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A Word On Tara Stiles, The New York Times and Yoga Snobbery

in MUST READS, YD News

Oh, hi! Perhaps you’ve seen the latest article in The New York Times, “Rebel Yoga” profiling NYC’s sanskrit-eschewing studio owner, model cum yogi/Deepak teacher, overall pleasant person, Tara Stiles, where YD got a special “Critics” corner quote. Heyyy! While we at YD feel it was accurate, let’s hang on 5 breaths, before we get our scrutinies in a scramble, and clear up this fun quote that was framed so nicely as to make me, JC, out to be a fascist yoga snob. The comment is, quite literally, commentary.

Critics abound. Jennilyn Carson, the blogger known as Yogadork, cites “deep practitioners who feel it is a disrespect to what the practice is” for Ms. Stiles to pitch yoga as another quickie weight-loss regimen. “It’s not a few minutes a day, it’s not fitness, it’s a lifestyle,” Ms. Carson said.

continued…”to practitioners who consider yoga to be a lifelong study.” You can read others’ passionate comments that were “cited” here. But, hey if that paints us as snotty yogarazzi in need of a neti cleanse, we’re pranayam-ers, we can handle it.

Anyway, we’re not going to continue splitting hairs. There’s plenty o’ controversy, varying approaches, and myriad types of practitioners in today’s yoga world. Some come to yoga seeking out a spiritual practice, some may fumble across it in Eka Pada Baddha Parivrtta Parsva Konasana, while others couldn’t give a flying crane about digging towards divinity and would prefer the physical high of chaturanga pushups (or Bikram’s berating, bless his heart). There’s room for all. But, heavens to Betsy, don’t expect us not to talk about it!

It’s yoga. Yoga is as yoga does. We’re proud to host a site where yogis of all kinds can come and share their voice. Let’s keep the conversation going. Why else are we here?

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Earlier

112 comments… add one

  • Glad to see your response, because when I read it, I was like, um… “I think this is taken a bit too narrowly.” Happy Sunday!

  • Emily

    I read the article, and noticed that Stiles thinks that her teacher training program was “crap.” So then, who else did she study with? What makes her teaching safe or enlightening in any way? Just because she’s a pretty model or a flexible dancer, she can keep students safe in class? If we don’t all agree with Yoga Alliance, that’s fine, but at least let your students know that you’re certified to teach them in some concrete way!

  • Yogini19

    I’ve actually been to Stiles’ class a couple of times now after spending time in different styles and with different teachers. While I personally enjoy some of the philosophical aspects behind yoga, I get that they’re not for everyone. I like the class to unwind and challenge my body. She focuses on breath, safety, and doing what’s right for each individual–not on looking advanced or trying to be a dancer. Just my perspective!

  • I just wrote a long, lengthy piece in response to that NY Times article on my blog. I actually linked to your American Apparel blog post in it. I hope you don’t mind if I link to my piece here…here’s a snippet:

    “The New York Times just published an in-depth profile on celebriguru and former Ford model Tara Stiles titled “Rebel Yoga.” The article tries to spin her anti-yoga-establishment approach as some sort of Robin Hood Does Yoga “rebel” streak, making her out to be some sort of noble, ego-less avenger on a mission to take back yoga from the mean, prudish traditionalists who want to keep yoga all to themselves.

    While I’d recommend reading the article, it’s not because I think Tara Stiles should be idolized. Nor do I think all of her intentions are entirely selfless. Rather, if you are a thinking yogi, you might find the article an interesting lens on the intersection of celebrity and yoga. And, if you are concerned about the exploitation of women’s bodies in yoga, you’ll get a glimpse into the mindset of one young women, who obviously capitalizes on her own body for her fame and fortune, while simultaneously being in denial about it.”

    http://namasteph.com/gurus-and-celebrity-yogis/the-controversial-yoga-celeb-tara-stiles-and-sexploitation-in-yoga/

  • Thanks for taking up the cause, Steph. Some of us who’ve been in this “conversation” before about all things Stiles (of the no bra fat/be a size 00 controversy – which the NYT completely avoided mentioning at all), are kind of over it. That said, there’s an awful lot to comment on about that interview.

    Then again, if YD got mis-quoted, I’m wondering if Stiles did, too. Even if I’m personally not in favour of the way she markets (yes, markets) yoga, it’s possible she hasn’t been presented entirely fairly, either…

    Of course, she DID write that terrible book AND talk about yoga “burning calories” (ugh) live TV, so I’m sure it’s not all just about how the interviewer used her comments.

    But not follow up post from me. Kinda don’t see the point. People like her will do whatever they like, anyway. The rest of us who do have extensive yoga teacher training (and didn’t think the training was crap), and who do put in the hours, and don’t feel the need to water yoga down in order to make it palatable to the “masses” will keep doing what we do, too.

  • wha, the NYT printed a partial quote out of context… no! ;) anyway, thanks for setting the record straight, YD! we need a little bit of yogarazzi to keep us on our toes ~ thanks for doing the dirty work!

  • I think there is space for it all. Strangely enough, these physical “fitness” styles often act as gateways to other forms, forms that are more holistic. I am personally not a big fan of way her brand is marketed (namely the books and CDs)- and I find it a bit incongruent with her youtube persona- but then again, she is targeting a very specific, and mainstream, niche.

    love the conversation! namaste!

  • Sabine

    After reading about Tara Stiles, whose conventionality is almost painful, I can so understand the “F#$k Yoga” sentiment going around.

  • Frenzy36

    Trying to judge Yoga in the western world by its origins seems such a waste to me. There will be evolution and change just by cultural interaction.

    Do we judge Dance in a similar manner? No we acknowdge the purity of ballet and enjoy the ethnic roots of many other dance styles and maybe even allow room for Zumba.

    I think the discussion around the article points out the problems that happen when we start judging concepts rather than results. I’ve had teachers that have immersed themselves inside ashrams and others that learned weekends over a similar time frame. Just like in business you can have your Harvard grad and Phoenix Online grad its what you do with that afterwards that matters.

  • Frenzy36, a good teacher knows that they don’t know everything. They also respect the teachers who came before them. Tara comes off like an arrogant 20-something who thinks she alone has all the answers. She thinks she doesn’t need training. When it comes to something like yoga, that attitude can be disastrous. She’s now setting herself up as a teacher of other teachers, and I think there is cause for legitimate concern that she’s not equipped to be training trainers just yet.

    I have a 200-hr Yoga Alliance certification. My training was top-notch, but it left me understanding how much I do not know. I am now enrolled in a 500-hr program. There is so much I need to learn – more anatomy, how to handle people with physical limitations, prenatal yoga, etc. And I teach yoga part-time for fun, not profit, and I have no interest in putting myself out there as a yoga guru.

    I have never stayed at an ashram, and don’t intend on ever going to India. That does not mean I discount the need for or benefits of study.

    Tara comes off to me as a bit reckless and caught up in her ego because of all the attention she’s getting. I’m sure she also have a very sweet personality on the outside, so the monster ego underneath all that is very well-hidden. I’m not saying she’s a bad person – I also had a heady ego like that when I was in my 20s. We all struggle with ego. But the extent to which she has not immersed herself in the spiritual lessons of yoga -which would alert her to the pitfalls of ego – shows in her cavalier dismissal of training by other teachers.

  • Namasteph,
    Some wise fellow over on linkedIn pointed out that no one is “certified” by Yoga Alliance. We are certified by whatever organization provided the teaching, and then if you pay YA some money you become “registered” with YA. YA is a registry, not a certification body.

    As for Tara, I don’t see any problems with what she does, and I have been to India and a couple of ashrams. My opinion of Deepok Chopra has taken a hit, though.

    I have noticed a lot of petty jealousy among yoga teachers of the “Why does she have so many more students than me when I have such superior knowledge and technique” variety.

    If there’s anything to learn from Tara, it’s marketing skills and focus.

  • Some people will never understand yoga. And that is something we must accept. Similarly people do not understand the wholeness of life and unfortunately for them this too is something we must accept. Al we can do is put one foot forward and focus on the inner self.

  • Amen sister! There is plenty of room for everyone in the yoga universe. Some of us are seeking a way of life outside the confines of religion in America today. Some not. As long as yoga helps you achieve whatever you are looking for in life, it has value. If fitting into the mold of sexy, thin, buff body brings you fulfillment, go for it! If a life path is your aim, we got that too!

  • Genevieve, how on earth does having a “sexy thin buff body” bring fulfillment? In Tara’s case, it did bring her fame and fortune, but young girls her age with high metabolisms don’t all win the Deepak Chopra Endorsement lottery. I’ve known pretty, young, thin girls who ended up in horrible lives as strippers with no futures. That’s what focusing solely on their bodies got them. (And yes, I realize some strippers do get degrees, but you never hear about the career strippers who don’t). It’s sad that women encourage other women in this shallow madness.

  • Everyone loves YogaDork!

  • Had to repost here what I said in response to Sadie Nardini’s question on Facebook about this…

    Personally I’m kind of tired of everyone ripping each other apart with how they teach and learn and preach yoga. I like things in my practice and teaching that other people don’t. I’m sure everyone here has something about their teacher that I’d dig or dislike. EVERYONE IS UNIQUE!! That’s why there are many different styles of yoga and different classes/studios/DVDs. If you don’t dig her approach, don’t follow her you tube videos and don’t go to Strala. If you like her and her yoga feels good to you, fantastic.

    Kind of done with the holier than thou approach and as long as she’s teaching safely and her students are happy why the h does it matter? At least the NYTimes is focusing on this healthy lifestyle approach, and kudos to Tara for finding her niche. I suspect that most of the people who criticize her are mad that she was able to accomplish success teaching yoga when they weren’t.

    My only dislike with regards to the article is that I felt the title of yoga rebel was wrong: as we all know there are other teachers.. Sadie, Kathryn Budig, Elena Brower who use social media to spread their teachings and gifts. They should have done more research and included these folks. If they had they would not have called her a “Rebel” but rather an example of the giving and savvy approach yoga teachers are taking these days.

  • “as long as she’s teaching safely” – That’s the issue, Nancy. How do we know she’s teaching safely? She mocks teacher training, and yet she’s started her own training school, where one of the big focuses is how much you blog and tweet about your yoga training. People do get injured in yoga classes. Anyone who sets themselves up as a yoga celebrity and guru has also set themselves up to be scrutinized. We can and should look to the self-appointed leaders of yoga and demand high standards of them. Absolutely.

  • I have no idea whether she teaches safely or not because I haven’t been to any of her classes. Therefore I am not judging her on her methods, her language or her style. This was merely my point… there’s no doubt that students have been hurt in yoga classes by some of our “so called appointed yoga leaders” whether they preach the safest methods of practicing or not. I’m just suggesting that unless she’s teaching something overtly harmful (which I doubt since she has a large enough following to get her a NY Times article) I don’t really see what’s wrong with her, I don’t get the hub bub. That’s all

  • As someone stated above, while it is possible that the NY Times misquoted her…the message Tara seems to be saying is “Yoga teacher training is crap! It’s useless – so I won’t bother with it…but wait, I’m going to offer my own teacher training program!” That does not concern you? That someone so young, with so little training, but with a big megaphone due to her celebrity, is off training yoga teachers? Sounds like hubris to me.

    As I said in a comment above, good teachers know that they don’t know everything. Yes, I am concerned when a famous yoga teacher who slams all other teacher training programs (even though she apparently only went to one in her entire life)…and shows little respect for the other respected teachers in the field…feels she is qualified to train teachers herself. It’s definitely concerning.

    All 200-hr teacher training programs that are approved by Yoga Alliance have rigid standards and are required to teach a certain number of hours in various aspects of yoga, including anatomy and yoga philosophy.

    Have you ever gone through a full 200-hr teacher training program? It can be quite challenging and grueling. It’s not something to be dismissed. I half wonder if Tara’s dismissal of her own program was not due to the fault of the program, but perhaps due to her unwillingness to sit through the boring study and memorization required.

    If she was not given her certificate at the end of her course, then she might be resentful. She certainly doesn’t give any indication of any of her yoga training whatsoever on her website bio – it mostly says that she’s famous because she’s famous. It’s not a list of accomplishments, it’s a list of press.

