Getting Flexible with Tara Stiles

I don’t know about everyone else, but I take the term “group exercise class” very seriously. As in, I don’t go unless I have a friend tagging along. Call me crazy but I need to have that moral support when I’m exercising in front of a group of strangers and the instructor can zero in on me at any second. I know from working at a gym that most instructors don’t judge (unless you show up to spinning class in cutoff jeans and hiking sneakers), but you never know about the other participants.

That’s why I dragged my best friend, Liz Shaftic, to a new yoga class when she came to visit here in NYC. After taking a six hour bus ride to arrive at 42nd Street at 12:30a.m. on a Friday night, you’d think I’d let her snag some extra shut-eye the next day, right? Wrong. We were up bright and early to head to Tara Stiles’ Strala Yoga in NoHo.

Due to some unexpected subway construction that seriously derailed our arrival, Liz and I kicked things off to a good start by showing up nearly a half hour late. However, we were still able to grab a yoga mat and jump into downward dog with one of the most prominent yoga instructors in the nation (Not to mention her husband, Michael Taylor, who’s studied and practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques for more than two decades, joined us for class).

Now, before you start thinking I’m a huge yoga guru because I work at FITNESS and really love participating in fitness-related activities, let me explain something: yoga has never been on the top of my priority list. I usually forget to stretch before and after my workouts (I’ve gotten better, though!), so contorting my body into various positions and holding them peacefully is not something I’m usually good at. But being the adventure-seeker that I am, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Although the “Strong” class I took is normally an hour and 15 minutes long, I was only there for 45 minutes and I still got a sweat-inducing, muscle-blasting workout. Tara took us through a variety of poses that didn’t just stretch the muscles. We did core, leg and butt exercises that really strengthen the muscles as well. By the end, my tank top was drenched with sweat and I realized I shouldn’t have bothered to shower before class. Don’t forget I was only there for 45 minutes — I can only imagine what I would have looked like if I was there for the full class.

Tara was also extremely nice and helpful with each class participant. She corrected my form when necessary, as a good instructor should, but she didn’t point it out to the rest of the class. In the middle of a pose, she quietly walked over and adjusted my body. And to make things less embarrassing, she cracked a joke and always had a bright smile. I noticed she was like this with all the participants rather than just with me because she knows I work at FITNESS.

Although all these things are great, I haven’t even gotten to the best part: the price. Yoga classes in NYC are typically $20 per class and can be close to $300 a month if you’re a regular goer. But Strala Yoga offers a unique, affordable opportunity: $10 a class.

“I want to make yoga affordable for everyone so that it can be something that’s easily integrated into everyday life,” Stiles told me after class. “We make the classes enjoyable and affordable, so we always have people coming back for more.”

This really could be the best deal around. So if you’re in NYC, pick up your yoga mat (or rent one there for $2) and head over to Strala Yoga. I promise, you won’t regret it. And look for me while you’re there — I’ll probably be the girl near the back trying to twist in various directions.

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