Yoga Founder Interview; Adriene Mishler | Giving to Receive: Building Community & Meaning
I come from Austin, Texas. I was born there. And I started my business there. I travel a lot for work, but it’s really,
in the last three or four years that I’ve spent less time at home and more time on the road, traveling with yoga with Adrian. I’m just curious, by a show of hands, how many people have ever done yoga here in the audience?
Okay, My work here is done.
Very cool. And just curious how many people have experienced online yoga at all just even once or twice? Okay, very cool. Really cool. So I thought I’d begin by just giving you a little brief story of yoga with Adrian and how it came to be. And then I’ll break it up into speaking directly to how to use neutral Technology and what we’ve done. Also, not just for yoga, but in terms of community building and empowered community. And then we’ll also talk about how we run a business and how we’ve been able to grow a team, whilst giving so much away for free. We only charge for about 10% of the content that we make probably less.
We’ll touch on that. Thank you. How kind? Ah, yes. The plastic though. It’s like, hide it.
You know, once you start gathering awareness, it’s like, it’s really, really hard to go back. And then finally, what makes
this business unique. So it’s really cool, and thank you. Did I say thank you. I kind of like just whooshed in non grounding. Thank you so much for being here. I know your time is valuable, and there’s a lot of incredible offerings today. So thank you for your time, and for Your presence. So it’s really
wonderful because on this day,
in 2012, on this very day, I uploaded my first video to YouTube. I never in a million years thought it would ever have anything to do with YouTube. No offense to YouTube and YouTube culture. It’s just really me being transparent, honest, I was an artist, you know, a real one. And I have acting background theater background, all professional theater training. So, again, at the time, particularly in 2012, I was trying to pursue that I was pursuing my career as a yoga teacher. I had nothing to do no background in digital content, and absolutely no desire really to even be on YouTube. Save for the occasional late night you know, watching cats flying in the air or rudely watching women fall after stomping grapes, you know, those kinds of videos. I never even thought of the platform as an educational tool. But I was working on a movie in Austin, an independent horror film called The spider babies. And I had been invited to audition for the film and actually passed because, again, I was a very serious artist, a very serious actor with expensive training. And I thought, No, no, not for me. But a really good friend of mine had reached out to me saying, I think that this might be really fun. I think the role is perfect for you. And I’m doing it. You should do and I said, Okay, I’ll give it another thought. So I went in for the audition. The director couldn’t be there. He was in Oklahoma at the time. So we did a Skype thing this might have been my first, ironically, my first Skype my first like, you know, digital meeting. So I did the audition. I auditioned for the role of Polly for the spider babies, and I got it. The director.
His name is Chris sharp, and he’s my business partner now. Chris and I loved working together and the movie for me thankfully did not make it because it’s a little bit risque and a little bit rock and roll some somewhere there’s some pictures of me with a pixie cut and a neck tattoo and you know, playing the bass I don’t play. So those will resurface one day, I just know it. But I met my business partner on that film and we love working together. His now wife is a really good friend of mine. We had also been collaborators for some time. So when Chris invited me to create a YouTube channel and wellness, I was interested because I trusted him. And he had already created a really successful business plan and a channel called highlight cooking. Has anyone ever heard of a Kyla cooking? Just curious. Okay, a couple.
when Chris invited me to do the YouTube channel, I was excited because this was an opportunity for me to be on camera. This was an opportunity for me to share yoga. And to be honest at the time, it was very Maybe an opportunity to help pay my cell phone bill, maybe you No one can dream. It took us about three years to get the channel up on its feet. So we talked about it for three years before we really came together. Our first meeting, just transparency was in, I think, a bar or a bar at a restaurant. So wasn’t like at a coffee shop, or it was very casual. took three years. And finally, on this day, in 2012, we uploaded the first video. When we started the channel, we had no idea that it would become a business. It was always our goal to simply create as much free yoga to as many people as possible high quality, free yoga. So often you’ll at the time, you would get online and you would get a piece of a workout, you get a piece of a meditation. There wasn’t there really wasn’t that much yoga and if there was I wasn’t aware of it because I was so new to YouTube. So you’d get a piece of it and then you’d be asked to go on To another platform right to pay a pretty penny for it. Our mission was, let’s simply give it all away for free and see what happens. It was an experiment. It was a learning process. And it still is to this day of the main focus the mission hold strong. Often I get asked in interviews, you know, how is how is how is it changed, and the numbers have changed, but the mission really, truly stays the same. And that is again to provide as much free high quality yoga to as many people as possible. Since this day in 2012. I’ve uploaded a free video on YouTube every week of my life, only pausing just a couple times when I was actually nursing a little vocal surgery, which by the way, since we’re in your headphones today, I’ve been recovering from a little bronchitis. So hopefully it’s like that Scarlett Johansson sound and not a sound, and hopefully it’s not painful or too painful at all. Since then, we’ve done a video each week. For a couple of weeks, and through that we’ve built a following subscribers a community of nearly 4 million. For the first three years, there was no movement, there was no money. But we stayed consistent with the content.
