A higher Standard

Local guru brings yoga to the masses

Yoga guru Tamara Lee Standard takes yoga practice to the streets with her Internet TV show.

Yoga guru Tamara Lee Standard takes yoga practice to the streets with her Internet TV show.

Photo By Larry Dalton

To contribute to Tamara Lee Standard’s campaign for a free yoga studio or to find out more about karma yoga, visit www.yogagirlsf.com.

“What most people are dying from is spiritual sickness, but our culture’s not really addressing that,” says Tamara Lee Standard, local yoga guru. Since yoga’s introduction to the West, the focus has mainly been on its physical benefits. But at the ancient heart of yoga lies another perk: union with your true self.

I’ve always been a little in awe of yoga teachers. It goes beyond physical beauty and superhuman strength; it’s their preternatural calm as they guide students through ego-burning positions with the gentle reminder to stay present and breathe. A good yoga class is like an act of devotion, using the body as a cathedral to connect to God within.

Yet despite my affinity for yoga, I couldn’t commit: I didn’t have the money to attend a fancy studio, gym classes were more about achieving the perfect yoga butt, I didn’t have the right clothes or mat and I’d never be as good as those deified teachers radiating inner peace while contorting into flying crow pose.

My excuses flew out the window when I discovered Yoga Girl. Yoga Girl is the alter ego of Standard, a guru with a unique mission: “To take yoga to the streets.” On her Internet TV show, she lays down a mat on the sidewalks of San Francisco’s roughest districts and invites passersby to join her. Her intention, she says, is to “share yoga with people who wouldn’t normally get the chance to do it.”

Her inspiration came from her own experience of healing through yoga. “I’ve been through a lot of pain in my life, and yoga has given me a reason to live, a purpose, a lot of joy, a lot of connection to my body as an instrument for enlightenment rather than ‘Am I sexy enough?’” she says. “You see all the illusions in the world, all the ways your body is objectified. Now I feel like I actually inhabit my body.”

People responded so positively to Yoga Girl’s “radical form of karma yoga” that she now hopes to open a nonprofit studio, offering free yoga and meditation for all.

“The Yoga Girl show is an example of being able to practice yoga anywhere with anybody,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be some fancy to-do. Really, the joy comes when you’re free yourself and don’t want anything in return.”

Since moving to Sacramento, Standard has continued to follow her calling, initiating all types of people into yoga and encouraging them to “discover the teacher within.” In addition to teaching multiple yoga styles at studios and gyms around Sacramento, she lends her services to the Women’s Empowerment Center and Sister Nora’s Place, where yoga empowers women to “have more domain” in their bodies.

“Yoga has helped me to be more of a spiritual warrior,” she says. “We’re here to manifest who we really are. If I can’t overcome my obstacles to shine as brightly as I can, then what’s the point of life?”

Standard came to yoga because she was hopeless. She didn’t care to get a nine-to-five job, work her ass off, get married and maybe get divorced—the standard American nightmare. After years of seeking, she dissolved into tears during her first yoga class. She had tapped into “a physical experience of God and unity.”

She emphasizes that one can have that same mystical experience practicing karma yoga: transcending one’s limitations through selfless service. She quotes Yogi Bhajan, harbinger of kundalini yoga to the West: “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”

On a personal level, working as Yoga Girl has helped Standard discover that her greatest strength is her vulnerability. “That’s where I feel, concurrently, the most joy, when I’m able to accept my deepest fear.” And by claiming her own mastery, she inspires people like me to begin a regular yoga practice. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even become one of those luminous teachers myself someday.