If you thought yoga was all chanting, chakras and awkward poses you can't pronounce, Tara Stiles is here to change your mind.
Named the "yoga rebel" by the New York Times in 2011, Stiles, a classically trained dancer and former model is the founder of Strala Yoga, a global studio that takes a simple, non-dogmatic approach to yoga practice.
She skips the Sanskrit language and names poses in English: savasana is corpse pose and chaturangas are push-ups. Her primary focus is for her students to "feel good" through yoga and meditation, not through philosophy.
And she is devoted to shifting the stigma and rigidity that surrounds yoga.
"People still think that yoga is too hard for them. Especially now in the digital age, they see these amazing poses on Instagram and instantly decide they can't do that, therefore they can't do yoga," Tara Stiles, yoga teacher and reebok yoga partner told The Huffington Post Australia.
I try to share poses lying on the ground, sitting down and breathing, simple things -- and that's yoga too.
Stiles explains the poses flooding our social media feed, which are actually meant to help you connect with yourself (which is essentially the essence of yoga) have become like this arbitrary weigh point.
"The vocabulary of movement in yoga is super vast. Your body moves in all directions during a practice and the poses are just one frame of that. They are not really the end point or the goal, but that's what we see in the pictures," Stiles said.
To dissolve this idea, Stiles said she likes to post images that are far less elaborate.
"I try to share poses lying on the ground, sitting down and breathing, simple things -- and that's yoga too," Stiles said.
The question she gets asked most? How to feel better.
"A lot of people are interested in stress and food now, particularly what to eat to feel better. But people need to feel better within themselves first, and then the eating part comes after," Stiles said.
Stiles, who has authored multiple cookbooks doesn't read into the superfood market.
"We all know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, but if you're not doing that already it's because of stress, busyness and other things happening in your life -- and that's where yoga and meditation can come in first, to make you feel better -- and then the food and recipes is the last thing."
Start where you are & improve every day. Works for balancing pineapples & everything else. We all go through phases where we think we should be completely different from who we are & what makes us tick. I hope your unnatural phase is brief & fleeting. All those crazy quirks & unique ideas, views & visions & dreams are only inside of you. Get comfortable with your weirdness & you will be wild, free & create all sorts of magic. 💫🌷😎✌🏼️🌏
Can't pronounce the poses? You shouldn't have to
"There's this idea with yoga that you have to learn a new language just to connect with yourself, which obviously puts a lot of people off," Stiles said.
Coming from a dance background, Stiles chooses instead to naturally instruct the movement, frame by frame, rather than use the Sanskrit language. For example, "soften your knees, step your foot back, press down with your legs, lift up and settle into triangle."
"It wasn't a conscious decision to not use Sanskrit words, but more of a practical decision to guide the movements in order to keep people in the present moment, instead of announcing a pose and expecting them to get into it," Stiles said.
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga
"Yoga is something that's already inside of you. When you practice you feel more connected to yourself which I think drops any worry that yoga is something that's 'outside of yourself', or something that you have to change or conform to," Stiles said.
Stiles began sharing YouTube videos of her yoga classes back in 2007 and recalls how some of her friends thought she was crazy, though now there are thousands of videos available and we have so much variety.
"There are so many resources and it's so widespread, if you don't connect with one style, you have access to so many more out there," Stiles said.
Yoga is a form of meditation
If you're someone who struggles to find the time to meditate, Stiles said there's no reason why we shouldn't combine meditation with our yoga practice.
"There are some ideas floating around that you need to do the poses, meditation and philosophy separately with one happening after the other. But I love this idea that you can concentrate on how you feel and pay attention to yourself through the movement as well."
"It's always a danger to say, 'do this, and don't do this' -- it's very individual -- your practice can be a lot more effective when you are open to different things," Stiles said.
If you're starving before a class, eat!
"There used to be this strict rule of you can't eat two hours before a class, but if you're hungry it's fine to have something simple like a banana or smoothie. Obviously you don't want to go overboard and eat a greasy hamburger, but if you're hungry, eat!"