Samantha Jones went to a yoga class with her mom when she was 12 years old and just never quit. Mostly self-trained from books and videos, she started teaching out of her house at 22. She lived with the monks and swamis in the Sivananda Ashram for a month for their certification program and started her first class in a formal studio in 1998. She went on to practice Ashtanga, weekend workshops with Doug Swenson, and recently completed a Strala teacher intensive.
She is also a graduate of the Florida School of Massage- ‘The knowledge I gained from learning anatomy and kinesiology in that extremely in-depth way really bolstered and enriched my teaching.’
‘I draw influences from all of the styles that I love. I like to work hard in yoga but I also like levity; it’s a balance! There is this interplay between movement and stillness- both will build strength and flexibility. My classes focus very closely on linking movement with breath. This lends a meditative quality to the practice even as you move through a sequence. My ultimate goal as a teacher is to honor that deep sense of connecting to what’s within us while making yoga accessible to as many people as possible.’
Her classes start with foundational movements, each one tailored to warming up the body for a deeper pose to come. Every asana is complimented with a counterpose so that the entire muscular system is both strengthened and stretched.
‘I teach yoga because I care about people. I’ve had students come to me and tell me that yoga has increased their bone mass, that yoga has enabled them to move in ways that they had just given up on because they’d been injured or hadn’t taken care of themselves. Two people who had been coming separately to my class for years fell in love with each other and had me registered an ordained minister so I could conduct their wedding ceremony! 'There’s just too much magic to resist it. Teaching satisfies my need to connect with people.’
‘I love yoga; to me it’s the key that unlocks all doors. I love weightlifting. I love cross training. I love to surf, I love Kung Fu. I love to dance! In every physical practice or discipline I’ve explored, I’ve benefited from the awareness gained in yoga. Yoga is about honoring your limitations and strengths, discovering your quiet place within, and expanding in physical and psychological ways.’
Betsy Carlson brings 13 years of teaching experience to her strong and dynamic, alignment- based flow class. Drawing from her studies of both Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga, her years ofdance experience, and tying in intersections with pilates, cross training, and movement therapy, she creates a powerful experience for her students.
‘I draw inspiration from everywhere! From life, philosophy, poetry, music, whatever is in therealm of artistic expression- I seek out what moves me and I bring it to class.’
Her classes are unique in that they are strong and dynamic, but also precise, combining bothlonger held poses (asanas) with movement sequences. The thread that links everythingtogether is the breath that holds the dance between the asanas.
‘The transition from one pose to the next is just as powerful as the pose. I create flows by linkingposes together. In the repetition of the flow your mind can relax and you can enjoy thesensation of being in your body while it moves from one pose to the next. At the same time, Iemphasize technique and control within the flows allowing this dynamic practice to be spaciousand safe.’
‘Yoga is where my heart is. It helps with everything. If I don’t do it I don’t feel right, I don’t feelcomplete. It gives my life meaning because it is where I connect – to myself and to others. It is ajoy to teach. I get to know people outside of their professional lives, people of all walks of life, and I get to experience a real human connection. When I am with my yoga community I feel, ‘these are my people’
Karen Entner has been practicing yoga for more than 24 years. She teaches weekly yoga classes and at 200 hour teacher trainings in the Gainesville areas. Karen places a strong emphasis on tapping into the experience of breath, allowing it to guide movement. With more than 18 years experience teaching both Hatha and Vinyasa yoga, she keeps the practice rooted in its tradition and enjoys exploring creative sequencing.
Her greatest love is teaching people who are new to the practice of yoga. In her classes, Karen communicates the authenticity of the teachings and the transformative power of yoga with an ease possessed by few. "I am grateful for what yoga has done for my life, both physically and spiritually. By teaching yoga, I have the honor to give others what has been given to me."
Emilie’s fast paced and aerobic class has a playful quality. Emilie has been teaching yoga for 7 years and is 200hr RYT with an additional certification in prenatal yoga. She is a graduate of the University of Florida and is currently a nurse practitioner. She believes that true health starts from within, and that we all have the grace and ability to feel at ease in our bodies. She started doing hot yoga in her twenties when she was in college, and decided to teach when she realized how much of an impact yoga had on her life.
