Ajna Yoga Teacher Training Faculty
Jules Payne: Director, Co-Founder, Primary Instructor, ERYT-500, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
“I began practicing yoga with the idea that it would make me stronger. Yoga did help my strength, but it also helped me slow down to live a happier life. As I learned more about yoga, I discovered other therapeutic benefits that have helped me with a life-long struggle with insomnia and anxiety, as well as back pain from scoliosis. I was inspired by these discoveries to pursue an education in Yoga Therapy. My practice has supported me through divorce, single parenting, and recurrent pregnancy loss.”
Jules has been training teachers of yoga since 2004 and co-founded Ajna Yoga with Michelle Schroeder in 2008. Her own training is in Vijnana, Anusara, Ashtanga, and Integrative Yoga Therapy. As a Jewish queer woman, Jules is committed to supporting diversity, equity and accessibility at Ajna. Jules lives with her family in Victoria, BC.
In her teaching, Jules is most interested in connecting people with the therapeutic aspects of yoga—guiding people to their own internal source of calm through movement, breath, and meditation. Her classes combine awareness of alignment, breath, and a sense of play. Jules teaches backcare yoga, yoga for healthy aging, yoga therapy for hips and shoulders, chair- yoga, and sees clients for private yoga-therapy sessions.
Jules has a heart-centered approach to teaching, rooted in compassion. In training new teachers and yoga therapists she provides a strong foundation in philosophy, anatomy, and alignment variations. With this full ‘toolbox’ of knowledge, new teachers and yoga therapists have the freedom to find their own voice and own style of teaching. Jules is the Director of Ajna and a lead faculty member.
Michelle Schroeder: Co-Founder and Primary Instructor ERYT-500, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
“Yoga has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. Since my early childhood I have felt a real calling to the postures and just sitting. Yoga has helped guide me in my life and allowed me to stay focused on my path when I have needed it the most. I feel very grateful for the gift of yoga and the path of self discovery that has come about so far. I feel very blessed to be sharing this experience with Jules and the students that come to explore with us. The path of yoga leads us to the sacred connection of our true self and the divine energy of the universe. May you stay true to your path and follow your heart. Namaste.”
Michelle completed her certification through the Chakra yoga center in July 2000 and has been teaching ever since. She has taught many styles of yoga from Hatha, Flow, Power, Pre-natal, post-natal and kids yoga. In the last 8 years, Michelle has been drawn to a style of yoga called Vijnana yoga, working from a place of within. She has completed her 3 year 800 hour Vijnana Yoga Certification with Gioia Irwin. Her other inspirational teachers are Orit Sen-Gupta and Elizabeth Peckman. Michelle is co-founder of Ajna and a lead faculty member.
Agi Mallory, RYT-500, YACEP, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist), MBA
Agi brings a compassionate and gentle approach to teaching, meeting students where they are at, and nurturing gentle transformation through supported practice and breathing exercises. With a passion for supporting clients in living and aging well, Agi is certified in teaching Yoga for Healthy Aging, Yoga for Cancer, Yoga for Osteoporosis, and has completed advanced studies in anatomy, joint therapeutics and movement science. Agi offers drop-in yoga classes, private yoga therapy, workshops, retreats, and has served on the Faculty at Ajna Yoga since 2016..
Agi teaches weekly Bone Health Clinic, Steadiness and Ease, and Rest and Restore classes at Ajna. She teaches in the ‘Yoga for Healthy Aging’, ‘Yoga Therapy for Hips and Knees’, ‘Anti-Oppression in Yoga Therapy’ and ‘Business of Yoga Therapy’ modules. You can read more about Agi at her website:, www.Arbutus Yoga.ca
Nicole Marcia, MA, C- IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
Nicole holds a Masters of Arts Degree with a specialization in Yoga Therapy through Lesley University in Boston, MA, and is a graduate of the 1,000-Hour Integrative Yoga Therapy training program.
Nicole has developed and implemented yoga therapy programs for local businesses and for community, health and social service organizations. She conducts yoga therapy sessions for groups and individuals with special needs including chronic pain, addiction, mental health issues and stress related illnesses. Nicole teaches in the following modules- ‘Yoga, Trauma and Mental Health’, ‘The Therapeutic Relationship’ and ‘Yoga, Psychology and the Mind’.
Elham Ansari, BFA, CAP, RYT
Elham Ansari is a teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda and Holistic Nutrition. With over 13 years of experience in the field she has inspired thousands of student and clients on their healing journey.
Elham studied Ayurvedic medicine in New Mexico and India at the Ayurvedic Institute with Dr. Vasant Lad. As well as extensively studied Chinese Medicine, Yoga, energy medicine and the spiritual/esoteric sciences.
