If I angle my yoga mat just right, I can fully stretch out my 6'5" frame. Sometimes my ankle bashes into the coffee table, or my fingers get caught in dusty ceiling fan blades. But if I really focus on my surroundings, I have just enough space to work with my favorite yoga instructor, Adriene Mishler.
She's the host of the insanely popular YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. The Austin based yoga instructor and actor uploads new videos regularly to an audience of 3 million subscribers. Her catchy tagline "Find What Feels Good" serves as both a celebration of self-love and the slogan for her growing brand.
Moving into a new home can serve as necessary growth. After a relationship ended in my last apartment’s living room, I needed a needed a new space without that memory hovering around. What I decided on was an apartment much smaller than what I had, but in a neighborhood bursting with energy.
But moving is expensive as shit. Move-in fees can crush the doe-eyed excitement of signing a new lease. To make back some of the money I lost moving, I canceled my gym membership and searched for an at home solution. That's how I found Yoga with Adriene.
When I queued up my first video, I turned off all the lights and closed my blackout curtains like a teenager discovering internet porn. My only source of light illuminated from the TV and the color changing oil diffuser that sits on my windowsill. If I was going to buy into this new routine, I wanted a yoga studio experience in my apartment. Side note - a little at-home-yoga-studio hack is if you don't have AC in your apartment like me then congratulations! You now have your very own hot yoga studio.
The first video I ever tried, and revisit frequently, was "Yoga for the Future." Adriene guides you through a challenging but completely approachable 30 minutes of stretching, strength training, and mindfulness.
Here’s my truth. I'm terrible at yoga. It’s super hard, and I have the flexibility of a stale piece of taffy. True story, I once got completely overheated in the first few minutes of a video. I ditched my shirt right as Adriene instructed us to rock back and forth along our spines. Being the smart person I am, I put all my sweaty momentum into that first roll, sliding head first off my mat and into a solid birch kitchen cart. Kill me.
But why do I, along with 3 million other people, keep coming back?
Adriene’s greatest skill as an instructor is her ability to connect with her audience. Free from judgement, she treats you as her own personal workout buddy. Mainly shot in her home, it’s just you, her, and sometimes Benji, the chill-vibes-only dog.
Other at-home instructional videos feel detached and unrelatable. They’re usually filmed on sets with background actors and garish industrial decor. Not with Adriene. Her authentic blend of lighthearted humor and lessons on self-love make every awkward moment on your mat totally worth it.
I started Yoga With Adriene to save money while keeping physical activity part of my daily routine. But what I never expected was how much these videos would change my perspective on what it means to practice self-love - to appreciate myself for showing up on my mat on a down day. This practice has replaced a lot of my toxic negative thinking with a strong internal confidence.
What does “Find What Feels Good” mean to me? It’s showing up on my green yoga mat in my little 400 sq ft apartment where I’m reminded the journey I’m on is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Earlier today, The Players' Tribune released an essay from Cleveland Cavaliers forward, Kevin Love. Entitled Everyone is Going Through Something, Love revealed an episode of panic during a November game against the Atlanta Hawks. From the moment the game started, Love felt something was wrong. Here is a premier athlete, and he was winded within the first few minutes of a game. His head spun and he lost control of his body. His physical symptoms suffocated his abilities so much that Love spent most of the second half on the locker room floor trying to catch his breath. Someone from the Cavs organization found Love in his state and helped get him set up with a therapist.
Love went on to speak openly about the death of his grandmother and how her passing affected him. He wouldn't allow himself to grieve. His thought being that he's a basketball player. Basketball players are men and men don't show their emotions.
That sounds completely irrational, but that's an all too common thought process among men. Love wrote that he didn't consider talking openly about his struggle with depression and anxiety until Toronto Raptor's shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, discussed a recent tweet with the Toronto Star.
DeRozan spoke freely about his struggle with depression and anxiety. Here is an NBA super star, playing during All-Star weekend in his home town of Los Angeles, with the weight of panic crushing him despite all the fame, money, and success. He spoke on how you never know what someone is going through, and that he hope's his story can help people going through the same internal struggle. It's a great interview and can be found here.
It's pretty rare to hear two men talk about mental health the way Love and DeRozan have. The stigma of depression and anxiety exists everywhere, but for young men, it's an extraordinarily difficult barrier to break. Growing up, I always heard from different avenues of culture how boys were supposed to just suck it up, be a man, and stop being a pussy. It doesn't take a PhD to connect the dots on why so many men express their feelings with physical violence. That's not an excuse for abusive behavior, but I think the examples people like Love and DeRozan are setting for young boys gives them the confidence to express themselves in a healthy manner as adults.
A lot of men my age and older didn't have role models talk to us about our mental health. It took me a long time to acknowledge my own struggle with depression, and I still have trouble with that stigma. I'll talk about what I'm going through, but in a shaky, round-about way. I think that's why I became a writer. It's an extraordinarily difficult exercise to be direct and vulnerable in front of other people.
Love and DeRozan are incredible NBA talents and equally unbelievable role models. I hope their stories mark the genesis of other men speaking to our boys about taking care of their mental health.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.