Instructors

At Open Way Yoga, we strive to bring you the best teachers in the area.  

  • Brian Henderson, MS, E-RYT 200, YACEP

    My roots are in Ohio. I love it here. I was born and raised in Akron, and spent large chunks of my time exploring the shores of Lake Erie. After college and graduate school, I spent 15 years teaching math at Seattle University. One day at the gym I very casually walked into a yoga class to do a some stretching. There was no turning back. There were many excellent teachers in Seattle at this time, teaching a wide variety of styles and I was fortunate to be able to spend large amounts of time with them, often taking 2 or 3 classes a day. At some point it seemed I had no choice but to go to India and see if there was anything to gain from being in the land where yoga originated. I spent a little over a year there, hopping from ashram to ashram, absorbing as much as I possibly could. Sometimes the practice of the place I was in would be exclusively chanting, or sitting, or debating. I jumped right in. No touring around looking at the temples. Practice, practice, practice. One of the times I was here in Huron, I realized there wasn’t a nice place for people to practice, so I decided to refinish the floors on the 3rd floor of 607 Main Street. From there the studio was born. My hope was, and still is, that Open Way Yoga be as much a community center as a yoga studio. A gathering place, open and inclusive, available so that anyone who wanted could take a class. The goal of the enterprise is for more people to spend more time practicing yoga. Teaching, learning, and most importantly practicing yoga continue to be the main foci of my life. Although I incorporate many different modern styles, as well as Tai Chi and dance into my personal practice, I am predominantly an old school yogi. In addition to the postures, a large portion of my yoga consists of breathing exercises, cleansing exercises, chanting, meditation, and studying philosophy. As an instructor I attempt to present students with as many general practices as I can and to entice people into starting a home practice. I also try to teach students how to practice. Meaning if they step into any other yoga setting they will be able to accommodate their needs and find a useful way to practice. When I’m not teaching yoga, you’ll most likely find me being quiet, growing food, petting dogs, getting paint on my good clothes and walking in the woods. While in Washington DC I completed yoga teacher training and am now a Yoga Alliance certified E-RYT200. My heels still do not touch the ground in downward dog.
  • Shannon Thomas, BA, CHC, E-RYT-200, YACEP

    When I was in my mid-twenties I was living in a primitive shelter 6 miles on foot from the nearest town. Curious about yoga, I bought an Ashtanga book out of the discount bin at the bookstore. I took it out onto a sand firebreak and did the yoga poses right on the ground. Eventually, I moved back into a more mainstream life and began taking classes in a studio. Working with teachers added depth to my practice as they helped me correct the bad habits I’d developed on my own. Over the past 14 years I’ve practiced many forms of yoga. My teaching incorporates this breadth of experience - a class with me is likely to include kundalini-style spinal work, a healthy focus on the pelvic floor and flow-style yoga mixed in with a few yin-style long holds. I only teach what I know through my own body. This embodiment helps me translate theory into practice and create meaningful classroom experiences for my students. I’m a Yoga Alliance certified E-RYT-200 and I’m certified as a health coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC. I am co-owner of Open Way Yoga in Huron where I teach classes, lead workshops and co-facilitate our teacher training program. In 2014 I was on The Discovery Channel's Naked and Afraid episode set in Belize. My yoga and mindfulness practices contributed to my being able to successfully complete the 21 day challenge. I focus on wellness and self-care like it’s a full time job and I love helping others discover the wealth of knowledge inherent in their own bodies. I seem to have inexhaustible enthusiasm for wellness, yoga, wilderness skills, plants... and about 50 other things. I love being a part of Open Way Yoga... It’s a beautiful space, centered around wellness, art, community and, as Brian says, Good Solid Yoga ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ (Thanks to June Molgaard for the picture of Shannon doing yoga Belize.)
  • Mallory Saunders, RYT-200

