Sharon Gannon

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Sharon Gannon
Sharon namaste Guzman 280.jpg
Background information
Born (1951-07-04) July 4, 1951 (age 67)
GenresNew-age, experimental, electronic, hip hop, world music
Occupation(s)Philosopher, yoga teacher, animal rights advocate, singer, songwriter, author, painter, choreographer, dancer
InstrumentsVoice, body, violin, harmonium, sharonophone
Years active1970–present
LabelsWhite Swan Records

Sharon Gannon (born July 4, 1951[1] in Washington, D.C.) is a yoga teacher, animal rights advocate, musician, author, dancer/choreographer and painter. Along with David Life, she is the co-founder of the Jivamukti Yoga Method which contributed to the exponential rise in popularity of yoga in the west during the late 20th century. The Jivamukti Yoga Method distinguishes itself as a path to enlightenment by promoting compassion for all beings, challenging the modern belief that enslaving and exploiting animals and the natural world is our right as the dominant species. The Jivamukti Yoga Method teaches its students that they must be willing to promote the happiness of all beings without exception if they wish to realize their fullest capacity for joy. Jivamukti students are encouraged to adopt a diet that eliminates all animal products (vegan) as this is the diet that causes the least amount of harm to the earth and other beings, humans included. Core to the teachings of Jivamukti Yoga is the concept of shunyata or (emptiness) which is found in the ancient yogic scriptures. This idea can be simply stated as: everything you see and experience in the world comes from your perception of it. If you want to change someone or to change the world, you start by changing yourself by changing your views. When you begin to embrace this concept and put it into practice then you cannot find solace in complaining or blaming others. You are freed from seeing yourself as a victim of others or of circumstances. According to Gannon: "How you treat others will determine how others treat you. How others treat you will determine how you see yourself. How you see yourself will determine who you are."[2]

Jivamukti Yoga is taught worldwide at Jivamukti Yoga Schools, and affiliated centers, which are in NYC,[3] Charleston, Washington, DC, Toronto, London, Moscow, Stavanger, Munich, Berlin, Bern and Sydney. She has taught many high profile yogis and yoginis, notably Sting, Russell Simmons,[4] Donna Karan, Madonna and Christy Turlington. As musician she has collaborated with such luminaries as Run DMC's Reverend Run, the Beastie Boys' Mike D, Bill Laswell and Don Cherry. She has written and appeared in many books, most notably the international bestseller Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul[5] which she co-authored with David Life, and the ground-breaking Yoga and Vegetarianism[6] the seminal work which investigates the link between extending kindness to animals and our own material happiness and spiritual liberation. A lifelong advocate for the rights of animals, she is an outspoken advocate of ethical vegetarianism (veganism).[7] She was nominated for the "Gutsiest Woman of the Year 1999" by Jane Magazine and awarded the Compassionate Living Award by Farm Sanctuary in 2008.[8]

Yoga Teacher[edit]

She has studied yoga, meditation and bhakti practices since 1969. Her gurus are Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati,[9] Swami Nirmalananda, and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.[10] She started teaching in 1984. Her teaching blends scholarly study, innovative activism, artistic pursuits and a highly disciplined asana and meditation practice. Shyamdas, a leading figure in bringing the bhakti teachings of the Vallabhacharya Pushti Marg sampradaya to the West, has been highly influential to her spiritual practices and the development of the Jivamukti Yoga teachings. She has received initiation into the Pushti Marg directly through Shyamdas and Shri Milan Goswami. Gannon has taught yoga and meditation throughout the United States as well as in Argentina, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, China, England, Egypt, France, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Lebanon, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Thailand, and the United Arab Republic. Her high profile students include Sting, Trudie Styler, Christy Turlington, Russell Simmons, Joan Jett, Willem Dafoe, Madonna, Mike D., Donna Karan, Michael Franti, Geshe Michael Roach and Christy McNally.

Since 1993 she has presented annually at various national and international conferences in American, Europe, China, Australia, Mexico and South America, hosted by The Omega Institute, Yoga Journal, Asian Conferences and others. In 2009 she began organizing the Jivamukti Tribe Gathering,[11] a yoga conference that focuses on the Jivamukti Method where the advanced Certified teachers from around the world present. It is held in a different location each year. Additionally, along with David Life she teaches a one-month intensive Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training course every year in the US at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY and in Europe and Central America at various locations.

