RYB contributor, Barbara Ramos, caught up with Tara Stiles at her NYC studio, Strala Yoga...
On a Wednesday morning, I woke up after only a few hours of sleep and smiled as I made my way down to the R train. I was about to experience a Strala class with Tara Stiles and meet her afterwards for an interview.
Tara's goofiness and genuine smile made the class both unique and lighthearted and she greeted me after wards in the most welcoming way. We spoke about yoga, living in NYC and how she has created a unique brand for herself.
Her youtube videos and social media only offer a small snippet of Tara's positive spirit and vision for healing the world through yoga...
BR: What is your highest aim in teaching?
TS: To help people connect with themselves. To heal both bodies and minds.
BR: Have you seen the yoga community in NYC expand?
TS: I moved to NYC in 2000, and at that time there were two or three studios and some gyms offering yoga. I began teaching yoga with my community of friends and filming the classes. Everyone thought I was crazy-bananas for putting yoga on the internet. They were like, ‘what are you doing?’ I continued despite anyone else’s doubts and soon enough the videos became more popular and allowed yoga to become more accessible. This movement continued and today the word ‘accessible’ is really popular and key in yoga.
BR: What is the best thing about your job?
TS: It’s just really fun! It feels nourishing to teach and share this practice. Especially at Strala, the fluidity of breath and movement is a method which creates positive energy in the classroom and feels good for the instructors to teach as well. Teaching gives back and I don't feel worn out doing it. I also love that everyday is different.
BR: Favorite vegetable?
TS: Omg. Since I was a little kid I have always loved spinach!
BR: What was the green light that moved you originally to change your bad habits?
TS: It was more of a gradual move. It began not just with yoga, but this practice of ease and relaxation within yoga, that really made shifts within my life. New York is a very intense place so a lot of the yoga reflected that. There is a lot of rules and structure, ‘this is wrong, this is right' within the styles of yoga and on the streets. I didn't find that easy, but I returning back to my practice. When I started practicing on my own and leading people is when it all came together.
BR: What happens when you get stuck within the process. When you are too overburdened with something, what do you do besides yoga that may help clear your mind?
TS: In the morning, simply sitting up in bed and breathing for a few moments is very beneficial. When I have a lot of things on my mind, the breath is there to clear my mind. The practice of my breath gives me a sense of ease and space in whatever issues are happening. I like to start meditating in the morning with a focus on my breath and my energy levels, which helps me to feel fresh.
BR: Go-to place in NYC?
TS: The local coffee shop around the corner from the studio :) West side high way too, I love it as you can just start feeling the breeze, getting in touch with both nature in the city.
BR: Favorite yoga pose?
TS: I love the strong yoga poses and I love everything that opens up the body, like dancer or pigeon.
BR: Do you feel overburdened with social media?
TS: Everybody can feel overburdened by social media. Take Strala for an example, I could easily be online 24 hours a day be on my phone doing ‘something that is really important and useful’ but it may not be.
I started using social media for Youtube and sharing videos, and now there's a different movement happening within social media. Its not that is better or worse, but not ‘real’ in a way. It may not be representative of what is happening in real life, ever. Even people I thought I knew well, after seeing their interests and likes on social media I learn something new. I think wow, I didn't even realize that they were ‘interested in arranging food all day long’ haha
Also, how many different pictures of a green smoothie do we need on instagram, how many yoga poses can you look at?
I think the importance of using social media it to think about ‘why am I using this’ and ‘what is my purpose behind this post’ and not getting swept away with whatever current rends are happening, and keeping in mind that most of the time, it’s not a good representation of real life (both good and bad).
I enjoy connecting with people. When I started making Youtube videos I made new friends and through videos I was able to offer something useful. Sites such as instagram or twitter I think are more informative. I don't feel they are as useful, as they are more external.
BR: What books have inspired you?
Siddartha by Herman Hesse
Ram Dass 'Be Here Now'
‘Make your own rules' which I recently published. This book inspired me with food and diet aspects of life. I tried to inspire people to notice how they feel when they eat certain foods instead of telling them how and what exactly to eat, and to not necessarily follow one diet.
BR: What is one ingredient you use often throughout the 'Make Your Own Rules Diet' book?
TS: I use a lot of almond butter and peanut butter! I am in the process of writing a book which includes 100 recipes from around the world. It's become apparent that you can use nut butters to make a bunch of different spicy sauces - they are for way more than just deserts and sandwichs haha.
BR: Any tips for aspiring yoga teachers out there?
TS: As I came from a conservatory dance background, I knew it was important to develop something of my own from all my previous experience and knowledge. I would suggest for any aspiring yoga teachers to work with your students every day and don't worry about how that ‘looks’. It can be your best friend or your mom, three people in the park. Putting your attention and consistent effort on those people will help develop whatever you’re going to end up doing, and also you'll end up practicing yourself. You'll see immediately what's working and what's not and this will help you to better understand your own practice as well.
BR: What is next for Strala yoga?
TS: It has been really cool, for the last few years it has been amazing to see that students want to learn the approach. Class sizes continue to grow, and the best part is that people are being healed. I get calls about people getting cured by a disease. But its not only yoga that is healing them, its that they are healing themselves by finding a connection to health and happiness within. Health is so diverse in lots of different factors, but all of these magical things happen when you look within yourself. This is very special, and one of my aims is to always make sure the quality at Strala stays really high.
We are continuing to put emphasis on our intensive guide programs that will offer students a high quality training program and allow them to share the practices of yoga with others with strong tools to help them succeed.
for more on Tara Stiles
BARBARA RAMOS is a creative writer who who runs along the lines of discovering what she truly believes in through the art of literature, yoga and the beauty of nature. She can picture herself in any strange city, with strange/interesting people, while always remaining true to herself. Her mission is to inspire yogis and writers as much as many have inspired her.If you don't see her reading the latest news and issue of Vogue at her favorite local coffee shop, she'll probably either be on the mat, on her bike or exploring nature with her Husky, always with pen and paper on hand. Follow her here: www.cestlulu.com