    Yoga came in to my life when I needed it the most. I was studying Fine Art at the University of Cincinnati, suffering with debilitating anxiety and depression which stemmed from consuming self-judgment and negative thinking patterns. My self-esteem was crumbling along with my grades and my relationships. I was cold and disconnected from everything and everyone. I isolated myself and became dependent upon others approval for my self worth. At the same time I was completely overwhelmed as waves of repressed emotion and grief started to break to the surface. 
I lost my older sister Michelle in a car accident at a young age and wasn’t able to process my experience at the time. I found myself suppressing my emotions to appease others. I distracted myself so I didn’t have to feel. Afraid of ever facing that pain again I closed my heart off to deep connection. I grew cold, distant and repressed. I lost touch with myself. At that time I was making unconscious choices, medicating myself with shopping, binge eating, alcohol and marijuana to numb the pain. When I surpassed my older sister in age the emotion I’d repressed erupted. I hit rock bottom and reached out to my mother, family and friends for help. I started therapy sessions and opted to take yoga classes, focus on lifestyle changes and incorporate alternative therapies into my life rather than take conventional medication. 
 I was 20 years old and terrified to attend yoga classes at my college campus. My body was toxic and at its heaviest. A direct reflection of the feelings I held inside. My anxious mind raced giving me every single excuse and reason not to go. It took literally everything in me to drag myself out of bed and walk alone to the rec center in the winter cold and get to class. I longed for a change, but I did it anyway. I knew I was lost and I was committed to finding myself again. In the class I was incredibly uncomfortable in my body, but I found out quick that I was even more uncomfortable in my mind, in who I was and who I was becoming. I was observing my mental state, jumpy, reactive and filled with incessant degrading self talk, judgment and comparison. At the end of class we laid in stillness, in presence. The thoughts slowed and I was able to connect with my true self. I realized then how powerful this physical practice was and became invested in going deeper. It took me 2 years of trying to create a consistent practice and failing over and over before it really started to feel like an essential part of my life. The benefits were noticeable and significant regardless of my inconsistency. I loved yoga, but often found myself resistant to putting in the effort. I reality I was scared of sitting with myself and really processing the heavy emotions that would surface. I was terrified of the darkest parts of me, but even more so intimidated by the infinite potential I was starting to realize was within me. I am a student of Yoga and the past 7 years of practice have led me on an incredible journey of physical and emotional healing, self awareness and inner growth. Through Yoga I found relief from the mental state that was drowning me. I have and continue to create a healthier lifestyle for myself and those around me. I have learned how to accept and process the heavy emotions, anxieties and fears that had accumulated within me and have realized I have only just skimmed the surface of who I am and who I’m meant to be. I’ve peeled back layers and walls that were built up over the years to protect me. I’m learning daily how to open my heart up and live from a space of love, compassion and truth and by doing so I hope to inspire others and spread this heightened awareness like wildfire. I am a 200HR RYT through Yoga Alliance. I attended the yoga teacher training immersion at Open Way Yoga with Brian and Shannon in 2014. I have been fortunate enough to continue to teach for the studio ever since! Huron is my hometown! I am so honored and grateful to to be able to offer Yoga to our community and to assist in the healing, growth, and expansion of the amazing people in this area! I am a very versatile teacher with the capability of leading all levels of students. These last few years of teaching and I have gained experience instructing everything from restorative to prenatal, kids yoga, yoga flow, body sculpting and hot yoga classes. My classes tend to focus on specific areas of the physical body and often reference correlating energy centers of the subtle body. We work towards gaining control of the inner fluctuations through breath control and movement. Truly finding stillness within the chaos. Encouraging personal growth both on and off the mat through developing strength, flexibility, balance and control. I merge structured postures, with specific vocal cues and combine them with feminine delicate movements as we flow from one posture to the next. I break down challenging positions to make them more digestible, creating a foundation to build upon to advance practice. I will push you to you to the edge of your comfort zone and help your realize you are capable of more!
  • Mary Reese Folger, RYT-200

