Meet Our Coaches
Ayanna Brown received her 500 hour Bikram Teacher Certification in June 2001, has been the Co-owner of Indiana Bikram since it opened in 2001, and has been part of every Yoga Championship since the first year in 2002.
Afton Carraway, 2011 and 2012 USA Yoga Gold Medal Champion, has taught yoga for close to a decade and practiced for more than 12 years. Afton has rediscovered herself over and over again through her experiences in yoga. Her journey from discovering yoga to becoming a yoga champion to becoming a mother have made Afton realize that her practice is so much more than asana. The control, clarity, and contemplative art, that accompany her physical practice have expanded her mind, increased her emotional awareness, and tapped into her creative abilities. In addition to her Bikram training in both the beginners and advanced series, she is currently working on her 500 RYT certificate in advanced teaching methods with Christina Sell. Afton views the practice of asana as a modality to gain inner awareness and clarity. She intends to continue her education in yoga studies and philosophy to learn more about the infinite possibilities of the practice. Through her teaching, Afton hopes she can encourage students to take on a keen interest in themselves to empower and help them realize their fullest potential beyond perceived capabilities. Contact Afton at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marla Ceppetelli received her 500-hour certification in May 2002. She is the owner of Queen City Bikram Yoga in South Burlington, Vermont www.queencitybikramyoga.com. Please contact the studio for more information on coaching. As an athlete, volunteer, coach and Official Timer of the New England Regional Qualifier www.neryac.org since 2003, Ceppetelli has coached several athletes and is known for her excellence in stage presence, competition prepaAftonration, and overall confidence. She has sent several athletes on to the National Championships, including herself.
Sara Curry received her 500-hour certification in May 2003. She is the owner of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth, New Hampshire www.bikramyogaportsmouth.com. As an organizer of the New England Regional Qualifier www.neryac.org since 2005, Curry has coached dozens of athletes and is known for her attention to technical detail and accuracy in alignment. She has sent over a dozen athletes on to the National and International Championships. She hosts competition training sessions at her studio on Saturdays at 11 am. Please contact the studio for more information. Curry entered the field of yoga in 2001 when years of contact sports left her with a torn biceps and two herniated discs causing debilitating pain. She didn’t know why, but the new yoga classes she started seemed to be helping. Eighteen months later, she had completely rehabilitated her back and was on her way to teacher training and a life free from chronic pain. (See the blog post here.) Curry is also known as a co-creator of the Sober Yogis program, which brings together daily yoga practice and traditional group therapy to enhance and support individuals in recovery. Watch her TEDx talk on the subject. She is also the Vice President of Seacoast Area Teachers of Yoga in Action www.seacoastsatya.com, a local non-profit dedicated to bringing yoga to at-risk and vulnerable populations on the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Some of their renowned programs included weekly classes at the local homeless shelter, Trauma Sensitive Yoga for victims of sexual abuse, Yoga and Cancer classes, and Yoga for Veterans.
One would think that finding time to passionately practice yoga is the last thing on the mind of a father of five kids (four boys and a girl), the founder and president of a highly successful Information Technology firm and a real estate investor. Au contraire!
Esak Garcia has been a yoga devotee for over 22 years. He was a founding board member of USA yoga in 2009 and he is the founder of the “Jedi Fight Club”, which is a playful name for a yoga training that assists dedicated yogis to safely deepen yoga asanas. Through JFC training, Esak has coached 8 yoga athletes that have gone on to place first in the International Yoga Sports Federation and the International Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup competitions; of which he was the world champion in 2005. Esak travels widely and leads workshops, retreats and trainings; one of which is the e84 training that focuses on the 84 asana sequence that is often referred to as “the advanced class.” For more information visit www.jedifightclub.com or www.e84yoga.com.
Gretchen Hiort worked as an Assistant Track and Field/Cross-Country Coach for Northern Illinois prior to moving to Richmond, Virginia. During this time at NIU she developed an interest in the mental aspects of athletic performance. Throughout her coaching career, she continued to deepen her understanding of how mental training can improve athletic performances.
