Mindfulness suffers when we get too busy filling up bank accounts, managing a business, or taking care of loved ones. If you’re not unplugging yourself from your hectic and loaded world, you will eventually get out of touch with everything. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk with Tara Stiles to discuss how taking a step back, going for some rest, and slowing down a bit is an effective strategy to discover a better version of yourself – which unfortunately, many disregard in today’s fast-paced world. Tara also shares her own story of unplugging from the mindfulness norm that allowed her to create the Yoga Rebel series, which combines the benefits of yoga with a contemporary presentation.
Listen to the podcast here:
Achieving Mindfulness By Unplugging Yourself With Tara Stiles
I love to do some research whenever we have guests on the show that I’ve known about for many years. Tara, I have known your name for a long time and I was reflecting when did I first hear of you? What was the context and when was that? The way that I do it is I like to archive so much on my computer. I have all these old emails especially from my early days on social media. I was able to go back to 2012 and I saw a few references to you on my Twitter. Back in 2012, every time someone followed you, you’d get an email notification. Maybe it still does that but eventually I turned it off.
I had some email notification from something on Twitter related to you and then I found some emails in 2012 from Tadasana Festival, which I thought was probably a blast from the past for you and then it started to build up from there. I started hearing about you more in 2014 from Gabby Bernstein, Kris Carr and all of these people. You’ve been on my mind for many years and it’s been a long time coming. Jason reminded me of how he has overlapped with you in his life so I’m going to pass it over to him because you might not know this about what you two have in common.
It’s like a love fest. We’re starting this episode of like, “We finally get to meet someone we’ve been following and admiring for years.” Tara, there’s some interesting overlap. I became familiar with you many years ago through Hay House, which is a publisher we both released books with and then Crazy Legs Productions who did your Yoga Rebel series. They also produced a cooking series that I did so there have been many years of like, “What am I going to get to talk to her? When am I going to get to meet her?” I probably could have just sent you a DM or a tweet or just said, “Can we hang out when I’m in New York?” Here we are. It took all these years and it’s all to say we’re super stoked to have you, get to know you more and dig into who you are and what’s shaking in your life. Thanks for being with us, finally.
I thought it was going to be 2000 or 2006 but 2012. It’s great to get to know you. I can’t wait to hang out in a coffee shop. That’s what’s so cool about anybody that’s interested in feeling better. Whether it’s from an author, entrepreneur or a person attending the things, we all eventually find each other. I’ve been talking with friends of mine about that and this area of community building and we’re all thinking, “Are we building community or are we just finding each other?” The big foil ball or rubber band ball of the Pee-wee Herman adventure and it definitely does feel, at least to me, that family way of, “I know you from somewhere.” Even if we never met, we have all of these things in common so it’s great to get to know you guys, too.
You don’t even feel like 2012 was that long ago in the grand scheme of your career. That’s one of the topics that I’m curious about because it can feel like everything happening online and offline, of course, like writing a book and teaching in-person classes. I often think about you as doing so much at the forefront as social media was being developed in the yoga industry and the health and wellness fields.
There weren’t a lot of people doing that work that I recall ten-plus years ago so to know that this has been part of your life for even longer is so impressive. The first topic I want to get into is how have you seen things evolve? How do you feel about this rise of the social media influencer? There are many health and wellness yoga teachers out there. Being somebody that’s been in the industry for so long. Does it feel like it is frustrating? Does it hinder you? Is it exciting? Is it a mix of all of it? Do people not realize how long you’ve been doing this work?
I don’t get frustrated by people trying to help people feel better. All of that is awesome in a way. I feel lucky, honestly, that I grew up without the internet. I just kicked around in the dirt my whole life., I learned yoga before the internet. Yoga is an ancient practice thousands of years old and all of that but in the ‘90s, in the dance program that I was in. Before, it was a job for anybody that I knew that was a role model to me. When I first learned about yoga, I thought, “This is amazing. This is a practice I feel like I’m remembering something.”
My second thought was, “Why don’t all my friends in high school do this?” We all have our own problems and stress. I saw that this is a tool to help. Many people are able to share their stories so much quicker with the internet, which is incredible in its own right. Back then, I was looking for groups of people to learn this stuff from and there wasn’t a whole lot going on. What there was that it was strange or kooky or divided or dogmatic or on its way to being in trouble twenty years later, which we all know now.
I came at this as, “I want my friends to feel better.” It’s not just young people. People are changing their careers at 40 and 50 because they discover, “I felt better through whether it’s food or some healing practice and I want to shift and now redirect and help my friends or help a community or something.” You can do that so much faster now but I don’t feel like I was hindered by that at all. I would walk around and stand in line somewhere and talk to somebody about yoga. They would say, “I thought that was for hippies or for vegans or whatever.” Vegan was even vegetarian back then. There wasn’t a big community around it.
