After a grueling eight months of feeling trapped, discouraged and disconnected, I couldn’t take the lackluster reality of my daily routine any longer. Everyday I would wake up, check my phone, get dressed, go to my Zoom classes and spend much of the day sleeping. So one night, after feeling exceptionally low, I decided to type “yoga” into YouTube and that is when Adriene Mishler, more commonly known as Yoga with Adriene, changed my life.
As someone who deals with an anxiety disorder, all things related to yoga — breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness — always stressed me out. My mind was too busy to slow down and whenever anyone would suggest it as a “solution” to solving my anxiety, it felt invalidating and I grew agitated. I’m not sure what compelled me to seek it out one day, maybe I was drowning in the mundanity of living through a pandemic but, I have to say, my attitude drastically shifted from a yoga skeptic to someone who craves it daily.
The first video I watched was called, “Yoga for Self Respect.” I was instantly drawn to Adriene’s kind and welcoming tone, how she doesn’t focus on skill level, (her mantra is “Find what feels good,”) and how she created a space that felt different from every predominantly white yoga studio I never quite fit into.
After a few days of trying different videos, I followed her on Instagram and saw she was launching Breathe, a 30 day challenge. Right then, I committed myself to it.
Something felt different about this commitment I made to myself. Slowly, I began to look forward to it everyday. Day one quickly turned into Day 12, Day 24 and then finally Day 31. I actually wept on Day 31 because of the overwhelming feelings of accomplishment, self-love and strength I felt. I was also sad it was over, but I kept reminding myself of something Adriene says which is, “Don’t decide where it ends.”
Everyday had a different theme; “Synchronize,” “Connect,” “Expand.” I appreciated the blend of variety and consistency within the practices. Even though each day was different, it was structured similarly, with an opening activity meant to ground- like breathing exercises, a quiet moment and/or Adriene’s introduction and the use of similar poses like Downward Facing Dog, or translated in Sanskrit, Adho Mukha Svanasana. After the introduction, she jumps right into (sometimes figuratively, and other times literally) the main goal of the day. Some days felt softer, like “Snuggle,” focusing on feelings of comfort and rest, while others like “Burn” were focused on strength training and as the title suggests, feeling a burn.
I grew to love this daily work because It made me feel stronger, calmer and more positive. It was the only time in the day when I slowed down. Adriene speaks with such compassion to herself and the way she cultivates self-love with, and for her audience feels authentic, not cheesy. Not only is this illustrated in the videos, but also with the daily emails she sent, asking thoughtful questions like, “What are you ready to bring new energy to?” “Can we build love and awareness within, dedicate to that, so that we can share it freely with others?” And offering helpful reminders, “Remember this is a practice, this is a process. We are here to learn.” Something else I appreciated was how it felt that she genuinely respects the sacred practice of yoga, referencing the Sanskrit names like, Child’s pose, Balasana and Mountain pose, Tadasana and although she does offer paid experiences, this 30 day challenge was free, which made it accessible.
I had never done anything for 30 days, and felt both daunted and excited. When I tried different types of daily practices, it always became a chore. From writing daily gratitudes to meditation, daily walks and daily runs, I always gave up on myself. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe it’s my all-or-nothing mindset that makes it difficult to do things imperfectly. Instead of dedicating time to myself to practice something imperfectly, I’d rather not do anything at all (I have been in the process of unlearning this, but the thing about humans is that it takes quite a bit of time to unlearn and change mindsets and habits, but I am trying to be patient with myself).
So I offer this to anyone who feels how I felt, that yoga seems like a chore, or to those who feel they don’t have time or to those who believe yoga isn’t “challenging” enough for them (which, spoiler: it’s very challenging; balance, dedication and core strength are all major aspects of the practice): give it a try. It doesn’t have to be for 30 days, it can be once a week or every other day, but give it a chance. If Yoga With Adriene isn’t your jam, find someone who is. As someone who was once skeptical and hesitant about yoga, it truly challenged me in the best way possible. I grew mentally and physically stronger, it made me feel good (something we could all use a bit more of) and I was able to be present in my body. I am grateful to Adriene for sharing her inspiring soul and practice and I am grateful for myself as I took a risk and tried something new and most importantly- I showed up on my mat everyday!