Dark, dank February is the perfect month to rediscover your yoga mojo
Words Molly Flatt
Most of us have tried some form of yoga over the years. But how many have turned that toe-dipping into a truly beneficial daily practice? Classes are easy to find nowadays, whether in the gym or online, and the theoretical benefits of this ancient physical-spiritual practice are well known. In reality, however, the yoga world can feel both confusing and intimidating. From competitively skinny Bikram acolytes to incredibly earnest Jivamukti gurus, it can be hard to figure out what style is best for you, and how to fit it into everyday life.
This is probably one of the reasons why Adriene Mishler has become such a star. The Austin, Texas-based yoga teacher, actress and entrepreneur has drawn over 2 million subscribers to her YouTube channel with her inclusive, down-to-earth and joyful approach. With a stated aim to bring “high quality yoga at no cost to inspire people of all shapes and sizes across the globe”, Mishler’s professional theatre background shines through in her warm, accessible videos.
With mornings still feeling dark and wintery, and the madness of Fashion Week unfolding, February is an excellent time to rediscover the power of a regular first-thing yoga session, like Mishler’s 35-minute morning fresh practice. We sat down with Mishler to find about her own yoga journey, what she’s learnt about her body in the process, her signature style and her advice to any disillusioned yogis looking to reboot their practice.
How and why did you discover yoga?
I discovered yoga as a young adult who was passionate about dance and theatre. I was learning how to use my body and my breath efficiently and with purpose. So naturally, I was inspired to learn new things to improve myself and my craft. I found yoga and definitely knew I had found my calling.
There’s huge choice in terms of exercise out there nowadays – why do you think the ancient art of yoga is still the best?
For me, committing to a regular yoga practice is best because ultimately it provides you the time and the tools to work with your body, your energy and your mental headspace. You need to be in a good energetic state to accomplish the things you want to do. You need to align your head and your heart to remember why you are doing whatever it is you are doing or to help you find your way. If you want to run a marathon – you need all of these things too.
So for me, regular yoga practice is the ultimate commitment to self love, because with regular practice you will have the energy to do whatever it is you are called to do. You can’t do that if you are usually depleted, confused, worn out or always recovering from injury.
What’s the most common misconception about yoga?
Most people think you have to be flexible or good at yoga to do yoga! Yoga is a tool to bring things into balance. I’m on a mission to help people see yoga as a tool for regular self care for the mind and body. Energetic hygiene and body maintenance through at-home yoga is my jam. I think as long as you keep showing up, whatever you are seeking, you will find. In fact, it’s probably already there.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start yoga for the first time?
Just make a commitment to spend time with yourself – whether that is taking some deep breaths in the shower, going to a public class or stopping to slow down for a home practice. I have a lot of playlists for people interested in starting yoga at home for free. I try to have a little something for all moods and definitely make it accessible for all body types.
What have you learned about your body over the years?
I’ve learned to remember that everything is constantly changing. Nothing is permanent and if I can go with the ebb and flow of my body and my breath, I tend to enjoy life a lot more – and hate myself a lot less. You likely don’t need me to tell you what a powerful shift this can be. Now, I allow myself to grow softer in the winter and stronger in the summer. I allow myself to indulge when I’m joyful and simplify when I’m a mess. We have a mantra to guide this way of living and it’s “Find What Feels Good”. This mantra has taught me to listen to my body and to trust the flow.
Are there particular postures or elements of yoga you still struggle with?
I think we all make discoveries along the way that we label as problems. While they can feel problematic I think I’m learning to lean in to the things I struggle with instead of shy away. A car accident once brought me some epic shoulder and upper back problems. Only later did I realise that the accident was probably a blessing. It brought me to gain awareness in a part of my body that I was eventually going to have to tend to, due to some heavy rotation in my rib cage and the the natural habits of the modern day. Without that awareness early on, I might be struggling a lot more today. The key is to see a struggle as an opportunity to learn about your body. And then you lean in, get curious and eventually learn to… drop the struggle.
What’s your approach to eating?
I love food. I’ve kept a vegetarian diet my whole adult life but I love to cook and explore an array of cuisines when I travel. I love food culture and all the rituals involving food. At home I eat whole and unprocessed foods and I like to eat in season, which I know is a privilege. I eat lighter in the summer months and indulge in the hibernation months. I’ve never struggled to eat my veggies and I enjoy taking classic food recipes and making them a little more nutritious and…whole.
Our relationship to food is an important one. I try to focus on gratitude when it comes to cooking and eating out. A gratitude practice will eventually stampede any other practices when it comes to food.
If you are grateful it’s hard to get washed away in guilt or shoulds and shouldn’ts.
Do you have a good digital / real world balance?
Oh hell no. I need to work on this. Big time. I try to set boundaries for myself but since our community is so large and growing by the minute I find that when I am done with my work for the day I could easily stay on for hours connecting to others, responding to questions or reading the news. Then the news is usually what snaps me to and I retire the screens and go for a walk with my dog.
Are you politically engaged?
I am. I believe we all need to be. I understand why some think that it’s not worth it but I believe it is most certainly impactful for everyone to be informed and engaged. Get involved if not for now then for future generations to come. A little goes a long way. Small gestures and staying informed goes far.
What makes you angry?
Racism makes me sad… and angry.
What makes you happy?
Benji, my dog. The perfect example of the power of unconditional love.
What exciting things are you up to this year?
I’m taking a Spanish class twice a week, focusing on writing my book and growing our membership platform. These are a few things that I have wanted to take some time off to do for a while now. I am also taking a break from the studio to act in creative projects – aiming to keep the acting career alive and well. We are also focusing on more YWA pop-up events, retreats and our annual Roadshow, which will land us in the UK this year. Whoo hoo!
Do you follow fashion week?
Yes, of course!
What’s a typical Adriene outfit?
Likely a blouse with high waisted trousers and a comfortable shoe ranging from Martiniano slide or an Adidas sneaker. High neck in the colder months, low neck to naked in the hotter months (I am from Texas). I like a good mix of classic and modern minimalist design that is made to last.
Hero beauty product?
JT Life lip balm. I keep the lavender at my bedside and the peppermint in my purse. I love it so much I became friends with them and we made a custom Find What Feels Good balm for our friends.
What would you like to be better at?
It’s 2018. I’d like to be better at taking time for myself and my thoughts. Allowing time to just be and to not always be doing something or working on something. I know that through this practice I will become more useful and be a better artist. It’s time. If I can align with that, I can rock whatever it is I am supposed to be contributing to humanity. I just know it.
Molly Flatt is Digital Editor of PHOENIX Magazine. She is also Associate Editor of FutureBook, Associate Editor of The Memo, and writes about tech and culture for the likes of the Guardian and the BBC. Her debut novel, THE CHARMED LIFE OF ALEX MOORE, will be published by Pan Macmillan next spring.