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19 Local Yoga Influencers You Should Be Following in 2019

by Angela Sellers of Fit Columbia



According to Yoga Journal, students spend $2.5 billion a year on yoga instruction. The Columbia yoga scene is booming with new instructors, classes and studios. How do you know which studio, instructor and experience to choose? We have pulled together a list of19 local yogis who are going above and beyond to bring you the best yoga has to offer in 2019.


Nicole Zimmer

E-RYT 500 | YACEP | Pink Lotus

Why Nicole? Nicole is an award winning yoga teacher and studio owner. Did you know Pink Lotus recently won 2018 Lexington Life and The State's Best Of awards? Yes! Using hashtag #nurturein19, she's committed to nurturing her students. Please go take her YIN Yoga class, you won't regret it.


Vicky Saye Henderson

Why Vicky? She is a career performance and teaching artist based in the Carolinas, and has a passion for teaching service members and veterans. She's a member of Team Red, White & Blue (RWB) and we recommend her iRest Yoga Nidra class.


Lisa Estelle Riente

E-RYT 500 | IAYT | BLUE Dog Yoga & Wellness

Why Lisa? Lisa's classes are offered in her home with an intimate space for 8 people. She is one of the most engaging and warm people to learn from. Broadening her teaching offerings, you can take her paddle board yoga class on Kendall Lake or her Yoga & CBD Oil classes which brings together yoga postures and cbd oil. She also offers private therapeutically-oriented yoga and coaching. Check out her website for more details and link to schedules.


Jazmine Kane

Why Jaz? Jaz teaches at James Patrick Fitness, TamB Fitness and Pink Lotus. This on the move instructor is very fit and passionate about merging athleticism and yoga. She teaches yoga for athletes, swing yoga and many other classes in our community. You should try her Hip Hop Glow Yoga Class.


Dara Brown

E-RYT 500 | M.P.H. | YACEP | ADAPTIVE & OYI YOGA

Why Dara? Yoga instructor Dara Brown is an exceptional yoga teacher. The best teachers are exceptional because they offer their teaching from a place of service and not a place of ego gratification. She's has been recognized for her adaptive yoga programs and if you haven't taken a class with her, you must. Yoga with Dara is at the downtown YMCA and City Yoga.

Watch her Tedx video: Adapting yoga, recognizing the human spirit. Watch her on Wach Fox: Adaptive Yoga.


Julie Macker

Why Julie? Off the mat, Julie is a teacher of the Deaf and an avid reader. We love Julie because she has a passion for making yoga more accessible for students. We can't wait till she brings ASL Yoga to Columbia. Until then, you must try one of her curvy yoga classes at Fit Columbia. Curvy Yoga Classes -body affirming yoga for people of all shapes and sizes where you can get to know and meet the needs of YOUR body, exactly as it is today.


Lacy Carbone

Bikram Yoga | Bikram Yoga

Why Lacy? Since 2011, Lacy has loved Bikram Yoga and with her dance and fitness background, we know why, it's HOT! Bikram Yoga also offers 41 classes a week including inferno hot pilates, torched barre classes and more. If you haven't tried a class at the Bikram studio yet, grab your water bottle and towel and expect to sweat.


Stacey Millner-Collins

E-RYT 500 | YACEP | SCETV Yoga in Practice host | City Yoga

Why Stacey? Stacey was born a seeker and a bit of a renegade. She believes in holistic programming that brings a diverse population to her classes. Her studio has continuously brought together the region's most experienced and highly-trained instructors. Located in Five Points, they have won the Free Times Best of Columbia every year since 2012. Check out her 13-part yoga series on ETV.


Jessica Smith Barnes

E-RYT 500 | Jessica Smith Barnes Yoga

Why Jessica? Jessica can literally teach anything, to anyone. Jessica earned her 230hr Yoga Instructor certification, 300hr Advanced Yoga Studies certification, and Children's Yoga instructor certification through the Asheville Yoga Center. She completed Mind Body Solutions' Opening Yoga, Adapting Yoga for Disability I/II, as well as OpeniYoga, Advanced Studies with Matthew Sanford. Jessica also completed Trauma-Informed Yoga Training through Street Yoga. We recommend you try her kids yoga class at City Yoga.


Kyra Strasberg

E-RYT 500 | YACEP | Yoga Masala

Why Kyra? Yoga Masala, which opened near Williams-Brice Stadium in 2011, features a type of Vinyasa called Hot Vinyasa. “The classes that we offer at Yoga Masala work the whole body systematically, like a meal, instead of just a few bites here and there,” Kyra says. “Yoga is a discipline. You have to stick with it to see results. It works best when you can do it all the time. Daily practice, even just a few moves, is ideal.” In addition to taking a class from Kyra, we also recommend you read her blog, Bhaktiballerina.


