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Yoga alone, together

The rise of at-home fitness made Yoga With Adriene a YouTube sensation. Then the pandemic hit.

Adriene Mishler in her home studio.
Photo illustration by Sarah Lawrence; Yoga With Adriene

You are reading this from your couch. Or at your kitchen table. Maybe in your bed.

If you’re fortunate enough to own a treadmill, an elliptical machine, or stationary bike, you could be reading this while working out — but you’re definitely not at the gym. You’re not reading this while eating in a restaurant. Or sitting in the carpool line waiting for your kids after school. Or in a coffee shop, or at a bar.

You’re reading this during the coronavirus pandemic.

You are, almost certainly, at home.

Adriene Mishler is also home. The 35-year-old yoga teacher has been on self-imposed lockdown since March 13; her home city of Austin, Texas, where I also live, didn’t issue its stay-at-home order until April 2, well after San Francisco and New York City but before many other places in the US. Coronavirus notwithstanding, she’d still be home, and, quite possibly, in your home. Adriene hosts Yoga With Adriene, an astoundingly popular YouTube channel predicated on a simple premise: You attend yoga classes led by Adriene in your home, which she streams from her home, for free.

Since the Yoga With Adriene YouTube account started in 2012, it has amassed 7.27 million subscribers. The classes are startlingly specific, customized to professions and hobbies (Yoga for Gardeners! Yoga for Skaters! Yoga for Chefs!) and health conditions (Yoga for PTSD, Yoga for Migraines, Yoga for Diabetes), not to mention a vast collection of practices designed to ease suffering (Yoga for Suffering, for starters). The 553 videos in her YouTube library have netted more than 597 million combined views.

What was once offered as an accessible, affordable alternative to a studio setting, at-home yoga is, for the foreseeable future, the only option for people who want to do yoga. Hell, with gyms, boutique fitness studios, and community centers across the US newly shuttered, at-home anything is our only guided exercise option, period. Exercise instructors are improvising the best they can with impromptu livestreams on Instagram and scheduled classes via Zoom; fitness apps are seeing explosive growth.

“It’s a really interesting time,” Adriene tells me over Zoom, repeating herself for emphasis. “It’s a really interesting time.”

We’d just met in person the week before, as the coronavirus crisis was starting to bubble up in earnest stateside. I could see then what was barreling down the pike but hadn’t fully grokked the reality hurtling toward us. No amount of stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods or reading about quarantine measures in China and Italy could prepare me for this surreal reality. A week after meeting Adriene, life is on pause here in the US.

“I will intend to say this with so much grace,” Adriene says from my laptop screen, as she watches my face. “In a lot of ways, we were ready for this.”

The “we” she’s talking about is her team, a seven-person operation that produces content for the free YouTube channel and its ancillary paid membership platform, Find What Feels Good. “We try to take away all of the obstacles, for all people, of all types, in any type of situation. I work 365 days a year to minimize that gap between showing up on your mat at home and your inkling to do something for yourself.”

Yoga With Adriene had long struck a chord with the legions of fans who, for whatever reason in pre-pandemic times, avoided or couldn’t access a gym or studio. It might have been the high price of classes; it might have been anxiety over working out in a public space. It might have been work or other life constraints that posed scheduling issues.

But now, suddenly, Yoga With Adriene finds itself charged with new urgency. Many of us aren’t leaving our houses, even as states like Texas begin to reopen, and we fear the very real threat that the virus that’s infected more than 3.5 million people worldwide will come for us and our loved ones. We’re pulling our hair out juggling our work-from-home and kids-now-home, or we’ve been laid off and are struggling to make rent, or we’re essential workers and are out on the front lines. We are scared and stressed and not sleeping.

For more and more people — the channel’s daily views have more than tripled since mid-March — Yoga With Adriene has become Yoga for Lockdown. Yoga for Self-Isolation. Yoga for Social Distancing. Yoga for Quarantine. Yoga for State of Emergency.

