Grateful to have had the opportunity to build a strong, thriving yoga and healing community over the last five and a half years, Yiwen passed the honor to Yely Staley and moved to Portland, Oregon in December 2016. She is currently taking a short break from a long career of teaching and dedicating 2017 as the year of absolute immersion into self-practice.
As a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher that spanned decades, Yiwen’s vision of a sanctuary that emphasized authenticity and discipline in yoga and healing manifested in June 2011 when Prajna Center opened its doors to the public. While Prajna Center is still in the making, it is strongly rooted in its founding principles of sustenance: integrity, service, self-inquiry and energetic, anatomical movement principles.
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Yelitza (Yely) is a Venezuelan born American bilingual RYT- 200H inyasa Yoga Instructor who have lived in Chicago and Florida and now resides near San Francisco, California. Her first yoga class was a beginners’ class at “Crunch’” when she used to live in Chicago, IL back in 2004. She received her 200H certification at Yoga Medicine with Tiffany Cruikshank, whose training is a fusion of anatomy and physiology with traditional yoga and she is currently training towards her 500H certification with Jason Crandell. Yely teaches yoga, meditation and plant based classes and workshops around the world in English and Spanish, and specializes in ‘Mindful Vinyasa Yoga’ which focuses on proper alignment, anatomy, breath, meditation, and compassion. Yely is also a business owner, who currently owns and operates two successful businesses. ‘YogaYely’ is her yoga business and personal brand, and she also owns and operates ‘Prajna Center’ a conscious living center in a charming eco-friendly space located in Belmont, CA, which provides classes and workshops in Yoga, and soon Meditation, and Ayurveda.
Off the mat, she finds balance when outdoors with nature with her family.
“Prajna is a very special and humble community that welcomes everyone making them feel right at home. It’s a peaceful center that allows healing and transformation to take place. The diversity of the community enriches everyone with the sense of humanity and compassion towards one another.”
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Maria is originally from Argentina and first fell in love with yoga in 1985 and begun a regular practice. She dedicated herself to Iyengar Yoga in 1996 and in 2000, she become a full time yoga teacher, in public classes, corporations, and privates. Maria graduated from IYISF’s teacher training program in 2001 and is currently certified at the Intermediate Junior 3 level. Maria has had the great fortune of making regular pilgrimages to India to study with the Iyengar family. She follows the traditional, disciplined Iyengar approach to yoga with a lot of energy and humor. She believes yoga integrates body, mind, breath and spirit; it is a philosophy and a way of life. She brings this perspective into the classroom and teaching. In addition to her yoga training, Maria holds degrees in physical education and Expresion Corporal (a form of modern dance) from her native Argentina.
“I like to teach in Prajna because it is a nice space proper for the practice of yoga, serene, clean, and spacious. IT is well located and inviting to go inside, rather than out, which is the final destination of the yoga path. Also it is a friendly place with welcoming staff and accessible to many. I appreciate the opportunity to work in a place that people care and respect each other, and Yely is an example of it. Prajna has a big sense of community and wish to keep it that way!”
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Serena is originally from China and move to the States in 2007 for graduate school. She begin practicing yoga when she was in graduate school, and become more consistent in 2011 when she moved to the Bay Area. Since then she has practiced every day, no matter where she is and how busy the day is. She takes pleasure in sharing yoga with the intention to expand flexibility and strength to the body as well as to cultivate peace to the mind. She integrates breath-oriented sequences with attention cues to encourage students to discover their embodied anatomy and energy. Her classes are guided by proper alignment and intermingled with creative transitions, pranayama and meditation. Serena received her 200-hour certification at Avalon Art & Yoga in Palo Alto, California and the 45-hour prenatal and postpartum yoga certificate at Mama Tree with Jane Austin.
Off the mat, she works in the Budget Office of Stanford University, responsible for the university budget planning and forecast. She also enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and two dogs.
“I consider Prajna Center my second home, where I met my yoga mentor and a group of amazingly dedicated students, from whom I still constantly learn and get inspired. The community is humble, supportive, and enthusiastic over yoga, making me to keep improving my teaching skills and wanting to serve the community back more.”
