02/21/2011 04:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Working Out With the Hot Yoga Teacher of the Moment

I read an article in the NY Times last month that pegged Tara Stiles as the 'it' yoga teacher of the moment... the 'rebel' yoga teacher, the Times called her.

Seems young Tara's style is to do away with the Sanskrit names for yoga poses and all that supposedly scary yoga lingo in favor of her own bare bones, stripped down style. There is no chanting and for some people, that's a good thing. I'm generally okay with chanting as long as it doesn't take over the class. That does happen. There are classes where I sometimes feel like I've joined a cult without signing up.

Tara, a former model and author of Slim Calm Sexy, was packing them in at her NoHo studio for the rock bottom price of $10 a class, the Times said. In Manhattan, that is dirt cheap for yoga, especially for someone who is Deepak Chopra's personal yoga instructor. I was intrigued and decided to try out a few classes.

The Strala Yoga Studio that Tara runs offers three class types -- Strong, Relax and Recover. I've been practicing yoga for years now but didn't want to presume I could start at the top so I headed for the Relax class, the middle level. Not knowing what to expect or how crowded the classes might be after the extended Times writeup, I got to the studio half an hour early and wound up chatting with Tara and her hometown buddy/co-worker Jennifer. They were friendly and forthcoming and Jennifer is studying journalism, so what's not to like?

Since that initial class, I've gone about five times and now have a class card so I must find something there I like, right? Right.

All the classes I've gone to except one were taught by Tara. Let me say first off that Tara has a quiet charisma, if that's not a contradiction in terms. She has an amazingly relaxed style and a goofy laugh that draws you in (Thanks for coming. Welcome to yoga... hahaha). The classes are vigorous, and challenging but not impossible or filled with weird yoga poses like other classes I've taken (The classes that seem more like a game of Twister than yoga). She also is not one of those drill sergeant yoga teachers who demand that your toes be aligned correctly. I don't go to yoga for my toes.

Tara has more of a devil may care attitude, and casually walks around in her sweats making a lot of corrections as she leads the class which is typically pretty large. The music is great especially when she pumps up the volume but she seems to be stuck on one mix at the moment.

It's a good workout and a beautiful studio and so far, I'm in because of the overall good vibe. I think that's the main thing about any teacher. They have to give off a good vibe. I've taken classes at the Y that were great because the teachers had an organic style, and I've taken classes at beautiful studios that were terrible because the teacher somehow kept me off balance the whole time.

I know this might be heresy to some who believe that yoga is all about you but I don't know buy that. It's a lot about you but it's a lot about the teacher too imo. Strala Yoga Studio has both a great studio and a charming teacher, and it's worth a visit. (And if you want to see what she's like for yourself, she regularly posts videos on Youtube. Here's a recent one. Enjoy. And, uh, namaste!