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

Via Leigha Butler
on Oct 23, 2010
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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.

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.

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….”


About Leigha Butler

Leigha Butler writes about yoga, happiness and sustainability here and at Willows Wept Review. She teaches Vinyasa yoga and English lit in New York's Hudson Valley and holds a master's in Literature & Environment from the University of Nevada, Reno. Find her on Twitter, or via email.


70 Responses to “Ten (Sexy, Sassy, Rich & Powerful) Yoginis You Should Already Know.”

  1. drfrances says:

    So many possibilities… If I were making the list, Judith Hanson Lasater would definitely be one of the top ten yoginis. I'd also include Amy Weintraub.

  2. yogimomster says:

    Stephanie Keach. And definitely Amy Weintraub.

  3. Randall Smith says:

    Good list….without a doubt Holly Vanidevi Troy for a solid and lasting introduction to yoga.

  4. Jenn says:

    Desiree Rumbaugh has a huge following around the world and rightfully so.

  5. Karine says:

    I would include Kathryn Budig in that list!

  6. Jeff says:

    Great list. How about Elena Brower at Virayoga? International following. Very close ties to John Friend. Amazing woman.

  7. Alejandro says:

    How about a little more bio one on of these yoginis, instead of a "list"? These lists inevitably lead to ranking and exclusion/inclusion debates. Why not something about how one of these women influenced your life? or the lives of others? This list could have been a tweet.

  8. Linda-Sama says:

    check out The Magazine of Yoga….IMO, one of the best … .http://themagazineofyoga.com/

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks, Anonymous, for your concern. I would hope that an article like Leigha's (and I"ll let her explain/speak for herself, of course), is a nice introduction to the lay of the land for a newer practitioner. We're not yet paying writers, except once a month a token amount of best articles. When we can, we'll be commissioning the kind of quality and in-depth research that neither we nor our unpaid writers can now afford to do. So if you'd like to see Leigha and other writers write more quality, do support us with a subscription.

    For now, you're reading, and criticizing what you read, for free—and writers are devoting their energies for free—it's a cycle.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Great idea. This is meant, by Leigha, I think to be a simple, accessible guide.

    As for depth, that's why the words/names are linked—in many cases to more in-depth interviews or videos.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    RRT, I'd also be honored for you to write an article about teachers of color, if so inspired, or issues of diversity in the yoga community. Either would be a great offering to our readers.

    We're reader-created. Doesn't make sense to complain, if we can't contribute.

  12. Katie says:

    I'm puzzled. I keep hearing so much about goddess yoginis this, goddess yoginis that. Am I just old fashioned – what happened to humbleness and inner spiritual development? Reaching for a higher level/evolution *without* being sexy, sassy, rich and powerful? These carefully coiffed and rockstar presented women don't resonate with me at all. I choose simplicity

  13. RRT says:

    Should be "advertisements" and "they give readers".


  14. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks so much for commenting here, too, Katie—and for being able to criticize respectfully, which is becoming a lost art form. I'll let Leigha offer her reply. ~ Waylon

  15. RRT says:

    I've just signed up for a membership. Now I need to write the article too?:-) My goodness.:-)

  16. RRT says:

    Contact me at the address I put in my membership sign up.

  17. David says:

    absolutely ridiculous headline! rich and powerful? I can't believe that I am seeing this from the yoga community. Two words synonymous with destructive energies within ourselves and with what is destroying our planet along with the creatures inhabiting it right now. How absurd and disgusting…

  18. Mollie says:

    I really resent being told that I "should already know" something as ridiculous as "sexy, sassy, rich and powerful yoginis." This is absurd. EPIC FAIL Elephant Journal and Leigha too. Find something more helpful to write about.

  19. Mollie says:

    Katie, I appreciate your comments very much, way to be!

  20. Jackie McCann says:

    "Sexy, Sassy, Rich & Powerful"

    Shameful Elephant. Yoga is not that!

  21. David says:

    More evidence of yoga being exploited by capitalism. This increasingly makes me sad and frustrated. Write about wall street or Hollywood if you want to write about the rich and powerful! LEAVE YOGA OUT OF IT! For many of us, it is still sacred!

  22. Linda-Sama says:

    hey, waylon, despite your misguided opinion of me — "loving to hate"?…wow, that's pretty sad on your part since all I did was agree with RRT and post a link — I commend Leigha for referencing three women of a certain age in Gurmukh and Lilias and Beryl — don't see that very often in new agey yoga-ish mags…..the older ones usually end up on the last page.

  23. Jen says:

    I’m not so much offended by the content of this post as I am by the title. There are wonderful yoginis on this list but find this website has degraded them by associating them with such a headline. You might want to donate money to people who are not sexy sassy rich and powerful instead of this site.

  24. Yogajunkie says:

    Get a grip people. The truth is that these people ARE sexy, sassy, rich and powerful. I sense that many of the people who left a comment here are threatened by the idea that yoga can create riches and fame and that these women are indeed sexy. The author, imho, is only speaking the truth. These women have made a name for themselves with their yoga, and good for them 🙂 I, too, am a yoga goddess, I just haven't (yet) gotten rich or powerful for it. 🙂

  25. David says:


    maybe spend more time STUDYING yoga? starting with Patanjali…just sayin' …

  26. Laskmi says:

    Get a grip junkie, don’t insult yoga or Hindus by declearing yourself a goddess in a sacred tradition.

  27. David says:

    Yogajunkie…You're moniker here says it all. "junkie" implies total attachment and dependence. ..maybe spend more time STUDYING yoga? starting with Patanjali…just sayin' ..

