Rebel Yoga In the Year 2000 Never Heard of Tara Stiles

Via Hilary Lindsay
on Jan 25, 2011
get elephant's newsletter
The Author

I don’t care about Tara Stiles. She has videos on the online magazine Women’s Health which they will not stop sending me despite my request to remove themselves from my life. In my weaker moments I lack the will to delete without scanning though I know there will be nothing new in the Secret to a Longer Life or Five Super Foods You Can’t Live Without tips. So I have seen Tara Stiles revealed as the answer to yoga for everything. After she showed up a few times I learned to hit delete, not because she is horrible, but because she is nothing new and being slim is not a recommendation for a teaching video despite the inference that the yoga revealed will make you so. It will not.

But now The New York Times has described her as Rebel Yoga and that just makes me look bad. Or does it? In the early nineties I created a class called the Bodymind Workout. It was a combination of dance and yoga choreographed to music. In those days music was not played in yoga classes and there was no class called yoga flow that I was aware of anyway. I was living in Los Angeles and the first time I saw a Vinyasa style class was when I was directed to a guy named Bryan Kest by a student who said Bryan was doing the yoga version of my class. I marched across the mountains to see what that could be about. (Hey! I created something unique. Don’t even talk to me about this poser Bryan Kest!). And there was this delightful guy leading a yoga class that MOVED like a dance. It was justification for doing yoga the way I liked to move and I’d never seen anything like it before. No one was questioning the purity of Bryan’s teaching which at the time was about getting people to challenge themselves at the edge of the physical plane in order to check themselves out. Maybe he should have had the moniker Rebel Yogi. But he didn’t, I did.

When I moved to Nashville I brought the Bodymind Workout with me. The name was getting used up and I had to dump it. Body mind, mind body was ubiquitous and shallow. So I called it Power Yoga (which later had to be dumped for other reasons) in homage to Bryan and began moving it into dancing yoga. I also taught yoga classes. I kept the music. But I had entered a strongly yoga purist town and many of those folks thought I was demonizing yoga. I thought they were the religious right of yoga and paid no attention. People were ready to loosen up and I ended up with a crowd of independent thinkers and well…. rebels.

Now I had done my yoga homework, studied hundreds of hours with senior teachers, did my reading, put my soul into the pursuit of learning a discipline but that didn’t mean I had to teach like everyone before me. And my students were ready for that. One night I named them Rebel Yogis and they said it was so because I was the Rebel leader. I ran with it.

Minister Becca Stevens, Guidance Counselor Jim Hartline, Poet Minton Sparks, Psychotherapist and Poet, Kenneth Robinson

In 2000 I created a calendar called Rebel Yogis: a Celebration of Students for the year 2001. I posed them in the walk of their lives and sent a copy to The Yoga Journal which they promoted. That got the attention of an author who was interested in one of my high profile clients and I ended up in the book Real Men Do Yoga. The Kripalu Center saw that and invited me to teach. Well, you can see where this could go. In my case it was nowhere because at the time I had no aspirations to joining the traveling circus of yoga superstars. I was content with my life and raising two boys. I thought the adulation of yoga teachers was silly. I don’t think I even thought of yoga as a career.

Heisman Trophy Pose by Tennessee Titan, Eddie George

Still, if I had been a young single woman at a time that yoga was already big business and anyone’s game and purism was a thing of the past and I was thrown into the limelight perhaps I would have become a commercial name. It’s all in the timing.

So, I don’t care about Tara Stiles fame or take on yoga. She’s not alone. She knows how to work the system which she clearly enjoys and she’s not hurting anyone. I can’t believe she has the nerve to call yoga slim, calm and sexy but I’ve got to say she’s walking the talk in the calm way she just follows her path. And after all, who am I to judge her? I used yoga in a class called the Bodymind Workout and if there’s one thing you could count on feeling in that class it was sexy! Despite the attention to sex and yoga these days, the fact is that sexiness is not necessarily about sex as much as personal power. But that’s another topic.

