Bear with me as I follow up on my prior post, “Who the heck is Tara Stiles?” If that was my first question, my next thoughts, after my friend Michael mentioned this unfamiliar yoga personality, went like this: “Am I out of it? Should I have recognized this name?”
I’d considered myself quite up on all things yoga. Unlike the most serious, old-school yogis, I enjoy knowing yoga in all aspects: the sutras, the Indian gurus, the fashion trends, the iconic teachers around the world. While I study primarily the Iyengar method, I’ve explored Ashtanga, Bikram, and Yin yoga, and I seek out local studios wherever I travel. I know the major yoga teachers across the US, I figured.
But I didn’t recognize Stiles, despite her Internet fame. Unless I were living in New York, where she teaches (and where there is a premium on knowing who’s who), I had no reason to discover her. I only selectively view YouTube videos (never would I randomly search for “yoga” there) and I’ve rarely read the Huffington Post (which features a mind-bogglingly large stable of bloggers).
Curious, I asked my friends if they knew this Tara Stiles. Pat? No. Doug? No. Nicki? Laugh. “Yes. I was thinking of doing a few YouTube videos for my students so I searched for ‘yoga’ and guess what I found.”
I would bet a million dollars that my own teachers would not recognize her name—and would not care to. Why should they? A person like Stiles has nothing to teach a senior teacher.
I don’t mean to disparage Stiles. Heck, I have nothing to teach a senior teacher. But what I find interesting is her fame as a yoga teacher. There exist parallel worlds of yoga in the USA. There is the world of Celebrity Yoga, which comprise Rock-Star Yogis (teachers who are household names, such as Rodney Yee) and Yoga-Conference Stars (teachers who are superstars in yoga circles, such as Sarah Powers, Ana Forrest, and those tapped to pose for the Yoga Journal calendar).
Then there are teachers’ teachers, those highly respected by insiders: They are generally lifelong practitioners, committed to all eight limbs of yoga (not only asana). They tend to make their regular classes and students first priority, rather than going on the road to worldwide conferences and workshops. While unknown to non-yogis and newbie yogis, they often attract staunchly loyal student followers. This latter category of teachers has little interest in celebrities and wannabe’s.
I’m a curious person. I’m curious about yoga traditions and yoga trivia. I’m curious about all yoga, the essential and the tangential. But life is short. Warn me if I veer too much toward the latter.