Standing outside the front door of her Hollywood apartment, my eyes full of her great height propping open the screen door, I offered Tara the following compliment:
that a class with her was as satisfying for me as sinking my teeth into a good essay. Now, for her at the time, I suspect this rang as somewhat oblique praise. But for me – for whom the essay has both solved the problem of not having enough time for my great pleasure in reading, and sated my pressing desire for a certain kind of company, this is the highest acclaim.
Like Tara, a great essayist marinates in his or her subject. She reflects from multiple points of view, and over a period of time. A great essayist is curious, and actually very open – but possesses a terrier-like determination to have at every little piece of possibility a subject can yield. The best essays are shot with a somewhat freewheeling, knowing, and ideally self-reflexive sense of humor; while reading, you may guffaw, chortle, or even laugh out loud. The best essayists are ceaselessly making use of what is essentially a trans-scholarly frame of reference – traversing the strata of human knowledge with intrepid footfall, easefully shoring up connections between disparate fields of understanding. No one could doubt that Tara, nor an accomplished essayist, holds a great enthusiasm for the full array of life’s most exquisite expressions. As such, a class with Tara gives you the feeling of hanging out with a good friend – that nectarous sense of homecoming, the relief of a shared perspective and delight in the world’s great wonders.
Nor is it unclear that Tara, or the essayist, cares about the reader (student) as much as her subject. A good essayist – or Tara – doesn’t seek to overwhelm his reader with glib commentary or didacticism. (Many Anusara teachers have died on those swords, eh?) There is a slow art in the making. A thesis is built step by step; commentary never strays too far from the ostensible subject matter, yet there is a touch of the luxuriant in the manner of extra detail provided. This downshift in pace is rendered all the more impressive upon reflection on the essay’s typically brief form. (Isn’t this true of a great yoga class?)
In a class with Tara, she is delivering 90 minutes of words on a subject about which she is passionate. Like the great essayists, she is as fascinated with her subject as she is driven to find an engaging way of speaking about it. Taught yoga has rarely been such exhilarating oratory. She unfurls the multivalent dialectic of the body as consciousness, of consciousness as the body. Tara talks about ‘excavating the numinous human form’; in her hands, the body is numinous, concepts are numinous, asana is numinous, words are numinous. Her teaching eschews metaphor for the heavier and more resonant power of allegory. The key to an appreciation of allegory is the recognition that it – like all yogic practices – is about the sudden intractable fullness of the present moment. Allegories are the infinite expressed in narrative form. It’s a story about the body and about life, aboutyour body and your life, about the power of your body, about the power of your life, and about the true import of the universe, all at the very same time, all in the present moment.
With Tara, as in the case of great expository writing, your understanding undergoes a pleasurable and unexpected expansion – at the level of body, mind, and being. A great essay, and any class with Tara, is really about the whole of the world, issued through the lens of a discussion about a part of the world. The gestalt helps you to understand more, and more easily. The thing is unfolded so skillfully that you feel you might have got there on your own. This or that asana, this or that deep state of presence feels completely within your reach. Any yoga teacher will tell you that this is the most alluring of deceptions.
It might be possible to assert that Tara is not encouraging to her students. (Let me tread carefully here.) In the context of such deep and grounded exploration, encouragement would surely feel patronizing (‘Good Job!’). This is a meeting of equals, and a conversation between worthies. It’s Tara’s world as your world, and Tara’s not waiting around for anyone’s approval. This is a grown-up’s world (complete with any adult’s wry nostalgia for adolescent posturing) and, as such, qualifications are not necessary. Truly, the fullness of you is so full that it needs no encouragement. And Tara, rather magically, makes the fact of your fullness immutable in her yoga room.
A good essayist is incisive. No spare words. The instructions are crystalline, the reasons why this way and not that way are revealed irrefutably and all in good time. No rush, nothing to spare, with plenty of interesting digressions, all of which cunningly serve the whole.
And, unlike many very accomplished essayists, damned if she isn’t consistent.
Throughout my time in LA, attending The Practice at Still Yoga or her Monday andWednesday morning classes at City Yoga, I hosted a sneaky desire to hear inside the minds of my fellow classmates as we practiced. I couldn’t help but suspect that, like me, my classmates were in there having the greatest conversation in their head with Tara; riffing on her japes, offering supplemental information, telling their own theme-related stories, and otherwise, like me, being as amused with themselves as they were with Tara. Of course, this could never be verified, as by the end of class, we were all so stoned that intelligent articulation wasn’t really on the menu. But I have spent some of the best time in my own company under Tara’s instruction. I have opened my body and found power and awareness where I never thought I could find it. Tara’s classes gave me way more than any great essay – because those classes are more than pleasurable – they are a great vehicle for embodiment, of embodiment – and embodiment trumps mere pleasure, in spades. (Though it is often very pleasurable.) And, for those students who have only been exposed to Tara’s teaching on the thank-you-baby-Jesus resource of yogaglo, I can tell you that, in person, it’s much deeper, even more fulsome, and more fulfilling.
Why study with Tara Judelle? Truly, if you are at all interested in what you truly are, in feeling deeply, in feeling more powerful, in becoming more aware – her teaching is unrivalled. If you are a teacher and want a model for how to say it beautifully and with a lot of grace, you can study with Tara. If you are an asana junkie and you want someone who can take you there, you can study with Tara for that. Curious about your body? Interested in movement possibilities? Heard about Tantric philosophy and want to hear more? Like hanging out with funny people? Want to find out about the upcoming international yoga teachers? (Girl is like a best-kept secret, y’all.) Tara, Tara, Tara. Go play with her.