My school motto was “nil sine labore”, which means “nothing without work”. We had stickers and mouse mats (it was the 90’s) to remind us that “you can do anything”. Both of these statements are valuable in their context, but much later in life, I find that I’m passionately advocating another message: that there is peace to be found in each present moment; that you are ok right now (even if you are not ok) here, just as you are.
Don’t get me wrong. Fear, guilt and the drive to improve are useful and sometimes necessary, and much is accomplished in their name. But they are not permanent sustainable ways of being. They are gifts of evolution which protect us. They are also the cause of much of our daily suffering. And this is where the yoga comes in: simple practices that guide us to explore our experience of life and find comfort amongst the noise. It isn’t always easy, but it is simple. In future editions of Friday Featuring … I’ll look at more specific practices and the science behind how and why it works.
For this edition, though, I wanted to give a simple shout out to Adriene Mishler. It is timely, because she’s in London right now, practicing at the studio where I trained, Yoga on the Lane, and because last week I attended her biggest-ever yoga class (of 2400 people!) at Ally Pally. More importantly, Adriene is a beacon of inspiration for anyone who is interested in finding a kinder way to relate to themselves and others (which is everyone really, surely?). Every week, she puts out a free yoga-at-home video called Yoga with Adriene. I recommend them to my students all the time – her yoga is non-dogmatic – it is genuinely for everyone, assuring us that modifying the pose for our unique bodies is sensible and empowering. She teaches with humour, clarity and a sense of what it is like to be alive in these times, and to be human.
Each week has a theme, often tongue-in-cheek, but the long line is clear: cultivate your connection with your breath, with your body, with your self, and with your deeper wisdom to move through the practice (and through life) in a way that is in tune with this. Live wholly and fully. The way we treat ourselves in our yoga practice matters, because it reflects the way we treat ourselves and others off the mat. She says, ‘Yoga offers up a way for us to see a world that is working for you instead of against you’. Enticing.
Reading the comments below the line on her website, it is clear that her approach is changing lives. I would guess millions of them. People travelled across countries to get to Ally Pally and the community vibe was palpable. Her goal was to teach that massive class and hold that massive space in a way that made each student there feel welcome and cosy. She was her usual human self – vulnerable, funny, and she spoke from the heart. I felt lucky to be there.
Yoga teachers often lament the commonly held belief that classes which are physically demanding and tricky to execute attract more students, but I think Adriene’s approach shows us otherwise. Of course, discipline, strength and flexibility (mental, physical) are important aspects of any practice, but human connection is really where it’s at.
Do share with me below any other teachers who are online and who encourage yoga for every body.
Breathe, make space, be compassionate.
For more about her, Adriene was recently featured in the Guardian and has been interviewed for Yoga Talks by master podcaster, J Brown (who is definitely on the list for future editions of Friday Featuring…).