Zeb Homison is the 2014 International Yoga Asana Champion, Zeb placed in the top four of the USA Yoga National Finals from 2008 to 2014. A Pittsburgh native, Zeb has studied yoga all over the world. After his intensive, 500 hour teacher training in Hawaii, Zeb set out to travel and bring the gift of yoga to as many people and places as possible. From the beaches of Mexico, all throughout the United States, Australia, and Southeast Asia and finally back to his home-town. He now owns Yoga Factory Pittsburgh, co-founded Yoga Factory Teacher Training, and has coached for and hosted the PA Regional competition on several occasions.
Zeb has studied a great deal over the years with master teacher Mary Jarvis and others. Bringing with him a deep knowledge of yoga technique, he also has an extensive background in dance, physical theater, mask work, and the performing arts, holding a BFA in Theater Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
You can contact Zeb at: email@example.com
Garland Hume is a member of USA Yoga's board, and the owner and director of Bikram Yoga Richmond in Richmond, VA. She has been competing and coaching in USA Yoga events since 2009. Garland and her dedicated group of USA Yoga athletes from Richmond hold advanced classes and coaching and training sessions regularly; for information on events at her studios visit www.bikramyogarichmond.com.
Garland has attended four Bikram advanced trainings, eight Jedi Fight Club trainings with Esak Garcia, and many workshops and classes with champions over the years. However, she has spent the most time training extensively with former head coach of USA Yoga, Mary Jarvis.
Garland has competed for USA Yoga since 2009 and placed top ten in the country in 2015 and first for her state in 2016. She has also coached many athletes at a state, national, and international level. She currently leads advanced class twice a week in Richmond, and coaching and training sessions once a week. Please contact Garland at firstname.lastname@example.org for any coaching or USA Yoga inquiries.
Roxanne Janecki is the co-owner and director of Bikram Yoga Binghamton in Upstate NY www.bikramyogabinghamton.com. In 2015, Roxanne and her Yoga School helped to host the USA Yoga National Championship in Binghamton, NY.
Roxanne has been practicing and teaching Bikram Yoga since 2009. She has attended four Jedi Fight Clubs with Esak Garcia, holds teaching certificates from multiple Yoga traditions, regularly attends and leads workshops on all things Yoga, and has trained extensively with former USA Yoga head coach Mary Jarvis for many years.
Roxanne has been competing for USA Yoga since 2009. She has represented at the National Level since 2012 and placed in the top ten in 2014 and placed third in 2015. In 2016, Roxanne represented the USA at the International Yoga Championships in Pordenone, Italy. In addition to competing, Roxanne regularly coaches athletes of all ages. She leads Advanced Classes and Coaching Sessions multiple times a week at her Yoga school. Many athletes that have placed in the top ten Nationally and Internationally have spent time training at Roxanne's Yoga School in Binghamton. Please email email@example.com for info on training sessions.
“Give, give, give, to others; make sure deals are win-win-for both sides. Again, it’s not the amount of money involved, its maintaining -all day long- a truly generous, creative, flowing state of mind that wants to see everybody prosper.” The Diamond Cutter
From the age of 5, Rola Khwais recalls doing handstands and walking on her hands. Having a naturally strong core and overall body strength at a young age, she felt drawn to gymnastics and other athletic activities that continuously challenged her body. In February of 2012, she began her yoga practice and discovered that it was something she truly enjoyed doing and wanted to share her passion with friends and family.
Her continued practice inspired her to become a member of USA Yoga as an athlete and participated in the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition in 2015, 2016, and the North/Central Super Regional at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio in 2017. In February of 2017, she became a certified USA Yoga Coach. The competition phase transformed her personal practice and brought additional awareness of proper alignment with Asanas and Postures.
In May of 2016, Rola became a Certified Yoga Teacher (RYT 200), a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, and is currently teaching private classes, workshops, and hands-on assisting for non-profit and for profit organizations. Rola is an approved vendor by Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) board and teaches teachers a weekly class.
In addition to her current profession with MIM Insurance Solutions, where Rola provides insurance services for yoga teachers and yoga studios, among others, Rola is also a founder and business owner of orangeblueflow. Since 2016, Rola has been teaching private and public classes B2B and B2C. She has plans to grow her business portfolio. Contact Rola at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Brandy has been teaching yoga for over 10 years and practicing for nearly 20. She was the 2010 International Yoga Champion and has taught all over the world. Brandy will be forever grateful for the friendships and experiences she had as a yoga ambassador and hopes to help and inspire others as they pursue their path. As the mother of two young boys, Brandy has come to realize that the real yoga happens off the mat but that yoga asana is essential to her in navigating through this ever evolving life with grace. She currently lives in Utah and leads seminars and retreats worldwide. www.brandylyn.com
Paul Moore, the 2016 senior men’s international champion has been practicing for seven years. He has been in four regional, three national and one international competition.