Animal rights advocate[edit]

As a yogini, teacher, musician, author and artist, she is first and foremost an animal rights activist.[12] In all of her writing and teachings she incorporates a vegan message as well as a call to abolish our species' exploitive treatment of animals. She is the author of Yoga and Vegetarianism, an exploration into the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali to discover why and how a vegan diet is the diet of enlightenment. She is the author of Cats and Dogs are People Too!, an investigation of the corporate profit-driven insensitive attitudes that result in commercial "pet food" and the health risks to companion animals who are fed it.[13]

In 1999, together with David Life and Janet Rienstra, (of META Records) she established the Animal Mukti Free Spay & Neuter Clinic, which was the first free spay and neuter clinic in New York City, at the Humane Society of NYC.[14] The clinic continues to operate on monetary donations largely raised by yearly fundraisers by Jivamukti Teachers. The clinic to this date has reduced the number of pets who would normally be euthanized in the New York Area by 37%.

In 2011 along with David Life she presented a multi-media interactive presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Lab in NYC as part of the museum's project "Confronting Comfort in the City."[15] Her radical presentation focused on practical ways to extend comfort to the many animals who we share our urban areas with including migrating birds, feral cats, and pigeons.

In 2004 along with David Life, she was recognized as "Friend of Ferals" by the Humane Society of New York and Neighborhood Cats. The Farm Sanctuary awarded Gannon and Life the 2008 Compassionate Living Award. She is a long time vanguard member of PETA, working with them on various projects and campaigns to help make this world a kinder place. In 2003 she appeared on a video screen in Times Square behind the New Years Ball performing a Yoga Asana and advocating Veganism as a step toward world Peace.[16]

Along with Life she has established The Wild-Woodstock Forest Sanctuary, a 121-acre Wildlife Refuge in upstate New York to provide protection for the diverse species of animals and plants who reside in the Northeast area of the United States, which include white tail deer, black bear, turkeys, foxes, raccoons as well as a large variety of birds, snakes amphibians and other reptiles.


Gannon is a vocalist, violinist and founding member of the Pacific Northwest-born art rock collective Audio Letter, whose debut album It Is This It Is Not This was praised by Ann Powers of Rolling Stone Magazine, as a "philosophical and musical stew different than any other aural communication in Seattle." Gary Reel, writing for Art Express Magazine (1981) "Audio Letter brings to a ritualized tavern experience a level of self-consciousness usually reserved for art galleries, museums, and "fine" art. It is not really an art band but an "anti-rock" performance group. It is not for entertainment, enjoyment, or background for drinking or sexual rites. Audio Letter's mesmerizing internal sounds and action serve as a sophisticated intellectual statement concerning American mass culture…presenting a strange electronic dream which moves counter to our modern urban nightmares." With contributions from Run DMC's Reverend Run, Beastie Boys' Mike D and the late Don Cherry, the album was remixed[17] and re- released as Neti Neti in 2003. Yoga Journal called the result "luminous and ethereal"[18] whilst Billboard noted its "flawless musicianship".

In 1979, long before Seattle was known for Cobain and Cornell, vocalist/violinist Sharon Gannon and guitarist Sue Ann Harkey formed, as Gannon describes it, "a stream-of-consciousness experiment" which they dubbed Audio Letter. Although other musicians would drift in and out of their orbit, the duo remained a constant as their experimental nature allowed Gannon to incorporate her interests in alchemy, meditation, and Eastern philosophy into their work.

Relocating to New York in 1983, Gannon and Harkey became fixtures in the downtown experimental and world music scene. Audio Letter's wholly improvised gigs in East Village venues like Life Café and 8BC attracted a growing number of fans including legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, drummer Denis Charles, and artist/musician David Life. Collaborations with Cherry, Charles, and Life resulted in Audio Letter's first album, released in 1987.

