- R. T. Coleman
Dr. Feel Good: How Yoga with Adriene Helped Me Stop Worrying and Love Utkatasana
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
Incense fills the air, its wispy tendrils of smoke winding their way around my tiny house. I drag my yoga mat from beneath the sofa, center it on the living room floor, and ask my dog politely to lay next to it rather than on it. I click the play icon on a YouTube video and step onto the mat.
“Hello, my friends!”
She speaks with a slight Texas accent that has become warmly familiar to me. As I settle onto my mat to follow Austin-ite Adriene Mishler through another half-hour yoga practice, I immediately reconnect with the sense of peace I’ve been cultivating for the last 11 months. Her mantras provide a steady dose of positivity:
I am strong.
I am supported.
New terms have crept into my vocabulary. Downward Facing Dog. Vinyasa. Shavasana. Warrior One. Chaturanga. I realize I haven’t really been breathing, at least not properly, my entire life. I feel completely out of sorts if I don’t get my practice in one day.
I have the crazy notion that I need to share this discovery with everyone. Are you kidding? Me? An evangelizer? A JOINER?
If you’d told me this time last year that I’d become a devotee of a YouTube yoga personality, I’d have laughed in your face.
But here we are, a little less than a year on a journey that I didn’t really know I was taking when I added a daily yoga practice to my routine. Here I stand. A convert, eager to spread the word.
I remember the first time I took a yoga class. I was a newly divorced, single mother with a two year old, and I didn’t have the first clue what I should be doing with my life. It was a confusing, traumatic time in my life, and I was fortunate enough to meet a few women who helped me get through it. One of them, a most beautiful soul who to this day is an inspiration to me, invited me to attend a yoga class held at a local Methodist church one Tuesday evening. I don’t know that I would have gone on my own, but I respected her enough to agree.
No fancy yoga mats. No mirrors on the walls. No trendy yoga clothes. People of all ages. All shapes. All levels. There were about a dozen of us. We spread our towels on worn carpet in a dim upper room of the church building and waited for the instructor to guide us through what would be my first yoga practice. I watched her intently, striving to get each and every pose just right.
I wobbled. I lost my balance. I shook. I forgot to breathe. I found some poses were not available to me. By the time we got to Shavasana 50 minutes later, I was exhausted.
And I was hooked.
I don’t think I would have made it through those first couple of years after my divorce without that friend, or without yoga. At the time, the practice represented the one indulgence I allowed myself as I recovered from the trauma of having a marriage end. It helped me reconnect with myself, recognize my strength, and recharge my batteries so I could be the best mother possible.
It’s no wonder I returned to it now, 20 years later, but for a very different reason. This time, instead of recovering, I’m building on strength, opening myself to possibility, and reconnecting with a sense of peace in these troubled times.
The first Yoga With Adriene video I watched was “Love Yoga Flow – Yoga for Weight Loss.” I didn’t have a yoga mat, so I practiced in front of the television on our shag carpet. The video kicked my behind. I don’t know what I was thinking starting with a 35-minute class right off the bat, but the galaxy yoga pants Adriene was sporting probably had something to do with it. I’d been able to do enough of that first practice, however, to feel encouraged, and that’s exactly how Adriene entices you and pulls you in to her wonderful world. Her logo – Find What Feels Good – permeates her instruction. She gives all members of her audience a way to experience the poses, whether they’ve been practicing for years or are just beginning. She emphasizes being gentle with yourself, building strength slowly, and focusing more on how you feel rather than on how you look.
When I first began, I could barely do a single pushup. Now I’m regularly holding planks and flowing through a vinyasa with ease. For someone who has never been athletic, that’s significant. I still have a long way to go, but the great thing about this practice is that there is never an endpoint. It’s all about improving a little bit every single time.
More important, however, is my improved confidence in myself and my voice. I’ve struggled this year with my writing, and I know it’s because I’ve been focused on getting everything exactly right all the time. My perfectionism has often held me back from dreams, goals, and experiences. I have an outline for two books on my computer, a full draft of a sequel to my first book ready for revision, and dozens of additional ideas. Why aren’t any of them completed? Because I haven’t been able to relax as a writer. My days are filled with work that is methodical and structured, and I realize now that bleeds into my writing as well.
Through Adriene’s gentle guidance, I’m learning to let go some of that obsession with perfection, with getting everything always right, always polished. With every pose, I find new ways to soften into it, new ways to extend and lengthen, and new ways to deepen my breath. I’ll forever be a work in progress with overcoming my desperate need for perfection in myself, but I know that if I am going to be a writer – the kind of writer I want to be, that I know I can be – I have to take risks. I have to write terribly, then write passably, and perhaps some day write well.
So there you have it: I’m a convert, a yoga devotee, one of those hippy types. I’m here to tell you, though, that anyone can do yoga. Anyone. You don’t have to be flexible to start because if you practice regularly you will be flexible eventually. You don’t even have to have great balance (which is nice for me!) because the more you practice, the better balanced you will become both physically and mentally. The only thing you need to be is willing to spend a little time with yourself, on the mat, to find what feels good.
Thanks, Adriene, for being a catalyst for some pretty significant changes for me. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.