Staff


Alli Szakovits

Alli is a certified yoga therapist and children’s yoga instructor. With a passion for inspiring positivity, she has obtained a BA in Sociology and minor in Counseling and Social Change. Alli finds joy in creating a space of refuge for individuals to relax and heal. Using yoga therapy tools and meditation techniques, she provides opportunities to connect deeply, relieve pain, and ease stress. With a light heart, Alli directs students to connect with their happiest and most authentic selves.

 


Atulya Berube

DSC_0056What brought you to yoga? About 27 years ago I met a guy who just radiated. I asked him what he was doing. Besides eating mostly raw organic fruits and vegetables, he practiced yoga. I was inspired to try both. Haven’t looked back since.

How do you spend your free time? I really enjoy any type of athletic endeavor. Ultimate Frizbee and trail running are currently at the top of the list.

 


Astika Mason

AstikaAstika is a 40 year disciple of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy. A universalist who has practied several spiritual traditions in both monastic and non-monastic communities, he believes the essence of personal practice is the same across all faiths. A poet, essayist and short story author, Astika is a lay contributor to the Buddhist Text Translation Society when not working on his first novel, The City of The Goddess.

 


Blair Hartwell

Blair What brought you to yoga? Blair came to yoga first as a college student, looking for something to balance lots of ultimate frisbee playing.  Enjoying the slower pace, she began practicing at the local yoga studio closest to her home in 2007: Pilgrimage of the Heart!  After quitting her day job, she studied yoga in San Francisco, and came back to San Diego open to opportunities.  Studio Founder Sujantra McKeever was looking for a manager for the little studio, and Blair jumped at the chance to both teach and work behind the scenes at Pilgrimage.

How do you spend your free time? Blair spends her free time with her family – be it playing volleyball at the beach, going out to brunch, or watching her two sons wrestle on the floor. She also has a photography business, focusing on families, weddings and yoga! You can check out her work here.


Brentan Schellenbach

BrentanWhat brought you to yoga? For Brentan, yoga is an effective tool for examining the truth about who we are. For her, this investigation is life’s purpose because it unearths our deepest conditioning that creates all psychological suffering. Through meditation, yoga poses and a community of like-minded friends, yoga becomes an instrument of discovery that allows us to live in cause-less happiness. Her classes are relatable and easy-going, and offer an approachable format for self-discovery. This is balanced with alignment-based physical work that emphasizes challenge, observation and ease. Students often leave class feeling relaxed, accomplished and ready for whatever life has in store next.

She pursued her 200hr teacher training through Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in 2010, and promptly moved to Chicago where she worked full-time as a contracting yoga teacher before opening her own studio with her partner, Oliver. Together they formed a traveling live music and yoga duo, closed the studio and moved back to sunny California to pursue other lifelong dreams, like learning how to paraglide, studying with their teacher, Francis Lucille, and owning a small acreage for land projects and sustainable living.


Cassie Travis

Standing at a crossroad in life, Cassie found yoga in 2013. She started practicing and immediately felt a sense of ease, mental clarity and physical awakening. Discovering the true connection of the mind and body, Cassie completed her 200-hr training through The Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga, and is now a certified yoga instructor. Bringing people together and seeing people thrive, is a true passion for Cassie. Yoga offers her a unique and special way to connect.


Danielle Brand-Lemond, E-RYT 500

DanielleWhat brought you to yoga? Danielle grew up in Hawaii watching her grandmother do shoulder stands along with Wai Lana on TV. She would do it, too, for fun but didn’t realize the benefits of practice for herself until she was 18. She attended college in a very small New England town and felt out-of-place and in culture shock, not to mention very, very cold. It led to a sense of alienation from her body and emotions, but she found after her first class that yoga brought her back. Those first classes were very gentle and nurturing, and they were just what she needed to reconnect and find her way. Since then, her practice has taken many different outward forms, but remains a safe place, a home of sorts. It has been with her since then, and she can always count on it to make her feel gratitude for her body, breath, and this moment.