From the very beginning, it was our idea to use
new technology to use the YouTube platform to create an intimate relationship with people that we just weren’t seeing, particularly on this platform. We all know of the relationship of like celebrity versus commoner. A lot of YouTubers and digital content. People were artists were coming in and really capitalizing on the expert, expert versus the person arriving to learn the commoner. Whatever it may be. So our idea was to kind of break that down and not try to sell me myself as an expert. And to this day, I don’t like it when people call me an expert because What is an expert in I’m not really an expert either. So So the focus was to basically break down the fourth wall and shoot it in a way and basically build the entire business and, and, and structure in a way where we were not making the audience a commoner, but including them as an equal and as a friend. So obviously, that comes into play in the way I share the content, the way I speak in the language. But from a new technology point of view, we were very adamant about keeping the production level low on purpose, keeping it almost invisible. So, you know, especially now our equipment has improved quite a bit from the early days, we still try to keep it at a bare minimum. So it really looks and feels like we’re in the room together. So instead of you’re showing up to practice with the yoga expert, or the leading person in yoga, or you’re showing up to practice with a fellow human, someone who’s very knowledgeable and passionate about the practice And about wellness in the modern age. But essentially our biggest inspiration from the beginning has been that of a Mr. Rogers show. Are you familiar with Mr. Rogers? So Mr. Rogers in America was known for creating an environment that was very welcoming for his guests. And it was built for children, but it was loved and beloved by families and people all across the country. So for anyone who doesn’t know Mr. Rogers, that’s a fun little tidbit and a beautiful documentary just came out. I wish I knew the director’s name about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and about the way in which they they built that show and it’s really cool and it really inspired me because it’s very similar to what our intentions were and what I think we’ve ended up building together. So here we are, again, I think it’s so unique that on this very day, it’s so yoga with Adrian birthday today we have almost 4 million subs. Drivers, these are just the people who have actually hit subscribe. Each day, I always see a screenshot or somebody sharing their experience of the yoga or of a meditation. And you can see that they’re not even subscribed to the YouTube channel. So for anyone’s listening, if you do want to support the channel, the best way to do it is by subscribing.
YouTube is actually not the bread and butter of the business. We’ve grown a lot from this platform and we often keep YouTube in mind as like the heartbeat or the soul of the business as a whole.
