PROGRAM FACULTY

Emily Smith

Emily Smith

M.Ed., CRC, CCM, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

All my life I have been drawn to human services.  I began working with individuals who had disabilities when I was 19 and became a rehabilitation counselor in 1992. I started my yoga practice in 1998. At the time, I had a little baby and a 5-year-old. I needed yoga to clear my head, help with stress, and offset the pain from training. I was working as a full-time rehabilitation counselor and became a yoga teacher.

At this point, I was well aware of the pitfalls and gaps in traditional allopathic medicine. There was a pivotal time in my career when I was working with an incredible man as a counselor. I was at his side during his treatment. At this time, mind-body techniques were not even considered a valuable tool in medicine.

It seemed ludicrous that this was not part of his treatment plan or an option for anyone. The stark contrast between what was available to him for holistic healing versus my yoga students hit me hard. At the time, I was considering getting my Ph.D. to advance my career. It didn't feel right. I thought there was much I needed to learn that a typical path could not teach me. I wanted to teach the people I worked with, those suffering physically and mentally, the practice of yoga.

Since this time, I have been on the same path, converging eastern and western practices for health and wholeness at the individual and system levels. Healthcare is now looking to the wisdom practices to improve patient outcomes. This is particularly true for people who have chronic pain, substance use disorders, and lifestyle diseases. Patients are more educated and more empowered to take control of their lives and healing and are also looking at yoga for solutions.

I have served as Director of yoga therapy for 4 years and as a former accreditation team member for the International Association of Yoga Therapists. I believe the students in training now will build upon the work of early yoga therapists. They will mainstream the art and science of yoga therapy for all people of all backgrounds and abilities. It brings me so much joy to be a part of that process. I have an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counseling, am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Case Manager, and C-IAYT. I have worked as a yoga therapist for 15 years. I have also worked as a Wellness Specialist for Optum Plus 1, a division of United Healthcare. I possess additional training and certifications in plant-based nutrition, Yoga and 12 Step Recovery, iRest, Love Your Brain, SATYA, and have studied Tantric yoga for over 14 years.

I have more than 4000 hours of training in the field of yoga and yoga therapy. I honor my teachers Doug Keller, Sandra Summerfield Kozak, Rod Stryker, Donna Farhi, Richard Miller, Tias Little, and Dr. Jim Davis. If not for them, I would not be able to do what I do.

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Jenny Orona

C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

I hit the bottom of a pool at my birthday party in my late 20’s, I suffered from continuous numbness on my entire right side due to a reverse curve in my neck and compression in the lower lumbar area. For almost 10 years my back was in constant pain, no one could do anything for it other than put me into the hospital in traction and give me pain pills. Then I remember having this conversation with my dear friend who said “try Yoga”… of course I thought she had absolutely lost her mind, “Yoga” I replied what good is that going to do me, I don’t even understand that concept. I continued on with my life and with my pain. I remember one night just turning the wrong way, I knew there was no way that I was going to be upright the next day. So I woke up at 2 am in the morning got fully dressed, especially shoes cause I know that was going to be a problem, and spent the night sitting, laying, flailing about in the living room until I could call a cab to take me to my doctor's office. I had had enough.

 

Yoga Yoga was open on South Lamar, around 2000, I entered and heard a Kundalini class going on and promptly walked out. A few months later my neighbor invited me to an Ashtanga class. Reluctantly, I agreed. After a while I started to feel better, my back felt better. I was hooked.

 

I graduated in 2006 from a 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Yoga and started teaching that week. I have never looked back. My practice keeps me out of pain in my body, mind, and spirit. During my tenure at Yoga Yoga I became a senior teacher leading summer intensives and trainings in satellite locations outside of Austin as well as in Austin.

 

I met Chase Bossart during Yoga Therapy training and he blew my mind about how a practice could be tailored to bring Citkitsa, Raksana, and Siksena, that you could bring a body out of pain, heal it and maintain it and all on an individual basis. Again, I never looked back. In the process of finding a way to alleviate my physical pain I also uncovered a way to heal my own trauma. And this is why I teach. Having used these tools to release my trauma has led me to work specifically with those suffering from sexual and physical abuse. I know this works, it has worked for me. I can share my experiences, I can understand exactly where someone is in the process. Our experiences may not match, but the process is the same. Trauma affects all bodies in pretty much the same way. It is a dismantling of a dis-ease process. It is this dis-ease process that led me to Ayurveda. Together these two practices have given my body, mind, and spirit a peace I did not know before. You as me why I teach, this is why. To alleviate and create paths for others to ease their own suffering.

 

I was more than thrilled when Emily invited me to join the Practice team! I feel so honored and moved by my fellow teachers, we each bring something so different and yet the same, the path of Yoga to the training. I would not want to be anywhere else. I teach trauma-sensitive yoga, Ayurveda, and some of the subtle topics, which I can say might be my favorite. To be able to share vibrations on so many levels is quite beautiful.

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Whitney O’Baugh

C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

I had my first experience with yoga in the late 1990s. I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Theatre and Dance. While pursuing my BFA in dance, one of my professors began to introduce the principles of yoga as a means to combating the physical and emotional stress that we were under.

For the years that followed, I used yoga simply as a complement to my professional dance career. Fast forward to the birth of my first son. I have lived with depression and anxiety all of my life, but after the birth of my son, my world seemed to close in on me. I turned back to the practices that had brought me so much peace all of the years before. Later on, I decided to pursue yoga not only as a personal practice but as a means of assisting others as well.

I began mostly attracted to the physicality of yoga. If I could exhaust my body enough, then my brain would let me sleep. As I began to dive deeper into the philosophy and teachings of yoga, I began studying mindfulness and meditation. Over many years and several thousands of hours of training, I also became a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT). Today I'm pursuing a Master's of Science in Addiction Counseling as a complement to my yoga therapy certification.

The tools and practices available through yoga and mindfulness are paramount to helping those in recovery make new patterns in their lives. I am thrilled to be continuing my work as a faculty member with the Practice School of Yoga Therapy. When I'm not completing school work for my Master's or teaching in the Yoga Therapy Program you can find me walking the trails in South Austin, hanging out with my two sons and my husband, and voraciously reading books that let my mind rest.

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Dr. Sandi Russom

PT, DPT, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

My introduction to yoga and meditation began during rehearsals for a play while I was completing my bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2002.  We used movement and meditation techniques to build a deep bond among the cast members.  To my surprise, I walked away from each rehearsal feeling light and calm and noticed over the months that my anxiety and associated symptoms had been relieved.  After completing my degree, yoga became a more integral part of my daily life. I was attending bi-weekly classes at my local YMCA when I felt the call to deepen my study of yoga and share the practice with others. I soon moved to Austin and completed my Hatha Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Yoga in 2006.

While completing my initial yoga teacher certification at Yoga Yoga, Mark Uridel’s anatomy and physiology classes sparked my interest in learning more about human form and function. This spark led me to become a massage therapist in 2008 which did not satisfy my desire to know more about the western therapeutic approach but instead lit a fire that ushered me down the long path to becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy in 2016.

I truly went to physical therapy school to become a better yoga therapist. Yoga therapy is the original holistic approach to healing because the practice of yoga inherently addresses imbalances in the body, mind, and spirit. This was my experience as a young undergraduate student rehearsing for a play who suddenly noticed her panic attacks were better. And I am reminded of this truth each time I see the surprise behind someone’s eyes when their suffering has been reduced through the practice of yoga.

I predominately teach classes on anatomy, physiology, and health conditions in Practice Yoga’s School of Yoga Therapy because of my experience as a physical therapist as well as a yoga therapist. However, regardless of which therapist hat I am wearing, my professional approach to therapy marries ancient yoga practices and philosophy with the western therapeutic approach to create effective tools for bringing balance and optimal health to my clients and patients. As a therapist and teacher, I strive to empower people to access their inner guide and the healing powers within themselves to not only heal themselves but to spread healing to others.

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Dr. Mark Uridel

DPT, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

I began my yoga journey in 1985. I was an amateur runner and was very tight from 13  years of training 5-10 miles a day and competitive running. I took my first yoga class at the Town Lake YMCA with Peggy Kelly, an Iyengar teacher.  I liked the slow stretching, the attention to detail, the mindfulness, and I sensed a  spiritual dimension. I was hooked.

I began taking regular classes and ended up meeting my future wife in a yoga class.  Gloria and I liked yoga so much we traveled around the country to yoga retreats and conferences and we became Certified Yoga Teachers with Doug Swenson in Lake  Tahoe in 2000. My first teaching gig was for Yoga Yoga in Austin. It was here that I  gained experience and insight. Because of my Physical Therapy background in anatomy and my teaching skills, I helped them develop their yoga teacher training program in 2001.

Along my journey, I got my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, became a Certified Yoga  Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and an  Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level. As of last year, I have taught over 5000 hours of yoga classes and courses.

Over the years at Yoga Yoga I became a senior teacher and taught not only anatomy and kinesiology, but mantra, mudra, pranayama, and philosophy.