“Yoga makes me feel really good and I thought I would share that with other people. No matter what you show up with, you can leave it. You can leave it on the mat; you can leave it in the room. I teach because it makes me feel better. I like to watch people progress. When the same people keep showing up, I can see what happens with them, how they become calmer in poses or close their eyes in Sivasana. I’ve had people tell me that I ‘spoke to them’ on that day but I think it’s more that their heart was really open for that time. “
Emilie teaches a fun and vigorous flow woven with a message of self-acceptance and inner balance. Her only request is that you ‘show up’ just as you are; she will do the rest! Her teaching style draws from the school of Baron Baptiste. She was certified in Baptiste Power Vinyasa Flow in Texas in a Baron Baptiste affiliated studio and studied with Baptiste in Hawaii, “He’s pretty hardcore; it was a great experience!”
"I didn't start yoga until I was in my forties; those first few classes were much harder than I thought they'd be!"
Teresa got her 200 hour certification through YogaWorks, trained with Sarah Powers in Yin yoga and Insight meditation, David Williams in Ashtanga Yoga, and Bessel Van Der Kolk's experts in trauma-informed yoga. She's been leading classes for 6 years- taught at Big Ron's, and offered a Women's Health Series, vinyasa flow and yin yoga at Sanctuary Yoga. She also teaches a mindful yoga class each each week at the UF law school to help students learn to handle the stress of their studies.
"I had never been taught to breathe while I moved, or at least had never thought about that. I stuck with it for about three or four classes and then suddenly - it was the most magical thing - i remember walking out and thinking, 'Woah, I'm in reality!' I realized that in that hour I hadn't thought about my to-do list, I hadn't thought about my job, I felt completely focused. Nothing has ever done that for me before."
In Teresa's classes you're encouraged to check-in with yourself before, during and after. Her classes are an opportunity to move deeply, consciously and continuously through Vinyasa. The focus is on fusing breath and alignment, each of her sequences is designed to foster connection, strength and opening in the body, mind and spirit.
'When a yoga class is challenging, you are so focused on what you're doing there's no time to think about what just happened, or what's coming next. You have to be in that moment, right there. We need to be able to be at peace with being uncomfortable because so much of life can be uncomfortable. Practicing yoga is about the process, you're constantly learning new things about yourself. It helps you walk through life more consciously.'
'I wanted to teach because I wanted to learn more. And yoga has so profoundly affected my life; I just want to introduce as many people as I can to it. In society today we don't have too many mindful practices, and yoga is a mindful practice. Sometimes when I teach I'll talk about the neuroscience, what happens with our brain when we practice focused attention. I want to share this practice that increases people's health physically, spiritually and emotionally. It's just a miracle.'
Keri Johnson first got into practicing yoga as a young teen, ‘I went with my older sister. The first style I practiced was Jivamukti- it felt like an incredibly welcoming community that I hadn’t felt anywhere else! It was very supportive, encouraging, and inspiring. It helped gear me towards more adaptive behaviors, helped steer me towards wanting to heal myself from the inside out. I wanted to learn that for myself, and share that with other people.’
Inspired by the beauty and teachings life has to offer, and determined to discover more about the philosophies and praxis of yoga, Keri completed a Jivamukti Yoga teacher training with her foremost teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life in 2005. She has also had the honor of training with many contemporary teachers—Seane Corn, Hala Khouri, and Suzanne Sterling with Off the Mat, Into the World, Shiva Rea, Brock & Krista Cahill, David Williams, and Duncan Wong.
Dedicated to share the embodied wisdom she gained through her personal healing experiences with yoga, therapy, and the natural world, during her Doctoral studies at UF she explored the various ways yoga and mindfulness can facilitate mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual healing through her Mental Health Counseling degree.
‘These practices are powerful. When we really embrace them and wholeheartedly offer ourselves to them, they can change anything.’
In her classes, Keri weaves together traditional yoga philosophy with devotion, sacred texts, Sanskrit chanting, uplifting music, and dynamic sequencing. Her goal is to inspire students to mindfully honor the present moment of their breath and their natural connection to the elemental world in a joyful and supportive way, providing students with a heart-opening and refreshing experience. Her classes are great for those who are looking for an opportunity to turn inward, be guided by their breath, and trust the inner wisdom of their body as they play and flow through well-rounded and robust asana practice.
