But who cares when I’m so in need of tender ministrations? Adriene is there anytime I need her, like a friendly pocket deity. I have only to flip open my laptop: “Hello, friend,” Adriene purrs. “Hello, my darlings.” And then, as opposed to issuing burdensome commands like “Warrior one!” “or “Tree pose—now,” she utters four magical words: “Let’s start sitting down,” or, even better, “Let’s start lying down.” (Even on mornings when I can barely get out of bed, entering Adriene’s world is like stepping into a warm bath, as if she were saying, “Let’s start with a gentle cry,” or “Let’s get a small—but not too small; choose what feels right—bowl of Häagen-Dazs.”)
It’s not that the yoga is always easy. Yes, on “Day 8: Gratitude,” we lay on the floor and hugged a pillow, and I’m ashamed to say I wept a little. (My girlfriend reported with unabashed enthusiasm: “I did Day 8 three times!”) But that had been preceded two days earlier by “Day 6: Ignite,” when we actually did a few sun salutations, planks, boat poses. This is the flow of “Home,” the slap and reward, slap and reward.
Part of the allure is Adriene’s voice, pitched slightly lower than you would expect. If it were an aromatherapy candle, it would be ylang-ylang eucalyptus with a light charcoal rasp, like an exfoliant. Adriene may be Elizabeth Holmes–ing it, but who I am to judge?
And then there’s the virtual mirroring. Instead of seeing your own lumpy self reflected back at you, you see only Adriene, lovely Adriene. And if you don’t feel like doing a low lunge today, just sit down, enjoy your coffee, and watch Adriene do it for you. Later, maybe, you’ll join her in down dog. Or just leave that to Benji, a dog so catatonic, I wonder if he is on medication. But again, whatever. He is our emotional-support animal, and I am calmed.
Yoga With Adriene’s origin story is fairly humble. In 2009, Mishler, an aspiring actor, befriended the director Chris Sharpe on the set of his low-budget horror movie, The Spider Babies (never released). Sharpe persuaded Mishler, who declined to be interviewed for this story, to pivot toward a YouTube yoga series. It ran weekly for almost two years before gaining any traction.
How to account for Yoga With Adriene’s subsequent success? For one thing, Sharpe and Mishler became masters of YouTube’s search-word algorithms—the breakout title being “Yoga for Weight Loss.” Tricky, because yoga doesn’t typically spur weight loss. But that’s a topic for another day. How about we all just drop into cow pose now?
In a 2019 South by Southwest talk called “Giving to Grow and Receive,” the two yoga entrepreneurs attributed the size of their following to the fact that 90 percent of the content is free—only a small subset of subscriptions comes with a fee. But the deceptively simple-looking videos are the magic. “Adriene is thoroughly professionally trained as an actor,” Sharpe told me on the phone. “So we did a few videos, and they were more actor-y and performance-y. I had to lose a lot of the bells and whistles that I thought would be cool. It was a matter of taking a lot of stuff away, to create this very small, intimate experience.