Even if you find yoga annoying, it may well be the thing that keeps you able to tie your own shoelaces in 20 years. Even if you find it worthy, it might deal with the murderous moods, the shallow breathing, the existential bollocks. Even if you already love yoga, there are some untapped treasures in this directory. So go on. Have a gander. Namas-wa-hey. Sorry.
1. THE PEACEMAKER: MOLLIE BRIDGEMAN
If a person could actually be valium, this is that person. Working mainly from her home in Richmond, Bhuti (an eco wellbeing warren also in Richmond) and Union Station Yoga Lavender Hill, this zen mother of three mixes meditation, breathing and lovely flowy postures. You don’t need to be able to fold every limb into the shape of a pretzel to nail a Mollie class. You can be preggers, bonkers or stiff as a board. Mollie’s flow, therapeutic-grade essential oils and melodious music oozing soulful beats (not worthy warbles) will align the body and mind. You can also book privates. And, relax…
Classes from £15 at Union Station Yoga
2. THE GENTLE TOUCH: CATHERINE TURNER
Ah lovely, gentle, caring Catherine with her long, flowing pale grey hair. She came to yoga mid-life having spent the previous couple of decades as a beauty and health director on glossy magazines such as Marie Claire. Her intrepid heart led her to remote Indian ashrams, luxe resorts and studios all over the world to try every style (from Jivamukti to Kundalini via Iyengar). She went from creaky to flexi, greying to glowing. Now she loves teaching beginners: she’ll come to you, one-to-one, or in your office, and her bespoke classes are ideal even for those who can’t see their toes, never mind touch them. No judgements, just good old-fashioned yoga from the kindest soul.
In-office groups and home one-to-ones from £60
3. THE VOICE OF CALM: NADIA NARAIN
Yes, she recently helped Jools Oliver breeze through her fifth pregnancy. Yes she has more cool ‘n’ beautifuls on speed dial than you could throw a wind chime at (like Kate Moss). But Nadia, based at Triyoga in Primrose Hill, remains a beaut; all calm and unusually unassuming, not your shout-y look-at-me Instagramming yogi. She stands out as one of the original and best-loved teachers among Triyoga’s huge gang. From professional athletes to absolute beginners, she can brilliantly adapt to an individual’s needs and make you feel really bloody marvellous. Her classes are simple and gently challenging – but they will ultimately change your perspective. Her DVDs are bestsellers and very simple, with easy-to-follow daily sequences. Not a flash in the pan either – she’s been teaching since 1996, is qualified to the hilt and has studied with world-renowned yoga and Buddhist meditation teachers. Take that, newbies.
Classes from £16 at various Triyoga locations
4. THE CLEAN-UP-YOUR-ACT GUY: CHRIS JAMES
You may very possibly form a crush mid-downward dog. This Twickenham-based health and wellbeing expert is dishy (in a younger Richard E. Grant way and, a rare creature, he rocks the zen-man-in-loose-loungewear look). Chris’ fusion of meditation, yoga, breath work, nutrition and cleansing for a healthy mind, body and spirit started in the 1990s when he lived and studied with masters in India. He teaches privately, delivers workshops, masterclasses and Clean Break retreats all over the shop and actually gives detox a good, more manly, less neurotic name. His practice is a very physical one – we’re talking twists to stimulate digestion, backbends for bioelectric network stimulation (a reboot from the cells out, apparently) and inversions for lymphatic drainage. Thorough.
