Graduate Stories

Maija Poyhonen

Maija (she/her) graduated in April, 2023 with her Diploma in Yoga Therapy. She says:
“I came to yoga therapy as a way to deepen my understanding of yogic practices and the human body. After I received my 200-hour certification in 2016 and began teaching community based classes, I soon realized that there were times that I did not know how to safely support all bodies in a yoga class. I wanted to learn more about different injuries, health issues and disabilities so that I could offer classes that were truly accessible. I also wanted to learn more about yogic philosophy and how to integrate these teachings into my classes. My hope is that by including yogic teachings into my classes, students will find greater interest in yoga as a way of living instead of viewing it as just a form of exercise.


I opted to enroll in the program at Ajna because I liked the flexibility of being able to take classes at my own pace. The nice thing about this program is that I didn’t feel pressure when life got busy and I had to slow down a bit. I was able to complete the program in a way that made sense for my schedule and Jules and Michelle were super supportive of that. I work in the schools as a Speech-Language Pathologist during the week so finding a program that offered weekend classes was huge for me! Another thing that drew me to this program was the variety of courses and instructors Ajna offers. Yoga Therapy can be such a broad field and it was inspiring to be able to learn from people who were truly passionate about the topics they were teaching.
The sense of community was something that really stands out to me about this program. It was so nice to see familiar faces in the weekend modules, as well as meeting new people each weekend. The support from peers and the friendships I made were invaluable and I have continued to keep in touch with people long after the weekend modules were finished. I started this program during the pandemic and I honestly feel like the benefits I received from learning and growing in community each weekend was so positive for my mental and emotional health during that time. I truly appreciated the support the instructors gave throughout the classes as well. I felt like they really wanted to see students succeed in the program and that they utilized multiple modalities to help us fully integrate the material we were learning.


I began a business called “Talkoot Wellness” a little over a year ago. I am currently running a private practice in my hometown, offer virtual sessions and am about to start an after-school program with an at risk population. A big portion of my work has been supporting clients with mental, emotional needs and trauma. This is an area of the field that I am very interested in and will continue to further my education in. This year I am also looking to host a backpacking yoga retreat along Lake Superior as well as a fall retreat. Travel has been a big part of my life and I want to be able to share these types of experiences with others. My long-term goal for this business is to have a nature-based center where people can come stay for a few days or longer. Our world can be so busy and our days can be filled with endless tasks. I want to be able to give people the experience of slowing down, connecting to nature, taking a deep breath, and coming back home to themselves.


Connect with Maija:
Fb: @Talkoot Wellness
Insta: talkoot.wellness

Shamini Harinarayanan

Shamini (she/her) graduated in March, 2023 with her Diploma in Yoga Therapy. She says:
“Yoga therapy is a subject that first caught my interest, quite by accident, in the year 2015. I had been teaching yoga after completing my 250hour YTT in 2011 and remember thinking, ‘what’s next’? I came across the subject of Yoga Therapy while browsing the internet and I immediately knew that this was an area of study that I wanted to pursue.


I looked at many schools that was offering this program and for some reason, I kept returning to Ajna. I liked how the program was designed to give one the flexibility to either take each course individually and decide later about the Yoga Therapist Diploma program.

There is no pressure, and you can choose which workshop you wanted to do first and build on this. It was also an online program and it worked well for someone who does not live in BC. One month after enrolling in the program, I had to return to Malaysia for family reasons. Due to the time difference, I was attending classes overnight and I received so much love and care from the instructors that I knew I had made the right decision.


The compassion of the teachers and the respect given to everyone is truly appreciated. The learning platform is easy to navigate and all the materials are uploaded well in advance of each workshop as are the recordings. There is such a high level of wisdom, and everyone is highly knowledgeable and generous in their sharing.

I worked with two different mentors, Michelle, and Tanya as part of my practicum, and I would like to acknowledge both. Michelle created a safe space and guided me into realizing the areas where I excel in. She instinctively knew when I was overwhelmed and guided me to find stillness and awareness and helped me to build my confidence, both spiritually and physically. Tanya, practical, kind and full of gentle wisdom in her encouragement and positive feedback.

I highly recommend Ajna to anyone looking for a Yoga Therapy program. I truly believe it was one of the best decisions I made.


I have been lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity to practice my internship hours in a clinical setting with doctors in a medical center who have recommended patients to me who will benefit from Yoga Therapy. I hope to have more similar opportunities moving forward.

I am also blessed to have my family, both in Malaysia and in Canada who kept me motivated in my journey especially my daughter who told me that I earned my diploma across continents.

I love to refer to the following quote to give me the strength I sometimes need:
‘When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too’ – Paul Coelho

Connect with Shamini:
Linked in

Rhonda Bergquist

A few years ago, Rhonda Bergquist (she/her) was living with chronic pain and went to a pain clinic for treatment.


