Six Of The Best Yoga and Pilates Teachers in London

After ten years of taking Yoga classes around London (every conceivable style, with hundreds of teachers, in many centres and spaces), it feels like I've got a good perspective to throw down a list of Yoga teachers who, in my humble opinion, teach some of the best Yoga classes you can take in London. And in the past year, I've tried out some Pilates classes too and so I'm adding a couple of Pilates teachers to that list, too. 
There are a few things to mention: I don't follow any one style of Yoga. When I took a random Iyengar class last Summer at the newly opened Indaba Yoga centre in London's Marylebone, the teacher said to me, I don't understand how you can have been practising Yoga for ten years and you don't have a teacher you follow, a style of Yoga you are committed to. 
Her saying this surprised me, because I believe that life is constantly changing and with it, so is what we need. I have had eras in my life when I only studied Sivananda Yoga, eras when I only studied Kundalini Yoga, eras when I only studied at the Jivamukti Yoga centre in Kensal Rise (when the centre opened, I took some incredible classes with centre co-founder Manizeh Rimer: in fact, some of the best classes I ever took were with Manizeh), eras when I was only into Vinyasa/ Flow/ Dynamic yoga, eras when I only wanted gentle hatha yoga classes. And eras, like now, when Pilates is important to me. In short, what I need from Yoga and Pilates rotates, shifts: I go where the calling is. The last disclaimer is this: I don't like Yoga or Pilates classes with male teachers: it doesn't work for me: it's like being back at school and getting harangued by the balding, hairy P.E teacher. So I'm not recommending any male teachers, here. Those, you'll have to discover yourself. 
All that out the way, right now, if you're new to London, visiting London or new to Yoga and Pilates and looking for a way-in Yoga or Pilates class in London, I'd point you towards these six outstanding teachers, who are all in their own unique ways, quite luminous. 

1. Leila Sadeghee (Yoga)

Leila teaches Anusara Inspired yoga at the Life Centre, Indaba Yoga, Triyoga, Yoga Place as well as offering private small group and one to one classes. I was introduced to Leila's classes in a roundabout way: I really wanted (needed) to go to a Yoga class one Sunday morning and the only class on at the Life Centre in Notting Hill at a time that suited me was an Anusara Yoga inspired class with Lisa Sanfilippo: I had no idea what Anusara Yoga was, but went anyway and really liked the style of Yoga. At that class, Lisa said she was handing this regular class over to a fellow Anusara Yoga inspired teacher called Leila: next week, I took the class with Leila and loved it. Her classes are highly inspiring and entertaining. Leila talks a lot. During an asana, she might tell a story about a boyfriend, assume a Muppet voice, regale anecdotes about her love of cop shows on TV or change tone and tell a serious story about an inner struggle. For a while she ran an incredible private group class on Wimpole street in Marylebone: a kooky, shambolic class in a creaky old flat. The classes ran on for anywhere up to two and a half hours. The eleven or twelve students who took the class were all amazing people and the ambience and spirit was great. I used to call those classes the Yoga equivalent of a Bruce Springsteen concert. They came to an end because Leila had the space on a short let. These days, she teaches an especially upbeat, inspiring class at the Life Centre (Notting Hill) on a Sunday morning. She absolutely lives for teaching Yoga and her students and once you know her, she has a funny habit of popping up in your everyday life, suddenly calling out, Hi Nick, when you're in the supermarket or walking down the street: always a nice surprise. If I want a Yoga class that turns the inspiration up, turns the energy up, empowers me in a sort of Deepak Chopra meets intense workout way, I go to a class with Leila Sadeghee. More on her work here:

2. Sarah Scharf (Yoga)

Sarah teaches at the Life Centre, Yoga Place, Holistic Health and also privately. I was introduced to Sarah Scharf's classes in Summer 2011 in much the same way I was introduced to Leila's classes. I spontaneously went down to the Life Centre Notting Hill and there was a class on with a cover teacher called Sarah Scharf. The class was hugely grounding and relaxing. Sarah was very calm, very West Coast U.S, very experienced and had a fantastic command of pacing. I can't stand Yoga classes that have a jumpy rhythm; that leave you feeling out of breath rather than in control of your breath. Sarah Scharf runs a smooth class and you leave feeling like you took a really good daytime nap: that great  brakes on feeling after a Yoga class where a few hours later you have a split second of thinking, Wait what did I do earlier? I took all of Sarah's cover classes last Summer and then recently made the hectic rush hour journey across London just to take her now regular Thursday morning class at The Life Centre Islington. If I want a Yoga class to calm me down, ground, my choice of class would be any with Sarah Scharf. More here:

3. Zephyr Wildman (Yoga)

Zephyr teaches at the Life Centre Notting Hill and privately. She teaches few classes and the timings haven't worked for me for ages. But there was a lovely period in my life when my schedule allowed me to only take classes with Zephyr and every single class was incredibly inspiring. Zephyr teaches dynamic Yoga and if you want to get in shape and get a spiritual buzz at the same time, Zephyr can't be topped. Part of her area of expertise is Yoga as a support for depression and addiction/ dependency issues, which is why I gravitated to her classes in the first place. If you want to blow the roof off your Yoga practice, this is the teacher. Scheduling permitting, I'm hoping to get to a class with Zephyr this Summer. 

4. Sam Cunningham (Yoga)

Sam teaches at the Life Centre Notting Hill and Islington and other places. I first came across her classes after looking for a class to go to at the Life Centre Notting Hill and stumbling across her teacher bio. Once I saw where she was coming from (much the same place I came to Yoga from), the click was instant: "I did my first shoulder stand from a book my mother kept, Wake Up To Yoga, when I was seven. I bunked off school to read books on Zen in Swiss Cottage library when I was 14. At the age of 21 I chose the route of drugs. At 28 I got clean from drugs and pursued yoga seriously. I've trained in Sivananda and Ashtanga methods. I come to class with no plan, I teach drawing on sequencing techniques taught by Krishnamacharya, concentrating on breath and drishti to intensify the practice." I take irregular classes with Sam and one of the things I love most about her classes is that she makes every single student in the room feel noticed: no mean feat, when you have a packed class. She is also one of those rare teachers who can implement a lot of corrections without making you feel criticised or like you're doing the class 'wrong'. If you want to bunker down and get some space in your life to think, then Sam's class is the place to go. 

5. Antonia Ptohides (Pilates)

Antonia teaches Pilates at Indaba Yoga. I recently discovered her Pilates class quite by chance and it's now my go to Pilates class. She's got great energy, a very natural sense of pacing and good attention to detail.

6. Beata Ghavimi (Pilates)

My wife on the other hand reckons the best Pilates class in London is at the Life Centre Notting Hill with Beata Ghavimi. She has taken a class with Beata every Wednesday morning for a long time now and swears by it.


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