Adriene Mishler | Apiece Apart Woman
In an era during which the word “influencer” can cause your eyes to roll back into your head, Adriene Mishler wholeheartedly disrupts the stereotype. In light of her popular Youtube channel, Yoga with Adriene, she has somehow remained disarmingly authentic, avoiding the obvious pitfalls of being a social media sensation.
And let’s be clear here, Adriene is incredibly popular. Her Youtube channel is the most watched yoga instruction on the Internet with 10 million subscribers and three times as many views on her most-watched videos. Her work has shifted the conversation around yoga, making it clear that good health is for everybody, and her platform works to abolish what she calls “the wellness hierarchy.”
This ethos of inclusivity is more than just lip service. Her openness and casualness—the videos are often shot in her living room with her dog Benji—feel cathartic during a year defined by confinement, grief, and anxiety. You feel connected in this community, almost as though you’re going to hang out in her backyard with snacks after the session is over. Her videos balance a deep knowledge of all types of yoga with levity that always remains welcoming.
Teaching strangers how to do something new, especially on video, is a particularly challenging skill. Even more so when it’s something that requires a level of connection. But Adriene intuits what makes someone an effective teacher: “In an effort to prove expertise, the tamber of the teacher can often be lost. Many think that they can earn the trust of students or the community by proving how much they know, when really that trust and fellowship comes with the teacher who is willing to let others really see them for who they are. This is a brave move.”
We visited Adriene at home in Austin, Texas where we talked about active listening, rituals for daily transitions, influencer culture, and her favorite year-round curry recipe.
Photos by Cathlin McCullough
Can you tell us about your upbringing? What family traditions or beliefs still feel relevant to you?
I grew up in the theatre. Quite literally. My parents were both actors, and my mother worked in the theatre department at St. Edward's University for 21 years. I am 36 now, so I spent a good amount of my life backstage, on stage, nestled between the seats, roaming the halls of creative academia, and exploring the holy grottos of the campus.
I’ve been contemplating what I value a lot lately, as I’m sure many of us are. I’ve also been trying to figure out specifically what I need to both nurture and feel whole. Creativity and spirituality are both important to me-- I believe this derives from an early age. When I’m feeling off, I know I need to inch my way back to those two things in tandem. In those things I find the energy to be of service, to share authentically, to guide with integrity, but also to have the courage to question… everything.
During this year, there has been a stark decrease in my ability to focus on anything. How do you practice attention-- physically, mentally, or emotionally?
Breath technique. Truly no longer allotted to, chained, or reserved for the yoga mat, meditation cushion or in the middle of a panic. Grounding your feet, or sitting up tall and pausing to focus on the breath is a great tool for guiding one’s attention and energy. The more disciplined about this, the more I realize it really is a great tool for focus.
What feels like a current theme or focal point for 2021? Is there anything specific that you are working toward or trying to better understand about yourself?
Active rest. If the last year has taught me anything, it has been to understand my stress cycles more and to guide others to understand more about their nervous system. I am practicing active rest on the mat but also by giving myself permission to do less. Sometimes, just allowing yourself to do nothing, to “just be,'' is really how you improve upon everything you’re doing and end up feeling supported. While outside circumstances seem like the main hurdle to feeling supported and whole, it really does manifest from within. I seem to get in a cycle of overbooking myself-- I want to be better about carving out real down time.
Also, continued learning. I am working to be more disciplined about the things I am trying to learn. I have been taking a neuroscience class, as well as Spanish tutoring. This year I hope to bump these up to the top.
Other than yoga, what other practices or rituals are you committed to? What popular trends or rituals have you found absolutely don’t work for you?
I am noticing a lot of my rituals these days are about transitioning and tend to help end a stress cycle. A walk after a day of technology. Putting the phone down to cook dinner and listen to music or a podcast. An epsom salt bath.
Water with lemon to start moving in the morning. A candle before yoga. Sandalwood incense and a good song to clear the air and get into work mode. A victory garden break. Actions that are loving and tell my brain we are moving into something else.
However, I also have become so delightfully invested in more mundane rituals that simply bring more love and intentionality into my day. Arranging fresh flowers for the simple occasion of today. Folding cloth napkins. Turn down service for myself. A quick forward fold.
Also: Candlesticks. Coupe glasses. Reading for pleasure.
Something that does not work for me is setting screen time limits on my phone. I see it and dismiss it. What really communicates is guiding my attention via the body, an action that responds to the moment.
