Ten Lessons We Learned Beyond Strala Poses

As I board the train to Tarrytown at the close of another weekend, I contemplate the past few months since beginning the Strala Ready-To-Lead yoga training in NYC; I am pleasantly surprised at how much I have grown since beginning the program a few months ago.  It seems to be the case time after time that whenever I feel the most uncomfortable and challenged, is precisely when I learn the most.

tissue donor

I signed up for the Strala training program not knowing anything about it. I have taken countless yoga classes over the past 5 years, but the transition to Strala style has really helped me connect to my inner me as well as to others in the class.

To understand Strala is to understand Tara Stiles. She is extremely approachable, respectful and has a natural ease about her, very much like the style of yoga she developed – Strala. The basis of guiding Strala is built on attitude which for Tara is about energy, interest in others and connection.

My 2014 Ready-to-Lead class was a unique group of individuals from many different cultures from all over the world!  As Tara Stiles, founder of Strala yoga, would often say, “Our classes are made up of a wide variety of people with different experiences and that’s what keeps it interesting, rather than everyone looking and acting the same”.

I spoke with several of my classmates about their personal take-aways from participating in the Ready To Lead 2014 Class. Here are ten of those lessons learned.

*Special thank you to my fellow Strala guides for your input:  Matt Neely, Laura Brady, Natalie Powell, and Lyz Keating

1. Be Yourself – On my first day of teacher training, my biggest fear going into this class was that I would be the oldest and that I would not be able to do the poses as well as the other students.  As my uptight mindset grew over the initial weeks, I found myself feeling like I was not enough and separating from the group. I finally reached a point where the pain became too big and I needed to either move on or accept myself.  I chose to change my attitude and just be me. When I did this everything else changed. I could see that all of us were having similar experiences and that by separating myself I was missing the experience as a whole. How often do we this in life?

2. Find Your Voice – Coming from a large family, we were taught, kids should be seen and not heard. As a result, I have learned to take up less space in hopes of not getting noticed.  As a guide in Strala to be effective we need to be our best selves and that means connecting with everyone in the room. Therefore, as guides we practice using our body and voice to connect with everyone in the room.

3. Breathe – Always come back to your breath. With breath we are able to deepen our poses, let go of emotion, and stay present.

4. Let Go of Knowing – Lyz a ballet dancer for most of her life has been trained to be precise in every pose. Recently while at a Broadway show with friends to see a fellow friend perform. Lyz said, “my friends asked if I would teach them to break down each yoga pose”.  My friends reminded me how far I have come in letting go of needing to know.  In Strala, the primary goal is to create space in your body and to do yoga in a way that is right for you. As a guide we are taught to guide movement and not pose.

5. Did You Say Play? We had one session at Strala where we learned Children’s yoga (animal yoga).  I found myself really enjoying it, I realized I had let go of play in my life. I had become much too serious with all of life’s responsibilities. Creating space in your life to play whether you are in yoga practice or everyday life is an important reminder. I have learned to let go and say yes to fun more often.

6. Create Space – For Natalie, her Strala journey has created space in her life. Natalie said, “With space comes a new sense of feeling calm, inspired and stronger”. “It makes me feel clear about knowing what I want and who I want to surround myself with. We are the artists of our lives and Strala has taught me that it is simple to design a life you love”.

7. Trust your intuition – “Strala encourages you to make your own choices on the mat for what feels good in your body”, said Laura. “It comes down to trusting your intuition by creating a flow that is right for you. I have learned to pay attention and take this outside of my practice and into my life”.

8. Find Your Balance – In life and on the mat finding our balance can be different each day. Knowing that keeping our balance can often feel like a tree swaying in the breeze (or a storm) our roots are deep and we can draw from that strength.

9. Take Care of You – As a guide it’s imperative that we be our best selves to connect with the class. When you are feeling good you can spread that goodness with others.

