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, E-RYT-200

    I was first introduced to the world of yoga through mindfulness, and then through dance and movement. Since 2009 I have been practicing and studying the eight limbs of yoga and a variety of meditation styles--but really I've been studying much longer through the basic power of observation. I have discovered that the path of yoga presents itself to us far before we realize its' presence. For me, yoga is connection, yoga is breath, yoga is a deep and sincere process of inner and outer looking. At my core, I am an artist and a teacher. I have a b.s. in early childhood education, m.a. in cross-cultural and international education, a Montessori certification and a 200hr certification through Open Way Yoga. In 2016 I was accepted into the Insight Yoga Institute (moving slowly but steadily through 500 more training hours) and have been studying with Sarah Powers, Paul Grilley, Bernie Clark and Maty Ezraty. I chose this path because of my interest in psychology, buddhism, and functional anatomy. Yoga presents a constant learning opportunity: how to sit, how to move, how to improve posture and relationships, how to love yourself and how to be a part of a supportive community. The reason that yoga has become such an integral part of my life is because of the healing I have experienced in my body, mind and soul. Most importantly, I learned how to breathe, which has helped me cope with anxiety, loneliness, depression and grief. My yoga style blends a yin sequence of floor poses with traditional alignment-based yang practices, influenced primarily by Yin, Ashtanga, Kundalini, my teachers, scientific research, and personal experience. I teach from my heart and I follow my intuition in each and every class. In 2015, I created the Instagram handle @MindfulAsana to connect my life and practice with my teaching. My passion is to encourage myself and my students to bring more mindfulness to asana pactice, to know the heart-mind, and to live authentically.
  • Mary Reese Folger, CIYT (Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher), RYT-200

    My first experience of yoga was in the mid 70’s. I acquired one of those vintage paperbacks and taught myself some poses; I particularly remember cobra, lotus, and headstand! 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 Open Way Yoga Teacher Training and in October 2018 I passed the Introductory I/II assessment and became a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. I am drawn to Iyengar yoga for its particular focus on precise alignment, focused concentration, and the infusion of intelligence throughout the body. From an Iyengar yoga perspective, we learn the shape of the pose, but then we also learn what actions to make in the muscles and how to coordinate movement with breath so that the posture has vitality and a sense of direction. Iyengar yoga is also characterized by attention to sequencing within each class and from class to class. Props are often used to make a pose more attainable, to enable one to continue to practice while experiencing various health conditions, and to explore poses in more depth. Yoga is a powerful and sophisticated discipline which can be practiced at all stages of life. 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.
  • 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

    Credentials B.S. in Ed Bowling Green State University MEd – Literacy Ashland University Master of Food and Nutrition Bowling Green State University Registered Dietitian Nutritionist RDN Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist LDN Licensure in Ohio Certified Personal Trainer CPT The Cooper Institute – Dallas Texas RYT 200 Open-Way Yoga Shake Your Soul: the Yoga of Dance Leven Institute for Expressive Movement / Kripalu Stockbridge Mass.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Kelly Rose Kuhl

    An Ashtanga Yoga practitioner off and on for almost 20 years, I received my Yoga Alliance Teaching Certificate in 2007. I studied with Tim Miller, Rodney Yee, Maty Ezraty, David Swenson among others. My primary teacher was Martha Marcom at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio. In my class, you will find an approachable style, with teaching and hands-on tailored to each individual student.
  • Jamie Fitzgerald, RYT-200