Those that I was finding in the community weren’t representative of a human community where now, wellness is at least on the minds of so many people. When YouTube started, I was still on the younger side of people that I knew doing yoga. Everybody in my yoga training was 30 years older than me. I was nineteen and they’re like, “What are you doing here?” Everybody has their turn to get in trouble and be a firestarter and a little bit of doing it your own way and doing it differently. My turn was when there was no one doing it differently and I said, “Why aren’t my friends doing this? Is it because they’re turned off by the dogma or turned off by the power-hungry guru? Are they turned off that it smells like incense and smoke everywhere and no one’s identifying with them?”
There are all these things that are keeping people out of the yoga studio so I started speaking to people that were more like me. That process helped me meet a lot of people not like me and different from me. I thought, “The more you find something authentic to you, in my experience, the wider your audience.” It’s not your audience because it just becomes the people that you want to hang out with. The easier you’re able to connect with more people. I was able to use YouTube back when there wasn’t any information on the internet. I felt like I had my turn to get in trouble and now, it’s other people’s turn to find a new way.Things become better when we get better at relating to ourselves. Click To Tweet
I love that perspective because sometimes it feels competitive. I get turned off sometimes when it feels like people are using their platforms more from an ego-centered place than from helping others. I feel like it’s easy to get into that because it’s appealing to the ego to want to grow your followers. We were talking about Clubhouse and that’s one thing I’ve been observing on that platform. It’s like a mad dash to get followers on this newer social media platform. There are groups now on that app that you can go into and their sole purpose is to follow-for-follow.
You go into this group and everyone’s there to grow their followers and I was fascinated with that. Not that it’s anything new because I’ve seen that on any platform but stepping back and thinking A, what’s the point of having all these followers if they are only following you so that you’ll follow them back? B, what’s the point of having a platform if you’re just gaining numbers and you’re not doing it to spread the word about something that you’re passionate about?
That’s something that’s fascinating to me as I’ve seen social media evolve. A lot of people use something like yoga or wellness because it’s trendy. I often wonder, “Does that make it harder for others to find someone like you who has been doing it for so long, putting out all of this authentic information and has truly developed what I perceive as an expertise in something based on your longevity?” Yet, it’s almost like this crowded world of all of these yoga influencers and health and wellness influencers.
I’m out of that. I don’t know if other people would call me an influencer. I don’t do that as a job so I don’t see myself as that.
Which is refreshing, by the way. I love that you don’t. You’re not in that world. That gives me and Jason hope because we’re trying to get out of that world in many ways.
What was cool for me that ruffled a lot of feathers back then, way back in the 2012 machine, was I started making videos on YouTube for my friends in high school with my laptop back before there was anything like your own camera equipment and stuff like that. It’s a whole other story. I tried to make these titles that were fun like yoga for back pain, yoga when your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, yoga for hangovers, trying to get my friends to stop drinking so much and all these kinds of things.
This sounds strange but people that weren’t interested in yoga said, “I can do that. That sounds familiar to me.” I didn’t feel like I was dumbing down yoga but I was saying, “If you’re hungover, you can do some yoga and you’ll feel better. Maybe tomorrow or next weekend, you won’t drink so much or destroy yourself so much.” As people do now, using what I have like the sensibilities that I have to share this thing that’s amazing and the people that I saw come before me were getting stuck in holding on to this thing as the purpose, the goal and the endpoint. I just don’t respect yoga. I respect people.
Yoga is this beautiful, amazing tool. I saw a lot of that dogma, rigidity and stress and I said, “If you want to do that, I’m not going to say everybody else is doing it wrong. What I’m going to do is say, ‘This is how it can help me and this is how I help other people with yoga.’ If that can help you then awesome.” I’ve always come at the sharing of yoga for me as this little kid from Illinois who wants to help people feel better.
Seeing my uncles, aunts, cousins and friends feel like they can’t do it because their main complaint about yoga is not that the influencers look so pretty. They think that’s ridiculous because it is. It’s that, “I can’t touch my toes. I’m not flexible. It’s too hard to calm down.” I haven’t seen the problems go away. It’s just that the influencers aren’t helping necessarily but they’re doing something. I’m not in the loop of what that is. People want to feel better and if you want to help people feel better and you have a process that can do that then more power to you. That’s wonderful.
That leads to the work that you’re doing. When I was looking over a summary of your latest book, one of the things that stood out to me was how many people are plugged in and stressed out because we’re tethered to our phones, emails and our social media. We feel overworked. We are not as active as we want to be because we’re sitting at our desks, beds or couches. We’ve started to become out of touch with our bodies and what our brains need.
I love this subject matter because this is a place that people desperately need, they need to know how to make the things that are good for them easier, how to be kinder to themselves. This is something I come up against probably every single day of my work, recognizing how unkind I am to myself. Jason and I talk a lot about this on and off the show. Many people in our world whether they’re friends or their clients are struggling with simply being kind to themselves. This is the place for you to jump in Jason because you get passionate about this too.
