big names in yoga

Yoga Vocabulary 6: Big Names in Yoga

Who are all these people? Whether you’re new to yoga or somewhat experienced, you’ve probably heard a name or two that everyone else seems to recognize, but you’re left nodding along and telling yourself to look that person up.

I’ve been there (and still am sometimes). So let’s take a look at some of the big names in yoga, past and present. Of course, the list of influential and well-known teachers is long; these are just a few.

Yogrishi Vishvketu

me with my teacher Yogrishi Vishvketu

This is my teacher. I did my two major teacher training courses at his ashram in Rishikesh, India, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have done so.

His Akhanda Yoga is light-hearted, balanced, and holistic. If you get the opportunity to take a class with him, do it; he divides his time between India and Canada, mostly, but he does teach at various festivals and hold special retreats, as well.


B.K.S. Iyengar

This great teacher developed his style, known as Iyengar Yoga, of course, to be accessible to everyone, with a special focus on alignment using props when necessary. His must-read book, Light on Yoga, was published in 1966; he wrote several other books, as well. He died in 2014 at age 95.

Judith Hanson Lasater, co-founder of Yoga Journal and author of many lovely yoga books (including Living Your Yoga), studied with Iyengar.

Bikram Choudhury

Choudhury is the founder of Bikram Yoga, which is 26 postures practiced in a very hot room. (Bikram Yoga is hot yoga, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.) The practice is always the same sequence. I tried Bikram Yoga twice, and I’m not a fan; I don’t like the heat, I can’t imagine always doing the same 26 poses when there are so many poses in the yoga world, and the classes I went to felt very militant (“you WILL do the pose this way no matter what your body says!”), though people have since told me not all the teachers are like that. However, the practice did generate a huge following over the years, and many people love it.

Starting a couple of years ago, several women came forward accusing Choudhury of sexual assault and harassment. The company recently filed for bankruptcy.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Ashtanga means “eight limbs” of yoga: yamas (contracts with society), niyamas (contracts with yourself), asana (the physical yoga postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (enlightentment, bliss). For the physical practice, Jois and the Ashtanga teachers teach strong, flowing series of postures. Jois died in 2009.

Richard Freeman and Kino MacGregor are both well-known teachers in the US who studied with Jois.

Paramahansa Yogananda

In the 1920s, he came to the US from India to teach yoga and meditation. He wrote several books; you should start with his well-known Autobiography of a Yogi.

Yogi Bhajan

Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini yoga to the west and founded 3HO. Hari Kaur Khalsa, who both studied with and worked alongside Yogi Bhajan, still teaches in New York City and around the world.

Here are a few of the major modern-day teachers you might have seen in a yoga magazine or on social media. The links lead to their websites if you’d like to learn more about what they do: Kathryn Budig, Patrick Beach, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Baron BaptisteElena Brower, Rodney Yee, Tony Briggs, and David Life.


For more Yoga Vocabulary, take a look at these:

Non-English Words

Yoga Body Parts

Styles of Yoga

Yoga Pose Names


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *