Last night I had the opportunity to take a Strala STRONG class led by Tara Stiles in Boston.  I follow Tara and Strala Yoga on social media but never actually practiced Strala.  I find the posts and images to be inspirational but I’ll be honest…I didn’t really understand what Strala was all about or the “make your own rules” philosophy.  I take yoga classes with an instructor to be told what (and how) to practice yoga.  The perfectionist in me studies pose galleries and watches video after video to “master” poses.

I signed up for the Strala STRONG class without knowing what I was in for.  After I signed up I decided to watch some of Strala’s YouTube videos on preparing for class and FREAKED OUT!  The idea of handstand and crow play time completely intimidated me.  I’m embarrassed falling over when I try a handstand or crow in my living room so the thought of doing it in a room of experienced yogis and Tara Stiles was scary.  My fear was out of control and I thought of every reason to skip the class.  Luckily, I decided to go to the class regardless of my fear.  It was an amazing experience and within the first minute I totally felt what “makes your own rules” was all about.  It’s about being in the moment, connecting to your body and doing what feels good for you.

Class started with Tara thanking the packed room for spending their Friday night on a yoga mat and encouraged us to focus on our bodies and the movement.  I never really thought about movement when doing yoga.  I’m focused on holding poses and the transition from pose to pose.  But freely moving my body through poses isn’t something that I’m aware of.

“Do what feels good.  If it doesn’t feel good, just don’t do it.” ~Tara Stiles

Tara’s peaceful, laid back and supportive spirit allowed my anxiety to melt away in the opening of class and I was able to connect to my own intentions.  I was there to move beyond my comfort zone and connect to my body.  This clarity of purpose was energizing.  My mind quieted and it truly felt like I was alone in the yoga studio.

We started class with a focus on our breath and then quickly moved into the flow.  STRONG is definitely the right name for the class: it’s 75 minutes of handstands, crow pose, chaturanga, ab work, side plank, and holding warrior II for extended periods.  The ultimate STRONG moment for me came toward the end of class when we held plank for two minutes…if this doesn’t sound like a big deal I challenge you to get into plank right now and hold it!  (Shaking arms for sure!)  I even tackled the play times and almost got into crow!  I’ve watched video after video on prepping for and getting into crow pose but have never even come close until last night.  It was the free play time approach that allowed me to have the courage to try.  I wasn’t watching an instructor and trying to copy their pose, I was moving in my own body and doing what felt natural.  This freedom took away the apprehension and pressure.  It’s not about looking like Tara Stiles in crow.  It’s about looking like me.

My first Strala class was an amazing and liberating experience.  Tara created a judgement free space where everyone could practice for themselves.  It was about truly connecting to your body and doing what felt good for you in the moment.  I know that many of the people in the room were instructors and experienced yogis but I felt totally comfortable and like I belonged in the room.  I can’t wait to take another Strala class!

Thank you for a great class!

You still have still to celebrate National Yoga Month!  Tara Stiles has an amazing library of YouTube videos and you can also practice Strala RELAX or STRONG at home.  New to yoga or looking for a refresher?  Tara offers a complete training series on MindBodyGreen.

Have you read my guest blog post for Kristin McGee about the benefits of yoga?