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Updated: December 13, 2013 18:27 IST

Stretch and twist

PREETI ZACHARIAH
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Strala Yoga
The Hindu
Strala Yoga

Tara Stiles talks on what makes Strala Yoga so appealing

Tara Stiles laughs. A lot. Almost impossibly slender with sculpted cheekbones and huge almond-shaped eyes, the 32-year-old creator of Strala yoga is extremely fit and exudes warmth, liveliness and joie de verve—proof perhaps that her version of yoga works perfectly.

“The word strala is derived from the words that I would use to define yoga—strength, balance and awareness. I put all those words together and I came up with the name Strala. Coincidentally, I found out later that it also means, in Swedish to radiate light. And that is what I want to do, what I am letting other people to do,” she says.

Tara, a former ballet dancer and model, who is here in the city to launch Reebok’s new Yoga collection, is known for making yoga easily accessible, unpretentious and inclusive.

Talking about it she says, “Often people don’t practice yoga because they are intimidated by it. I want them to get past that. The whole idea of strala is doing things with ease; you do hard things in an easier way here.

“We do use a lot of traditional yoga poses but there are also elements of meditation and dance. The focus is on the movement and breathing not the pose. We don’t push people into poses. It is a movement that has a lot of freedom. People are allowed to adjust a move, back out of a position if it doesn’t feel good and we don’t correct or adjust people. We allow people freedom to find their own approach,” she says.

Yoga puritans may dismiss her approach to the practice which is admittedly very different ( For example she plays Alcia Keye’s Girl on Fire in class) from the traditional one but she laughs it off saying, “Well I’m not saying that they’re doing it wrong but neither am I. There is room for all types of things to exist—if people like this, they will come. And they do.

“Critics do say that it’s not spiritual because we are not teaching the philosophy of yoga, we are not beginning and ending with om chanting. The thing is we want to be open and let people find their own spirituality, basically connect with the self. It’s more about your own personal spiritual experience than me trying to tell you what it should be.

And despite the critics, it certainly is hugely popular. From U-tube videos, to DVDs, to coaching Deepak Chopra and Sarah Palin, designing yoga wear and writing books, Tara is certainly doing more than her bit, to popularize the movement.

“I saw an opportunity to share information and do something that really helped people and they liked it, so I kept doing it. I’ve gotten hundreds and hundred of videos on U-tube, DVDs in collaboration with Deepak Chopra as well as on my own.

“I’ve always thought it’s nice to bring the audience into this kind of practice. “

Tara believes that yoga is a more holistic practice than conventional exercise and strongly advocates it to people trying to watch their weight.

“Any exercise is good—when your heart rate goes up and perspire you certainly look and feel better.

But it doesn’t deliver the cocktail of physical, mental and emotional well-being that happens with yoga practice. And when you feel that good, you make better food choices. That is the real secret weapon here though I must admit that because you move a lot, Strala is also a pretty good exercise too.”

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