A Note from Tara Stiles on the Importance of Yoga & Mindfulness
A NOTE FROM TARA STILES – Founder of STRALA Yoga and contributor to the BOKS Yoga & Mindfulness curriculum
It’s not the yoga that heals you. It’s you that heals you.
I was lucky as a kid to grow up with a healthy dose of mindfulness without the side of pretense. My parents led by example that it was important to take care of our bodies by eating close to nature, take care of ourselves and each other by acting with kindness, and take care of our surroundings and the planet by being mindful of our daily actions. We recycled everything from milk cartons to old clothes. Picking up trash in ditches was a fun weekend activity.
It may have seemed strange at the time, but this way of being instilled the philosophy of yoga in my life in a real-world and super useful way. It is just how they live and it makes a lot of sense. For me, the way of being came first and the poses second. I was introduced to the physical practice of yoga in my teens, when I really needed it.
Physical yoga provided a vocabulary of movement and pretty great structure for practicing how I wanted to be. Healthy, connected, radiant and happy. Picking up cans in the ditch was one way to practice. Moving with ease during simple and challenging moments alike on the yoga mat is another. Essentially both led to the same place, and how we are in one moment is how we are in everything. We have an opportunity to practice with everything we do.
With STRALA we address how we are first, learning a way of being easy in body and mind. We practice being gentle with ourselves, and responsive in our movement to who we are and how we feel. This combined way of being and moving leads us to some pretty spectacular results. We become sensitized to how we feel and responsive to what we need to be radiantly healthy. We become pretty great care givers of ourselves, and from this place have a firm ground to help others.
I’m thrilled that STRALA is a part of BOKS, helping so many kids connect with themselves, get and stay radiantly healthy, and feel fantastic in the process. Having a little one now , I feel the importance personally of putting our attention on the wellbeing of children.
How we are is ultimately the experience we give to others. I learned growing up how I wanted to be, and in my teens I learned a vocabulary of movement to continue this practice.
When I was a teenager, tension and rigidity had started to find their way into my life, as it does for most of us at some point or another. Learning a physical practice that matched the sensibilities and mindset I discovered as a kid was mind blowing. I realized we collect stress not through the things that happen in our lives, but in how we choose to live.
The coolest part is we can learn and practice a better way to deal with the simple and challenging moments alike. It begins with dropping the tension, and re-learning how to be in alignment with our selves through a mindset that says no pain no gain is a myth, and our best path to accomplishment is in feeling good every step of the way. It continues through a practice of natural movement in our lives, that agrees with our mindset.
Of course it’s really challenging sometimes to change our mindset. It’s so familiar to us, it’s in all our habits, and we’re comfortable here. We wear our stress with a badge of honor. If we’re exhausted, we must be working hard and achieving big things. If we’re super-frazzled, we must be headed toward our goals.
The tricky reality of living this way, soaked in stress, is our mind and body cannot function properly. In tension mode we can accomplish some things, but we eventually break down. In tension mode we fall out of the flow of possibilities. Our body literally can’t maintain optimal performance in these conditions, and to put it simply, is always preparing for battle. This is a strategy that works for the short-term, and when real dangers are present. But it’s not a strategy we can sustain, and it doesn’t work when the obstacles we face are mostly inside of us.
Yoga is a wonderful practice with a rich vocabulary of movement. It allows us to get into our whole body and move in every direction possible, so every part of us can come into harmony with every other part. But the problem we run into with our yoga is the same problem we run into in our lives. We make it about nailing a pose, and hitting a goal. We bring our tension and stress along with us for the ride.
The amazing thing is, we come to yoga to de-stress and gain health and wellbeing, but it’s impossible to separate how we are in the rest of our life from how we are for those moments when we’re here to practice mindfulness. So we need to practice how we are, as a way to replace the old habits that don’t work so well with new ones that do.
We need to practice shifting our mindset from stiff and tense to soft and fluid. We need to believe in ourselves, and believe that when we stay in the process and focus on moving naturally, in alignment with ourselves, we’ll achieve more than when we force, push and struggle our way through life. This is a massive shift in how we are, and when we’re brave enough to take a look at how we are right now, we have massive opportunity to cultivate how we would like to be.
This isn’t about becoming great at yoga. It’s about becoming great at you. When you shift your attention away from the goal of a pose and onto yourself, you’ll be able to achieve so much more with grace and ease. You’ll be able to drop the tension and stress that lead to so many of our problems, and you’ll feel fantastic along the way.
You have everything you need, right inside, waiting to be discovered.