Elham’s first degree is in Fine Arts and Design from Emily Carr University where she majored in conceptual art and social and critical theory, inspiring her work as a social and cultural activist. Which eventually lead her to the healing arts, and healing, as the source of cultural revolution.
Elham has also received Honorary Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition from the National Association of Nutritionists Practitioners for her work on their Credentialing Board, leading to her specialty in traditional and conventional diet therapeutics.
She spearheaded and directed one of the first wellness clinics in Victoria, the Awakening Wellness Centre, in 2010, where her commitment to the alternative and integrative medicine field began. Today, Elham maintains a private clinical and teaching practice serving student and clients around the world. Locally she teaches Ayurveda at Pacific Rim College, where she is also a clinical supervisor, and the former dean of their Holistic Nutrition program. Elham also teaches Ayurveda at other institutions, including Ajna Yoga College in Victoria. Elham teaches the Ayurveda modules at Ajna. Learn more about Elham through her website.
Farah Nazarali, MA
Farah Nazarali has been teaching and studying yoga and meditation for over 15 years and brings a wealth of practical experience in teaching and integrating yogic philosophy and practices with conflict resolution and non-violent communication.
She is the founder of Drishti Point Yoga Podcasts and recorded hundreds of podcasts with renowned authors, teachers, and speakers. Farah has partnered with established industry leaders in the field of consciousness; Banyen Books and Hollyhock Leadership Learning Center to produce podcasts and teach Retreats.
Farah is passionate about bringing the wisdom of yogic philosophy alive in our hearts and into our lives and supporting people in communicating and relating to one another with authenticity and compassion. Please visit www.farahnazarali.com to learn more. Farah teaches the ‘Philosophy for Yoga Therapy’ and ‘Meditation for Yoga Therapy’ modules.
Shelly Prosko, PT, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
Shelly is a physical therapist, yoga therapist, educator, author and pioneer of PhysioYoga with over 20 years of experience integrating yoga into physiotherapy within a variety of specialty areas including helping people with chronic or persistent pain and pelvic health issues. She guest lectures at numerous yoga therapy and physical therapy schools, presents at yoga and medical conferences globally, contributes to academic research and writing, and offers onsite and online courses and resources for yoga and healthcare professionals and the general population. She considers herself a lifelong student and emphasizes the immense value gained from clinical experience and learning from the patients she serves, the professionals she teaches, and the colleagues with which she collaborates. Shelly has written book chapters in yoga therapy and integrative rehabilitation textbooks and is the co-editor/author of the textbook Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain. She maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada and believes compassion is the foundation of pain care, healthcare and overall well-being. Please visit www.physioyoga.ca to learn more. Shelly teaches the ‘Yoga Therapy in Pain Care’ module.
Sanjeet scopes her entire work around creating community spaces. Whether that is throwing music events, teaching community yoga class, or running modules on Anti-Oppression, her work is centred around safety, context, and communication. Artistic Director of Toronto’s Music Gallery and currently working on her RYT-500, Sanjeet works tirelessly to open conversations on accessibility, inclusivity, and accountability in wellness and the arts.
Graduating with a BA focused on Gender, Communication and Culture, Sanjeet’s approach to yoga is gentle, meditative and self-expressive. Encouraging students to move in ways that honour their body, taking classes slowly, weaving in philosophy, and incorporating large amounts of meditation is how she navigates the complexities of Eastern vs. Western yoga. Sanjeet teaches the ‘Anti-Oppression and Yoga Therapy’ module. You can learn more about Sanjeet’s work on her website: sanjtakhar.com.
Rishima Bahadoorsingh, MEd., BEd., BA
Growing up in two worlds, within an Indo – Trinidadian family in Canada, Rishima began singing spiritual Indian songs in the temple traditions of bhajans, kirtan and other devotional styles at a young age. She went on to study classical Raga within the traditional gharana system of instruction, often staying at her spiritual guru’s ashram to listen to lectures, sing, and engage in spiritual practices. In 2016, her world was changed by the discovery of Dhrupad, an ancient, meditative style of Indian classical singing that originated from the Sama Veda. This led her to a deep connection with Nāda Yoga—the Yoga of Sound. Her goal as a teacher is to make the intricacies and beauty of classical Raga and traditional bhajans accessible to all, and to spark love within ourselves through sound.
Partial proceeds from Rishima’s lessons and performances go to the school she runs, as Director of the Sol Community Education Society.
