Irina Walton, 200CYT.
I was born and raised in Russia and came to this country to study language about 7 years ago. Yoga has been an old passion of mine and, finally, I have a chance to share the beauty and healing properties of this ancient practice with others.
My first encounter with Downward Facing Dog was at the age of 5. I was rapidly developing asthma and couldn't take on any more medicine. So, my Mom, after trying pretty much every massage technique and herb under the sun to relieve my symptoms, came across an old binder on a shelf. It became my first yoga manual and my Mom - my first yoga teacher.
All that I remember, now, from my first practice is that I thought it was a lot of fun to pretend being a Cat, or a Fish, or a Bridge, and also that there was lots and lots of breathing…(now I know that I was doing Pranayama). Over time regular practice healed my lungs, increased my immune system, and I just became a much healthier kid. Since that early age, I held the memories of my first yoga practice dear to my heart. Only about 17 years later I came back to the regular yoga practice in order to unwind, release built up stress, and just stretch out those tight muscles of mine. I remember walking out of my first ‘official’ yoga class 10 years ago with a deep feeling of relaxation, warmth, and peace radiating out of me, thinking: Yoga Feels Good! Yoga has been my passion since then.
In 2013, I decided to share my passion for yoga with others and completed my first 200HR teacher training program in Power Vinyasa. My training was led by a wonderful teacher and lifetime yogi, Tamal Dodge. From my personal practice over the last 11 years, I grew to understand why it is that Yoga “feels so good and so right”. It is awareness of how I am truly feeling, of what I really am and then, awareness of the Right Now, the Present Moment, the only moment we are actually living in. Yoga is not just a physically arduous practice of acrobatic handstands, extreme back-bends, and pretzel-like twists which keep us in shape. Yoga is a practice of Love, Acceptance, Respect, Awareness. Yoga unites Body with Mind, and Mind with Spirit, so as to know the essential, absolute, authentic Self.
I believe that it is very important to help a student understand how to love, accept, respect and listen to their own bodies on the mat. In order to say "I love you" to another person we need to be able to say "I love you" to ourselves first... The only true guide is not an instructor who leads the class, but our own heart. In yoga we concentrate on our breathing and it slows down the fluctuations of our consciousness, turning full attention inwards. In this undisturbed, balanced state we are able to reconnect with that quiet space deep inside the heart where we all know who we truly are, and then act from that sacred space of the Authentic Self.
Physical yoga practice can be very challenging and can be also lots of fun, but what truly makes us healthier doesn't have much to do with touching the toes or folding the body in a gorgeous pretzel. It has much more to do with the ability to engage the entire body in healthy breathing, while freeing the mind to focus without anxiety or distraction on anything it actually needs to do in order to heal. My mission for each class is to not only help a student safely and gradually build a strong, flexible and well balanced Body, but help develop a strong, flexible and well balanced Spirit as well.
Yoga is challenging body to strengthen, mind to be quiet and rest, and heart to open to all the love and joy around us. It feels wonderful!
Joanna Elkhoury, 200CYT
Joanna Elkhoury’s serious journey with Yoga started in 2005 when she had her first baby. She needed a something to help her cope with the stresses of a corporate job, as well as lack of sleep. An introducYoga became her sanctuary, and her tool for balance, clarity and strength. In 2011 she decided to quit her job and follow what triggers her passion. She enrolled in a 200 Hour Yoga teacher training with Yoga of India under the guidance of Mike Noury and received her certification with Yoga Alliance in March 2012. Ever since, she’s been teaching Yoga and meditation all over north metro Atlanta.
Joanna teaches the way she practices. Inspired by many teachers and styles, her style in yoga is very fluid and intuitive. Her classes focus on alignment and connection with the body and breath, while at the same time build strength and stamina. Focusing on all the aspects that constitute a Yoga practice: Asana, Pranayama, Meditation etc... Her goal is to help the students learn the system in a way that they can take the lessons they learn on the mat, and use them in all aspects of their lives. Along with her passion for Yoga, Joanna has discovered an equal passion for energy healing. She’s been extensively trained in Pranic Healing since 2010 and is a certified Usui Reiki Master. The knowledge that she amassed from her energy healing practices brings in a very unique perspective and understanding of the unseen layers that constitute the Yoga experience. She often shares a lot of that knowledge with her Yoga students, guiding them on their own Yoga journey.
Yoga has been Joanna’s tool to ground and grow for over 10 years. It has been her companion as a wife, mother of two boys, as a friend, and as a teacher. In short, it made her discover her essence helped her clear the clutter in her mind and connect with her INNER POWER. Her passion is to share this tool with the world!