How do you see the future of “influencer” culture? How does one create worthwhile, well-received, popular content online while avoiding the unsavory side of social media?
I don’t consider myself an influencer — that is not my job. Nor is it a job I’ve ever wanted. I make choices that protect that statement every day. That intentionality influences how I’m spending my time, and it helps me to stay close to my mission of making a meaningful contribution to society. However, these days, it’s fair to acknowledge we are all influencers. We all play a part in sharing information, leading, and following.
With that, I hope the future of influencer culture leans less towards consumerism and more towards conversations, especially the hard ones. The current climate is calling us to have a lot of hard conversations with ourselves and with others. What could happen if we worked with companies and each other to support safe space for that?
What roles do levity and humor play in your teaching/social media presence, especially in a medium like yoga, which is often presented as being very serious and earnest?
In an effort to prove expertise, the tamber of the teacher can often be lost. Many think that they can earn the trust of students or the community by proving how much they know, when really that trust and fellowship comes with the teacher who is willing to let others really see them for who they are. This is a brave move. Of course you need to do your homework and show up prepared, but the real choice of integrity is to create a level playing field that motivates the group to keep showing up, for themselves, and for the world.
The hierarchy in Western wellness must go, in my opinion. It has created an industry that preys on people’s weakness, whereas the roots of a lot of these practices are about nurturing a lifelong knowing with oneself, reminding the practitioner that they are their own best teacher. That they are one with a higher power, with their neighbor, and with the stars.
A good friend, a good guide, a good role model is one that lets you see who they really are. Or who at least tries and shows that they value that effort of vulnerability. This kind of vulnerability makes clear that the person or company you are following is encouraging you to find love for yourself, as well as freedom and joy in the process. This kind of person supports you in your process but makes it clear that they will not and cannot save you or change you. It really is about leading by example without filters. I always love when people don’t spend so much time talking about what they’re doing, and they just let their values in their work speak for itself.
It’s okay to have fun! I say this in my practice a lot. I encourage it.
What have you laughed at lately? Related to the above, what’s been the funniest thing you’ve seen/watched/experienced recently?
Benji TV! Benji is really sleepy and calm in the yoga videos, but he is super funny, playful, and precious when not snoozing on a shoot. He makes me laugh every day and I live for it. I take 1-5 photos of him each day, just for me. It’s silly.
Related to the above, I like to use Benji in my narrative a lot, and not just because he is super cute. Having Benji in the videos says, “I am here with you in my living room, just as you are there in yours.” The production on the yoga videos is minimal on purpose. It is my goal for the invitation to feel welcoming and inclusive, infusing equanimity into the exchange from the start.
Can you share a favorite repeat recipe? Maybe a go-to meal when you’re looking for something easy but comforting?
Growing up in Austin, it's always been about the breakfast taco for me. I will try to lean towards morning smoothies, or parfaits, but the Central Texas girl in me always wants to start the day with a breakfast taco, especially on the weekends. I like to make them at home, and I used to love to make them for others. I miss that.
My go-to meal throughout the pandemic has been a yellow curry. I retitle it: Spring Curry. Summer Curry. Then in fall and winter I just call it CURRY. I love the comfort of the coconut milk and the aromatics. In the winter I seem to add more hearty vegetables like Japanese sweet potatoes, and eat extra rice. It really feels nourishing and isn’t too time consuming. I love that I can toss whatever is in the fridge, whatever is ready from the garden, or whatever has shown up in the farm box. Feels like a real win.
What beliefs are of most value to you?
Specifically, a belief in the work someone puts in to infuse truthfulness into everything — which then becomes integrity. The way we move matters, so taking the time to build self awareness, understanding, and to really get to know yourself. This is what equips us to show up more fully, to be authentic, and give generously to others. It also gives us confidence and courage to listen. Valuing your own truth and honesty keeps you coming back to your WHY.
A good affirmation is, “I show up fully.” Then ask yourself what needs to be done for you to embody that, for that to feel true.
What’s the most interesting or exciting thing you’ve recently discovered — can you recommend a new-to-you find?
Lymphatic drainage. I have been very interested in improving my at-home skills here. I love the dry brush (new to me), and I love the gua sha stone. I also love just using my hands — there are so many things we can be doing to improve self care without the need of an expensive "tool." We truly have it all at our fingertips! Understanding the lymphatic system continues to help me slow down and reconnect with what is going on behind the scenes, underneath the surface.