You already know Tara Stiles as the founder of Strala yoga studio in New York City, the face of Reebok’s yoga line, and author of Slim Calm and Sexy and Yoga Cures. But Stiles’ latest book, Make Your Own Rules Diet, out November 11, feels like the first real peek into who the 33-year-old is behind the moniker of “celebrity yogi.”
Designed like a scrapbook with “realistic and relatable” personal photos and quirky illustrations, Stiles’ new book (now available for pre-order) offers yoga sequences, meditations, and easy recipes—all with the simple intention of inspiring you to take excellent care of yourself—and to find a diet that’s really reflective of a balanced lifestyle. But it’s also a powerful message.
“The whole idea of the book is how to feel better—how to do the things that make you feel more vibrant,” says Stiles, whose past books have had a more how-to-do-yoga-moves bent.
And for the first time, Stiles shares her own struggle with anorexia as a young woman and other personal anecdotes from her wellness journey.
“Young girls were coming up to me, saying that they’d struggled with [disordered eating] and practicing yoga really resonated with them,” she explains. “I didn’t think it was a necessary thing for me to share personally at the time, but I realized, if they can, I can too.”
By touching on the personal reasons for her tips and inspiration in this book, it feels like Stiles is finally making her own rules—and she wants you to do the same. After all, doesn’t wellness mean something different for all of us?
Tell me about why Make Your Own Rules Diet is different from your other books? Well, the other two were more yoga-practice focused—yoga specifics on how to do certain things. Before, I felt that I didn’t earn the right to write a lifestyle book. It was easy for me to write a book about yoga. But now, I’ve spent a lot of time in the food and lifestyle space. This is more of a lifestyle book.
What do you mean by “lifestyle”? Over the years, having the studio in New York, the things people asked me often have little to do with yoga and more about, “What can I do to help calm myself?” These questions are about how you’re treating yourself—food-related questions were really about anxiety and stress. The same themes kept coming up.
Do you think those answers are missing from the lifestyle space? Looking around in the food and lifestyle categories, and contributing to a lot of those publications, I didn’t feel that specific voice was present, no. I saw more of, “This is what you should eat to be healthy” and “5 more things to do with kale.” But the questions I kept hearing were, “How do I continue to feel better outside of yoga and meditation and eating healthy?”
The book is filled with your gorgeous Instagram photos. Why go that route instead of professional photography? I did a really professional photoshoot with the food photographer, and I was there cooking all of the recipes. I thought to myself, this is so traditional and what I’ve seen before. That’s fun and nice and people want that on their coffee table, but the more casual snapshots are more realistic and relatable. I brought this crazy mood board to my publisher and they loved it. I’ve finally realized you can do whatever you want in the structure of a book and it’s totally okay.
And are the recipes ones that you’ve collected over the years? Yeah, I mean it’s all really simple, inexpensive, few-ingredients things that I make. I have tons of cookbooks I never use, but these recipes you can actually make at home. It’s sort of addressing a need for people who want to be healthy but can’t prepare something all day long. I’m from the Midwest, I just want to want to feed my friends and family.
How are the yoga sequences and meditations unique from your other books? All of the routines and the meditations are designed to address the mood of the person doing them, instead of fitting some other result. It’s going in with the focus of easing your body, and easing your mind. Once you feel great, you want to keep that cool feeling going. They’re mood enhancers.
In the beginning of the book, you talk about your experience with date rape and, subsequently, anorexia. Why did you decide to share this? Young girls were coming up to me in different countries, saying that they had struggled with that, or had an incident, and practicing yoga really resonated with them…. I didn’t think it was a necessary thing for me to share personally at the time. But I realized, if they can, I can, too. People confuse the issue. There should not be a focus on the food—it’s about a need to control something. Dealing with the issue is about dealing with how you feel, and what’s surrounding that.
Is yoga something that helped you find balance during that time in your life? Definitely. It was around that time that I was getting into yoga and meditation. I was really in exploring mode. I couldn’t put words together why, but I felt compelled to go and find things that worked, and keep searching around. I grew up doing yoga and meditation, but I was more compelled to be in more healing groups and getting into all of those energy sides of it.
What’s the main thing you want people to take away from this book? This is about the desire to feel better—it’s the everything book. Here you go: it’s my personal story, and then the lifestyle component with recipes, yoga, and meditation. The main message is how to feel better, so you want to do the things that make you want to take care of yourself. You are making your own rules because you’re finding your own path. —Jamie McKillop