In honor of September’s National Yoga Month, Yoga Journal is thrilled to announce the launch of our inaugural YJ Influencer Network. We’re working with top-tier, internationally renowned yoga teachers to create inspiring asana videos, sequences, meditations, and expert tips to deepen your practice, both on and off the mat.
This community is also deeply dedicated to helping us spread high-quality yoga information on social media, to keep you safe and healthy in your practice. Read up on how yoga has shaped their lives and teaching below. And join the conversation — follow our influencers and @YogaJournal on Facebook & Instagram, #YJInfluencer.
Benjamin Sears recovered from two herniated discs, five knee surgeries and the traumatic suicide of a loved one through consistent yoga practice. A perpetual student and thusly a deeply knowledgeable teacher, Sears is often featured in the media for his reflections on yoga in the modern world. In 2007, Sears founded LUXYOGA, a wellness and lifestyle experience in the South of France.
Sears has studied with the masters to earn multiple certifications across diverse systems. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA, staffed the Bikram Yoga College of India Teacher Training after receiving his certification, completed the Dharma Mittra Yoga 500 hour Training, two Forrest Yoga Advanced Trainings, and continues his studies with Abbie Galvin of Katonah yoga as well as in Ayurveda, anatomy, bodywork, and energy healing. Sears believes that to teach yoga is to extend physical empathy beyond one’s own body and now travels the world inspired to help people of all walks of life practice yoga in a healing way. His ability to connect the poses to your body and the practice to your life in a practical and poetic way empowers students to appreciate the present and develop an action plan to progress. He recognizes that the students do their own work and hopes to help them stay safe and enjoy the process.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Direct, functional, humorous, nuanced, and empathic.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “Lead by example.”
I am happiest when… “I’m able to combine adult focus with childish joyfulness.”
Favorite book on yoga: “It’s actually a short essay by David Foster Wallace called ‘On Water.’ It was a commencement address he gave at a university, and isn’t directly about yoga but is just a beautiful, modern interpretation of what it means to be an aware person.”
Erica Mather is a Forrest Yoga lineage-holder (what Ana Forrest calls a “Guardian”), and the creator of the Adore Your Body Signature System, a 7-Step Platinum Intensive to stop hating your body and live out your highest potential, Adore Your Body Yoga Workshops, and the Yoga Clinic of NYC. Mather believes in the pursuit of our highest potential through embodiment and teaches this philosophy in all areas of her practice. She lives and teaches in New York City.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Body-positive, grounded, and challenging.”
What’s a recipe you could never live without? “How to make a poached egg.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I’m not alone.”
Originally from California, Heather Lilleston has been teaching yoga since 2003. In 2012, she co-founded Yoga For Bad People, a yoga-based company focused on leading retreats worldwide. She trained at Jivamukti while finishing her BFA at NYU in NYC. She later completed their advanced training in addition to exploring a more Iyengar-based approach at Yoga Shanti. She has trained numerous teachers as a mentor and lead teacher of various training programs. Lilleston’s classes integrate creative vinyasa sequences with meditation, chanting, good music, and spiritual philosophy. She is known for her humor, sweetness, passion, and sincerity.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Humorous, playful, honest, direct, passionate.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “To be able to talk about difficult things that are controversial fearlessly and with precision and gentleness. That could be anywhere from body parts that you get people familiar with, to your actions—being honest about egotistic tendencies—to the relationship of diet to yoga, and even the relationship of politics to yoga. I learned early on not to be shy around that and to develop a gentleness and a precision around bringing hot topics to the table. It’s important not being flowery as a yoga teacher because you are doing your students a disservice.”
Jeffrey Posner has a passion for making people happy. Whether it’s yoga or just hanging around, he wants to make you smile. Posner received his original training with Laughing Lotus in NYC where he then went on to mentor various teachers who continue to foster the program today. With a love for helping others achieve physical freedom, he went on to explore other methods in order to deepen his offering. Currently studying under Nevine Michaan of Katonah Yoga® in Bedford Hills while also a student of the Ido Portal Method, his unique style is a blend of the traditions he studies and practices. Those include but are not limited to: Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Katonah Yoga®, and Lotus Flow™. Posner is the owner of Yoga Framework located in New Jersey.
What is your go-to pose for de-stressing? “Plow Pose. My teacher said it’s the best way to get over yourself.”
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Methodical, obsessive, fun, educational, sensible.”
I am happiest when… “I feel like things are harmonious and when things are in flow. It’s like being in the zone.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “As cliche as it sounds, to not judge people. I definitely was judgmental. I came into yoga from a sports angle and I was introduced to it through more of a fitness style. Then, I went into training at Laughing Lotus and it was a complete change. I definitely thought I was going into something different than I was, but it helped me open up.”