This is an ongoing thing because it’s easy to externalize compassion and kindness. For some people maybe it’s not easy to extend equanimity or equality. That’s a whole other conversation with what’s going on in society. We hear these terms self-love, self-compassion, inward-directed kindness, Maitri, these concepts can be intellectualized. In my early 40s, I’m starting to move from an intellectualization of what self-love might be to an actual practice when you start to feel like you’re being mean to yourself. How can I do a pattern interrupt and say, “If you were speaking to your mother, lover or your best friend, would you speak to them the same way you’re speaking to yourself?”
I’m finally getting into a level of my practice where I’m grokking this idea of self-compassion and kindness. It’s difficult because I’ve been in a pattern of pushing myself hard for many years. When I dug deeper into the Strala Yoga website, Tara, I saw that slowing down is your mantra. I loved reading that because this paragraph talks about how you slow down when you start to feel tense, rigidly fast or the outside voices are influencing you too much. This might sound like a little bit of a pedantic question but when there’s this much stress and this much uncertainty and the world feels full of chaos and turmoil, it’s almost like this pressure to make ends meet or this pressure to get through the day. How do we practice slowing down and being kind to ourselves? What would you recommend especially given the state of the world?
First of all, it’s awesome that you’re taking this from an intellectual to a practical thing for yourself because even so much of the wellness industry and the teachers and the stuff of it, it can be a washing machine of wordplay. You can listen to all the podcasts and do all the things and think about all the things and still not feel better. In yoga, when I first started taking a lot of classes in New York, they would say, “I’m not my body.” I’d think about that and I’d be like, “What the heck?” You got to live in this thing. You got to be in this thing. It’s not your soul and it’s not your mind. We’re all connected. Your mind soul, body, all of you, whatever you want to call it together, operates as a concert.
The Tai Chi perspective is amazing about this. Yoga doesn’t address it so much. How to create peace on the outside is also addressed by creating peace on the inside. If you’re doing your yoga practice where you’re at war with yourself, how are you going to go home and be nice to your partner? How is that even possible without trying to stop yourself and intellectually talk yourself into it? It’s not the pattern or the way you’re practicing.
For myself, I love slowing down, softening, breathing deep, moving from my center, every time I noticed myself acting like a jerk and then realizing that being tense, being forced, being rigid, that’s part of all of us all the time. It’s not this, “I hate myself when I’m being rigid. I love myself when I’m loving myself.” It’s that, “I can have a sense of humor about we’re all neurotic and we’re all this way.” When I catch myself like we’re taught meditation, “Come back to your breath,” you can come back to softness and say, “I can soften, literally, physically my whole self, my emotional self. I can roll around a little bit.” I can approach everything from here. I can approach my yoga practice. I can approach my family. I can approach my life. I can approach how I see what’s going on out there.
Things become better when we become better at relating to ourselves and we become better at making a good connection with ourselves. That’s the one thing that I’m learning more and I’m gravitating more toward all of these pursuits. The ancient wisdom, feeling better, slowing down is that doorway into softness and to real self-care and being all the time. Not our luxurious yoga class, meditation practice, listening to a podcast reflection time but how you wash the dishes and how you stand in line for groceries.
You can stand in line freaking out or distracting yourself with your phone or you can stand in line and bend your knees a little bit, move from your middle and have a look around and you can create connections. Masks on, feet away from people, you can be better and have it go better for everybody if you’re paying attention. From my experience, whenever I can do that, things go better and I feel better. The world around me improves a little bit from my tiny, little corner of it and that’s fascinating and something we can let ourselves breathe a little bit more. It’s cool to learn about these things intellectually and learn about all of the stuff of wellness but it’s becoming a little bit of an impediment to doing it sometimes.When there's unrest outside of your home, check in with yourself and your friends. Click To Tweet
To put into context for the readers, January 7th and January 6th have become a historic day of 2021. People are saying it might be one of the most historic days in our political history. I felt thrown off by that, energetically. I felt off and I kept wondering, “Am I feeling this way because of what happened? Is it a coincidence?” I’ve been reflecting on it. I am assuming that the intensity of what happened in our country in the past has this ripple effect on us especially those of us that tend to be empathetic. Sometimes I wonder why I get chills watching things on TV and I’m like, “Am I feeling for these people that are struggling?” My awareness has grown much through those uncomfortable moments. I’m curious for both of you how you’ve been feeling and how you’ve been handling, coping and softening for yourself and other people during this intense time.
Everything you said is right on and it’s familiar for everybody reading this. From being through personal stuff and world stuff to this whole year and past many years, we all know the things to do. For me, it’s checking in with my friends. I have friends in New York. There’s not a safety issue in New York but it could feel maybe a little bit more vulnerable to be in a city when the entire country is amped up in certain ways. Checking in with friends and not for them to see if they’re okay but, for me, to have that connection as well. I checked in with a few people through messages and calls and things like that.
Self-care is completely underrated and gets pushed aside, “I can do that when the world is okay.” We have a woman in our community who got frustrated about something online and I didn’t see it because I don’t try to pay attention to too many people’s back and forth interactions on things. This was a while ago. She emailed us about some video we had and I emailed her back to see if she was okay and she said, “I’ll be okay when the world is okay.” I’m not going to argue with her, “You could be okay now.” A lot of people take that stance, “I’m going to be fine when this happens.”
