Teacher Bios

Teachers contributed their teachings via articles, recorded audio or video based classes; some have their own studios and websites, some teach while traveling. We are thankful for their teachings, time and energy ~ without them this project could not exist.

DSC 0146 Teacher Bios Dr. Melissa West

Melissa West is a yoga and pilates instructor who helps people to surrender to peace in their lives by connecting to the vital energy within their body through breath, cultivating optimal functional movement by harnessing the power of gravity and increase overall mobility by creating more suppleness in the spine.

Melissa West specializes in teaching yoga and pilates to adults aspiring to decrease stress in their lives, rehabilitate from motor vehicle accidents and chronic back pain, and improve the overall function of their bodies from brain longevity to digestion and optimal organ function to muscular and skeletal balance.

After discovering yoga and pilates as a way to cope with the stress of academia during her studies in a Masters of Arts in Music Criticism and a Ph.D. in Communications and Cultural Studies, Melissa now helps people find peace amidst the turmoil of their anxiety-ridden lives.

Teaching yoga and pilates is a natural extension of the creative expression she learned first through performing music and later through the writing she did during her degrees. Her skills as a scholarly researcher combined with her experience teaching adults within the university institution adds to the pedagogical skills Melissa brings to her teaching.

Melissa is dedicated to her professional development and continues to study as a movement educator with her teachers Tama Soble at Esther Myers Yoga Studio and Margot McKinnon at Body Harmonics Pilates Studio. Her website is MelissaWest.com

Videos with Dr. Melissa West

andrea enlarged350 Teacher Bios Andrea MacDonald

Andrea MacDonald is a graduate of Prana Yoga and Zen Centre, where she completed the year-long Yoga Teacher Training course comprising over 300 hours of instruction on Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breathing), anatomy, and Zen mediation. Since graduation Andrea has furthered her yoga training with some of the world’s best teachers through seminars and courses. She has been practicing yoga since 1987 and continues a personal study of postures and anatomy. She studies Zen with Mountain Rain Zen community and meditates regularly

Visit Andrea’s website at www.drelika.com

videos with Andrea

dagmar Teacher Bios Dagmar Spremberg

After leaving Germany in 1996 she moved to Los Angeles, where she began practicing and studying yoga. After moving to New York she intensified her studies and trained with Anusara teacher Elena Brower at Virayoga NY. She arrived in Montezuma in october 2001 where she began teaching yoga and organizing yoga retreats with the Hotel Los Mangos. She is a 500 hour certified RYT with the yoga alliance and also an Anusara inspired teacher. As a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC she compliments yoga with her work as a certified Holistic Health Counselor.

Dagmar is the owner and operator of Montezuma Yoga

videos with Dagmar

diane enlarged Teacher Bios Diane Jacobs

Diane began her yoga journey as a baby while living in England, doing televised yoga classes along with her mother. She does not actually remember doing this at all! Fortunately at age 18 she rediscovered yoga for herself through second hand books, and felt an instant affinity towards the strange and beautiful postures depicted therein. Eventually finding this learning format too limiting, she turned to instructional yoga videos, followed by community centre classes. She began to study yoga in a more focussed way in the mid 90’s with Katrina Dennis at the Aurora Yoga Studio in Vancouver.

Diane began assisting Katrina in restorative yoga classes for people in chronic pain and with terminal illnesses at the Compassion Club. In 2002 she began to attend classes at the Prana Yoga and Zen Centre in Yaletown, and then completed their one year teacher training program. She currently teaches hatha yoga classes regularly in Vancouver, Burnaby and beyond. Diane is also a certified Wenlido instructor (women’s self-defense), and is an active visual artist and choral singer.

videos with Diane

ianna enlarged350 Teacher Bios Ianna Yelchinko

Ianna has been practicing yoga for many years and has lived and trained in Pune, India. She brings a comprehensive knowledge of yoga practice and the kriyas. She is currently in Japan promoting yoga and broadening her travel experiences. Ianna brings a delightful and playful energy to her teachings, which we are sure you will enjoy.

