She’s a model, a world-famous yoga teacher, and an entrepreneur.

So it’s no surprise that we jumped at the chance to chat to Tara Stiles when she was in Dubai this month.

It was the first visit to the emirate for the Reebok ambassador, who founded the global Strala Yoga studios and is the personal instructor to Deepak Chopra.

And with more than 240,000 followers on Facebook, 134,000 on Instagram, and more than 250,000 YouTube subscribers, who better to quiz about building a brand?

Here’s what Stiles had to say…

Why did you think that now was the right time to visit Dubai?

I’ve actually been trying to come for the last few years (I’ve been at the airport a lot) and we have a few Strala instructors here. With this trip, the timing of the schedule worked out perfectly and I’m really happy to be here finally. 

tara stiles

What do you think of the fitness scene in the Middle East, where more and more women are getting involved in sport?

I think it’s wonderful, especially with more women getting involved in yoga, which is a way of feeling connected to yourself, empowered in your life and empowered in your body. And feeling good in your mind. 

What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneurs who want to build their own business?  

For me, it has always been about taking the time to follow my passion and doing what I was interested in. I didn’t follow any rules or steps, and you don’t have to. For example, when I started out all my yogi friends thought I was crazy for putting yoga videos on YouTube. This was when everyone thought yoga needed to be in the studio, for 90 minutes, with a teacher or a guru. But I knew people who couldn’t get to a studio or didn’t have the time, which is how I started doing videos, like a five-minute yoga sequence for back pain. And now it’s become normal.

There’s so much happening in yoga and fitness right now, it seems like everyone’s an entrepreneur. But it’s important to keep your specific vision and point of view, no matter what. For me, it’s always been about helping people feel better, not getting into a specific pose. That’s true whether I’m teaching in a studio, in my living room, or in front of hundreds of people at an event.

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What challenges did you face as a female entrepreneur?

In the beginning, I got a lot of criticism. I think, whenever you do something new people are going to break you down, especially as a woman, and unfortunately other women will break you down, which is the worst thing in the world. It’s so important to support each other.

Criticism can be a good thing – it helped me refine what I was doing. Remember also, you can’t control how other people see you and perceive your actions.

How did you grow your brand on social media?

For me, it has always been very intuitive. Strategy-wise, it’s a lot more about what I’ve said no to than what I’ve said yes to; it’s always been about keeping things simple and authentic. Sharing experiences, rather than sending down instructions from the top.

Social media can be such a source of negativity; body image, anxiety or just FOMO. How do you use it in a positive way?

I think it’s key to only be on social media for a healthy amount of time, and to remember that those perfectly curated images are not real life. I’ve definitely made the mistake of scrolling through it as a way to relax before bed, and that’s just a terrible idea. Set a time to log in and check in with everyone, rather than doing it all the time. This is a much better approach than looking at what everyone else is doing and trying to keep up and do the same, which just creates a never-ending cycle.

When you take the time to really be yourself and do the things you enjoy in the real world, when you take a picture of something that inspires you and you share that, it’s going to make you feel better not worse.

Self-care is something you’re passionate about, but it’s also something that we as women often neglect. Do you have any tips for turning that around?

Whatever you do in your life is a reflection of how you feel, so taking care of yourself is so important. But everyone tends to puts themselves last, which I think is a lot to do with how we’re raised. It’s important to prioritise and take the time to do the things that make you feel good.

For me, it’s about waking up in the morning and doing five or 10 minutes of easy yoga. Cooking makes me feel good, eating well and being creative in the kitchen. Spending less time connected on the internet and social media – using those things for their purpose, which is to connect, but then unplugging and coming back to real life. Those are the things that work for me.

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Words: Stacey Siebritz
Images: Supplied