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 Yoga & Healing Arts opened its doors to the public. While the new 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.
Connect With Yiwen
Yelitza (Yely) is a Venezuelan born American bilingual RYT- 500H Vinyasa Yoga Instructor who has lived in Chicago and Florida and now resides near San Francisco, California. Yely has been practicing Yoga since 2004 and she received her 200H Certification from Yoga Medicine’s Vinyasa Teacher Training with Tiffany Cruikshank, whose training is a fusion of anatomy and physiology with traditional yoga. In 2017, she received her 500H Certification from Advanced Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training 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, Meditation, and Veganism.
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.”
Connect With Yely
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!”
Connect With Maria
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”.
Nicole is originally from southern California’s Ojai Valley. Love of sport and human movement led her to major in Physical Education & Kinesiology at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, where she first developed her passion for promoting fitness and wellness. While attending Cal Poly SLO she took her first Hatha Yoga class, and discovered that the benefits of Yoga are many. Since 1996 she’s had the opportunity to upstart and uplift many Fitness, Yoga and Wellness programs throughout the Bay Area.
Nicole is a Yoga Alliance Experienced, Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) and Continuing Education Provider (YACEP), American Council On Exercise Personal Trainer and Mind Body Specialist. She is grateful have studied, trained and practiced with a beautifully eclectic and incredibly insightful collective of Yoga Teachers and Yoga Schools: Beth Shaw, Stuart Rice (YogaFit), Shiva Rea and Coral Brown (Prana Vinyasa Flow), Steve Ross (Maha Yoga) and Rusty Wells (Bhakti Flow). She served a Master Apprenticeship with YogaFit in 2007 and has assisted numerous Yoga Teacher Trainings since then.
Off the mat, she also works for Stanford University (School of Medicine) Health Improvement Program teaching Yoga, Pilates and Healthy Back classes for university employees. She also likes to spend time with her family riding bikes, camping, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.
“I love the yoga vibe being created here at Prajna Center. The students are always so kind, the space is warm and welcoming. The serene environment and caring yoga teachers make for a great experience.”
Connect With Nicole
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!)”
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.”
Connect With Heather
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 Center is a community I want to be part of.”
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.”
Connect With Serena
Megha was introduced to yoga in her freshman year of high school. Her inspiration comes from her grandfather who practiced yoga daily as a child in India and continued to practice very late into his life. From the beginning, she was hooked to yoga’s ability to strengthen her body, mind and spirit. Teaching yoga was a welcome respite during her Undergraduate and Law School careers at University of California, Davis. Megha loves to fuse her training in traditional Hatha Yoga with elements of Vinyasa, Kundalini, Restorative and Pranayama techniques. Her philosophy is that the consistent practice of yoga can bring us to peace through self-realization. Megha’s teaching style is patient, meditative and transformative – encouraging students to experience the body and mind as one – both on and off the mat.
She has over 8 years of teaching experience. Megha is trained in YogaFit and received her Advanced Teacher Training Certificate from Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in India. She has 500 hours of overall training in yogic practice, yogic theory, pranayama and total wellness. Megha loves to volunteer her skill as a yoga instructor for the physically disabled, veterans as well as cross-training for athletes in football, rugby and soccer.
Off the mat, Megha enjoys hiking in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, traveling and spending time with her husband and family.
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.”
Connect With Katherine
Marcie’s passion for yoga began in 2005 and it has been a cherished part of her life ever since. A 200-hour Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher and graduate of the SomaYoga institute, Marcie studied with Samantha Akers, Liz Heffernan and Peggy Profant. Drawn to the clarity, peace and relaxation of restorative yoga, Marcie studied with Judith Hanson Lasater and is a Certified Relax and Renew Trainer. She draws additional inspiration from teachers Pattie Makuta, Serena Lucchesi and Yely Staley.
Marcie’s teaching style is warm, welcoming and nurturing, focusing on helping each yogi integrate body mind and spirit in a safe environment.
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”.
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.
Christine is originally from Pennsylvania and a breast cancer survivor. She is a 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher and has been practicing Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin yoga for 10 years. She completed her 200 hour teacher training at the College of San Mateo in 2015. She believes yoga is not about perfection; it’s about learning patience and self-care. Christine’s classes specialize on creating a path to natural self-healing by increasing flexibility and strength throughout the spine. She loves bringing the benefits of centering the mind to all levels of students.
Off the mat Christine loves to spend time with her two teenage boys and her husband. Even though the teenagers don’t always want to spend time with their parents. She also loves reading and making jewelry.
“I love that Prajna Center has such a calming, zen-like atmosphere where students can really get centered and focus on their practice. It’s very clear when students enter Prajna that it’s all about the yoga. From the calming eco- friendly paint to the beautiful wood flooring, all students can feel safe and nurtured.”
Concha is a California Native. She is a 400H Certified Yoga Instructor. During her time in training through the “Sri” (resplendence) lineage, she learned more about bio-energetics and through self-love and exploration, she facilitates a transformative process for students in a safe healing environment. She creates a sacred space for students to find their truth and internal harmonic balance. .
She describe herself as an uplifter and a healer who is passionate about guiding people through conscientious movement toward their own internal harmonic balance. In her classes student learn to use the breath as a catalyst to feel the movement of the body, while also utilizing it to clear and revive the mind and spirit. They learn how to open the body and allow space ~and realize the natural expression and true vibrancy of authenticity in their own skin.
“I teach at Prajna because I love the feel of Sangha, community and gathering. Prajna is full of beautiful, peaceful beings who are wanting to explore and enjoy feeling their best through movement and breath.”
Connect With Concha
Imelda is originally from the Philippines and has lived in New Jersey, Frankfurt, Germany, and settled in the SF bay area in 1998 with her husband and two children. Around that time she became curious about yoga and thus began her yogic path. After years of practice Imelda reached a point where she sought to include a deeper sense of spirituality and found it in Kundalini Yoga.
Her Kundalini yoga classes focus on movement, breath work, chanting of mantras, and meditation. Poses are relatively easy to get in and out of and the focus is inward to give one increased awareness of the body’s internal processes. She ends each class with the mystical sounds of a gong for deep relaxation. She is a Kundalini Research Institute Certified Instructor, Yoga Alliance Certified Instructor RYT-500 (in progress), and ACE Personal Trainer.
Off the mat she manages the human resources needs of her family’s business, an executive recruiting firm whose mission is to help nonprofit organizations find the great leaders that they deserve.
“I like teaching at Prajna Center because it is more than a yoga studio – it’s a place where individuals come together to practice yoga in an environment that supports a holistic lifestyle of healthy living.”