How a former club kid opened one of NYC’s most iconic yoga studios

By | April 16, 2019

She’s an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher who gracefully slides into poses — everything from powerful warriors to impossibly bendy forward-folds. But the first time Dana Trixie Flynn took a yoga class, she hated it.

“I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I’m not flexible,’ ” she remembers, dismissing yoga — still a relatively obscure New Age practice in late ’80s New York — as insurmountably dull.

But the dynamic, heavily tattooed yoga guru is grateful she gave it another shot. This year, Flynn’s Manhattan-based, rock and roll-inflected studio chain, Laughing Lotus, turns 20, making her an elder statesman in the ultra-competitive, and ever-evolving, world of boutique fitness.

The former party girl ran a Hell’s Kitchen hot spot called Trixie’s in the ’80s and ’90s.Courtesy of Dana Trixie Flynn

“We encourage people to let their hair down,” says Lotus teacher Phillip Pettiford, 30, who works at the Chelsea studio, which features bright, graffiti-splashed walls and a bumping dance-party soundtrack. “Fitness and yoga can be really strict and serious, and we’re like, ‘Let’s have fun with it, let’s laugh, it’s ok if you don’t get it right.’ ”

The good-time vibes are by design, says Flynn, 57.

Back when she took that first dud of a class, Flynn was running a clubby Hell’s Kitchen restaurant called Trixie’s, which attracted all manner of misfits. Flynn aka Trixie was the ringleader, coaxing the nightly crowd of aspiring performers, Garment District dandies and decked-out drag queens onto the zig-zag tiled dance floor.

But nightlife started taking a toll on the Cornell grad and Scarsdale native, who opened Trixie’s on New Year’s Eve in 1987, at the age of 25, with a nest egg she had saved up working for three years as a stockbroker.

“I was like, ‘I’m really successful, but if I were really successful, I’d be happy,’ ” says Flynn, explaining that her wild alter-ego was drawn out by alcohol.

“I love the feeling of coming together and connecting, but [at the time], there was no way I was connecting without a drink in my hand.”

Flynn stopped drinking — she still attends AA meetings, she says — and went vegetarian. Five years after opening Trixie’s, she closed up shop and was drawn back to the yoga mat, eventually training to be a teacher herself.

In 1999, she and then-girlfriend Jasmine Tarkeshi opened their own spot, called Laughing Lotus, next door to the Stonewall Inn and above legendary live-music spot the 55 Bar. (The studio eventually moved to Chelsea, and now has branches in San Francisco and New Orleans, where Flynn splits her time.)

Annie Wermiel/NY Post

From the beginning, she wanted to replicate Trixie’s colorful, inclusive community inside the yoga studio — “where the high is the yoga, the friendships, the atmosphere and the energy,” she says.

To create Lotus’s signature flow, Flynn says she stopped taking classes and practiced on her own for six years. The graceful yet surprisingly fast-paced style is inspired by the fluid movement of tai chi, she explains, as well as the joy of spontaneous dance.

“There’s a lot of moving back and forth,” she says, demonstrating how her original transitional moves, with sassy names like “One Love” and “OMG,” work to connect the traditional standing poses. “It’s very fluid, very dynamic, and very sexy.”

As for the audacity of updating an ancient discipline, Flynn says she simply wanted to see if she could do it: “Mr. Iyengar moves like Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga is kind of like for 15-year-old boys who are getting hormones,” she says, citing two popular yoga styles. “I was like, ‘What would it mean if I moved like myself?’ ”

Judging from the packed classes and the legions of devoted teacher trainees, plenty of would-be yogis want to get in like Flynn.

“I just had this feeling inside me that I had come home,” teacher Anastasia Nevin, 34, says of her first-ever Lotus class, over a decade ago. “The people, the colors, the music, the way we were flowing and dancing . . . I was immediately hooked.”

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