Ginger Doughty

Why Ginger? Ginger Doughty's classes combine Kundalini Yoga practices with alignment-based Hatha Yoga principles—as well as restorative benefits of iRest Yoga Nidra meditation. She also integrates vibration therapy into teachings, enhancing frequency vibration and electromagnetic field awareness. Ginger is dedicated to sharing synergistic, balanced yoga practices to provide lasting benefits for the mind, the body, and the soul. This dynamic instructor teaches at City Yoga and Still Hopes. We invite you to visit her website for more information.


Howell Hensel

Why Howell? Howell is from Columbia but a traveling gypsy at heart. She practiced for a few years before she felt India calling her. Howell traveled there in 2016 for her 200 hour training at Sattva Yoga under Anand Mehrotra in Rishikesh, India. She just recently went back to Sattva for her 300 hour training. She teaches at Amsa Yoga, Yoga Masala and Rooted in Wellbeing. We recommend her vinyasa flow at Amsa Yoga Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays.


Anahata Musick

Why Anahata? Anahata’s experience in practice and teaching spans over four decades. She opened one of the first yoga studios in 1994. She specializes in Kundalini Yoga and offers public & private classes and continuing education in many facets of yoga and meditation practice. She trained with Harvard Medical School’s Mind Body program in the early nineties and has widely introduced and served the medical community and the South Carolina Bar. She teaches and counsels for a total self experience in mind, body and spirit.


Juliet Hewitt

E-RYT 500 | City Yoga & Fit Columbia

Why Juliet? With over 15 years experience she's successfully used yoga to minimize the effects of her own scoliosis. Owning a yoga wall in her own home, she makes the perfect wall yoga instructor at Fit Columbia. Juliet also teaches Strong Abs/Happy Back and Basic Yoga at City Yoga. We recommend you try all of her classes!


Alma Dunnavant

RYT 500 | City Yoga

Why Alma? Alma instructs with a style which blends a combination of Alignment, Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Ashtanga, Yin Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness.  She incorporates mantra in her classes as she plays the harmonium or Ukelele. Her yoga retreat in the mountains of North Carolina at Bliss Farm & Retreat has already sold out! Sign up quick for her next yin class at City Yoga!


Anne Miller

RYT 230 | Yoga for Autism | Rooted In Wellbeing

Why Anne? Located in the Shandon neighborhood community, Rooted, a yoga and wellbeing studio, focuses on community where ‘you can explore, embrace, and express your authentic energy while nurturing your well being.’ Her studio is a peaceful and restorative yoga community offering yoga workshops, poetry, specialty trainings and more. We recommend you gather your friends and try a Candlelight and Live Music class at Rooted In Wellbeing.


Shelley Jones

RYT 500 | Yoga Masala

Why Shelley? Shelley credits yoga with helping to make her transitions from pregnancy through birth and into motherhood easeful, though not easy. Now she shares the gift of yoga with her sons, while realizing the power of her own personal practice in supporting her as a mother. In addition to her adult classes, including prenatal and postnatal classes and workshops, Shelley loves to teach kids’ yoga. We recommend her prenatal workshop coming up on March 23 at Yoga Masala.


Jemme B. Stewart

PMHCNS-BC | LPC, RYT | Upstream teaches the Mindfulness | City Yoga

Why Jemme? Jemme has been teaching gentle yoga at City Yoga and serves as an Authorized Yoga Warriors instructor. She co-founded Upstream, a center for mindfulness practice and holistic mental health. She teaches the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) skill set in an 8-week class series format and we highly recommend this training to reduce stress, manage pain, gain personal insight and maintain mental and physical wellness.


Jan Smoak

RYT 200| M.Ed. | Jan Smoak Yoga

Why Jan? Feeling pulled to share yoga with others, she completed the 100-hour Anusara Immersion of the Carolinas in 2008, and Carolina Yoga Teacher Training Program in 2010 and received her RYT-200 status, spending two years as a mobile yoga teacher, primarily at USC’s Green Quad. Today she teaches at City Yoga. Sign up now!

There are countless people out there making a positive difference through yoga, and choosing only 19 for this list was a challenge, to say the least. While we would like to acknowledge everyone who shares the gift of yoga we are starting with 19 inspirational local yogis that have inspired us. Let us know who has inspired you!

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