    If she was just teaching her own yoga classes, that’s one thing. Now she’s setting herself to train other teachers. God knows what misinformation she’s giving them. She sounds like she hates details…but you need that to know the very important anatomical issues that help make teaching yoga safer.

    So let’s put it this way. If I had my own yoga studio, and someone came to me who only had training from Tara Stiles, I would tell them to go to a real training program before I’d consider hiring them. And they could be nice, and have a knack for teaching, but there are liability concerns and I just wouldn’t trust their training – especially with what I’ve read about Tara and the fact that her training is not recognized by Yoga Alliance. (Yoga Alliance isn’t perfect, but it does provide some standards, which isn’t a bad thing.)

  • I only got so far in your reply to see the snarky “have you every endured a 200H YTT” response. I am SOOO bored by this whole shebang.

    and yes in response to you: i am 200H certifed, it took 10 months and I continue with training. I agree with her that lots of 200H programs are crap and I also thing yoga alliance has very little oversight.

    Is she right? Are you? I have no idea.. all I know is that I no longer care. I’m going to focus my energy more on my OWN yoga, my OWN students and teaching in a way that is authentic and honest and safe. Really shouldn’t we all be doing that instead of obsessing over some stranger?

  • Actually, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no proof that TS has done ANY teacher training herself. Because she refuses to name her (one and only) training, how can we be sure?

    It’s not uncommon for people to make things up about their qualifications. I’m not saying she’s done so, but then again I can’t say she hasn’t. There. Is. No. Proof.

    What’s more, like Steph said – only one training? I’ve completed a 500 hour training and the way I see it is that I’ve only just begun my teacher training. Since then, I’ve continued my studies as a student of yoga in regular classes as well as workshops, while teaching at the same time.

    When will I have learned enough? Never. When will I no longer be a yoga student, only a teacher? Never!

    Rules are there for a reason. As a few of us have discussed on FB, imagine if there were no rules around who pilots a plane filled with passengers? Say, I got my pilot training in a 100 hour online course. Surely I should be able to fly that plane because, “who made the rules”, right? Same goes with any job that requires care for someone else’s physical safety.

    Rules provide some level of assurance that actually, this person has met some kind of level of competency. Are all YTT’s good? No. But they certainly aren’t all “crap”.

    The other thing that bothers me is this: most teachers don’t start their own YTT programs until they’ve been teaching for YEARS. Now, how old is Tara? How long has she been teaching? Yeah…

    Nancy – it’s true, none of us know what TS’s classes are like. But based on what she’s had to say there’s not a chance in hell I’d go to one of her classes. Okay, wait. Maybe I would, out of curiosity.

    Anyway, I’m not a fan of yoga wars either (having been in previous ones). But heh, I do think we are entitled to our opinions and questioning. Again, like Steph said – Tara puts herself out there. She chose to be interviewed for that NYT piece. She makes ridiculous claims and seems to think that “on the job” training is better than anything a YTT offers (except for her’s, of course).

    She is offering herself up for both ridicule and for enjoying all of the notoriety she is getting from this. She isn’t exactly an innocent here.

  • Nancy (if you’re still here, since this bores you)…I checked your blog out, which is quite nice. I also read a post where you were talking in very humble terms about your own transition to teacher. Given your current level of training, would you feel ready and qualified to train other yoga teachers? So why should Tara Stiles be more qualified than you, just because she’s famous?

    I agree with Svasti – I do question whether Tara has had any formal training at all. Or, if she even completed her 200 hours if she did take it in the first place. She can do what she wants but I’d still question any training she provides. And since I’m not the kind of person to be impressed by celebrity for celebrity’s sake, I’m not going to give Tara a pass simply because she’s the mainstream yoga flavor of the month right now.

  • PS One more thing about this subject, and then I have to sign off! I think it’s good that we discuss these things. There are plenty of well-meaning people, new to yoga, who might hear of Tara’s celebrity and think that her training may be all they need to be highly qualified yoga teachers. Maybe they’ll do a little research on Google, read a thread like this, and think twice about it.

    I’m not even opposed to people taking her training, as long as they understand her background and limitations, and also get a more rigorous training sanctioned by Yoga Alliance. While YA can’t weed out all the bad programs, it at least gives a framework for what should be taught in a teacher training program.

  • Jen

    Just because you go to teacher training dosen’t mean you teach safely. Just because you teach an alignment oriented style dosen’t mean you teach safely. Honestly, it really isn’t the teacher’s fault if some student is trying to go too deep and they rip their hamstring. In the end, you are in your body, the teacher can not feel what is going on in your body, so you have to do what works for you.

  • Ann Pizer

    I totally agree with you Nancy, in that what irks me is the marketing of Ms. Stiles as a rebel. What she is doing, as far I can tell without taking a class from her, is essentially power yoga. Since when is it so difficult to find a yoga-as- exercise class?

  • Sarah

    Ha!!! Thank you Ann!!! This is how I feel! People are always going to argue over “whose yoga is the bestest in the land,” but the thing that really irritates me is the fact that the article calls Tara Stiles a rebel. Tara Stiles is kinda doing her own version of power yoga. Which is great if you like it, but not so much rebellious or new.

  • It’s interesting that the NYT article points out that “the ‘sacrum’ is the low back” as showing how non-intimdating Tara Stiles is making yoga teaching . No, wait – it’s not interesting, it was the most depressing thing in the article to me. Sacrum is the anatomical name for one part of the body, and low back is general usage for a larger area. That’s not woo-woo stuff, as I can understand some might see the chakras as, but physically concise information. If you are just focusing on the physical aspect of yoga, not the spiritual, shouldn’t you use legitimate terms? I know sacrum comes from the same Latin root as sacred, but jeez, that’s no reason to chuck it out the window in teaching.

  • Monica

    Jessica, that struck me, too. Why is “sacrum” in quotes!? It’s an actual part of your body! Oy.

  • This is one of the many things that bothered me about the article. The sacroiliac joint is probably the area of the body that is most susceptible to injury when yoga is done forcefully or without an understanding of it. To lump it in with the low back as if “sacrum” is too esoteric a word for the masses is not only a bit insulting, but it can be dangerous. Destabilized sacroiliac joints are very common among the uber-flexible, and I can say from firsthand experience that these injuries are painful and debilitating. I not only use the word “sacrum” liberally in my classes, I give a demo on a spinal model that shows them the SI joint and the rest of the spine and how they can move their spines in ways that don’t compromise the SI joint.

  • abbylou

    Amen! I suffered through SI joint injuries for 4 years while practicing with teachers who did not focus on anatomy and stability. Finally, I started studying with a teacher who is very concerned with anatomy and I have been fine since. At the very least, these kinds of injuries interrupt and, possibly discourage, an in-depth practice. Studying with a teacher who has a thorough understanding of anatomy who can correct students when they are doing something unsafe is really important.

  • Stacy

    I think what the movement at large has is a terminology issue. Why not call yoga stripped of its tradition, and spiritual and lifestyle aspects, something else? YogaLite? YogaEsqe? Stretching? Working Out?

  • I’ve got a name for it: NOGA

    I.e., Not Yoga :-)

  • Stacy

    Nice! Or how about Yogah. Nice and relaxing and all that, but, um, noga.

  • Yogah is good….it also made me think of Yogarrrrghhhh

    ;-)

  • you ladies sound really nasty and elitist, exactly what the article talks about.

    yoga was created, by people, just like you. rules change, evolution happens.

    the body is involved in yoga, and if you practice yoga you obviously care about your body. yoga is stretching, it is a work out, it brings the body and mind together in the breath.

    the first postures found in the hatha yoga pradipika were based on gymnastics moves, the book even says so.

    why do you practice yoga instead of simply just meditating then???

    in regards to YTT, again, these rules were made my people, and why they have some authority over others, i don’t know. do you?

    questioning and changing standards is what makes things better, not worse. just because something has been done a certain way for a while, doesn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t be changed with time. also, yoga used to only be allowed to be practiced by MEN. but we, the west, have helped to change that, because we questioned it.

    you can have your type of yoga, and if you like the YTT, awesome. not everyone is going to fit into the mold. i didn’t like many aspects of my YTT, a lot of time i thought was wasted on chanting and metaphysical exercises that i don’t use in my instructing. educational services continuously need to be upgraded, just like the school system in america could use a face lift.

    no one is taking your style of yoga from you, so why do you feel the need to rob others of the word yoga?? very hypocritical, and you might even say “unyogic”.

  • How about “Ayurveda”?

  • april

    YOU GOT MENTIONED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!! CONGRATS!

  • Wow.. She’s no yogi by any means she’s a model that got into yoga. She’s part of the ‘new’ yoga. Give me a Crone any day.

    I love yoga and YogaDork. When I read that I was proud to ‘know’ you and what you say for the yoga community.
    xoxo

  • Rita

    Yoga is as yoga does
    Sit, stay, leave it !

  • “faux-ga.” just ’cause no-one else said it : ) GO, YOGADORK!

  • clem

    what kind of imbecile would refer to herself as a “dork”?

  • You’ve no idea. PLENTY of us! ;)

  • clem

    sorry for you, going through life seeing yourself as a ‘dork’!

    couldn’t you do something more with your time, like grow and become a person???

    or you could take bikram with lady gaga and her butch instructor, patricia, and get tattoos up and down your innerds.

    then, you’d just be a sicko, not just a dork! at least, you would have made some progress?????

  • It’s not your fault, you aren’t in on the joke are you? See Y is for Yogini’s comment at the very bottom of the comments here for a definition of dork. There’s even a world-wide map of people who identify as #yogadorks!!

    We don’t feel bad about ourselves, so there’s no need for you to. It’s a good thing to not take one’s self too seriously. You might even wanna give it a try!! ;)

  • mark

    Wow, I found all this today just because I have a seldom used e subscription to the NY Times! I’ve been practicing with MC Yogi and his wonderful wife and their crew of teachers in Point Reyes Station for a little while and hardly consider myself an authority on anything but I thought (perhaps wrongly) Yoga came out of 1000s of years of Indian spiritual observation/study. Doesn’t the spirit come first and our bodies merely a manifestation of the other? Don’t just about all what I’ll call New Age and many ancient sources say this? (You all know of Elizabeth Haich’s (sp) book , “Initiation”, right?) I don’t do yoga in place of religion – it HAS transformed my fifty-year-old body – but I’ve sure had some pretty amazing internal experiences since.
    The American Apparel Ads ARE in my opinion soft porn which I’m all for actually. Sex is just our (humans atoms in the body of the All That Is) little version of the act of creation, the Big (our little) Bang.
    The sad thing is that our culture changes everything into a product to consume and we’re all made (at least strongly encouraged) to fight for our little piece, the ultimate of which is to achieve fame which brings disproportionate amounts of money. (Oh, and we all want washboard abs too, Yoga can do that for you.) Yes, I’m jealous of Ms. Stiles AND I like to look at her. But is it (capital R) Right for her to (maybe) bastardize something with so much valuable tradition? I don’t know – I don’t really judge her for it (sorry but I’m gonna say it – “You go girl!”) but for the true (for me) value of yoga I’d probably rather practice with someone with a more traditional approach. MC Yogi (Nick G) is a young guy but his classes contain a spiritual element, along with the occasional hip-hop dancing.
    There’s room for all of it and these discussions are fun but we should all really be out there in the streets fighting the corporations (who are after all, us) so people can be housed/have food and our progeny can survive (or maybe not.)
    Facebook the new opiate of the masses.
    Sorry, too much coffee today. Powered by Peets!
    (what’s so funny about) Peace, Love and Understanding, _M

