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Yoga Interview Series: Jake Hays & Daniel Sernicola

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga

Jake and Daniel may not fit the stereotypical image of a stick figure female yogi, but that’s part of what I love! They became students of my dear stepmother and yoga mentor Marcia Miller several years ago. I remember being in one of her Hatha Level 2/3 classes and loving their light energy and apparent love for the yoga practice. Since then I’ve watched from afar (and heard through fellow teachers in our community 🙂 ) as Jake and Daniel have continued to advance their yoga teaching. They have been published and featured in Yoga Journal several times (check out here, here, and here for a few of their features)! They also share my passion for fitness and trauma-sensitive teaching, starting a program for LGBTQ youth.  Enjoy!


Jake Hays & Daniel Sernicola // Yoga Teachers at Grow Yoga, The Yoga Factory, etc.



Tell me a little about yourselves in a few sentences.  

We met in 2012 and haven’t looked back ever since! Currently, we live in the Grandview Heights area of Columbus with our dog, Aesop.  We both work day jobs, are active in and out of the gym, and co-teach our yoga classes together in the evenings and on the weekends. We are passionate about working with the local LGBTQ Columbus community and recently won an award for a yoga program we developed and taught at the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  We also love to travel and most of our travel is spent attending yoga training/workshops all across the US so we can expand our teaching knowledge and deliver a great experience to our students!



Where do you currently teach?



Where did you do your teacher training?

Yoga on High



What style(s) of yoga do you teach? 

  • Vinyasa Flow
  • Men’s Sekoia
  • Pranayama
  • Trauma Informed Yoga
  • Yoga for Athletes



Yoga with or without music? If with, what kind?

We use music for most of our classes, however, we use the music as a background piece and not as the focus for most of our classes.  The exception is our Men’s Sekoia class where the playlist is carefully crafted to assist with the creation of a unique energetic practice.  We use many categories of music ranging from World, Ambient, Dance, Alternative and Pop.  We try to avoid current top 40 hits so classes remain fresh.  Our playlists can include The Carpenters to Madonna and everything in between!



What does “yoga” mean to you?

Yoga is everything! The more you practice, the more you learn about yourself and others.  For us, Yoga isn’t about doing a perfect headstand or backbend (although that’s great too!), but it’s about gaining a deeper understanding of yourself.  Yoga is a “fine-tuning” experience for body and mind.



When did you walk into your first yoga class? What kept you coming back?

We walked into our first yoga class 4 years ago.  We had been playing sports and lifting in the gym for years and lost all flexibility which resulted in common sports related injuries.  We decided to take a beginner’s yoga class at our local gym and after our first class (a huge struggle for a few 200+ pound guys with no flexibility!), we left feeling so much better.  We had a great teacher that worked with us and we began taking a few classes a week.  After practicing for a while, we began to realize that Yoga became so much more than something that gave us more flexibility.  We began to learn more about ourselves than we’d ever experienced before practicing Yoga which caused us to keep coming back and eventually enroll in teacher training.


I’m guessing with some of the populations you teach, ex. men and athletes, you get a lot of “I can’t do yoga because…”. What is your response?

Our biggest is “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible” to which our response is “That’s a reason to start!”  Fortunately, our background of coming to Yoga was for that specific reason so we understand the intimidation that’s experienced when you’re not flexible and walking into a Yoga class where you feel like everyone else can bend into a pretzel!



Favorite pose? For each of you.

Both Jake and Daniel’s favorite poses are ones that are relaxing for the body and mind. Daniel’s favorite pose is a reclined twist and Jake’s favorite pose is reclined cobbler’s pose.



Least favorite post? For each of you.

We share the same least favorite pose which is a seated wide-legged forward bend. We both have tightness which prevents us from folding forward too deeply which has caused us to call the pose Angry Bear Pose! Fortunately, we have modifications and props that can help!



What do you hope your students take away from your classes?

The takeaways we want our students to walk out of every class with are feelings of safety, inclusion and non-judgment.  We encourage the practice to be fun and include elements of self-discovery in a non-judgmental environment.  Our hope is that every student can walk away from class feeling a little better than when they first stepped in the door.



