5 Billionaires / Millionaires who practice Ashtanga

Say you had a billion dollars in the bank, what would you worry about?

Recently I read an article that addressed what to do should you be that lucky which mostly addresses how to avoid disasters (i.e.: losing it all).

But for argument's sake, say that you read that article, avoided all mistakes and got to keep the billion/s.  You now have money to do anything you want. Where do your worries go?

My guess is that at this bank account level people switch priorities. 

They have enough to do what they want so perhaps the next thing on the list would be to live long enough as to enjoy the sweet fruits and in a healthy state. I know I would! And funny enough I am not alone.  

Here are five millionaire/billionaires who decided to keep their health in good shape and live long enough by going for... drum roll! "Ashtanga Yoga"

Paul Tudor Jones. Estimated net worth 3.2 B. Founder of Tudor Investment Corporation from Greenwhich CT.  (picture source)

He is also the husband of Sonia, the certified ashtangi (as per Roselil comment below Sonia is not certified to teach Ashtanga by Jois, she is certified, we believe, in another tradition) and the woman behind the Encinitas joisyoga.com shala where now Manju Jois teaches for portions of each month.
I kind of like it when billionaires put their resources into yoga, think about the benefit of having Manju teaching somewhere regularly, priceless!

Daniel LoebEstimated worth 3.6 B. Not only is he a dedicated practitioner that raises every day at 5:30 to get on the mat (hey that is earlier than me!) he also travels to Mysore from time to time.

William H. Gross.  Estimated net worth 1.3B.  He reportedly practices ashtanga 5 times a week and has said that "his best ideas come when he is standing on his head", full article here.

Sting. Estimated net worth 160 M.  He has been studying yoga since Dany Paradise walked into him in 1990 and asked him if he wanted to learn, here is the article.  His wife, Trudie has a few DVDs on yoga and then a "cardio dance flow" and a "sculpt and tone ballet", I am sure those two keep healthy and happy with all that exercise going around!

Willem Dafoe. Estimated worth 24 M.  Hey, I know he practices because he actually rolled the mat next to me a couple of times in the downtown famous studio of NYC.  Not only that but if you must know I also crossed paths with him when I was taking my Saturday tango class.  So an ashtanga that dances the tango, wonder if there may be another post there.

Where are the gals?

Madonna (worth about 500 M) and Gwynette (worth about 50 M) were practicing for a while, but, as per what I heard from very reliable sources -the bathroom of a midtown yoga studio- they moved on to a personal trainer in Los Angeles that can do wonders to their bodies beyond what any ashtangi would ever dream of.

I would probably do the same if I had to play"Pepper" in Iron Man.

(picture of Madonna from here)

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe at: ClaudiaYoga.com


  1. funny how yoga doesn't care about money eh? :)

  2. Yeap Eco Yogini, quite right yoga reaches everywhere!

  3. I did not know ALL of this, just bits and pieces. Fun to know. I don't know why I enjoy, but I definitely like knowing these tidbits.

  4. FFT, I hear you, so do I, although it is all gossip I kind of still like the idea that people with all resources for research fall into the practice, it somewhat makes me at ease... I know, maybe I have issues ;-)

  5. The problem with a billionaire putting resources into yoga is that, sometimes, that billionaire may be all about making more money... while I think having a studio where any teacher can teach, especially the family or certified teachers, what they did in Encinitas is a shame. They splintered a community, they setup shop right down the street from a man who has lived and breathed this practice and carried the lineage of Guruji since far before Sharath was able to walk down the street by himself. I think joisyoga.com is a tax shelter, money making, clothing store that has nothing to do with honoring the lineage, honoring the community of students who made Encinitas home and certainly doesn't honor one of the most inspiring teachers of ashtanga yoga, Tim Miller.

  6. I want to practice next Willem! Celebrity Spotting is one of my favorite NYC activities. Natch, we are cool and never bother them.

  7. @Tim Miller, you make a great point. But it seems like a gray area. Maybe whats best for yoga (and whats best for humanity), is exposing the most numbers of people to yoga. And, the more resources at yoga's disposal, the more people who will be exposed to this magic discipline. And maybe that guy down the street from the new place will end up getting nice overflow. Who knows what the future will bring?

  8. @Anon, I guess I understand James' mistake, for a moment there I thought you signed like Tim... but I see you meant the guy down the street actually being Tim.

    I have to say I am conflicted on this point, I see both sides of the story, and also the reality is that the place is already in place and Manju is teaching and Saraswathi is teaching me how to cook Indian food through videos.

    I have tremendous respect for TM and I am sure everyone does, I saw the videos of him practicing advanced asanas in 89, he has been at it for a long time, and I am sure he has his own following that will want to stay with him no matter what.

