Health & Fitness

By Erin Brady

What Health & Fitness Editor wouldn’t be inspired to learn more when a yoga instructor’s motto is “slim, calm and sexy” and her claim to fame is that she was Deepak Chopra’s personal yoga instructor?! Well, I for one definitely had to learn more once I came across Tara Stiles’ Web site for her yoga studio, Strala Yoga. Tara, along with her yogi-husband, started Strala to provide a studio where authentic yoga is available to everyone without the pretension or intimidation factor that has surrounded the modern yoga culture. All of Strala’s classes are just $10, so everyone can get a great workout, health and well-being for practically nothing. Strala’s classes build strength, balance, focus, and awareness. The classes are open to everyone and are designed to provide the right challenge for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Tara helps you deepen your practice, create balance and enjoy yourself along the way.

I could tell from my first class that Tara is a different kind of yoga instructor. She’s down to earth, friendly, relaxed and all around just a cool person. Her philosophy is that anyone can enjoy and practice yoga and this is what has made her so popular with New Yorkers. Intrigued? So was I, so I asked Tara some of my burning questions below:

1. What is your background and what form of yoga do you teach at Strala?
I grew up doing yoga-type things. My family lived in the country and I spent a lot of time hanging out in trees following my breath and feeling connected to the world in that happy, yoga way. I was introduced to the formal practice of yoga in my teens while I was studying classical dance. Hatha yoga was part of our weekly schedule and I then realized what I was doing in the woods as a kid I could continue with a formal practice. My ballet teacher noticed my bend towards yoga and guided me in the direction of his guru and studies, Yogananda. This was before “yoga teacher trainings” were a business and looked upon as a requirement to teach yoga. You just started teaching when someone asked, or the opportunity presented itself.

My “style” of yoga is simply yoga. At Strala we teach challenging classes, because we are in NYC and people need to create a healthy body and mind to be most effective. We offer Relax, Recover and Basics classes so there is something for everyone. The moves that I teach aren’t complicated. I keep the challenge in holding poses like chair and warrior 2 and keep people focused on the breath by moving through a simple series in their own timing. Everyone is welcome and the classes are self-explanatory. Yoga to me is a practical approach to maintain a radiantly healthy body and mind, and connect to our best self, our most creative self, and intuitive self, while dusting away the things that hold us back, emotionally, psychologically, and physically, along the way.

2. How did you become the personal yoga instructor to Deepak Chopra?
I was asked to teach yoga at an event, and Deepak was the keynote speaker. We’re both on twitter, so I twittered at him, that I was teaching before his speech. I asked him if I could tell my friends that he was my opening act, he agreed and we have since become great friends. Deepak also wanted to do a physical yoga iphone app but was looking for the right yoga teacher to collaborate with so we got to work on that the next day. He also wanted to get back into the physical side of yoga so I became his private teacher. He’s really fun to work with because he has a great sense of humor, and has a lot of patience.

3. What is your goal with Strala?
I started Strala out of a living room space that holds 20 people in 2008. We had one class a day (after work) and at 11AM on weekends. It grew steadily. It grew from word of mouth and I began searching for a studio. I know I found the right place when I stumbled upon my favorite first space I did yoga in NYC – the old crunch gym yoga room on Broadway where Strala is now. My goal with Strala is to provide high quality yoga and access to great teachers and influences at an affordable price.

4. What is your clientele like at the studio?
Our clientele is very colorful. We have wide range of all types of people from students, young working professionals, famous actors and other celebs, models, moms, authors, and even hip grandmas! Everyone enjoys the diversity. It’s fun to see all the different types of people hanging out in a warrior 2 for 1 minute sweating it out to Eddie Vedder. There is no pre-tense at Strala: everyone has a great time and enjoys practicing great yoga.

5. Can you give a preview of what your new book is about?
Slim, Calm, Sexy is a modern guidebook of yoga. My aim with the book is to present an approachable, easy entry into the practice of yoga and de-mystify a lot of the miscommunication of modern yoga. You get slim, calm and sexy when you practice yoga regularly. That’s just what happens naturally. There are routines designed for everything from de-stressing, to weight loss, to better sex, to hangovers. The book also includes a lot of the science, that is finally catching up to prove to us what the ancient yogis already knew, yoga really does work to cultivate and maintain a radiantly healthy body and mind that puts us in touch with our creativity and intuition.

6. What is your standpoint on nutrition and eating healthy?
Yoga and meditation puts us back in touch with that intuition that gets clouded by our psychology and life experiences. It’s important to live, and enjoy food. I grew up eating vegetables out of the garden so I was lucky to know from a young age that fresh foods not only taste better, but also are the best things to eat. Food is fuel for life. We can only operate our best when we take care of ourselves.

7. How often do you think women should practice yoga to see real results?
There are simple things you can do every day whether you are in a yoga class or not. 5 minutes of meditation in the morning, or a few moves to de-stress from work will help put you in the yoga-zone all the time. 5 minutes of meditation at home helps so much with un-healthy cravings, dealing with stress, as well as tapping into our own creativity and intuition. If you can get to a class, or do a DVD at home, 3 times a week is a great amount that will really impact your life for the positive. If 3 times a week seems impossible, start with 1 and work your way up. Best thing is to be consistent and keep practicing.

For more info on Tara and her new “Yoga Anywhere” DVD, visit http://www.tarastilesdvd.com

For more info on Strala Yoga and for a class schedule, visit: http://www.stralayoga.com.

Strala is located at 623 Broadway on the 4th floor, 646.331.1028.

Originally published August 2010
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