Beryl Bender Birch

Photo of ()\

Beryl Bender Birch is the bestselling author of Power Yoga, Beyond Power Yoga, and Boomer Yoga; she is also one of the most popular yoga teachers in the United States. With degrees in philosophy and comparative religion, Beryl has been teaching the classical system of ashtanga yoga for 33 years, and training yoga teachers as "spiritual revolutionaries" since 1980. In 2000 she was named by Yoga Journal as one of their “Innovators Shaping Yoga Today” issue.

Beryl majored in philosophy and comparative religion at Syracuse University. She took her first yoga class in 1971 in California. She then spent several years on the West Coast working as a biofeedback researcher and studying the physiology of meditation. One of her early teachers was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan Buddhist who founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, as well as Shambhala International. Her other important teacher was Munishree Chitrabhanuhu, the first Jain monk to leave India and come to the United States at the invitation of Harvard Divinity School. These two men shaped her life, her meditation practice, and her teaching style.

In 1974, Beryl began to teach yoga and meditation to skiers in Winter Park, Colorado, working with both professional and recreational skiers. In 1980, she moved to New York City and was introduced to the practice of ashtanga yoga by Norman Allen. Allen was Sri K. Pattabhi Jois's first American student and the first Westerner to master the ashtanga series and bring it to the United States.

In 1981, Beryl began teaching ashtanga yoga to runners at the prestigious New York Road Runners Club, and eventually she became the club's wellness director. Beryl and her husband Thom, a world-class runner, pioneered the introduction of yoga to the traditional athletic community. Together Beryl and Thom taught the ashtanga yoga method of asana, pranayama, and dharana (concentration) to tens of thousands of students.

In the late '80s, Beryl was searching for a way to make ashtanga yoga more accessible to American students, and she coined the term "power yoga" (nearly simultaneously, Bryan Kest, based in Los Angeles, came up with the same term.) The words "power yoga" convey the distinction between the intense, flowing style of yoga Beryl and Thom were teaching from the gentle stretching and meditation that many Americans associated with yoga. Power yoga is a vigorous, fitness-based approach to yoga.

In 1987, Beryl traveled to Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana, to meet and study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the principle proponent of the ashtanga yoga vinyasa method, and the teacher with whom Norman Allen had studied. Beryl and Thom spent the next six months studying daily with Jois and following his tour of California. They continued their studies with Pattabhi Jois from 1987–1990.

Beryl is the founder and director of The Hard & the Soft Yoga Institute (since 1980) in East Hampton and Vermont, and a founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. She now teaches yoga—the Middle Path of Jina Yoga (incorporating the classical astanga eight-limbed methodology)—all over the world, guiding and inspiring students of all levels with her down-to-earth style. She currently writes the asana column for Yoga Journal. She resides in East Hampton with her six racing Siberian huskies, and she competes on the New England Sled Dog Club circuit of sprint races in Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire.

Also By Author

A Yogi in Love with Life

Beryl Bender Birch is one of the most well-known teachers of classical yoga in the United States, as well as the author of many books and audio programs on the subject. With Sounds True, Beryl has recently created the book Yoga for Warriors: Basic Training in Strength, Resilience, and Peace of Mind. In this edition of Insights at the Edge, Beryl and Tami Simon discuss the usefulness of yoga for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In order to better communicate these techniques, Beryl walks Tami through basic ujjayi breathing. They also talk about the link between quantum physics and yoga, as well as the “revolutionary” role of yogis in modern society. (70 minutes)

You Might Also Enjoy

Erica Ariel Fox: What if the Problem Is You? How to Wi...

Erica Ariel Fox is the author of the New York Times bestseller Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change. She is a negotiation lecturer at Harvard Law School and a senior advisor to Fortune 500 companies. Erica is a featured presenter in Sounds True’s Inner MBA program. In this podcast, she speaks with Tami Simon about her revolutionary approach to conflict resolution, how she defines “winning from within,” working with your “top team” of inner advisors, and much more. 

Steve Macadam: Enabling the Full Release of Human Poss...

Steve Macadam was, for 12 years, the President and CEO of EnPro, a $1.4 billion publicly traded company. He received a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky, an MS in finance from Boston College, and an MBA from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar. He currently serves as an independent director on the boards of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation and Valvoline Inc. In this week’s podcast, Tami and Steve discuss what it means for a company to have “dual bottom lines,” and the aspiration to create a business with the formal purpose of enabling the full release of human possibility. (1 hour, 13 minutes)

Scott Shute: Moving from Me to We: Compassion at Work

Scott Shute is the head of LinkedIn’s Mindfulness and Compassion Programs and a featured trainer in the Inner MBA, a nine-month immersion program that Sounds True has created in partnership with LinkedIn, Wisdom 2.0, and MindfulNYU. In this week’s podcast, Tami Simon and Scott discuss the new revolution that is underway at today’s workplaces. Their conversation explores the importance of being present in order to find strength from the inside, learning to relax our minds and bodies, integrating spirituality and business, the power of compassion to shift a workplace from “me-centered” to “we-centered,” and much more. (57 minutes)

>