In an email exchange several months ago, I mentioned my long interest in yoga to Michael, a magazine editor friend. “The path of the yogin is a difficult (and impecunious) one,” he wrote back. “You could always do what Tara Stiles did and become a YouTube sensation.”
Tara Stiles? Who the heck is Tara Stiles?
I Googled her name and found her website, her HuffPost blog, her Couch Yoga video on YouTube (which has garnered almost 115,000 views to date), and hundreds more listings. Born in 1981, Stiles grew up in rural Illinois before claiming fame as a Ford model cum yoga sensation.
I watched a few of her videos, from Couch Yoga to Hotel Room Yoga to Meditation tips. Lithe and leggy, Stiles has a laidback manner and treats yoga in a matter-of-fact way. With her conspiratorial tone, body-swaying gestures, and uniform of short shorts and boy-beater tanks, she makes yoga interesting to the uninterested masses.
Comments on Stiles’s videos run the gamut (here are some G-rated examples from Hotel Room Yoga):
Yoga is 2,000 years old. What does this dum young full of @#!~$ know. Shut up! … What is this dum dum talking about? – A few too too many hotel beds…I think. LOL (acm19751; USA; age 34)
Chicks + Underwear + Stretching = hot 🙂 (iluvebeer; Oslo, Norway; age 19)
hotness (LukeWhitaker; USA; age 26)
Most are akin to the latter two. Of course.
In addition to skimming Stiles’s videos, I read a few of her HuffPost blog posts. She displays a likable, inclusive manner (her motto: anyone can do yoga) and the knack for boiling advice down into five points (or less). As a yoga instructor, she is probably better, or at least no worse, than the hundreds of 20-somethings out there. There is no comparison between this contingent and the wise senior teachers who exist everywhere (keep your eyes peeled; they’re often under the radar)—so I won’t compare.
But Stiles’s yoga is all about sex. Don’t get me wrong: Sex is always in the picture. Walking down the street in skintight pants (or in grubby tee and shorts, no matter), it’s fair game for any onlooker to get an eyeful. You can’t control if others view you as a sex object. And, let’s face it, if you’re human, you have a stake in your own sexiness. So, in non-yoga settings, wear a bikini, go braless, go nude, whatever.
It’s another matter purposely to create yoga videos that bank on sex appeal more than on yoga itself. To me, it’s cheesy: a guaranteed attention grabber for extraneous reasons. (I’m reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s decision not to use swearing in his standup act; he considered tossing off f-bombs too easy a way to get laughs.) The phenomenal supermodel Christy Turlington is another model-turned-yogi, but she wrote a book (Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice, published in 2002) and is now working on a master’s degree in public health at Columbia, forgoing her own chance to make blockbuster yoga videos for YouTube.
The irony (and this is real irony, not the ironical tone favored by Stiles and her ilk): With her looks, savvy, and head start in yoga, this Tara Stiles could probably do just fine … without lolling around in bed.
Related post: “The Call of the Fame”