The daughter of an opera singer, Gannon is a John Zorn-influenced veteran of punk bands (Pyche-Run) and electronic collectives (Body Falling Downstaris and Sean Dinsmore's Dum Dum Project). She has collaborated with the Beastie Boy's Mike D on both Neti Neti and Bill Laswell's album Asana II, as well as with Run DMC's Reverend Run, DJ Cheb I Sabbah and the late Don Cherry on Neti Neti . Other credits include work with Jai Uttal on MC-Yogi's album Elephant Power, backing vocals for Wynne Paris, Shyam Das and David Newman and a turn as featured singer with Sean Dinsmore's Dum Dum Project. She collaborated with Raven Recordings to produce Sundari: music for a Jivamukti Yoga Class. Gannon produced the CD Jai Ma for White Swan Records, a collection celebrating female singers, including Donna De Lory and Deva Premal, for the label's acclaimed Yoga Masters series. In 2009, she served as Executive Producer on Kelly Britton's critically acclaimed album, Refuge.[19]

In 2010, Gannon released her first solo album, Sharanam on the White Swan Record Label, collaborating with Parisian producer/composer Ferenz Kallos (Gypsy Kings, Mercedes Bahleda). Guest artists appearing on the album include David Life on vocals and theremin, cellist Noah Hoffeld (Bebel Gilberto, Mark Ribot) and trance DJ Fabian Alsultany on bass. Sharanam is hailed by Sting as "inspired, daring and essential." Legendary Rock Producer Rob Fraboni says that "Sharon is a visionary who embodies insightful wisdom and a deep understanding of music and sound." Composer John Zorn says that "Sharon heals the world through her life and her music." Sharanam features three interpretations of the beloved mantra "Lokah Samastah Sukinoh Bhavantu," including a propulsive remix courtesy of the Dum Dum Project's Sean Dinsmore. The ethereally expansive "Govinda Fly" and "Hare Krishna" showcase Gannon's celestial, operatic soprano.


Sharon is a prolific writer, mostly focusing on non-fiction, essays and poetry. She is sought after for interviews because of her skill at answering questions in both an informative as well as engaging and often humorous manner.

BOOKS: Sharon has co-authored three books on yoga with David Life:

  • Yoga Assists, a complete Visual & Inspirational Guide to Yoga Asana Assists (2013) U.S. Publisher: Premier Digital Publishing
  • Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body & Soul (2002), Foreword by Sting, U.S. Publisher: Ballantine Books, Russian Publisher: Sophia Publishing (2003), Italian Publisher: Edizioni Mediterranee (2005), German Publisher: Vianova (2010)
  • The Art of Yoga (2002), Foreword: by Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, U.S. Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang

Sharon is the author of:

  • Simple Recipes for Joy: Over 200 delicious vegan recipes, (2014) Publisher: Penguin/Avery, Foreword by Kris Carr, Italian Publisher: EIFIS EDITORE (2015)
  • Yoga and Vegetarianism (2008), U.S. Publisher: Mandala Books, Foreword by Ingrid Newkirk. German Publisher: Theseus Verlag (2012), Japanese Publisher: Kirasienne (2012), Italian Publisher: EIFIS EDITORE (2012)
  • The Jivamukti Chant Book (2003), U.S. Publisher: Jivamukti Press. Also translated into Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese languages.
  • Cats and Dogs are People, Too! (1999), U.S. Publisher: Jivamukti Press. Italian Publisher: EIFIS EDITORE (2014).
  • Freedom is a Pycho-Kinetic Skill (1981) Publisher: Patio Table Press

OTHER writings

Sharon contributes a monthly essay, the Focus of the Month, focusing on yogic topics, which provides guidance for Jivamukti Yoga teachers worldwide—available on She is a past editor of Patio Table Magazine, published in Seattle, Washington, by Cityzens for a non-linear future. She is also a member of the Woodstock Poetry Society.