We were fortunate to be able to prepare her kriya classes before she left for the Far East. Ianna has some very innovative and original ideas for future YogaYak classes, so stay tuned for more!

videos with Ianna

 Teacher Bios Jenn Courtney

I discovered yoga over 15 years ago by chance. A sunny day took me away from the schoolyard and into a metaphysical bookstore where I purchased the Sivananda Companion to Yoga; coming from a background of gymnastics and dance I was drawn immediately to the graceful movements of yoga and have never looked back (or felt any guilt about my truancy!). Two other factors came into play – I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in my teens, I intuitively knew that keeping my joints lubricated and body flexible would keep the pain at bay – and it certainly does; the other factor was the end of a violently abusive home situation that was first 15 years of my life ~ the practice of yoga helped me return to a feeling of safety and ‘cleanliness’ in my own skin, something that physical and mental abuse tends to strip from a person. In short, I was able to begin recovering my self-image and self-esteem through my practice and it was my yoga practice that carried me through the process of my recovery, which happened several years later.

In yoga I found a more complete system of self-care than any other and a practice that was more satisfying and convenient than any gym membership. Though my asana practice has only become disciplined and regular in the last 4 years, yoga is the only form of exercise to which I consistently return with gratitude and my yoga mat is my favourite space of solace. I am currently living in Northern Thailand, and fulfilling my dream of teaching yoga. I learn so much from my students and it just feeds my curiosity about yoga; I continuously research yoga and its related subjects and never cease to be thrilled by what I find.

For me, yoga is a bottomless and infinite chest of treasures encompassing so many interesting challenges on many levels: the physical asana practice allows me to explore natural movement and the creation of physical shapes, the simple divinity, rich history and lack of dogma are both intellectually and spiritually stimulating and the quiet, reflective practices of yoga are soothing to my restless spirit. The simple practices of yoga apply to being alive and present in your waking and dreaming moments – I try to bring the spirit of yoga into much of my daily life. Yoga provides a space of strength for me, a healing space, a vast exploration of history, spirit and physical wellness.

Yogayak.com was born during a crossroads in my life: I was very unhappy in my career as a legal assistant and was at a point of crisis in some aspects of my personal life. All of this manifested itself as depression and crippling anxiety. I was not healthy in mind/body or spirit and knew something had to change. My life was without inspiration, without stimulation or challenge and I had forgotten the taste of joy. I asked myself an important question – What is the most authentic expression of yourself right now? What do you have to offer the world that is deeply positive, constructive, globally conscious, ethical and educational? The answer was clear and resounding – Yoga. Through brainstorming, my partner and I created YogaYak.com, a readily available yoga resource online.

The creation of YogaYak has been a deeply inspiring process of self-discovery, self-acceptance (an ongoing daily practice), creativity and a sharp learning curve – not without its trials, but there is satisfaction in overcoming every one of them. Developing a steady yoga practice allowed me to overcome many personal challenges and has fuelled my dedication to bring you this remarkable approach to yoga in our time. I am blessed with a loving and supportive community of friends and family and I thank each and every one of them for their unending assistance and encouragement (you know who you are). I am honoured and grateful for the opportunity to bring you the gifts of yoga practice; it is my sincere hope that these practices bring you light, clarity and joy and I thank you for joining our growing community.

Welcome and Namaste

Jenn Ryan

Articles by Jenn Courtney

jerry enlarged350 Teacher Bios Jerry DesVoignes

Jerry DesVoignes is a Singer, Composer, Performer and Teacher who is Dedicated to Building a Community through Sound and Voice.

Possessing an extensive background in ancient singing styles and contemporary music, he has performed and composed music in many genres, including: Rock, Country, Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Progressive Rock, Gospel, R&B, Musicals, Latin and World Beat. Jerry enjoys composing songs in different languages and using vocables , or non-language sounds. With over 20 years experience leading thousands of people in Kirtan (the devotional singing of sacred sounds), Jerry can guide you to the wisdom and transformational power of your voice.

