Laughing Lotus co-creator Dana Flynn is a one-of-a-kind yoga innovator. Dubbed the "Janis Joplin of yoga" by her students because of her irreverent style, the former hip-hop dancer, MTV reporter, and nightclub owner created the dance-friendly Lotus Flow Yoga with Jasmine Tarkeshi. They've opened two vibrant yoga centers in New York City and San Francisco; the center in Manhattan includes a new 2,400-square-foot "Dance Hall," where yoga, music, and dance can come together.
Yoga Journal: How does your creative nature influence your practice?
Dana Flynn: Your practice doesn't exist until you create it. For six years, I didn't take a class. I let the mantras and the asanas I had learned from Rodney Yee and [Jivamukti Yoga co-founder] Sharon Gannon come through me, letting them happen organically. I mean, it's not like the ancient yogis had yoga books with sequences. What came out of that is the style of vinyasa I teach, Lotus Flow Yoga. It's very personal, a big part of who I am—this person who loves to dance and sing and use musicality and movement to experience my spiritual nature.
YJ: How do you teach your students to tap into their creativity?
DF: The mantra at Laughing Lotus is "move like yourself." You're not trying to fit the shapes of the poses. The shapes give you the freedom to express yourself through them. New shapes are born all the time; asana is a real creative process. Let it be a living, breathing practice.
YJ: How do you stay true to the principles of yoga when you're innovating, moment to moment?
DF: For me, the foundation of any spiritual practice is to connect to God, to feel oneness. Through repetition of poses, your mind gets quiet and you start to remember that "I am not separate." You begin to dance and connect with your spiritual nature. In this movement and musicality of yoga, I feel like I'm dancing with God.