Sunday, January 23, 2011

New NYT Piece about iPhone App Star Tara Stiles

The New York Times seems to run long yoga articles about once every quarter.

This time it's a piece called Rebel Yoga (a theme they seem to have latched onto and won't let go of), about aptly-named 29-year-old former model and Morris, IL native Tara Stiles, author of the 2010 best-seller, “Slim Calm Sexy."

The piece quotes a blog rant about the book by local yoga teacher Linda Sama.

I don't know much about Stiles or her book, except that I heard her once on Deepak Chopra's satellite radio show. She was teaching pranayama, and, according to my limited knowledge, it was not correct - which was a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

TARA Stiles does not talk about sacred Hindu texts, personal intentions or chakras. She does not ask her yoga classes to chant. Her language is plainly Main Street: chaturangas are push-ups, the “sacrum” the lower back. She dismisses the ubiquitous yoga teacher-training certificates as rubber stamps, preferring to observe job candidates in action.

In her classes, videos and how-to book, “Slim Calm Sexy,” Ms. Stiles, a 29-year-old former model with skyscraper limbs and a goofball sensibility, focuses on the physical and health aspects of yoga, not the spiritual or the philosophical. For traditionalists, this is heresy, reducing what they see as a way of life to just another gym class....

...Among yoginis, Ms. Stiles’s own training remains an enduring mystery. Someone’s yoga lineage — whom you trained with and where — is often sized up as closely as a thoroughbred’s pedigree. It can impress, or not. But Ms. Stiles, who said she has a 200-hour certification but refused to say from where because she does not want to sanction the program (it is also absent from her bio), believes much of the training available in New York and elsewhere does little to actually prepare someone to teach yoga, and can give people a false sense of confidence. “I did training in New York City to teach yoga,” she said. “It was absolute crap. It’s not useful.”

Yet, she offers teacher training, of a sort, at Strala. It costs $2,500, although she plans to lower it to $1,500, and it takes place over four weekends; 25 students have completed the course so far. Asked about this seeming contradiction, she said she was responding to demand. And, she added, her training program emphasizes practical knowledge and looking inward for strength, not toward a guru or leader for empowerment.

The article is entertaining and amusing - especially the fact that the "yoga rebel's" iPhone App is called "Authentic Yoga." So as not to confuse it with all of that fake, inauthentic, chant-y, Sanskrit-y, eight limb-y, Indian yoga out there.

The fact is, these newer American teachers and their user-friendly systems are bringing more people to yoga - not a bad thing, as long as they are not hurting anyone and are careful when teaching pranayama (which, ahem, would fall under the category of traditional yoga).

Those who want to be challenged and/or go beyond the physical will inevitably find the right teacher.

Actually, I'm far more concerned with Sirius XM Stars's decision to replace Deepak Chopra's weekend timeslot with nonstop Dr. Laura.

Now that's something to rant about.


  1. I read this article in the NYT this morning. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!It seems anyone wants to make a buck off of Yoga. Does Larry the Cable guy have a Yoga DVD?I wouldn't be surprised.

  2. ah, I haven't seen this article but depending on which blog I read my view of it changes. OH am I easily influenced. But why is it everyone wants to teach yoga? I certainly didn't want to teach when I started, like you, when my teacher suggested I take over after he left I was horrified at the idea at first. I've since gotten used to it, but am a little envious (in a good way) of those who can go to a class and just be a student.

  3. Boo Boo Bear10:25 AM

    I didn't anticipate liking the portrayal of Ms. Stiles, but upon reading the article I kinda liked her... the kind of person I wouldn't mind chatting with for a bit to find out more. She didn't seem arrogant and I found the being brought up by hippies/ meditating in the forest as a teenager stuff endearing.

    Is it "yoga"? Who knows. Being brought up catholic I'm aware of the holier than thou arguments of what is catholic and what's not. I know people who think pre-Vatican II stuff (mass in Latin and the priest's back to the people) is more
    catholic. I find the arguments silly. Has Catholicism been watered down? Has yoga been watered down? My
    question would be: what is the real life impact on people? Whether one studies catholicism, yoga, or ballet-If the practice is safe, does not harm others, and brings
    a person joy or peace, I say live and let live.

    (this debate btwn traditionalists and non-traditionalists seems to exist everywhere in society- in dance, religion, language, and even yoga! I had a classical piano teacher once who couldn't stand how piano was being taught! From her i learned to hate piano and scales. Years Later I learned another instrument in a non-traditional environment and reconnected with my love of music. )

  4. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Now an app for yoga is as dumb as can be. Call it modern yoga for retards.

  5. I think she seems rather sweet, too - and very good at branding!

    When people ask me to recommend a yoga teacher training program, I always ask why they want to teach. The answers are interesting. My answers are, too. I am no longer sending them to other people, unless they can go to Dharma or Chandra. Now, I tell them to take all the classes they can and then come to my training in the fall.

    Many yoga teachers come to my classes; more than a few of them cannot perform the basic postures, and I find myself retraining them (for free, since most teachers get free classes at the studios where they teach). So Ms. Stiles does have a point; trainings can be a bit of a joke.

    And yes, BBB, it seems there is always a rift and splintering at some point. It is good to find a teacher that resonates with where one is at a given moment - and to move on if/when necessary. And then there is the guru/disciple relationship, which is a whole 'nother thing.

    But I wish the word "asana" was used here, instead of yoga. As in, "I teach asana" (postures). Yoga is one of the major philosophies of India (actually, it is the science of self-realization), and in Hatha Raja Yoga, asana (the postures) is but one-eighth of a system. In the Gita, there's no talk at all of postures. And most of the saints did nothing more than sit with a straight spine. In America, though, "asana" and "yoga" are synonymous.

    As for a yoga app - I haven't seen it and can't comment on it.

  6. I wonder what's going on with that yoga talent agency... remember that whole thing?

    I read this article.

    I also read a lot about fake gurus over the weekend. I suppose just like with everything, there's a lot more out there that's superficial rather than truly deep & authentic. But then, if you're a person whose mainly interested in the next promotion, dressing to impress and status items, shopping mall yoga may be all you really want & need!

    Sometimes I wish I were that way. I might be happier.

  7. It looks like they're still going strong.

    Yes, this path seems much harder. In addition to that, I've been thinking about householder-yogis vs. single-underemployed-uninsured-renter yogis, and how different that experience can be.

    Sometimes I wish I'd just sold out (ie; had a regular job, and did this is a "hobby"). But it's simply not possible.

  8. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Groupon has come under fire lately for forcing small businesses to sell more discounted coupons than they can handle, causing financial strain and alienating regular customers. On the other hand, it can introduce a lot of new people to a business.

    I really hope it works out for you guys and that you aren't overwhelmed by new people who don't know not to walk out of class halfway through.

  9. For front page visibility, a business must offer a huge number of Groupons. YogaNow did but, but ended up selling just over 500 - so it should be OK.

    Also, the people who bought it have a whole year to start using it.