Austin (KXAN) — People in the U.S. and across the globe continue to “self isolate” or are placed in quarantine in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. As many of these people turn to platforms like YouTube for exercise and a sense of community, one woman behind a popular YouTube channel is carrying out her self isolation in Austin.
Adriene Mishler, an actress, entrepreneur and yoga teacher, considers Austin her hometown, the place she has chosen to live, and where she roots her business. Her YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene has 6.55 million subscribers and “provides high-quality practices on yoga and mindfulness at no cost to inspire people of all ages, shapes and sizes.” If you’re searching for at-home yoga videos on YouTube, hers are likely among the first you will find.
In a FaceTime interview with KXAN, Mishler explained that she began posting these videos back in 2012.
“We started putting free yoga videos up just because we thought that everyone deserves to have access to these tools,” she said.
Those first videos, she noted, were made and posted from “a small house in East Austin.” Mishler lives in a different house now with her dog Benji and her partner, but she says her new abode is not too far from the home where Yoga with Adriene began. Mishler spoke with KXAN from that newer home, the place where her videos are now filmed.
Through the process of creating yoga videos, Mishler has virtually welcomed people from around the world into her home. As a result, she has been virtually invited into the homes of countless people from around the globe.
“It’s beautiful and it’s strange and I feel honored,” Mishler said. “You know, like, people are allowing me to be in their home, their sacred space with them and I’ve always felt like that was special.”
The impacts of COVID-19 on a global yoga community
Mishler’s yoga practice has felt the impact of a global community turning to the virtual world for exercise and human connection during the coronavirus pandemic. The Yoga with Adriene team first noticed a change when they began getting direct emails from people in Wuhan China.
“We started to see them trickle in from Italy,” Mishler added. “And these were community members that were aware of Yoga with Adriene who had previous experience with practice and with the community, and they were just really beautifully asking for what they needed, which is ‘I don’t have access to these practices right now, I think they would be really good for me at this time, would you be willing to help a brother out, would you be willing to help a sister out?'”
The Yoga with Adriene team has been helping these people for weeks, tailoring some situations for people who may have hurdles like an inability to access the internet.
“We are trying to nurture our international friends by answering questions,” Mishler explained. “A lot of times people just want to have that connection, you know? So they’ll write in to say ‘thank you’ or just to let us know what they’re doing it in different areas of the world.”
Her team noticed more people from the U.S. reaching out in recent weeks too.
“I think it was really when we were asked to start to begin social distancing that we started to see a little bit of a shift in the community and then it just went pretty rapid after that, I would say 72 hours later,” Mishler said. “It really hasn’t slowed down ever since, it’s just been picking up.”
Mishler said her team has seen an increase in people watching her videos during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’ve been kind of relating it to what it feels like in January,” she said, noting that Jan. 1 is typically their busiest time of year.
But long before COVID-19, Mishler had a sixth sense that people would want a free tool to practice yoga without having to be in any particular location.
“I’ve had this feeling that this [virtual community] was going to be useful should we get into a position where we have to stay home,” she said.
“It has really been my intention and my mission to make it really easy for people to create a practice that serves in their home at no cost,” she added.
Nurturing the whole self
Mishler is spending her self-isolation at home in Austin, which she says, isn’t too different for her because she works from home much of the time when she is not on the road.
One of the things she feels grateful for is that she was home in Austin as recommendations to self-isolate and stay-at-home were issued.
In her time house-bound, she is aiming to make ordinary things in her day feel beautiful. She takes delight from the CSA produce box she receives and grilling dinner for herself just because she can.
“So if I can share that mantra with folks: while you’re at home, try to make it beautiful, since you have the time,” Mishler suggested. “Plate it well, go pick some Rosemary from the garden. Make something for someone you love, spend more time in contemplation.”
“To be honest, I’m probably just like everyone else, trying to take things day by day and take care of myself,” Mishler said. “Because I know that the minute I stop taking good care of myself that’s going to be, that’s going to have a ripple effect on everything else — all of my communication the energy that I either have or don’t have to carry into what I’m doing the day. “
Sure, Mishler believes yoga can be a great workout, but she also uses it as a way to nourish the body, the brain and the heart during what is a particularly stressful moment in the human experience.
“So we’re all kind of like ‘we’re missing the gym!’ but then, we’re also feeling different right now because there’s a lot going on” she noted. “So I would also just advise people to be gentle and to ease into things.”
“That’s why, of course, it’s gonna come off as a bias, but that’s why I really think yoga is a great practice, particularly right now, ” she said. “So a regular practice, even if it’s just a little bit can really help set the tone and engage your brain and your body to have the energy it needs to kind of create this ripple effect throughout the day.”
Mishler also noted that the recent recommendations for isolation have forced people to sit alone with themselves, something that can be emotionally difficult and uncomfortable.
“Our willingness and our ability to sit with ourselves is important right now because that is the only way we’re really going to tend the holy trinity of the mind – – the brain we’ll say — the body, — and if people are willing to consider — the heart, the spirit.”
“This idea of thinking of the whole self,” she continued. “And you know, it’s really not too weird, even though we like things weird here in Austin.”
Mishler acknowledges that some may be driven to her virtual practice now as their physical communities and yoga studios may not be an option for the time being. She also thinks there is value in learning to “make things beautiful” where you are at.
“It doesn’t take long for us, to miss those things that help us feel good, and balanced and grounded and nourished,” she noted. “But with a little bit of practice and just being present, I feel like we can find those things at home.”
Now that her yoga community has grown, Mishler is seeing more comments and messages on her content. It’s no longer possible for her to reply to them all, but she does read them and is touched by the thoughts people are sharing, especially during this time.
“It just humbles me, but it also inspires me to, honestly to take interviews like this and to be intentional with how I’m moving during this time, but also not play small because I do think that the practice serves,” she said.
For the time being, Adriene will be at her home in Austin, waiting for her next CSA box from Johnston’s Backyard garden, helping her dog Benji heal from recent knee surgery, and finding beauty in as many little things as possible.
“I still really love the city and I like that the businesses here and that we get to grow with the city, and you know serve the city and beyond,” she said.