October 23, 2010

Ten (Sexy, Sassy, Rich & Powerful) Yoginis You Should Already Know.

How to narrow so many crazy-wonderful, rockstar yogini powerhouses to a top-ten list?

Why, using the methodology of the heart and gut, of course.

{Note: If this strikes you as a double-yawn list of usual suspects, scroll all the way down.}

Here lies a (totally incomplete) list of women who’ve taught, led, inspired and breathed their special light into thousands upon thousands of awed and grateful students. We thank them for their lessons, their spirit and the marketing savvy that keeps new yogis arriving daily on crisp, virgin mats.


10. Sierra Bender.

Sierra Bender‘s M.O. is, as a Goddess. When she was a young model, Bender was the victim of sexism and abuse; today, her painful past motivates her “wholistic” approach to women’s wellness. Her Boot Camp for Goddesses® aims to help women heal themselves using movement, ritual and feminine fellowship.

9. Tara Stiles.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” could be an appropriate slogan for model Tara Stiles, whose success owes much to her svelte and symmetrical person. In some circles her name is shorthand for the hyper-sexualization of yoga. Still, there’s no denying that she attracts newcomers to yoga, people whose formerly asana-less lives are brightened by videos like “Yoga For Bed time [sic]” & “Hotel Room Yoga.”

8. Gurmukh.

If you don’t appreciate Chakra-talk w/out the anthropological lens, then Kundalini teacher Gurmukh is probably not for you. But then, the uni-name probably gave that away. Her soft-spoken instruction emphasizes divine healing, mantra and, naturally, the Kundalini kriyas—all delivered from the comfort of her 22,000-sq-ft. L.A. studio.

7. Shiva Rea.

Shiva Rea is to yoga what Jack Kerouac is to literature. Her Prana Flow Vinyasa classes and DVDs encourage spontaneous expression, a true “flow” of movement that’s supposed to bring practitioners to a higher plane of consciousness. She’s also well known for praising the importance of music in movement classes. And, like any true yogini-cum-icon, she puts out her own albums.

6. Lilias Folan.

If I called her the “First Lady of Yoga,” I’d be the thirty-three-thousandth person to do so. Whoops? Folan is widely credited with bringing yoga to the American masses via her popular PBS program, which showcased her gentle and encouraging teaching style. The program began in ’72 and ran into the ’90s! Read her latest book: Lilias! “Yoga Gets Better With Age“.

5. Sharon Gannon.

Co-founder of the Jivamukti Yoga Method, Sharon is the beautiful half of a powerhouse partnership with husband David Life. Gannon identifies herself as a yoga master, animal advocate, artist, dancer, musician and author. The Jivamukti method encourages devotion, prayer, chanting, song, study and activism in addition to asana practice.

4. Beryl Bender Birch.

One of the earliest American Ashtangis, Beryl Bender Birch has been teaching yoga since the ’70s. She’s the author of the wildly popular Power Yoga. Today, her methodology is not strict-Ashtanga, but her classes incorporate elements of the eight-limbed path. She makes her home in East Hampton.

3. Sadie Nardini.

If you’ve ever searched “yoga” or any number of derivative words on YouTube, you’re already acquainted with Sadie Nardini. Among many other reasons to love Sadie is her eagerness to share her insights about success. She isn’t threatened by the idea that you too might become a online sensation. In fact, she’s made it her job to help you realize the fullest expression of you.

2. Seane Corn.

What is it about Seane Corn? Is it the fact that you can taste the sincerity that fuels her loquaciousness? Is it her ever-so-gravelly-but-liquid-lovely voice? Her moppy locks? Whatever it is, it’s tough not to love, love, love Seane Corn. Among many other projects is her Off the Mat, Into the World program, which is dedicated to helping yogis engage in activism and selfless service. See also: The Global Seva Challenge.

1. You.

You can’t afford a web designer, an agent, or a bookkeeper. By God, you didn’t even spring for the eco-friendly mat. You haven’t trademarked a single word or phrase, and your best photographer is also the person you’re sleeping with. But dammit, your mountain pose is exemplary and you’re on the mat at least a few times a week. Here’s to you, yogini. Your everydayness is more inspiring than a thousand gurus doing garbha pindasana inverted.


So, go ahead. Who’d I miss?


Top tens coming soon, maybe… “Lesser Known Yoginis Worth Knowing,” “YouTube Yoginis,” “Plus-Size Yogini Sensations,” and “Honorary Yoginis: Women who don’t practice yoga but embody its ideals….”

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