What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher?

The biggest challenge is trying to get folks into the class/studio especially with the populations that we work with i.e. men and athletes.  Most of the time, once students attend a class they’re hooked, however, it can be scary and intimidating to step into a studio and take a class for the first time! This is one of the main reasons we strive to create a safe environment for all students.




Yoga Interview Series: Alexa Harmon

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized, Yoga

Alexa and I met our freshman year of college at Miami University when we lived in the same dorm. We hung out a couple of times and were friendly, but didn’t see much of each other after she transferred schools. It wasn’t until recently our paths serendipitously crossed again! We found out we lived in the same city through our central Ohio yoga community, and we reconnected over our love and passion for the yoga practice! I’ve been able to attend a few of Alexa’s classes, which are relaxing and energizing, and always have a little creative twist. Her classes are always welcoming and warm, and provide a safe space for all her students’ practices.

Alexa Harmon // Teacher at Thank Yoga/SnapFitness (Bexley)

One fun fact about you. Go! 🙂

In my spare time you can catch me listening to Third Eye Blind or binge watching Full House…. I’m a total poster child for the 90’s!


What type of yoga do you teach?



Where do you currently teach? 

Thank Yoga in the Short North and SnapFitness in Bexley.



Where did you do your teacher training?

Thank Yoga with Josie Schweitzer


What drew you into your first yoga class? What kept you coming back? 

I really fell in love with the practice shortly after I got married in 2014. My husband and I were married pretty young and I struggled with balancing being a new wife, having a career, being a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and still staying true to myself… so many titles and wearing so many hats…  I struggled with letting go of everything and just being present. I craved something that I could commit myself to, something that would serve and fulfill me from the inside out. Yoga allows me to check in and take time for myself without feeling guilt or feeling like I’m doing something ‘selfish’. Yoga challenges me–  it’s my time to mediate, it allows me to marinate on things I might have stirring up inside, it helps me work through what I’m feeling, whether it’s feelings of love or fear. There’s just something about entering a safe space to be intentional, to tune in with the breath.


Speaking of first yoga classes, it can be intimidating to walk into a studio! What advice would you give a first-timer?

Come to class with an open mind and no expectations. Yoga is limitless. There is no such thing as too near or too far. That’s why we call it a practice 😉  Every experience on the mat is a different one— let that be refreshing and stimulating!



What or who currently inspires you? 

My husband is truly a 24/7 inspiration in my life. I could write a book on how much his motivation and support has lifted me up. I’m also SO inspired by the group of yogi’s who I met in my teacher training. We have become a tight-nit group and most of us are teaching in studios around the city. I love taking their classes because they are all so amazing! And most importantly, I’m forever inspired by the students who show up to their mats to practice, any time and any day. Showing up isn’t always easy. If you’re taking time out of your day to move and breathe and “check in” with yourself, that’s the most inspirational.


What is your favorite pose? 

Tree pose has always been one of my favorites. I love the balance challenge while feeling rooted down and grounded, yet standing to my tallest self at the same time. I have always felt a sense of power and earthiness in this posture. I’ve also really been digging chair pose with the heels lifted wayyyyy up. It’s a sizzler!


What is your least favorite pose? 

Frog pose…yikes!


Your favorite quote:

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”  – Theodore Roosevelt



Yoga Teacher Interview Series: Lauren Greenspan & Julia Handelman

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 in LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized, Yoga

Lauren Greenspan connected with me regarding the non-profit organization she and her co-founder Julia Handelman started, the Youth Yoga Project. Both coming from an education background, their mission is to bring yoga to local schools. Recently having started teaching yoga to homeless youth myself, I was intrigued and SO on board, and excited to learn more about their endeavor! Their passion for the Youth Yoga Project is so evident, it re-energized my own passion to bring yoga to youth, who don’t typically have the opportunity to get exposed to yoga’s healing abilities.