“Thanks very, very much for letting me come into your home.” So begins the 1951 premiere episode of The Jack LaLanne Show, which would go on to become the first nationally syndicated workout show on TV. LaLanne, whom the New York Times dubbed the “founder of the modern physical fitness movement,” encouraged viewers to get off the couch, grab a few household props, and exercise with him. Women, long discouraged from sweating in public, had already been working out at home for a while when LaLanne and Debbie Drake, another popular TV fitness host of the era, popped up on their screens.

But it wasn’t until the 1980s that at-home fitness tutorials flooded the market, thanks to Jane Fonda. It was her legendary 1982 VHS Jane Fonda’s Workout that revolutionized at-home fitness, “arguably launching the home video boom” by inspiring many consumers to buy their first VCR. Fonda targeted her workout to women, who, she believed, were largely excluded from the gym scene of that time. Her 22 home videos would sell 17 million copies worldwide.

Soon enough, there were other VHS fitness instructors, and after that, DVD fitness instructors. In the ’90s, you might have seen commercials for Richard Simmons’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies and Billy Blanks’s Tae Bo. In the 2000s, the super-popular weight loss show The Biggest Loser gave Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper a platform to spin off their own DVD collections. Gwyneth Paltrow famously gave her trainer Tracy Anderson a visibility boost around the same time; the Tracy Anderson Method is now available for purchase not just on DVD but through “virtual training” and online streaming workouts.

At-home fitness continued to ascend as boutique fitness studios boomed in the 2010s, the former no doubt a response to the latter. Boutique fitness studios themselves were a response to the proliferation of big-box gyms in the ’90s and 2000s that had lost their sheen to folks with disposable income to burn.

These fresh, new versions of “the gym” weren’t depots for equipment with drop-in hours. They sold — and continue to sell — group classes specializing in chic niche disciplines (my favorite example: spin class in a pool) and occupying posh digs in upmarket or rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, with commensurately posh clientele often paying more than $30 per class. Businesses like SoulCycle, Bar Method, and Orangetheory became cultural touchstones and, in some cities, inescapable.

At-home fitness is in the midst of “a moment,” namely: A generation of “fitness-obsessed” millennials now having kids need the convenience of home workouts to meet the constraints of their new time-strapped lifestyles, and residents of places without strong boutique fitness footprints want in on the same workout trends that saturate urban centers.

Increasingly, at-home fitness has become about much more than instructional videos; it also means smart equipment and gadgets. But while sophisticated personal machines and digital tools can edge out studios and gyms for their at-home convenience factor, they’re often not much more economically accessible. Today, there’s no shortage of expensive ways to work out at home, from $1,495 Mirror interactive displays (Anderson is a content partner) to $2,245 Peloton stationary bikes. The cost for hardware in both cases is in addition to their $39-per-month subscription fee.

There are more budget-friendly ways to work out at home, including apps like Sweat, a $20 monthly membership that gives subscribers access to workouts from trainers like Instagram fitfluencer Kayla Itsines, of Bikini Body Guide fame. But go-anywhere apps, instructional VHS tapes of yore — they all cost something. Fonda’s workout videos originally cost $59.95.

Adriene wanted to offer an alternative.

I confess that until last fall, I’d only heard of her channel once, in passing, and had yet to check it out. But in the process of reporting this story, I’ve discovered that there’s no shortage of Yoga With Adriene devotees within my own circle. My best friend and his wife do a Yoga With Adriene video daily, apparently; I had no clue he did yoga at all. If you Google “home yoga,” Adriene’s videos and YouTube channel are the first results that pop up. She tops lists of the best workouts to do at home and has been gushed about everywhere from BuzzFeed to the New Yorker.

Many of Adriene’s videos are filmed in her house in Austin; sometimes her dog Benji makes an appearance.
Photo illustration by Sarah Lawrence; Yoga With Adriene

Her videos may be free, but they are also “high-quality,” though hardly stuffy. There’s an ease and offering of comfort to Adriene’s teaching style. Suggestions for modifications abound. Most classes begin with the same carefree script — “Hop into something comfy” (sometimes “cozy”) — and often close with a soft reminder to breathe: “Inhale lots of love in, exhale lots of love out.”

Sequences are plotted out, but dialogue, apart from her go-to opener, is not. It’s breezy, conversational. She can get silly. She breaks out into show tunes and ’70s R&B, makes Zoolander references, and amps up a Texan twang as needed. She laughs at herself. Her blue heeler, Benji, is forever splayed beside her yoga mat, and she’s not afraid to pause the flow to marvel at his deep, contented sigh or real-deal downward dog. The Today show likened her videos to “doing yoga with a really nice neighbor,” and, true enough, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood provided the initial inspiration for the channel.

In her videos, Adriene speaks directly, encouragingly, and frequently to her viewers’ ubiquitous inner voices of doubt or cynicism, to “beat them at the pass,” as she tells me, “lovingly, sweetly, and almost, with my bad humor, anticipate what people are going to think” before they give up.

“It’s not my personality to be like, ‘I’m the expert here,’” Adriene says. “I’ve tried to steer clear of the, ‘I’m the leader and the guru,’ and create more of a peer-to-peer relationship. I’ve definitely always tried to position myself as the friend.”

Adriene owes her guiding philosophy not necessarily to her training as a yoga teacher, but to her training as an actor in an ensemble. She found theater by way of her “creative hippie” parents, who met at the University of Wyoming in a play called, truly, Home.

After leaving high school and enrolling in college a year early, Adriene joined a theater group and studied movement in upstate New York. When she returned to Austin in 2002, she wanted to be strong. So she found a yoga class. What she didn’t expect was to experience, in her words, that “joy and spirit factor.” Up until then, she hadn’t cried tears of joy — “except for the musical Oklahoma, the big number.”

Soon, she began to think strategically that becoming a yoga teacher might be a decent way to earn a living that could supplement her acting gigs. She signed on for work/trade with yoga studios around town, sweeping and mopping the floors in exchange for classes. She also completed a 200-hour teacher training program in Hatha yoga — a category that encompasses many different styles and has come to represent modern yoga broadly — on a payment plan. For close to a decade, she taught yoga at small studios in and surrounding Austin, burned CD and incense in tow. She pieced together that income along with gigs teaching theater arts and yoga to high schoolers, and some acting work, mostly commercials and voiceover.

Adriene met Chris Sharpe, now her business partner and the CEO of Find What Feels Good, on the set of The Spider Babies, a post-apocalyptic horror film that never made it to release. Chris had already co-created a successful YouTube cooking channel with chef Hilah Johnson, his now-wife, called Hilah Cooking. He wanted to branch out into wellness and pitched the idea of a free yoga channel to Adriene as a side project. If it went well, they reasoned, maybe they could generate enough YouTube income to quit their day jobs and make movies together on the weekends. In 2012, they started the channel and called it Yoga With Adriene.

The first wave of YouTube workouts, in Chris’s recollection, was led by channels like Blogilates and Fitness Blender. There were few yoga channels on YouTube at the time, and none with the reach that Yoga With Adriene has now, nor the production quality. Tara Stiles, who started her channel in 2008 and could be considered the mother of YouTube yoga, had a following that seemed “huge and unattainable” to Chris back then (328,000 subscribers right now), but she didn’t get into the high-quality video — read: better production value — game until more recently. Stiles’s popularity, though, demonstrated that there was an early appetite for YouTube fitness driven by its ease for users, an enthusiasm that’s only exploded since.

“There’s a very, very low bar for entry for this platform,” Beibei Li, a professor of IT and management at Carnegie Mellon University who studies tech disruptions and human behavior, says of YouTube. Li cites some of the draws that Mirror, Peloton, and apps can claim: You don’t need to leave your house, you can work out at odd hours, you can repeat your favorite videos and skip the ones you don’t love, you can even drag and skip over the parts of a particular workout that are not your bag. But YouTube is, and this can’t be emphasized enough, free.

