Elissa is an E-RYT500 registered yoga teacher, certified mindfulness meditation teacher, world traveler, global health practitioner and professor, and mama to the two most important teachers of her life. She is happiest moving her body, outside, preferably in view of the ocean.
She has been practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation since 1996, and teaching since 2009. She has studied, practiced, and taught throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the US, and is honored to train with some of the world’s most respected and beloved teachers across a range of lineages.
Her soulful yoga teaching is a colorful tapestry woven from this richness of practices and cultures: An alchemy of the poetic fluidity of Prana Flow, the fire and flow of Ashtanga, the alignment precision of Iyengar, the personalized healing potential of Desikachar, the embodied presence of Yin, and the compassionate awareness of Insight Meditation.
Her yoga instruction reflects thoughtful, creative sequences that are joyful, juicy, playful and nourishing. Movement is paired with intentional exploration of breath, mindfulness, and stillness. She strives to create a space in which her students can connect – with themselves and each other – and laugh, play, explore, linger, grow.
bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh asserted that to teach is to heal, and that self-reflection informs and enables guiding others on the path. Elissa approaches teaching as accompaniment, and views sharing yoga as a gift, an exchange, an alchemy in the living exploration of what it means to be… to be with, to belong to… ourselves, the natural world, each other. She believes teaching and living embodied yoga can foster healing on an individual level, in relationship, in community, and globally.
Much of her life’s work has been an exploration of how her practice and teaching can support healing, promote resilience (particularly among vulnerable populations), and serve as a sustainable platform for social justice and activism.
For nearly a decade, Elissa lived and worked throughout the developing world, leading HIV programs for some of the world’s most impoverished. Following this, as a professor of public health at American University in Washington, DC, she had the extraordinary opportunity to integrate her experiences in global health and yoga and mindfulness. She developed a global health focus within the Health Studies department, and established a Mindful Wellbeing Initiative, offering mindfulness to senior leadership, training hundreds of faculty members to integrate mindfulness into higher education, and ultimately reaching thousands of students with the 14-week mindful wellbeing curriculum she created.
She has also taken yoga into the community through the creation of a yoga therapy program for HIV-vulnerable, transgendered people, many of whom injected drugs, in Washington, DC. She is currently, and humbly, exploring how to deconstruct yoga and mindfulness practices to their most essential and joyful elements so that she can share them in her children’s elementary school.