    It was my curiosity that brought me to my first yoga class. I had always wanted to try it and see what is was all about – so I talked my neighbor into going to a class with me. It was not what I had expected at all and my curiosity kept growing! I continued to go to class, but the problem was that I had to travel a ways away until I found out a yoga studio was coming close to my home! I was thrilled! So, for the next 3 months I took as many classes as I could – the curiosity became more of an obsession so to speak. I just couldn’t get enough. I always thought yoga was for “flexible people” and all these other things, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just as I was really starting to get into basic yoga poses and some of the terminology, our teacher informed us that she was moving out of state! I was devastated! What was I going to do and where was I going to go now? She had just completed Teacher Training at Open Way Yoga – she asked me if I had ever gone to class there…I told her that I had not, and she encouraged me to attend a class and suggested that I get into the Teacher Training. I thought she was absolutely crazy! To make a long story short – I started attending classes at Open Way and saw they were just getting ready to start 2017-2018 Teacher Training – the next thing I knew I was signed up ready to go. All sorts of things ran through my mind and I began to really convince myself that I had made a huge mistake. After a lot of encouragement and support from my husband and 3 grown kids – I became a certified 200 RYT yoga instructor a few months after my 50th birthday and I have not one single regret! It was my teacher’s (Brian and Shannon) subtle messages and quiet whisperings of the spiritual side of yoga, the philosophy, mantras, meditation and mudras that “called” to me – Yoga felt like home. My yoga offerings are simply to share my passion with everyone. I encourage the use of props to bring the pose to your body. I will always be a student to the practice and I’m thrilled to be a part of this awesome Open Way Yoga family!
  • Emily Perry, RYT-200

    I first tried yoga 20 years ago, looking to calm anxiety and get some kind of exercise that didn’t involve team contact sports or running. I started out practicing with VHS tapes. The poses felt foreign and awkward, and as an already self-conscious teenager, the last thing I wanted to do was sit with more discomfort. Still, I remained interested in the practice and came back to it every few years, each time with a greater capacity for the mental and physical sensations it evoked. I’ve never had a body type that most people would describe as a “yoga body.” My weight kept me from seriously pursuing yoga for many years, not just because I felt self-conscious practicing in front of others, but also because many poses were difficult or impossible due to my size. In 2013, I took a series of Big Body Yoga workshops, which started to convince me that I didn’t have to “fix” my body before I could enjoy and benefit from the practice. Around that same time, seeing how unhappy I was with my life in general, my work supervisor asked me: “If you could do anything and money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?” Without thinking, I blurted out, “I just want to be a yoga teacher.” Not much changed for three years, until the sudden loss of my dad, mounting health problems, and feelings of failure and isolation brought me to rock bottom - and an awakening of sorts - in late 2016. I realized I no longer cared whether I lived or died. That realization liberated me, because it didn’t matter what I did, and therefore I could do whatever I wanted. Over the following months, I overhauled my lifestyle, demonstrably improving my health and outlook on life. In late 2017, I started looking for yoga teacher training programs near me and was surprised to find Open Way Yoga five miles from my childhood home. The mentorship and community I found at OWY - especially during the 200-hour teacher training - have fortified and inspired me, ultimately confirming that my instincts were right all those years ago. I’m interested not just in sharing accessible asana, but in challenging stereotypes and counteracting the many barriers to health that people face. I will always consider myself a student first. I might sometimes be the one leading the practice, but we’re all just figuring it out together.
  • Tonia Copsey, RYT-200, MSN, ANP-C, CWOCN

    Yoga has been a part of my life in various ways since I was 16. I started attending classes with my aunt as a way to pass time while my twin sister was bowling on a league with my mother. I had no idea how much I would grow to look forward to those weekly classes. I loved listening to the teacher explain how to breathe; breathe in and let your belly expand like a hot air balloon rising in the sky. I still think of that explanation every time I take deep inhalations during my practice. Fast forward to 2016 when yoga again came into my life but this time in a very different way. On September 3 of 2016 my life changed in a heartbeat or maybe rather I should say that it changed due to the lack of one. One minute I was getting ready to spend the Labor Day weekend with my family and the next minute, I was being life flighted to Toledo for 3rd degree heart block. I ultimately ended up having a pacemaker implanted that night and was sent home the next day. My mind was reeling. I was terrified to sleep, because maybe I wouldn't wake up. I was anxious all the time and I was in physical pain. I was given no reason why my heart decided to go into a complete block; all tests were completely normal. I was in no way prepared to deal with the feelings and emotions that would follow me. I needed an outlet to clear my mind of all the clutter that built up from the constant fear and uncertainty that I carried. I needed a physical outlet to relax the muscles in my body that were so tense from being scared and on edge all the time. Lastly, I needed to accept my new physical appearance and limitations that resulted from surgery. I searched my phone for yoga apps and started to practice nightly since that is when I needed to clear my mind in order to sleep. I also came across Happy Yoga with Sarah Starr on public TV (chair yoga which was great for me since I couldn't yet perform most poses that required upper body strength due to my physical restrictions). Between chair yoga and phone apps, I had built a nice home practice and gained an improved quality of life. I stopped wondering why this had happened to me and accepted the fact that I am still here on this earth for a reason. I also started to slowly welcome the new me (mind, body and spirit). I have always been the person who enjoys caring for other people and yoga gives me the opportunity to care for myself. I studied to be a yoga instructor to help people in ways that heal the body but above all heals the mind. When I'm not practicing yoga you will find me caring for patients as a Nurse Practitioner, crafting, baking, and enjoying time on the water in Port Clinton with my husband. I hope you join me, my perfectly flawed self, for an awesome journey in self-care. What does yoga mean to me? Simply stated by Patanjali. "Yoga is the Practice of Quieting the Mind"
  • Gina McCready, RYT-200

