Home: People: My New Best Friend

A private instructor puts the “om” in home

Embarrassing, but true: I had my first yoga instruction 10 years ago, but every time I take a class, some nice person comes over and says, “Is this your first time?” I can’t do a headstand, become a human pretzel, or even get deep. During the meditation part of class, I daydream about shopping at


Embarrassing, but true: I had my first yoga instruction 10 years ago, but every time I take a class, some nice person comes over and says, “Is this your first time?” I can’t do a headstand, become a human pretzel, or even get deep. During the meditation part of class, I daydream about shopping at neimanmarcus.com. What I am, like so many people, is a complete and total stressball, and yoga, even though I don’t do it particularly well, helps — a lot.

[sidebar]When I moved to Philadelphia nearly a year ago, one of the first things I did was look for a place to do yoga. But it was winter and I didn’t have a car, and the thought of schlepping outside to get my om on was less than appealing. In the spirit of what yogis call “loving kindness,” I wanted to give myself the best possible shot to make it happen. So I decided to look into private, at-home classes.

Full disclosure: I’m a girl who likes to have people come to my house and tend to me. I’ve had my hairdresser come to my house. I’ve had a manicure and pedicure party at my house. And the night that my friends Chris and Gretchen decided to use our house for their Wolfgang Puck-catered dinner party was a night I’ll never forget. There is nothing like having a waiter in a tuxedo serve you passed hors d’oeuvres in your own living room. But I’m here to tell you that yoga at home is the most pampering convenience of all.

Since I was new in town, I randomly called several local studios and asked if any of their teachers taught private classes at home. I got three names, called everybody, and picked the person who sounded the mellowest on the phone. I’ve taken enough yoga classes with teachers who seemed to miss their calling as drill sergeants. I want a personal trainer to kick my butt, but I want a yoga teacher to help soothe my soul.

Enter Tara Culp. She is tall, she is thin, and she is beautiful. She is also an amazing yoga teacher. She comes to my house once a week — and while she is friendly, she makes it clear that she isn’t here to chitchat. She asks me how I’m feeling. I have a newborn baby and a stressful job, but you’d be surprised how rarely anybody asks how I’m feeling. If I’m energetic, we do a challenging practice. If I’m tired, cranky or lazy — which is often — we do a restorative practice.It’s easy to hide in a yoga class. Over the past 10 years, I’ve managed to cling to a really half-hearted downward dog that was more like mangy dog. I collapsed in plank without ever asking myself if I could hold the position for two seconds more. Now, Tara makes sure that I do each position to the best of my ability. She pushes me, just a little, out of my comfort zone. She comes to my house — where I can’t hide behind classmates — and she shows me that I can do more than I thought was possible.

These days, I can hold downward dog for five breaths with relative ease. I can lunge into “warrior one” with confidence, and I’m beginning to imagine that I can do more. I dream I can do headstands and I believe one day, I will.

Once, several years ago, I showed up at a yoga class, exhausted, after a horrible day at work. As you may know, the last 10 minutes of most yoga classes are dedicated to shavasana, the final relaxation. You lie down on the mat, arms to your sides, eyes closed. Well, that day in shavasana, I fell asleep. I woke up with a startle to realize the class was over, but my humiliation had just begun. In the locker room, a classmate confronted me: “I can’t believe you snored in shavasana,” the woman snarled. “It totally ruined the peaceful meditation.” I was horrified and never fully relaxed in shavasana again. Which brings me to the absolute best part of doing yoga at home: After Tara does the final meditation, she lets herself out of my apartment. I often finish my yoga class with a nice little nap, and — because I am in the comfort of my own home — nobody cares if I snore.

Tara Culp is available for private classes and can be reached at 917-202-3166 or taraculp@gmail.com. She also teaches at Practice Yoga Studio (practiceyogastudio.com) and in Mt. Airy at Blue Banyan Yoga (bluebanyanyoga.com).