EFFINGHAM – Breezy wind and chilly temperatures didn’t discourage a class of 14 area yogis from bringing their mats to the Effingham County Museum lawn for an inspirational morning of yoga.
Lotus Room Yoga owner Barbara Schuette brought a special guest to lead the class behind Santa’s House Saturday morning in downtown Effingham. Schuette wanted to introduce her students to a special style of yoga.
“We were very lucky to have her with us today,” Schuette said.
Tara Stiles, the creator of Strala yoga, kept students engaged while leading them through her practice of yoga based on individual feelings and wellness. The name Strala is a combination of the words strength and balance.
“I just want people to feel better and connect with themselves and know that yoga isn’t just about a stretch or strength and building exercise. It’s about noticing how you feel so you don’t ignore yourself and go through your life with your head down. ” Stiles said. “I get away from telling people how to feel.”
Her style of yoga gets individuals more into balance with their own well-being while creating harmony.
Stiles is a northern Illinois native who graduated from high school and moved to New York City in 2000. She moved to New York to be part of a contemporary dance company, then one of her instructors introduced her to yoga.
“He brought yoga in as a way to de-stress and relax,” she said. “Yoga wasn’t super popular at the time in 2000, but I thought this was a great practice to do to feel better and connect.”
As Stiles learned more about yoga, she discovered how intimidating it can be.
“A lot of people think you need to be flexible. You have to change your religion or change your diet, ”she said. “So, I just started sharing with people you can do this in an easy-going way and feel better and you can still stay true to yourself and keep your beliefs.”
Yoga started taking more and more of her time, so she started a studio just for fun while she was still dancing. At that point, she got the opportunity to write books and produce DVDs.
Stiles started her first yoga studio in New York 10 years ago and as things started expanding she started licensing partner studios.
“We now have affiliates around the world we visit,” she said.
Stiles is no stranger to conducting yoga classes outdoors like Saturday’s class in downtown Effingham.
“I started a free yoga class in Central Park just for fun for anyone who wanted to come. It’s so nice to watch people walking by and can see yoga is not such a big deal and they can come in and enjoy. Even today we saw people walking by with their dogs. Even on a windy, cold day like today you can feel the wind and cold and feel like you’re alive, ”she said.
Stiles’ parents moved to the Newton area a couple of years ago to live closer to her mother’s family. Stiles followed, moving to Effingham from New York in March. She lives with her husband, Mike Taylor, who she met through yoga several years ago, and 4-year-old daughter Daisy.
“We figured with everything going on in the world, it’s nice to be closer to family,” Stiles said. “Everything I do with yoga is now online or I’m traveling somewhere.”
“Most of the things we do are in Europe, Asia and the US, and New York has always been home based,” she said. “Now our home is Effingham.”
Right now her travel is limited due to the pandemic, however, she hopes to travel next summer with scheduled visits to Berlin, Germany, in June then France and London. Stiles plans to hold training and classes during her trip, including classes for businesses.
Next summer she also plans to travel to Disneyland in France for International Yoga Day.
“It’s kind of like Christmas for yoga people,” Stiles said. “We did a couple of classes for them the summer before the pandemic. They do classes for the public and some of their employees. ”
Stiles has authored nine books that have been translated into other languages. While on tour in various countries, she gives lectures about her unique yoga style. A book she authored, “Clean Mind, Clean Body: A 28-Day Plan for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Self-Care,” was a New York Times bestseller.
She recently worked on a project for National Geographic, “Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses.”
“I just came in and did the story for yoga,” she said. “It shows a child and a different animal doing a yoga move. I really feel lucky I get to do stuff like this. ”
She now produces live videos from her Effingham home through her Strala yoga phone app. She also has her own YouTube channel: youtube.com/c/TaraStilesStralaYoga.
Schuette said she wants to feature Stile’s Strala yoga classes as a monthly series. Schuette opened the Lotus Yoga Room in downtown Effingham to give those in the community and surrounding communities, such as Mattoon, who are interested or want to try yoga a place to gather.
Schuette said Stiles will return for a class at her studio on Jan. 29. Stiles husband, Taylor, will be offering Tai Chi from her studio as well.