Go on the journey with Dana Trixie Flynn that led her from the corporate world to being a yoga visionary.
No one tells Dana Trixie Flynn, the founder of Laughing Lotus, she can’t do something. Whenever that’s happened, she’s set out to prove the naysayer wrong, and accomplished her goal.
“I was told a lot of my life from people, ‘No you can’t do that,’ or ‘You’ll never be able to do this,’” recalled Flynn. “It’s not a very friendly mantra when you’re a kid. But for some reason … it actually fueled me.”
One thing Flynn was told she’d never do is get into Cornell, an ivy league school in Ithaca, New York. But she applied and was accepted, ultimately studying pre-law and labor relations.
She was told she couldn’t be a stockbroker on Wall Street without an MBA. She landed a job at Smith Barney, and was the top stockbroker in her office for two years in a row.
Flynn was also told she’d never be able to open a successful restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, a popular neighborhood hot spot just a block away from Times Square in New York City. But she opened Trixies (after her nickname), and it was an overnight success.
To Flynn, “you can’t” isn’t a statement — it’s a challenge.
“It’s the very definition of yoga that the impossible becomes possible, that you keep arriving at a place you’ve never been before,” said Flynn. “Can’t touch your toes? You keep stretching and reaching, and then you can touch your toes.”
The Journey to Laughing Lotus
Named one of “10 Influential Teachers Who Have Shaped Yoga in America” by Yoga Journal, Flynn decided to make a full-time career out of the practice in her late 20s. At the time, she was serving as a group fitness director for Crunch, a gym chain with locations in New York City, and longed to create community. “So it got me thinking about doing my own place, on my own terms,” explained Flynn.
Real estate in New York City was, and is, expensive. So Flynn thought outside the box, looking at not just available studio space, but also churches, synagogues and YMCAs.
While living in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in west New York City, Flynn passed a community center and saw it had rooftop space available for rent. In addition to boasting a playground featuring monkey bars and a jungle gym, the roof had a great view of the Manhattan skyline — Flynn knew immediately it had to be the location of her first yoga center.
Sunset Rooftop Yoga opened in 1996 and quickly bloomed in popularity. The issue was that classes could only be held weather-permitting. So, Flynn began looking for a more permanent venue, and the opportunity to create something new presented itself. “That’s when I turned to my beloved partner, Jasmine Tarkeshi, and said, ‘Let’s do this together,’” recalled Flynn.
Laughing Lotus opened in 1999 on Christopher Street in New York City, with Sunset Rooftop Yoga laying the groundwork for the new venture. “That’s where Laughing Lotus was born — on a rooftop playground in the sky,” said Flynn.
During the first year of Laughing Lotus’ existence, the partners made enough money to keep the lights on, and even made $5 in profit — a fact not to laugh at, considering most small businesses operate in the red for the first few years. During those early months, Flynn learned a number of valuable lessons, including the fact that listening to your community is a key to success.
“Listening has been my greatest teacher,” said Flynn. “Listening to the needs of the students, to the changing needs of the times, listening so I can better serve the community.”
The Laughing Lotus community is much bigger now than when Flynn first founded the center, with subsequent locations in San Francisco, Brooklyn and New Orleans (opening in 2017).
A Dream Fulfilled
Today, Flynn operates the Laughing Lotus centers in Brooklyn and New York City, with Tarkeshi leading operations for the San Francisco location. When Flynn isn’t teaching a class on the East Coast, she’s traveling the world, sharing her love for yoga with students from all walks of life.
The one thing Flynn’s career in yoga has given her that her past ones didn’t, is meaning. “I had all this success really early on, but I felt like there was something more,” she said. “I wanted to connect with meaning. Yoga awakened my heart to love.”
Through Laughing Lotus, Flynn strives to create a home for her students, fostering a sense of belonging, togetherness and community. This is accomplished through each studio’s vibrant atmosphere — characterized by bright colors, dynamic Lotus Flow yoga, uplifting music and inspired teachings — in addition to Flynn’s infectious and positive energy.
“We take our yoga seriously, but not ourselves,” explained Flynn. “The Lotus Flow style of yoga we offer at Laughing Lotus is colorful, dynamic, bold, fun and filled with love. Our focus is creating community and giving back. You really do fall in love the moment you walk in the door.”
It was love at first sight for Deborah Langley, the general manager and creative director of Laughing Lotus in New York City and Brooklyn, who started out as a student of Laughing Lotus before she came on board full time.
“The nature of the energy here is very ‘up,’” explained Langley. “There’s music — louder music than what people would expect in a yoga center. It’s almost a party-like atmosphere from the moment you walk in. It can shift someone’s emotional state, just by walking through the doors, with the colors and the vibrancy and the energy. It’s a different feeling.”
Soon, residents of New Orleans will be able to experience Laughing Lotus Church of Yoga, a community yoga center that will offer donation-based yoga and meditation classes. Set to open in February 2017, the center will be located in a church located in the Bayou Treme neighborhood.
The church is yet another example of how Flynn strives to nurture the yoga community, and share the benefits of a practice that has brought her such personal joy.
“By giving back in the spirit of togetherness and community, we create something bigger,” said Flynn. “I get to witness everybody’s transformation and they witness mine. In isolation we don’t get to grow. I grow through you. I get to progress through our relationship, through this relationship. It’s through each other that we transform, not on a mountaintop by ourselves. We need each other.”