Meet the Innovators: Sharon Gannon & David Life

Sharon Gannon and David Life’s Jivamukti Yoga Center in lower Manhattan hosts hundreds of students a day and more than 100 classes a week. It draws fast-track New Yorkers and celebrities looking not just for a workout but for a spiritual experience. Classes blend challenging vinyasa (flow) with Sanskrit chanting, Vedic teachings, rock music, and skilled personal attention. The center has been featured on the BBC, ABC, PBS, and in the New York Times and New York magazine. Gannon and Life work hard to show that yoga is not just about health and fitness, and that spirituality can be congruent with the high-energy, vibrant lifestyle of New York. They say their goal is to deliver yoga to as many people as possible.

The two met in 1982. In 1986 they traveled to India and took the Sivananda teacher training program, then returned to open the first Jivamukti Yoga Society on Avenue B. Many people were surprised when the God-centered, incense-scented vibe proved to be an immediate hit. In 1990 they began to practice Ashtanga Yoga with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore and in 1998 moved their studio to its present location in the East Village. In the summer of 2000, Jivamukti opened a new center on the upper east side of Manhattan. Among their new projects is a book about Jivamukti Yoga.

“Many yoga teachers today cheat their students by not emphasizing the importance of a vegetarian diet and its relationship to the practice of yoga,” says Gannon. Life comments: “Many people are into yoga on many levels, for many different reasons, but that doesn’t change what yoga is. Yoga is always the same; it is pulsation beyond body and mind. Yoga teachers need to assume their seat and teach with the authority of the lineage and the compassion of a bodhisattva.”