I don’t care about Tara Stiles. She has videos on the online magazine Women’s Health which they will not stop sending me despite my request to remove themselves from my life. In my weaker moments I lack the will to delete without scanning though I know there will be nothing new in the Secret to a Longer Life or Five Super Foods You Can’t Live Without tips. So I have seen Tara Stiles revealed as the answer to yoga for everything. After she showed up a few times I learned to hit delete, not because she is horrible, but because she is nothing new and being slim is not a recommendation for a teaching video despite the inference that the yoga revealed will make you so. It will not.
But now The New York Times has described her as Rebel Yoga and that just makes me look bad. Or does it?
In the early nineties I created a class called the Bodymind Workout. It was a combination of dance and yoga choreographed to music. In those days music was not played in yoga classes and there was no class called yoga flow that I was aware of anyway. I was living in Los Angeles and the first time I saw a Vinyasa style class was when I was directed to a guy named Bryan Kest by a student who said Bryan was doing the yoga version of my class. I marched across the mountains to see what that could be about. (Hey! I created something unique. Don’t even talk to me about this poser Bryan Kest!). And there was this delightful guy leading a yoga class that MOVED like a dance. It was justification for doing yoga the way I liked to move and I’d never seen anything like it before. No one was questioning the purity of Bryan’s teaching which at the time was about getting people to challenge themselves at the edge of the physical plane in order to check themselves out. Maybe he should have had the moniker Rebel Yogi. But he didn’t, I did.
When I moved to Nashville I brought the Bodymind Workout with me. The name was getting used up and I had to dump it. Body mind, mind body was ubiquitous and shallow. So I called it Power Yoga (which later had to be dumped for other reasons) in homage to Bryan and began moving it into dancing yoga. I also taught yoga classes. I kept the music. But I had entered a strongly yoga purist town and many of those folks thought I was demonizing yoga. I thought they were the religious right of yoga and paid no attention. People were ready to loosen up and I ended up with a crowd of independent thinkers and well…. rebels.
Now I had done my yoga homework, studied hundreds of hours with senior teachers, did my reading, put my soul into the pursuit of learning a discipline but that didn’t mean I had to teach like everyone before me. And my students were ready for that. One night I named them Rebel Yogis and they said it was so because I was the Rebel leader. I ran with it.
In 2000 I created a calendar called Rebel Yogis: a Celebration of Students for the year 2001. I posed them in the walk of their lives and sent a copy to The Yoga Journal which they promoted. That got the attention of an author who was interested in one of my high profile clients and I ended up in the book Real Men Do Yoga. The Kripalu Center saw that and invited me to teach. Well, you can see where this could go. In my case it was nowhere because at the time I had no aspirations to joining the traveling circus of yoga superstars. I was content with my life and raising two boys. I thought the adulation of yoga teachers was silly. I don’t think I even thought of yoga as a career.
Still, if I had been a young single woman at a time that yoga was already big business and anyone’s game and purism was a thing of the past and I was thrown into the limelight perhaps I would have become a commercial name. It’s all in the timing.
So, I don’t care about Tara Stiles fame or take on yoga. She’s not alone. She knows how to work the system which she clearly enjoys and she’s not hurting anyone. I can’t believe she has the nerve to call yoga slim, calm and sexy but I’ve got to say she’s walking the talk in the calm way she just follows her path. And after all, who am I to judge her? I used yoga in a class called the Bodymind Workout and if there’s one thing you could count on feeling in that class it was sexy! Despite the attention to sex and yoga these days, the fact is that sexiness is not necessarily about sex as much as personal power. But that’s another topic.
(Published in Elephant Journal)