Natalie Nix is a practicing LMT, and trained with Melissa Montilla at Sanctuary Yoga to become a 200 Registered Yoga Instructor through Yoga Alliance in 2012. Rock climbing led Natalie to yoga (Yes, she lives in Florida. No, there are not any rocks to climb in Florida.), and she found an immediate attraction to the physical practice. She quickly became even more fascinated by its calming effects on the mind, and the body-mind connection practicing yoga facilitates.
‘I teach because I want to learn. I teach to connect and to grow. I teach for the chance that someone who comes to class will discover an awesome, unmatched inspiration within themselves. These are a few things I've gained from yoga, and I'd be ecstatic if through teaching I am able to nudge someone towards an open door where they can uncover their own benefits from the practice. I teach because it's uncomfortable! I'm a pretty classic introvert, so being front and center and the focus of many eyes me throws me spiraling outside the safe diameter of my comfort zone. I still get nervous before every class, but I almost think that if the times comes when I am NOT nervous about a class, then it's probably time for me to move on. If I'm not nervous, I'm probably not pushing myself, and therefore am not able to offer anything new.’
‘I remember in the first yoga class that I attended in an actual studio the teacher began and ended class by mentioning how the breath is the most important part of the practice. I thought maybe she was crazy. I mean, obviously breathing is important. Without oxygen, we mortal humans encounter our quick demise. But there's a bit more to yoga class than just breathing, right?
Skip forward a few years, and now I'm telling classes that breathing is the most important part of practice. At the very least, it's what I take with me from my practice into the rest of my life on a daily basis. When I'm connected to my breath I feel connected to myself, and that's when I'm best able to connect with others and the world around me.’
She began practicing yoga around 2008, and her yoga practice was one of the factors that led her to attend Florida School of Massage in 2012.
‘Massage school provided me with an extraordinary foundation in beginning to understand the human form, and I wanted to take that even further to learn more about the body in motion. I was a gymnast for about 8 years, and a springboard diver for 3 years. When I began practicing yoga, I found many of the asanas are similar to the ways I had been moving for a good portion of my life, and I think that was a big reason for my immediate attraction to the practice; the movements came easily and naturally for me. But I think now I draw from that background in a kind of inverse way. As I learned a more about the body, I realized how harsh and destructive some gymnastic movements are. Gymnastics is about making shapes, and the path isn't very important. Yoga, to me, couldn't be further from the opposite. The path is where the magic happens.’
Kira started practicing yoga seven years ago, and was so committed to the practice that she started training to teach right away, and has now taught for six years.
“I was really interested in it and saw so many benefits I just dove right in- all or nothing!”
She lived in an Ashram for a few months in India, where she studied Hatha yoga and Yogic philosophy.
“I enjoyed the traditional aspect of it- learning all the philosophy behind it, but I really do prefer a more physical practice. I take what I know from Hatha and apply it to my classes but I change how I teach from what I’ve learned, but I always stick with the principles of yoga- Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga yoga.”
“I teach yoga partially for selfish reasons- it reminds to practice all the time, there’s that responsibility; when I bring up intentions for a class it is usually stuff that I need to work on- interestingly enough, someone will always come up to me and say ‘I have been struggling with that too!’ and that is nice, it gives a sense of a community support system for growing spiritually…
Yoga has helped me see things as they are and not just how I want to see them, or believe them to be. It helps me have a clear, nonjudgmental view of the world.”
Shane started doing yoga with his mom when he was in 8th grade, and kept up the practice on and off into adulthood.
“I went to classes urged more on her enthusiasm to be honest, it wasn’t until I went to college and started doing yoga every day I was able to advance my practice a lot more. I really tapped into it and it became something I wanted to do, I realized it could be more than just moving around- I started playing with the meditative aspects of it, and started incorporating breathwork, all of that- it just blew the lid off of it. It really clicked with me.”
