Yoga Tree Founder Tim Dale Reminisces at His Ruined Retreat

Posted on in People in Your Neighborhood by Rob Sidon


Tim Dale is cofounder of the Yoga Tree studios that included 10 Bay Area locations when it was sold in 2015. In the beautiful Sonoma hills area known as Stuart Canyon, he owns a private second home and retreat center known as Tara Bella. Nearly two weeks after the blaze he had yet to inspect the damage, so we arranged to drive there together in my car. It turned out that police were still keeping those particular roads closed, even to residents. They made an exception for us, given my press credentials. What ensued was a shocked and sporadic and sometimes teary dialogue as Tim discovered the charred remains of his beloved Tara Bella.

Tim Dale surveying damage at Tara Bella
Tim Dale surveying damage at Tara Bella

Common Ground: [approaching the canyon from several miles away] What’s going through your mind now that you can see the canyon?

Tim Dale: [mournful] I am witnessing a lot of destruction and burned-out woods. That whole forest is gone. It’s unbelievable. The power lines are down. I am looking up at the ridge where my house . . . oh no!

[Ten minutes later we arrive at Tara Bella. Tim is shaken up.] Wow! I am sorry for what you’re going through.

Nothing is left! Oh my God! Nothing is left. Holy shit! Unbelievable! I thought there’d be something left but there’s nothing. Nothing! Well, the beehives are still there. They’re home. Oh my God. The loss. It’s unbelievable. All those incredible trees that were so healthy and abundant. [For the next 20 minutes we walk around the collapsed rubble on the three-acre property.]

Can you talk about the memories that you had here?

There were so many souls and so many beings. My family, my children, my community [long pause].

What happened here in the yoga community?

It was the retreat center for Yoga Tree. The property was a place to nourish and grow the community. There were many teachers who were coming up the ranks and looking for a space to find their followers and spend time together, meditate, play music, dance, nourish each other through food and yoga and breath. It was a place for healing and loving. A lot of people met here. A lot of great Sun Salutations.

Can you tell the Yoga Tree story?

In the mid-1990s I needed a sabbatical from the restaurant-nightclub business so I took a break and started to embrace yoga practice. It was awesome. It was astronomical—the transformation and what it did for me in terms of focus and health and discipline. I also couldn’t help but notice that other people were starting to be attracted to yoga as well. I’ve always been a businessperson that connected my passion with my work, so in 1999 I decided to seize the moment and set the intention to start a yoga studio. I started to meet the people that would help in my mission, and one of those people was Tara, who later became my partner and wife, and mother to my children. Yoga Tree grew to include Tara Bella and 10 locations in the Bay Area. It rocked out, and the amazing community helped support a livelihood for so many teachers.

Tara Bella

Then you sold it to Yogaworks.

I did. It was time. I had always wanted to prioritize my family, and I thought that would be the healthiest thing in that transition and Yogaworks came along. But I did not sell Tara Bella. In the sale contract I made sure to put an exclusion so that I could still continue to do yoga retreats at Tara Bella.

Do you miss running studios in the yoga world?

Yes, I miss my community. I miss my people. I felt like I was doing something very powerful and meaningful for a lot of people.

We’re walking around in all this rubble and soot—any reflections of gratitude?

Unbelievable what this property provided for me. I’m so grateful for this property. I’ve walked where we’re walking right now many times with my children and . . . [long pause as Tim weeps].

You’re going to rebuild?

That’s the plan. The lotus flowers will rise from the ashes. [Tim walks off, weeping too heavily to continue.]

Rob Sidon is editor in chief and publisher of Common Ground.

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