from YouTube, we
attract a massive audience right because we are giving it away for free. So there’s never any any tricks there’s never any go here to pay for this full practice. There’s there’s really no tricks. So because of the fact that we offer everything for free, and we’re consistent about it each week. We attract Of course, a massive following all across the globe because They trust it, they stick with it, they show up because it’s free because someone told them about it. And they stay because they haven’t experienced that hopefully feels even just a little bit good. And then they share that with their friends, their neighbors, their co workers, their enemies, and it continues to grow. from YouTube. We take that massive audience that’s hooked, they’re empowered, there was no tricks, no money exchanged, just time and energy, and sometimes some tears and sweat. And we invite them over to the website, still free, all free to join, what used to be called the newsletter, which is now called the weekly love letter. And in this setting, I feel a little bit cheesy saying that but I won’t. I’ll stand confident in my love letter. Because it’s important language is important. It used to be that I was kind of playing at this like blogger role that just wasn’t suited for me. I love to write I’m an artist. Again, I’m very passionate about yoga. But the role of the blogger and respect to all the bloggers out there just wasn’t aligning with my lifestyle with my spirit, I very much felt like I was back in school and I was doing homework each week just just to get the newsletter out. And I was 100% sure that the information that I was sharing via the newsletter was information that you could hop on over to the next website and fine, almost verbatim even though I was speaking from my heart. So three years ago, I ditched the newsletter, kicked it to the curb, and decided to start writing whatever I want. I just been reading a bunch of Anthony Bourdain, I just been reading a bunch of Patti Smith, you know, and and all the, the regular you know, although the stuff in my regular repertoire and I thought, I’m just gonna write whatever I want. I am I am boss, I’m going to write whatever I want. And I’m not going to feel the necessity to create the most perfect health and wellness newsletter. I’m also going to give myself permission to stop blogging because I’m already putting this free content out on a consistent basis. So and we all know that the the goal is to really Have one thing that at least one thing that you’re putting out consistently and quality and authentically. So I felt like I was already doing that with the YouTube so I could take a few liberties with the newsletter. So now I’m writing a weekly love letter, I call it the underground blog. So we gather the audience members from or the community members from the YouTube, we bring them over to the website. From there, they join the weekly love letter, and now we have them in our home. We have them to we whisper sweet nothings into their ear. We have them to announce anything that we’re selling or doing when appropriate, one on one without having to be in the YouTube space or the Facebook, space, platform culture, and everything that comes with that. So from the weekly love letter, then we started to invite them over to a subscription service. The subscription service is the most affordable that it can possibly be. It’s 10 American dollars a month and that is half the price of your typical You know, public yoga class on the membership subscription service, they get the entire Yoga daydrian library, plus some extra content each month that we cannot put on YouTube. Things that would mess up the YouTube algorithm such as
long meditations that people are not going to sit through, necessarily on YouTube, vlog style things that people really love. But again, the watch time on those is quite low. So people are not completing these videos, the way they’re completing a yoga practice. So that channel is the healthiest it could be. We have a wonderful relationship with YouTube. And yeah, it was just not making sense to put these vlogs and the meditations on YouTube anymore. So the membership is a place where we can do that and do it successfully. Also, to be honest, after doing a one yoga video each week of your entire life since 2012, we started to want to do different things. We started to want to exercise our creativity in a way that felt new and exciting, Chris and I. So the membership is also a place where we can do that the membership has now partnered by Vimeo, which may you may be familiar with. And so from the YouTube, we take them to the letter, we take them over to Vimeo now for the find what feels good subscription site were in years to come, I will be bringing guests on as a part of our community so that I can write the book so that I can continue to work and learn. Very important. And we can continue to build unique content off YouTube for the fine, what feels good community. From there, they’ll go to a podcast and so on and so forth. I’m not quite sure that it’s ever been our goal to build the most successful business and every wellness platform. In fact, I think next year as we head into the new year, we’re going to be finding more ways to actually simplify and focus and refocus on the business. Again, remembering that our focus is on the mission to provide as much To go to as many people as possible, and not necessarily on growing the biggest YouTube business possible. This is why To this day, we have never taken any investor money. We’ve never partnered with anyone. We’re a business of two people now with five employees, and they live all over the United States, the majority of them live in Austin, but
coast to coast and then in Austin, Texas, where I’m from.
