When was the last time you looked up? Focusing on the stars and thinking about your place within the cosmic network? There's a good chance it's been a minute. Maybe you never have. It's easy to let the stress of our lives pull our heads down.
A year ago I tried something new. I signed up for Sun Salutations Yoga at Adler Planetarium. The one hour class offered every first Saturday is a rare opportunity to practice yoga beneath the domed Grainger Sky Theater with flowing celestial objects projected above.
I've said it before – I'm terrible at yoga. I never know what I'm doing, I have the physical flexibility of a dead animal, and I'm too cynical to believe anything about chakras. But I keep going back to my mat.
Yoga is all about connection. It bridges your physical and spiritual side through movement and focused breathing. Or something like that. I'm still figuring it out. But what I do know is that showing up on your mat and connecting with something larger than ourselves is what it's all about.
Sun Salutations is an opportunity to let go of your stress and focus your attention on the natural beauty of the cosmos. Along the way, with your breathing and movement, you begin to understand your place in the universe. You feel the atoms that make your physical form and how they came from the dust of a star that died a long time ago.
The collapse of a star gave us the iron in our blood.
One tumultuous event can create new opportunities.
There's no substitution for actually going outside and looking up at the stars, but Sun Salutations is the next best thing available. If you can escape the city for a bit, I encourage you to take a moment and look up. It's easy to feel insignificant, but if you focus long enough, you'll feel you're part of the universe. The hydrogen that fuels our sun is the same hydrogen flowing through your veins. You belong and you matter.
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.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.