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Jagger, Pink Floyd, Elvis…sure those guys were fun but they’ve got nothing on the rockstar yoga teachers we found in New York. The yoga scene here is similar to LA in that it’s been mainstream for longer, therefore lots of locals have been practicing for years, meaning that classes cater to a more advanced crowd than in other destinations. That shouldn’t stop you if you’re a beginner though, as the teachers are more than familiar with newbies and will always take care of you.
But if you’re a more advanced yogi, hold onto your hats because this is the city where you’ll be stretched, challenged and pushed to new levels of ability. You’ll leave New York more toned, more skilled and more capable than you ever thought possible and you’ll feel amazing for it. On this list, we’ve only included teachers we’ve personally experienced while in New York and think are truly world class. Here are our top eleven…
Sri Dharma Mittra
Sri Dharma Mittra has dedicated most of his life to humanity teaching yoga. After meeting his Guru, Sri Dharma immersed himself in intense study and practice of the classical Eight Limbs of Yoga and dedicated nine years of his life to the full-time practice of Karma Yoga. In 1967, Sri Dharma was asked to teach intermediate and advanced classes in Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) at the Yogi Gupta New York Centre both for his disciples and the general public.
For many years, Sri Dharma was the only yoga teacher in New York City teaching advanced yoga postures. Teachers from other schools and Ashrams have always come to him to learn, practice, and then teach elsewhere.
Sri Dharma Mittra was also one of the first independent yoga teachers on the East Coast and has initiated hundreds of thousands on the path of Yogic practice and teaching. We love his method of teaching. What’s incredible is that he’s been teaching classes continuously almost every day since he first started in 1967. Even to this day, he makes himself available regularly to anyone who walks through the doors of the Dharma Yoga New York Centre in need of help and direction. He is affectionately known as the ‘Teacher’s Teacher‘. Our experience of Dharma Yoga was intense and incredibly challenging, so if you’re a beginner then ensure you attend a class that matches your level of ability.
David Regelin is a traveling yoga teacher based in New York City. He is a powerful voice, an eloquent and skilful teacher who is sought after for his workshops and teacher’s intensives. His unique talent for simple yet precise articulation of form and technique echoes in the bodies and minds of his students.
David has one of the most beautiful advanced yoga practices in the world. As a young teacher, David was at the forefront of what became a popular trend of choreographed vinyasa classes to the sound of live music. He created the ‘Multi-Intenso’ experience, a class that gathered a cult following in New York City. ‘Multi-Intenso’ is a technique-based athletic and dynamic style of yoga centred around handstands.
David’s reflective nature and incessant personal investigation into the potential transformative powers of yoga eventually led him to a more comprehensive approach to how physical form relates to psychological and emotional states. Inclined toward the mystical and timeless, greatly influenced by intensive study with Nevine Michaan, David’s practice and teaching has evolved into a more refined adaptation of how an asana (postural) practice can instigate profound and often therapeutic change.
Sharmila Desai was first introduced to Ashtanga yoga by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois when she visited Mysore in 1997. She has continued to study regularly at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute and is one of few teachers worldwide to be certified by the Institute to teach the Ashtanga yoga system. Her most recent book Yoga Sadhana for Mothers co-written with Anna Wise is the first book on the subject of Ashtanga Yoga, pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
Alison West, Ph.D, ERYT, recently named one of the most influential yoga teachers in America, is director of Yoga Union and the Yoga Union Backcare & Scoliosis Centre. She practiced Ashtanga Yoga for a number of years, studying in New York with Eddie Stern and in Mysore with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. During this time, she continued studying Iyengar Yoga for alignment, working in particular with Kevin Gardiner, the late Mary Dunn and, later, Genny Kapuler. Alison has also travelled to Pune to study with the Iyengars. She furthered her meditation studies with TKV Desikachar at a retreat in Colgate University in 1993 and went on to the Shambhala trainings in New York. Her spiritual teachers include Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ayang Rinpoche.
In 1996, Alison’s interest in alignment and anatomy led her to explore more deeply the asymmetrical body and most notably the asymmetrical spine. She studied with both Bobbie Fultz and Elise Miller. In 2007, Alison co-founded the first and only dedicated Yoga for Backcare and Scoliosis centre in the world. Alison’s fully equipped, spacious and beautiful studio, Yoga Union, opened across the street from the old Backcare Centre in 2011. In 2015, Alison founded the new Yoga Union Backcare & Scoliosis Centre, also at 37 West 28th street, which she runs with the help of an amazing group of dedicated teachers.
When she taught us, we remember her being awesome at breaking down one single posture and helping us understand it in intricate detail. For example, how the hands and feet are the basis for all yoga practice, exploring the shoulder in action on a specific pose (for example, the crow ‘Bakasana’) and the secret of certain postures and how to execute them intelligently.
Eddie & Jocelyn Stern
Eddie and Jocelyn Stern are the co-founders of Ashtanga Yoga New York, the Brooklyn Yoga Club and the Broome Street Temple. They studied under Ashtanga Yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from 1991 until his passing in 2009. Eddie has published several books on Pattabhi Jois and Ashtanga Yoga, including a translation of Pattabhi Jois’s 1960 treatise, Yoga Mala. Jocelyn and Eddie continue to study with Pattabhi Jois’s grandson and successor, Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois, and his daughter, Saraswati Jois. Like Hamish in London, these guys are the real deal.
Hari Kaur Khalsa & Dave Frank (Jazz Musician)
The partnership of Hari and Dave – Kundalini Yoga and jazz – involves a depth of practice, discipline and training that sparks and ignites the creative spirit. Hari is a world-renowned master teacher of Kundalini Yoga and meditation as taught by Yogi Bhajan. For ten years, Hari worked alongside Yogi Bhajan (Master of Kundalini Yoga) directing his teacher training programs and is part of the first wave of yoga teachers that pioneered the teaching of Kundalini yoga and meditation in the west.
Dave is one of the busiest solo jazz pianists and music educators on the scene today. He is the author of the best-selling Hal Leonard book and video series, Joy of Improv Book 1 + 2 and Breakthrough to Improv and was an Associate Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music in Boston, as well as one of the co-founders of the New York School of Jazz. In 2004, Dave moved to New York City to direct the Dave Frank School of Jazz in Midtown.
We love that these masters of their craft incorporate music into the changing of the mental state. The experience of attending one of their classes is inspiring and will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Isaac Peña is one of the world’s truly special teachers because he loves to give. It’s that simple. He’s been in the press a lot recently because the New York yoga community looks to him for guidance (if you want to find your teacher, chances are they’re in one of Isaac’s classes) but the press coverage isn’t a result of delusions of grandeur on Isaac’s part. In fact, it’s completely the opposite.
Though Isaac is known for his work with top contortionists and yoga asana champions and can bend himself in any direction, it’s his ability to teach teachers (and thus, everyone) how to really understand the fundamentals of the practice that makes him special and worthy of the publicity. Or it might be his singular flows and Thai-massage inspired adjustments, or the fact he stays long after class to work with anyone who wants help, or the warm and fuzzy feeling people get in his presence. All of these things and more make him one of the most special teachers in New York that we’ve encountered.
Isaac began his yoga practice in the mid-nineties, practicing martial arts from the age of seven and was introduced to Zen meditation at the age of nine. Isaac has made several trips to Thailand since 2000 where he received certification to practice Thai Body work and also to instruct others in the art under the guidance of Chung Kal and Chaiyuth Priyasith.
We met Isaac via Holly Coles (another incredible teacher currently rocking it in Shanghai) in May of 2009 when we were hanging out in New York for a month checking out the yoga scene. We went to his class and seriously loved it. It’s another mind and body bending spectacular, but what is so special about Isaac is his effortless ability to guide you at just the right moment with just the right guidance. Your practice will reach new depths in body and, more importantly, soul. Check him out, he’s superb.
Dana Trixie Flynn
Now, here’s a powerhouse of a woman! Recognized throughout the yoga community as a true ‘Teacher’s teacher,’ Dana brings an ecstatic expression of movement, music, and community to her practice and her students. She’s the co-founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centres (located in New York City and San Francisco) and Lotus Flow Yoga. Dana and co-founder Jasmine Tarkeshi channelled over six years of organic movement experimentation into the creation of these two institutions which are infused with a dynamic, dervish-like energy.
The former stockbroker, restaurateur and MTV personality turned a life in the limelight into a spiritual transformation, studying with legendary yogis Jivamukti’s Sharon Gannon and master teacher Rodney Yee. Fiercely innovative and independent, Dana honours and knows thoroughly the ancient traditions and coded asana systems of the yogic practice. During her many years of study, she ‘wanted to explore what it meant to move like herself.’ We love this kick-ass lady who blends yin and yang so effortlessly. Her classes are great fun and we always leave with a yogi high.
Sharon Gannon is a 21st-century renaissance woman, an animal rights and vegan activist and a world-renowned yogini, perhaps best known as the founder (along with David Life) of the Jivamukti Yoga Method. She is also an accomplished writer, dancer, painter, musician and chef. Sharon has devoted many years exploring the role of diet in promoting physical, emotional and mental well-being as well as spiritual development. She lives in a 125-acre wild forest sanctuary in Woodstock, NY (cool, no?).
A student of Brahmananda Sarasvati, Swami Nirmalananda, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Shyam Das, she is a pioneer in teaching yoga as spiritual activism and is credited for making yoga cool and hip, relating ancient teachings of yoga to the modern world. Sharon’s book Yoga and Vegetarianism has been called the ‘seminal’ work on the subject, exploring the relationship of veganism to the teachings of yoga.
Sharon is also a musician and is a featured vocalist on many CDs including Sharanam, which is her 2010 solo album. I don’t think we need to say much more about Sharon other than that she’s something of a legend. End of. If you ever get the chance to attend one of her workshops, then count yourself lucky.
David Life has been recognised by Yoga Journal as an ‘innovator‘ on yoga in the US today. Together with Sharon Gannon – and through the blessings of his teachers, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Shri Swami Nirmalananda and Shri K. Pattabhi Jois – David has helped create the Jivamukti Yoga method, which focuses on teaching and practicing yoga as a means to enlightenment.
David is a certified advanced practitioner of the Ashtanga Yoga method of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, which he began studying in Mysore, India in 1988. He spent several years as a renunciate and was initiated by Swami Nirmalananda in 1989. He also has received Kalachakra and Bodhisattva initiation from His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. His interest in yoga is supported by his artistic, literary and metaphysical studies. He imbues his classes with metaphor, musicality and spirituality spiced with humour, vigour and spontaneity. He is a respected, popular and in-demand teacher around the globe.
Very much like Sharon Gannon, we don’t think we need to say much more about David other than that his reputation precedes him: he’s amazing. If you ever get the chance to attend one of his workshops, jump at the chance!
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