By: Sarah Finkel By: Sarah Finkel | January 19, 2023 | People Lifestyle
Miami native Dawn Feinberg has a knack for movement. Once a professional dancer before suffering an injury, Feinberg turned to grad school to become a movement therapist which is when her appreciation for the act of physical positioning began to grow. As the founder and owner of Ahana Yoga and a yoga practitioner for over 25 years, Feinberg has found her niche in the practice of weaving the physical with the spiritual and intellectual, the mantra that is found across Ahana’s class offerings. Naturally, the growing wellness community in Miami has served as fertile ground for Feinberg’s teachings, leading to Ahana Yoga’s expansion at W South Beach where hotel guests and locals alike tap into finding their inner peace.
We sat down with the yogi guru herself to talk delving into yoga as an intellectual exercise that complements the physical, which can ultimately connect us to the higher power that lies within us. Feinberg also dishes on her own relationship with yoga and how it paved the course of her career.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get your start in teaching yoga?
My name is Dawn Feinberg, and I started practicing yoga in 2004. Prior to yoga, I was a professional dancer for many years before I ruptured my Achilles tendon, which ended my dance career. I went to grad school in New York to become a movement therapist. When I worked with kids and teenagers who were in gangs, I recognized how movement works as a non-verbal form of psychoanalysis and how it creates relationships. During this time, I began practicing yoga with Kelly Morris in NYC, who led me to take my first yoga teacher training. After living in New York for eight years, I returned to Miami to become a school counselor. The work wasn't as fulfilling for me as helping troubled teens. I apprenticed with a yoga teacher in Miami and became better at the practice and teaching. Eventually, I started teaching full time.
What drew you to the practice of yoga?
My initial path to yoga and becoming a yoga instructor was through movement therapy. Movement therapy led me to the physical part of the yoga practice (asana). At another point in my life, I went through AA where I realized a higher power and lived in that state. In yoga, we talk about a higher energy or a higher power. The physical and the spiritual are woven into every class. My students feel this. After a yoga class, even our everyday conversations become more elevated. Yoga can have a positive influence on our daily lives. Yoga helps us tap into our true nature, to who we are beyond our labels and our possessions. This is what yoga instructors mean when we say that the yoga practice works on and off the mat. I really believe that my yoga practice and my lifestyle are complimentary; they work together.
Can you describe the types of yoga classes Ahanā Yoga offers?
Ahanā Yoga’s classes are based on our lineage. We design our classes around a focus of the month. Each focus of the month is derived from various yogic teachings – from sacred scripture, like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, to the chakras (energetic centers). Every month, our teachers are challenged to refresh around a new focus. I believe classes should be intellectually stimulating, separate from a workout. In the West, I find most yoga classes are centered on the physical rather than the spiritual; and, if the spiritual dimension of yoga is touched on, it’s an afterthought. I like to think we’ve created a sacred space at Ahanā where people can come to tap into their spiritual side, their intellectual side, and their physical side. According to Patanjali, the goal of yoga is to control and quiet the mind. At Ahanā, we do this through bhakti, the yoga of devotion. We chant “Om” at the beginning of every class; we sing kirtan; and, at the end of every class, we chant mantras for peace and to remind ourselves that the true teacher, the true guru, our connection to a higher power, lives inside each of us.
Design District founder Craig Robins is your close friend and encouraged you to open a studio in the neighborhood. What was behind his thought process, and have you found that opening your business in the Design District was the right choice?
Craig and his team believed in my vision and helped me open up Ahanā Yoga in the Design District. Miami was the right choice. Miami has incredible diversity, and it’s very open-minded and health-conscious. Six years ago, we were a solo operation housed in a small, two-room studio. Today, our classes fill a 3,700-square-foot space. We have a thriving studio membership program and lasting partners like W South Beach. I’m so grateful for the community that we’ve grown.
Can you elaborate on what went into your recent expansion to South Beach?
Ahanā’s expansion at W South Beach was nurtured and cultivated like a menu at a restaurant. We spoke at length about W South Beach’s guests and residents and how they would best benefit from Ahanā Yoga. We designed classes for the everyday practitioner from beginners all the way to advanced yogis. This is accomplished through expert instruction by our teachers, all who have completed Ahanā’s 200-hour training. Currently at W South Beach, we offer a Signature Power and Restore Flow ending with a śavasana meditation on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 9:00 AM on the Away Spa Terrace. Classes are open to hotel guests, hotel residents, and locals.
How has the transition from yoga practitioner to business owner been for you? I imagine the two entities walk a fine line on a daily basis.
The challenge for me is not just how to run a business, but how to run a business in the yoga world. To ensure I’m following the principles of yoga, I meet weekly with my philosophy and Sanskrit teacher to discuss operations and mindfulness in approaching and handling any issues. I also have a student who is a genius in business, and he regularly meets with me to support business strategy and operations.
How do you plan to transform Miami into a wellness destination?
Miami is already a wellness destination! People who live here benefit from so many wellness options, and I have students who fly in from all over the country to take classes at Ahanā Yoga. It's a matter of perspective: Do you want to travel to a beautiful place to feel good in both mind and body? The answer to me is absolutely yes. Having said that, I look forward to developing even more wellness opportunities in Miami and bringing more people to yoga.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone hesitant about practicing yoga either because they're intimidated or lack the motivation to start?
Take the plunge. Yoga is a lifelong practice where you will meet interesting people who are searching for inner peace and real connection – people who want more than the material world, more than just objects. The yoga class is the entry point to finding a fuller, more blissful life.
Photography by: Courtesy of W South Beach