So using new technology, as I mentioned, celebrities use the expert to commoner but we instead through YouTube use the approach to break that fourth wall down and make the product the the production value. High but hopefully invisible, focusing on friends and not expert. When speaking to new technology in particular, I think it’s important to add that
we have really in just this last year, US Technology and a wonderful platform called mighty networks to be specific to build a community that lives online. That is, I don’t want to say successful that is engaged on a regular basis. And that really keeps people around from day to day. So they’re not just popping in, they’re logging in. They’re arriving there just as often as they would, their Facebook. So through this network, we’ve been able to create a really empowered community off the other social platforms where they may not feel as comfortable to share. Whatever it is, they’re going to share. Because of the nature of what we’re doing with that home yoga, you’re not in a public yoga space. You’re you don’t feel the judgment of just even the decoration of a studio. You know, you’re on your own, you drop to your knees at home, and most people find the channel because of something of of vulner By nature, a death in the family a major life change, a diagnosis, anxiety, depression, these sort of things. So a lot of times people are already showing up to yoga with Adrian practice with a certain type of vulnerability. So what we started to notice is while the Facebook community groups which have grown quite quite popular now are really buzzing and maybe seemingly successful, in my opinion, they’re really kind of gross. It’s really not fair. We’re basically we’re not taking responsibility for the the space we’re really holding for our guests, when they’re having these really vulnerable conversations on a platform that we have no control over. And that can be a whole other conversation right here at the convention to about why maybe those conversations aren’t so good on Facebook. But that that, that’s for another time. So we move them over. to a new platform on mighty networks where basically just like Vimeo, they’re serving as the plumbing for the online community. I would say that now. It’s 95%, peer to peer. So it started off as yoga with Daydream community. I’ve now renamed it, find what feels good community, taking a step back, and I have an excellent community director now who moderates and, and make sure the conversation there is, is rich and that the space is really safe. But 95% of the engagement now on the new platform is peer to peer. So I’m not having to log in and be on social media 24 hours a day just to make sure that things are not breaking down, or going up in flames. For anyone with any online business. This is super important because surely, if you do have an online business in any way, shape, or form you’ve experienced and maybe most of us now just with our day to day job. You’ve experienced that moment where you’re like, Whoa, I wanted a successful business. I wanted to nurture the business and I wanted to serve others and meet my goal. But I never wanted to be on the computer 60 hours a week. So now we’re trying to create a space off factual education platform, which in this case would be YouTube, or the membership on on Vimeo and really create a safe space, that that has everything the community needs to engage one on one. So now there again, 95% of the communication on this site is peer to peer. So now they’re helping each other out. They’re having rich conversation based on their interest in this platform. And next time, I’ll do a presentation but in this new platform on mighty networks, and we were one of the guinea pigs on mighty networks to so we’ve been able to really kind of create the space to meet our needs. Were able to create rooms and different sections for the community to come together based on their shared interest. You can Do that on a Facebook platform of course, everything’s just coming in all at once. And even if you take one topic such as the topic of politics and introduce it in a conversation one day, it can really can really create a lot of negativity. I asked my friend who is on the team how often she sees a negative comment on on the the mighty network platform and she said zero
and then I asked the
the woman who helps me kind of manage the YouTube and make sure that that that that no flames are going up there and just things are you know, things are keeping clean and appropriate. You guys know what I mean? And she said, actually, for YouTube, she doesn’t see she maybe sees one to five negative comments each time we release a new video which is every Sunday. So I got off just topic for a second but I think that’s really unique considering it’s a YouTube channel that the positive the comments are really positive and, and not your typical YouTube commentary. Despite that we’ve created this wonderful online community 95%, peer to peer communication, and really, essentially To summarize, we’re providing the space for them to have the party and the interaction. And then that power really comes from them having that peer to peer relationship that they build there. These people then become friends, they become ambassadors, and they become part of the team. So again, not trying to feed off of that expert, and commoner, but rather really create a community that feels like community. As I mentioned before, we only charge for 10% of the things we create, possibly less. But we’ve built such a strong relationship with the big audience. We just don’t have to focus our energy on any marketing money or tools. We don’t have to focus on selling. Often people want to know what’s next. So again, as long as we create this clear path, from the YouTube, to the website for the love letter to the, to the membership, it’s it’s kind of all there for them to take, find their own footing and take the steps they want to take. People send checks every single day of the week to yoga with Adrian, and I tear them up. I asked them instead of donating, you can join the membership. And part of the wonderful, beautiful thing about the membership is all of the people who want to contribute because they feel as though they have garnered so much for free from yoga with Adrian channel.
