“I just wanted to see if I wanted to have a studio and if that was the way I wanted to spend my time,” she continues. “Everything I was doing was digital then. I was doing videos, and all my friends back then thought I was crazy to bring yoga to the Internet. I simply said, ‘Just wait. It’s going to be normal in a couple of years. Hold your breath.’
“I was blogging for The Huffington Post, and my friend Jason Wachob just started MindBodyGreen. People weren’t paying attention to him either, so I was blogging for him. We believed people would catch on to this wellness trend. When he started MindBodyGreen, everybody thought, ‘Where’s the spirit?’ He said, ‘Well, it’s in the “mind/body” part, and “green” is the lifestyle.’ I had the same sort of beginnings with yoga, because we just made it more approachable.”
Her easy and approachable style quickly caught the eye of no other than Deepak Chopra himself.
“I was writing my first book, and when it came time for it to come out, my publisher asked, ‘Who is the most famous person you know who is going to write a couple of words?’ And I made a joke and said, ‘I like Deepak Chopra, maybe you should call him.’ The next day I got an email to my website from the production company, which said, ‘We love what you’re doing. We’re giving an event and we’ll have yoga, and by the way Deepak Chopra will be there.’ And I thought, ‘Cool, I want to meet him!’ So I went and he approached me, ‘I really love what you’re doing. I have all your videos. We should be friends and work together. We should do this app.’ And then he asked me if I would come to his house and teach him yoga, and I said, ‘That’s ridiculous! You don’t need a yoga teacher!’ And he said, ‘Yeah I know, I don’t need a teacher, but I like the way you are talking to me about yoga and it’s just about the experience.’ So we became friends.”
Blogging and socialising as well as collaborating with her celebrity friends quickly gave her the breakthrough she needed to become a household name not only in the States but across the entire globe.
“This woman from The New York Times showed up at my studio and kept taking classes,” she says, chuckling, “and at that time (this was in 2010), there was a small column in the back of the paper called Stretch. There just started to be lots of yoga studios everywhere; I had yoga on the Internet, and we were playing music, while people from around the world were doing this approachable yoga. We were doing things that are now very normal in yoga but at that time, even four, five years ago, were so out there. We used natural movement and easy-going language in the class, and guiding people to move how it felt good. She kept coming, and then I was getting worried. She was calling everybody. She called my mum. I was working with Deepak Chopra, so she called Deepak Chopra. I was working with Jane Fonda, so she called Jane and asked them for all this information about me. I felt like getting audited. And then she said, ‘I really love what you’re doing. I see that it’s helping a lot of people, and I want to give that a boost. It’s going to be a little edgy, the piece, but I think it’s really going to raise awareness.’ And I was thinking, ‘What the hell are you going to do?! I’m doing fine, leave me alone.’ So I opened up the door, and there it was, the cover of The New York Times, a five-page spread called ‘Rebel Yoga’. And it was all about the concept, which is doing what feels good and essentially making up your own rules in a way, and how that’s rebellious to, I guess, the modern movement at the time of traditional yoga.”
Even though Stiles has already achieved what other yoginis can only dream of, she isn’t resting on her laurels just yet. She has her Make Your Own Rules Cookbook coming out in November, with two more books on Strala in the pipeline for next year, as well as an instructor training manual, which seems to be a first in the yoga field. “Nobody wants to give that information away,” Stiles says, knowing that it’s going to ruffle a few feathers. “But I believe in the information, so if someone is doing it, they just kind of pick it up and insert it into their classes or their own practice.”
Stiles is also very interested in opening more studios, but growing it organically. “I’ll just see where it goes and also see if it makes sense,” she says about opening a studio in Hong Kong. “I don’t have this plan of ‘oh this is what the market says in Hong Kong’. I don’t enjoy doing business that way. There are plenty of cities and places. I think it’s just about letting that develop naturally, and almost even slowing it down. We’ve had a lot of potential investors come in who wanted to blow things up really quickly like SoulCycle kind of models. And I was sort of like, ‘Nah’. But I think it’s most important for me that the instructors have a lot of attention and training and that they feel really good about what they’re teaching. So when people come to the class, they have a great experience.”
Stiles might be an advocate for healthy eating and leading a healthy lifestyle complete with daily yoga and meditation, but she also knows that maintaining a balance is key and doesn’t hesitate to tell me about her guilty pleasures. “Pizza and champagne,” says the slender yogini, laughing out loud. “Gosh, what else. Those are pretty bad. I like to have fun, but I’m not going crazy and overboard. I’m super active as well. I’m vegetarian, but if I only ate vegetables or only fruits, I feel like it wouldn’t be enough. So sometimes I need to have some pizza or something a little bit heavier. I think it feeds the brain in a weird way.“