meet our teachers
Haiyan is deeply grateful to continue to receive the teachings of yoga. These teachings have deeply influenced his life.
With this gratitude, he hopes to share these teachings.
Haiyan graduated as a yoga teacher in 2009 from Swan River Yoga, and since then has been offering yoga, especially at the Arabi center.
Laura has been teaching yoga in New Orleans since 2013. Since her initial 350-hour certification, her passion for yoga has only deepened, and she has since pursued additional trainings in Restorative Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, and more. Laura’s classes combine mindfulness, music, play, and breath with the modern-day application of ancient yogic teachings. She aims to create a space where students feel grounded, supported, empowered, and tapped into their own internal wisdom.
Laura believes that yoga is for all beings. She teaches yoga classes of all levels and draws on the use of props, breathwork, meditation, singing, and more to provide a layered experience of inner exploration. Laura trusts in yoga’s ability to transform our relationship with life so that we are able to feel more deeply, recognize unhelpful tendencies, learn from discomfort, and appreciate every moment.
visit her website at laurajohannayoga.com.
Shawna completed Swan School Seva Teacher Training in 2017, followed by a Restorative Teacher training in 2018. She is grateful for the opportunity to teach restorative yoga at Swan River Arabi as Seva, selfless service. Seva is not necessarily "helping," but rather holding space for others and making yourself available for service, without consideration for reciprocation.
Restorative yoga is based the teaching of B.K.S. Iyengar, who believed that, "Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together." Shawna believes that holding long, supported restorative yoga poses allows these "pieces" to fit together and settle in stillness. As an artist, historian, and nature lover, she also finds valuable lessons in messy creativity, the natural world with all its spiders and dirt, and stories from the past.
Originally from Lafayette, LA, Sara moved to New Orleans over a decade ago to study film and fine arts at UNO, graduating cum laude in 2011, she's worked as a multi-disciplinary artist since then. She's practiced yoga off and on since highschool but rededicated her practice at Swan River in 2013. Sara received her Reiki Master Level 3 certification in June of 2017 and completed Swan River's 400 hour yoga teacher training program November of 2017. Since then, she's also completed 30 hours of Therapeutic Yoga Training, as well as trainings in Beginners Yoga, Chakra Yoga, and Hands-on Assists. Usually found behind the desk at Swan River, Sara is beyond excited and honored to serve the community in these additional ways.
With a background in art and rooting in her family's Cajun heritage, expect a mix of film/art theory, Cajun folklore, and yogic philosophy blended into classes.
Having gone through many body changes, including severe injuries, Sara turns to yoga as a healing modality and is interested in how every pose has modifications that are accessible energetic expressions for any person. If yoga is truly connecting your mind to your body through breath, then anyone can do it!
To keep up with Sara, visit her website: www.sarabonar.com
Aaron began regularly practicing yoga & meditation in 2013 at Swan River Yoga Arabi, as a means for finding a degree of stability in his life. It took time to truly understand the benefits; however, he found both practices to provide him with more than just stability. He has since learned to use his practice to help with managing both anxiety and depression. He offers his classes with hope that others will find ways to use the practice as a way to heal, both mentally and physically. Aaron completed his initial certification at Swan River Yoga in 2014 and has been teaching at Swan River Arabi Community Center ever since. Since it is where his journey began, SRY Arabi and its community are very special to him."
"There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself." ~ Leo Tolstoy
Laura Cherry first encountered yoga in 2007. Given her background in dance, she walked into her first class feeling a little smug. She assumed it would be easy. Upon realizing that nearly every pose was inaccessible to her, she was deeply humbled. The practice has been humbling her ever since.
Laura completed her 450-hour teacher training at Swan River Yoga in 2018, led by Michelle Baker. She taught her first public class less than two weeks later. Laura is ecstatic about yoga in its root meaning—union—and is committed to introducing traditional yoga practices into a modern world. In January 2019, Laura created AUM Yoga, which operates from the Swan River Uptown Shala. AUM is dedicated to celebrating the devotional and meditative aspects of the yoga tradition, such as sadhana (daily practice), pranayama (breathwork), mantra, chanting, and sound therapy, Yoga Nidra, and dharma (study of sacred texts). Laura has a strong calling towards Buddhism, which she incorporates into much of her teaching and practice.
Laura is certified to teach Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Adaptive Yoga, and Beginners Yoga. She is a devoted Ayurveda practitioner and is currently completing her Ayurveda Yoga Counselor certification. Laura is an energy worker and will receive her Reiki Master certification in October 2019.
Laura could not have advanced on this path without the guidance of all her beloved teachers, both near and far. She is deeply grateful for them, and humbled to share this profound and beautiful path of yoga with others.