They can then become a member and know and feel that
just by being a fine, what feels good member, they are contributing to the lives of so many people around the world by keeping the free yoga alive. So in essence, by becoming a member, Your monthly contribution helps keep the free yoga going from week to week. So for anyone who’s familiar with the yoga philosophy, this is now the philosophy of yoga coming into the biz to the business. Hands down, like without any finagling. So just by being a member you’re creating now you’re contributing to other people who can’t afford to go to yoga studio, who can’t afford 60 to $165, yoga pants, or who are too too far in a dark place to show up in public, and stick their butt in the air. So this is a really beautiful exchange and it keeps members there, they buy the the the year long, so we’re creating meaning we’re giving meaning to it. And it’s very, it’s very clear to see. I believe that because of the fact that that the membership is so low, at least in American dollars, and because of the fact that they feel really good, find what feels good, right about the fact that they’re contributing to free yoga on the YouTube. I think that that’s where people really actually want to buy the sellable things. So again, we’re not having to sell All them. And for the longest time, I didn’t want to sell any merch because I’m a yoga teacher, not a yoga business early on. But I realized now that people want that tangible item. So that’s when we started selling merchandise because it’s just a way for, for the audience to for the community to connect, and again, have that tangible item they want to, they want to pay for something they want to have that that tangible item when you’re working in a digital space. This turns out it is really important. We also have live events. So this is an opportunity for people to gather right together in a physical space with other similarly aligned people. And we often see at these live events that people
really truly step out of their comfort zone show up
and make an effort to put real faces to names that they’ve been talking to and connecting with for some now
build relationships online and then have their own meetups, so we’re not having to spend The the time and the energy organizing those just because you know, time and energy is valuable, not because we don’t want to and we still do. In fact, after this, we head to Berlin and we begin a six week tour, find what feels good roadshow meeting the community, and connecting. So it’s really beautiful.
I think more than anything, what makes this
business unique is that we never set out to create a large business
It was always again, just an experiment to learn the new technology, and to maybe grow something in wellness. Like I said, Nothing happened for the first two or three years. I mean, nothing. I remember when we got 100 views on one video, I was like, Yes, 100 views, we’re helping 100 people. This is amazing, you know, quite inspiring. I remember the milestones and I think that the first big moment For anyone who is interested in creating online content through maybe a platform such as YouTube, I think the first big moment happened when we did our first 30 days. Is anyone familiar with the 30 day yoga journey? Just know that that? Yeah, maybe you’ve heard. So from the very beginning, I refused. And I’m still such a stickler about this. And I’m working on a project right now where the word challenge got stuck in because it’s with a collaborator. And I kind of went, like, had a little diva moment where I was like, No,
we cannot call this a challenge. Because language is important. We have to call it a journey, so that people know that if they don’t get past day five, when I’m when we’re offering it, they can still stick with the program. So essentially, we’re trying to create long term relationships with the 30 Days of Yoga. We get hundreds of thousands of new followers each January with the with the 30 day journey. And the first time we did this was the first time we ever saw Finally, a spike across the board yoga with Adrian. So this will be our fifth year to do it. Here. In January. And we always see about 200,000 to 300,000 people add on to the love letter list. So we’re seeing hundreds of thousands of additions to the 30 day journey, and over 200,000 subscribers to the love letter just from giving this 30 day program out for free January. That’s probably the biggest and most beautiful thing we do all year. And if you’re ever interested in maybe creating a sustainable home yoga practice, I invite you to check it out this January with me and millions of people across the globe. Thank you so much for your time and your energy. I’ll be around to chat and answer questions after the session. Have an awesome day.
Thank you so much. Are you okay with a few audience questions because people is that okay, great. Wonderful. So first of all, Agent mishler round of applause for you. That’s Thank you very much. Oh, no, thank you.
Just a little taste, right.
Well, there’s lots more content, you know, online if people haven’t actually seen your content, so but quite a few actually saying it’s wonderful. To see you live and not just on on TV or on jeans, right? People only surprise when I’m telling you down to all of those practices in that now. Okay, well, so let’s get started because people actually also want to specifically get on to the peer to peer aspect that you kept mentioning, right? They’re interested in how you were able to create that community that actually is talking to each other. I think it sounds a little bit like they’re wondering how to, you know, spark that conversation. If you’re not the one having to curate or moderate or even inspire groups that come up? How did you actually manage for that to happen? That’s a great question. So I think it has to start with the content, it has to start with the heartbeat of whatever it is, you’re sharing, or let’s be honest, whatever it is you’re selling, even though it’s free.