He began practicing at age 57 as therapy to relieve knee pain. Two weeks of practice in the heat made a big difference. More importantly, Paul began to notice positive mental changes: greater calmness, better reaction to stress, and more patience. From that point on, it only seemed natural to stop and take a yoga class on the drive home from work. He was inspired by the first international yoga championship that he watched. Then one day a teacher expressed faith in his practice by showing him a couple of advanced postures, saying that he could do them in the competition.
“I’m amazed at the power of yoga to transform your body and mind. The knee pain that drove me to begin practicing was a blessing. Watching the competitions inspired me. Preparing for the competitions has transformed my practice.”
To contact Paul email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darcie Peck, E-RYT 500 is the owner and founder of Wind River Yoga. She has completed multiple yoga teacher trainings including: Bikrams Yoga College of India, Baron Baptiste's Foundations in Action, Anusara Immersions and Shiva Rea's 500 hr. TT. Darcie also has a BA in Early Childhood Education and International Relations from the University of Colorado and earned a Massage Therapy and a Holistic Healthcare Practioners Certification from the California Naturpathic College. She has been trained to teach meditation through the Art of Living Foundation and has developed a Mindfullness Curriculum for ages 3-15yrs called Yoga Motion.
She has been teaching yoga since 1997 and is forever humbled to be on the yogic path and to be able to share this love and wisdom with her community. As of July 2015, Darcie has moved to Oahu and is excited to continue to teach, coach USA Yoga Youth athletes, and create more opportunities for youth and yoga. She holds international yoga retreats abroad, and kids yoga camps and youth asana training sessions all year long in Hawaii or Jackson, Wyoming.
She is the founder of the Wyoming Yoga Sports Club, formally known as Wind River Yoga Youth Champions Fund, a non profit 501 3 (C) whose mission is to support youth and yoga and assist in expenses for youth athletes training and competing in USA Yoga Championships. Since 2012, Darcie has taken over 65 youth athletes to compete in these USA Yoga events. Darcie is excited to keep the yoga spirit alive here in Hawaii and in Wyoming and continue to grow with, and honor this beautiful practice.
For coaching information click here.
April Penland began practicing yoga in 2007 at Bikram Yoga Richmond and first competed in the 2011-2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional, after taking her first advanced class with Garland Hume a few months prior. Under the coaching of Garland Hume (which included a consistent yoga practice, homework/training sessions, and weekly advanced class sessions), she was invited to her first National Competition in 2014 and earned 1st place in Virginia in 2015. She has also trained with Mary Jarvis on multiple occasions and other well-known teachers such as Rocket yoga / hand balance teacher Adrian McCavitt. April placed 2nd in the United States in 2016. She also represented the United States at the 2016 World Championship of Yoga Sports in Pordenone, Italy where she earned 6th place. April has helped lead advanced classes and yoga homework/training sessions in Garland’s absence, taught workshops, and, as of this summer, earned her yoga teaching certificate. She loves working on movement goals and helping students realize the limitlessness of their own potential.
Contact April at email@example.com with questions / coaching inquiries.
Gianna Purcell, the 2013 US champion has been competing since 2008 at an international level, placing second at the International Championship in 2014.
Her process began as a way to know more about herself and the postures but continues as a means to stay healthy, liberated and ever-expanding. An RYT 500 hour teacher, Gianna's studies and certifications range from Bikram to Bhakti, vinyasa to yin. She is a consistent practitioner of ashtanga yoga and regularly goes to study with her teachers.
"I treat training yoga asana as a gift and a privilege. Not everyone gets to feel this good, gets to know their bodies this well, or is given the opportunity to inspire others with their journey in this healthy display of postures. Every yogi looks different, feels different and has their own unique journey but we all get together with the same goal, to be truly present for three minutes."
For coaching information click here.
