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Originally published Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

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Taking five with yoga teacher Tara Stiles

Stiles, the fun-loving founder of Strala Yoga in New York City, is probably best known for her use of social media.

Chicago Tribune

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When yoga teacher Tara Stiles listed her influences on her YouTube profile, she typed in "Deepak Chopra, Jane Fonda and Yoko Ono."

Shortly thereafter, Stiles become Chopra's personal yoga instructor; together they created an iPhone app and several yoga DVDs. She also teamed up with Fonda for a video project and was contacted by Ono's people, who said they'd like to meet.

But Stiles, the fun-loving founder of Strala Yoga in New York City, is probably best known for her use of social media, including her own low-budget YouTube yoga videos — she was one of the first to create and upload instructional videos — and her Facebook posts, which might show a picture of her lunch. Stiles, a former model, recently explained why it's nice to have famous friends and why she wants to connect with the rest of us.

Q: Why do you think you connect with older people?

A: I like to have friends further along in their lives. Older people seem to like that I am passionate about what I spend my time doing and work hard. I think that gets lost a lot with "kids these days." I think I connect with kids too because they think I'm silly. I am silly.

Q: Have you ever been injured doing yoga?

A: No. I am careful to make sure I'm paying attention; listening to my breath and what my body can do is essential. Also, coming from a dance background, performance was a big part of my life, and I don't see yoga as a performance. So if my body isn't going to get into a certain position, I have no external drive to force it to. The benefits of yoga come from what is going on inside your body and mind, much more than how extreme the pose.

Q: What's your diet like?

A: Vegetarian mostly. Ezekiel bread, almond butter, grains, quinoa, lots of kale. Occasionally I'll eat cheese on pizza, but not too often. I don't have any food rules, except nothing junk. I don't eat many things that come in a box. I never really dieted, but I used to eat a lot of crappy things — like Gummi bears, sugary and salty things and diet sodas — during my (ballet) dancing years when I didn't know any other way to get a lot of energy. It's OK when you're 18, but I would do it differently if I knew then what I know now.

Q: Where do you get your energy now?

A: I try to keep centered and do things I like to do. I learned a lot from Deepak. He won't do something unless it's fun or he's interested in it.

Q: What's driving you?

A: The chance to help people connect to themselves in a holistic way through meditation and eating. In many places there's no yoga studio, no place to eat healthy. It's empowering to know you can do yoga at home; you don't have to dramatically change your life to feel better about yourself. Yoga just removes the doubt, fear and insecurity that lead you to make bad choices that destroy your health. If you start eating healthy, you want to eat healthy more often. I've seen it in my friends; they're on all these pills and way overweight, and it's completely reversible.

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