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. She is a graduate of the a 350-hour Swan River Yoga teacher training and the 300- and 75-hour Jivamukti Yoga teacher trainings. She also has additional training in Restorative Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, and more.
Laura’s classes combine mindfulness, music, exploration, 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.
She teaches yoga + meditation classes of all levels and draws on the use of props, breathwork, meditation, singing, and more to provide a layered experience with (hopefully) something for everyone. Laura trusts deeply 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.
sara bonar (she/her)
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.
Victoria J. Cvitanovic is a lawyer, yoga teacher, and meditation instructor living in New Orleans, LA. She began her yoga practice in 2010, and completed her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She has also completed 20 hours of training in restorative yoga and several trainings on creating welcoming yoga spaces for transgendered and non-binary individuals. In her personal practice, Victoria studies under several teachers in the Soto Zen tradition. As a yoga teacher, Victoria focuses on trying to create body-positive, fat-positive, and
LGBTQIA+ positive classes that are adaptable for practitioners in all bodies. As a meditation instructor, Victoria emphasizes building resilience and capacity for working through our emotions. She especially cherishes the opportunity to work with those in chronic pain.
Holly is a native New Orleanian. She completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Georgia and later attended nursing school. She works as an RN in New Orleans and began practicing yoga over 10 years ago. She found herself deeply drawn to the practice and inspired by countless teachers and the community at Swan River Yoga. She felt a calling to delve deeper int her personal practice and completed the 400-hour yoga teacher training at Swan River Yoga in 2019. The physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits of this practice have been so precious to her and she is excited to share this practice with others.
Mae was born and raised in St. Bernard parish. Her family is a source of strong support as she has been married for 28 years to her soul mate, Steve and was blessed with beautiful beings, Katie (Rebecca), Kelsey (Hailey) and Steven (Sophia). This year marks her 20th year as a registered nurse. She embraces plant based eating, completed a marathon in February 2020 and will be competing in her first triathlon. She began learning about yoga in 2016 as a student at Swan River Yoga Arabi. Her community is very dear to her and finds joy in sharing the practice of yoga for all. The Swan River Yoga Arabi has been a special place for her as she feels she has received so much from the space. She graduated from Swan River Yoga Arabi Seva Training in November of 2019 and would love to share yoga with you.
lee lemond (they/them)
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.
Amy (Kundalini name Radha Namjoti) has been practicing Kundalini yoga since 2004, and has been a certified teacher of Kundalini since 2010. Amy creates a warm, informal atmosphere in her classes. Amy likes to challenge herself and her students spiritually and physically -- at the same time, it's important to Amy to offer modifications and options for all levels, backgrounds, and abilities, as she has several involved joints (knee, shoulder) that require her to modify some yoga postures herself. Amy loves Kundalini and enjoys introducing people to it, as well as practicing with experienced Kundalini yogis. Amy enjoys incorporating music and gong into her yoga classes too. When not doing or teaching yoga, Amy likes to lift weights, garden, support social justice, go to a tiny cabin in rural North Carolina, volunteer at a mental health hotline, and obsess about cats (her own and all others) and marine life.
Donisha Dunn is a physician of internal medicine and psychiatry and is a meditation and yoga teacher. She discovered the beauty of yoga and Swan River in 2009 and found the practice of yoga to be a powerful way to attain peace and balance. She chose to deepen her practice by completing her 400- hour Certified Swan River Yoga Teacher Training in 2013. As a teacher and a lifelong student, she is currently enrolled in the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (class of 2023) lead by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
Donisha currently practices psychiatry and teaches meditation and yoga throughout the community and online. She believes there are no clear boundaries between the body, mind, and spirit, and that one’s happiness is integrally connected to the community and world around us. She enjoys sharing the wisdom inherent in yogic philosophy and demonstrating its intersection with other teachings such as those found in Christianity, Buddhism, and Western Psychology. In her classes she weaves mindful and spiritual intention into principles of alignment and seeks to maintain a steady sense of flow and play that is broadly accessible. With endless gratitude for all her teachers she remembers that her highest intention is only to serve with love.
You can visit her website at donishadunn.com
Allyson has been practicing yoga in New Orleans since 2005. In 2019, she decided to embark on her teacher journey. Just weeks before beginning her teacher training at the Church of Yoga in New Orleans, she was hit by a car on her bicycle and suffered severe nerve damage on the left upper side of her body. This dramatically changed her body and her practice shifted to focus on healing and using the breath to calm the mind and the nervous system to regain control of the body and relax into the world all around us. She credits Yoga Nidra, meditation, and breath work as the key to her healing journey thus far.
Allyson is a 2019 graduate of 200-hour Lotus Flow yoga teacher training and has also completed training in Restorative Yoga from Wild Lotus. While Allyson has a natural tendency to create vigorous flows, she is actively working to slow down her teaching style to hold more space for connection, integration, and loving-kindness. Allyson teaches a monthly 'easy flow' class at Sankofa Wetlands Park.
Off the mat, Allyson runs a small glassblowing business with her husband, Ben, in New Orleans. They have 2 dogs, many gardens, and an abundance of joy.
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 staigers cruz
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.
sabrina schmidt (she/her)
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.