Classes from £15 at venues in Twickenham and Richmond
5. THE FREE THINKER: MICHAEL BARTELLE
Take a Texan dude, transplant him to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and then convert him to yogi. You are left with this cracking yoga teacher. With his swaying dreads, soft Southern US accent and laid-back style (he often does yoga in baggy jeans), Michael’s followers adore his restorative freestyle-y way. He also has a more serious side, teaching deep, meditative classes where you’re propped into position and just left to let go and draw breath while he quotes yogic philosophy. Your kind of yoga, right? Or slow, slow vinyasa which expands your mind as much as your body. Oh, we love Michael and his ‘Fame! I wanna live forever’ vibe that makes you want to cartwheel out the door.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Soho or from £15 at Life Centre Notting Hill
6. THE SINGING YOGI: DURGA DEVI
A no-nonsense New Yorker, covered in more ink than Beckham (and bendier), former dancer and gymnast Durga Devi was introduced to yoga in 1994. Asana practice (that’s postures to you and I) felt very natural to her, but it was the chanting, philosophy and the ancient teachings of yoga that really resonated. Durga is one of the original teachers of the London Jivamukti Yoga Centre (now called Sangye Yoga), which is based on five tenets – scripture, devotion, kindness, music and meditation. So expect spirituality in spades at her classes at Triyoga Camden and Chelsea. It’s a pretty vigorous form of yoga (you will sweat). Durga is also a bit of a rock star, a guitar-playing singer/songwriter, so you’ll need to make friends with your inner chanter as the voice plays a major role in her classes. Oh, and her tiger balm massages while you hold poses are divine.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Camden and Chelsea
7. THE YOGA POSTER GIRL: MERCEDES NGOH SIEFF
Mama to two young yoginis, Mercedes Sieff (née Ngoh) is a wonderfully creative, competent Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teacher and all round wellness/mindfulness multi-tasker. Plus, she played Rystall Sant in 1997’s release of Return of The Jedi, dancing for Jabba the Hutt. So there’s that. Born in Canada, she studied creative movement, lived in California working in the entertainment industry, before her yoga life began. So naturally, she was way ahead of the London yoga curve – in fact helped hone it. Her classes (dotted between Triyoga Chelsea and Camden studios) are detailed and disciplined (“Toes are part of the pose,” she says). That said, she doesn’t do perfection so there is an equally loose and liberating feel. In 2010 she co-founded award-winning health retreat Yeotown in North Devon where yoga is a main focus in between the hiking, detoxing, massaging and other generally stonking wellness pursuits.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Chelsea and Camden or from £15 at Hyde Park
8. THE NURTURER: LISA WISE
The daily wellness action at this super-peaceful Ayurveda retreat in the Malvern Hills takes place in a renovated 17th-century water mill surrounded by nature – all singing birds and whispering willows. Like all the yoga teachers here, Lisa Wise is locally sourced (they are all based within about an hour’s drive of Clover Mill). Her deliciously restorative class in the light-filled, top-floor studio on Tuesday mornings is all bolsters and blankets, kind words and nurturing adjustments. Her knowledge of the body is extensive and she’s not afraid to handle and advise on dodgy shoulders, crunchy knees and bad backs. Locals and retreaters alike, equally welcome.
Classes from £10 (course of 6 for £50)
9. THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY: GABRIELLE HALES
Former corporate PR girl Gabrielle has an epiphany, falls in love with Iyengar yoga and decides to train to be a yoga teacher for six months in India before returning to London to set up yoga/supper clubs in her living room (they now happen in quirky places like hip fashion boutiques and kooky spaces typically in London’s East End). A passion for bringing the arts, sound and a soulful social element to her innovative and immersive Secret Yoga Club means that quite a cult following has ensued. “I looked at other supper clubs and thought it would be amazing to bring all of that together with yoga and other unifying aspects,” she says. Gabby’s classes borrow from many different practices. They are far from dogmatic and big on breath work and slowing the heck down. Her sequences are thoughtful, graceful, the vibe ethereal and magical and her playlists enchanting – much like her really.
Supper Clubs from £35
10. THE HATHA-MEETS-TANTRIC YOGI: AYDA ELLIS
Raven-haired, doe-eyed Ayda’s classes offer much more than a series of stretches and ohms. She focusses on mental and physical alignment, plus self-healing through a deep, hatha-meets-tantric yoga style. Her own personal yoga journey began in the late ’90s, practising personally for nine years, before taking it to the next level with 18 months of intense training in India, followed by 15 months of Alliance teacher certification in Germany. She practices at various locations around London, from Shoreditch to Richmond, as well as abroad, though mainly in Ibiza. (Top tip: keep an eye on her social streams for pop-ups.) Straight from the heart, Ayda’s classes will work for ‘yoga virgins’ to the highly experienced but also offer mental and physical medicine for those suffering from burnout, injuries or recovering from operations.
Classes from £50
11. THE BREATH WORKER: MICHAELA OLEXOVA
Do you actually know how to breathe correctly? Without the use of a paper bag, we mean. Do you use your lungs’ full potential? Do you know how to relax or energise without the use of meds and Chardonnay? No. You need Michaela’s SW14-based, down to earth classes that take place where all yoga classes used to take place – in a reassuringly untrendy hall that by day is a child’s playgroup and by night a tea light lit yoga lock-in. Her classes are classic, attracting low-key locals of all ages and stages in baggy leggings and fleecy gilets, as opposed to the Lululemon matchy-matchy set.
