The Reigning Queen of Pandemic Yoga

The Reigning Queen of Pandemic Yoga

What she meant, she continued, was that her videos weren't all about self-love. You reject the idea that sitting in front of a computer is the fastest way to ruinously alienate yourself from your body, like those gamers you occasionally read about who are found dead after days without food or water. "When I think of the yoga industry or the wellness industry," she said, "I think of a culture that, intentionally or unintentionally, markets your weakness." Mishler sees an inviting, loving alternative in her practice. In one of her videos she shows viewers how to hug. The number of views in this sequence makes sense only if you accept the premise that most people feel deeply alienated from themselves.

Nine months after the pandemic, Mishler told me that she hadn't hugged a stranger since that woman in the thrift store. When we spoke on the phone in November, she had just taken her boyfriend on a trip to West Texas, where the two of them went for a walk, ignored the internet, and watched what she called "Sky TV" which was just …. the sky. "It's constant programming," she said with the usual Mishler sincerity. "We were there under the full moon." The visit was part fun and part work as she was preparing for the next videos. Mishler thinks in topics and the topic in January is breath. Under the stars of West Texas, she pondered breathing: “Breath is a means of calming. Breath is the fuel that moves us. Breath is a birthright. “But then, she said, she paused at the word birthright as she turned to the murder of George Floyd.

She remembered it on the phone and began to cry softly. It was a strange moment. Floyd's death sparked not only one of the biggest waves of protests in US history, but also the most depraved behavior in influencer history, who portrayed things like protests before protests with beach blonde waves and a bold red lip – to help, maybe, but also seize a moment of sadness and anger. For someone who is not a Mishler, the leap from yoga breathing to state violence might not be convincing, or worse, cynical.

But on the phone it came out wholeheartedly, and it's this quality of her – a level of empathy so strong it almost seems like brain damage – that people love about her. This allows her to talk to so many people through laptop screens that are otherwise sluggish or oppressive. Mishler picked the underlying assumption of yoga – the idea that everyone on earth needs help with something – and rejected all elements that can be daunting: the crystals, the perfectionism, the ego, the expensive clothes, the competitiveness. She even got rid of the studio. The benefit of teaching on YouTube is that it makes people find solace on their own – not in a class surrounded by other students, not with an audience, not in front of a teacher. Because these things can disappear overnight, as we've seen, and we have to deal with what Mishler has gotten all this time. "Who are you if you don't perform?" she asked me on the phone. "What do you do when nobody is watching?"