Is Tara Stiles’ Yoga Inauthentic?

Tara Stiles Yoga Teacher
Photo Credit: taralstiles

Yoga teacher and book author, Tara Stiles, is finding herself in the middle of the seemingly ongoing debate about the authentic teaching of yoga. Stiles has come under fire for her nonchalant, non-conformist attitude and her capitalization on the business of yoga from fellow teachers and practitioners.  And for Stiles, it seems, this is controversy is no big deal. “People need yoga, not another religious leader,” Stiles said. “Quite often in New York, they want to be religious leaders, and it’s not useful. Here, people want to sit and talk about yoga; it’s very heady. It’s very stuck, very serious. I was never invited to the party anyway–so I started my own party.”

The “Slim Calm Sexy” author made her mark in New York City breaking the yoga rules of engagement. There are no chaturangas. She calls them push-ups. She doesn’t ask her students to chant or make a pledge to caring for the animals or the planet and there is no talk of ancient Hindu texts.  Her language is plain and her goal is simply for better physical health. And Stiles, herself, asks the question, “Who made these rules?”

It’s obvious Stiles is no traditional yoga teacher, however, she’s accumulated a large group of people who follow her teachings at her NY studio and on YouTube. They buy her DVDs, her iPhone app and her book. Obviously she’s hit a certain demographic that is listening and enjoying some benefit from her teaching as Stiles has reached a certain level of notoriety and fame with her particular brand of yoga.  So, why exactly, is this considered “inauthentic?”

Deepok Chopra says, “A lot of the resentment comes from her rapid rise to success.” He goes on to throw his weight behind Stiles when he commented about her teaching methods, “Taking lessons from her has been more useful to me than taking yoga from anyone else.”

Isn’t that what we want to hear from the students that walk in and out of yoga studios? I certainly do. To hear that yoga has impacted someone in some way for the better is what makes it all worthwhile.  Does it really matter what medium or from whom?

The big issues with Stiles are numerous. They include her unwillingness to pledge allegiance to a guru, a lineage or even a style of yoga. She doesn’t list where her yoga training came from and says that teacher trainings do not equip yoga teachers to teach – all that plus the fact that she’s represented by a talent agency that isn’t in the mind/body/fitness genre.

Fellow yoga rebel/superstar Sadie Nardini commented recently that the only thing that bothered her about Stiles unwillingness to adhere to traditional yoga standards is that she wasn’t fully disclosing the agency that represented her. “No, I’m not talking about Ford (modeling agency),” Nardini said. “I’m more interested in her other one, one of the biggest talent agencies in the country.”

She goes on to say, “This mega agency is trying to break into the mind/body field, because they are consummate business people and they’re whip-smart. They see the incredible financial potential wrapped within our kula, now a multi-billion dollar industry”

Whatever people think about Stiles and her unconventional yoga methods, her story is clearly representative of our culture and the western mindset. Is this a bad thing or a good thing? In my opinion, it’s still too early to tell. We are young and new to yoga as a culture. But, in the words of Stiles, herself, “There are no rules in life.” Since yoga equips us to deal with life, who knows, maybe she is on to something…

Is practicing with a yoga teacher who demonstrates authenticity important to you?  How authentic does a teacher’s yoga need to be?


Comments 10

  1. Are we not all here to help others? If helping someone positively comes with conditions then are we being true to ourselves? As long as we are working as teachers to help the student be successful in whatever they are searching for, isn’t how they got there no ones business but themselves?
    In our society we feel as if we need to make everything someone else does whether it is good, bad or ugly our business. Isn’t it up to each individual to learn and grow or walk away from there teacher if they feel somethings wrong.

  2. I guess it depends on what the individual is looking for in their practice….but for me it would be more important for the teacher to have a a strong personal practice, and if they teach from a place of honor and respect….than to pinpoint a lineage or guru…everyone has something to share. I can decide if it responates with me…

  3. I´m hearing more and more chatter about this, some neutral, other positive, and a lot more just plain negative. It´s interesting to see how people can react strongly about yoga. I suppose above everything, I think it´s a good sign that people are indeed discussing yoga. I do however think it´s unfortunate that many people choose to exert so much negative energy criticizing. It going against everything I hold dear about yoga in the first place.

  4. ”To hear that yoga has impacted someone in some way for the better is what makes it all worthwhile.”

    Precisely. Yoga has had many growing pains since its inception. It”™s constantly evolving. What matters is that through whatever medium each person needs to move forward with their personal growth, they find their teacher.

    The abundance of wisdom in the ancient texts and traditions can benefit everyone, and pledging allegiance to a guru or a lineage isn”™t necessary. Sometimes it’s counterproductive.

    Kathleen Summers, MD, PhD

  5. “She doesn”™t ask her students to chant or make a pledge to caring for the animals or the planet and there is no talk of ancient Hindu texts. “

    I learned out west and this is how most of the instructors operate here. One can get more involved if they want to. So it seems very strange to me that she is so famous for not being traditional…And I love Deepok but he is a driven promoter. So dont understand what is going on really. I am happy people are leaning and maybe they will look into the awareness aspect further, like Julia Roberts has been drawn into. I read about her getting into yoga years ago, saying she was interested in for any reason other than to condition her rump, or something like that. Now is has made a major movie about awareness. It’s really about awareness but if people use as an exercise I suppose it’s a start, that works for westerners.

  6. Hello everyone,
    I think Tara has been doing great with helping bring Yoga to society. I’ve been teaching yoga and pilates for almost 10 years. The joy & gratification I get from helping is rearding for myself and the student. I’m a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200) Yoga is great for people of all ages is a beautiful thing, helping them feel better about themselves and make earth a better place.
    All the best to all,
    Happy stretching, Ervin Ruhe Jr.

  7. If you want to see inauthentic, check out some of the ridiculous made-up yoga styles out there such as ‘laughing yoga’….’nude yoga’….and that silly yoga where people are suspended by yards of fabric.
    Tara Stiles is getting her message out there and she has value in what she says. We should be policing (and boycotting) the made-up circus acts that are labelling themselves as a form of yoga.

  8. Is she good at yogo? Yes? Is she good at teaching yoga, yes?? Then it’s settled. Why do you guys worry so much about the little things? It must be a very stressful life.

  9. I was involved in a Yoga Veterans Project weekend and got the best advice for reassuring reluctant types to attend a yoga class: show up and breathe, the yoga will take care of the rest. (Thanks Dan Libby!) Seems like Ms Styles is on the same sort of track. You go Tara! Not everyone needs some sort of spiritual direction/philosophy from yoga. Some simply enjoy what yoga does for their minds and bodies. What’s wrong with that? As a teacher I understand the deeper underpinnings of yoga, but really, can’t this be a practical way of getting in touch with the body and mind? If some are seeking deeper meanings, it will happen. For others, eh, it feels good to get to a studio and practice. All good in my book.

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