    “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” The Byrds. Yoga came into my life just as the song states. Exercise has always been an important part of my life, both for staying fit and managing stress and anxiety. We all have times of great stress in our lives. I was caring for everyone and fixing everyone but myself! I was very fortunate to stumble upon a class and an instructor, outside of a studio, to begin my practice in a place of comfort for me. This in turn, lead me to Open Way Yoga. Upon entering this space, I felt welcomed, comfortable and accepted as I am! I continued my practice strong, even though it was very hard for me. Instinctively, I knew there was something there that I needed to plug into! After I was able to feel comfortable with the poses, I began to listen. I listened to my body and I listened to the philosophy of yoga! I believe this is what kept me coming 3-5 times a week. I was transforming in subtle ways that were making me feel better about myself and my body. After 2 years of practice, I was asked to consider teacher training. I trusted my instinct again even though I was fearful. I committed to learning more so I could share my experience with others. Teacher Training was life changing for me! Outside of the studio, I was born and raised on the East Coast. I have lived in Huron with my family now for 26 years. I have 3 young adult children, each one making their way in this world with my support. . My faith is a strong part of me and has carried me through on my journey. I have been a Radiation Therapist for 35 years, caring for those in health crisis. All of this makes me who I am, a healer by heart! I will teach All Level Yoga making yoga accessible to the beginner as well as challenging for those students wanting a deeper practice. I will incorporate all that Yoga has taught me through asana, pranayama and philosophy. I am eager and humbled to be a part of the Team at OWY, and to share the gift that Hatha Yoga has brought me!
  • Nikki Schafer

    My personal yoga journey started about 5 years ago. I would join a friend for the occasional class at a studio in Cleveland where the classes were challenging and I was eager to match the skill of the people practicing around me. When I found the Open Way-Huron studio, I began attending regular classes and practicing the bits I could remember at home. As life and work became more stressful and demanding, I turned to yoga as a way to quiet my anxious, self-sabotaging thoughts. I felt disconnected from my body and further away from my true self than ever before. Slowly, I began to really take notice of how my body felt in the poses, and not worry so much about how I compared to the people around me. I was fully immersed in the practice and what was happening on my mat. I feel grateful to have attended a series of Dharma Mittra classes led by the wonderful and inspiring, Jen Divis. This was the first time I realized there were more layers to yoga, other than the asana practice. One evening before class, Brian casually asked if I had ever considered enrolling in the YTT. I quickly brushed off his suggestion, but the seed was planted in my mind. A few months later, I pushed aside my fear and self doubt and enrolled. The teacher training led by Shannon and Brian was hands down one of the best choices I made to continue my personal growth. I completed the training in April 2018 and since then, I’ve taken time to recharge and reconnect with my personal practice. Teaching yoga did not immediately appeal to me. I’m a fairly shy and introverted person that often prefers to blend in. After a year of working through mental, physical and emotional barriers that left me feeling drained and limited, I’m ready to deepen my practice further by guiding others on their yoga journey. I am drawn to challenging poses that help quiet my ongoing inner dialogue, followed by long, meditative holds to sit with whatever thoughts/feelings that might arise. I’m grateful and very excited to be part of this ever growing yoga community & I look forward to joining you on the mat!