Lauren Greenspan & Julia Handelman // Co-founders, Youth Yoga Project

What type of yoga do you teach?
We teach youth yoga classes to K-12 students within their school setting. 
Where do you currently teach?
Columbus City Schools, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, Columbus Community Charter Schools 
Where did you do your teacher training?
YogaEd, Connection Coalition, Balanced Yoga
Can you tell me about the organization you founded, the Youth Yoga Project?
Youth Yoga Project is a Columbus-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to providing access to yoga and wellness programming for young people to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being and increase their academic success. We have a particular mission to serve students in under-resourced communities that wouldn’t normally have access to yoga programming.  We believe that in order to have the greatest impact on the most students, yoga programs should be integrated into the regular schedule of students.   Therefore, we provide yoga programming in schools, after-school programs and community settings.
Why Yoga?
Yoga equips with simple, but powerful healthy coping skills that they can utilize at any time, anywhere throughout their lifetime. We believe that if students use these healthy coping skills within their school setting they will be more successful in school.
What is your mission as yoga teachers? 
Our mission is to empower students to take the yoga tools they learn off their mats and into their real life, so they can deal with the various stressers and burdens they experience in a more healthy and productive way.
Who or what inspires you right now?
We are very inspired by the work of the Holistic Life Foundation out of Baltimore.  They have done transformative work in their community for many years by teaching students yoga.  We are hoping to do some training with them this summer!
What advice would you give someone who says “I can’t do yoga”?
We would ask them “Do you breathe?” Of course, they will answer yes and we tell them “you are doing yoga.” Because we work with diverse populations, many of our students have never experienced yoga before and we are committed to teaching classes that are accessible, safe (emotionally and physically) and joyful for all people.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher?
We reflect and give each other feedback after all our classes so that we can continue to hone our teaching skills and provide all of our students with a positive experience.  We are constantly learning and growing. 
What is the most rewarding part about being a yoga teacher?
Watching out students experience the benefits of yoga and incorporate the practices into their lives is the most rewarding part about teaching yoga to us. 


Yoga Teacher Interview Series: Michele Vinbury

Posted by on Apr 2, 2017 in LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized, Yoga

This is the first of many upcoming posts of my interview series with central Ohio yoga teachers. I was listening to a podcast while I was running one morning recently. The podcast was an interview with Kathyn Budig, and while I loved listening to it, it made me think “we have all these amazing and interesting yoga teachers, teaching different styles of yoga, in our local community. I know they’re here. I’ve heard names and seen pictures, but I don’t really know many of them! What a cool thing it would be to connect us – to have one place for students to get to know the teachers in the area and for teachers to get to know each other more”. I know a lot of teachers know each other through mutual friends and other yogis around town and especially if their teacher training was done locally, but the central Ohio yoga community is growing pretty rapidly (which is exciting and great!)! Often times students drop in to a class and don’t get a chance to chat with their teacher, so hopefully this will evolve into a place to learn more and connect with their teachers! I hope you enjoy!


Michele Vinbury // Partner at Yoga on High, Director of the Yoga on High Foundation

I found it most appropriate to start my series with my dear friend, mentor, and teacher, Michele Vinbury. Michele has electrifying energy and genuineness that is magnetic and draws people to her. Michele was my mentor during my yoga teacher training at Yoga on High, and has been my teacher for many years before that. Michele is so honest, which I did and do really appreciate as a student. I find it refreshing to know my yoga teacher doesn’t feel the need to put on a persona of perfection and has had an admittedly hard week and her own journey to self-love, but she is also never too serious and is able to laugh. Michele’s laugh lights up any space! Being around Michele makes me feel free and happy, she “creates space” for those around her to feel whatever they need to feel by just being there. She is so authentically and unapologetically Michele! Michele and I share a love for the outdoors and will be traveling to Banff, Canada this summer together to explore the Canadian Rockies, which I am super excited for! Although I could continue to ramble for a long while about how much I love Michele, I’ll let her interview do it for me…:)

When did you walk into your first yoga class? What drew you in? What kept you coming back? 

I practiced yoga for the first time at home, with a Rodney Yee video.  My first actual class was in college.  I loved making the shapes and I loved the pose names and the challenge and the Savasana (corpse pose).  I would imagine white light flowing into my body on the inhalations, swirling around, and then black smokey energy flowing out on the exhalations, all the residue leaving my body.  At the time, that was very soothing and meaningful to me.