  • Yoda Girl

    My Spin,

    The universe is dynamic vs. static. No matter how much we resist change — the laws of the universe are exactly that LAWS. How we react to change tells us who we are as human beings. We are living in the age of sampling and leveraging. Some take the time to give homage to the past while others build their brand upon it, shape it in their own image, and keep on going. It’s probably always been this way. My point, each one of us has to be true to ourselves. And not take anything personal. The real truth is our teachers mirror who we are and/or who we want to be based upon our perceptions, values, and belief systems. On one of my 10 day silent retreats in an ashram, I was in a room with females who hated the rules. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. Me, I love the ashram amd all of it’s rules. For me, I waz there 2 fast from urban life. The outcome, we, banged and banged and banged. It was like, every year I returned, I ran into the same thing — until I surrendered. Recently, I’ve saw the same yogini’s. Nothing had changed in our behavior; however, something had changed in me. I felt we could learn from each other instead of banging into each other. I’ve got 500plus hours and raja under my belt. And the longer I practice, take CE courses, live, and teach — the more I want to be silent. Why? Every day is new and nothing remains the same. Who knows, 50 years from now, yoga may go underground again. Or, it could belong to the medical profession. now that’s an issue I’ve got my eyes on. More and more doctors are practicing and teaching yoga. And more and more scholarly articles are being written based upon empirical data. I read this book entitled, The Great Oom it’s a good read re the changing faces of yoga in America. And as far as India is concerned, would we yogini’s get jobs?? These days, I’m lovin laughter yoga. And, I definitely didn’t see that coming. Enjoy what we have. Including this blog for open dialogue. Her next TT training will be $1.500. Lets GO ^_~ The best class I every to was from a teacher unable to walk. She taught from the heart. The entire class was a prayer. It was so sweet, I kid you not — we cried, prayed, and opened upppp.

  • Heather

    ”should all really be out there in the streets fighting the corporations” Tara IS the corporation Mark. Yoga Journal is the corporation. That’s the problem.

  • Ryan

    I have quickly read the discussion here on YD and enjoyed it. It is good to see different viewpoints, some I like & others I don’t.

    I read the NYT article and felt like I was wasting my time.

    Then I looked at some of Tara Stiles videos…I lol’d, hard. So lame. So bad. Then I realized that SHE was wasting my time.

    Then I re-read the comments by Linda’s Yoga Journey. Linda now speaks for me.

  • I just read the New York Times article which brought me to your blog and I must say that I enjoyed reading the different points of view. I am not a yoga instructor but I do practice yoga. I like the spiritual aspect of my classes, including the om’s. I find that it balances out my life. That said however, when I first starting practicing I was a bit intimidated by all the yogis who knew all the poses by their sanskrit names. I just kept watching and trying my best to follow along. I eventually got it but I can see how it might put some people off. I think that their is a place for all types of yoga classes and all types of teachers. As long as students are constantly reminded to “listen to their bodies” so as not to hurt themselves I say to each his own.

    For me, I’ll stay with the more traditional approach because I get something from the whole mind AND body aspect.

  • Monica

    Well, Ms. Stiles is certainly skilled in keeping herself in the headlines.

  • Congrats, YD, on a mention in the Times! You may have been taken out of context, but it’s so great to see your love for all things yoga and intelligent debates about aforementioned topic being acknowledged and accredited with such a well esteemed publication. I love the constant dialogue on here; I think it’s light-hearted, humorous, direct, extremely un-biased, and thoughtful…
    Kudos to you and your great writing and coverage of the very diverse and always evolving world of yoga.

  • Yogini3#

    I came to yoga through the internet: instruction gave me a basic, mild, gentle takeaway—with or without meditation media. Then I tried a gym (YogaFit certified instructors) … then a(n elitist, Yoga-school-snobby studio or two). Tara’s empire came too late to claim me. And there are plenty of others like me all over the world. Like some other posters above me here, what synchronicity to have had such a narrow escape!

    P.S. No, I;m not Linda with the India trips; and I don’t have the money or leisure for an ashram. Can hardly afford yoga classes. But I do need a teacher (or Teacher) from time to time …

  • hf

    For a group of people who purport to live a yogic philosophy, there’s an awful lot of hatred, negativity and judgment oozing from these comments. I’m kind of disgusted.

  • First of all, I am not one of those nicey nice new age people who think that you must be pleasant, agreeable, and accommodating at all times. I also believe in being a spiritual warrior. And the war going on right now is for women’s souls. Tara Stiles contributes to the pornogrification of women yoga with her “come hither” yoga shoots (as Mike said above, “soft porn.”) She helps create a toxic environment for all women when she shows off her naturally skinny body and pretends that other women can achieve this. Having grown up with a skinny bod like that, I know is not something you get from exercise or diet, it’s just how you are when you are 20something. Books like “Slim Calm Sexy Yoga” lead to women feeling bad about their bodies, which in turn leads to anorexia or other eating disorders.

    So yes, we should speak up. And by trying to shut people down by calling critics “non-yogic,” you are trying to create a chilling Stepford Wife atmosphere where no dissent is allowed, just fake, smiling faces.

  • Ryan

    Me loves to troll.

    “awful lot of hatred” , Please, on freaking yoga blog!
    Try harder.

  • um…pornogrification? Because she’s pretty and wears short shorts? If she was a good looking man teaching a few short sequences on youtube with no shirt, I doubt you’d feel the same way. Quit slut-shaming women for being beautiful and proud of their bodies. Tara Stiles is fantastic. If you don’t like her, don’t attend her classes or watch her videos. Her videos, blog, etc. get more people interested in yoga, and that equals more business for yoga teachers and studios, which equals more accessibility to yoga. I have a feeling yogasnobs like namasteph would find a reason to hate tara stiles even if she wore loose pants and a nice turtleneck. She’s creating a “toxic environment”? Really? By being thin and into yoga? Seriously, let’s examine what is prompting these kinds of feelings.

  • monique r.

    I second hf but *applaud* YD at this even-handed response (in the post).

    Let’s not let YD get ahead of herself, there’s some “marketing” going on here- digging for news and often putting a negative spin on it– YES THERE IS A HUGE AUDIENCE FOR THIS SEE: PEREZ HILTON, THE SUPERFICIAL). YD is bitter and dependant on “authenticity” (which is an incredibly relative idea and often thrown around by nasty politicians, ahem, Sarah Palin), but I’m going to read it anyway because ultimately, YD is a good Yoga news feed, you don’t have to jive with the opinions or “marketing”.

    I also noticed how in a previous comment I left on a YD post about Tara Stiles, I talked about Bikram Choudhury and how that’s the actually shitty thing going on, YD caught on and starting talking about that as well. I’m not saying there should be no criticism but you have to know what you are talking about before you go flailing it at everyone. YD, I love ya! but you gotta do better.

  • That’s why I love YogaDork. Inspiring, respectful without giving an intimated vision of this discipline. I never think about stretching when I go to my class, I think about the breathe it repesents in my life. But adapting all the things we didn’t created for our western needs is..an old habit. I disagree with this, but I will not the one to fight against it.
    I like to define my self as a non cliche yogi ;-) http://www.scoop.it/t/yoga-for-the-non-cliche-yogi
    (I love to curate this page. If you have good contents, please suggest it to me!)
    Axl

  • Arthur

    Hey monique, do you have a blog so we can check out your awsomeness or do just leave breathless comments like the troll above your post?

  • mark

    Heather, I understand/agree. But if they came to you would you take the money? I think I’d have to…?

  • Interesting comments, all. I’m a bit late to this discussion, but here are my two cents: I don’t know Tara Stiles, so I can’t really comment about her teaching or training in any sort of informed way. I was a bit surprised by her characterization as a “rebel,” because I don’t see what she’s doing as being particularly rebellious in relation to the culture we live in. Presenting yoga as a way to look slender and sexy is in fact the same old thing we see every day on the covers of women’s magazines at checkout counters. Mainstream yoga is entirely about exercise. Some classes sprinkle an OM or two, or some chanting into the mix, but for the most part it’s all about getting a workout.

    As for the discussion about qualifications, I’ve been practicing since 1982 and teaching since 1986. I continue to learn, and hope to maintain my beginner’s mind for the rest of my life. Life is much more interesting when we realize we don’t know everything there is to know! I take workshops from longtime, highly experienced teachers every year because I feel there’s always a new way to understand this vast practice. Do I feel ready to teach my own training? Just about. (I’ve co-taught trainings with Donna Farhi, but never felt ready to teach my own.) I guess we all have different comfort zones. Mine is perhaps the other extreme!

  • http://wp.me/pJNgg-4q <– blogged about this whole thing and the comments here and elsewhere. Thanks so much to my pal YogaDork for creating the forum and stirring the pot! Love you lady!

  • Gretchen

    I’m sure that Tara means well but it’s too bad that Tara needed to trash other studios and teachers to make her point in the article. She does comes off spoiled with a sense of privilege in the Times. I wonder if this is what teachers and students were picking up on when she felt they were “mean girls’.

  • Hello,
    Lovely, Yoga Dork, yes!

    Amazing.

    Physician yogi grandpa guru wrote 300 books for us, and they are
    free books from http://sivanandaonline.org/html/sadhanapages/e-books/e-books.shtm

    To fill in the blanks in lots of questions we might have where yoga can help answer, such as WHAT BECOMES OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH, and many tomes that lead you into the coool, I mean, wayyyy cool world of the ancient Hatha yogi alchemists like Matsyendra, who knew other profound and very, very VERRRY
    intellectual things….for those who practice, who want the goal not the buzz of current and fragile, impermanent fame.

    Try THE SCIENCE OF PRANAYAMA for the total cool and super hard to master breathing exercises that will take you to freedom of spirit forever.

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  • Sam

    @namasteph

    Me doth think thou protest too much

    Only coming upon this story and its postings today, I am a bit late to the discussion. However, it seems Tara Stiles’ yoga has touched a nerve in some of you – the yoga purists/traditionalists. You remind me of conservative and traditional Christian who I used to rub elbows with when I went to church (I’m an agnostic now). “eeeewww, those new songs we have to sing at church.”, “I can’t believe we have women ministers now. This is against God and the church’s teachings!!! “No one gets down on their knees during the church service to pray anymore. They just sit there and pray. This isn’t what Jesus would want!!”

    TD is reacting to (and correctly in my opinion) the elitism, snottiness, and religious ideological zeal that has become the norm in western yoga centres. New age philosophy is mixed in too along with pseudo-nutrition preached at yoga students by teachers using their position as a soap-box. I teach yoga myself and concur with TD that there has to be another way to bring yoga to interested people. I have a loyal student following who often tell me how refreshing it is to not be preached to, spoken to about chakras, numerology, vegetarianism, etc. They are NOT aspiring ashram yogis. They simply want to de-stress, calm their minds, gain flexibility and strength and have a few laughs. If this doesn’t fit the traditional yoga paradigm, so what? Yoga adapts to the culture it inhabits.
    If you don’t like YD’s approach to yoga, stop reading about her and watching her videos. Move on.
    p.s. for those that want to explore why her approach strikes a nerve I suggest you use some of your yogic knowledge and explore within.

  • yoga – ( a way of life too brilliant to be defined by words )
    dork – “Someone who has odd interests, and is often silly at times. A dork is also someone who can be themselves and not care what anyone thinks.” ( from Urban Dictionary, with 11,876 thumbs up )

    check. check, check. check, check.

    ain’t no shame in my YogaDork game.

  • Right on, Lo! :D

  • Agreed, YIFY. YogaDorks unite! [geek out moment]
    Speaking of same, I humbly offer you the following:

    geek out – the act of becoming emotionally and physically aroused by the sight or the thought of a technicality of a certain topic of major interest. It resembles an “orgasm of the mind.”

    Yay for yogi mind orgasms! Err, what? You catch my drift…hopefully.

    Yes/No?

  • pam

    I didn’t take anything in the NYT article too seriously. After all, this is what has happened with yoga in the West….and this is all part of its evolution. And I do find some of the remarks here on YD a bit snarky and ‘emotional.’ At the same time, I understand the distaste for what seems to be a cheapening (of sorts) of traditional yoga and its values and tenets.
    What I did think was interesting was Ms. Stiles comment – “I did training in New York City to teach yoga,” she said. “It’s not useful.”
    I’ll bet she didn’t train at Jivamukti, or with Dharma Mittra!

  • Yogini33#

    Or even at a studio I used to go to, which shall remain nameless … because there is room for only one of those Queen Bee Yoginis in that neck of the woods … and it wasn’t going to be Tara Stiles.

    Again, probably not, because one of their chain studios co-opted her business model and they are friends!! Woo-hoo … !

    My guess is she trained out in New York’s Hamptons at that famous scandal-ridden place … be associated with Yoga Shanti? Puh-leeeze !

  • Yogini33#

    Oh, darn … maybe the online yoga club Yoga Shanti’s master teacher helps run would figure out who posted that last comment and I would be excommunicated from that site … !

  • pam

    you are wicked!!! love you!! hahahah

  • Congrats on the NYTimes mention!!! I just blogged about this too – it’s pretty shocking stuff, Tara’s perspective and mass-marketing yoga tactics. Not something I love to see but I also can’t stand to see all the yoga angst! I say let’s make peace with the yoga rebel, because even those people out there doing yoga to get that “slim, calm, sexy” body are finding happiness and happiness spreads far and wide!

  • Hey don’t worry, y’all! Yoga Dawg and I have created an even more streamlined yoga teacher training. It’s gonna be all the rage, I promise! Check it out!!

  • Yogini33#

    Yeah, I just did … !

    The first one (free sample) says:

    #yogadork.bit.ly “Most important rule (& the last remaining): Fake it till u make it”

    The price looks right at about, er, U.S. $299 ?

  • Yogini33#

    I meant to say: #yogadawg.bit.ly “Most important rule (& the last remaining): Fake it till u make it”….

    Yoga DORK is not affiliated with such training …
    Although I love Yoga Dork’s take on such things as well!

    The Dawg is not in NYC, though …

  • Yoga is not a lifestyle. It is a process, as well as a particular psychological state.

  • i think i’ve gotten lost on a back alley by the beach of a converted motel i think i once stayed in back in the late 60′s or early 70′s here in galveston, and am having even more trouble where the thread is flowing, but will and do gladly follow ms dork’s own words on this:

    “Let’s keep the conversation going. Why else are we here?”

  • sammy22

    So, an attractive, charismatic young woman is teaching Yoga. People are enjoying her classes and are willing to pay for that experience. She appears to focus on the health aspects of yoga.

    Terrible!

    From reading the comments on this post, I see that the young woman has been accused of being a pornographic performer, lying about her credentials etc. To paraphrase one comment: We. Don’t. Know. No you do not. I am amazed at this logic. WOW. There seems to be a heck of a lot of speculation regarding Ms. Stiles – not actual fact. I would never want to meet some of you in a dark alley. Shame?

  • There are so many amazing and wonderful benefits to yoga. As a teacher I work with such a vast range of people seeking totally different things, and the beauty is almost all of them are able to find some sort of healing, be it spiritual, emotional or physical. Every day there is a new style of yoga, because our needs as human beings are constantly evolving. We cannot base our practices solely on what we were taught in ancient scriptures. You might as well call it a religion at that point. The point is everyone is searching for the same answer, but taking different routes to get there. Maybe at this point physical development is all she or anyone taking her classes is looking for, I can’t say because I am not inside their heads. I have plenty of students just like that and I myself entered into yoga as a means of physical therapy, never with the intention of making it my life. Allowing myself to be open to that physical transformation eventually led to an awakening of the mind and spirit, as well. Not everyone is ready for that sort of leap, however, so I would personally rather someone take the steps forward to improve their physical health than never walk into a yoga studio at all.

  • Rebecca Jo
  • what a nicely put post, thank you ;-)

  • Marina Johnston

    In the UK CYoga , http://www.cyoga.co.uk, is considered the yoga that shows there are no rules. I always relish the CYoga Classes when in London – such a breath of fresh air.

  • Fulana

    What deliberate gossipy ignorance! One google would tell you the curriculum for the Strala TT & you can compare it to the usual guest lecture from an alternative practitioner who espouses theories of dysfunction/healing against all scientific evidence(homeopathy, rolfing, myofascial release, etc.) http://stralayoga.blogspot.com/

  • I don’t have an opinion about Tara Stiles as an individual or as a teacher; I do have an opinion about the uproar that some American yoga teachers actually manage to make a living because they are smart and market themselves well. (Please don’t assume I’m saying that teachers who don’t teach safely should be praised, or encouraged; I’m not addressing that larger problem right now.) The truth is it’s a small percentage of teachers that manage to make yoga their career because it requires incredible dedication, marketting savvy, and connections and money do help.

    I personally admire teachers who have not only the passion and the knowledge, but the “dedication” and “marketing savvy” to make this career path work. Also, I think there’s room to market to people who are primarily “body obsessed” and there’s room to teach a yoga that really is more based on the roots of the practice, “Yogas cittas vrtti nirodah” – Yoga is the modification of the fluctuations of the mind-stuff, or yoga basically is the quieting of the mind. I do think it’s easier to market to the “body-obssessed” because the body-obssessed guess what spend more money on their bodies. And for those of us frustrated in general with where money goes in this market economy and why, I guess we need to look to our communities and ourselves for solutions.

  • lessmess

    Deepak Chopra and Tara Stiles come off as the John McCain and Sarah Palin of yoga.

  • I think all forms of yoga and ways of messaging about it help us all to become healthier and wiser – Jasmine

  • yoga helps us all become healthier and wiser

  • Fulana

    Jasmine and yoga teacher philadelpia, that’s like saying all forms of medicine or health care or religion or suffering or success or war or life help us all become healthier and wiser–you’ve made the definition of the words you use either so wide as to be almost meaningless or specific without specifying, so everyone ca think they agree, even if in practice real life they have important differences based in values and assumptions. Bikkram is not the only yoga teacher who “gives the americans what they want” as he famously proclaimed(in his case a boot-camp style), he’s just more honest with himself & others about his motivation & marketing plan. Other long time experienced teacher trainers have observed that the style/school of yoga that individuals are attracted to is exactly what they don’t need & exacerbates the stresses, imbalances, and potential for injury in their lives. “Type A people are attracted to power yoga, when what they need is restorative,” one told a workshop. “90% of my students are Vata” said a power yoga with rock music master to teacher trainees. He offerred us a Yin Yoga workshop which the highly competitive trainees found excruciatingly difficult. In the years since, I have not seen Yin Yoga offered on a regular basis at any of the many many studios in this highly competive handstanding area(including his;)) but I do know that pain & injury treatments are considered a normal part of “advanced” yogis life, while pranayama is not. I think Yoga Dork is trying to practice ahimsa and credit her for that, I just don’t agree that Tara’s gentle functional how to do yoga at your desk, in five minutes, in your hotel room with a cheerful easy video is harmful. I think for many people it’s a blessing! The striving and pushing for physical perfection is pervasive in the yoga industry. Address this at the studios you go to, YogaDork! What kind of outreach & population do they focus on & make welcome with a variety of opportunities?

  • This is great! When I first started yoga and didn’t truly understand the full impact it can have on my life, I too thought it was just about stretching and working out. But, once I truly understood the power of the poses and breath, my views have changed completely and I’ll admit, a bit saddened by those that take the practice and turn it into something that is marketing friendly. To each their own I guess as you insinuated as well.

  • There’s a lot thats going on in the yoga world right now that I find embarrassing, mostly because people read about stuff like TS and try to talk to ME about it. Because I do yoga. It sucks. I’ve looked at her DVD. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but there’s nothing outstanding, or better than C+ about it either. Yes, it’s all about marketing and it makes me even more embarrassed to be seen on the subway with my yoga mat than I was before.

    I don’t think yoga makes the world a better place really, and I’m not after the divine in myself or in anyone else. I’m an atheist. I do know that yoga helps me be a little more realized as whoever Sharon Frost is in the first place.

    I could give a rat’s ass about looking better in a bikini. But I do love it that it’s making my bones denser, when so many of my contemporaries are losing bone (I’m in my 60s). And it helps keep me from falling down the stairs. And I’m addicted to handstands. Who knows, maybe I’ll do them in the middle of the floor by the time I’m 70.

    I think the comparison with Tracy Anderson in a previous post is quite apt. TS and TA: now that’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

  • jj

    TSA

  • Better to be a Yoga Dork than to be a Yoga Persona.

  • sofie k

    yoga is for everyone. if someone wants to do yoga for the deeper meaning that they understand it to be all about, cool. if people want to do it just for fitness, cool. why is one “better” than another. it doesnt make anyone a better person because they are spiritual or not.

  • Lee Somerset

    A true snob is one who looks down on others for not following their particular lifestyle choices, like on Sh*t Health Snobs Say (http://youtu.be/5iIFpTwcaak) on YouTube. That’s a perfect example of a snob. There are many of us who don’t judge others because their choices are different than our own.

  • A$anajunkie

    Hey, her classes rock. Pretty cool.
    I think I am going to do yoga instead of reading this blog. Its been fun for the last two hours.
    Lots of good stuff, some stuff I wonder about. But practising is where its at.

  • Oh, dear. The sadness that can occur when part of your quote is left on the cutting room floor. No fun! And you’re right “yoga IS as yoga does.” I was lucky to have fallen in love with yoga via my grandmother who started in the 60s. Way back then, she would do shoulder stands in rest stop/McDonald’s bathrooms during long drives and just got on with her practice her own divine way. If people looked at her funny, her mantra was, “Who cares?” And it’s a divine thing, too, to embrace all people who love yoga… No matter why/where/how they do it.

  • I’m one of the people who couldn’t give a flying crane about the divinity from yoga and just like the relaxing effect.

  • Silent

    to quote: “We’re proud to host a site where yogis of all kinds can come and share their voice. Let’s keep the conversation going. Why else are we here?”

    Your pride is your trap. Your ‘conversation’ is distraction amounting to nothing. All of your noise serves no one and only emboldens the ignorant. Aum.

  • Ed Spyhill

    I applaud and support Tara Stiles. What is needed is a “Yoga” system that does not use the word “Yoga” so those of us that will never study Hinduism, study the Vedas, chant to the pantheon of Hindu gods, tattoo our bodies with Hindu deities (Jeez, that’s respectful) can practice “Yoga” in peace.

  • Shamanic_Rite

    We already have a phrase for it. It is called movement with breath awareness … MwBA as an acronym?

    Pilates, as far as I know, has not laid claim to that name/phrase …

    That being said, there is a skyrocketing market for it – no Sanskrit, no confusion, no having to study the Yoga Sutras or the Gita …

  • Emily

    I’m sorry, I have to say something. There are so many non-dogmatic styles of yoga– for example, the vinyasa flow tradition I was trained in never MADE us study any ancient yoga texts; it was all your choice. I think most styles are like that. A twenty-something former model did not invent those concepts, buddy!

  • Yes, it’s been years and years since I’ve seen a chant in a yoga class or a meditation on a deity. And I take yoga classes all the time.

    This is such a straw man argument. Beth Shaw tried to use it to when she started YogaFit.

  • Shamanic_Rite

    Must be karma, then. I seemed to have found yoga classes all the time (including a Beth Shaw YogaFit instructor at a gym) that included chanting, philosophy, and intention-setting … maybe there are a lot of YogaFit teachers trained in vinyasa first …

    I have yet to go to a pure MwBA class … most of the MwBA classes are called “yoga”, online …

  • Ed Spyhill

    Sharon: Well, let’s not get completely fixated on just invocations/chants. I find it depends on the type of Yoga and the teachers. One Ashtanga teacher I studied with does the beginning invocation (long) and that one usually translates to devotion to a guru. I never could memorize it. Not all my Anusara teachers do the Anusara invocation but I actually say it silently if it is not chanted, which surprises me. No one, least of all Tara Stiles, is saying Tara Stiles invented something.

  • Ed Spyhill

    Okay, pal. Nobody is saying a “former model” invented anything. She simply teaches without the Hindu “limbs”.

  • Emily

    I’m really not trying to be confrontational, just wondering: without the spiritual aspect (and that doesn’t have to mean chanting or intention-setting) or the mind-body-spirit connection, what separates yoga from calisthenics? I understand what Tara is selling, but to me, her style drains yoga of all of its rich dimensions– the meaty stuff that draws people into their bodies and minds.

    If “yoga for the masses” means yoga-like exercise, there’s nothing left!

  • Ed Spyhill

    Apologies for my being a smarta$$. I think the spiritual aspect of Yoga is always there. I don’t think we can avoid it. I find that practicing Yoga in a group to be spiritual, and yet my solo home practice sessions go into the same zone (until my cat decides he wants fresh food). I remember reading years ago in the book “The Inner Game of Tennis”, and the author said “sport is a western Yoga”. I worked with a couple of guys from India, we ate lunch together most days and discussed a wide range of topics. They thought it was somewhat humorous westerners could practice Hatha Yoga without the religious component.

  • Monty

    Ahahahaha, ya’ll are obsessed with Tara Stiles on this blog.

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