Since 2014 I have dipped in and out of Yoga With Adriene (YWA) on YouTube. At some points I’ve cultivated the daily practice she gentle encourages her views to adopt. And then life gets in the way... But unlike that ill-fated gym membership or the bike that sits neglected in the shed, I always find a way back to Adriene Mishler, her calm voice and an innate feeling that she genuinely does have my back.
It’s an extraordinary thing to achieve. Although I’m only one of nearly 9.5 million subscribers, I kind of feel like Adriene is my friend. So when I do return to the mat after a break, it’s like catching up with a pal and it warms my heart.
I’ve always tried to do the 30 day yoga programme she runs in January each year. It’s a great start to the year and hugely supportive through those dark months. However, mid house renovations, the one in 2018 didn’t really happen for me and I missed it. 2019 wasn’t much better so as the January 2020 programme loomed, I took matters into my own hands and built a little accountability group. In fact, it was two groups – a whatsapp group of brilliant women who had responded to my post on Facebook looking for YWA buddies and also pre-existing whatsapp group of lovely school mums.
The beginning was a little shaky. Most were new to Adriene and it does take a while to realise how much you love her. The Texan chat and the “find what feels good” self care suggestions can feel a little like nauseating inspirational quote land. It made me question whether I had somehow fallen for something insincere and maybe even a little cultish. But my belief in her guidance remained firm.
After a couple of days though, the whatsapp groups came alive. The initial ickiness had faded, naturally some decided it wasn’t for them (which was, of course totally fine, but actually felt totally fine too) and we were left with a core community of women, some of whom have never met, supporting each other, complaining about the hufty puftiness of yoga when you’re not that bendy or fit and giving each other permission to genuinely find what feels good.
I approached 2021’s programme, Breath, with real excitement. Instead of flinging the net wide to all Facebook friends, I just offered it to people in my Welcome The Winter Warmly group. 20 of us came together in one whatsapp group, and just like last year there were about 10 who continued with the journey. Not all have finished the 30 days yet, but that’s not the point. It’s about that sense of being part of a tribe, of a little message here and there of support and understanding. It’s about shouting out to the world that current world events will not defeat us and neither will that ridiculous low boat she led us through in the dreaded day six.
As with most things in the past year, it’s given me pause for thought. What is it about this 35 year old Texan that makes me feel so loved and engaged?
Above all, it’s her honesty. Her open warmth, talking directly to me and, most importantly, not trying to sell me anything.
I’ve always thought radical generosity was the right way forward, but now more than ever. And that’s exactly what she embodies. There’s now enough of her yoga videos on youtube that I would never need to pay for yoga ever again. It’s unbelievably generous in a world of influencers trying to get super rich.
It’s that reminder that whilst there is lots of greed, there is even more kindness.
I joined her and thousands of others for a live yoga workshop last summer. My fan-girl feelings were off the scale! It was joyous.
Another reason I adore her is that she never positions herself as a guru. She’s not the metaphorical yogi sitting on the top of the mountain that we must all aspire and struggle to try and get within touching distance of. No. She’s the kind of peer leader who is just a few steps ahead of us, climbing that mountain, reaching out a hand behind her to help us progress.
It’s that idea of leadership and expertise that I love. I also never want to position myself as the guru on top of them mountain, excluding others because of my excellence. That sounds like a lonely place to me. No, I’ll quite happily be that person a few steps ahead, helping others find what makes their heart sing, but also following in the footsteps of Adriene.
My hips probably will never let me lunge the way she can. My heels may never touch the floor in downward facing dog. But I will smile real smiles on the mat. And even though she's stopped her wonderful Zoolander references when in cobblers pose, I still channel my best Blue Steel with her, like a gentle inside joke.
Just like the love letters she sends to her newsletter subscribers every Sunday, I guess this is my love letter to her.
Thank you Adriene. The world is a far better place with you in it.