She had a yoga therapy session there and experienced much needed relief from her pain. This inspired her to find out how she could share yoga therapy with other people living with chronic pain.


Rhonda graduated in 2022 from Ajna with her Diploma in Yoga Therapy. She says:
“The teachers were incredible at making me feel as though I was their only participant, which is far from their reality. They supported me with understanding and compassion and the feedback/suggestions provided were incredibly thoughtful, kind and caring. The most valuable component for me were the mentorship modules within the program. That’s where the magic happened. I felt greatly supported which cultivated confidence in my thought processes within the delivery of my abilities to guide my clients toward wellness and betterment in a very safe and good way.


The entire program is put together so well into juicy attainable modules. Plus they worked thoroughly with my previous school to transfer credits. The technology that drives the program is also something of a small wonder as they make it so easy to navigate and participate in setting up your learning journey. The silver lining was that they made things happen during a tight lockdown with COVID and offered their intense teachings online where I met people from all over the globe!!


My experience goes beyond the curriculum and into personal growth and understanding of myself and others, learning boundaries, learning and owning my scope of practice and when to refer out and most importantly, when to say no.


My plan is to continue braiding what I have experienced to be three great strands of healing into the world: Yoga Therapy, Energy Healing and my Indigenous Wisdom Teachings.”

Connect with Rhonda:
instagram – @Rhondamayb


Steph Savage

Steph Savage (they/them) gradated from Ajna’s Yoga Therapy Diploma Program in July. Steph is based in Saint John, New Brunswick, where they run their own yoga therapy studio.


Steph says:
“When I completed my 200-hour training, I began searching for ways to expand my yoga knowledge. I found Yoga Therapy online and immediately started searching everything I could on the topic.

I came upon Ajna through the IAYT list of top accredited Yoga Therapy Colleges, and I was intrigued. After looking at the Ajna website, I found that our values aligned, which was important to me in a Yoga Therapy program.


I feel more vibrant today than I did decades ago and I have finally found my purpose in life. Every time I walk into the Ajna studio in Victoria and teach a class, I am so grateful for the contribution that it has made toward my mental, physical, and spiritual growth.”


My time with Ajna has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life to date. The connections and friendships I have made through this program are invaluable to me. I cannot recommend this program enough!

I am currently running my own Yoga Therapy business and studio thanks to Ajna Yoga and I feel honored to be able to share what I’ve learned with my students and my community.

Thank you Ajna for giving me the space to be who I was and the chance to grow into who I am.”


Connect with Steph:

Instagram & Facebook- @savageyogainc.

Marilee Pirie

Marilea had a busy career in the corporate world. Recognizing that there was too much stress and not enough stretch or sleep, she retired from corporate life and set out to find a new path that would support her health and spirit. She studied with Chopra Global and became a certified Instructor in Ayurveda Health, Meditation and a Well-being Coach.


She knew she was missing the cornerstone of yoga, so she researched different programs and started her studies at Ajna. Marilea loved their welcoming and therapeutic approach to yoga. Marilea says:

“It was comforting to know that you didn’t need to have a youthful dancer’s mobility to become a yoga instructor with Ajna. I also enjoyed learning about the personal journeys of other students and always felt so connected to the Ajna community. I never started out to become a Yoga Therapist, but the program was so enticing (and Jules’ mentorship and encouragement so positive), that I received my Yoga Therapist Diploma certification at the start of 2022.


I feel more vibrant today than I did decades ago and I have finally found my purpose in life. Every time I walk into the Ajna studio in Victoria and teach a class, I am so grateful for the contribution that it has made toward my mental, physical, and spiritual growth.”


Marilea (she/her) now teaches small group yoga classes – Yoga for Back-fit, BoneBody-fit, Golf-fit, MindBody-fit. She also holds private Yoga Therapy sessions (in person and online). Yoga therapy is an integral part of her wellness service offerings.


Connect with Marilea:

Isabelle Chatelain

“I just wanted to thank you all for your wisdom, guidance and for holding space so beautifully for me during this training, as well as the group teaching. I feel like so much stronger of a teacher now and have so much more confidence. Ajna has felt like the safest most compassionate yoga space I have ever been a part of. Thank you all so much ❤️” – Isabelle Chatelain


Isabelle (she/her) is one of Ajna’s most recent Yoga Therapy graduates. She is now a C-IAYT, a certified yoga therapist. Isabelle found out she was pregnant at the beginning of her yoga therapy training with Ajna. By the time she graduated, she had a 9-month old!


Learning online was important in supporting Isabelle through her training. She lives in Alberta, so she would not have been able to do the training in person in Victoria.