“You are in charge,” echoes Adriene, talking about her own channel. “You can pause it anytime, you can quit. There’s no exchange of money with Yoga with Adriene, and it’s all free. No one’s watching over you. There’s no door to walk out of.”

Sure, YouTube grants users a sense of self-sovereignty, but its algorithm is also responsible for targeting content to specific audiences. “YouTube itself has a very strong data-driven marketing sense,” explains Li. Couple YouTube’s affordability, ease, and rule sets with the things that Yoga With Adriene does especially well, as noted by Li — the high quality and volume of videos, differentiation of content, high engagement with users — and it’s no surprise the channel’s seen the success it has, half a billion views and counting.

There were two tipping points for the channel, strategic plays that paid off and opened Yoga With Adriene up to a wider audience. The first remains somewhat controversial, a series of “Yoga for Weight Loss” videos, that continue to elicit confused emails from fans. Fat burning doesn’t seem like it necessarily aligns with the Yoga With Adriene mission.

“There are usually a few ‘money’ keywords in every niche,” Chris wrote on his blog, in a post about harnessing the power of search engine optimization. “And I felt we had to go after them even if it sometimes didn’t feel very ‘yogic.’”

Before Adriene and Chris put out the first “Yoga for Weight Loss” video back in 2013, they were struggling to get seen. They point out that a fair number of other yoga channels at the time were using not just SEO but also butt, crotch, G-string, and cleavage-centric thumbnails to get views. “Not everyone has to like me or my work,” says Adriene. “But man, I’m putting some real love into this, and it didn’t seem fair that I wasn’t getting the same [traffic]. So I was like, ‘Okay, let’s try it.’ And it worked.”

Their first “Yoga for Weight Loss” video ranked No. 1 on YouTube for that search term pretty quickly, says Chris.

The second tipping point became the channel’s hallmark: releasing a new yoga video every day for 30 days beginning on January 1, a “‘stunt’ to move the needle.” The first day of their first challenge, back in 2015, remains the channel’s all-time most popular video, five years later. Currently, it has more than 22.9 million views.

2020’s 30-day challenge, launched this past January, is presciently called “Home.”

This moment, amid this global crisis, may reveal a third tipping point for the channel, as Yoga With Adriene’s user base continues to grow dramatically, and as many millions of us are barricaded in our homes. “What a time,” Adriene says during a recent livestream posted to the channel in late March, “to connect to your at-home practice.”

It’s March 10. We’re tucked into a corner inside Kinda Tropical, an East Austin cafe with pink walls and many plants; Adriene drinks hibiscus iced tea. We picked this date because it was just ahead of Adriene’s big South by Southwest event the following weekend. Adriene’s team estimated the event would gather 400 to 500 yoga-loving bodies, jammed mat to mat in a 70,000-square-foot exhibit hall; by the time we meet, though, SXSW has been canceled.

Adriene has received an influx of emails and YouTube comments from people in quarantine overseas the past few weeks, and a wave of direct messages poured in from Italy over the weekend. Her team gifted a two-month membership of Find What Feels Good (routinely abbreviated FWFG), which has an offline mode, to a man quarantined in South Korea without internet access.

By March 13, the YouTube channel’s analytics will begin to spike. On April 13, the channel will peak at 1.8 million daily views.

This moment reminds Adriene of another moment not too long ago, when Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation here in Texas. She created a video called “Yoga for After Disaster” in response. “I tell you what,” she says. “Whenever I freak out, where I’m like, ‘What am I doing? Who am I?’ I always go back to the service of it all.”

While the Yoga With Adriene community largely exists online, live events like this one in Texas bring fans together IRL.
Photo illustration by Sarah Lawrence; Yoga With Adriene

Later, I check out the comments on Adriene’s channel. One left that week from someone “housebound” in Italy reads, “Your videos, yoga will help me to get through this hard time.” A comment left the week before shares how the channel has “been a godsend living in a locked down city in China.” At least a few people, judging by the comments, have found themselves back on the “Yoga for After Disaster” video, even though it’s more than two years old by now, including a doctor in northern Italy.

Just a few days after Adriene and I meet at Kinda Tropical, as the virus permeates country after country, state after state, cities far-flung and close to home, there’s more.

“Who’s here after the corona outbreak to chill out and boost that immune system :D,” asks a commenter. “MEEEE! IN MADRID!!” reads a reply. “Me! In London.” Another reply is from France. Berlin. Nova Scotia. Istanbul. New Zealand. North Carolina.

“In a week where I’m starting to mark time by how long I go without thinking of coronavirus,” reads another comment on the same video, “this really was 40 minutes of oasis from it all.” Lots of commenters want a quarantine-themed video or series of videos. It’s a request the team can’t meet; they aren’t making professionally produced content right now, because they’re self-quarantining as well, though they’ve already got videos in the can for the channel and FWFG that will roll out through July.

Yoga With Adriene’s dedicated community has long been the linchpin of the operation. What started out as a closed Facebook group eventually became a membership-by-request platform called the Kula, which means “community” in Sanskrit and is currently 138,600 members strong. Joining and participating in the Kula is, you guessed it, free.

Leslie Fox, a 35-year-old English professor at Western Kentucky University, steers clear of most social media but joined the Kula this January. “The community just sort of pulls you in,” she says via Zoom from her home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Leslie began practicing with the YouTube channel last August. She’d recently lost weight and was looking for something to help her “tone up.” Yoga With Adriene popped up at the top of her Google search results. She had fairly low expectations at the outset, but she’s been practicing with the channel every day since.

There’s been an influx of new people in the Kula these past few weeks, says Leslie. She knows, because she’s on the app repeatedly throughout the day; it serves, now, as a salve after checking the news for virus updates. And with that swell of new members, Leslie notes that there’s a new cohesion to the group. She hasn’t known the Kula to be anything but welcoming and supportive, no “infighting or ideology wars,” but there were certainly Kula cliques: pet people here, vegan people there, meditation people here. Now, however, there’s a unified message.

The tenor in the Kula, not surprisingly, resembles that of the YouTube channel these days: fear, anxiety, gratitude that this virtual place and the people within it exist. Leslie describes a post from another community member having a hard time. “I ‘liked’ the post, and commented, ‘I’m not ‘liking’ this because you’re having difficulties. I’m ‘liking’ it because it made me feel less alone.’”

Adriene and Chris received a lot of advice in the early days to focus on women in their 20s and 30s, advice that they fought and rejected. “It was not a business move,” says Adriene. “It was me saying, ‘Nah.’ My whole dream is that we’re bringing yoga into the home for everyone.” The highly specific videos, she adds, are meant to “get people who feel like they’re not invited to the party invited to the party.”

Back before the channel’s conception, Adriene had witnessed the cost of yoga skyrocketing. “This is out of control, that only wealthy people can afford yoga,” Adriene recalls thinking. Classes in her Austin hometown had jumped from around $10 to around $30 on her watch. “I’m the one scrubbing the floors, and I was like, ‘This is so weird. Yoga culture has become a business in my city.’”

It wasn’t just her city. This was true across the country, spurred by corporate yoga chains like CorePower Yoga crowding out smaller studios, and fitness apparel companies like Lululemon selling $100 yoga pants.

Adriene Mishler Photo illustration by Sarah Lawrence; Yoga With Adriene

Yoga for free is the foundation of the Find What Feels Good brand, though the paid membership keeps it afloat. Adriene “definitely worried” that she’d alienate an audience hooked on free yoga with a paid platform, and didn’t market FWFG much for almost two years after its 2015 launch. But selling a paid thing to make a free thing tenable isn’t an unusual strategy. Li likens it to YouTube Premium, which removes ads on the platform for a monthly membership fee. In the Yoga With Adriene universe, however, there’s a level of overt community service involved in this symbiotic relationship. “Your monthly contribution as a member contributes to the lives of other human beings,” reads the membership landing page. “Help provide accessible, consistent, high quality free yoga available for all.”

The FWFG membership costs $10 a month and is the business’s biggest revenue generator by far. Money earned off the Google-owned YouTube — i.e., money generated by Google AdSense, the advertising program that channels use to earn income off views — is gravy, says Chris, or as he put it on his blog, “fake money” that can’t be relied on since it could disappear if Google changes its policies. Big live events — like Adriene’s class at Alexandra Palace in London that brought in 2,400 people in 2018, or her planned appearance at SXSW 2020 — were once a revenue loser, says Chris. But now that the team has a better handle on logistics, Chris thinks events will start to be a meaningful revenue stream, “once things calm down and people are able to go to things again.”

And then there are brand partnerships. Adriene has been sponsored by Adidas Women since 2016. Chris says it’s been a great partnership for them: Adriene wears Adidas apparel in her videos, but Adidas doesn’t get involved in content creation or expect promotional messaging.

The channel did briefly dabble in the sponsored content game a few years ago, with a spot for Walgreens and another for the Sofia Coppola movie The Beguiled; they also did a content exchange with Whole Foods. But it’s veered from that track since. “Having that kind of sponsorship in those videos takes a lot away from it,” says Chris, “if before the practice starts, we’re talking about some product that Adriene is promoting.”

Adriene isn’t cavalier with the trust her viewers place in her. She operates in their homes — private, intimate spaces — guiding them through poses that can challenge their bodies and offering suggestions of self-actualization that can unfurl emotions buried deep. She meets her students at their most vulnerable moments, overwhelmingly without the benefit of meeting them at all, no doubt, but no matter: Those moments are too sacred to sully with selling stuff.

But her students aren’t just students. They are, in social media parlance, followers, and she is an influencer. She recognizes this, though she distinguishes herself from those she sees as insincere. “There’s a certain responsibility that I now carry with me everywhere I go,” she tells me at Kinda Tropical. “Because I could be recognized as the person that also guided you through your practice.” No one’s putting that pressure on her, she adds, but herself.

Yoga can be empowering; it can also be slow, meditative, still. For Adriene, it’s an opportunity for contemplation and reflection. And in her role as your “yoga guide” and friend, she makes a simple, loving recommendation: You don’t need to do anything at this precise moment, except take care of yourself.

Self-care has been mainstreamed and monetized up the wazoo, but it’s also at the core of the type of slowed-down yoga that Yoga With Adriene practices. There’s a shift in psyche that occurs, argues Adriene, when people make space (calendar space, physical space, mental space) for themselves to venture inward. Whether it’s called meditation or mindfulness or “conscious breath” or rest, it’s quiet, a reprieve from the noise of the world. What if the wider community, she wonders, took her invitation for self-reflection?

“Not to create this modern-day church out of it,” says Adriene, “but just to highlight what’s already happening, you know? People come for back pain, but man, they stay because they start to see the world a little differently.”

Under regular, non-coronavirus circumstances, yoga has been shown to positively impact mental health. Yoga can be effective in tackling anxiety, particularly for those with high levels of it; so can breath control and mindfulness meditation, common elements of a modern yoga practice. Yoga has been proven to lessen symptomatic depression. (It can also benefit physical health, for instance helping to reduce high blood pressure and to improve quality of life for those with certain life-threatening diseases.)

But we’re not living in “regular” times. We’re enduring a uniquely anxiety-inducing period with no end in sight.

I’m thinking about breathing on day 17 of this year’s 30-day challenge. I’m thinking about breathing because Adriene is telling me to — today’s video is called “Synchronize,” as in synchronizing physical poses with breath.

We, the people, are collectively hyperventilating right now. We’re worried when we go out (if we go out) that we’re exposing our lungs to the virus. We’re worried about our vulnerable family members. We’re freaked out about how to pay the bills after losing our livelihoods, and struggling to balance full-time jobs and full-time parenting. We’re worried about an economy in the toilet, with 30 million unemployment claims filed and counting; we’re worried about the rising death toll and infection rate; we’re worried about the ramifications of states reopening too soon; we’re worried that the limited antibody tests available aren’t reliably accurate; we’re worried about the life-costing failings of dangerously inept leaders; we’re worried about the shortage of face masks for health care providers, and the dearth of ventilators for patients.

Breathing as deeply as possible while trapped in our homes is kind of a revolutionary counterpoint to anxiety triggered by a highly contagious respiratory illness. This moment is exactly what a combination yoga-breathwork-mindfulness practice is built for.

“Our brains really don’t like uncertainty,” says Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist and the author of The Stress-Proof Brain, who researched the effects of yoga earlier in her career. “Often your brain starts worrying, and it goes five steps ahead. ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’” When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, adds Greenberg, “Your thinking brain goes offline. You need to slow down so that your thinking brain can come back online.” The great mental health trick of the practice, then, is that it demands fixed focus on what’s happening right now.

What exactly is happening right now? You are breathing in a posture. “Yoga and mindfulness can help you reel your brain back into the present moment,” says Greenberg.

You are home. You are safe. You are home.

Self-isolation and social distancing are necessary measures to flatten the coronavirus’s curve and stave off the pandemic’s progression, there is no doubt; but there’s a side effect of our new, epidemiologically essential reality that’s worth considering, too: loneliness.

As workplaces convert into remote operations, as gyms and studios ad-lib a presence in the digital space, as restaurants and bars remain closed, as Italians sing on balconies, as FaceTime and Houseparty replace actual face time and actual house parties, Yoga With Adriene, your yoga guide and friend, is here. It’s been here all along, to help you feel less lonely. (In fact, there’s a YouTube video for that.)

“We can be soothed by other people,” says Greenberg, even when we’re not in the same physical place — through their tone of voice, their words, their facial expressions, or their body language. “The yoga teacher can become a secure attachment. Maybe you feel looked after by the teacher, or safe in her presence, or comforted.”

The already robust community aspect of Yoga With Adriene takes it a step further. Well before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Adriene would holler to the community mid-practice and remind you, you at home, to picture everyone around the world breathing and moving right along with you, right at this moment. “Even though you can’t see them, there’s this whole community of people doing yoga,” explains Greenberg. “And if you can see yourself as part of that community, perhaps that can help, too.”

Yoga With Adriene can’t produce new, high-quality videos right now, but Adriene can film herself using her computer camera. She does so on March 22, in a livestreamed version of the weekly newsletter that she started in the early days of Yoga With Adriene, and that now goes out to half a million subscribers. She calls her newsletter a “love letter”; the livestreamed iteration, a one-off so far, she names “Love Letter Live.”

She sits on her yoga mat, Benji at her side, and waves. There are 1,001 YouTube users watching live when I log on at 11 am on the dot. Twenty-five minutes later, there are 11,778 of us tuned in. The video’s been viewed more than 269,000 more times since. “Look at all of us,” one viewer writes, one of many in a continuously updating scroll of live comments. “I’m welling up.”

Nuremberg, Germany; Sicily, Italy; the Bronx; Morocco; Macedonia; Moscow; Tulsa, Oklahoma; New Delhi, India; Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Israel; Temple, Texas; Singapore; Iran; Ireland; SoCal; NorCal; North Dakota; Brazil; Sweden; Ohio; Afghanistan; Florida; United Arab Emirates; Des Moines, Iowa — there are too many people in too many places to write down them all.

“I think a lot of people are lonely,” Adriene tells her computer camera and the people at home on the other side of it, choosing her words with care. “I think it’s a real, real thing.”

She mentions the viewer counts on her videos, which she’s not paying attention to as she records this message but are something the team keeps careful track of. By the end of a video, any video, “after you rise up from your seated meditation, or Savasana, and see that number and how it’s grown, the practice at the start versus the end, I really think that it’s such a beautiful reflection of this idea, that you’re not alone.”

A moment later, she says it again: “You’re not alone.”


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