Shane got certified at Yoga at Unity with Michelle Pugh, “She was my teacher, she was my mom’s teacher. She is trained in Hatha Yoga, which is what my certification is in. She did a really good job of opening us up to all different types of yoga, we would go on field trips, take a Bikram class, take an Ashtanga class, take an aerial yoga class. We were exposed to a lot of different kinds of styles so that we could start to develop our own way of teaching. Dogma has its place, but I don’t like set sequencing all the time, especially if it’s not based in a well-rounded practice. You’re not going to give someone everything they need. I pick and choose what I like to create a balanced flow.”
He continued his education at the Florida School of Massage, and the Bodhi Sangha Shala: School of Thai Massage, “I learned a lot about teaching through massage as well- I learned to listen to people and trust them- they know what’s going on in their bodies more than I do, so I want to help reveal that. A lot of the language I use is borrowed from massage and Thai massage, like encouraging students to allow their tissue to melt, and avoiding anything that feels too uncomfortable or painful.”
“I teach because I want to help people, and beyond that, I want to help people discover their own yoga practice; teaching helps me understand how yoga works, in order to convey that to other people. I wanted to teach for the same reason I wanted to be a massage therapist- there’s a different connection and conversation that you can explore when there is movement, when the body is involved.
I like to have fun. I don’t take myself too seriously, and although I am serious about my practice, I want to laugh and do silly things, while incorporating them in a functional way, on a larger scale. Anything that helps people to relax, become more aware, and feel more at home in their own bodies.”
Brandi Sadler has been teaching a variety of classes since 2009, including Flow, Strengthen & Stabilize, Ashtanga, and Yoga Practice. Battling with low back pain for many years, her mother took her to her first yoga class at age 16, and she was hooked. “My mom took me to my first class when i was 16 and that was prior to knowing about the discomfort that my body had- i was just used to it and i didn’t know. yoga helped me understand about my body- it took my back pain away, it helped me to understand how my body actually worked.”
Fresh out of high school, in 2004 Brandi attended The Southeastern School of Neuromuscular and Massage Therapy in Jacksonville, FL. She has since been a licensed massage therapist for over 11 years. The anatomy and knowledge of the human body that she learned in massage school greatly increased the depth of knowledge of her body in her own yoga practice. This in-depth training has led her desire to continue to teach alignment-based classes, helping people to understand and heal their own bodies on a deeper, more specific level.
In 2007 she completed an Ashtanga based 100-hour teacher training in Kauai, HI with Bhavani Maki. Before her next teacher training, Brandi started teaching free classes at friend’s houses, just for the love of teaching. In 2009 she completed 200-hour Yoga Works teacher training with Tzahi Moskovitz. This alignment-based practice helped to complete her knowledge of the human anatomy and helped her to see the human body as a more dynamic, thoroughly connected being.
“I teach because I want to share that with other people. My knowledge of the body is based in massage as far as anatomy- what i want to show people is how well yoga works for our bodies. It is designed perfectly, I want to share that with other people so they can have a better understanding of their bodies by movement and asana- to show them how to heal their own issues and ailments.”
Brandi spent two summers in Costa Rica traveling and teaching yoga. In 2010 she volunteered teaching at Cascaada Verde and The Flutterby House, and in 2011 she spent 9 weeks at The Yoga Farm teaching. Giving back to the community and being able to share her love of yoga with all people is a large aspect of teaching for Brandi.
“I love yoga! It makes me feel good.”
Anisa offers a gentle class that is deeply meditative, restorative, nourishing, engaging, and satisfying. I started practicing when i was 30. “I had been diagnosed with a panic disorder; I was having panic attacks every day. I had done a lot of things to try and run away from that, including medication, but the very first time i ever did yoga was the very last day i ever had a panic attack. That was probably the most soothing, embodied moment I’d ever had in my life. I don’t think i had ever felt my body up until that point. It really is like a medicine for me. I was studying Amrit yoga which is a legacy of Kripalu, where there is a willful practice and then there’s surrender. You hold a posture, and you breathe, and you stay static for a moment, and then you release the posture and you reflect for a moment on the blueprint that it left on your body.
She got certified to teach at Discovery Yoga, a Kripalu affiliated studio, in St Augustine and began teaching in 2007. “It has been a real gift to me, because in this very particular tradition, there’s a format, and there’s a warm up and there’s breathing, the postures are very specific but they are not the point. The point is to breathe into the sensations, and feel where you are holding Prana.”
“The beautiful thing about Kripalu is that the teacher is holding space for you. The tagline of Kripalu is ‘meditation in motion’. The ideal is to take that skill with you everywhere and every day, to know yourself and be a companion to yourself. I think people are walking around with a baseline anxiety level that is not normal. Everyone has disappointments in life, and the way we hold on to those things and internalize those experiences, they can start to define the way that we move through the world, inform what we give ourselves permission to do. When I started doing yoga, and felt such an immediate benefit from it, I knew I got it. I could hear it, I could see it, I could feel it- and that multi sensory approach just went into me. That’s the reason why I started teaching- I thought, this is good for me. Yoga is not about just showing up and exercising. it’s about helping clear out what is in your body, the stuff you hold on to that isn’t working anymore, and the patterns that you have around that.”
Jaime first did yoga at the age of 14, “I was into it because I was a gymnast. I went there, and I thought I was real good at it, but actually I was just real good at asana. I thought ‘oh I can do this! I can do a headstand, whatever’. I never really got into yoga until i was 21 and i was living in Miami and I was going through a big life transition. I started going to a Buddhist center and started doing yoga classes there. I got more into the spiritual and philosophical underpinnings. I practiced yoga and I practiced buddhism there for two and half years, and at some point that really transformed my life. I decided to stop pursuing the law degree I was after and shift gears to psychology. I took all the seeds I had planted and pushed them out of the way to move towards a career and a life where I could focus on something a lot more healing and energetic and spiritual. I wanted to bring good stuff to the world. I did my yoga teacher training at Prana Yoga in Coral Gables. My teacher at the time, Ma Lochana (Rossella Rossi) was a ridiculously good teacher, very demanding but with a gentle hand and i liked that. The training there was ‘Vinyasa’ and I do consider myself a Vinyasa, or Flow teacher. I taught there for a couple years. One thing that I really liked was that she really emphasized Pranayama and meditation, it wasn’t just this physical practice, there were these deeper elements. I infuse a lot of Ashtanga inspired vinyasa into my class, but in a less traditional way.
She says of teaching, “I think for me it started by looking within, looking at my own experience with it. My inspiration for teaching came from how much yoga impacted my life, it grounded and connected me at the same time. It has helped me ground to myself and connect to something bigger than myself. I experienced that and I wanted to bring that to others. It’s an opportunity to share and an opportunity to enrich the lives of others. It feels good.”
“I definitely come back heavily to yoga when i face challenges and i need to go beyond what i’m thinking and create space. Yoga has helped me make sense of things, it helps me to trust the process, and trust ‘the plan’, and trust the purpose of whatever happens, to assimilate any suffering in my life as something transformative and important. It keeps me grounded also through little ups and downs, everyday challenges. When you feel like you don’t have time for yoga, that’s probably when you really need it!”
Kate Keskinen took her first yoga class in 2008 while looking to sustain the strength, flexibility, and body awareness she had gained from years of dance experience. While the physical practice of yoga enhanced her mind-body connection and engagement, what really surprised her was the mental clarity and shift in consciousness that yoga eventually brought, and continues to bring.
As a teacher, she wants to share that magic shift with her students, as well as the idea that you can start with a physical practice, which with focus and dedication can turn into something so much more beautiful. Her classes are focused on the breath, letting it guide and develop movement, and the physical discipline of repeated and sustained asana practice. She believes that an initial concentration on the most superficial limb of yoga is just the gateway to a deeper path.
“It’s all about balance. Building strength and flexibility in our bodies creates strength and flexibility in our minds. Like yin and yang, parts of one quality always live in the heart of it’s opposite. That is what yoga teaches us. Finding connection and harmony with all things, especially within ourselves.”
Kate received her Yoga Alliance certification in Florence, Italy, and has recently returned home to Florida. She is thrilled to be here, and to be a part of the quickly growing yoga community in Gainesville. She continues to study and constantly explore the facets of her daily practice and expression through movement.