the Reads: Mind & Spirit

16 of London’s best yoga teachers

the Antidote to... imperfect asanas

Even if you find yoga a challenge, it may well be the thing that keeps you able to tie your own shoelaces in 20 years. Even if you already love yoga, there are some untapped treasures in this directory. So go on. Have a gander.

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1 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

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2 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

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3 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

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4 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

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5 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

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6 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

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7 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)

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8 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

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9 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

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10 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

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11 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

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12 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

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13 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

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14 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

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15 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

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16 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)

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