Life

16 Yogis You Should Know: Meet Our Honorary YJ Cover Semifinalists

Learn about these amazing yogis, their practice, and how they make a difference in their communities.

Last year, Yoga Journal launched a campaign to find one passionate and dedicated yogi to pose for a special reader cover issue of the magazine. We were flooded with applications from yogis who shared their stories and practices with us, and inspired by every one of them.

We narrowed down our big pool of applicants to a handful of semifinalists. These 16 men and women are incredible — every one deserves their own magazine cover! So we had to share their beautiful stories and faces with you as well. Read more about them, their practices, and their yoga communities below.

READ ABOUT OUR 5 FINALISTS AND VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE HERE >

Deborah Turner

Hometown: Southwest Ranches, Florida
Age: 45
Her practice: Ashtanga, Bikram, Vinyasa/Power, Anusara, pre-natal, and Yin

“I represent many of the middle-aged women who have looked to magazines to help consistently guide our endeavors. As a nurse, professionalism is important, hence my choice in Yoga Journal magazine, where I look for confidence and courage. In 1994, I started practicing yoga; I now teach at local studios and commit to a donation-based class on Saturdays.”

Michael Broking

Hometown: Mount Arlington, New Jersey
Age: 51
His practice: Mostly Kripalu, some Ashtanga and Vinyasa; he completed a 200-hour teacher certification at Kripalu

“Yoga found me 5 years ago. Until then, I was just an average guy; now, I am a living example of how the power of yoga can transform one’s body, mind, and soul. In addition to being a 30-year flight attendant, I am now a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. Yoga changed my life.”

Samantha Negrin

Hometown: Venice, California
Age: 25
Her practice: Mysore Ashtanga; she completed a Yogaworks 200-hour certification led by Mia Togo

“Pratipaksha bhavanam: ‘When negative thoughts arise, think the opposite.’ My first yoga teacher recited these words from Patanjali during Savasana, eight years ago, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. They help me find ease on and off the mat, and give me comfort in life’s hectic events and new experiences. The practice of yoga—the mindfulness, community, postures, and breath—is a place I can call ‘home’ wherever I am.”

Emily Herrick

Hometown: Vashon, Washington
Age: 60
Her practice: Hatha, Vinyasa; she completed a 200-hour RYT with Jessica Bellofatto and Lois Nesbit

“I completely reinvented my life after doing yoga teacher training. When I started I never imagined I would be teaching yoga; now I am developing a private yoga teaching business. I represent so many other women like me who, at age 60, are stepping into their power and living their most exceptional life—incorporating the wisdom they have gained throughout their life, their innate gifts, and the gifts of yoga.”

Ryanne Cunningham

Hometown: De Pere, Wisconsin
Age: 38
Her practice: Vinyasa flow, daily; she completed a 200-hour teacher training at Satchidananda Ashram in Hath Yoga and a 500-hour Ashtanga and Vinyasa teacher training at Bay Area Yoga Center

“I have a great passion for yoga and have been an instructor for 13 years. Yearly I travel for continuing education in yoga and to meet inspiring yoga teachers. I also work with amateur and professional athletes to help them prevent injuries and enhance athletic performance. Additionally, I give back to my community by offering a free weekly Yoga In The Park class to promote a healthy and mindful lifestyle.”

Julie Mackiewicz

Hometown: Missoula, Montana
Age: 35
Her practice: A “mindfully aligned flow,” 6 days a week; she completed a 200-hour RYT with Meta Hirschl at Yoga Now in Albuquerque, and a 108-hour Anusara Immersion with Bea Doyle in Albuquerque

“I recently committed myself to taking the steps to teach yoga full time. To be on the cover of Yoga Journal would throw that plan into full throttle. It would mean a whole new level of responsibility to my students, my practice, my dream. It would mean truly putting myself out there. And it’s scary. But isn’t that a huge part of our yoga? To push up against our edges so that we can expand, and thrive, and shine.”

Jared Sam

Hometown: Pahoa, Hawaii
Age: 40
His practice: Ashtanga Vinyasa and Yin yoga, 5-6 times a week; he completed a 120-hour Hatha teacher training with Kathy Elder, a 200-hour YogaWorks YTT with Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch, and several more

“As a yoga teacher with donation based classes in the poorest district of Hawaii for over a decade, and one of the 23% of male yoga practitioners out there and rising, it would be awesome to represent the dudes in the expanding yoga movement, and hopefully inspire those men out there that could use the encouragement.”

Wambui Njuguna

Hometown: Spokane, Washington
Age: 35
Her practice: Ashtanga, meditation and/or chanting daily; she has regularly assisted senior Ashtanga yoga teacher, Petri Räisänen, and has been studying with Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois’s grandson, Sharath Jois, in Mysore, India annually since 2009

“I feel I would be a valuable addition to the Yoga Journal platform as a yoga practitioner, teacher, wife, mother, and woman of color. I feel yoga can do so much to make our society more inclusive and visible for one another, which means showing the diversity of its participants. If I can play a small part in widening that representation of yoga by being on the cover of YJ, I would consider this a proud accomplishment.”