Sharon's essays, short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, including the following:

  • How Do You Pray, edited by Celeste Yacoboni (2014)
  • Journey of the Heart, an anthology of spiritual poetry, edited by Catherine Ghosh (2014)
  • The Poetry of Yoga, Volume I, edited by Hawah, (2011)
  • What Comes After Money, edited by Daniel Pinchbeck and Ken Jordan (2011)
  • Arcana V: Music, Magic and Mysticism edited by John Zorn (2010)
  • The Vegan Cook Book (published in German), by Sandra Forester (2009)
  • Toward 2012, edited by Daniel Pinchbeck and Ken Jordan (2008)
  • Semiotext(e) SF, edited by Peter L. Wilson, Robert A. Wilson & Rudy Rucker (1989)
  • Semiotext(e) USA, edited by Jim Fleming & Peter Lamborn Wilson (1987)

Sharon has written for a number of magazines, including Yoga Journal, Origin, Mantra, and Chronogram.

Dancer and choreographer[edit]

Gannon holds a BA in Dance and has studied ballet, modern, classical and various forms of Indian and African Dance. During the 1980s decade she directed and choreographed for her Seattle, Washington based dance company: Moon-Food as well as dancing with/for her long-time dance collaborator: Kathleen Hunt on many occasions, most note worthy being a world premier of polish composer, Krzyszof Penderecki’s multi media concert Marzena performed in Seattle Oct 1988 with Penderecki himself.

Since 1979 Gannon has been a pioneer in developing the genre of “Asana Dance”—incorporating yoga positions into modern dance/ballet choreography. Her choreography is featured in the Video: Asana: Sacred Dance of the Yogi. Most recently she presented, Guruji, an asana dance for four dancers at the Omega Conference in NYC Oct 2008, which can be viewed on YouTube along with several other archival dances by Gannon, which are posted there.


  • Simple Recipes for Joy, Avery Publishing, 2014. ISBN 1-58333-559-5
  • Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul,with David Life, The Ballantine Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN 0-34544-208-3
  • The Art of Yoga, with David Life, Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2002. ISBN 1-58479-207-8
  • Yoga & Vegetarianism, Mandala Publishing, 2008. ISBN 1-60109-021-8
  • Cats and Dogs are People too!, Lantern Books, 2002. ISBN 0-9655884-6-7
  • Yoga Assists, with David Life,Premier Digital Publishing, 2013. ISBN 1-6246705-4-7


  • It is This it is Not This, with Audio Letter, 1987
  • Neti Neti, Audio Letter Remixes, 2003
  • Sharanam, White Swan Records, 2010


  1. ^ "Book contributors | Sharon Gannon". Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  2. ^ "Jivamukti Yoga School". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  3. ^ Green, Penelope (March 15, 1998). "VIEW; Modern Yoga: Om to the Beat – New York Times". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  4. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (May 16, 2010). "SUNDAY ROUTINE - RUSSELL SIMMONS - Green Juice and Twitter Prayer -". New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  5. ^ Langone, John (November 5, 2002). "BOOKS ON HEALTH; Yoga Made Complicated – New York Times". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Diet of Enlightenment". April 14, 2009. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  7. ^ "Interview with Jivamukti Yoga Founders David Life and Sharon Gannon". June 1, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  8. ^ "Gala 2008". Farm Sanctuary. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  9. ^ Anderson, Diane. "How to Stay Young". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  10. ^ Hammond, Holly. "Yoga News & Trends – Meet the Innovators: Sharon Gannon & David Life". Yoga Journal. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  11. ^ "Jivamukti Yoga TRIBE GATHERING NYC 2012". Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  12. ^ heidiminx (June 27, 2011). "Sharon Gannon for Animal Rights and Environmentalism". Inked for a Cause. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  13. ^ Philip Steir. "Vegan Sanctuary: Sharon Gannon". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  14. ^ Hoffman, Jan (September 7, 1999). "Celebrities' Yoga Center Aids Furry Friends – New York Times". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Sharon Gannon | Co-Founder, Jivamukti Yoga". Big Think. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  17. ^ White Swan "Sharon Gannon – Sharanam". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  18. ^ Richardson, Derk. "Yoga Reviews – Various Artists: Neti-Neti Audio Letter Remix". Yoga Journal. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  19. ^ Lehrer, Jeremy. "Yoga Reviews – Refuge". Yoga Journal. Retrieved June 18, 2012.

External links[edit]