When I think of the summer of 2012 a few great memories come to mind; the man I love asked me to marry him, I decided to take a break from always feeling like a hamster on a wheel and relax for once, and lastly I found Strala …”where everybody knows your name”

After finishing my spring semester in school I set three goals for the fast approaching summer: One, find a yoga studio that I loved using my yoga passbook, two, read all the books I could get my hands on and, three, explore Manhattan every day. Reading the books came easily as I quickly fell in love with the Union Square Barnes and Noble and became a regular bookworm there. Exploring Manhattan was also a simple feat, as walking around aimlessly is one of my favorite things to do. Finding a yoga studio that I loved however, was a huge challenge.

Every day I would take the subway into Manhattan, venture into various studios with the utmost certainty that today was going to be the day that I found enlightenment (and yes as hard as it was for you to read that without laughing, is as hard as it is for me to openly admit that a small part of me really wanted that).

I hopped from studio to studio, visiting Dharma Yoga, Laughing Lotus, Om Factory, Jivamukti, Pure Yoga, Exhale, Prana; simply put, if you can name it I went there. These studios were beautiful, the staff were always very inviting and I have the utmost respect for all the teachers there, but something just wasn’t clicking with me. I would leave the studios with the same old feeling of “that was nice, but not for me.”

On one particular afternoon I went to take a yoga class near Union Square and afterwards I ventured into Barnes and Noble to grab a cup of coffee and read my favorite book of that week entitled “Perfect Health” by Deepak Chopra. In the middle of reading I stopped to do a quick Google search on Deepak and what I found was that his personal yoga instructor was in NYC and her name was Tara Stiles. When I saw the name I remember thinking wait … I’ve heard about her, isn’t she the Anti-yogi? (I laugh as I write this now). My curiosity continued and I realized that her studio Strala wasn’t that far from Union Square, and she was actually teaching in an hour.

I quickly convinced myself that I had nothing to lose, picked up my belongings and took the 15 minute walk downtown to Strala. Upon my arrival I found a very small room that looks like the cool college dorm that everyone wants to hang out in. Equipped with huge bean bag chairs, small comfy couches, and fun stuffed animals. I’m not going to lie, the room makes you feel really welcome, like you could hang out there forever. But, even cooler than the room were the people, Tara, and her husband Mike treated me like their personal house guest. They were super nice, even walking me to where the bathroom was, instead of just pointing me there.

When I made my way into their large studio room, I settled in on my mat for a few minutes before class began to look around. I was immediately drawn to the style of the room, nothing too fancy, white walls, a few Christmas lights around the columns and large NYC windows. It was simple and I really appreciated that simplicity after seeing some of the other “done up” studios around the city.

When class began I quickly realized that Tara’s approach to yoga was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It promoted ease, fun and self-expression.

Needless to say I was a deer in headlights …

As I strictly “tin man-ed” my way from one pose to the next I slowly started to realize that everyone around me was moving with a certain lightness that I had never seen before. Instead of posing in traditional yoga poses, they were posing by the way they felt in that very moment.

And then it happened …Tara spoke the simple words that would forever pop my yoga bubble. “This hip opener doesn’t have to look anything like what you did on the right side, let this feel like you on this side.”

WHAT?!?! Hold the phone, do you mean to tell me that all this time teachers have been telling me that if I don’t do the exact pose on the left side that I did on the right side, I’d walk lop sided for the rest of my life – it simply wasn’t true?? Man, this chick really is a yoga rebel and I’M LOVING IT!

So needless to say I spent the summer of 2012 running around NYC looking for “something” and that something ended up being Strala. Strala has become my gateway for self-expression within my mind and body. It has taught me to throw away everything I thought I knew about yoga and start becoming more of an independent thinker, in my practice on and off the mat.

A few weeks ago I took my exploration in Strala to another level and attended their intensive teacher program. With any career investment I was somewhat skeptical of what this training could offer me that I hadn’t already learned from previous trainings or from attending their classes so frequently. To my surprise I got so much more out of this training then I ever could have imagined. Strala’s training states that it will help you fill your classes; my classes doubled in size in two weeks, no joke. My students started to smile a lot more, they were having fun and, in turn, so was I.

Strala has shown me how to listen to my own body’s needs through exploration and ease, and to be able to share that same exploration with my students has become one of my greatest gifts thus far.

Thank you Strala!

Anna Gannon