    Loo, yes NY is a fun place for that, I served wine to Robert De Niro back when I was waitressing once... and saw a bunch of other celebrities, once I had a famous rap group sing a song just for me when I was a receptionist at a law firm... oh the NY stories, just like the saying goes, indeed "only in New York"

    @James, yes we do not know what the future will bring, this reminds me of that story I heard once of the son of a farmer who breaks his leg and someone says "that is too bad" and he says he does not know, and turns out that the next day the army comes looking to enlist his son and now they cannot... Life has a way to go on and many times the best thing to do is let it take its course.

  9. Yoga is popular for its benefits and people are quite interested to accept this practice in there daily life.

  10. Sorry, I didn't type that clearly... yes, I'm not Tim Miller. I agree with not knowing what the future holds, I agree that Tim has his own following; however, I used to think of Ashtanga as this small little world community... the community in Encinitas was and is still alive but definitely what Sonia, Inc. did has fractured the community both in Encinitas and as a whole and cannot be undone. Yes, the place is in existence, I'm sure people go... what happens with it is anyone's guess but I don't think the people who decided to open it where they did had any respect for the lineage and, most importantly, any respect for the Ashtanga community.

  11. I'm with Anon here. I was horrified. I don't want Jois clothing! But I know that Buddhist story, and yes, you're right: everything is a "maybe" and what happens remains to be seen.

    Personally, the whole Jois Inc thing upset me deeply and still does. Seems just crass. But that's me. Too idealistic? Maybe ;-)

  12. Anon, Loo, I am glad to see we can agree to disagree, that is yoga in action :-)

    I wish everyone in the mix well, I hope Tim's studio thrives and I hope all people that want to enter the yoga world get to do that... it has done wonders for me and I wish the same on everyone!

    I appreciate you guys sharing your point of view.

  13. Anon, reminds me of 1993 (or 4, I forget) when AOL lets its users use Usenet (pre WWW). Everyone who was using the internet then was like, "thats it, the Internet is ruined. All these newbies are destroying the culture we had." And it was true, that culture was over forever. But the Internet has now spread, as we know, and created more than we could've dreamed of.

    Anything that spreads the yoga we know is good for people is ok in my book. If Tim Miller is great at what he does, and I'm sure he is, then good things will happen to him even with this center there.


  14. Just for the records, Sonja Jones is NOT certified by KP Jois/Sharath - or even authorized by them. She has some other kind of yoga teacher training certificate, but not 'the real thing'.

    It is no easy task to become a certified ashtanga teacher and very few women have ever gotten that far. Sonya not being one of them.

    This detail is obvious from joisyoga.com, where it says about Sonya's sister: "Michelle was authorized in June 2009 by Sharath R. as a certified Level 1 Ashtanga Instructor". This shows that the Joisyoga team are well aware of the specifics of how to get approved by Mysore.

    Whereas about Sonya it just says "teacher-certified Ashtanga practitioner". This just means a person with some kind of certificate to teach yoga AND who is also practicing ashtanga yoga. This being rather different from certified teacher in ashtanga.

  15. Here is an interview with Sonya Jones where she describes that the highlight of her relationship with KP Jois was to take him for "a bucket-list safari to her Tanzania reserve". Again no mentioning of her receiving his blessings to teach his method.


  16. James, that is an interesting analogy, culture change can be shocking sometimes, I bet it was back in 04 in that group...

    Roselil, thank you for that clarification. I much appreciate it, and will rectify :-) the link does not seem to take me to the interview but rather to the cover of a San Diego luxury magazine, I would love to watch the interview, is it within it?

  17. I have been trying very hard not to say anything, but I guess I just can't resist anymore.

    With all due respect, James, I really don't think your analogy holds water. In your analogy, the issue is between two commercial products: Usenet and whatever it was that came before Usenet.

    But in our present case, the issue is between a commercial product (JoisYoga, and whatever it is that they are marketing) and a living tradition/lineage (the ashtanga tradition/lineage that is passed down to us from Guruji and Krishnamacharya, and which we hold so dear).

    So trying to compare the Usenet and whatever-it-is-that-came-before-Usenet issue with the issue that we are concerned with is like trying to compare apples and oranges. There is simply no basis for comparison.

    Of course, there is a very loose sense in which we can say that there is a culture that is made up of the present ashtanga yoga tradition and community, just like there was a culture that was made up of the group of people who used whatever-it-was-that-came-before-Usenet. But the stakes are different. Very few people, I take it, really lamented the passing of the pre-Usenet culture (except, I take it, for a relatively small community of computer geeks). But imagine what we would be losing if we were to lose the tradition/lineage because somebody decided that making a few extra bucks is more important than respecting some obscure lineage? Perhaps future generations of yogis would not even know that there was such a wonderful thing as ashtanga yoga, just like many present-day internet users (myself included) do not even know that there was something that came before Usenet (actually, I barely even remember Usenet, but that's neither here nor there).

    Do we really want this to happen?

  18. Yes, I think i would like this to happen. Two reasons:

    A) the heir of the tradition is actually at this new center. So it's not as if the tradition will die there

    B) let's say because of this commercialization , a billion ( im taking an extreme) more people get exposed to ashtanga yoga. Wouldn't that be healthier for the world?