How do you spend your free time? What’s that? Danielle has two children, ages almost 4 and almost 7. Enough said!


Desiree Lynn

DSC_0742What brought you to yoga? Desiree was introduced to yoga at a young age, and really dived in after she got married in 2010. Life was hectic and she needed a way to de-stress during a demanding college semester. Desiree found yoga and received so much more than just relaxation, but a way of life.

How do you spend your free time? Desiree spends her time with her many animals at the Ranch.

 


Emily Ruth

Emily RuthEmily started taking yoga classes after struggling with chronic pain for many years. Slowly she found her body to be a safe place and enjoyed taking care of herself even when she had flare-ups. She came for the pain and stayed for the intuition, vitality, range of motion, philosophy and meditation. Emily’s teaching style is integrative. She teaches from an embodies perspective so that she is right there is the student, in addition to adjustments. She loves that yoga has to meet the practitioner, not the other way around. Emily likes to teach an inclusive class that students can expect, while playing around with aspects of the sequencing and flow. This way the body and mind can relax during practice.

 


Jackie Stenzel

DSC_0793What brought you to yoga? Jackie was first introduced to yoga by a friend during a tumultuous time in her life.  What first drew her to the practice was how it quieted her restless mind.  After class she would feel a sense of inner calm and peacefulness that she had never experienced before.  She also noticed her tendency to hold stress in the body, and found that yoga helped her consciously release tension.

“As my practice grows and evolves,” she notes, “I’m constantly discovering the infinite ways in which yoga affects and benefits my life on and off the mat… I feel very blessed to have found myself on this path!”

How do you spend your free time? In Jackie’s free time, you’ll find her making jewelry, playing and listening to music, spontaneously breaking into dance and yoga poses, working on her green thumb, juicing, and sipping chai in local coffee shops.


Jakob McWhinney

JakobWhat brought you to yoga?  Jakob’s first introduction to the Yogic lifestyle was meditation. He attended the Tuesday meditations in the East Room of the Normal Heights studio regularly throughout high school and from there transitioned to yoga.

How do you spend your free time? Jakob is an avid music lover and plays in multiple bands. He also loves to write fiction and poetry and is working on a degree in creative writing.


Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin smallWhat brought you to yoga?  Jamie first stepped on a yoga mat the summer of 2004, in the heart of Columbia, SC. She was led to the practice by a desire to feel better and to find her true place in the world. A few years earlier, she had been diagnosed with leukemia and was having difficulty dealing with the many effects of the disease–physical, emotional and mental. Yoga provided her with a much-needed outlet in a safe, nurturing space for her to be in her own body, as well as taught her resilience and patience in the face of chaos and uncertainty.

How do you spend your free time? When not on her mat or at the studio, Jamie enjoys spending time with friends, reading on the beach or walking through Balboa Park. If it’s college football season, you can find (or hear!) her cheering on her favorite team–Go Gamecocks!


Joe Schwab

DSC_0003 Years ago Joe took his 3 year old son to a Martial Arts class and his son was a little shy, so Joe agreed to do it with him. He was totally out of shape and when the instructor told them to run back and forth he pulled a leg muscle. The instructor basically said, “You’re not ready for this, you need to do yoga!” Joe thought he was being demoted, but he took his first yoga class, found it extremely beneficial, and haven’t looked back since.

How do you spend your free time? Joe listens to, play and write music, hike, bike ride, play tennis, spend time with his kids and of course yoga!


Kara Willingham

Kara discovered the benefits of yoga, meditation and a regular practice in 2013. After embarking upon her first retreat and taking the time to listen to her body, she simply fell in love. Over the years Kara has immersed herself in the world of yoga and enjoys how her practice is ever-changing and always growing. Kara finds joy in building relationships within her yoga community and sharing her passion for wellness with others. In her free time, you may spot her writing, reading, singing a song or creating something new!