In 1988, Jerry suffered a brain injury in a pedestrian accident causing him to lose many of his innate singing and musical abilities. The injury shattered his entire sense of Self and created gaps in his memory and cognitive thinking processes. As a part of his healing journey, Jerry discovered techniques of Harmonic Overtone Singing, where the voice creates three or more sounds simultaneously. These techniques are known for their profound healing effects in many spiritual traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism and by the Shamans of Tuva.

Singing or listening to the overtones creates new neuro-pathways, much like building a bridge to your memories and abilities. These sounds are pure and beautiful stemming from the ancient sounds that were first uttered by mankind. Jerry has received many testimonials of how his recorded or live sounds have removed headaches, eased physical trauma, helped learning disabilities, released stress and tension and opened people’s hearts in profound ways.

Visit Jerry’s website ~ www.healingvoices.net

kavita biopiclarge Teacher Bios Kavita Maharaj

Kavita is the owner and operator of Red Door Yoga® in Nanaimo, BC. She is an internationally certified Senior Yoga Teacher, as well as a nationally certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition & Wellness Specialist. Kavita’s introduction to yoga began over 25 years ago when her father, Krishna Maharaj Sharma, a traditionally practicing yogi, introduced her to Kriya Yoga. Since this time, she has become both a well-respected and accredited Yoga Teacher and Yoga Teacher Trainer.

Kavita approaches her clients and students from the perspective of wholistic health; with the understanding that true wellness comes from nurturing Peace of Mind, Health of Body, and Vitality of Spirit. She has authored and implemented a number of unique and highly successful rehabilitative and preventative programs which have made her known within the Nanaimo medical community as highly knowledgeable, genuinely caring, and integrity-based. She has been a Health and Wellness presenter for various private and public organizations both within British Columbia and Ontario. Kavita’s undergraduate training at Queen’s University as an Honours Degree Bachelor of Fine Arts has allowed her to effectively aid her clients in releasing their own creativity and thus enabling the growth of spirit. She is a natural-born teacher with a genuine love of passing along knowledge and helping others.

Visit Kavita’s website www.reddooryogacanada.com

videos with Kavita

leela 06 Teacher Bios Leela Francis

Leela has facilitated groups and individuals through movement, dance, touch and inner adventure since 1988. Her many studies, trainings, work with individuals and families, shamanic healing and rich life experience add depth and dimension to her skills. Compassion and authenticity are the heart of her teaching, inspiring and nourishing the dance that is her aliveness and her delight in sharing it with others. She is passionately devoted to living and sharing this dance with all individuals who dream an ever more vivid existence!

Leela’s vast background in the movement and healing arts studies include Rosen Method, Reiki, Continuum, Rebirthing, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Integrative Body Psychotherapy, Shiatsu, Feldenkrais Method, Tai Chi, Expressive Arts Therapy, Dance Alive, In Motion Hara Training and Vipassana meditation. Her extensive dance studies and performing include Rhythmic Gymnastics, Jazz, Flamenco, Oriental and East Indian Dance and gradually evolved from physical training to become spiritual and healing practice. Leela is based in Vancouver, B.C., performing and facilitating events in Canada and the US. She collaborates regularly with musicians and other complementary practitioners in the celebration of creative personal development and transformation.

Visit Leela’s website www.vividexistence.com

videos with Leela

michael enlarged350 Teacher Bios Michael A. Riel

Michael A. Riel has been practicing movement since the age of five when he started Gymnastics. At fourteen he stopped competitive Gymnastics and started doing Yoga and Martial arts. His love of movement shows in his attention to detail in class. At the age twenty-two Michael went to the Sivananda ashram in Val Morin Quebec to do his Yoga teacher training course, he has been teaching ever since. Michael loves people and is very present and understands the mutual benefits of Yoga.