This bitchin is from Hilary’s new blog, bitchin yoga


About Hilary Lindsay

Hilary Lindsay created the first comprehensive yoga program in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, choreographed videos for athletes, introduced yoga and meditation to the Nashville public school system and continues to work one on one with private clients including the Nashville Predators. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and has worked for a variety of publications as a yoga expert. She authored a chapter in Yoga In America, a book published at the forefront of the discussion among yoga teachers about contemporary yoga in America. Additional writing can be found at as well as the Journal pages of her yoga site. Hilary teaches classes and workshops in consciousness through movement. Her medium is yoga. Her method is exploring the language of the body in light of the eight limbs. Find her at


7 Responses to “Rebel Yoga In the Year 2000 Never Heard of Tara Stiles”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Carol Horton, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Rebel Yoga In the Year 2000 Never Heard of Tara Stiles […]

  2. Carol Horton says:

    Hilary: Thanks for the very enlightening longer term perspective on what it might mean to do "rebel yoga." I'd be curious to know how many other innovators "back in the day" (only 10 years ago!) caught flak for doing things that are now taken for granted, like playing music in class. I love the fact that yoga evolves and that teachers feel free to reinterpret the practice so that it feels true and vital to who they really are, rather than rigidly adhering to someone else's script.

    That said, the new rush-to-yoga-stardom culture has obvious pitfalls. If you are young, charismatic, savvy, beautiful and bendy enough, you may get snapped up by an agency looking to promote you and your yoga simply as a way of making money – with the people promoting you perhaps having no knowledge of or commitment to the practice itself whatsoever. And even with a pro-yoga business plan, the emphasis on youth and beauty puts such young teachers in a position where they don't have the time to naturally develop their practice to the place where they're really absorbed a lot of the wisdom that's come before and then really honestly decide that it's time to innovate. If they take this time, they will miss their marketing moment, and the lucrative contract will go to someone else.

    Meanwhile yoga culture shifts to that the criteria for becoming a highly visible leader is youth, beauty, bendiness, and charisma rather than knowledge, experience, maturity, and wisdom.

    Sounds like American pop culture in general, if admittedly with a much more health-conscious spin – at least yoga teachers don't score publicity points for going into rehab! 🙂

  3. Thanks for reminding us that rebels do things differently and that whenever the larger powers that be hone in on rebellion it becomes something else.

    I will take issue with the idea that what Ms. Stiles is doing is entirely harmless, though I'll grant that she isn't acting out of any desire to harm. Just because an advertisement is for a yoga product, that doesn't excuse it from being potentially harmful or hurtful. I think that we need to recognize the power of the media and rather than say 'oh, it's a yoga ad, and just like all other ads, so no big', we need to actually break down where the advertising methods are not beneficial to yoga practitioners and are, as others have stated better than myself, in combination, fueling the sexual exploitation of women. Sexy is not bad, I like it and my yoga supports it. But I'd be greatly relieved if the sensuality rather than the sexuality of yoga would get some mention from people other than my mechanic (true story, gods bless him).

  4. […] favor, As an editor, I can’t afford that luxury—there’s already been not one but two articles critical of the Rebel Yoga article on elephant. I do so because yoga for the masses is a […]

  5. Dessy says:

    I ran quickly through Tara's book the other week @ a bookstore: i think the SEXY chapter has more to do with yoga connecting with yourself, partner, infertility &stuff like that, not literally yoga for flashing a tush. As far as SLIM – i think achievable, any movement (as you know, yoga can be cardio) burn calories- eat less & healthy (which can be achieved by mindful eating) & burn more than you eat. CALM – it teaches you how to be mindful, does it not? As Tara had said : Be easy – in your words, movement, thoughts. Slim, Calm, Sexy? i dont see anything wrong with this marketing point of view :))

    PS: Salute to Hillary being a rebel yogi !

  6. Hilary Lindsay says:

    Agreed. So the buyer must beware and it may be that a taste of yoga even if it's not what they expected will not do any real damage and may lead to sampling another brand so to speak.

  7. Hilary Lindsay says:

    Well thanks for the salute and nice to know a little about this stranger's book. I never noticed her till ads for her videos and book started popping up on this screen.