women on the rise

"there came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." 
- anais nin

this weekend i read a really inspiring and thought provoking article in the new york times called 'rebel yoga'.  everyone in the little yoga world is talking about this article, about tara stiles and her interpretation of yoga.  (there's also an awesome photo of tara in the strala yoga t-shirts that i made!)

tara stile's videos were among the first yoga classes i ever tried online.  i was immediately drawn to her practical and moderate approach, as i tend to be turned off by mysticism, extremes, and anything remotely similar to religion.  i went to nyc about a month ago and visited tara's studio, strala yoga.  i was dropping off about 50 t-shirts i designed for her studio, and while there i took a brilliant and perfectly challenging class 'strong' taught by yulati in the simple and comfortable sunlit studio in noho. i met tara briefly and felt kindred with her, as well as everyone else hanging out at strala.  maybe it's our common love and appreciation for uncomplicated unpretentious yoga, but i couldn't help but relax and feel like i found a safe lil place with these people, stralans, in the crazy city.

the article about tara's "brand" of yoga, and many yogini women's response to it got me thinking a lot today about what sexiness is, how we judge and compete with other women, and what we can do to truly empower the female gender.

if you haven't already read the article, see it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/nyregion/23stretch.html

what i got out of the article is that tara is basically bringing to the forefront that yoga is about health and well being.  if you want your chanting and philosophy instruction, then by all means you can have it, but it won't be found at strala.  tara and strala yoga welcome everyone and don't want to intimidate or alienate anyone with some sort of strict yoga dogma.  yoga is simply healthy for the body and mind, not a self righteous entitlement practice, and anyone can do it.  it doesn't have to be serious and only for the very flexible.  all people can draw benefits from even the shortest and simplest daily practice.  nowhere in the article did i dwell on, or even really think about tara's sex appeal or her supposed "former model celebrity status".  

why then did so many yoga bloggers today have such negative things to say about the article?

i guess, they are some of the types of people mentioned in the article that accuse tara of "heresy" in light of the tradition of  yoga.  but, like tara says in the article, we each have our own path.  not everyone is going to approve of it, and that's ok.

the points that many of tara's critics make are: 1. she might not be able to teach yoga safely without the standard 200 hour yoga teacher training (i think the yoga alliance training is kinda a load of BS that needs renovating, and nothing to measure teaching standards by, but this is a whole other blog entry), and 2. she has too much sex appeal, flaunts her body, and makes others feel badly that they aren't as in shape as her.  the second point was much more focused on by many fellow women yoga practitioners.

why?  this got me thinking, when did sexuality become a negative judgmental thing?  why do women criticize other women for being fit, beautiful, and comfortable in their own bodies?

i like what tara says in the article, "we shouldn't hide behind our bodies, we should be empowered by them."

i do, however, understand when women get upset about the sexual objectification of women in the media.  my mom sent me a great link to an awesome looking movie called 'miss representaion', featured this spring at the sundance film festival. 

watch the trailer here: http://www.missrepresentation.org/welcome.html

 we as women, i think, need to recognize and support what is empowering.  this is a hard thing to do because we still live in a "men's world".  only 17% of congress is women, and it's obvious that men run advertising and commercials when we see women in typical roles- the child like sexual creature, or the stay at home mom.  we may live in a so called "post feminist" society, but i feel that today calls for feminism more than ever.

how does this relate to tara stiles and my response to other women's reaction of it?  well, i think first in order to make this more of a women's world, we need to stop tearing each other down.  tara is successful and beautiful, confident and intelligent.  in my understanding, it seems like people are judging her out of jealousy.  we need to get over this, it is a juvenile emotion.  i have never seen tara in an ad, a photograph, or in any kind of press appearing as a slutty bimbo.

so what if she is wearing a sports bra and little shorts on the cover of her book "slim calm sexy"?  why do we have to hide our bodies?  she looks like a confident fitness guru, not like a objectified sex kitten.  there is a huge difference, and in my opinion it is taking women steps backward in our progress to compete with each other in this way.  if we can't even unite and support one another, how will be find equality with men?  

women share so much more in common than in differences.  most of us want the same things- a career we are passionate about, a happy family life, a comfortable home, and a loving partner.  and yes, most of us also want to feel good about our bodies (and our minds as well, they are of the same material), therefore feeling sexy.

let's take back the s-word- sexy.  let's allow it to strengthen the female race, rather than focus on it's negative connotations.  it doesn't have to be just our appeal to men- it is what makes us feel proud to be women.  sexiness is so much more than our outward appearance- it is our intelligence, our happiness and satisfaction in the life we choose, how we treat others, and how we impact and influence the planet.  

we should build our fellow women up, rather than pull each other down.  women have so much more work to do to rise up and find that equal ground with men that is our integral right as human beings.  i vow to support my sister fellow women, and see the difference between objectification and empowerment!  i truly hope other women will do the same- we need each other.


  1. Hayley,
    This is a very well written point of view. I would like to share it if you don't mind. I will obviously link back to you.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. of course! i would be honored! thanks for stopping by my blog joi! much love to you :)



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