She continues to be influenced by the many talented musicians and teachers surrounding her. She has sung at local cultural and charity events, yoga centres, TV interviews, festivals locally and internationally, weddings, spiritual centres, temples and workshops. Rishima also teaches locally and internationally in Spanish and English. Rishima is a strong believer in the positive impact of music. She is presently an elementary school teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Development as well as a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. In her off time, she volunteers as a coordinator for the Canadian Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values and is the founder of Sol Community Education Society, a society that supports rural education in Northern Peru. She is also the proud mother of 2! Learn more about Rishima through her website
Sarah Nelsen, C-IAYT
Sarah Nelsen is a graduate of the Ajna Yoga Therapy program and an IAYT certified yoga therapist. Her original yoga teacher training was in the Viniyoga style and she currently studies Supreme Release Yoga and Vedic Studies. Sarah works in person and online with people struggling with chronic illness, bringing yoga therapy to people who may be stuck at home, (or in bed,) due to pain, anxiety and fatigue. Sarah delights in mentoring and working with new yoga therapists and therapeutic yoga teachers. Students and clients describe her as compassionate, encouraging, warm-hearted and funny. Learn more about Sarah through her website. Sarah co-teaches the ‘Restorative Yoga Therapy’ module and is a mentor in the yoga therapy program.
Annie Martinello, C-IAYT, CYA E-RYT-500
Annie has been sharing the teachings of yoga since 2002 with her first 250 hour training with Jess Gogol at Moksana Yoga in Victoria. She has been integrating the practice of yoga therapy since she started with Ajna in 2011 and completed her training in 2014. She was drawn to yoga in her early twenties to find balance in her physical body and clarity in the mind from her very active lifestyle in Whistler. After her first pregnancy in 2006, Annie began teaching pre and post natal yoga. In her teachings she comes from the heart and from a place of being mindful, in touch with our natural rhythms, sensations and deep listening to our body messages to enhance our internal wisdom to find balance and create our own healthy patterns. Annie is a dedicated support in her community to all the new and experienced parents creating a safe loving open space for them to explore and share with each other the world of parenthood. Annie teaches the ‘Pre and Post Natal Yoga Therapy’ module
Melissa Bandura, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist), MA, OT
Melissa is a Yoga Therapist and Occupational Therapist with training in Stott Pilates, Chronic Pain management and professional dance. Her sessions consider the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the client, and are trauma-informed.
Melissa’s passion is finding creative, client-centred approaches to promoting mental and body health. Her yoga classes focus on breath, ease of motion, core stability, integrated movement, balance, and fun! She is based in Kanien’kéha ka and Lkwungen traditional lands and humbly acknowledges these are unceded territories. Melissa co-teachers the ‘Yoga Therapy for Shoulders and Wrists’ module with Michelle. Learn more about Melissa offerings through her website
Elena Henwood, M.A., CPT
Elena Henwood was born and raised on Southern Vancouver Island, on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ peoples. As a Certified Awareness Through Movement® practitioner, Elena has been teaching Awareness Through Movement® lessons since 2014. Developed by judo master and physicist Moshe Feldenkrais, the Feldenkrais MethodTM of Somatic Education comprises 1000+ Awareness Through Movement® lessons to improve the efficiency of repetitive mundane human actions, such as walking, bending and reaching.
In 2019, Elena developed a balance and falling strategies course, “Falling With Grace”, and is keen to share her expertise with other movement professionals. Whether teaching groups or individuals privately, Elena helps people to develop better skeletal and neurological organization: Precise skeletal awareness during movement, including yoga and other forms of exercise, brings about more power using less muscular effort. It reduces the likelihood of injury and leads to better form and more grace. Elena is also a BCRPA-Certified Personal Trainer. Elena teaches in the ‘Balance and Fall Prevention’ module.
Paul Mross, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
Paul Mross lives in New Glarus, WI with his wife and son. He has been the project manager and yoga consultant for 5 research studies on Fall Prevention and Yoga with UW-Madison.
Paul is the designer of The Happ:y Mat, a portable template with visual cues that assist the therapist and client in basic mobility instruction. Paul is also the co-founder of a nonprofit called YAFA, Yoga Accessible for All, which is a coalition of yoga teachers, community partners and academia whose mission is to increase access to the benefits of yoga in under-served communities. Paul teaches in the ‘Balance and Fall Prevention’ module.
Tanya Gita Roberts, E-RYT-500, C-IAYT (Yoga Therapist)
Tanya Gita has been practicing for 19 years and teaching since 2011. She was drawn to yoga to help manage stress and anxiety. She completed her 200 hour training at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and 500 hour certification at the Mount Madonna Centre, CA. In the words of her teacher Baba Hari Dass, she “teaches to learn” and believes that her students are some of her most profound teachers. Her teaching style integrates alignment, breath, subtle body and Ayurveda. She encourages students to feel the connection between body, breath, and mind; and to allow their heart or Spirit to guide their practice, finding that place where we are all one. Tanya Gita is a student mentor in the yoga therapy program.
Mabel Chong (1979-2018)
Mabel was a gifted teacher with a gentle spirit and love for learning. In her yoga therapy practice, she specialized in knee and back care injury recovery, as well as women’s health. We miss Mabel deeply and hold her in our hearts forever.