Instructors

At Open Way Yoga, we strive to bring you the best teachers in the area.  One thing is for sure, OWY teachers love yoga and are passionate about sharing!

  • Brian Henderson, OWY Co-Owner, 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, OWY Co-Owner, 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 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 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 dissolve the illusive barrier between mind and body and 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, OWY Lead Teacher, 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!
  • Keelie Webb, OWY Lead Teacher, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jamie Bishop, RYT-200

    Jamie Bishop (RYT-200) At age 15 I started studying Sivananda yoga and from there I expanded my studies to include Iyengar, Yin and other yoga styles (it's really a never ending journey of knowledge.) I have my RYT-200 certification and continue to attend classes and expand my studies alongside may own daily practice. (I just finished Embodied Philosophy's: A Brief History in Yoga! Awesome!) I teach from the heart for each and every class, applying my studies along with a sensitive assessment of what the student and the day demand. All levels of practitioners are welcome, from beginners to advanced. Variations and modifications are used when needed. My goal is to guide you through a loving and aware practice. See you in class!
  • Beverly Henderson. RYT-200

    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!
  • Valerie Parker, RYT-200

    Valerie completed her teacher training at OWY in 2016.
  • John Rogers, RYT-200

    For most of my adult life I've been devoted to paddle sports (mostly sea kayaking). So, a couple of years ago when I started attending yoga classes at Open Way I quickly realized that practicing yoga would most likely improve my 3-dimensional kayaking skills. Brian introduced me to the idea that the Teacher Training Class would be a great way to advance my knowledge of yoga and improve my practice. He was right. What I learned about movement with breath, the fluidity of transitioning from pose to pose, and the stillness of long held poses was amazing. Even though I completed the Teacher Training, I still prefer to attend yoga classes taught by others. However, teaching an occasional class provides structure to my home practice, and motivates me to continue improving. And, my kayak eskimo roll skills are getting more bombproof. Picture of John doing yoga at OWY teacher training by Autumn Thomas
  • Sharon Lichtcsien, RYT-200

    I was first introduced to yoga in 1974 and began my formal training in 2010 at Oberlin's Solaluna Yoga Studio. My practice is a relaxing ‘Energy Rising’ session with a blend of gentle motions that wake up our Chakras - natural energy spaces - followed by the playing of crystal bowls and/or gong. I have studied with a wide range of yogic teachers including internationally known Sri Dharma Mittra, Cyndi Lee, Tommy Rosen, Nikki Myers, Durga Leela, Rolf Gates, Sukhdev Jackson, Kia Miller, Allison West, Normandi Keith and Elana Brower. Each teacher shows me a new path of self-discovery.
  • Julie Campbell, RYT-200

    For me yoga was LOVE at first class. While living in NYC, following my fashion designer dreams, I stumbled on a yoga school in the Village. They had a beginner series so I thought I would check it out. The whole experience was wonderful and I felt amazing after class. I wanted to do yoga every day and did as much as my paycheck would allow. After returning to Ohio, I searched to find yoga here. I got some videos and found some classes, but they just didn’t have the same effect……Until I found Open Way Yoga, where I found “real yoga” as well as a community of yogis that are open and welcoming. (A little different than NYC!) For four years I have had a regular studio practice and I completed OWY's Teacher Training in 2017. As a teacher I want to share my love of yoga and inspire students to find some space and peace in their bodies as well as their minds.
  • Julie Huntley, BA, RYT-200

    I was introduced to yoga in the late 80’s after being involved in a terrible car accident. I sustained serious injuries that required many months of physical therapy. At the end of my care my doctor sat me down to discuss pain management options for going forward. One of his suggestions was yoga. He suggested that it would not only help me to regain my strength and flexibility, but also help ease the anxiety I was having about getting behind the wheel again. I started out with yoga video tapes and within a couple of years moved on from that and started taking weekly yoga classes offered through the American Yoga Association. The instructor was amazing and I got so much more out of the classroom instruction. I loved the yoga philosophy I was learning, the breathing techniques we were doing, and relished the seated meditation! Looking to deepen my home yoga practice, I completed OWY's teacher training in 2016. Yoga is my way of life. I study yogic philosophy, maintain a home practice and meditate daily. My home practice is deeply personal to me and where I connect with my higher power expressing gratitude for my life. Although I love teaching, you will still find me in classes practicing as a life-long student. It is my intention as a teacher to help you grow in your own yoga practice. Join me in class where we will explore poses, match breath with movement, work with our chakra energies and colors, and sit in meditation where we can just “be.” I practice and teach Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga. Namaste.
  • Kara Myers, RYT-200

    I started doing yoga shortly after my daughter was born. My practice at that time was random Youtube videos in between weights and running. Eventually, I phased out the other workouts and just did yoga everday. At first, yoga was nothing more than a fun and unique way to challenge my body as I tried to achieve fancy poses, but over time my mat became more of my safe haven. I was having these intense emotional releases after practice as I unknowingly began using yoga practice for much more than strength. I found a safe place to process and work through past traumas and compounding stress. When life felt overwhelming, I would tell myself all I had to do that day was just make it to my mat and do my practice. I ventured out and took classes searching for a way to understand the life of my practice. I wanted to learn about all the subtle, and not so subtle, inner workings of my mind, body, and soul. Classes just weren't quite hitting the level of immersion I was looking for so I decided to take a leap of faith and enroll in OWY's teacher training. After graduating, I realized it was everything I needed at the time I needed it. My goal as a teacher is to create fun and challenging classes, but more so, to give the gift that was given to me: a safe place to let it all go.
  • Erin Percy, RYT-200

    As it always seems to happen, yoga came into my life at the perfect time, when I needed it most. I was in a place of indescribable grief, pain and suffering. In May of 2016, my little brother was killed in a horrific accident. It rocked my world but I was managing, somehow, to function and keep moving. Then in September, a mere three months later, I found my twin brother overdosed in the apartment I shared with him. I can not begin to describe this trauma other than to say I experienced complete devastation. To lose two brothers in such a short time, one of them a twin, with whom I shared a bond both ancient and deep. I was incapacitated. I could not function. The numbing sadness coupled with a haunting PTSD consumed my every moment. I moved to Ohio about four months after losing the boys. I was despondent and withdrawn. I drank myself to sleep every night but nothing eased my pain. I became violent and was fearful of hurting myself. I didn't know what to do. My mother suggested yoga, and I was out of options, I had to try something. My first class was with Valerie. I made it through somehow and in sivasana I had a beautiful and deep release. Hot steamy tears ran down my face in rivers. Something clicked. I came the next day, and the next. I cried gently every single class for at least 6 months. I didn't feel the need to define it, whatever it was, it was helping. Shannon and Brian offered me the front desk position at Open Way, and I was already enrolled in their teacher training program. I loved talking with all of our students and getting to know them, there is always so much love filling OWY. Very slowly I began to experience joy in the moment. My physical practice gave me something to focus on, it was fun and challenging. The philosophy and more esoteric teachings helped to start piece my heart back together. I honestly don't know where I'd be without Open Way, but I suppose that's the whole point, we're always exactly where we're supposed to be. Once I started teaching I knew it was absolutely right. To be able to help others heal and grow (together, for I am always a student) was magic for me. We all suffer, but we also all love. We are all broken, and also perfect. This is what yoga has brought to my life. This understanding and acceptance to BE. I am profoundly grateful to be surrounded by such powerful teachers, and also so inspired by all of our dedicated students.
  • Patricia, Hecker, RYT-200