10. Permission to go at your Own Pace – For Matt, his biggest lesson is giving yourself   permission to progress at your own pace and rather than arbitrarily attempt to hit external benchmarks. Matt said, “I think this is a big part of Strala’s philosophy, giving yourself space and freedom to do what feels right to you at that moment and knowing that in time, what you’re going for will come whether it’s a handstand or a deeper connection to yourself”.

Thank you Tara Stiles and your team of amazing Strala guides for a life changing experience!.  You created a fun, safe and enlightening space for all of us to grow and connect as Strala guides.

Wendy ~



Five ways to create a practice of graditude

untitledI recently noticed I was struggling. I began striving for things such as; loosing a few extra pounds, wishing I had this or that. To me this is dangerous, the message is clear that I am moving away from my core to external wants. Mind you, it’s ok to want and desire more for yourself. However, when your experiences are based on external ideas of you not being enough, something is missing. For me, it’s a reminder that I have stepped away from my core. I know for sure that we have the ability to be happy in this world with gratitude.

Two years ago I learned this lesson well.

Everything in my life fell apart, finances, relationship, and business and I was facing major surgery to donate my kidney on behalf of my brother. At the time, I simplified it, thinking I could donate my organ and heal over the next few weeks and then get back to picking up the pieces of my life. However, things turned out very differently…..

I started blogging prior to the surgery and opened myself up. In the past I lived my life only showing the pieces of myself that I chose to share. Although, I was warm and friendly most people knew little about me. All of that changed with my blogs. I wrote about my deepest fears, thoughts and insecurities and my world opened. People could relate to this person and through these experiences I learned how connected we all are.

After my surgery life slowed down (in part because of the pain), I became very present and realized the impact my surgery had on my brother and the chain I was part of. The gratitude I felt was staggering. I felt like I had been reborn and woke up in color. Nothing seemed too hard, everything seemed as it should. It was the first time in my life that my soul was at peace with itself. It took me a year to heal completely from the surgery, it was time well spent loving both myself and everything around me.

I realized even though I practiced gratitude throughout my life, this was deeper. I felt gratitude in every cell of my body.

Here are five ways to create a practice of gratitude

1). Before you go to bed; take a moment and consider what you are grateful for? Then feel it in your body, this is very important. Recall the day your child was born, or the day you learned that “fill in the blank”. Reconnect with the emotion from that moment, feel that sense of excitement and appreciation in your body.

2). Keep a daily gratitude journal. I keep a calendar and write down every evening what I am grateful for; at times it’s my breath, my kids, the sky. Other times it’s something amazing that happened in my day.

3). Wake up each morning with your first thought of gratitude. Instead of thinking about everything you need to do, take a moment relax and feel what you are grateful for. You cannot be in an ego state when you are in gratitude.

4). Throughout your day stop and feel gratitude, notice what is positive in others and give someone a compliment. It gives us energy to see the good in others.

5). When you find yourself in a negative situation, ask yourself what can I learn from this experience and what can or will I be grateful for?


Loving over judging – Why do we compare?

organ and tissue donation

“The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Dali Lama

So why do we compare? Does it give us an opportunity to justify our own actions? Or perhaps make us feel worthier than our counterpart or even more so– to separate ourselves from others.  We all judge on some level and some more than others.  Families can often be the worse. We are often programmed to compete, to compare, and criticize and it can cycle through to the next generation.

How can we stop this behaviour? First, we need to be aware of our thoughts and what is going on within ourselves. We often judge others simply because of our own personal experiences.  Haven’t you had times in your life when you were extremely good and other times when you were not nice, maybe even terrible?

If we can have the awareness that in life, sometimes we are up and other times we are down. And that life is like a wave of not just our emotions, but also based on our experiences in this world. Perhaps we would be less inclined to point the finger at others. Why must we judge so harshly, particularly when change is constant within all of us?

I love this quote  “Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease“. Dali Lama

So true, it takes energy to be angry, to repeat your stories and think negatively. While it gives us energy to care for others and to be grateful for what we have.

You and I are in control of our emotions in any given situation. Why not choose loving over judging?

Wendy ~