I was really good at maintaining balance and prioritising my wellness, but in others, I really lost motivation in terms of my self-care and organisation. The truth is, I feel almost like I didn’t do such a great job of taking care of myself during lockdown, and I’m trying to mend that. Right now, I’m feeling motivated and excited to carve out some more time and space for my own wellness, and not mistake me showing up for my job in wellness as my personal wellness.
I think a lot of people will be able to identify with that, especially trying to balance busy lives with mental wellbeing. What have you learnt from this time?
For the most part, I did more output than input and I’m now in a phase where I’m having to take my own medicine and fill my cup, so that I can continue showing up for my work, which I am very blessed to do. I think it’s nice for us not to feel like we have to hide the moments where we’re hurting and suffering. We are thriving and we are striving. At the time of this conversation, I almost feel proud of myself. It’s like, “OK, I’ve made it”. January is a good time of the year to evaluate, and what I want to make sure I’m doing is listening to what current Adriene needs for wellness, because it might not be the same as last January’s Adriene.
In January, you will launch your annual 30 Day Yoga Journey – something our co-founder Laura looks forward to at the start of every new year. What was the motivation for developing this programme, and can you tell us about the inspiration behind the 2022 plan, MOVE?
In gearing up for 2022, I kept wanting to find the thing that would encapsulate how we all felt. If you were going to make time to do something for 30 days, what would it be that could touch on all parts of the self: physical, mental, emotional. I kept coming back to ‘move’ because it does two things for me. Firstly, it speaks to a lot of people who want to get moving at the top of the year, and reaching as many people as possible is always the goal in yoga. Secondly, it’s a great word for me personally, regarding where I’m at in my journey in talking about the science behind the yoga I’m sharing. It’s a portal for me to discuss the brain-body connection and try to make that information more accessible to the everyday person. It’s very motivating for those wanting to focus on mental health as well as flexibility, stability and strength. It’s about feeling safe and strong, not just in your body but in your mind, too.
We have all fallen in love with Benji playing the role of your faithful sidekick. He’s also the star of his own cartoon, Be Like Benji, which helps translate the principles of yoga and discusses mental health in a child-friendly way. How do you see your role as a self-care and mental/physical wellbeing guide to the younger generation?
When I was a young adult, I taught kids yoga; my first business was called Love Kids Yoga, so I feel very pulled towards using my platform and voice, and energy as a human, to nurture opportunities for young people. Not just to teach them about self-care and ways in which they can tend to their physical and mental health, but to show up for the conversation. There are a lot of conversations I never heard as a young person that I’m really only hearing now, and they are destigmatising things like healing, depression and the way in which we regard ourselves. Be Like Benji is definitely made for a younger audience; however, we also wanted it to be for the child in everyone – for that pure self that we talk about often in yoga. We’re working on episode two right now, which is about winding down at the end of the day, and just watching the animatics makes me emotional. It’s so heartwarming and there are some wonderful tools in there.
The co-opting of self-care by brands has left the notion feeling somewhat hollow, but your version has authenticity. How have you cultivated your own sense of self-care, and what does it look like right now?
I think it’s about honesty and allowing, instead of always trying to control and manipulate. I always say to young and aspiring teachers that the hardest, most beautiful thing you can do is allow people to see you for who you really are, and that’s the thing you need to cultivate. Of course, educate yourself, but the most important thing is getting in the habit of allowing people to look at you. That’s what I try to practise when it comes to sharing, as well as this principle of awareness; are there little ways I can make people feel safe and strong in this offering from the get-go? The last thing is making sure it’s an invitation, so I am supporting others on their journey – giving them the tools to ask their own questions and have their own experiences – rather than having them emulate my journey. It’s about being honest; it sounds so simple, but it’s so challenging.
Aside from your daily practice, what other rituals give you a sense of wellbeing?
I love rituals; even the word ‘ritual’ makes me sit up tall and gives me hope. Outside of yoga, other forms of movement draw me in: walking, jogging, hiking. I’ve been really enjoying Pilates lately because it’s similar to yoga, but there are new forms of movement with the reformer and resistance training that are actually doing a lot for me right now. It feels nice to get on the reformer and challenge my brain and see how my whole mood changes when I take the time to learn a new movement. I enjoy catching a movie and staying up to date on Netflix. I’m big into home rituals, so making the bed, making a coffee or tea, drawing a bath, lighting a candle at my desk. I do like to set the tone at home through a ritual.
What book are you currently reading?
I have just finished The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which I picked back up after shooting the 30 Day Journey, so it felt like a symbolic gesture of “OK, I’m picking up a novel again, we’re out of the tunnel”. Prior to that, I read a book called The Joy of Movement by Dr Kelly McGonigal and that was really beautiful. It affirmed all the thoughts I’d had while doing MOVE, and of course taught me more about the incredible powers of movement and how motivating the science behind it can be. I’ve also read an incredible book that I gave to friends and family for Christmas called 24_/_6, by Tiffany Shlain. She discusses this idea of taking one day of the week off technology. That’s been one of my favourite reads all year.