Newnew Norton

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Age: 26
Her practice: Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa form, 6 times a week; she completed a 200-hour certification in Hatha Yoga

“I was diagnosed with a misaligned back bone; doctors recommended a rod be placed in my back. I was also told I wouldn’t be able to bare children. I became emotionally and physically drained—it was a difficult time. I began to face the mat every day, listening to my body and honoring its desire to be free and active. On this journey, I faced my fears and learned acceptance. The result has been awesome. My back realigned itself, and I am presently carrying my second miracle child.”

Sonja Stoeckli

Hometown: Midlothian, Virginia
Age: 59
Her practice: Four times a week, plus daily meditation and pranayama; she has completed a 500-hour and 200-hour YogaWorks teacher training, among others

“I have been practicing as a licensed massage therapist for 17 years and a fitness guide for much more. Yoga came to me five years ago as suggested by a client to become a teacher. My experience in the Prana Flow YTT was profound, to say the least. My journey on the mat is a roller coaster ride that serves me well and enables me to shine and share.”

Shannon McQuaide

Hometown: Scotts Valley, California
Age: 45
Her practice: Meditation and evening Yin, daily; she completed a 200-hour teacher certification through Mark Stephens Yoga

“When I arrive at the fire station, the living room is empty of furniture and the smell of bleach can be detected from the freshly washed cement floor. Firefighters eagerly descend on the bolsters. Sometimes I wonder if yoga will be enough to soothe the souls of these men and women who witness the endings of so many lives. ‘Draw the palms together,’ I invite, and then turn inward to listen with the ears of my heart. ‘Yoga is enough for us all.’”

Amber McQueary

Hometown: Casper, Wyoming
Age: 33
Her practice: Vinyasa, sculpt, Yin, Ashtanga and Kundalini, 6 days a week; she has completed a 200-hour teacher training at Peak Beings with Troy McPeak, and a 500-hour teacher training at Absolute Yoga Academy with Michel Besnard and Roslyn Ying

“I’ve been practicing for over 10 years and just started teaching a couple of years back. Yoga has helped me to overcome so much in life, including a horrible drug addiction, the death of my father, and degenerative back disease. Yoga has given me strength mentally, physically and spiritually to see my life in a whole new light, and it’s given me a life I would’ve never dreamed of before.”

Shari Martel

Hometown: Hardwick, Massachusetts
Age: 30
Her practice: Vinyasa flow, daily; she has completed a 200-hour teacher training certification at Kripalu

“In 2012 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. One year later, feeling out of shape, I went to a yoga class. This was an embarrassment. Months later, after subscribing to Yoga Journal, I followed the instructed sequences in the privacy of my own home. Within one year my capabilities had grown exponentially. By December of 2014, finding myself in the best shape of my life, I attended the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training. A sincere ‘thank you’ to the staff of YJ for their invaluable help and inspiration on this most amazing journey.”

Tara McCabe

Hometown: Key West, Florida
Age: 45
Her practice: Hatha yoga 5 days a week and SUP yoga 2 days a week; she has completed a 200-hour Krama Vinyasa teacher training with Ruslan Kleytman and a 200-hour Sampoorna Yoga teacher training with Yogi Hari

“I am, by no means, the perfect yogini, whatever that definition may entail. However, I do honor the path and try to live and teach from a place of authenticity. There are many moments where I stumble and wonder if perhaps I am worthy of being a teacher of such a long time spiritual practice. But my stumbling leads me to feel inspired to bring the truth to each of my classes. Live your truth, speak your truth, be your truth in all its disasters and glory.”

Ashley Lorenzo

Hometown: Prescott, Arizona
Age: 25
Her practice: Vinyasa and various other forms of asana, 5 times a week; she has completed a 200-hour Integrated-Vinyasa yoga certification with Kathryn Budig and Gina Caputo

“Yoga grants me peace. The dance on my mat brings me to a place of stillness in my mind. This practice grounds me, but also gives me wings. I feel rooted, but I can soar. With each breath, contraction and expansion of my body, I get closer to a space of truth. My fearless spirit awakens and my soul reignites. I am moved beyond the physical. The practice penetrates directly into my heart.”

Heather Hooke

Hometown: Palm Harbor, Florida
Age: 30
Her practice: Hatha yoga and Vinyasa Flow at least 5 times a week; she has completed a 200-hour teacher training at Sublime Yoga

“I’m the founder of trubeautyMOVEMENT (trubeautyMOVEMENT.com). Our mission is to empower girls from the inside out by “redefining BE.YOU.ty” to be balanced, “tru” to your authentic self, and proud to be you! I offer yoga classes, a YouTube channel, and a yoga apparel line where 100 percent of profits are donated to Girls Inc., where I also volunteer. Together, we can inspire younger generations to grasp the power of getting on their mat, while encouraging trubeauty from the inside out.”