The Trader-Turned-Yogi of Downtown

Infusing today’s influences into traditional principles, former Manhattan financier Lauren Imparato is elevating an ancient wellness approach.

Words: Mike Darling
Images: David Urbanke

The irony of being praised as one of the world’s leading yoga instructors isn’t lost on Lauren Imparato. “I hated yoga,” she says. “I thought it was a total waste of time.” But one day after going for a run around her New York City home, she was nursing her sore legs when her husband, Jorge, suggested a class might help.

“I went to prove him wrong,” she says. “And then I got addicted.” At Morgan Stanley, where she was a vice president, coworkers began complimenting her improved posture and her soaring energy level. “Then Lehman Brothers crashed, and I aged about a decade every hour I was on the trading floor,” she says.

To mitigate the stress, the Princeton grad leaned on the mindfulness tactics picked up from yoga. “My husband jokes that I gave myself a PhD in wellness that year.” It was then she took the next step — teach. “At first I had to beg people to come to our tiny loft,” she says. But then, the crowd who showed up for her free classes grew. And this group wasn’t of the patchouli persuasion. “They were career-driven people looking for a different vibe, not all floaty and full of fairy dust.”

“Life is only going to get more stressful. We need tools to deal with it — realistically.” — Lauren Imparato

Then again, with a nudge from Jorge, she did the one thing she would have thought impossible — quit her lucrative Wall Street job, plowing her savings into a yoga studio. Called I.Am.You., the name is equally rooted in an ancient Tibetan Buddhist belief known as mahamudra and the modern idea of interconnectivity.

“I.Am.You. was the proof of concept for Retox,” Imparato says, referring to her book Retox: Healthy Solutions for Real Life (Berkley, 2016). It tackles Imparato’s POV on the 20 biggest challenges in contemporary life — from back pain to headaches to hangovers. Imparato hits these with a three-pronged solution — yoga, nutrition, and wellness — and this approach, alongside her irreverent tone, appeals to yoga newcomers, even skeptics. And in the $9 billion yoga and pilates business — one growing annually by eight percent — every foothold is an opportunity.

“Yoga is not about escaping,” she attests, “but about training the muscle of the mind.” To that end, her philosophy’s most appealing aspect is accessibility — no waking up at 4 am, pricey supplements, or unpronounceable berries. It’s even happy hour-friendly.

“It’s what I told my friends about working out: detox before you retox. In other words, we might play tennis during the day, but order a bottle of Champagne that night,” she says. “In fact, we might order two.”

Discover Little Italy—home of I.Am.You.—and the nearby neighborhoods at