I began practicing yoga in 1999 but really fell in love with the practice in 2007 with my first Ashtanga class with Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois! In 2008 I traveled to Costa Rica to complete my 200 hour Vinyasa Teacher Training and am currently registered with the Yoga Alliance. I began teaching classes immediately after completing my 200 hour training and have taught classes consistently since then. My teaching background as a classroom teacher also inspired me to complete a 5 day training followed by a year long intensive study to gain certification in the renowned YogaKids program to become a certified YogaKids teacher as well.
In 2010 I traveled to Carolina to participate in an eight day intensive study at “Duke University” teaching yoga to seniors with some of Duke’s top Surgeons and Physicians. As part of their Integrative Medicine Unit we were working hands on with patients and Staff to integrate yoga practices into their after care. We are still working to bringing yoga to our senior population here in the Keys! It has been challenging but we are not giving up!! Then, in the spring of 2014, I traveled to Rishikesh, India for a 6 week intensive training in Hatha Yoga to complete my 500 YTT. It was such an amazing experience. I am still processing the complete experience and plan to return soon!
I have studied with a variety of Master Teachers during weekend and week long intensives and have learned so much from them, but my true teacher is my own 5’7′ body when I step on this little rubber mat. Each and every day I discover things about my body and what it is and is not willing to do. I think my ashtanga practice is the most important component of being a good teacher. My daily practice is a reminder of the struggles I face on and off my mat. It challenges my strength, yet it also reveals and exposes all of my weaknesses. It is such a humbling experience every single day. Without my personal practice, I would be just another yoga teacher trying to teach what I do not experience. I tell my YTT students that the most difficult aspect of being a good yoga teacher….is having and committing to your own daily Sadhana practice. Yoga has become a competitive industry and so many teachers today are watching Youtube videos and regurgitating the words of some famous yoga teacher in their classes instead of learning on their own mats. This need to be “great” supersedes our desire to practice and learn at a pace that is realistic. Even in the yoga world…all is not perfect We all have unconscious patterns that bind us to feelings of fear, unworthiness, anxiety etc. It is hard to just be your authentic self. I am learning to let go of the need to be an “amazing” teacher and honor the teacher within. The classes I teach come from my own experiences on and off my mat. Nothing fancy, no great words of wisdom that I read the night before. I teach straight form my heart…teaching is a gift and as I grow deeper in my practice, I realize that the teacher/student relationship is a powerful tool for learning, sharing and growing.
In addition to my love for yoga, I also have a passion for heath and wellness. For years, many of my students would ask me, “what do you eat? how do you stay so healthy? So, in 2011, I completed a year long intensive study of Holistic Health and Wellness at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I felt it necessary to study and immerse myself fully in order to have an understanding of the extreme variety of dietary theories. This intensive study of over 100 different theories and lifestyles was a true learning experience. I am so grateful that I was able to study and learn from so many amazing Doctors and Specialists. Then the work is to find a way to see everyone as an individual and closely work together to have lasting changes. I currently am a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and incorporate Holistic Health Coaching as an added service to our busy studio. I have been actively supporting clients to create a healthy lifestyle that is attainable and sustainable for the past 3 years. Visit our Holistic Health page here for more info.
With that said, my perspective on life is simple. Life is merely a balancing act. When your needs are met you feel a sense of well-being. When your needs are not met, the balancing act continues. One of the most obvious things about aging is that our bodies tend to become stiff. As our bodies tighten, not only are we less comfortable, we actually becomes less efficient and more prone to dis-“ease” and degeneration of the muscles and bones. I am living proof that we can actually bring the suppleness of youth back into our bodies and be more flexible, durable and stronger as we age.
As I have learned to focus my physical and mental energy more effectively, I have become stronger, more flexible and centered. Yoga is a gift….however, you need to open to receive~
Samantha is Kathy’s daughter and also co-owner of Key Largo Yoga. She is a Certified Holistic Heath Coach, 200hr RYT, and a certified commercial pilot and flight instructor. She is also a mommy of 2 young children. She is an advocate for attachment parenting, breastfeeding and natural child birth. She delights in all things organic and natural.
Samantha has used yoga to complete the circle of keeping a healthy body and mind. Yoga has allowed her to conquer postpartum anxiety and provide relief from day to day stressors in everyday life. She truly believes yoga has the ability to heal mind, body, and beyond. She works mostly behind the scenes for Key Largo Yoga and is also currently teaching Restorative Classes.
She believes if we nourish our bodies and minds we can be the absolute best version of ourselves.