    Mary Reese Folger, RYT-200 My first experience of yoga was in the mid 70’s. I acquired one of those vintage paperbacks and taught myself some yoga poses. I remember practicing cobra, headstand, and lotus (on the green shag carpeting that I so loved!) I developed a regular practice in the early 2000’s and then in 2012 started studying and practicing yoga in a more focused way. In June 2014 I completed teacher training at Open Way Yoga. Currently I am pursuing Iyengar certification under the guidance of Vicky Elwell, CIYT (Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher.) Other CIYT’s whom I have studied under include: Sue Salaniuk, Mary Reilly, Rebecca Lerner, Dean Lerner, and Manouso Manos. I am drawn to Iyengar yoga for its particular focus on precise alignment, focused concentration, and the infusion of intelligence throughout the body. There are many things I love about yoga in general: the integration of ancient and contemporary wisdom and practices; the breadth of focus – personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal; the ever deepening nature of yoga; and the brief, fleeting moments of spaciousness. I am honored to share this journey with you.
  • Gemma Shimpeno, RYT-200

    At the age of three, I used to dress in a pink leotard with striped leg-warmers all the way up to my bum and practice yoga with my mother. She would play an album and we would listen to this mysterious man with a smooth, calm voice guiding us through a series of yoga poses. I imagine that my mother was attempting to find a few quiet moments in her day, but I was just happy to mimic the contorted poses pictured on the album cover. Yoga didn’t enter my life again until I was pregnant with my first baby. I had earned a college degree from Edinboro University, married an amazing man, and had been working full time - jobs ranging from construction to fighting cyber crime. Although short lived, the prenatal classes helped me tremendously through the transition into motherhood. Again life swept me away and it was nearly ten years before I rediscovered yoga. Feeling out of touch with myself and just overwhelmed with life in general, I found solace by adhering to a daily yoga practice. At first my practice consisted of following along with DVD’s in my living room and then, as luck would have it, I met a wonderful and encouraging Hatha yoga instructor in my home town of Edinboro, PA. My interest in learning more about yoga became a bit of an obsession. In addition to continuing a home practice, I also participated in meditation and pranayama workshops, as well as, numerous yoga classes. Through this committed practice, I began to reconnect with life and more importantly, myself. In 2012, my husband’s career brought us to Huron, OH where I met Brian. Brian’s enthusiasm for yoga and its numerous benefits opened yet another door for me to continue pursuing yoga. I participated in classes at the studio with various teachers which lead me to Open Way Yoga’s Teacher Training Program. I have learned through the training that yoga is a journey that is available to everyone, in every stage of life. It is the binding of body, breath and mind. I find that although I have studied many different yogic styles, I am drawn to a gently restorative practice, combining the influences of ancient and modern styles of yoga. I allow participants time to get into a pose, connect with their breath, bring awareness to areas of tension and relax. I believe that in our western society, we have lost touch with the ability to manage our ever increasing stress; yoga can help us regain balance in our lives. I love to teach others about the benefits of yoga both on and off the mat.
  • Karyl Kniepper, RYT-200, Childlight Yoga Certified

    During a very stressful time in my life, I started taking yoga classes to help me relax. That was 15 years ago, and I never stopped incorporating yoga into my life. My introduction of yoga was in an Iyengar based class, but when I moved out West the yoga was different. The classes were much faster and the poses flowed together which I really loved. At the time, I worked at an adult residential mental health facility as a Rehabilitation Therapist/Art Therapist. Since yoga helped me to relax and gain greater awareness of my body, I thought it might help my patients as well. The patients were encouraged to exercise daily and usually played whiffle ball. I gave them the option of practicing yoga with me and the classes got larger and larger. My patients said they felt much more relaxed afterwards. I continued to move around in my career and eventually moved back to Ohio. When I received a position on a child psych unit, I again was able to incorporate yoga into their programming. I received a grant to take a Childlight Yoga workshop, which inspired me to take my yoga teacher training at Open Way Yoga. I really wanted more education, so I could better help my patients. During my yoga teacher training I grew greatly in my practice. I am now very pleased to be teaching at Open Way Yoga and am inspired by each teacher there. Every time I do yoga, I feel better than I did before & that is why I love it!
  • Sherrena Faye Bilgen, RYT-200

