The Evolution of Yoga

The Evolution of Yoga as seen from a moving Airstream!

Yoga has certainly made its mark on wellness scene in the last 10 years or so. You can hardly turn your head without seeing a new studio, class style or teacher training. Being a yoga instructor/teacher/guide is the rite of passage for the 2000’s– much like being a massage therapist was in the 90’s. My attendance at several of the countries Yoga Festivals this year has also turned my ear to the fact that yoga is a very big business. I am wondering what all this means for the yoga of the past and the yoga of the future. I will be exploring this further as I head to the IDEA World Fitness Conference and EXPO in Anaheim.

I have had my own personal journey with Yoga – falling in and out of practice – and have always been drawn to its nature and balance of physical and spiritual practice. I started my journey in college – taking yoga as an elective. Now as a mother, I enjoy sharing it with my toddler – who is always excited to roll out a mat and get down on the floor and play. That said, I certainly did not feel prepared to fully explore the evolution of yoga on my own – so I reached out to Tara Stiles, Founder of Strala in NYC. “Strala is the movement system that ignites freedom. Strala focuses on moving over posing, and helping people find their own way into their own bodies, with a calm ease carried through easy and challenging things alike.” We explored a few different aspects of the current state of yoga and a glimpse into the future.

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Buzz: Yoga as fitness, this feels like a very American approach to an age-old practice that is highly diverse. As someone who is immersed in the international yoga space, do you find that the entry point for yoga varies around the world?

Tara : “From the people I’ve met around the world, the entry point for yoga varies more from person to person rather than country to country. It’s really heartwarming to see the connection that everyone wants to feel better and the knowledge that a regular, easy going yoga practice can help with that. Whether I’m in Japan, India, US, or Europe, we are connected in that desire to feel better, and also in the desire to be connected to each other. In India, it’s more commonly understood that yoga is great for your fitness as well as the mind body connection. I found this in Asia also. It wasn’t made such a “big deal” about it because it’s simply understood. Americans, we like to compartmentalize and separate a lot, not just with yoga, but with our lives. The practice of yoga is evolving us out of that rut hopefully to understand and know that, of course, yoga is great for your fitness, your mind, your emotional well being, and connects us all.”

Buzz : Thinking about yoga as a spiritual practice – do you feel that the current business of yoga allows for the full manifestation of this aspect of yoga?

Tara : “When businesses are run ethically with sustainability of resources and sensitivity to humanity and doing better in the front of mind, that’s a great opportunity to affect change. It’s a mistake to separate or to demonize a business that works to empower people.”

Buzz : While yoga seems to be wildly practiced and available to diverse groups, what else can be done to increase accessibility and create space for the opportunity of those needing the benefit of, but frightened off by the dogma.

Tara : “Yoga as it’s been done in the last 30-50 years in America has been in good part a rigid practice. The evolution, in what we are doing with Strala, and other individuals and studios are moving toward, is more freedom in the practice, with the goal to connect to your self instead of fit your body into goal based poses.”

Buzz : Everywhere I look it seems there is a new style and new studio. Is yoga becoming less diverse even with more offerings and overly competitive?

Tara : “I think with any trend, and yoga probably qualifies as a trend in some capacity, with it’s current bubble, studios, teachers, and on-line things will pop up and fade away. What survives will be what people respond to. It’s a process of natural selection that we’ve seen with the cupcake craze, and now the juice craze.”

Buzz : I notice that you use guide instead of instructor or teacher…what role do you feel that guide plays on and off the mat?

Tara : “A Guide is someone who is able to present a clear, effective, safe and expansive experience. The goal is to Guide the people in the class to the experience of themselves. The terminology respects the role of the Guide as useful and important, while giving the power to the people over their own experience. It’s incredibly awesome and sets the stage for freedom and ease.”

Buzz : What is the best advice you have been given along the different stages of your yoga journey that you would share with others at the same forks in the road?

Tara : “When you have an idea, do it. This is more of a very open advice about running my business from a mentor, but it’s has been a great inspiration to me from the point of creative moment to follow through.”

Thanks Tara! This certainly helps to understand more about the difference between trend and tradition. I am excited to check out how yoga has evolved in the fitness space – feeling personally that the gyms and the fitness programming provided in them are responsible for really bringing yoga – however watered down – to the masses. I personally still pop in a class at my gym, if I am feeling uninspired in the free weight area. My favorite studio you ask? My own living room – next to my precocious 3 year old!

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