For a lot of folks, a great reminder to realize that self-care is however you do it whether it’s your yoga practice, going outside for a walk in nature, sitting in silence. It’s probably not what the influencers are trying to sell you but the real self-care things that you know, that your grandmother has taught you or your experiences taught you. That’s not a luxury item. Those are things especially in times of turmoil that we need more of. If you’re thirsty, you don’t drink a little bit of water, you drink a lot of water. When there’s unrest outside of your home, we all are sensitive to that. If you turn on any screen or aware of that at all, how can you not be sympathetic, empathetic, whatever you call it? It’s going to affect you some way or another.
The best thing that I can do is do all of the self-care things as much as possible, be good with my family, be good with myself and use the tools that I have to check in with friends. I make sure that the things that I’m sharing are meaningful. I make sure that things that I’m sharing aren’t getting in the way of other important things, taking a break from promoting my book or whatever it is that I’ve got going on. If I’m going to put out anything at all, we have our online videos. I don’t need to give a big speech or anything before when a big historic moment happens but I can say, “Hi, how’s it going? Let’s have a little bit of a chat for a moment. Let’s leave the floor open for anybody that wants to say anything.” When we feel upset, we want someone to listen to us. We don’t need to be the ones talking. Becoming more of a listener to ourselves in that self-care way and become more of a listener for the folks in our immediate circle can be useful.
For me, it’s been watching my emotions through all of this and also watching the stories that my mind makes up about watching certain events, circumstances or moments present themselves in life and then watching my mind try and formulate some negative or cataclysmic conclusion by observing certain things. That meditation practice of, “It’s a thought. I don’t have to believe it. I don’t have to give it power. I can observe it and allow it to be and then it will dissipate. It might come back around in a different form.”
To piggyback on what you’re saying, Tara and to answer your question, Whitney, for me, it’s remembering those foundational tools. It’s like, “What are the things that I’ve been doing that I can rely on in terms of my practices that when these negative thoughts,” these thoughts about cataclysm or, “The country is going to burn and we’re all going to hell. My life is going to hell.” There’s been a lot of challenging thoughts. Observe them and try not to feed them too much. I’ve been trying to do that.
We talked about going from the intellectualization of these practices to an actual somatic integration. As an example, if I start to feel myself projecting anxiety into the future or dwelling on perceived regrets of the past if I can practice focusing on what’s right in front of me. I’ve got my mic two inches from my face. I’m talking to two amazing people. We’re having a moment in this podcast. It’s not, “I need to make sure I’m going to make it to this lunch meeting on time. What am I going to do about my investments and my portfolios?” My mind wants to go to different places.
For me, the practice of presence in an embodied way has been one of the antidotes for me not too real into anxiety, deeper into depression and those states of being. It’s like, “What is exactly in front of me? How can I respond with love to a situation?” Some days, I do better than others. Some days, I do get depressed. Some days, I do find myself spiraling with anxiety and stress. For me, continuing to practice being present and being in my body is a way for me to navigate the stress, anxiety and uncertainty.When we feel upset, we just want someone to listen to us. Click To Tweet
That sounds awesome. It feels almost luxurious to have all of this information that we get to learn from all of these people in the past years. I remember growing up in Illinois. I was desperate to leave and now I appreciate everything that I had growing up, being in the country, having these hippie parents and all of this stuff. My dad is a nuclear engineer. He was in the Navy and he never talked about it much. I was always wondering if he was a spy but I don’t think he was that cool. I remember finding a book of his about Einstein. Being in 6th grade or 7th grade and reading a little bit about Einstein and feeling this thirst for finding people like you guys to talk in the future about all of these things that we can do to connect to ourselves deeply. I’m sure this was happening back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s everywhere.
Even though everything is wild and feels fragile for us in the world, I keep thinking about that time where I discovered that book in the basement and I was wondering, “Where are the people who think like this guy? Where’s the community of this deeper world of connection and self-connection, how things are connected?” I remember going to the woods as a kid and coming back and telling my mom, “Are the trees connected to myself?” I feel passionate about the world. Having these conversations wasn’t accepted back then. You were more told to go to school, get good grades, do your thing and push everything else down.
Even being able to have this conversation and have access to books and teachers and all of the ancient wisdom being translated. It’s probably going to be different avatars. You could probably pick your yoga teacher’s hair color and have it be a hologram on your screen. If you don’t like my voice, you can substitute it with somebody else’s voice. We have a million different ways we can take in these tools and digest them and then have real-life conversations with friends and co-conspirators and then figure out how to go and make the world better in the same moment. How cool is that? Whether it’s raising money, getting on the street, getting people together, having conversations with your friends all summer, being in Brooklyn and being part of the protest, all these things, we can all do this. For me, I’m thinking about myself and where I’ve come from. That’s amazing in that way.