And I always laugh when I say Come on, read the Jeep, or, you know, let something go get your money’s worth, because it’s all free. So it’s like, but we all attach to that feeling of get your money’s worth, or, you know, have you ever we’ve all had those moments in our life. Hopefully, we’re letting this go where something’s free. So you’re like, Okay, I don’t need anything. This stuff, you know, so get your money’s worth. But it’s it’s an energetic thing, you want your content from the beginning to basically lay the foundation or, or the ground for people to feel empowered. And this is, of course, easier said than done. So this has to do with maybe the vocabulary that we use actually in for me the yoga content. But for any sort of educational content, you want to be really conscious with the vocabulary you’re using, so that you give people a very positive I hope, but fruitful vocabulary to use so that when they go over to the community site, they are speaking there, they have a shared language. Does that make sense? So we’re creating a vocabulary and the content that everyone can attach to that they can really get empowered by so that by the time they come over into the safe space that we’ve created, that does cost money to create, particularly to take it off Facebook, and it was a big risk and it’s still really hard. It’s like, lay it’s like pulling teeth to get people to come over. To the non Facebook side, because fake Facebook is just so easy. And so just there. But creating a solid vocabulary, that’s a shared language that people can use in the platform. And then I also have to just give a lovely shout out to my community director, she and I work really closely together. So when I’m not there, she’s there. And she creates kind of weekly Food for Thought we, we have a book club there that every once in a while we solicit a community member to run. And it’s it’s been a slow going process, but she’s really wonderful. And that’s basically her full time job now, to be there. So she is now an extension of me, kind of moderating the space. So it’s not a free for all, but she’s also getting to know and I mean, truly getting to know looking people in the eye even though it’s digital content, getting to know these people and when we are headed out on the road like we are now she sends me who’s gonna be there who’s getting you know, and then I really spent a lot of time in there as well, but in terms of managing To space, she’s there to kind of help moderate those conversations. And I think just the very nature of the content in my scenario itself.
You know, it attracts people who are wanting to put their best foot forward.
So I think we’re also trying to inspire that and create a an environment that helps foster that and unites us.
Do you think the the perception of meditation but also mindfulness has changed in the last couple of years? Because when I think about who has started, you know, being interested in those fields, which I would say 10 or 15 years ago, were considered you know, for some too spiritual for others, you know, I don’t need that kind of fitness or health. Where do you see the the change? Because 20 million views a video on your channel. It’s incredible. That was unimaginable 10 years ago?
Yes. And it’s a really important topic right now in the yoga culture, because
Western Yoga has done all of these amazing interesting
backflips. But so I can always, you know, only speak from my point of view. But from my point of view, it’s now more important than ever, that we are really conscious with our language. And we know that conscious languaging, of course, is a whole other paradigm in itself. But I’m just talking like truly, as as business, people even being really articulate and almost meticulous about the words we use to describe what we’re doing.
Okay? Because Yoga is actually
now I kind of fear for the future of yoga and a little bit of meditation too, because we’re, well, let’s just write a billion dollar business now. So we’re getting a little bit away from maybe the true philosophy of yoga and a lot of platforms digitally. So I’m trying to do my best to actually be really conscious about that. And not. Well, I’ll say this, I’ve never actually wanted to create a new style of yoga. I’ve never been interested in creating a new style of yoga meditation. I’ve only ever been interested in making it more accessible for people. Because I truly believe in meditation and in mindfulness practices. And I think that the only thing that’s changed is the environment that we live in today.
So to get back to your question, I think
that it’s now more important than ever, that we provide more and more opportunities for different types of people to be let in the door. And Michael, with yoga with Adrian, and this is what I’ve been trying to do. I don’t know. Maybe it’s successful or not, but maybe it’s just the beginning. I’m just trying to create a safe space where everyone feels like they’re welcome. Where you don’t have to be a pretzel. You don’t have to be thin, you don’t have to be able to pop up into a handstand boring anyway, that’s not really the work. And instead, try to introduce a work where you don’t just look good, because what’s the point of looking good if you still look in the mirror and you don’t love who you see and you don’t know who you’re looking at? And yeah, really focused on the process rather than the product. You know, there. holistic, yeah, but even holistic has this interesting connotation now where it’s like holistic is a marketing word now. And so I think the the, the real proof in the pudding is getting people to again show up which they do so because it’s free,
and then finding a way to get them to stay because they feel like oh, I can do this or Yeah, this is maybe for me after all.
We certainly did wonders for my back. So thank you. I found your thank
you so honored, it’s never gets old when I meet someone who has tried yoga with Adrian, this will never get old till the day I die. So thank you.
Yeah, literally just googled yoga for my back. So thank you very much, first of all, to Adrian Micheline, of course for your presence, as she said and for listening. But thank you for for sharing your practice with us now. Thank you for having me. Thank you.