    I did not seek yoga, but yoga came to me. After I graduated college and entered the workforce, I hit the ground running. I worked 2 full-time jobs and filled every ounce of my waking time doing something... anything. I craved energy and my life looked like chaos. I spent most my time tending and caring for others and paying little attention to my own needs. When I wasn’t working I was lifting heavy weights in the gym or participating in aerial arts classes. The more muscle I gained in the gym, the less flexible I was for my circus-like activities. Unwilling to give up either, I searched for a way to stretch my fatigued body and gain flexibility or at least maintain my current range of motion. This is why I first stepped into a yoga studio. My body required something, little did I know that it would be my mind and my soul that would flourish. The first class I attended was after completing a 14-hour night shift at the local children’s hospital. Mentally, I was tired, but I knew if I didn’t go then I’d find other ways to fill my time and I’d continue to find excuses not to go. During the class I felt lost and uneasy. I watched the other students because I didn’t understand the terminology and I could barely hear the instructor over the music. I wasn’t graceful moving from one pose to another and my body shook as I tried to hold longer poses. Yet, most everyone around me looked completely comfortable while I struggled. My mind raced from thought to thought, constantly judging myself. I honestly wanted class to end and was ready to say that yoga wasn’t my cup of tea, I mean, come on, I was a coffee fanatic. Then came savasana, silence and complete stillness in a room full of strangers. Again, not my comfort zone. However, after hours on the mat (okay it was probably a few minutes) I gave in. My breath slowed, my body relaxed, and my mind was at peace. I experience a moment of pure bliss in my soul that I had not experience before, or maybe I had, but was too busy to acknowledge it. My life didn’t slow down, but I carved out more time for yoga. The more I practiced and became comfortable with the physical poses I started seeking different teachers in different studios teaching different styles. I became curious and this curiosity has driven my yogic journey. Eventually, events caused a significant change in my life and I uprooted from the Hocking Hills area and transplanted to the Lake Erie shore. With this change, I decided to take a chance to slow down and be less concerned with “success” and spend a little more time being “selfish”. I spent my free time doing more of what made me happy. After reading the Open Way Yoga teacher training description, I decided that I wanted to learn more about other aspects of yoga. I obtained my RYT-200 and teach a variety of yoga styles including hatha, vinyasa, restorative, power, and chair yoga to all levels of students. I learned to embrace both stillness and movement. I discovered the meditative state that occurred when the breath and the body connect. But most important, I learned the beauty of the journey that each and every person travels. My classes focus on helping individuals find proper body ailment to give each student a better sense of balance and build a strong base for them to continue their growth along their yogic journey. We may not be aware of what we need, but what we need finds us.
  • Andrea Petersen, RYT-200, LMT and Massage Instructor

    I was taught meditation from preschool age by my mother and introduced to Sivananda yoga by my father around age 8. I found a copy of "Be a Frog, a Bird, or a Tree" when I was 10 at a small health food store in Oregon with my Dad and he bought it for me. I spent the next few years learning from that book, dancing ballet at home, and practicing Sivananda Yoga when I was with my dad in the summers. Yogic and other spiritual philosophies were always a big part of my childhood and I'm lucky and thankful for that unique upbringing. When our daughter was born I was exhausted (as you are) and discovered a Richard Hittleman yoga VHS at the library. It was very much the old school yoga I was familiar with! So, I did a twice a day yoga practice to stay balanced as a full-time working mother and wife. In 2001, I started massage school and became licensed. I found anatomy endlessly fascinating. I love soft-tissue rehabilitation and solving the puzzles of clients' bodies, especially when more traditional avenues have not been successful in helping someone find relief. I bring all the yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques I've learned in my life to my massage table, and my 15 years of bodywork experience informs how I approach my own yoga practice (how could it not?!). I teach the yoga I practice and I'm so grateful that anyone chooses to come practice with me each time I teach a class! When not doing massage or yoga, you can find me listening to the Grateful Dead, knitting, and consuming questionable fantasy/sci-fi in any format I can get my hands on :) I'm so happy to be part of this amazing community!