That also reminds me of something that’s a relatively new concept. People are awakening to this. In your book, you touch upon the importance of resting. Jason and I had many conversations about this in the past. We are simultaneously in the stage of obsession with productivity and hustling but then there are more people awakening to the fact that we’re probably working a little too hard and that it’s okay to rest. It’s fascinating to me because the permission is growing to rest more but it’s still prevalent for people to feel like they’re not doing enough. This whole idea of not-enoughness is something that comes up a lot for us. We have this addiction to hustling and that’s encouraged for a lot of us.
When you’re practicing yoga, you have to constantly be practicing. I feel this a lot. I have to observe my internal pressure to take classes frequently and not beat myself up for the phases in which I’m not regularly practicing. I recognize that goes against a lot of the mentality of yoga practice. Yoga is about slowing down, not constantly doing as much yoga as I possibly can. It’s amusing when I think about it that way. I love this message that you have in your book. I’d love to hear more about the inspiration you had to write about that and how you learn to rest more in your life.
The more I go along, the more I realize rest is every moment. A lot of people struggle with that. Either I’m busy or I’m doing nothing. How I see that manifests with people I knew growing up is wearing your sleeplessness as a badge of honor. I remember a gal would come into the yoga studio and she would say, “I only slept two hours last night. I was up doing this presentation. I’m flying here.” I was friends with her but she would look at me waiting for the validation like, “Great job.” This was years ago. I knew enough to know that wasn’t good. I knew enough to know that she was headed toward burnout, which she did. She came back and said, “I need to reassess and reprioritize and change everything.” It’s jumbled up with not your idea of where you should be but this comparison mindset of, “Everybody else is busy then I should be busy too.” You’re losing your center and your purpose completely in that way.
What I’ve learned about rest is it’s nothing new. It’s what all the ancient wisdom says but what we’re not willing to get out of them. You can talk about Ayurveda and a hack. Here are your Ayurveda supplements. Throw your turmeric in your smoothie, which is wonderful and beneficial and all of those things and awesome and fun. Also, what Ayurveda is saying is to slow down and you’ll get more done. That’s what I love about the process of rest. It’s not that rest and go ahead and be lazy and it’s okay, do nothing, put your feet up. It’s about living your purpose and figuring out who you are and what you’re going to do with your energy while you’re here. You can’t figure that out if you’re moving a mile a minute. You need to slow down soften, breathe deep, do some of these things.
That’s why Ayurveda is obvious, living with their circadian rhythm of the day more so you’re having your big meal at noon and then there’s time built in for rest. There’s time built in for productivity. There’s time built in for getting a lot done. If you can incorporate real rest into your day and also into how you do the busy things, it has this superpower effect where you get more done. You’re in the process to go toward your goal and you blow past your goal because you’re not thinking, “I’m going to be happy once I get that goal.”You can't figure out your purpose if you're moving a mile a minute. You need to slow down. Click To Tweet
We all have memories where we’re in that stage of doing that. Folks are thinking about, “I’m going to get that goal and then I’m going to be happy.” You’re not going to be happy every moment along the way if you do get there. You’re guaranteed that when you get there, you’re not going to be satisfied with it either and you’re going to need something else to scratch that itch or whatever it is. That’s why rest is such a superpower that, for me at least, was misunderstood with doing nothing, lie down, give up. It’s okay, rest. We all see that as work hard and then rest.
You can rest in the process of doing the things you’re doing and then you achieve more and you achieve the right things for yourself and you’re not worried about everybody else. You can say, “They can do whatever they want. That’s fine.” You can cheer them on or you’re not interested. You don’t have to be in all of these relationships with all of these people that aren’t in relationships with you, which is so much of the worry and the stress of being busy. Maybe it’s a little bit of looking over your shoulder or feeling pressure whether it’s internal or external. Mostly it’s that internal, everything that’s pulling you further away from your actual energy and your actual self.
Tara, you spoke on how to strengthen your intuition. I saw that you did an Instagram Live with The Chopra Center. One pretty common thing that I hear versions of over and over again whether that’s people who want to do a coaching program with us or learn food and nutrition or different mindfulness techniques, anything under the umbrella of what we’re doing with our brand, Wellevatr. I get DMs and messages from people saying, “I feel super overwhelmed. I’m not sure if I should try vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo or 80/10/10. I want to be healthier but there are all of these diets and there are all of these eating regimens. There are all these different lifestyles. Should I do Pilates? Should I do Strala Yoga? Should I do Jivamukti Yoga? Should I do Kundalini Yoga?” I get versions of these messages of people feeling overwhelmed. They have the desire to evolve. They have the desire to heal. They have the desire to explore but they feel almost stultified in making a decision.
I’m curious how someone who might be a little bit more A-type or analytical, “I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to heal. I’ve got to do this thing.” How do they touch their intuition? How do they tap into it maybe if they’re not used to doing it? Once they realize, “I might feel safe enough to listen to this thing.” How do we go about strengthening and listening better to our intuition to guide us through life? What’s your recommendation on that?
I love Michael Pollan‘s work on how he talked about the ‘80s and the ‘90s and the food problems, making fake food and all of these things. We’re in that funny stage with the wellness stuff. There’s so much stuff and there are many variations of it. A lot of it’s good. You can make your judgments about it. It can be difficult to choose especially if you’re allowing yourself to be pulled around. We all have intuition. We all have that gut instinct. When we’re vulnerable, when we feel we don’t know the answer, when we give away our power to the yoga teacher, all problems happen there. We all simply know we’re supposed to eat food, not too much, lots of fruits and veggies. If you want to find a specific diet that works for you within that, there are a million different variations that you can do without being overwhelmed. You can make lots of different choices but still follow your intuition. Unfortunately, it’s coming down to finding ways to get back to common sense.
A lot of people whether you’re in the wellness world or not, are overwhelmed with all of the decisions every single day that it becomes impossible to make even one decision and that one decision is how do you feel what’s going on with you. If you don’t have anybody in your life asking how do you feel, it’s important to start asking yourself how you feel while you’re doing your yoga practice, while you’re getting up in the morning, “How do I feel?” If you have an extreme disorder whether it’s an eating disorder or an anxiety disorder, you need external help to get back to some balance. A lot of us aren’t qualified to even know how we feel if you’re in that state.
Once you get into that, “I can’t make a decision about food. I can’t decide what yoga class to make. I’m always indecisive.” You got to sit down with yourself, be real with yourself, slow down, take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel. From there, you’re going to feel silly because you’ll know what to do. That’s intuition. Intuition is saying, “I can analyze my way, every direction but I always know what to do. I always know what to come back to.” For me, it’s finding a practice whether it’s your yoga practice, your Tai Chi, your eating. Whatever you love is your practice, getting out in nature and finding that thing that’s pretty easy for you to click into and find your groove in and ask yourself while you’re doing it, “How do I feel what’s going on with me?”
I love music because all these beautiful artists say the same things in amazing ways, Marvin Gaye, “What’s going on with you?” Sinead O’Connor, “There’s a universe inside.” We need to tune in to what should be the number one show on Netflix. It’s the number one show of you, what’s happening with you. The moment we decide to be fascinated with ourselves in not an egotistical way but in a curious way to discover how we’re doing, what’s going on and how we’re feeling, we become more sensitive or more sensitized. All of a sudden, we know. I can look at your recipes and I can say, “I can do that.” I can look at it and say, “I’m going to change that and I have this at home. I’m not going to worry about it so much.” All of the information becomes options and not something that’s hooking us in with a deadly, bloody thing and dragging us around.
It can be a lot simpler than that because we can become the centered driving force of our own life. You have to be the main star of your own life. Otherwise, you’re going to be pulled around forever. Eventually, you’ll hit some breakdown and hopefully come back. Why wait for that? You can soften and connect to yourself and do things that make you feel more sensitive to you whether it’s getting out on a walk with nature. It doesn’t even have to be a formal practice of any sort. Doing those things more often will help you remember the things that are better for you to do.
One of the things that I want to touch on is the idea of being a rebel. One of the coolest things that I enjoyed in your career was the Yoga Rebel series that you did, Tara. In the pantheon of the four tendencies, which we’ve talked about here on the show, I fall into the rebel category. I’ve always been wired, ever since I was a child, to challenge what I perceived as the status quo or constantly be in a questioner and experimenter’s mindset. “Try my twelve-step formula. Ten steps to flipping into a scorpion pose. Ten steps to make six figures,” there are all these formulas and programs. A lot of people say, “Follow this and you’ll get this result.” I’m curious about your cosmology with your personal life and your incredible career. What does the idea of being a rebel mean to you? Being rebellious, how does that show up in your life? How do you encourage people to be more rebellious in their lives?The heart of being a rebel is fiercely being yourself Click To Tweet
Being a rebel is finding the truth, it’s questioning things. If you don’t do that, you’re not healthy. A healthy organism grows, figures out things, evolves, changes and wonders what’s all happening. This was a moment that terrified me completely before media was a thing in my life. A journalist came to our studio in Soho and said, “I’m going to do a tiny article for you on the back of the New York Times, a paragraph. What you’re doing is interesting.” I’m like, “Whatever.” A few bloggers were saying things about me, like, “You’re changing yoga. You’re not doing it correctly.” I said, “Let’s leave it on the blogs.” We’re fine. We have this nice community. I’m trying not to get upset about it.
Here’s this journalist and she’s like, “You’re going to make even more.” She kept coming and I said, “Isn’t this two paragraphs?” She said, “I love what you’re doing. I’m a Bureau Chief at the New York Times. This has never been done before but I’m going to do a multiple-page story on you for the cover of the metro section. The title is going to be Rebel Yoga.” I’m like, “You’re going to ruin my life. This is horrible.” I’m thinking, “Everybody that doesn’t already think that I’m ruining yoga is going to say that I’m ruining yoga, except their community, which is the normal people at least in my opinion.” She wrote this article and it took off. I was doing other projects from there and the word rebel kept getting attached to my name. I said, “This is a funny thing but everybody gets their turn at, hopefully, being a rebel, everybody that’s doing something, questioning something, making a difference or opening the door for other people that feel the same.” That’s what I loved about how she labeled what I was doing.