Katharine “Kat” Wheatley received her 200-hour yoga instructor certificate through YogaWorks in 2013 and is registered with the Yoga Alliance. Kat was originally a dancer with the Land of the Sky Civic Ballet Company in Asheville, NC. She performed and competed throughout the tri-state region for fifteen years and participated in numerous master classes with companies including the Joffrey Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, NC School of the Arts, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe. Kat took her first yoga class in 1998 and eventually realized she was always coming back to the mat when she needed to focus her mind and reconnect with her body. Kat holds a Master’s degree in psychology and worked for several years as a child and family counselor. Throughout her life Kat has been a teacher – she tutored in high school and college, taught statistics in graduate school, facilitated parent education classes as a family counselor, taught her toddler basic sign language, and even became a scuba instructor in 2008. Kat found her path when she started teaching yoga and particularly loves to teach detailed alignment within a pose. Kat also teaches meditation, breath work, gentle yoga, vinyasa flow. She believes yoga is more than a doing poses on a mat, it’s a way of life and she strives to take the yoga philosophy with her in all that she does. Follow her on Instagram @taketheyogawithyou.
Laurel Weiss teaches Vinyasa flow as well as meditation at Key Largo Yoga. She completed her 200 hour Yoga teacher training under Kathy Shirley and became certified with Yoga Alliance in December 2013. Laurel was first drawn to yoga after her skiing accident many years ago. Through regular practice ever since, yoga has helped her to gain strength, flexibility, balance and live pain free. She is passionate about sharing her love of yoga and meditation with the Key Largo community! Laurel has a bachelors degree in Psychology, is a licensed cosmetologist, artist, musician, vegan chef, scuba diver, world traveler, bicycle enthusiast and eternal optimist!
Kelli has been teaching Pilates, Tai Chi and Water Aerobics for over 19 years. She began teaching overseas in Athens, Greece and continued as she lived abroad in Croughton, England; and Tamuning, Guam where she provided instruction to U.S. Naval Hospital, Coast Guard and Air Force personnel and civilians. In December of 2013 she completed her 200 RYT at Key Largo Yoga. Her method of instruction is a reflection of her love and passion for the ancient wisdom of yoga and body science. Kelli has a diverse fitness background and bio-mechanic foundation. She attends workshops and conferences regularly to fulfill her desire to continue learn. She is also certified in Water Aerobics, Pilates, Core Strength.
Leslie began practicing yoga in the mid-1980’s. Back then her practice was only a few times a week and was a way to relieve stress and help with chronic lower back pain. Today the back pain is gone and her personal practice, together with teaching classes, has made yoga a major part of her life. Leslie teaches a variety of styles of yoga as a substitute teacher at Key Largo Yoga but the central theme running through every class is a commitment to focus the student’s attention on the proper alignment of the poses.
After retiring from the practice of law in 2008, Leslie did her teacher training in the B.K.S. Iyengar method with Colleen Gallagher, the senior most Iyengar teacher in Florida. She continues to deepen her study in the Iyengar method each year with classes and workshops with senior Iyengar teachers. Leslie believes that her role as a teacher is to direct the student’s awareness to the different aspects of each asana and how that asana engages the various parts of the body. Having a mindful asana practice enables the student to attain the full benefits of a yoga practice…mental, physical and emotional strength, flexibility and balance.
Tracy has been practicing yoga for 7 years. After taking a Hot Yoga class in Virginia Beach one day she decided that she needed to share her love for yoga to the rest of the world. Shortly after she enrolled in teacher training through Yax Yoga Concepts and Yoga Alliance and received her 200hr certification in 2012.
She has a true passion for the therapeutic vision that Hatha Yoga has to offer. Hatha practice allows one to stay true to the fundamentals of yoga while challenging your mind. Yoga is not just the asana, it is also a way of life. She believes our mats provide us a space to connect, be still, and heal so that we can live fully with presence and purpose.
As we are always students, Tracy believes that it is just as important to spend time on her mat as a student to continue on her path as a yogi, as she feels it makes her a stronger more educated instructor. She believes that yoga holds a unique power because everyone can do it, and everyone benefits from it. In the classroom her focus is to strengthen the body, quiet the mind, and surrender into the moment, healing yourself as a whole. Tracy loves being on the water as there is a sense of calming and peacefulness that the ocean holds.
Seychelle is a Florida Keys native, born and raised in Tavernier. She began practicing Yoga in 2002 and had studied many styles including Hatha, Vinyasa, Anusara, Yin, and Kundalini from teachers and studios all over the World. Seychelle received her Iyengar-based Yoga Teacher Training certification in 2014 in Cusco, Peru and is a Yoga Alliance 200hr RYT as well as a Reiki practitioner. Her classes are a fusion of the diverse wisdom she has gathered from all her teachers. Each one a unique journey to find energy, balance and bliss.