    During a very stressful time in my life I became involved with yoga at Open Way. Spending time at the studio, being around people that care for themselves and others was one of the best decisions I ever made. Learning how to relax through meditation, breath awareness, and becoming familiar with poses left me with a new found passion. Realizing the amazing benefits of yoga, I wanted to deepen my understanding and made the choice to enroll in the 200 hour teacher training offered at Open Way. Since completing the training and receiving my certification it has been my desire to help inspire practice in others. As a teacher I strive to make yoga accessible for everyone and encourage each student to grow both physically and mentally at their own pace. I always enjoy meeting and working with people and hope the passion I have for yoga will also become yours! Along with being a yoga instructor, I am also a master gardener and a managing nail technician.
  • Beverly Henderson

    Bev, Brian's mom and Queen-mother of Open Way Yoga, teaches Senior Stretch on Tuesdays. Bev has a background in education and has been practicing an eclectic mix of Tai chi, yoga and other movement forms for many years. When not practicing Tai chi you'll find her knitting, gardening, reading and walking along the lake. She can't believe she's 80 years old!
  • Elizabeth Kelley, MA, RYT-200, Cosmic Kids Yoga Teacher Training

    I began practicing yoga in 1998 when I discovered a class at Akron U. For almost as many years, I have been studying and teaching Anthropology to college students in northern and central Ohio. When I’m not encouraging my students to appreciate other worldviews, I’m busy teaching my own daughters to be compassionate, global citizens as a stay-at-home mom. In 2006, my appreciation for yoga was forever changed by motherhood. After attending my first postnatal/infant yoga class, I knew yoga would be a foundation of my own daughters’ lives – something fun and energetic, and yet still soothing and meditative. Yoga was not only a vehicle for improving the coordination and concentration of my daughters, but also for relieving childhood anxiety and restless nights through awareness of breath and guided visualization. After many years of sharing my fondness for yoga with my family (and enjoying the benefits of the practice on small minds and bodies) I decided to take the next step to bring children’s yoga to the community. I completed my teacher training with Cosmic Kids Yoga in 2014, and began offering story-based yoga at the public library.
  • Sharon Lichtcsien, RYT-200

    My first experience with yoga was an elective course at Firelands Campus in 1974. The instructor was a true guru-type and very much into meditative yoga. I practiced for several years before my life took twist and turns in a different direction. Thirteen years ago, I was reintroduced to yoga with a Vinyasa practice and several years later, when my daughter was in tenth grade, I began contemplating what my plan would be when she entered college. I asked, "What is my passion?" The answer was simple - "Yoga." I have two daily passions ~ Sobriety and Yoga ~ With one I found the mindset to find the the other. I believe yoga was and still is the cornerstone of my awakening. With 11+ years of continuous sobriety, I know yoga keeps my body, mind and soul balanced. I have combined an energizing Kundalini series with a gentle Restorative practice which will allow your inner voice to be heard and your soul to be seen. Join me as we silently explore our truth. My donation based session is for those touched by any addiction - The addict/their loved ones.
  • Keelie Webb, RYT-200

    With a background in education, visual art, and international studies, Keelie is passionate about helping others find their creative, authentic self. Her approach to yoga is one that honors self-study with the aim of listening to your body. She encourages her students to unlock their natural healing abilities and to be comfortable with their present physical and mental state. Her classes are designed with purpose, are uplifting, and offer a grounding sense of peace through a variety of asanas, meditations, and pranayama. Keelie has practiced and studied yoga & meditation since 2009. In 2014, she received her 200hr yoga teaching certification from Open Way Yoga. She has taught yoga basics, relaxation/yin-style yoga, hatha yoga, power yoga, and hot vinyasa flow classes. In addition, she has also offered yoga classes to kids of all ages and their families. Her dynamic yet soft presence will lead you through a class that is genuine and will leave you feeling rejuvenated.