Lauren Eckstrom is an E-RYT Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher and certified mindfulness meditation instructor. Eckstrom completed her 300-hour advanced teacher training under Annie Carpenter, an additional 100 hours with Carpenter and Leslie Kazadi focusing on restorative yoga, and she studied Yin and myofascial with Tiffany Cruikshank. She guides some of the world’s best-known musicians, filmmakers, executives, and Fortune 500 companies in both yoga and meditation. Eckstrom leads Holistic Yoga Flow workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings in the Los Angeles area and internationally. She co-created the 30-minute, 30-day online yoga program, Yoga 30 for 30, which has been downloaded in all 50 US states and over 44 countries across the world. Eckstrom co-authored the book Holistic Yoga Flow: The Path of Practice and was the associate producer of the award-winning DVD series “The Ultimate Yogi.” She has written about yoga and mindfulness for Yoga Journal, MindBodyGreen.com, The Huffington Post, LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health, and Mantra Magazine. She is on the faculty at 1440 Multiversity and was recently featured on the cover of Yoga Journal. Eckstrom travels internationally for workshops and festivals teaching Holistic Yoga Flow signature master classes, which incorporate safe, sound, creative sequencing, yoga philosophy, storytelling, subtle anatomy, meditation, and pranayama.
What is your go-to pose for de-stressing? “Supported supta baddha konasana.”
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Holistic asana, journey, story-infused, meditative flow.”
I am happiest when… “I’m present.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I went into my first teacher training just for myself—yoga was literally saving my life at the time. I was so unhappy in the career path I was on and I did my first teacher training completely to immerse myself in a practice that I felt was saving my life. I had no desire to teach and I was completely shocked by teaching inside of my teacher training and at the end of my final class, I was the youngest person in there and I literally collapsed to the floor sobbing because I felt such a connection and a healing in what I was able to communicate to people. I think the biggest thing I learned was to trust that inner voice, even if I didn’t know what the end game was or I couldn’t see what that was leading toward, just keep trusting that that instinct was leading me toward my dharma and my purpose.”
Hemalayaa Behl empowers thousands of people internationally with her unique blend of traditional and modern lifestyle programs, workshops, and videos. She stars in numerous DVDs. She also hosts her own TV show, “BollyBlast”, bringing fitness to a whole new level of fun, including dance, yoga, and affirmation-based movement. Behl provides her students tools to experience a balanced state of being, true self-acceptance, and a passion for life. Her specialty is supporting women in their full potential to embody their delicious dream life. Behl trained with Shiva Rea, Atma Yoga, Lulu Bandhs in Ojai, California, and various others.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Yoga, dance, music, transformational experience.”
I am happiest when… “I am in my fully embodied, radiant, super-powered woman self.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I learned that I didn’t need to talk like some kind of robot almost like a ‘yoga porn star,’ that needs to talk in a certain way, but that I can talk real and be authentic.”
Laura Burkhart (500 E-RYT) is a San Francisco-based international teacher, featured on Grokker, My YogaWorks, and YogaVibes. Burkhart sought out yoga to help combat serious health problems due to a decade of major stress and insomnia. Yoga reminded her of the similar movement meditation she found when she used to dance. But unlike dance, yoga encouraged her to respect her body rather than push it beyond its limits. Burkhart’s creative, well-rounded classes are smartly sequenced with smooth and rhythmic flow. She has been a writer, video model, and two-time cover model for Yoga Journal. She has presented at the Yoga Journal Conference, The Bali Spirit Festival, Yoga Festival Italy, Wanderlust 108, and is co-creator of “Yoga Business Secrets” workshops and online program that helps yoga teachers build successful public and online yoga careers. Burkhart completed various trainings including a 200-hour training at The Loft, a 300-hour training with Shiva Rea, a 200-hour and 300-hour training with Jason Crandell, and a 200-hour training with YogaWorks.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Creative, fluid, well-rounded, smart-sequencing, alignment-intuitive.”
What’s a recipe you could never live without? “Well let me just be honest and tell you I rarely cook,” she admits. “So, a recipe I could not live without is Whole Foods.”
I am happiest when… “I’m in a place, usually when I’m going for a walk or when I’m talking to a really good friend, where I can dream really big and where all possibilities are imaginable,” she said. “I love being in that creative space. A lot of times it happens when I go for a walk and my mind just goes.”
Sara Clark, a EYT- 500-hour certified yoga and meditation teacher residing in New York City left the corporate world of television post-production in 2011 to deepen her studies of yoga. Practicing vinyasa flow and meditation for two decades now, Sara is faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and leads workshops and retreats internationally. She has created a series of yoga and meditation videos for Shape Magazine, Yoga Today, and she is one of the newest teachers on Yogaglo. Known for her compassionate teaching style and fluid vinyasa sequences, Sara makes both the novice and the more experienced practitioner feel welcomed in her classes.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Attentive, compassionate, creative, mindful, and (sometimes a little) sweaty.”
What’s a recipe you could never live without? “My go-to is quinoa with turmeric, coriander, and cumin, steamed kale with olive oil and sea salt, and steamed sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon, topped with avocado!”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I think you can become the biggest critic of yourself in terms of how you’re teaching. There’s a space and a style for your way of teaching. There’s no such thing as a perfect class—let your classes be an offering. Don’t compare, just trust. Also, take your time cultivating your style because it’s ever evolving.”
Jacqueline Smyth is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher and life coach. For Smyth, yoga was the direct tipping point that introduced her to the ability to create a life of magic, manifest forward motion and lean in to what’s next, and explore a whole lot of movement in this world. She now guides others, through yoga, life coaching, and international retreats, to zero in on, create, and live out their very own adventure. Smyth completed her 200-hour and 300-hour teacher trainings through YogaWorks.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Come alive.”
I am happiest when… “I am creating.”
The most important lesson you learned from your first teacher training: “It actually happened right before my first teacher training. I got into this safe space of ‘Oh, I’ll just wait.’ And it was something about that phrase that got me. I realized I was always waiting and what was I waiting for? I decided I’m just going to go for it. And if it’s meant for me, it will happen and if it’s not, then I’ll know that I have tried.”
See also You Are Here
A dedicated yoga practitioner, photographer Robert Sturman has increasingly focused on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asana in his work. His portraits, whether set in the lively streets of Manhattan, the expansive beaches and canyons of Malibu, the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the timeless elegance of Walden’s New England, or the bleakness of San Quentin Prison, remind us that yoga is for anyone and everyone, anywhere and everywhere. His stunning repertoire runs the gamut from yogis perched on rocks surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, to African orphans practicing yoga in Kenya —to soldiers and veterans, doctors, firefighters and police officers, to breast cancer survivors, bare-chested and scarred. In Sturman’s own words, “I often think of Rumi’s words ‘I can’t stop pointing to the beauty.’ That feels right to me.”
Sturman’s honors include Official Artist of the 47th Annual Grammy Awards, 2010 FIFA World Cup Artist Representing America, and Official Artist 2008 United States Olympics. In 2012 and 2013, Sturman was the subject of two separate New York Times articles celebrating his photographs of yoga from around the world. Learn more at www.RobertSturmanStudio.com
What is your go-to pose for de-stressing? “I go upside down into a handstand. It always works. Just having the blood redirected and exerting energy shifts everything for me. It took me awhile to consistently remember that is what I needed to do when I was stressed, but I’ve got it now and it always shifts my mood—always.”
Favorite book on yoga? “Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. I read this book when I was fifteen years old and it woke me up to a deep longing for silence. It inspired my life.”
When you’re not on your yoga mat, where could we find you? “Somewhere in the world with my camera, pointing towards the beauty.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “Not applicable. I do not teach asana. I teach ‘The Yoga of Seeing.’ I have never done a training, but an important lesson that I have learned is that we all want and need to be seen. That’s what’s really going on here with photographs. Whether it is an inmate in San Quentin, or a cover model, people light up when we pay attention to them—we see them, we reflect light back to them.
After 15 years of teaching, it’s more about living the yoga than talking about it. This is what Merrigan hopes to share with students. Whether practicing, teaching, or training teachers, she hopes to spark something in each person that facilitates connection, strips away the layers of what makes us different, so we can spend more time remembering how we are the same. In 2002, after 9 years Merrigan left her New York City corporate life to pursue a more soul-filling life of teaching yoga. Now in 2017, she’s a wife to her best friend, a mother to two home-birthed girls and a rescue dog named after Bob Marley, a vegan restaurant co-owner, a world traveler, and an “ocean girl” recently relocated to world-class mountain resort town Breckenridge, Colorado. Merrigan trained at Be Yoga in New York, which was bought by YogaWorks. She currently teaches Shiva Rea’s Prana Vinyasa(™).
What is your go-to pose for de-stressing? “Literally Paschimottasana—but not the ‘alignment kind.’ I’m talking about just fold over, let your knees bend, let your spine curl, let your head go, just be in this little cage, and hang out.”
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Hanging out with other yogis.”
Favorite book on yoga? “The Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda Bolen. It’s about women meeting in as many circles as they can and as that continues to cultivate, we women continue to make more and more circles. Whether it be through cooking, yoga, or parenting, once it hits that millionth circle, then there’s this exponential change on the planet. Is it about yoga? It depends what yoga you’re talking about, but I’m talking about the living, breathing everydayness of yoga.”
In a world that tells you exactly who to be, true self-expression is no small task. Taus combines decades of experience as a clinical therapist and a yoga instructor to create space for authenticity. Working with Taus means developing new, improved thought and behavioral patterns that unlock freedom, empowerment, abundance, and joy in everyday living. Taus completed her trainings at YogaFit, Pure Yoga, and The Trauma Center. She teaches vinyasa, meditation, and restorative yoga. Taus trains leading innovators across a variety of sectors. Her client list includes successful startups in the wellness industry, hedge fund portfolio managers, and several celebrity clients. She also teaches at Soho House, Equinox, Sweat Santa Monica, and she regularly leads transformative wellness adventures around the world.
I am happiest when… “I’m connected to myself and when I’m connected to others.”
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less. “An exploration of positive possibilities.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “Everything is connected.”
Meredith Cameron is an international yoga teacher and the founder of Yoga Stability®, an awakening of familiar yoga poses by cultivating awareness around personal habits and learning to find personal bone structure (implementing and learning all Stability tactics), so that one can ignite their organs and really up the ante on overall health and life. She travels teaching workshops, retreats, and intensives that gives you tools to be a well-informed individual. Cameron’s teachings are one of a kind, as she has seen the need for everyone to wake up to their own personal set of conditions and realizes that not all cues are created equal. She is highly influenced by her teachers Melissa French, Abbie Galvin, Shannon Paige, and Elena Brower and explores Taoism under the Dantao Dragon Gate with German Sanmateu.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “I‘ll teach you something new.”
I am happiest when… “I connect with others.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I got out of my training and I wanted to catch something—I had my eyes on the prize. I wanted to go big and all I could focus on was the end point, not the process. I chased things for a while but the effort behind that chase was so empty—it made me sick. I didn’t trust that I was where I was suppose to be. I needed to learn to be happy with what I had… It’s amazing when you sit back and surrender with what you have.”
See also 7 Things To Know About Katonah Yoga
Denelle Jarro Numis
Denelle Jarro Numis (E-RYT 500) is a native New Yorker, certified Coloradan, and newly relocated Bay Area yoga teacher. As the founder of Après Yoga Events, she loves to create an inclusive environment where each student can immediately feel connected with their community and enjoy yoga with benefits after class, such as a pint of beer, a glass of wine, coffee, or cocktails. She infuses her classes with eclectic music and inspiring peak postures. Even though her classes may be challenging, Jarro Numis’s vibrant and gregarious personality motivates her students to stay playful in their practice. Numis completed her 200-hour certification with Shannon Paige at Omtime Yoga in Denver and a 300-hour certification with Gina Caputo at The Colorado School of Yoga in Boulder, Colorado. She also studied with Richard Freeman and plans to study with Jason Crandell at Love Story Yoga in San Francisco next spring.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Fun, challenging, intelligent, intuitive flow.”
I am happiest when… “I am teaching yoga, my students feel good, and my belly is full of vegetables.”
What is the most important lesson you learned in your first teacher training? “I always use this quote from my first teacher, Shannon Paige, who said, ‘You are stronger than you ever imagined to be possible.’ I just try to carry that with me when I’m feeling challenged, when I’m facing hardship or adversity. I can be that resilient person.”
A recipe you could never live without: “A Parsley Lemon Vinaigrette from Giada De Laurentiis.”
Sofiah is an embodiment coach, author, sacred movement artist, tantra yoga teacher and trainer committed to guiding women to connect with their brilliance. She completed her 300-hour teacher Anusara teacher training with BJ Galvin, Jaye Martin, and Kenny Graham, as well as completing advanced Yoga training at the Nosara Insitute. She is the creator of The Temple Body Arts™ School of Sacred Sensuality and Dance, offering in-depth immersions and advanced teacher trainings, on-line and in person to help women access their creative potential and Live their YES. Alongside her husband Brendan, Sofiah co-founded the Envision Festival in Costa Rica, a conscious festival celebrating music, art and yoga. Together, they co-founded Danyasa Eco-Retreat in the beautiful beach town of Dominical, Costa Rica.
Describe your teaching style in 5 words or less: “Deep Goddess Embodied Sensual Flow.”
What is your go-to pose for de-stressing? “Goddess Pose, with lions breath and then some yummy hip circles.”
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? “I align my mind with gratitude and love.”
What’s a recipe you could never live without? “My morning smoothie—fresh coconut water and meat off the tree, banana, pineapple, papaya, peanut butter, cacao, maca, and spirulina.”