When Yoga Yoga started their Yoga Therapy program, I was right there teaching the advanced anatomy, kinesiology, and therapeutic aspects of yoga.

I have found that yoga therapy is the art and science of holistic healing. Not just physical, but mental and spiritual. This is why I was so drawn to yoga.  My professional mission is to empower my students and patients to have optimal wellness on all levels.

When Emily invited me to teach at Practice Yoga Therapy, I said, emphatically, "Yes!"  Now, I am teaching advanced anatomy, kinesiology, yoga sutras philosophy, and therapeutic adaptation for the Yoga Therapy program at Practice Yoga. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing team.

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Shanti Kelley

MSP., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

I was born Shanti Nicole, my father being in seminary school and getting his Masters in world religions liked the word and the meaning. I guess it was all circumstance from there. I traveled a lot as a young person, saw a lot of things. By 15 I was inducted into the Suzuki Roshi method of Zen practice and studied under this austerity for many years.

By the time a friend suggested I join her for a yoga class, I was 20 years old. I needed a change but didn't know it. Upon returning home I enrolled in yoga at the local Community College. This began the next 7 years of study with the most groovy and seasoned Yoga and Thai Chi master named Swami Budhaprem. After 4 years of practice and dedicated studentship, he gave me a certificate to teach in the Indra Devi system of Elemental Yoga. What I learned there, I still teach to this day.

I’ve been gifted with amazing teachers that all had the same thing in common: they somehow took me, through the modality of yoga and inquiry, into ever-deepening layers of healing and awakening. My path became one of study/studentship: 500hr Smartflow Teacher certification, Masters in Spiritual Psychology, Restorative Yoga training, Integrative Restoration Practitioner training, anatomy trainer for yoga teachers and authoring my own book on anatomy and kinesiology as a tool for inquiry and insight, until finally landing in the Yoga Therapy Professional program. All of these pieces helped me put together what would become my understanding of the living context of yoga for wellness which includes mind, body, and spirit.

Today, 28 years after that first yoga class, I am a faculty staff member for the Practice School of Yoga Therapy for which I teach several units on Yoga Therapy perspectives for subtle body and wellness. Interestingly enough I have landed in the synthesis of all my work, a love for philosophy, spirituality, and this body as a metaphor for the insight that returns us again and again to our wholeness. I am also currently back in school, continuing as a lifelong learner, for my second Master's and licensure in Counseling Psychology.

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Jenn Wooten

C-IAYT, E-RYT 200, YACEP

I've been exploring the practices and path of yoga for over 20 years. My commitment to practice deepened when I realized that yoga made me feel far less erratic and much saner. I eventually turned that commitment to my own care and growth into a commitment to support others through their own journey of growth and healing. I have found that my life is better lived when I can be in the service of others. I have delved into the study of stress, trauma, and the nervous system for over a decade which I bring to the yoga therapy program. I have studied in Somatic Experiencing touch modalities, Trauma Release Exercises, resilience tools building for those with complex trauma, and yoga for social justice. My own experiences with chronic pain have led me to study the effect of trauma on the body and how chronic pain can be addressed by working with the nervous system and the myofascial system of the body.

 

I love helping students learn to respond more skillfully to life’s stressors so they can live more courageously in pursuit of their dreams.

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Kat Scherer

PhD, MFT, C-IAYT

I am a faculty member of the Practice School of Yoga Therapy and a Psychologist in private practice. At the school, I teach about the intersection of yoga therapy and psychology, focusing on the role of psychology in yoga therapy.  As a psychologist, I also teach classes on mindfulness, social-emotional development, neurobiology, and relational attachments in various settings including universities, professional conferences, community centers, and schools.

I started practicing yoga when I was young - attending yoga classes with my mother. Over the past 50 years, I have learned that yoga is an essential part of my physical and mental well-being. Mind and body are not separate entities. I began integrating mindful meditations into my work as a therapist before I heard about yoga therapy. Once I heard about it, I was hooked. During my yoga therapy training, I learned the amazing depth and breadth of yoga - and it’s value as a movement practice, meditation practice, and a philosophical guide.

Yoga Therapy, both teachings and practice, have strengthened my life and work. The healing practices within yoga are invaluable to my work as a mental health provider. I no longer see them as separate areas. Yoga informs my therapy and psychology informs my yoga. I find that the most rewarding part of yoga is also the most difficult part of yoga, honest reflection and accountability in one’s life, work, and relationships. May your yoga journey also be exciting and fulfilling. I hope to see you in class.