If you’d look at what I was doing, I was explaining yoga to people in English. I said, “Let’s not do the Sanskrit names because I come from a dance background. Let’s talk about the movement and how to get into each position.” If I say a pose in Sanskrit, people are going to say, “What?” or they’re going to say, “I know that. Let me do this.” They’ll get their body into yesterday’s version of a triangle pose instead of going with a movement. That made sense to me. Playing music that I thought people could connect to on a soul level and not yoga music because people that I know would think chanting is maybe not something that’s going to connect them to themselves directly. Maybe it’ll work for somebody else. Playing songs like Eddie Vedder, Marvin Gaye and Macy Gray but softly.
At that time, this was 2010, it was rebellious. It sounds ridiculous now. Also, I called myself a guide instead of a teacher and everybody thought that was strange, “Why aren’t you calling yourself a yoga teacher?” I said, “Guides take people up the mountain and they’ve been up the mountain before but you’re still going up the mountain yourself. I don’t want to call myself a teacher because, for me, it doesn’t make much sense to tell people what to do. I want to show them how they can do it themselves. I want to do it in the best way that I can.” I was doing all these things differently, dressing differently, I suppose. I was dressing like myself in sweatpants and T-shirts and hanging out with people before and after class casually and trying to talk to people and ask people how they were doing. Back then, the yoga teacher entered the room at the moment of the class and then left as soon it was over. I thought that was a little bit rude. I thought it was nice to talk with people and get to know them.
All of these things that I was doing, questioning something that I didn’t think was working, invited in a whole bunch of people. It opened the door for a whole group of people that also felt the same way. I don’t feel like I was rebelling against this yoga thing. I saw an opportunity for all these folks that I didn’t know yet that also wanted to do this in this way. As I picked my head up and looked around, I saw Harry Styles on the cover of something and being a rebel. Everybody gets called a rebel when they’re being themselves. We all should be rebels in my opinion. I was worried about the term making me look to other people like I was coming in on a Harley, drinking whiskey and telling everybody that I’m awesome and they’re not awesome.
The heart of being a rebel is fiercely being yourself because you want to stand up for other people who aren’t maybe feeling strong enough to be themselves. I know from learning about other people’s paths and different fields that’s how they feel too. All of these famous heroes we look up to in different industries, they’re doing it because they know that other people feel like them. We all have that a little bit inside. It’s maybe something we should popularize a little bit more together. Maybe we can have a social campaign since you guys are good at that stuff.
It’s funny because everything you’re describing about your style is exciting to me. Maybe it’s the time that we’re in but I feel like I would have been excited when I first started doing yoga, which was back in 2006 because I had no idea what was going on. It would have been cool seeing people doing different things and not judging. I’m listening to you as well and thinking how perfect of a yoga class it would be for you, Jason because you love all the music that she’s listed off. I imagine you geeking out while you’re listening to her.
Completely. It makes me go, like, “Why didn’t I go to a yoga class when I lived in New York City?” There’s a part of me that’s like, “You knew about it when you lived in New York, why weren’t you doing it?” In all seriousness, Tara, you’re giving me a framework to constantly sit with a question that I’ve been asking myself. Being yourself is rebellious. Be yourself. This idea that I’m not my title, I’m not my award, I’m not the magazine covers, I’m not these whatever things we’ve accomplished or these externalized titles or metrics of validation, not my social media numbers, the thing that I sit with daily is, “Who am I then?” This gets esoteric. This is one of the core questions of humanity’s existence, “Who am I? Where did I come from? What is the meaning of all this?”
My curiosity for both of you is scratching on this question for a second. When we say, “Be yourself.” A possible response is, “I don’t even know what that means.” Being myself, it’s like, “How do I do that?” I say it not jokingly. I say it honestly because I feel like I am in this deep process of layers falling away and going, “If that layer wasn’t me, this thing wasn’t me, that title wasn’t me and this amount of money I thought I was making isn’t me then at the core of my being, who am I?” For both of you, when you say, “Be yourself.” What does that bring up for both of you? How do we get to be more of ourselves? How do we strip those layers away?
Part of what makes it feel complicated to answer that question is because we’re looking outside of ourselves too much. Even what you were saying, Tara, about how your friend walked in there and wanting to be validated for not sleeping, that is common. We look for other people to affirm us and I have done so much of that in my life. I started recognizing that and taking it day by day. I’m not trying to constantly prove myself as much as I used to. It’s still there. It’s still a process of stripping away that desire. We’ve been conditioned to do that through platforms like social media and the pressures of our industry. This whole idea that we always have to look perfect and put together and we’ve got life all figured out. The truth is, I don’t know if anybody has anything figured out. There’s so much uncertainty and it’s easier to take things day by day and let people perceive us however they’re going to perceive us.