Seychelle is a Standup Paddle (SUP) instructor and competitive racer. She leads SUP Yoga and fitness classes as well as retreats and workshops. Formerly a professional sailor, Seychelle hold a US Coast Guard 100ton Masters License. Seychelle is passionate about life, health, nutrition, fitness, standup paddle, yoga, sailing, travel, adventure, and being happy.
Not your stereotypical Yogi. People are often surprised when they find out that I practice Yoga. Born and raised in Key Largo and Miami. Played every organized sport I could in High School. Continued that trend playing College Football and Lacrosse at The Carnegie Mellon University while obtaining a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I was the typical Fraternity/Football/Beer/Party College Kid. Came home to work with the family after graduating. Not loving the cold of Pittsburgh may have had a small part of that decision.
As relaxing and beautiful as the Keys are, I still managed to somehow find myself overly stressed. During my search of ways to help, I discovered that Key Largo Yoga was opening a studio literally across the street the following week. Seeing how it must be fate, I decided to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? End up liking it and deciding to take a Yoga Teacher Training just over a year and a half later? Well, I guess that is exactly what happened.
My biggest fear going into Yoga was the modern perception of what is yoga. How would an overweight goofy guy fit in to a class filled with a bunch of really beautiful, really flexible women doing crazy things? But my first step into the door, I saw normal people. The hardest, yet most stress relieving part of my journey was that first step. Normal people just like me, men and women, young and less young, all there committed to making a change.
I have always believed that the mind is an incredibly powerful tool. That with Belief, Will, and Faith in your mind, anything can be accomplished. I see that everyday in my journey and in those of others around me. This only further strengthens my belief in that where the mind goes, the body will follow.
Anjana Madan Morris was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She went to Wake Forest University for her undergraduate studies and came back to Birmingham for her graduate studies in Public Health and Developmental Psychology at UAB. She took her first yoga class in college with a friend, but sadly, she didn’t enjoy it at all! She found it cheesy and uncomfortable and well…just not her thing. It wasn’t until she was in graduate school in 2012 that a friend convinced her to give yoga another try, and she reluctantly agreed – after all, her upper back was always sore and she was willing to try anything! That class, however, was much different from her first experience – not only did she feel substantially less tension in her back after one class, but she also felt more flexible and energetic for the entire rest of the day. From then on, she was hooked! She believes yoga can benefit anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Not only can it strengthen our bodies, reduce feelings of tension, and improve our flexibility, but it can also help anchor us in the present moment and grow more aware of what we really need (and don’t need) in our lives. She is very excited to be finishing her 200-hour teacher training in May 2015 so she can share her love of yoga with the Key Largo community!
Turning 50 for Melinda Smith was a catalyst to “Get Moving”. Not being much of a work out type she was convinced by a fellow yogi to “just come and try one class”. Reluctantly she did and met a fantastic teacher who at the end of class said: “So, I’ll see you on Thursday, right?” That was the day she decided to live more from intention and less from habit. Always being a very spiritual person, Melinda has been on many spiritual retreats and workshops, and has been practicing meditation and stillness from a young age. This combined with her yoga practice has created a wonderful personal growth journey for her. Currently about to finish her 200hr YTT Certification under Kathy Shirley, she is ready to encourage and lead any person who thinks they can’t practice yoga. Melinda has become an advocate of the idea that Yoga can be practiced no matter what your body type or age. Not being your “typical” yogi, she will bring a unique version of yoga to her students using modification and props to slowly awaken their strength – spiritually, physically and mentally.
Jessica Okaty is a teacher at heart, as she loves gaining and sharing knowledge. She has taught many age groups ranging from early childhood development classes at Gymboree Play & Music to Ecology of South Florida at Florida International University. She currently teaches 6th grade science and reading at Keys Gate Charter School and Yoga at Key Largo Yoga. Jessica’s love of learning has led her to obtain both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a Master of Science degree in Environmental Studies. She has many interests such as music, dance, reading, food, travel, and nature. She added yoga to that list in 2005 when she took a course with Andrea Seidel at FIU and it has remained an important part of her life ever since. She quickly found yoga was a way to increase her physical and mental health, as it helped heal whiplash injuries acquired from a car accident in 2004 and relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga also inspires her to live each moment more fully. She enjoys sharing how yoga helps deepen connections between mind, body, soul, and universe. She completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Kathy Shirley in 2015 and enjoys being a part of the Key Largo Yoga community. You can find her sharing her love of yoga at a gentle or open level Vinyasa class and following her yoga adventure on Instagram @ecoyogi.