Emily Sabo, originally an attorney and philosophy professor in New York City, is the current owner and sole manager of EKS Beachside Bodywork, LLC—devoted to the development of the EKS Pilates, Yoga, Aerial Arts, Bodywork and Pain Management methods (the “EKS Methods”). (Learn more about EKS on Emily's website: www.eksbeachsidebodywork.com.)
Emily, the founder of the EKS methods, has been practicing and teaching Pilates and Yoga therapy for over a decade and has spent the majority of her life studying various traditional and non-traditional modes of bodywork such as yoga, mixed martial arts, plyometrics and agility/flexibility training, traditional strength training and various forms of massage and pain management methods, including trigger point, release work and deep tissue massage.
The EKS methods have proven extremely efficient at developing flexibility, strength and coordination in a short period of time and are very conducive to a broad spectrum of practices, from a home practice designed to realign the body and mind to a competitive yoga practice seeking to deepen and connect the body, mind and breath to very deep and seemingly difficult postures. Live Well, Be Well, Practice Often!!! To work with Emily contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Tang has worn the hat of yoga student, teacher, studio owner, presenter, demonstrator, 5 time California State Champion, and 6 time nationally ranked competitor. She has comprehensively coached over a dozen competitors on Regional, National and International Stages. Her method of coaching involves attainment / solidification of posture, performance execution, and fluid and seamless choreography. She has mentored and taught at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, and demonstrated the advanced series alongside Bikram, Emmy, and the International Champions for seven trainings, each with an audience of 300 to more than 400 people. Her personal practice entails the 26 posture series, the 84 posture series, as well as multiple other disciplines. She says, “I believe that USA YOGA is an extraordinary platform, inviting participants to Discover and Develop their highest Selves, invoking their highest Good, their highest ability to Serve, their highest Life Experience! I am here to equip you, empower you, and to support your expansion.”
Paloma Thacker was a top 10 finalist at the 2016 National USA Yoga Competition. In 2015, she traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to train with Tony Sanchez in the Ghosh lineage; she furthered her teacher training in 2016 and received a 200 hour certification in Vinyāsa yoga. In 2014, she suffered a mysterious illness that doctors could not diagnose, which left her wheelchair bound for over a month along with other debilitating symptoms. She spent six weeks at the Mayo Clinic and was finally diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Her doctors said continuous physical training could help abate symptoms and this fueled Paloma’s yoga practice, which helped her emotionally and physically recover through this difficult time. Through her hard work and determination, 1.5 years later, she took the national stage and became a national finalist. From her real life experiences, Paloma has seen that competitive yoga creates a powerful platform for inspiration and personal progress. In addition to practicing and teaching yoga, Paloma also runs a yoga lifestyle blog, www.herbendylife.com. You can reach Paloma at Paloma@HerBendyLife.com.
Michele Vennard, owner of Bikram Yoga San Jose, established in 2003, is a graduate of the Fall 2001 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. She competed 5 times in USA Yoga Regional competitions, twice qualifying for Nationals. She has judged at both local and national levels for all divisions. She currently coaches competitors aspiring to compete and has twice co-hosted the California Regionals. For coaching information email Michele at: email@example.com.
Cynthia Wehr has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and became a Bikram Yoga Teacher in Spring 2003. She earned the USA Yoga Gold Medal in 2005 and 2007 and the World Yoga Champion Gold Medal in 2007. This gave her the opportunity to travel the world to teach and demonstrate. She spent a lot her time teaching in Tokyo, Japan for Bikram Yoga Japan and in Bikram Yoga San Jose until June 2011. Cynthia now owns a Bikram Yoga Studio in Mountain View, CA. Since 2008, Cynthia has judged regional, US, and International Championships, as well as being on the board of the USA Yoga Federation, and working closely with Rajashree Choudhury and USA Yoga board members to introduce Yoga as a sport.
She coaches competitors every year as well as being a part of bringing the Yoga community together by being involved in the social networks. The constant inspiration and change Cynthia has witnessed and experienced feeds her soul daily to keep teaching yoga forever. To bring yoga to children and children to yoga is the ultimate destination, the big step for truly creating a more peaceful, honest planet. By bringing yoga championships into the light, into everyone's home, we can make this destination possible. Contact Cynthia at: firstname.lastname@example.org