Laughing Lotus Founder Dana Flynn On Yoga, Pride, And Being Yourself

It’s a yoga experience like no other.

Laughing Lotus is a different kind of yoga studio with locations in New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans. With graffiti-adorned walls, bright colored spaces, and upbeat music, taking a yoga class at Laughing Lotus is an experience like no other, especially because of how the actual yoga is structured.

“Something that’s cool and interesting is that our flow—which is a very dynamic and devotional and fun—is very fluid,” Dana tells GO.

That special flow can be attributed to Laughing Lotus’ founder Dana Flynn. Flynn has a background of being a restaurateur and nightlife-lover who ran clubby Hell’s Kitchen “Trixie’s.” A space for both delicious food and good times, it started to take its toll on the Cornell grad who opened the restaurant at only 25 years old. After becoming sober, Flynn decided to look for something a bit more relaxing and grounding.

Enter: yoga. Flynn has now been a yoga teacher for over 25 years, though she originally found the mellow structure of yoga to be a bit too relaxing, considering her history of hip-hop dance. That’s what encouraged her to find her own flow and open Laughing Lotus.

Now, as WorldPride gets into full swing, Flynn is holding a Pride Kick-Off Party to celebrate the generations of queer people past and present. As a queer woman herself, she understands the importance of community and safe spaces. GO had the opportunity to chat with Flynn about Laughing Lotus, her yoga journey, and why she’s celebrating Pride.

GO Magazine: Tell me a little bit about how you first got into yoga.

Dana Flynn: “It began—I would say—a search. I started speaking at 28, and I was curious, and it was the first time I was really on a personal venture—a soul searching kind of a vibe. I started reading, like, “The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying” and I would go hang out at the bookstore … and I’d wait for a book to pop off the shelves. I definitely part felt like, even though part of me was really dying, I was like Trixie’s was really like a snapshot of where I was then. And then, all of a sudden, as I was changing … I went to interval yoga for the first time, and I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go check this thing out.’”

GO: Was that it love at first yoga class, or were you a bit underwhelmed?

DF: “People were not really into yoga. There were a few yoga centers; there wasn’t even yoga at the gym. … They were like destinations. People thought you were pretty eccentric [if you did yoga], which was fun because I was pretty eccentric. Then, I went from there, and I felt very drawn to going to India and going to the source, so I went. … I ended up staying for a year, and I kept showing up, and more was constantly revealed. I remember my mother like, ‘Come on! You’ve done yoga for 30 years! When are you going to do something else?’ I was like ‘Mom, I keep learning about myself! It takes time, and it is so powerful.’”

GO: What about practicing yoga really drew you into wanting to come back for more?

DF: “I got turned on to community. It’s like we’re all practicing in the room seemingly separate, but there was this feeling of joining and coming together. … When I go to yoga, we’re all in it together, even with our very different paths, our own unique expression; we’re each having our own experience in the room and, yet we’re breathing together, we’re rooting for each other, we’re lifting each other up like spiritual forklifts.There is a real energetic connection there and a feeling like we’re in this together.”

GO: Now you own Laughing Lotus and offer yoga classes with a unique flow. What makes Laughing Lotus so special and one of a kind? In what ways does it differ from traditional flows?

DF: “The lotus flow has this amazing, let’s say, architecture which moves from the chakras. … The structure is based on the chakras and with the, structure with the form, with the architecture, there’s unlimited room for freedom. There’s form in freedom. There’s structure and a wildness that I would say is really born out of my days dancing in the club. It’s also celebrated from my love for Tai Chi and turning and moving. I’ve always loved movement; it’s always been a big passion. Music and movement has created a real musicality in the lotus flow classes. It’s kind of a set it up and set it free.”

GO: Interesting! So Laughing Lotus gives yogis the freedom of movement. Can you elaborate a bit on why that’s such an important factor for your flow?

DF: “We’re in it together, but there’s a feeling where if you set up the flow then you can make it yours; you can move life yourself and express the shapes through you. … When you go dancing, you might learn a certain dance, but you’re going to move like yourself. You have different life experiences! So, we’re moving shockingly similar and then we say, ‘Hey, move like yourself. Move like you. Make it yours. Take it away. Let the movement be your medicine. Let it heal. Let it set you free today. Let the movement be the magic.’”

GO: So, Laughing Lotus is hosting a Pride Kick-Off Party on June 20. I know you identify as a queer woman. Tell me a bit about why you decided to get Laughing Lotus involved.

DF: “Oh, we’ve always been like the gay hub, honey. … I had boyfriends growing up and all the way into college, and then I would never have guessed meeting someone and having it be a woman. I was totally surprised! Some of the younger kids that are coming out’ll say, ‘Thank you for being you. Thank you for being here. You inspire me to be myself, to come out, to feel supported.’ So, it really happened naturally out of me being me and other people being attracted to being in a safe environment and a loving positive, a safe place.”

GO: What’s something that you’d tell people who don’t understand what yoga has to do with Pride? Is it the sense of community?

DF: “I think back—and I didn’t experience this—that you’re coming into the room, and you see a certain age and you see what you might think would be a certain color, you might feel singled out, you might feel like maybe these people judge me or I won’t feel safe. … My passion is that you feel welcome, you feel celebrated, you feel safe to be here—to be yourself, to move like yourself. To love yourself and begin to practice loving everyone. It’s a one love world, and the foundation of every spiritual practice is love. … The lineage of yoga is love. There’s even a line in the Sutra that says, ‘From love we come to love we shall return.’”

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