  19. Claudia, I love the post. I did the videos of the aforementioned personal trainer after having babies and I must say...I think ashtanga renders better physical results!

  20. Interesting, James. Here are my thoughts on your reasons:

    A) yes, the heir to the tradition is at this new center. Which means that he endorses this center and (very likely) the approach it stands for. Which leaves me a little puzzled, actually, for various reasons. But who am I to question what he chooses to do? He is, after all, the heir to the tradition...

    B) It is probably true that many more people will get exposed to ashtanga because of commercialization. But in my opinion, commercialization is a tricky double-edged sword, especially when we are dealing with something as delicate as a tradition. How will commercialization shape the way the practice is presented and practiced? What form of the practice will people be "exposed" to? Commercialization of an entity often causes the development of a mass-market (some would even say a dumbed-down) version of the entity (I have no idea how this would look like in the case of ashtanga). Is it good for people to have any version of something, even if it is very dumbed down, or is it better to preserve some... integrity?

    In a way, it's kind of pointless for me to be thinking about these questions, since I obviously am not in a position to decide these questions. But I still wonder, nonetheless.

  21. You have to wonder about this idea of tradition re. Ashtanga. The series themselves have changed, from Primary - Advanced B to now to what, six series. The poses' in the series since the change have changed. The way it's taught has changed several times, (introduction of led classes for instance in the eighties), numbers of breath, posture order. Full vinyasa has gone, five breathes not eight, more of a focus on alignment, the Iyengar influence, introduction of drishti and thus tristana although that seems to have happened quite early. We only have to skim through the Guruji book to see this has been the case. There seems to be more acceptance that Krishnamacharya came up with this style of practice in response to a particular situation in a particular time ie to kids at the Mysore palace. Pranayama has gone, meditation, Pratyahara (unless you reach the heady heights of 3rd) all pretty much gone it seems. Does anyone think for a moment that this was how Krishnamacharya was taught by his teacher? I'm sure there is something essential left over that makes Ashtanga still Ashtanga and maybe that's still being taught at Encinitas but it's probably not what we tend to first think of. Out of interest does Maju teach as he was taught now or in the new way?

  22. @Noble, I see what you are saying. Its sad when things change and traditions are shaken up. Hopefully, what you view as pure to the tradition remains that way during this coming time. I bet since the death of Jois, the foundations of this tradition are being shaken up a little as they figure out their best path for long term survival and sustainability. The flip side of that is that Ashtanga is getting enormously popular. Things change when that happens but hopefully its for the best in the long run.

  23. Hi guys, I appreciate all your comments here, I have been thinking quite a bit about all of this and will be posting about it soon.

    By the way Kristen, that is refreshing to hear! :-)

  24. @Grimmly

    Yes, Manju still teaches as he was taught and concludes each asana class (also for beginners) with pranayama and chanting.

  25. @Claudia

    The link to the article with the interview with Sonya Jones is


    Hope you get it to work this time.

  26. Before there was Encinitas, there was Islamorada, and I was there, as was Guruji, when it opened. As far as I could tell, he LOVED the big fancy center, and the branded clothes, and the commercialism, and the fact that it bore his name. He seemed utterly delighted. Just sayin.

  27. Anon, hmm, that is interesting :-) glad you said it

  28. Roselil, the link worked now and I was able to read the article, thank you. Seems like Tim Miller is not doing so bad after all... Just twitted the link too :-)


  29. just my two cents - my first teacher has been practicing now several years in TM's room. most of his fellow practitioners feel exactly as anon reports. who knows what the future will bring, yes, but those practitioners question why the shala was not opened in cities with bigger pools of practitioners such as LA, San Diego or SF, and not three miles from TM's studio.

  30. Arturo, I hear you, I also wonder how they make their decisions... might be a good question to keep in mind, I hope to meet Sonia, would love to ask her about it... :)

  31. Welcome to Yoga Merchandizing! I believe the best business plan was developed by Sri K. P. Jois. Family friends in India say he became a very wealthy man thanks to western yogis making the trip after meeting Manju either in the US or India. The tradition continues.

  32. Quentin, I guess we do not really know who came up with the idea, sometimes I wish there was something like a biography, like the ones they write about Oprah, so we would know, some other times I realize that is just my curiosity getting the best out of me, I am so human!. There is no question that Jois became a wealthy man with the influx of westerner students, but i am not sure if there was a business plan per say at all, guess nobody really knows for sure... not when it comes to the jois yoga... as per Jois himself I believe what he offered was so good that people found it... it had a way of getting out there, it added value to people's life

  33. Another Billionaire Ashtangi: Peter Muller of Morgan Stanley, hedge fund manager, singer-songwriter and crossword puzzle composer, and yes, an ashanga practitioner

  34. Hi Anon, Peter, ha, good to know.
    Is he really a BIllionaire?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Follow Me on Twitter