Yoga tips: Tara Stiles on rethinking your yoga practice

Yoga tips: Tara Stiles on rethinking your yoga practice

Feel the flow

Text: Denise Kok

Celebrating the intuitive aspects of yoga

When you walk into a studio at Strala Yoga, the first thing that strikes you is the distinct lack of mirrors. The room isn't heated either. "There is no need for us to heat the room externally because you are moving in your own body and we don't want the heat to prohibit your movement," says Tara Stiles, the American model-turned-yogi and founder of Strala Yoga. Stiles cuts a svelte figure, one visibly toned from the hours she's ploughed on the mat and gracefully elongated by her years of ballet practice. When you watch her flip effortlessly into a handstand — her big toes touching at the apex of an inversion supported by an unwavering core — it's easy to understand why many have left other yoga studios to pursue the Strala philosophy of yoga.

In many ways, Strala is to yoga what Apple is to technology. To Stiles, rules are truly meant to be broken. Strala Yoga might be based on the fundamentals of yoga itself, but it strips away the centuries-old practice of its conventions and traditions. Here, the physiological benefits of yoga are divorced from the spiritual aspects of the practice — something that doesn't sit well with purists. "The magic of Strala is that people feel like they can be themselves. There's no pressure to do anything that doesn't feel good. It's very feeling based," says Stiles. That is not to say that the classes lack structure. Strala, if anything, attempts to free students from a goal-oriented mindset, and encourage a more intuitive approach to yoga that moves at a pace dictated by the student's anatomy.

If you're ready to rethink your practice, take a look at these yoga tips from Tara herself:

1. Focus on yourself

Don't be distracted by words or photos on the wall. Don't look to others in the room. It's all about following how you feel and doing what feels good for your body.

2. Open your mind and your body will follow

I have friends who have had all sorts of misconceptions about yoga or even about themselves: I'm not flexible, it's against my religion, my body is not made for yoga. I noticed that people have a block in their mind about themselves and that's the only thing holding them back. When I worked on a session with a friend who couldn't touch her toes, I got her to soften her knees, sway from side to side, and reach a little further — and she did it.

3. Your yoga class should keep up with you, and not the other way round

Yoga classes are like a cup of water. The glass provides the structure for the class while the water is the class itself. When I lead a class, I help people to move according to how they feel. There's also an important reminder to feel and listen to your body. If you feel like you can't execute a move, don't force yourself into it. Try a beginner or modified version of the pose. 

4. Forget the esoteric speak

A yoga teacher is present to help you achieve your goals. For those of us at Strala Yoga, we think of ourselves as the Hemmingway of yoga; we try not to say too much or say anything that doesn't make sense. Instead of speaking in a language that is too ethereal, we want to help you get from point A to point B with the clearest instruction possible.  

5. Enjoy the process and maintain your practice

Don't forget to have fun while you're at it. Enjoy the class, follow how you feel, and keep that process going. I started making Youtube videos back in 2006 because I wanted to help my friends who travelled a lot. I have all these routines that are just five or 10 minutes long. They are short but they help to get the blood flowing. The idea is to keep your practice regular. Even if you're in your hotel room, just sway a little side to side and do a little stretching.

Curious to give the classes at Strala Yoga a whirl? Drop by the Strala Singapore studio at 36 Armenian Street #01-04 and #02-04. For more information, click here