“I’m no longer sheltering in place, I’m now yogi in residence,” Tara Stiles tweeted recently. It’s the latest of many monikers for the model turned yogi. Since bursting on the scene more than a decade ago, Stiles has been dubbed “yoga rebel” by The New York Times, Vanity Fair called her “the coolest yoga instructor ever” and Jane Fonda named her the “new face of fitness.”

While stay-at-home orders mean Stiles is moored in her Dumbo, Brooklyn apartment—which she shares with her husband, Mike Taylor, and their adorable toddler, Daisy—her influence is virtually limitless. The said yogi in residence has been taking to Instagram Live every morning to host free yoga classes, amassing millions of views along the way. What started as Stiles’s effort to improve her personal well-being amid the pandemic swiftly turned into hour-long digital retreats with an enigmatic cult following limbering up for yoga poses from around the world. “We all have this one thing in common," says Stiles on the phone from New York on a Sunday afternoon. “We want to feel better through this practice of ease—and everyone’s invited.”

Stiles is like a shot of serotonin on a dreary day in isolation—her feel-good vibes are contagious. “That’s why I love moving in this way, because it’s not just isolated to yoga,” Stiles says. “If you get in the habit of taking care of yourself when you move, it starts with yoga, then ripples out into everything else. You become that positive guide for whoever you’re around in your life, that person on the Zoom call who is in a good mood and suddenly everybody else is now, too.”

Long before Covid-19, Stiles was doing yoga for followers in her living room—she was one of the first to make YouTube yoga instructionals a thing. “It was really cutting-edge for the time,” says Stiles, who saw social media as an entrepreneurial opportunity to build her brand. The short, 5-minute videos had clickbait-worthy topics as titles, like “Couch Yoga” or “Hangover Yoga.”

Shortly thereafter, the home-workout industry came knocking. Fonda—known for color-coordination, legwarmers, and gym-avoidance, ’80s-tastic home workout videos—was returning to the fitness world and tapped her for a DVD series. Stiles had made a name for herself with accessible yoga, and Fonda, having brought aerobics to the masses, was impressed.

When they met for the first time, Stiles was understandably starstruck. “I just sat on the floor next to her on the couch,” she recalls in between peals of laughter. “I didn’t feel worthy enough to sit on a couch with Jane Fonda.” The next thing she knew, Fonda was inviting her to a Shape Magazine event and the rest is history. “Jane is like a cool 22-year-old girl that will just call you up and say, ‘Let’s go out and do something!’” Stiles says. “I’m really grateful for her friendship.”

Each morning, Stiles extends the same warm welcome to yogis near and (very) far with shoutouts: “Hey, Slovenia, Germany, Malaysia! Hello, Iran! Hi, Iceland!” As she says: “It’s pretty empowering to have a sense that you’re not alone in this. Everybody in the world, whether doing yoga with me or wherever you are, we all want to feel better. That keeps me going.”

Choosing the right setting is just as key. “Whether it’s where the light comes in and feels really cozy or where you go lay down on the floor to, like, freak out for five minutes,” says Stiles, “those are usually the best spots to do yoga.” She keeps a yoga mat rolled out at the foot of her bed. Whenever she passes by, she’ll plop down to ‘work out any kinks.’ “It doesn’t need to be this overly precious time you have with yourself,” she says. Five minutes here, ten minutes there—it’s about creating an all-the-time situation that becomes a normal part of your life.”

Stiles has always been flexible, so to speak, when adapting her yoga routines to whatever life throws her way. In Covid-19, it’s movements that focus on the mind and body, in that order. “The workouts that aren’t frivolous, actually make you feel good and aren’t just toning that one little corner of your butt, even though that’s fun and useful,” she says. It’s critical for Stiles, and no doubt also the hundreds of thousands who tune into her Instagram Live yoga sessions. “I don’t know where I’d be without morning classes,” she admits. “A lot of people get bogged down in responsibilities that I could easily see myself doing. It gave me such a good structure and mindset. I feel better, so I am able to be present and little things don’t drive me as nuts.

Stiles is also making an effort to take a beat and “slow down.” That means—on top of the daily yoga classes—being a mom, attending Zoom events, or as she calls it, “the new going out for now” and lots of living room dance parties with the family. Every day at 1 p.m., they all tune into a live set by Sofi Tukker—the Grammy-nominated electronic pop duo, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, who just so happen to be their cool, close friends. “I’m really happy we get to do the things that we all like to do as a family together,” Stiles adds.

As for what life will look like for the yogi in residence post-quarantine? Stiles hopes to make it to Ibiza in October to lead a 200-plus hour Strala Yoga Leadership Training. She also has a new book out in December: Clean Mind, Clean Body: A 28-Day Plan for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Self-Care. In the meantime, she is already receiving DMs from devoted fans telling her just how much they will miss her morning yoga classes once this is all over. But fret not—Stiles says she is planning to keep the flow going with a weekly live yoga session. World: stay tuned.


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