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Uli is originally from Germany and began practicing yoga in 2001. She is a certified 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). She studied with Noah Mazé and graduated as a YogaMazé Certified Yoga Instructor. In addition Uli regularly studies with Desiree Rumbaugh, Stacey Rosenberg and Christina Sell. The goal in her practices is to influence body and mind in a way that one feels more energized and more positive and as such becomes a healthier person. Uli’s mantra is to Go With a Smile through life and be happy. Key to success is proper physical alignment to enter poses that heal and prevent injuries. On top of that there should be a fun, lighthearted and non-judgmental environment as well as a supportive community which help us find our inner strength. In addition to yoga, Uli is certified in Pilates Mat 1 and Mat 2 through the Balanced Body University.
Off the mat, she holds a Master’s of Science degree in architecture from the University of Frankfurt, Germany, and works at a local architecture firm in Palo Alto, CA. Besides yoga and work, Uli enjoys horseback riding, bike riding and art.
“I love teaching at Prajna Center because the students are very dedicated and want to learn to improve their practice. It is a special place which has great energy and is very welcoming to people with different backgrounds. Prajna Yoga is a community I want to be part of.”
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Katherine is originally from Redwood City, CA. She was introduced to yoga in 2002 and taught her first yoga class in 2012 while living in Pennsylvania and has been a full-time yoga teacher in the Bay Area since 2015. Initially drawn to the physical aspects of yoga, over the years, her practice has deepened through the study of yoga history and philosophy. As a teacher (RYT-500), Katherine draws from her rich teaching training repertoire to create interesting classes with elements of her Iyengar-style and SmartFLOW® background. Forever a student, Katherine continues to study weekly with her main mentor, Richard Rosen, as well as JoAnn Lyons, Ramanand Patel, and Annie Carpenter.
“I love teaching at Prajna because it enables me to get to know and connect with people in my local community.”
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Marcie is originally from New Haven, Connecticut and began practicing yoga in 2005. As a busy working mother and non-profit professional, Marcie found herself intensely drawn to the clarity, peace and relaxation of quiet yoga practices taught by Carol Allison, Serena Lucchesi and Pattie Stafford. Marcie pursued her dream of becoming a restorative yoga teacher and studied with Judith Hanson Lasater, becoming a Certified Relax and Renew Restorative Yoga instructor in 2014. Marcie’s passion is to help you discover your own tranquility through your yoga practice.
Off the mat, she is the Director of Development at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County.
“The Prajna community is filled with warm people from so many different backgrounds. I enjoy meeting and getting to know fellow yogis in our beautiful new space, and exploring our practice of yoga together”.
Susan is originally from LA, in the San Fernando Valley. Susan began practicing yoga in 1997 and completed her first teacher training in 2008. She holds a 500 hour certificate from Spirit Rock Yoga and Mindfulness Training and a 200 hour from Iyengar Institute of San Francisco. She has practiced with many senior teachers and also completed the Yoga Tune Up Level I 40 hour training. Susan believes yoga is a journey into the mind/body connection that can change and enliven our human experience. Her introduction to yoga was in the Iyengar method where she focused her practice for many years. In 2001 she was drawn to insight or Vipassana meditation and her interest expanded to mindful awareness and Buddhist practice. She shares her love of the physical practice of yoga by stimulating mindfulness through alignment and range of motion in asana to encourage freedom of the body and mind.
Off the mat, she works as a Pollution Prevention Specialist at Silicon Valley Clean Water, our local wastewater treatment plant. She’s been doing environmental work protecting water for 20 years.
“I love the Prajna community and the calming vibe of the studio. All the people I meet at Prajna are very genuine and sincere. (And Yely I love the new energy and excitement you have brought to the studio!)”
Aska is originally from Japan and a registered Hatha Yoga Teacher; E-RYT 200, RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance, a Therapeutic Yoga Teacher certified by Cheri Clampett, a Certified Massage Therapist, a Certified Esalen Massage Practitioner, and a Reiki Master. Since 2007, based on her belief, “Anyone breathing can enjoy yoga practice,” she has been teaching yoga to those who think that they are not fit enough for yoga due to their stiffness, injuries, or other various issues. Her strong and comprehensive knowledge of body, mind and their connection, from her over 2,500 training hours from various styles of yoga, bodywork, energy work, and psychosomatic fields, enables her to serve both beginning and experienced students evenly in a mixed or all level classes.
Aska invites students to play their own physical and emotional edges, not somebody else’s edges, in a safe and fun class environment, so that they can cultivate deeper self-awareness and self-compassion on the yoga mat. Then, she keeps reminding them that the most important yoga practice happens off the mat. Yoga is all about how to apply what we learn on the mat to our daily life. If you have any specific concerns regarding your yoga practice, please talk to Aska prior to the class.
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Brittany is originally from San Luis Obispo, CA. Starting out as a ballerina, Brittany learned body awareness at a young age. What she didn’t plan on learning, but has helped her immensely in teaching yoga, was how to care for a spinal injury. After breaking her back while dancing, Brittany went through several years of physical therapy to regain her ability to walk and eventually get back to doing what she loved most, yoga, which she discovered in 2007. Brittany received her 200-hour certification through Nosara Yoga Institute in 2012.
Off the mat, she has her bachelors in psychology with a minor in physiology and is currently working towards her MBA at Pepperdine University.
“I love Prajna because our community is all about being grounded in inner peace and strength and the acceptance of the self in its entirety. I look forward to teaching my students because they are kind and authentic individuals who are genuinely interested in expanding the knowledge they have about themselves.”
Sarah is originally from Chippenham, England. She discovered yoga in 1992 but got more serious about it in 2006. She is a 200 + 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher in Yang and Yin Yoga. She completed her 200-hour Ashtanga Vinyasa training with Doron Hanoch in 2012 and her 500-hour Yin/Yang Insight Yoga training with Sarah Powers in 2015. In addition, she has completed a 100-hour Anatomy and Yin Yoga training with Paul and Suzee Grilley and a 50-hour Rocket Training at San Francisco’s Asta Yoga. A true believer in the need to continually develop her own practice, Sarah has a dedicated Ashtanga Vinyasa practice as taught by Pattabhi Jois and is currently a student of Amynthas Franco. Sarah artfully weaves her experience in Ashtanga Vinyasa, Yin Yoga and mindfulness meditation together to create classes balancing physical challenges with a conscious attention to the breath, alignment, and the subtle flow of energy in and around us.
Off the mat, she splits her time between teaching yoga and writing grants for The Art of Yoga Project.
“I really appreciate the dedication and warmth of the students at Prajna. Everyone is committed to their practice and is genuinely kind to one another. Having recently joined the community, I already feel warmly welcomed to the community”.
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Heather is originally from Hawaii and she has been practicing yoga since 2004. She credits her regular yoga practice for helping her to heal sports-related injuries by correcting the imbalances in her body caused by scoliosis and emotionally in helping her to deal with stress. Heather is a certified RYT-500H and teaches alignment-based vinyasa (Anusara and Forrest influenced), meditation, and restorative yoga. As a public health scientist specializing in mindfulness research, her classes incorporate empowering themes based on yoga philosophy, Buddhist psychology, and the latest scientific research on yoga and meditation. Heather received her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaKula in Berkeley, completed a 20-hour Yoga for Scoliosis training at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, and recently completed SF Yoga Tree’s Advanced 300-hour training in Alignment-Based Yoga in 2016. Heather earned her master’s degree in Asian American Studies at SF State and received her graduate training in Medical Sociology at UCSF.
Off the mat, she is an Integrative Medicine Research
“I like teaching at Prajna Center because it builds community amongst diverse individuals who are passionate about yoga as a healing path.”
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Franco is originally from Brazil and was introduced to Ashtanga Yoga in January 2001 in San Francisco where he, following the tradition, committed to a daily Ashtanga Mysore practice and never looked back. Later in 2011, when practicing daily with senior teacher Tim Miller in Encinitas, he was introduced to the Ashtanga 3rd Series which remains a work in progress up to this day. In 2007 Franco became a full-time teacher in the Bay Area where he worked mainly for Yoga Works among other local studios. After a few years away, Franco returned to the South Bay and is now offering his ‘Ashtanga Improvisation’ classes at Prajna Center.
“I like teaching at Prajna because the studio is committed to enhance people’s lives through the transmission of yoga as a tradition instead of a trend.”
Connect With A. Franco
Lisa is originally from Rochester, New York but has called the Bay Area home since 1993. She began practicing yoga in 2006 and has enjoyed learning about various forms of yoga since then. Initially yoga was a physical outlet, though with further exploration of Buddhist teachings and different types of meditation, yoga soon became a spiritual journey for Lisa. She completed her 200h YTT at the Shambhava Yoga Konalani ashram in Hawaii in October 2016 and is humbled by the warm welcome she has received from the supportive and cohesive Prajna Center community. As a previous dancer, her focus is on alignment and the breath, while absorbing all of the physical and energetic benefits of asana. Pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation are also often integrated into her classes, so that every yogi can learn new ways to connect with their practice on and off the mat.
Off the mat, Lisa is a speech-language pathologist at a local hospital but is excited to begin her journey as a yoga instructor.