by Kara-Leah Grant & Lucinda Staniland
Phew! What a job!
We had 243 nominations for 93 teachers for New Zealand & Australia’s Best Up-and-Coming Yoga Teachers. Based on the written testimonials from students, and some research of our own, we whittled the 93 down to 22 teachers. Those last 22 teachers we asked three questions:
- What does teaching yoga mean to you?
- How do you live your yoga?
- What’s your home yoga practice like?
These are the results, in alphabetical order. We didn’t look at locations when we were choosing the best teachers, and the final results reflect the higher number of NZ teachers nominated.
Over all, this is not a perfect process. It’s highly subjective! What we did learn was that there are some amazing yoga teachers out there in our communities doing great work. In many ways, these ten teachers below are not ‘better’ than the other teachers – they are representative of them.
How do you live your yoga?
I live my yoga by being present in every step (as much as I can). For me yoga is not a practice done on the mat but a way of life. I interact with the world on a day to day basis through the lense that yoga has taught me.
Yoga reminds me to stay with equanimity when times are challenging. Yoga reminds me always that everything is changing constantly and so I must remain flexible in my mind and not just the body.
Living yoga for me is living with peace in my heart. It is living authentically in a way that I have no regrets, I have no letdowns and no expectations. I am that I am, “that” being in essence peace, bliss, happiness. This is the reality I strive to live in. Sometimes it is easier to say than do and I am far from perfect but this is why yoga is an on-going practice, it’s a tool for the journey we are on.
Web Sivananda Yoga • FB Sivananda Centre
Beautiful Bhavani co-directs the Sivananda Yoga Centre with her equally amazing husband, Ram. Together with their two very young children, they live and breathe the yoga philosophy, practising asana, meditating, reading daily and eating organic, vegetarian food.
Kind, compassionate, genuine, honest, humble, warm, loving and understanding, Bhavani radiates good health and vitality on all levels. Her eyes sparkle and her smile lights up the room…
Sivananda offers a wide range of classes and Bhavani has taught them all over the years in-between having babies… Bhavani really does embody every aspect of a true yogi. Whilst other “modern” yoga centres have appeared on the scene recently, Bhavani has remained dedicated to what makes Sivananda so very special…
Every class includes pranayama, prayer, sometimes chanting, the use of correct Sanskrit terms for asana and references to chakras and energy. Everyone is welcomed and greeted personally as they arrive and write their name in a notebook. There is always time for a little chat. The altar always has fresh flowers, incense and candles burning… What more could you want? We are so very fortunate to have Bhavani and Ram here in New Plymouth ! ~ Wendy
How do you live your yoga?
This shows up for me in two main ways. First, I seek to be equanimous and content even when pressures are great – such as endeavouring to match the income from teaching yoga to the financial commitments our family made when our income came from the legal profession, or when rebuild strategies in central Christchurch where our studio is located seem designed to impede rather than encourage businesses.
The sense of flowing with circumstances rather than resisting and fighting them or denying and avoiding them is a way in which I seek to practice yoga as a way of being.
Second, I have the intention of knowing the name of every person in my classes and to use their name during class, even when the practice room is packed out. This requires me to be present and bring full attention to the people coming in for class.
This is not a skill I demonstrated before I began teaching yoga and people’s names would drop out of my head as soon as they were spoken. My attention would not be on the speaker. Rather than being a committed listener, I was reactive and was simply looking for a means for me to speak and put my point of view.
Now, I endeavour to bring presence to my relationships with people in all aspects of my life – whether it be my teenage sons, the check-out person at the supermarket or whoever. Being present and engaged with people I encounter is a means by which I endeavour to live my yoga and is a big shift from the way I used to be before I became involved in yoga practice.
Web Apollo Power Yoga • FB Apollo Power Yoga
Hamish is so full of energy and love! He often teaches several classes a day but is always 100% present, giving and alive. His energy really is extraordinary.
He remembers everyone’s name from your first class, and also remembers the specifics of exactly which asana you have and haven’t mastered. Hamish helps all of us to not take ourselves too seriously by cracking jokes during class and telling us stories from his day.
Hamish has an intense knowledge and love for yoga. He constantly reminds us to stay open, reminds us to breathe, and leaves us with many other pearls of wisdom as we move. His teaching has changed my life. ~ Sylvia
What is your home practice like?
Consistent. Whether I have 5 minutes or 60 minutes, whether I have space to myself or toddlers climbing on me, I get on my mat!
My personal practice has become such a constant in my life that I am not sure I would like to see myself without it! (My husband says I am very grumpy when I ‘need my yoga.’)
In all seriousness, that was one of the most valuable things that I took away from my very first 200 Hour Teacher Training, was the established ritual of my self-practice. As a result this has become an important aspect of Jayayoga Teacher Training, and something that I make my future teachers accountable for on a regular basis.
My home practice grounds and prepares me for the day ahead, or winds me down at the end of a full day… oftentimes both.
One of my teachers used to say, do a little bit of yoga a lot, rather than a lot of yoga only a little bit. I love to touch base with classwork to be inspired by other teachers and to be in the shared energetic environment, but my home practice is truly my sacred space, and one of the only spaces in my world that is just for me.
As a teacher, so much of my teaching is a reflection of my own self-discovery, like rather than ‘teaching yoga’, I am ‘sharing yoga,’ the yoga wisdom and inspiration that has arrived for me on my own mat. I love to come to my mat with no preconceived expectations, light some candles and incense, and see what happens.
Through the rehabilitation of spinal injury during my dance career, to 2 pregnancies, to being an exhausted new mummy, to finding myself again after babies, I have watched my practice shift from strong and dynamic, to simple and subtle, and now to mindful and organic.
Today I might pop up into a handstand to inspire my energy, tomorrow I might roll around on the floor to ease my tired body. Regardless, I will be open to whatever this amazing practice has in store for me. I am so grateful to have yoga in my life.
I have never come across a Yoga Teacher with more passion for maintaining the integrity of the beautiful practice that is Yoga, in a humble, pure and safe way that can work for EVERY-body.
Her warm, genuine and positive approach to teaching inspired me to take the next step and become a Yoga Teacher myself. I took my 200-hr training with Jen at Jayayoga and she supported me on my own path, communicating her fundamental beliefs about a safe and sustainable yoga practice, one which preserves and nourishes the body, mind and soul.
From being a Bikram devotee, this perspective turned my yoga practice upside down and opened my eyes to a new outlook on my practice, allowing me to begin to love my body in a way I had never considered before. Jen is a gem and in my opinion the best Yoga Teacher anyone could wish for! ~ Paula
What does teaching yoga mean to you?
Jessica is one of the most gifted yoga teachers I’ve ever experienced. Knowledgeable in the deeper aspects of both energy and anatomy – she perfectly blends the spiritual and physical potential of yoga.As a teacher myself, Jessica’s class renews my passion for my practice. She combines unique sequences with balancing pranayama and focused meditation. Plus she’s funny, kind, and deeply compassionate – no wonder students flock to her! ~ AlexisStep into Jess’s class and feel something of an openness of her arms, mind and heart welcoming all who join to practice. She caters to a very diverse group of people in each class, offering variations and adaptations for each in attendance.The background noise of life outside the class (as a wife, mum, cafe owner, etc) must just float away, because she’s so present there with those she teaches, tending to each person as she finds need on their mat. And she keeps upskilling with courses galore and a commitment to her own growth that keeps on sustaining all of our growth too. ~ Amy
How do you live your yoga?
Yoga has always helped me through the ‘everyday’ emotional ups and downs of work stress, relationship issues and general challenges of being human. But it wasn’t until my husband was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year, and we were then told the cancer had spread to his lung and was terminal, that I really felt some of the deeper layers of it’s teachings.
It’s one thing to practice non attachment, and being present in the moment in a forward bend or arm balance, but quite another when you are told the person you love most in the world is going to die.
I’m not sure if we actually conquered Abhinivesha (fear of death) but I think that my years of learning about yogic philosophy, and trying to practice it, really helped me get to a place where we could make the most of the time we still had together. My yoga practice was a space where I could find peace and calm, to give me the strength to deal with whatever lay ahead.
Luckily, the secondary cancer was a misdiagnosis, and Rane was able to have the tumour removed. I had a lot of support from family and friends, but I was his primary carer during his chemotherapy, the time leading up to the surgery and his recovery after. As a side note, Rane is doing great, and attributes Yoga and Meditation as being pivotal in his rapid recovery!
My own practice, and teaching, really helped get me through this time. It was also when I really benefited from yin yoga. Sometimes I’d be completely physically and emotionally exhausted when I arrived at studio, I definitely wouldn’t have had the energy my usual vinyasa practice, but yin felt like it literally decompressed me. I could feel tension gradually easing from my mind and body. The strong sensations I felt in the practice helped too, there was enough going on in my body that my mind had plenty to focus on, and I could stay present in a way that often eluded me in a guided relaxation or restorative practice.
Web Garden of Yoga • FB Garden of Yoga
Jo has without doubt been the most inspirational teacher of yoga that I have ever come across. She has a unique ability to really disentangle attachment to perfection and, bring focus to fully experiencing yoga wherever you are on your journey. This, coupled with a real sense of non judgement and complete support is what makes her a stand out teacher…
I’ve never felt so positive and comfortable about achieving my yogic goals as I have with Jo in the room and in my corner. As I’ve looked across her classes I can tell that I’m not alone. From people with many years experience to those with none, Jo is somehow able to cater to everyone’s needs equally without a sense of anyone being left out or outdone. ~ Katie
Teaching for me has become over the years an extension of my personal yoga practice. Now my own practice and teaching are so interwoven and supportive of each other, that I cannot imagine one without the other.
One of the most amazing things for me about teaching yoga is that over time it has revealed itself to be a process of just getting out of the way of myself and all my self doubts as a teacher and person, and just allow the yoga to flow through me. This has been a huge thing to learn, to let go, and to realise it is actually not about me at all. I am continually humbled and grateful for this process. Now I can pretty much turn up in any state of mind or heart to teach and know that I will be able to drop into the space within where I can connect to this wisdom. This has taken time and trust to get to this place of course!
A huge part of what teaching is to me is also the incredible energy exchange that happens with my students during a class.Through the act of sharing my love of yoga, I am constantly receiving so much back in return just from seeing how the practices work on people. I feel very honoured to be there to witness how yoga revels people shedding the layers of stress, anxiety and busy-ness to drop into their true selves as they relax, let go and just BE.
Web Kamala Yoga • FB Kamala Yoga
Karma is an empathetic and compassionate teacher. I have been practising yoga for over 15 years and she is one of the best teachers I have experienced.
I have been attending her classes weekly for over 5 years at Soul and each week she never ceases to inspire me with her sun salutation chanting of the seed sounds – sung beautifully – to understanding just what the class requires. Other students too have commented of how intuitive she is to their needs.
She manages to juggle being an inspiring yoga teacher and a solo parent to her children which is no easy task. Karma you are a true legend and when on occasion I miss your class, my week is just not the same. ~ Cathy
What does teaching yoga mean to you?
I have practiced with many yoga teachers over the years but Kristin is the first that has made me feel completely comfortable and accepting of me and my body as it is in that moment.There is no ego and no judgement in her space, she loves and accepts her students in a way that makes you love and accept yourself!!In a time when there is a lot of focus on the physical practice of yoga, Kristin embodies the yogic way of life and gently inspires her students to do the same and relish in life and whatever it brings.As a health practitioner, I have high expectations. And I can say that I don’t think I’m not sure I have ever felt so safe, confident and comfortable taking a class with a yoga teacher as I do with Kristin. She is a real gem in the yoga world. ~ Larissa
How do you live your yoga?
Mollie is outstanding because she is able to convey the essence of the meaning of the word yoga, union, in each and every class. Her love for truth, along with her unprecedented generosity, positively affects everyone she comes into contact with.Her classes are never rushed, with each willing student receiving a heartfelt massage during savasana. This list would absolutely not be accurate without her name included. Mollie is an environmental warrior, and the kind of role model I want for my kids as they create their ideas about the world.As a teacher myself I enjoy my self practice so choosing a teacher to go to is not a decision I make lightly; Mollie is the real deal. She is worthy of this title. ~ Jasmine
What does teaching yoga mean to you?
To me, teaching Yoga is an opportunity to share how to live well. To me, living well is about living life in such a way that creates harmony for ourselves, others and the planet.
To do this I have found that the 8 Limbed Path of Raja Yoga is a simple but brilliant guide.
Every Yoga Asana (posture) class I teach contains within it teachings that I hope plant seeds in the minds of my students – connecting them to the philosophy of Yoga and inspiring within them the curiosity to practice not only Asanas but also the Yamas and Niyamas.
Important to me is the Niyama Svadhyaya – Self-study. I truly believe that learning to see ourselves clearly is fundamental to living life well. It is key to also seeing others as they are, circumstances as they are and life as it is.
I think that when we are looking at life through veils of self-ignorance and self-deception that we create more and more mess to deal with on all levels – emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. Teaching allows me to pass on the skills to my students so that they may practice those skills and are enabled to see things clearly and to live a life more and more aligned with truth.
This is a big question to answer – what does teaching Yoga mean to me? It means the world! It is an opportunity to create peace and harmony…to move people towards living lives that are more peaceful and more harmonious.
Essentially, facilitating students in their own discovery of their true nature is a remarkably special honour. It makes me emotional to think of the enormity of it. It is not an enormous task…for in and of itself the steps are quite simple, but the results we see with the practice of Yoga are life changing, and, that is enormous.
Web Yoga Rebel • FB Yoga Rebel • IG Yoga Rebel
Rebel’s light shines bright. Her joy radiates. Rebel’s gentle flowing yoga style draws people of all ages and abilities to classes at the local gym or in natural settings by the beach and along the river. Her confidence in each of her students sees us expanding into our bodies and consciousness in ways we didn’t dream possible.
Whether she’s leading a class, hosting a meditation on the forest floor, or sharing her wisdom in a philosophy session, Rebel inspires others to connect deeply and compassionately with life.
I am so grateful to have found a yoga teacher who has helped me reconnect with not only the asana practice but also my true self. It brings me such happiness to see others benefiting from Rebel’s wisdom, and she genuinely deserves our celebration, gratitude and acknowledgement as the Best Up and Coming Yoga Teacher. ~Michelle
Tom Sutherland • Various Studios • Auckland, NZ
My physical practice varies, and changes, but for the most part is very light and simple.
In my asana, I’m of the idea that the expression of a particular posture comes from deep within, and begins to break away from the limitations of alignment based practices and is instead about embodying various sensations and moving energy around the body.
Some days I’ll feel rather energetic and the desire to artistically express myself through dance. Other days I’ll feel a little more quiet and internal and will practice basic rhythmic movement around Tai Chi or Qigong or simple asana exercises. And some days I’ll feel the need to rest and not physically exercise at all, in which case I’ll generally sit and observe the mind-breath relationship (meditation) for about an hour or so.
The practice is awareness and conscious observance and not just what you do but more importantly how you do it. I find that the how you approach a particular process demonstrates how you perceive your relationship to the world, and it’s relationship to you.
This is also where one’s presence comes into being, and within that presence contains the opportunity to either create something or go to nothing. More on this – it is the nothing that we are trying to get to. But the trick, you see, is without trying, and without actually “getting” there.
I like to say to my classes that yoga was in its purest form before man took hold of it and tried to pass it down through teachings and scriptures. In yoga, there are no teachings, no postures, no ancient texts, it just is.
Understandably, this is too much, or too little, for the average human mind to comprehend, of which the teachings we see today were born as to provide direction for each student. The process, you see, is just a lifelong exploration of gradually coming to that place of nothing.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience this only a handful of times, ironically more so outside of a yoga setting than in one, mostly because when you “practice” yoga there becomes a perceived “goal,” which actually limits your ability to be truly present and as we see in the modern commercialism of yoga can take you in a slightly different direction. But if we can experience this nothing, and drop into this nothing, then yoga will emerge, and only the individual can guide themselves there.
Web: Yoga Ground & Studio Red
I met Tom in Melbourne, six months into starting Bikram Yoga. At the time yoga, to me, was just a physical practice, as this was my perception of how it was taught; the emphasis was strictly on the asanas with little or no connection to the breath or other aspects.
Teachers were not supposed to demonstrate or assist with the asanas. Tom taught very differently to the other teachers and took time to explain the origin, reason and the benefits of the asanas.
Instead of just going through the motions, when necessary he took the time to demonstrate and make adjustments, ensuring the students were comfortable, with his approach.
He not only explained the asanas and the benefits but also the focus on the breath and included some pranayama in his classes. He was always respectful of each student and his passion for teaching was evident.
His classes were focused on all aspects of yoga and despite facing adversity and criticism from other teachers he stayed true to his beliefs and commitment to teach in a manner that was beneficial to his students.
It is due to Tom’s teaching that I am currently doing Yoga Teacher Training in the the traditional style of Ashtanga and Hatha. ~ Olivera