  28. Yogini# says:

    Why not Ana Forrest? I really admire her Southwest (U.S.)/tribal influenced take on yoga, being as I spent a good little chunk of my life in Colorado. Additionally, if what looks like (her) acrobatic pyrotechnics didn't scare me away from yoga, NOBODY in their right mind could!

    And, I know that some do swear by her yoga style.

  29. Mollie says:

    Does anyone else find it interesting that a bunch of us were criticized by Waylon Lewis for posting on FB instead of on the article itself AND were assured that Leigha would respond if we commented in the appropriate forum but I know I have yet to hear from her.

  30. Yogajunkie says:

    I study my yoga deeply thank you 🙂 And that is my truth as far as I know it <3

  31. Mollie says:

    Also, Yoga + Joyful Living is a wonderful, intelligent publication which I would recommend. I subscribe to it.

  32. Judy says:

    Because it's all about the traffic Mollie. He gets no traffic if everybody is commenting and staying on Facebook.

  33. David says:

    Can you explain how you align your truth with the teachings of Patanjali then.? I can't make it out. nonattachment, nongrasping, etc..somehow equals, the chasing of riches(greed), "making a name for yourself", gaining power in a capitalist paradigm., being sexy….I am having a hard time with this lesson. Can you enlighten me please?

  34. Mollie says:

    Ooooohhhhhh. Thanks, Judy! I get it now. This has been a really disappointing and sort of…frightening experience with Elephant Journal. I also commented on careless use of the word "pimp" in another article and had my head ripped off. I think I'm going to stop reading EJ. This is not the sort of community I want to get any sort of energy from. it's too bad, I really like Joslyn Hamilton and Ben Ralston.

  35. David says:

    I gotta say, when I first discovered EJ I was pretty enthralled, but lately, there has been so much crap here. This headline and article along with the subsequent (lack of) discussion when I feel like there should be is very disappointing. I see this place going in the same direction as Yoga Journal, a mag I used to wait around for every issue to come out and now can barely stomach. I mean you're got "yogajunkie" here actually telling people to get a grip and condoning the chasing and grasping of money and power, and being "sexy" and calling herself a "goddess",whatever that means, and an apparently pretty passive attitude towards it. I only hope it's that not many people have actually read her comments. sheesh! All of this makes me really sad and frustrated.

  36. Great work, Leigha. I like the variety on this list. And I like the way the list has been rounded out by other people's suggestions. Enjoyed this. Thanks.

    Bob W.

  37. Rebecca says:

    Fun list….simmer down people, its just an article.

  38. alischube says:

    Or, Indra Devi maybe? hellooooo.

  39. Lanny says:

    I just got a snide response when I questioned their disrepect towards christians in a more recent post.

  40. […] Right on the heels of a very intense discussion on the exact same site about the state of yoga and what body image mainstream yoga is perpetuating, amazingly, Elephant Journal has published the article “Ten Sexy, Sassy, Rich and Powerful Yoginis You Should Know”. […]

  41. Viv says:

    Rebecca, it is "just" an article, but it exemplifies a certain paradigm, set of beliefs etc. that are worth examining, no? I do think we all should contain our anger and express from a place of love, questioning, concern even, but no need to attack we fall so easily into duality and feelings of superiority and pretty soon any Yoga (Union with the Divine that we are) is out the door. So yeah a "chill" reminder is good, but so is discussion, open, reasoned, and honest.

  42. Joanne says:

    With all the chatter on this post, remember that a way that has showed to change behavior at a site like this is that in addition to voicing your concern about posts, you could let the advertisers here know that you will not support their business due to the content. Advertisers really distant themselves from conflict. Just a thought.

  43. Chris says:

    I am not finding this list useful in any way for my practice – "sassy, sexy, rich and powerful"? Was seriously considering donating to Elephant Journal and becoming a devoted reader. This article has convinced me this site is no different than any other yoga mass media outlet. I am disappointed. As Mollie said above – EPIC FAIL.

  44. matless wonder says:

    I once had an out of body experience big light thru closed eyes at the end of a Patricai Walden retreat. I would debate who brought yoga to the masses Walden was my first experience and inspired me to purchase Light on Yoga BKS Iyengar:) Any site that aknowledges woman gets my vote watch critizing a blog can be to that teacher the article missed. Shiva Rea rocks a room with Trance dance and adds Zest to modern life.Its all good. Looking at the radiance of all these woman has inspired me to set off on my lunch to my natural plank floor mat. Thanx keep up the great work

  45. Viv says:

    Namaste. Especially now with so many folks of all backgrounds out of work or underemployed. I"m a yoga teacher and I can't afford to take classes outside of my own studio that I might like! I even got turned down by Kripalu Yoga Center (in Bershires of Mass) for a scholarship, and they said "wow we have so many folks applying right now."

  46. Laura says:

    Missing Kino MacGreggor and not a fan of the title. There are so many great women yoga teachers out there – it should be a compilation instead of a numbered list and definitely not include a title like "rich and powerful". If yoga teachers set out to be rich and powerful, they are not really teaching yoga.

  47. […] and satisfying drink called Tumeric Elixir. When I went to my last class of Kundalini Yoga I saw Gurmukh, an inspiring and beautiful Yogini savoring this delicious drink as she spoke to us about […]

  48. […] what is yoga? One of my new yogini Facebook friends asked us in her latest blog entry: What is yoga to you? I must say, I was […]

  49. […] for this particular move. Maybe you even flick your wrists a little because you’re feeling sassy, to say the least. Next thing you know, you’re plum in the middle of a flawless jazz square […]