Classes from £12 at Mortlake Hall
12. THE FUNSTER: SARAH HUNT
Resident yogi for London Fashion Week, she tamed the fiercest fashionistas and maniacal models into really quite serene, calmer versions of themselves. Sarah began practising yoga in 2007 in her native Vancouver. She cleverly sells nutrition and yoga in wonderful packages. A registered holistic nutritionist, she offers one-on-one food consultations and kitchen makeovers too, where she empties your cupboards of all your guilty pleasures. Don’t hate her though; for her, real food and gentle yoga are a powerful combo, forming a holistic and healthy way of living. Her classes work on a physical, emotional and spiritual level and – as well as Vinyasa, Hatha, Flow, Disco and Power Yoga classes at various locations around London – Sarah offers a ‘home delivery’ service, for individuals or small groups at home or in the workplace.
Private classes from £75
13. THE CHARITABLE MOVER AND SHAKER: KATELYN FAISON
Vinyasa yogi, personal trainer, women’s fitness and pregnancy specialist, Katelyn brings all of this expertise to her yoga classes, which makes them so much more than simply a series of postures. Think PT trainer meets no-bull**** yoga teacher. Less chat more action. Her mantra is “you were born to move” and this energetic Canadian certainly lives up to her words. A former figure skater and exercise physiologist, she has a Masters in Applied Exercise Physiology and since qualifying as a yoga teacher in 2015, has been practising with some of London’s most respected yogis. She takes a holistic approach, combining her academic background and exploring new ways to move, including functional movement and fascial stretching. And has worked with the Canadian men’s Olympic ski team, as well as dealing with sports injuries, chronic illnesses and stressed-out corporates. You won’t find burning sage and ringing bells in this class.
Classes run on donations with all proceeds going to charity, as part of her “Collaborative Yoga Class” project
14. THE WISE WOMAN: JANE KERSEL
With intimate classes held in the yoga studio at her Notting Hill townhouse and homemade smoothies handed out afterwards, Jane takes a strongly personal approach – just one reason why she attracts a fiercely loyal following. There is nothing fluffy about her yoga. The basement studio features four harnesses – the so-called Yoga Wall – which enables you to hang upside-down like a bat and classes include a lengthy litany of challenging one-legged balances. To counter sedentary lifestyles she focusses on legs and buttocks: “What I am trying to get is softness on the outside, and strength on the inside, with an energetic core, and your legs giving you a firm foundation” she says. We’re in.
Classes from £39 (A contribution is made to the children’s charity War Child)
15. THE FLYING ANGEL: LOUKA LEPPARD
The ‘very scrummy’ (if you like Ross Poldark) Louka, as one fan describes him, tried a range of jobs in various countries before landing in the yoga world. Founder of Tulamassage & Tulayoga, Louka and his gypsy looks offer deep intuitive massage followed by the most acrobatic flying asanas (think of those flying angels you did as a kid, but up the other way) for deep emotional and ‘physical release’ in a loft in Shoreditch. (He has clients in Geneva too, making him the coolest commuting yogi.) The beauty of these incredible postures is, with Louka as your mental and physical safety net, once you have the hang of it, literally, you can let go, breathe and relax. Let gravity take hold, feel your body open and naturally align through its own weight and in its own time. The celebs love him too of course – he’s had the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Sienna Miller in his loft. All this and he’s not remotely precious or worthy, really quite fun and light-hearted – which is perhaps what we find most attractive.
Private classes from £350 (Book in advance as he is only in London every couple of months)
16. THE KIDS’ CHAMPION: JO MANUEL
With her wild curly hair and deep brown eyes, yoga at The Special Yoga Foundation with founder and lead practitioner Jo is one of a kind. The centre exists to serve as many special children as possible through yoga, and their dedication is palpable. “We consider all children special and know that no label can define or limit a child’s potential for positive change,” says Jo. (She treated the Camerons’ late son Ivan, who suffered from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.) If you have a child in your life with additional needs and in need of some alternative, enriching, positive attention, you can’t do better than a session or ten with Jo or one of her fellow special yoga teachers.