YogaYak videos with Michael

michel Teacher Bios Michel Gingras

May YogaYak.com permit me to give voice to those who can share important teachings and give us all motivation to listen to our dreams.

I wish you all to feel the blissfull moment of waking up in a dream to partake in the wonderfull landscapes our vast interconnected minds are capable of.

videos with Michel

livingYoga lrg Teacher Bios Padma

Padma is one of Canada’s leading teachers of meditation and yoga. Padma hosts a daily national television series on meditation and yoga called “Living Yoga with Padma”.

She developed, wrote and hosts the show. She has now produced a dvd set of her own yoga meditation program.

Padma devoted herself to eight years of full-time study of meditation in the Himalayas of India. She has practiced yoga for over 20 years. She also spent two years in Japan studying Zen Buddhism.

Padma learned to read and master the original Sanskrit texts of meditation and yoga philosophy. She is authorized by the director of the International Meditation Institute of India to teach meditation and yoga philosophy.

Padma has developed an exceptional and unique yoga meditation program which perfectly unites ancient eastern wisdom with modern western living.

In Canada, she has been educating yoga teachers, doctors and corporate clients in the subtle yogic arts of healing the body and clearing the mind.

Padma was director of the Padma Yoga and Meditation Center in Vancouver, B.C., and has lead many courses and workshops in yoga and meditation.

Padma was a board member of the Yoga Association of B.C. and continues to write for the newsletter and consult YABC as a senior teacher

Padma holds a B.Sc. in Biology from McGill University, Canada. She worked as an environmental researcher for the Federal Government of Canada.

To each of her classes, Padma brings a rich wisdom of physical, intellectual and spiritual knowledge. She aims to awaken a freshness, freedom and health in all aspects of our lives.

Visit Padma’s website www.padmameditation.com

videos with Padma


sarah enlarged350 Teacher Bios Sarah Holmes

Sarah is a registered yoga instructor who teaches Hatha yoga with an energizing yet gentle flow approach. Her teaching is influenced by her love of the life-affirming philosophy of yoga combined with a keen interest in anatomy and movement. She furthers her initial 250 hour Yoga Alliance training through regular attendance of workshops and ongoing self-study. She believes that yoga strengthens both the body and mind and that through a regular supported practice we can find renewal and relaxation, and overcome the challenges that life brings us by cultivating greater awareness. She enjoys sharing her love of yoga with students of all levels, and the challenge of modifying classical poses to suit the needs of each individual in her classes.

videos with Sarah

setareh enlarged350 Teacher Bios Setareh Riahi

I am a yoga teacher, healing arts practitioner, and intuitive psychic reader.

Yoga, healing, and mystic arts are my passion and part of my everyday life. Yoga and Reiki saved me. They showed me the path I needed to take and they showed me the light while all was confusion. I am very thankful for that, but my life hasn’t always been this way. I graduated in Mathematics and Physics from high school and pursued my education in engineering. I obtained two engineering degrees and worked in different jobs, including engineering and office work. I knew that it was not my true calling; signs of the sickness and depression started to appear and Yoga and Reiki came to the rescue.

I quit my job and started studying and practicing Yoga and Reiki. I took my Hatha Yoga training in Vancouver with Kyira Korrigan while practicing and studying Reiki with my dear Reiki Master and friend, Adrien Amadeo. Meanwhile, I responded to a calling to take Master’s Touch Kundalini Yoga teacher training in New Mexico as taught by Yogi Bhajan Master of Kundalini Yoga. That was a turning point in my life as I discovered the depth of my love for teaching and the healing arts. I continued to take additional training in the field of Yoga and the healing arts. They include: Children’s Yoga teacher training, Pre and Post-Natal Yoga, Restoratives (doing Yoga with the help of props), and PRISM ology of Light Healing.