Getting her certification while pregnant and then with a newborn and all during COVID was a huge challenge. Isabelle credits her own yoga therapy practice, as well as the support of the students and teachers for making it through. Isabelle says, “This is the most supportive yoga community I have ever been part of. Michelle and Jules and the other faculty members were always available for support and chats. This made a huge impact on my confidence and my learning. I made close friends during the training that I know will stay in my life.”


Connect with Isabelle:

Dawn Boys

Dawn (she/her) graduated with her Yoga Therapy Diploma from Ajna in 2021. Dawn says:


“I began my journey in yoga therapy in 2005 when my children were babies. I had worked as a personal trainer, yoga teacher and assistant to physio’s, chiropractors and Occupational therapists since the late 80’s and saw the trainings as a way to weave the clinical rehab with yoga. As a certified Ayurveda wellness councillor, the combination of the modalities aligned well with Yoga Therapy too.


I found doing the yoga therapy trainings difficult to manage with a home yoga studio and family life. I chose to do the Ajna Yoga Therapy Diploma program after researching the modules, teachers and location of the College. I began driving from central BC to Victoria and diving into the curriculum with my heart and soul. Jules and Michelle were supportive of my path and made it so easy to come back and forth, sometimes weekly.


When the faculty went online I was almost half way through and had built a lovely bond with some students and teachers. As sad as it was to train at home, I was able to press on, with more time and energy conserved.


I can’t say enough of how empowering it has been to study each module in the program. This online style of learning was quickly and professional accommodated by the teaching faculty. They didn’t miss a beat to continue to provide excellent trainings. There are so many new modules being introduced that keep you wanting to come back for more!


With compassion and grace I’ve been mentored beyond my expectations. Jules was my mentor through most of my clients and continues to mentor me even though I’ve graduated from the program. Michelle held a beautiful space as a mentor in an end of life journey with a dear client. She helped me see the journey through my teaching tools with honour, compassion and respect.


Today I continue to weave my nature-based meditation, foraging & exercise practices with Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy in my community. I work alongside an end-of-life doula & care aide to provide our services in unity for life care. With my recent module in Pelvic Floor health I will be adding more home and extended care assistance and moving more into the wellness & therapy clinics in our surrounding communities. In addition, I continue to teach indoor & outdoor therapeutic yoga group classes & Aqua Yoga therapy in my residential pool.”


Connect with Dawn –

Sarah Nelsen

Sarah (she/her) lives in Portland, Oregon and is a graduate of the Ajna Yoga Therapist Diploma program. She graduated in June, 2019.


Sarah came to yoga therapy in a unique way – she saw a yoga therapist in 2009 when she was working with depression. She had read a book that mentioned yoga therapy as a way to support depression. Sarah looked at the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) website to find a local yoga therapist and started sessions with her, and became a yoga teacher with the objective of becoming a yoga therapist. Sarah says:


“It was magic. I had done a lot of different kinds of therapy before, but I always left feeling sad or angry. When I did yoga therapy, stuff came up, but then because we combined it with yoga, yoga philosophy, and rest, I left feeling better. And I thought: I need to learn how to do this so I can share it with others.


It turns out, a lot of stuff had to fall apart in order to get there. When my marriage ended in 2017, I was able to sell my condo, have a small nest egg, and leave my dog in my mom’s care.


I feel strongly there is no other yoga therapy training that would have made me feel like I was wrapped in a cocoon. I felt very held by nature when I was in Victoria studying.


Jules and Michelle and all of the instructors and all of the students (probably because they are Canadians) were all so loving and so supportive. It felt non-competitive. You all truly wanted us to do our best. I will also say the people who attend classes at the studio are also so lovely and supportive. When I did my mentorship, they were cheering me on, too.


I felt like I emerged from a cocoon, like a little butterfly self. I came home and started to set up my own yoga therapy practice. I got connected with a wellness centre to do private sessions and group classes. And then the pandemic hit, and I switched to teaching online.


2021 and 2022 have been big years for my business. In October 2021, I launched my online therapeutic yoga membership program. I use the spoon theory for chronic pain to guide people to choose the practice that works for them. And I am now back to seeing in person clients for private and group classes at the wellness centre. The clients are mostly immune-compromised so we are super careful. One of my clients thinks I’m magic. I’m able to show up for her and she feels better every time.”


Yoga therapy has come full-circle for Sarah. As a client in 2009 she felt the magic of yoga therapy. Thirteen years later, she provides that same space for her clients.


Sarah specializes in chronic illness, with a focus on pain and anxiety.

Connect with Sarah:
Homecoming therapeutic yoga membership:
Free Yoga in Bed 3-part course:
Instagram: @therapeuticyogawithsarah
Coming soon: a podcast for spoonies at the people who love them: