Though yoga has existed as a practice of enlightenment and physicality for centuries, its foray into western countries (and especially the United States) can still be considered fairly new. Jumping into the 20th century, yoga was becoming a global practice and known around the world—at this time, though, yoga was mostly associated with men.
The current, modern landscape of yoga looks entirely different than when the practice first crossed into the United States so many years ago—it’s revolutionized, it’s mainstream, and it’s for everyone. But that didn’t happen on its own. Over time—from the first few moments that yoga was becoming popularized in western states to our present reality—influential, powerful, and inspiring women played immensely crucial roles in transforming the landscape of yoga.
Many female instructors—some who have come long before us, some who are currently practicing, and some who have yet to begin instructing—have and will continue to make their marks on yoga, changing it—and us—forever.
In honor of March, which is Women’s History Month, in honor of women everywhere, and in honor of the way women have shaped the world of yoga, we present to you a few of the influential female yogis women who have had exceptional impact on our world through their yoga instruction.
Seven Influential Female Yoga Instructors You Should Know About
While it’s impossible to list out every single female instructor or teacher who has influenced yoga as we know it, we are thrilled to share this list that highlights powerful and inspiring women who each bring something beautiful, enriching, and unique to the world of yoga.
Whether they were instrumental in the global diffusion of yoga in the past or are presently spreading the message of yoga through digital channels, we believe these women are making powerful differences in the world of yoga all across the globe.
It’s with great pleasure we shine a light on these instructors, teachers, and influential women who have positively impacted and changed the practice, message, and world of yoga as we know it.
1. Indra Devi
Lovingly referred to as the first lady of yoga, Indra Devi was perhaps one of the most influential early practitioners of yoga in the United States in the mid-to-late 1940s. Though Devi died in 2002 at the age of 102, she is (and always will be) considered instrumental in both the global diffusion of the practice of yoga as well as specifically in the United States.
Though her achievements, impact, and influence are impossible to narrow down, she is best known as a pioneer in the teaching of yoga and one of the earliest yoga disciplines of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, an instructor considered the father of modern yoga. In 1937, she was admitted to his school, winning her the title of the first woman chela (pupil) and notably the first western woman ever at an Indian ashram.
Over the course of her life, she taught and diffused yoga in China, India, Russia, the United States, Mexico, and beyond—she became one of the most impactful teachers and is credited as one of the most influential global diffusers of yoga.
2. Brett Larkin
Founder of her Uplifted Online Yoga—an award-winning YouTube Channel— and a sought-after yoga instructor, Brett Larkin has been making a name for herself in the Yoga industry for years and making a name for Yoga, dance, and movement, too. Though Larkin has other influential skills she’s known for (she is a successful entrepreneur and business consultant, too), she’s primarily recognized for her impactful YouTube channel that currently has over 430,000 subscribers and her online yoga teacher training, Uplifted.
Larkin has used her love of dance as one of her primary inspirations for Yoga—both in her own practice and as an instructor. Larkin studied ballet and modern dance for more than 15 years at institutions like Jeanette Neil Dance Studio and Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theater of Boston.
For the past several years, she has focused on creating a yoga instruction platform with programs in Hatha, Kundalini, and Vinyasa, setting the standard for highly interactive, online yoga certification.
3. Krishna Kaur
A well-known master teacher trainer of Kundalini Yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan), Krishna Kaur has taught the art of Kundalini Yoga and Self Awareness for over 40 years. In her four decades of experience, she’s expanded her wealth of knowledge, her experience, and her workshops to inner cities in the United States, Mexico, Africa, Europe, Asia, Canada, Latin America, and beyond.
In addition to her impactful teaching, Kaur is certified by the 3HO Foundation and the Kundalini Research Institute as a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Trainer, she is the regional coordinator for 3HO Africa (which helps to unite Kundalini Yoga in Africa), is the founder of Y.O.G.A for Youth (a non-profit dedicated to training yoga teachers to work with at-risk youth and creating yoga programs in juvenile facilities and schools), and established the first yoga center in South Central L.A.
Kaur is best known for her impactful workshops, her yoga teacher training programs, and most of all, her passion and dedication for bringing yoga to the underserved populations throughout the world.
4. Stephanie Adams
A long-time yoga teacher and an expert in movement education with more than 25 years of experience, Stephanie Adams has long been dedicated to safe yoga practices, education, and inspiring students and teachers worldwide. An ERYT 500 teacher, she has trained throughout North America (in 25 states and 3 provinces), in Mexico, and in Rishikesh and Mysore, India. Additionally, she is the creator of Flow Yoga Community in Hood River, Oregon.
Ultimately, she is known for her unique teaching that’s rooted in preventing yoga injuries. She takes an approach that allows teachers and students to continue practicing yoga for their entire lives, opting to shy away from what’s trending and instead, investing in what’s sacred, revolutionary, and ultimately sustainable. In the same vein, Adams is also the Co-Founder and President of SAYF, the Sustainable Asana Yoga Foundation, an establishment born with the intent to unite the yoga community around making asana more accessible and sustainable for everyone. This collective consists of trainers, teacher trainers, movement experts, help practitioners, researchers, and passionate yogis and yoginis.
5. Maty Ezraty
Though Maty Ezraty passed away in July of 2019 at the age of 55, her impact in the yoga community and beyond continues to live on. Ezraty was the co-founder of YogaWorks (a studio with over 40 locations, an instructor for more than three decades, and was an internationally celebrated and adored yoga teacher. She’s best known for her becoming one of the first women to practice the third and fourth series of the Ashtanga practice and for combining both Iyengar yoga and Ashtanga yoga into her practice by merging them into a less dogmatic form, ultimately resulting in a huge influence in a vinyasa flow-style yoga practiced throughout the world today.
It’s been said that Ezraty was influential in moving yoga into the mainstream, and she is lauded as a woman who played an instrumental role in taking yoga from a practice done primarily in India to something that is now considered an everyday household practice in the West. According to a New York Times article, it’s said that “it’s not an overstatement to say that if you’ve taken a yoga class in the United States, Maty influenced the yoga you likely practiced.”
6. Arianne Traverso
Founder of Bizzyyogi.com, a 500-hour yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, and the co-owner of TRIO Studios in Miami, Arianne Traverso is best known for her innate ability to help yoga students and instructors tap into their overwhelming potential. Dedicated to helping her client find their passions, inner strengths, and self loves, Traverso has committed herself to leading international retreats, teacher training, and presenting at Yoga festivals worldwide, sharing her expertise and her influence with the world.
Her platform, Bizzy Yogi Academy, was created with yoga teachers in mind, helping them combine their passion for yoga with business savvy on their journey toward becoming successful, impactful entrepreneurs. Through her many diverse, impactful avenues, she’s helped thousands raise their awareness of consciousness and aided them in feeling happier, more alive, and abundant.
7. Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is one of the most popular and well-known Ashtanga yoga teachers in the world—and for good reason. MacGregor, who has been practicing Ashtanga yoga since she was 19 and received certification at 29, has a highly advanced physical practice as well as a strong connection to Mysore and Ashtanga yoga lineage.
But more than that, she’s an exceptionally gifted teacher. Author of several yoga books, DVDs, 1.1 million Instagram followers, and a successful YouTube channel that reaches almost 745,000 online subscribers, she is largely considered one of the most influential yoga practitioners in our digital age.
She is also the founder of Omstars, the world’s first yoga TV network, and is a sought-after expert in yoga across the world.