Tara Stiles: She's No Poser

We speak with the reigning yoga queen

You may recognize Tara Stiles from her recent New York Times interview or cheeky YouTube videos like “Couch Yoga.” But what this 29-year-old former model turned yoga instructor, is trying to achieve is far from a joke. Indeed, Stiles' New York City studio, Strala Yoga has recently become all the rage, attracting everyone from burly firefighters to Jane Fonda.

It's not hard to see why. Stiles’s noncompetitive anyone-can-do-it brand of yoga focuses “on the physical and health aspects of yoga, not the spiritual or the philosophical.” To get the full scoop, we spoke with Stiles. Here, her thoughts on everything from fashion to hangovers:

Your childhood ballet instructor introduced you to yoga. Did you fall in love right away?
I was a strange kid. I’d go off in the woods and meditate, then come back and tell my parents we are all connected. So, when I started doing yoga, I felt like I’d been doing it all along, just not how other people did it. When I was 17, my ballet teacher noticed my interest and gave me the book, Autobiography of a Yogi. I studied it and a year later, I moved to Manhattan with Ford Models. They had jumped on the YouTube bandwagon and asked the models if we could create content. I said I could do some yoga videos.

Who is your YouTube channel's target audience?
People like my Midwestern family, who thought my interest in yoga meant I was going Hindu or something. The truth is, a lot of people go to a class and don’t connect with the teacher and get turned off, or they think they have to become vegan or religious to succeed. Also, there are so many different kinds of yoga that people don’t even know where to start. My goal has always been to make yoga approachable and fun.

You named your yoga studio Strala. What does that word mean?
My husband Mike and I came up with it – it’s a mush of the words “strength,” “balance” and “awareness.” I later discovered via a Google search that Strala is Swedish for “radiates light.”

What does your style of yoga offer that other don’t?
Well, our teachers don’t give a talk at the beginning or end of class; they walk around and give adjustments. The vibe is very focused on the people in the class, not the teacher. It’s not at all competitive. We encourage the opposite, actually, without being lazy. We also play good music, like Eddie Vedder and Zero Seven.

One of your YouTube videos is called “Yoga for Hangover.” So, we're curious. What pose should we try the next time we’re hurting?
Twists are great for wringing the alcohol out of your organs. If you can’t get out of bed, just bring one knee to your chest and let it fall over to the opposite side for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.

You posed for an American Apparel ad. Many women take issue with the way that company portrays women.
I’ve always liked the company, the fact that they’re made in America, and their clothes fit me well. I met Dov (Charney, American Apparel's CEO) and went to his house. He took some pictures of me and a week later they appeared in an ad without my approval. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled, so they took them down. I told him I wasn’t interested in moving forward but I do respect his innovation. He runs a really interesting business.

What can yoga teach us about body image?
Yoga is experiential: You experience things from inside-out, not outside-in. It’s physical, emotional and spiritual fitness. You learn how to pay attention to yourself, how your body feels and get to know your intuition. People who do a lot of yoga are more likely to eat better and treat themselves better. If you can just let go of wishing you could fit in a certain size or stop getting on the scale and judging yourself externally, yoga feels great. And you can do it no matter what shape or size you are.

What's your favorite style of yoga? Chime in below!


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