Kayma Englund, E-RYT 500

kayma_05Kayma has fostered deep interest in the teachings of yoga and subtle energy from a young age. With signs too clear to ignore that this was her calling she has devoted over 1,000 hours of organized training around the globe to study these ancient teachings to help make sense of this multidimensional human experience. This ongoing, fascinating journey has brought Kayma to Southern California where she is passionate about holding an intelligent, supportive space for individuals to connect with themselves and the beauty that lies in each moment. When not teaching Yoga she can be found playing in her garden, working with crystals, riding bikes and making art. She welcomes you to class with an open mind and open heart!

From her roots to the present Kayma has completed 200-hr Yoga Alliance certified training with the Arhanta Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Northern India, 300-hr YA and International Association of Yoga Therapists certified training in Costa Rica, Intensive Thai Massage Training at The White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, and 1, 11 and Master Level Reiki trainings with A Flight Above Venus in New York City.


Lauren Mahlberg

Lauren MahlbergLauren first discovered yoga in her first year of college, and immediately found a deep sense of purpose. In 2015, she traveled to Costa Rica to get her 200hr. Yoga Teacher Certification, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from SDSU, and became a certified Wilderness First Responder. Lauren is a firm believer in taking a holistic approach that includes nutrition, exercise, and spirituality to achieve well-being. When Lauren isn’t practicing, she enjoys bouldering, coloring, making jokes, and exploring the great outdoors.

 


Lauren McLaren

LaurenWhat brought you to yoga? Lauren came to yoga in the late 1990s out of a need to relieve the back pain she had been living with for several years. After the initial wonder of the practice and its healing benefits subsided, she found the deep peace that regular practice brings. It was during Hurricane Ivan that yoga really impressed its power on Lauren. Trapped on a tropical island with hurricane force winds raging for nearly 48 hours, Lauren came to understand and appreciate the power of pranayama and meditation. Now she finds yoga and all its eight limbs to be a physical joy, but also a spiritual and philosophical anchor in this crazy, ever shifting life.

How do you spend your free time? Lauren is a book addict. If paper has words on it, she’ll probably read it. As well as being a voracious reader, Lauren has set pen to paper herself, penning one novel, Dead Whisper, several non-fiction essays, a children’s book and an assortment of poetry.  She is currently working on a longer piece of social commentary and a second novel.


Lauren Robinson

Lauren Robinson, RYT-200, Reiki, and Myofascial Release Practitioner is dedicated to healing the mind, body and soul through creative movement.

“I was introduced to yoga during a very challenging time and needed deep healing. I fell in love with Prana Vinyasa® because it was unlike any yoga class I had ever attended. Breath is sequenced with movement, creating a truly transformational mind AND body experience. Yoga radically shifted my mental and physical health. My heart knows I’m meant to share this powerful practice.”

Lauren is currently studying under global teacher, Shiva Rea, and has expanded her skills to include pre-natal and Yoga Trance Dance®.

 


Lena Schmidt

LenaWhat brought you to yoga? Lena found yoga during college while searching for a way to move her body after being involved in gymnastics and dance. She found yoga to be a delightful and challenging way to move the body without competition and enjoys the de-stressing effects of the practice.

How do you spend your free time? In her free time Lena loves to bake, play with her puppy Clementine, and walk in the woods or on the beach.


Linda Martone

LindaWhat brought you to yoga? Linda discovered yoga while training for her black belt in martial arts. Yoga quickly became something much more than a compliment to her martial arts practice. She went on to become a certified yoga teacher in 2000, from the Kripalu Institute in western Massachusetts. Linda came to San Diego via New York in 2008 with her partner John, and their loyal pooches Trinity and Sage.

How do you spend your free time? Linda can be found cooking up healthy recipes in her home, enjoying movies on the sofa with John, Trinity and Sage, and practicing Tai Chi. You are bound to spot Linda at the farmers market or in the local pour-over coffee joint!