Nadia teaches all-levels vinyasa flow yoga class, that can also be called power yoga or the meditation-in-motion (depending on what one chooses to focus on). She has 20+ years of experience in teaching public Yoga classes on the South Gulf Coast. She been a student of yoga for most of her life, starting in childhood in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She received the 200 hours certification in Thai Yoga Therapy with Saul David Raye from the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara in 2001 and been offering Thai Yoga and private yoga instruction since. Nadia’s passion is in sharing the inward journey of yoga. Over the years, she organized and lead numerous Transformational Yoga Retreats to places of power such as Maya Tulum, Mexico and Lake Como, Italy. She feels deep gratitude for her teachers, Bryan Kest, Barone Baptist, Shiva Rhea, Erich Schiffmann and many others and to each one of her current and former students. She believes that we are on this journey together.
Nadia recently moved from Mobile, AL and made her home in the city of New Orleans. She teaches private yoga classes with the focus on alignment and specific needs of each student, conducts Thai Yoga sessions ( AKA deep passive yoga experience for the occasionally-lazy-ones), and looks forward to teaching partner yoga workshops and group yoga classes for all levels. Nadia is the owner of Mobile Yoga and is experienced in teaching yoga in public and private schools, sport clubs, spas, hospitals, inner city circles, corporate settings, and to several VIP clients. When Nadia is not teaching yoga, you can catch up with her and her German Shephard dog Lexa (and sometimes with her cat Lucky) walking in the city park or on her long bike rides on the levies and greenways, or at the symphony concerts and art shows.
Ena has been practicing all kinds of yoga and meditation for many years, but when she discovered Kundalini yoga something new ignited that continues to impassion and inspire her on a daily basis. Completing her Kundalini teacher training in October 2019, she is devoted to continuing her training and is actively doing so whenever possible. She is very excited and grateful for the opportunity to share the transformative practices of Kundalini yoga and meditation with others at Swan River Arabi. She firmly believes - through personal experience - that they are incredible technologies to change and heal our bodies and minds to enable us to become healthier and happier. A life-long lover of consciousness studies and different spiritual paths and traditions, she has a degrees in Comparative Religion and Anthropology, and is trained as a Zen Buddhist Chaplain focused on end of life care. She is particularly interested in yoga and meditation for those affected by trauma, anxiety, and depression, and in working with disenfranchised women and children.
“The moment you touch your soul, you become fearless.”
- Yogi Bhajan
Angela Leflore is a fun and playful practitioner who enjoys reading, writing, bringing people together and taking naps. She loves yoga because of how it makes her feel and how it can bring people from any walk of life in one place and have them leaving with family. Angela has been practicing yoga since 2011 and has no intention of ever stopping.
Lee Lemond has been practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for over 12 years after first learning about yoga in a college philosophy class at UNO. Lee was part of the first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (2019) at Swan River Yoga and then completed a 108-hour Seva Yoga Teacher Training at the Swan River Yoga Arabi Community Center where Lee focused on making yoga accessible to everyone, including beginners, through the use of props, chairs, and self-awareness.
Lee is full of passion and enthusiasm and as a yoga teacher focuses on accessibility, personal expression, and freedom so that students can grow at their own pace and in their own way. Classes are upbeat and fun with great music, but still grounded in mindfulness and tradition.
Emily completed her 200 hour Teacher Training in October 2018 and has been working in settings dedicated to making yoga accessible. She has focused her teaching on working adjudicated youth, recovering addicts and alcoholics and those brand new to yoga.
"Swan River Arabi is a slice of heaven on earth and I am very humbled and grateful to be able to be of service at such a wonderful space."
Kelly has been on a yoga journey in 2019. She began the 200 hour Teacher Training at the Swan River Uptown Shala in January and completed the 108 hour Seva Teacher Training at Swan River Arabi in November. She acknowledges that her journey as both a student and teacher of yoga will be lifelong, and is incredibly grateful for having the space to grow in the loving community that is Swan River Yoga Arabi.
"You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don't have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success, none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here." Ram Dass
florentina ramirez staigers
Florentina Ramirez Staigers is a community healer, poet, and peace activist. Her path has been centered on meditation and "engaged Buddhism," a phrase describing the intersection of social justice and Buddhism. She practices in the tradition of Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Along with connecting with her ancestral roots, plants, animals, and the Mother Earth, she has found healing through yoga. She competed the Seva yoga teacher training in 2016.
Yoga has been a part of Sabrina's life for over 20 years, and her practice has given her strength, flexibility, and clarity on and off the mat. Yoga has been a tool for her to cope with body pains and minor ailments.
Sabrina is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher at the Introductory II level. As a forever student, she has studied and continues to study with wise well seasoned teachers —Abhijata Iyengar, Patricia Walden, Gabriella Giubilaro, Rebbeca Learner, Randy Just, Heide Grace, and Becky Loyd.
In her classes, you can expect to explore the body’s alignment and work towards moving to a more balanced state. Balance creates harmony of mind, body and spirit so that we can live life present and more fully.