One-to-one sessions are priced individually according to the child’s needs
17. THE HOTTIE: MICHELLE PERNETTA
Michelle brought Bikram yoga to the UK in 1994 (she is no longer involved with Bikram) and she has also been at the forefront of developments in yoga ever since she trained as a teacher and Tae Kwon Do black belt. She launched Fierce Grace, her own version of the traditional hot yoga class (the room is kept at 95-100F/35-38C. Sweat you will) with more alignment, hip opening, and upper body and core strengthening in 2014. The Fierce Grace is a user-friendly general level class, combining the central poses of Bikram, Hatha and Ashtanga with core strengthening, ‘super slow’ wisdom, body sculpting, breathing techniques and deep relaxation.
Classes from £10 at locations around London including Finchley, Brixton and Old Street
18. THE MIX-AND-MATCH: JEAN HALL
Jean developed yoga alongside her career as a dancer and qualified as an Iyengar teacher 20 years ago. Always graceful, she is known for her deep dynamic form of yoga (be warned, you don’t stop moving): a unique creative sequencing of postures through the system of asanas, mindful breathing and meditation. Yet she always manages to make her classes fun in the process. As well as teaching open classes in London and being on the faculty of Triyoga’s teacher training programme, Jean leads yoga masterclasses, workshops and retreats in the UK and abroad. She is part of Secret Yoga Club too, London’s favourite pop-up fitness experience, with classes held in surroundings such as the Royal Academy and Sutton House, and even holds monthly yoga supper clubs and retreats around the world. Cor.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Camden and from £10 at the Telegraph Hill Centre, Brockley
19. THE DYNAMO: JULIE MONTAGU
As well known for her evangelistic approach to food as for her yoga teaching, mother of four Julie is a platinum blonde, skin-glowing advocate of the two-pronged attack: eat better, move more. She says, “There’s no point in having a strong body on the outside if you’re feeding it crap – you just won’t feel as good as you should.” (And she should know, as a self-confessed junk food junkie growing up in the USA.) Expect a high-energy, ex-cheerleader, all-American, plant-based food fan giving a constant commentary telling you where the heck you put what foot where. If that sounds exhausting, it is. But worth it.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Soho and Chelsea. Classes also available for private members at Grace Belgravia and the South Kensington Club
20. THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST YOGI: CAROLYN COWAN
Much more than simply yoga, psychosexual therapist and mighty mentor Carolyn offers workshops in addiction recovery, conscious sexuality, meditation and pranayama. Oh, and pregnancy. So it’s no surprise that she brings a holistic stance to her kundalini yoga practices, using them as a platform to deal with trauma, stress release and issues around relaxation. She also packs out her classes in Triyoga Chelsea with her direct approach, taking the mickey in a kind way. She reckons there’s a physiological reason for all imbalances and ailments and aims to help you unearth and address yours.
Classes from £16 at Triyoga Chelsea or £250 for two-day workshops at her home
21. THE EX-BALLERINA: KATY APPLETON
Founder and director of appleyoga, Katy took Gerri Halliwell from Spice Girl to yoga girl (remember that phase?) and embodies girl power. Her addictive mix borrows from ballet (she danced across the world with the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet), Pilates, breath and even energy work. Vinyasa Flow is her thing (vinyasa means to place in a special way, FYI) so while each posture blends beautifully into the next, her attention to detail is crucial to her so you stop for rests and mini masterclasses on alignment throughout. There is, of course, the prerequisite candles and readings element at the end of class but they are far from earnest or too churchy – more a soulful Jackanory for grown-ups.
Classes from £35 (course of 4 for £110)
22. THE HIPPY HIPPY SHAKER: AMBER MACKINTOSH
In 2010 Amber packed up the family and swapped a high-pressure job in London for the country and a wellness start-up – Dandelion Wellbeing, a boutique little hub of handpicked, natural, luxurious and effective beauty and health products, recipes and wellness whatnot. She trained as a teacher of Kundalini yoga, which uses sound, breath and posture to develop spiritual awareness by (be open people, be open) freeing the power in the base of the spine and helping draw energy and feisty femininity upwards through the seven chakras. Amber’s delightful yoga classes are held in the Studio of The Core Juice Bar and Restaurant, a mile south of Hungerford town centre, and combines this kooky, cool Kundalini approach with other more classical yoga elements.
12-week course for £110
By Suzanne Duckett, Founder of thisistheantidote.com