Fans of Adriene Mishler know her as many things — the dog mom of Benji the Blue Heeler, a proud Texan, and perhaps most importantly, the first smiling face that pops up on YouTube when you search for “yoga.” The 35-year-old host of “Yoga With Adriene” is a woman of many mats, but the one thing she doesn’t get enough credit for is bringing yoga to dudes who never would have gotten into it otherwise. As she’s amassed more than 7 million YouTube subscribers since her 2012 launch, she’s brought inner peace to men in a way that Joe Rogan could only dream of (in a sensory deprivation chamber, natch).
Men like 25-year-old Leland, who works in event planning in New York City. When he rolled his ankle carrying something heavy down the stairs right before the pandemic hit, it took longer than anticipated to heal, meaning he couldn’t go running to stay sane during quarantine. And so, several friends suggested he give yoga a try. He typed in “yoga for beginners” into YouTube, and bam, there it was: “Yoga With Adriene.”
“I did her beginners’ video every day for a week. Now I’m on her ‘30 Days of Yoga’ videos,” Leland tells me. He was initially drawn to the variety of videos (“Yoga for When You’re Angry,” “Yoga for When You’re Sick,” “Yoga for Runners”), as well as how she organizes them by duration (under 10 minutes, 10 to 20 minutes, 20 to 30 minutes and 30 to 45 minutes), which has helped him stay consistent on days when he doesn’t have much time. “I don’t know if it was the yoga or just time, but my ankle does feel a lot better,” he says. “Now, I’m just doing it as a form of exercise.”
Dave, a 22-year-old student in California, discovered Adriene similarly two years ago after a power-lifting injury left him in too much back pain to sit through his computer-science classes. When his doctor told him he had to stop lifting weights for a bit, a physiotherapist suggested yoga to Dave as an alternative workout. Although his university rec center offered some classes, the idea of trying a new exercise in a group setting intimidated him. “I’m an introvert, and those classes are group sessions, as opposed to lifting by yourself at five or six in the morning,” Dave tells me. “I found many videos, but Adriene’s were the best. I don’t know how to describe it, but it feels like she’s there with me.”
Meanwhile, despite his wife begging him to go to yoga with her for the better part of 15 years, Will, a 50-year-old real estate developer in Boston, always hated the idea. “I’d rather stay in shape by playing competitive sports,” he explains. “I was resistant to yoga in particular because I imagined it being either too spiritual or too in-your-face intense, like a Jillian Michaels workout.”
Eventually, it was Will’s desire to keep playing competitive hockey into his 50s that convinced him to give yoga a shot. He and his wife compromised, however, by trying it at home as opposed to a studio — with, of course, Adriene’s help. “It was a way for us to connect and spend some time alone together, with the added bonus of me not embarrassing myself in public,” Will laughs.
Fear of public embarrassment was a common refrain from all three guys. “In hindsight, I think the real reason I didn’t want to do it was the fear that I’d suck,” Will admits. “I’m pretty athletic, but I’m a three out of ten in the flexibility department.”
It’s a biological reality that women tend to be more flexible than men, as scientists suspect it’s a possible adaptation that helps accommodate a growing fetus during pregnancy. But that gap in flexibility tends to alienate men from yoga, because like Will, they’d rather participate in activities that they’re good at.
Adriene bridges this gender gap by reminding guys that skill level is irrelevant. “She tells us from the beginning that it doesn’t matter if we have enough flexibility or not, it’ll develop over time,” says Dave, a sentiment he found reassuring. “At the start, I wasn’t flexible enough to raise a single leg 90 degrees while laying on the ground.”
Obviously, it doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes, too. “She’s a total babe 100 percent,” Leland tells me, noting that her appeal is unique from a lot of women walking around Manhattan in their Lululemons. ”She seems pretty down to earth; she is corny at times, but she’s aware of it.” Moreover, like Dave mentioned, Leland also feels as though he’s the only person Adriene is instructing; he says it’s almost as though she’s in his apartment with him and “knows exactly what I’m going through.”
“Charming is probably the word I’d use to describe her,” Will adds. “She’s a bit goofy and talks too much, but somehow it’s never annoying.” But he mostly thinks the secret to her success is the fact that she’s an outstanding instructor and smart business person. “Her looks and charm are a plus, but I don’t think she’d be any less successful if she looked different,” he tells me.
As for his yoga skills, after doing yoga consistently with his wife over the past three years, Will did the exact opposite of the many new converts who found Adriene in quarantine — he stopped watching her videos. His schedule was disrupted, his kids moved home from college and he was completely depressed about the future.
But looking at what he could control, he eventually returned to the mat — and Adriene. “After a couple months of brooding and not feeling motivated to do much of anything, my wife and I finally got back into it,” Will says. “We both agree that we should have never stopped.”
Such is the pull of Adriene.