Marielle Salden

DSC_0028What brought you to yoga?
Shortly after her move from The Netherlands to San Diego, Marielle was looking for something to do for the few months she planning to spend here and landed in Normal Heights. She saw this period of time as an opportunity to indulge 100% in whatever she was going to do. So, after noticing “a yoga studio” only a couple blocks from home, she decided that joining the studio would be a perfect way to spend her time: healing, stretching, getting back in shape and letting go of old stress while learning something new. Marielle joined the studio as a member (without ever taking a class) in January 2011 and 2 weeks later she signed up for YTT. Proud graduate of the class of Spring ’11!

How do you spend your free time? Marielle spends a lot of free time at the studio. She’s always happy to come in and do her practice, or to see all the sweet faces at the studio and catch up. Sometimes she brings news about what’s going on in the stars, and loves to dive into the subject of astrology on a daily basis. She loves to walk, cycle here and there and get the most out of my day. Living in San Diego still feels like a never ending vacation. But, at the end of the day, after another gorgeous sunset, when the stars appear and the birds go quiet, she calms down as well. Then it’s time for Marielle’s favorite things of all time: sleeping and dreaming.


Meghan Sciascia

MeghanWhat brought you to yoga? Meghan joined her Mom to try a yoga class at a community rec center 11 years ago. Yoga became a truly introspective practice when Meghan moved to a new city where she didn’t know anybody. She found comfort in a tiny Portland, Oregon yoga studio just a few blocks from her apartment. When she moved to San Diego, she found Pilgrimage of the Heart–the rest is herstory!

How do you spend your free time? As a second-generation cat-lady, Meghan loves to curl up on the couch with her two furry children, Pickle and Rat. Whenever possible, she and her partner Richy like to cook up big vegan dinners and dance around the kitchen!


Rachel Ishiguro

What brought you to yoga?
Rachel came to yoga because of her mom, who is now also a yoga teacher. She likes to think she first did yoga in the womb! She was later re-introduced to yoga during her college years. She was first drawn to it for stress relief and physical healing, but later discovered yoga philosophy as a path to joyful living.

How do you spend your free time?
Besides yoga, Rachel spends as much time as possible outdoors with her husband and dog. She also enjoys cooking, gardening, writing, and reading.


Sara Szunyogh

Sara discovered yoga in 1997 and immediately felt a draw to the physical practice and philosophical teachings.  She completed her 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher training in January of 2007 in Cleveland, OH with revered teacher Marni Task. Sara enjoys teaching a variety of levels of vinyasa, incorporating dynamic asana, pranayama, meditation, philosophy and uplifting music.

Sara served in the Peace Corps from 2010-2012 in Fiji, teaching yoga and meditation to native villagers in some of the most remote parts of the world. Sara also has a decade of Latin dancing experience as well as Afro-Cuban and West African styles of dance & loves to incorporate world rhythms into her classes. Sara loves the feeling of inspiration, strength, confidence, tranquility and sense of community that yoga fosters.  Sara is also a Superfood Chef and Wellness Concierge, leading workshops, retreats and boutique wellness events across southern California, Mexico and around the globe.  To learn more about Sara and her upcoming events, please visit her website at www.spicygypsy.com and join her on Instagram @spicygypsy.


Sarah Barbosa

Sarah BarbosaSarah first started yoga as a way to stretch and sooth sore muscles from playing soccer in high school. Yoga served as exercise and stress relief. Now her yoga practice has grown to be a soul satisfying daily practice of movement and spirituality to keep her grounded and centered. Sarah would describe her teaching style as eclectic. She likes to incorporate many different styles of yoga, along with philosophy, pranayama and lots of fun! Sarah’s hobbies include hiking, camping and backpacking: pretty much anything that gets her outside.

 


Tom Warner

LightenedDSC_0584 Tom found yoga very casually around 1990. But what really ‘brought’ him to yoga was a very challenging period in his life where he needed to de-stress and “get a hold of” himself.

How do you spend your free time? Tom spends his free time making music, his favorite pastime… and he surfs, paints and hangs out, whenever possible, with his kids.