To your point that you brought up many times, Tara, it’s like, “This is more about myself being the star of my own life and slowing down so that I can get more in tune with it.” When I started having that realization, it felt much better. I wonder sometimes, Jason, you and other people and myself as well, what would happen if we tried to disconnect more from that mentality and that constant need to prove ourselves and the constant need to hustle and do things? It’s exciting to me on one level to see a new social media app developed and to connect people and to create community, which is something else you brought up a lot, Tara. It’s important for us to talk to each other especially because we’re not seeing each other nearly as much, if at all, in person. Having platforms where we can share is amazing.
On the other side, what I see in platforms across social media whether it’s Clubhouse, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, you also have all these people that are trying to gain something from it constantly and compete with one another, one-up each other and prove themselves. That becomes distracting. I have to be aware when I see myself doing that and then step back and listen more and tune in more and slow down more.
Deepak calls it synchronicity. I got to meet Deepak many years ago. I was writing my first book and the publisher said, “Who’s going to write your cover blurb?” I said, “What’s a cover blurb?” They said, “It’s the most famous person you know and they say something nice about you on the front of the book.” I said, “I don’t know anybody famous but Deepak Chopra would like what I’m talking about.” I said it as a joke and I said, “Can’t you guys get in touch?” They said, “No. This all has to come from you.”
The next day, I get this email to my little website asking if I would come to a small, tiny event and I would lead a yoga class and Deepak would be there giving a talk. I said, “Of course.” I met him and he ended up writing the cover blurb. He asked me if I would come over and teach him yoga and my response was, “You don’t need anybody to teach you yoga. You know everything about yoga.” He said to me, “Yeah but from what I know of you, you’re going to take me through yoga and not tell me about yoga.” I’m like, “Yeah. I’m not going to tell anybody about yoga. You can read that in a book.”
One thing he taught me, not personally but going to his events that he would invite me to is he always had everybody do this at the beginning. At first, I was like, “This is some esoteric thing. He’s got this whole crowd that is around.” The questions were good and I swiped them and taught them to everybody. He said, “It’s fine.” It’s sitting in meditation or you don’t even have to be meditating. It’s, “Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? What am I grateful for?” It works every single time. Like in yoga class, you’ll always feel better after it. Do it in a group. It’s fun in a group and to give each other feedback and say what came up and what happened especially if you get a group together that you get to do the same things for a few days in a row or a couple of weeks in a row and see how those answers change. Sitting with a practice like that to come back to yourself and not try to figure out who I am but ask the question and see what comes up. Beyond that, “What do I want?” Ask the question and see what comes up, “How can I serve amazing?” Finally, “What am I grateful for?”
We’re all wired in the same way that we get outside of ourselves and we come right back in. Every time I’ve got to do that with other people, I’ve had amazing conversations. Every time I do that with people or with myself a few days in a row, people change their lives, “I’m not going to do that anymore. I realized I was doing that and that’s silly. I feel better. I feel more grounded and less chaotic in my mind. I feel better about what I can do in the chaos of the world.” There’s always something good that happens with that besides trying to sit down and tackle all the world problems with our brains, which is never going to get us anywhere good.
The brain, goodness, is always trying to get that balance between the mind and the heart. First, your approach, Tara, is down to earth and accessible. The thing that I think about too is when we have this bevy of teachings, wisdom, concepts and things we’ve learned that we’re passing along, one thing that I’m always mindful of is how can I present this authentically as myself but in a way that it’s is going to land? I love everything that you have shared over the years and your teachings because it lands. You present everything in such a way that it’s you and the spirit of you but also in a way that people can use and implement.
I want to encourage the readers to visit our website, which is Wellevatr.com. We always love hearing from you. You can shoot us an email, [email protected] or direct message us on any of the social media platforms. Tara, it’s been a great first conversation. This conversation has been many years in the making. I appreciate your rawness, honesty, your being of service and leading with love. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you deeper here.
I feel the same. I feel like if we were in that coffee shop in Brooklyn, we’d be closing it out and have to move it somewhere else. I feel like I could keep talking with you guys for as long as you will hang out with me, too. Thanks for connecting.
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- Tara Stiles
- Crazy Legs Productions
- Yoga Rebel
- Tara Stiles – YouTube channel
- Strala Yoga
- The Chopra Center
- Michael Pollan
- [email protected]
- Clean Mind, Clean Body
About Tara Stiles
Tara Stiles is a global yoga, movement and wellness expert, author and founder of Stråla Yoga. Named “Yoga Rebel” by the New York Times, Tara brings a revolutionary approach to being, moving and healing to inspire millions around the world with her relatable perspective to yoga, meditation, exercise, awareness, nutrition, and everyday well-being.
Through her books – including “Clean Mind, Clean Body” – and both in-person and online classes, Tara offers an important reset button, providing tools, guidance and immersive experiences in mental and physical self-care to transform daily routines and habits and ease into our wellness where we can truly feel and be our best selves.
She is the personal yoga instructor to Deepak Chopra, Jane Fonda named her “the new face of fitness,” and Vanity Fair declared her the “coolest yoga instructor ever.” Her work has been used in a case study by Harvard University, she is a sought-after speaker on topics of entrepreneurship, health, and wellbeing, and she has lectured at venues that include Harvard and New York University.
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