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3 Famous Female Yoginis

March 18, 2022 6 min read

3 Famous Female Yoginis | Mukha Yoga

Walk into your local studio and you’re bound to see a woman, if not many women. At my local studio, I’d say our membership is at least 70% female. We have dedicated male teachers and students too, but the space is largely occupied by ladies. Marketing in the yoga industry knows this too. From pants to props, and scents to supplies, most ads in the yoga world target women. That may seem logical and natural to those of us that grew up in the baby boomer era and onwards, however, prior to the 1940s women had very little presence on the mat. Yoga was once a male-dominated space. So much so, that women weren’t actually allowed to study, not to mention teach.

3 Famous Female Yoginis | Mukha Yoga

Walk into your local studio and you’re bound to see a woman, if not many women. At my local studio, I’d say our membership is at least 70% female. We have dedicated male teachers and students too, but the space is largely occupied by ladies. Marketing in the yoga industry knows this too. From pants to props, and scents to supplies, most ads in the yoga world target women. That may seem logical and natural to those of us that grew up in the baby boomer era and onwards, however, prior to the 1940s women had very little presence on the mat. Yoga was once a male-dominated space. So much so, that women weren’t actually allowed to study, not to mention teach.

In honor of women’s history month, we’re doing a deep dive into the evolution of this once gender-specific practice - from the mid 1900s to modern day. We’ll be highlighting three female yoginis that pioneered the path for women everywhere to evolve and expand our modern-day practices of yoga.

In honor of women’s history month, we’re doing a deep dive into the evolution of this once gender-specific practice - from the mid 1900s to modern day. We’ll be highlighting three female yoginis that pioneered the path for women everywhere to evolve and expand our modern-day practices of yoga.

Indra Devi

Indra was an action-oriented woman with a global reach. She was the first woman ever to be welcomed into a yoga Ashram, becoming a dedicated student under the “father of modern yoga” Krischnamacharya. She came to speak five languages fluently and traveled the world to educate and inspire others to teach yoga.

Born in Riga, Latvia in 1899, her infatuation with India began at the age of 15 after discovering poetry and books on the philosophy and principles of yoga. She shifted from her birth name Eugenie B. Peterson to sound “more Hindu” after traveling to India to work in film. Indra developed a deep appreciation for the culture. Through her husband John Strataky, she was introduced to the Maharaja and Maharani of Mysore, where Krishnamacharya taught. 

Devi’s initial request for a lesson was promptly refused, as she was both a woman and a Westerner. With the help of the royal couple, the guru reluctantly came to allow it. One lesson turned into one year of study, and eventually teacher training. After her husband was transferred to China, she taught her first yoga classes in Shanghai during the time of the Japanese occupation. Following the war, she returned to India and became the first Westerner to both teach and publish a book on yoga there. After her husband’s passing in 1946, she found her way to Hollywood. Her first eager students were movie stars. She led them through breathwork and relaxation techniques that benefited their acting craft. In 1953 she remarried, to an American citizen, gaining her citizenship formally changing her name to Indra Devi. She then traveled to Argentina, where she remained throughout her later years. She earned tremendous admiration for her teaching and set up a foundation which operated six studios / teacher training facilities. At the age of 102, Indra passed away, leaving a legacy that will be long remembered. The Indra Devi foundation still operates today.

A 1963 record album cover, Indra Devi depicted on top left corner.

Shiva Rea

“We need to feel the sensation of the breath inside the breath, recognize the mover behind the movement.” - Shiva Rea

From Shiva Rea's instagram page.

“We need to feel the sensation of the breath inside the breath, recognize the mover behind the movement.” - Shiva Rea

With an emphasis on fluidity, femininity, dance, and the power of breath, Shiva Rea is an influential American yoga innovator and activist. The Southern California native has been teaching a unique style of vinyasa yoga for over 20 years. Her yoga welcomes music, culture and dance to combine forces and yield a powerful space of expression.

Born under the name of Hindu deity Shiva, she began her exploration of movement and culture by studying dance anthropology at UCLA. After completing her master’s thesis "hatha yoga as a practice of embodiment," she moved away from academia to delve deeper into the art of movement. Shiva Rea’s first decade of yoga study centered around Ashtanga yoga, shifting into a more restorative movement practice during her first pregnancy. Her practice continued to evolve, eventually coming to form her own style of vinyasa flow known as Prana Flow as well as yoga tantra dance. She continues to teach around the world and has been featured in many prominent publications and documentaries for the mark she has made as a fearless female yogini.

Seane Corn

A charismatic yoga teacher with a signature set of curls and a smile that lights up the room, Seane Corn is known for her activism, enthusiasm and inspiring teaching style.

Just out of highschool, Corn moved to New York City. As fate would have it, she began working at Life Cafe, owned by David Life and his wife Sharon Gannon, who years later became two of the most influential yoga teachers in the U.S, founding the Jivamukti Yoga Schools. It was 1987 when Corn first began working at the cafe. Her bosses weren’t originally practicing yoga. It was upon returning from a trip to India that she immediately felt a change in them and felt called to start practicing. Initially, she dipped her toe in, continuing to smoke cigarettes and party after class. Over time, she found it simply didn’t feel good anymore to include alcohol and drugs in her life. She came to love the way yoga made her mind and body feel and became committed from that point onwards.

A charismatic yoga teacher with a signature set of curls and a smile that lights up the room, Seane Corn is known for her activism, enthusiasm and inspiring teaching style.

Just out of highschool, Corn moved to New York City. As fate would have it, she began working at Life Cafe, owned by David Life and his wife Sharon Gannon, who years later became two of the most influential yoga teachers in the U.S, founding the Jivamukti Yoga Schools. It was 1987 when Corn first began working at the cafe. Her bosses weren’t originally practicing yoga. It was upon returning from a trip to India that she immediately felt a change in them and felt called to start practicing. Initially, she dipped her toe in, continuing to smoke cigarettes and party after class. Over time, she found it simply didn’t feel good anymore to include alcohol and drugs in her life. She came to love the way yoga made her mind and body feel and became committed from that point onwards.

Seane went on to create many instructional yoga DVD’s including The Yoga of Awakening with Sounds True. Her foundation, Off the Mat, Into the World combines the tools of yoga with sustainability activism and community action. Corn published her first bookRevolution of the Soul in 2019. She passionately continues her fundraising efforts, making regular podcast appearances, public classes and hosting virtual retreats.

Seane went on to create many instructional yoga DVD’s includingThe Yoga of Awakening with Sounds True. Her foundation, Off the Mat Into the World combines the tools of yoga with sustainability activism and community action. Corn published her first bookRevolution of the Soul in 2019. She passionately continues her fundraising efforts, making regular podcast appearances, public classes and hosting virtual retreats.

Victoria Maybee l Mukha Yoga
By Victoria Maybee; All Rights Reserved @2022

Victoria Maybee l Mukha YogaBy Victoria Maybee; All Rights Reserved @2022