I like to share the gift of Yoga and the holistic arts with as many as possible. I am passionate about helping people understand their infinite inner potential, to find out their true goals, and to assist people in moving towards them. The human body has a great ability to heal itself. We can experience the true bliss, but we need to make the effort to help that happen. As Yogi Bhajan says:

“It is our birthright to be healthy, happy and holy.”

videos with Setareh

stan m Teacher Bios Stan Lipkin

Stan lives in Pai, northern Thailand where he leads a “Guided Meditation To Discover Source”. Before that he lived in America where he led groups wanting to discover “source”, and many years ago practiced and taught Vipassana Meditation.

Contact Stan

content from Stan

yogacharya1 Teacher Bios Yogacharya

Yogacharya is a senior teacher in the Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga lineage of Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri Gurumaharaj, of Pondicherry India. He is the Founder and Director of International Yogalayam, an online school of yoga, and Managing Editor of The Yoga News, a web-based monthly yoga magazine.
Yogacharya is a unique personality in the modern yoga world. He is a dedicated exponent of the cultural heritage and traditional teachings of yoga, while at the same time a leader in bringing the ancient science of yoga together with modern technology in a practical and meaningful way.

His passion for yoga began early in life. Born in Canada, he travelled extensively as a young man, exploring various cultural and spiritual traditions around the world. By the age of twenty-seven, he had already journeyed to over 50 countries, eventually finding a familiar and strong connection to the spiritual culture of India.

Like many Westerners who go to India in search of yoga, Yogacharya spent several years traversing this great land, studying in various places with a variety of teachers from different yogic traditions. This included a venture into the esoteric teachings of Tantra Yoga, practicing Mysore Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore city, and also learning from senior teachers
in the Iyengar Yoga line. He has also studied the principles and practices of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health and medicine, explored the sitar (stringed instrument) and tabla (drums) of Indian Classical Music, and continues today to study Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga.

He eventually found his guru, Swami Gitananda Giri, Gurumaharaj in South India, and remains a dedicated student of Swamiji’s son and successor, Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Giri, as well as Swamiji’s wife, Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani. In Yogacharya’s own words, “Swami Gitananda taught the most practical and well-developed Hatha Yoga practices I have ever come across. In particular, his system of Pranayama is by far the most extensive and elaborate of any lineage today. All of these practices are taught upon the rock-solid foundation of the Ashtanga Yoga Principles of the great sage Patanjali, making the teachings of Swamiji’s Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga, in my opinion, the most comprehensive, authentic and effective approach to yoga today.”

Yogacharya also has significant training and experience in the field of alternative health care. He practiced for many years as a Registered Massage Therapist in Canada, and later studied the ancient healing system of Traditional Thai Massage. He became a recognized authority in Thai Massage in Canada after his years of study with various masters in Thailand. In his home country, he taught Ancient Thai Massage to health care professionals, and was enlisted to help develop the curriculum for a Thai Massage and Traditional Thai Medicine Certificate Program in a joint venture between the Ministry of Health in Thailand, and the private Canadian-owned Corporation, Asian Spa Therapies.
Yogacharya is also a prolific writer and has published dozens of articles on the various concepts and principles of yoga. He is recognized for his unique ability to address the day to day concerns of modern life from a yogic perspective, and to bring the ancient teachings of yoga to life in a way that is relevant and practical today.

He is the author of The Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali, arguably the most extensive yoga distance education program available today. He also authored 3 Weeks of Yoga, an introductory yoga e-course that has received much praise since its launch in mid 2008. Yogacharya also wrote, in its entirety, the over 200 densely packed pages of yoga-related content on International Yogalayam’s website (www.discover-yoga-online.com), which has become a leading internet resource on the traditional teachings of yoga.

He is currently working on three new books: The Yoga/Sanskrit Dictionary, a comprehensive guide to the language of yoga; The Power of Thought, a yogic exploration of the mind and its capacity to shape our lives; and Understanding Asana, a guide to the principles and methodologies of yoga practice.
Yogacharya still spends most of his time in India and Southeast Asia, where he continues to study Sanskrit and Indian culture, consult, write, and practice yoga.
For more about Yogacharya, please visit International Yogalayam.

Articles by Yogacharya