At what point did you decide you wanted to teach? 

Somewhere toward the end of my (yoga) Teacher Training.  I was on a “self-inquiry” track when I started Teacher Training.  The previous fall, I had been accepted to a master’s degree program at Ohio State University and after a very tumultuous period in my family life, decided that grad school was not what I wanted to do.

I remember telling my partner I was doing yoga teacher training and he said “it’s about time.”

The first class I ever taught was during Teacher Training, at a local Runner’s store.  At the time I was still throwing down some trail mileage.  It took me days to prepare for teaching it and I was a nervous wreck.  I remember sitting outside the store in my car, feeling shaky and dry mouthed,  why did I say I’d do this?!  And then I started to chant the Ashtanga opening invocation, and a wave of calm came over me.  My body-mind associated that ritual with ease and fluidity a sense of ‘it’s all okay’.

After that, I began teaching volunteers at a rape crisis center.  I had volunteered there for years and though I wasn’t particularly interested in teaching a class on any schedule, I was –and still am – interested in teaching to communities that don’t always have the opportunity to receive the healing benefits of yoga.  I have volunteered and worked with domestic violence, rape crisis and human trafficking organizations my whole adult life.  It seemed a natural fit.  So this is where I focused my teaching energies, SARNCO, CORRC, DOMA.

How did you end up as a partner at Yoga on High?

Is it strange to say I don’t know?  I mean there is a linear, clear-cut answer – they asked me and I said “yes.”  And then there’s the written in the stars way of viewing this question.  This is not where I expected my life journey to take me, and at the same time, it feels like I was heading here all along – to a place that would nurture a very deep commitment to the practices and a community with some of the best, most skillful and knowledgeable teachers around.  As a life-long student, I’m like a kid in a candy shop every time I take a class.  I feel very grateful to be in a community that values love and compassion and silliness.


Where do you currently teach? 

  • Yoga on High
  • Grow Yoga
  • Ohio Reformatory for Women
  • Netcare Psychiatric Hospital


  • Reynoldsburg School, Students with emotional disturbances
  • West Central Community Correctional Facility


What forms of yoga do you teach?

Who or what inspires you right now?

Inspiration abounds!!  Right now, I am really feeling inspired by the idea of creativity and connection.  The many ways that we are woven together by filaments visible and invisible.  Feeling into this unseen matrix allows me to feel the flow.  Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Krishnamurti – feeling into the ways I can be aware of my mind striving for “the more,” and the ways that releasing resistance offers a gateway to stillness in motion,  feeling into the ways that when we’re in this open flow – there is no ‘other’.  And then struggling with how this relates to our country’s current political cluster F.  When I name someone as “trump supporter” or “republican” or “democrat” or “yogi” I cease seeing them as a unique expression of life.  Krishnamurti says “When you name a whole group of people by calling them Muslims or what you will, you have got rid of them, you don’t have to look at them as individual, the name, the word, has prevented you from being a human being in relationship with other human beings,” so exploring what ways I can be aware of this conditioning, of the projections and allow attention to be with people as individuals in the moment, and then over and over again in each moment.

In the last month or two, I’ve completely gone down a sacred geometry/yantra rabbit hole with some women I meet with to explore energy and that’s been interesting and inspiring…

Seriously, I could go on and on with inspiration here – there is so much!

How has yoga impacted your life? 

The biggest impact yoga has had on my life is softening the voices of self-loathing that were so loud for so long.  I have found love and forgiveness and tolerance and compassion on this path.

It has helped me create space so that I can listen to life and find an authentic response rather than existing in a constant state of reactivity driven by conditioning and habit.  Yoga has opened my heart and invited me into a deep intimacy with myself and others.  Yoga is the rhythm of my heart beat, the stream of my breath, it has revealed all the ways that I am shimmery and sparkling and wild and free – it whispers in my ear that I am sunshine and stardust and earth and gold; that I am the most luminous beauty…that I don’t have to be perfect to be whole.


What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the yoga mat?

I like to plug into trees, put my hands on them to feel them breathe. I love to read, and take walks with my family. To create. To laugh –  I really like to laugh.




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