Meet Our Instructors

Amanda Hansell, RYT-200, was a Character Performer at Disney World from 1990-2000. After leaving she searched for relief from injuries that had accrued during her performing, and in 2002 she was introduced to Anusara Yoga. It was love at first Down Dog! Amanda became a dedicated student at GOH and she went on to complete the Anusara Teacher Training Program with Betsey Downing and Jaye Martin in 2007. She has been teaching since August 2006 and teaches with a natural enthusiasm and a zest for life.

Amanda-PoseIn January of 2003, Betsey announced in the newspaper the Grand Opening of Garden of the Heart Yoga Center. I was working for a public relations firm and one of my responsibilities was to review the paper. I saw the notice, realized that it was close to where I worked and cut it out for myself. The announcement went in my day planner and I forgot it. In August of that year it fell out of the planner, I picked it up and thought I should call. On the first ring, Betsey answered the phone. That week was free samples at the studio and I was welcome to come the next evening and try it out. Vesna made the first experience one I wanted to repeat for the rest of my life. In February of 2004, at the age of 34, after only six months of doing yoga, I got pregnant – something I had believed was impossible. My mom still says it was because I became aligned properly (and she isn’t a yogi!). I learned to do handstand before my son Phoenix was born in October!

My mom and entire family will tell you that I was dancing before I could even walk. I love to move and was always considered to be ‘flexible’, but that wasn’t actually the case. I am considered double jointed and everything that wasn’t supposed to move was actually doing the ‘stretching’. I moved to Orlando and worked for Disney World for twelve years. The position that I held the longest and loved the most was in the character department doing stage shows. Those days proved to take a physical toll on my body with three herniated discs, painful knees, and severe neck and shoulder pain. Those things never mattered because I got to use all of my crazy energy and make people smile. To this day I work to recreate that inner smile through my yoga. Not that its work, but true bliss every time I can see someone getting what I am trying to teach.

Yoga has proved to be a rebirth for my body. Not just because I had Phoenix, but because I learned to use my body properly through the principles of alignment. In 2007 I graduated from Betsey’s Yoga Teacher Training. I began, and continue to teach in Venice at a few different places, I am still working on becoming certified in Anusara, but feel truly blessed to have a home with a loving Kula, here at Garden of the Heart.

I always smile when I meet someone who doesn’t do yoga and they say that they could never be a pretzel. I tell them, “I hope not, because I don’t think you would taste very good.” All you have to be able to do in yoga is say yes to the possibility of change, yes to the possibility of personal growth and yes to all that life has to offer. I also like to remind them that unless they try something they never know what they are missing. If it hadn’t been for my saying yes, I may never have gotten my son, Phoenix. I might still be sitting in a public relations firm just surviving, instead of teaching yoga and thriving. Even if I don’t manage to do a drop back into my backbend without help, at least I took the time to explore the possibility.

Cheryl Chaffee, E-RYT®500, YACEP®, was first certified in TriYoga Basics in 2005 before undertaking her studies with Betsey Downing and Jaye Martin at the Garden of the Heart Yoga Center. Cheryl completed the 200 hour YTT in Sarasota in 2007, and was Certified in Anusara Yoga at the RYT-500 level in 2010. She has studied with highly qualified teachers including John Friend, Amy Ippoliti, Todd Norian, Desiree Rumbaugh, Douglas Brooks, and Bill Mahony. She completed Yoga Therapy training with Martin Kirk in Arizona in 2010. In 2013, Cheryl did additional training in Warriors at Ease, an advanced training for yoga teachers who want to work with Veterans and Military Service members, as well as training in Connected Warriors, and in 2015 co-founded the Karma Yoga Outreach program, a non-profit organization which brings accessible yoga to veterans and other special populations. She holds certificates in Karma Kids Yoga and Every Kid’s Yoga, and has taught yoga to kids from toddlers to teens. Cheryl enjoys teaching students of all ages and abilities, and always looks for the beauty in students’ poses and hearts. Cheryl is currently studying Ashaya Yoga® with her teacher Todd Norian, and is a certified, licensed Ashaya Yoga® instructor and teacher trainer.

cheryl-poseI took my first Anusara yoga class in 2004, and from that very first day I knew that I would teach yoga. It was as if my whole life had been leading up to that moment, and a big explosion went off in my mind and in my heart, and I knew that I had found my happy place. As a child, I learned ballet, took piano and guitar lessons, sang in choirs, and acted in the musical theater performances at school. As an adult, I never quite felt like I fit into the “typical” mold, being a strict vegetarian, homeschooling my children, and even taking my family out in the woods to live in a cabin for two years! For me, one of the beautiful things about yoga is that it does not ask you to fit any mold, it allows you to express and celebrate your unique-ness. It helps you to put aside the things you think you ought to be, and helps you accept what is happening in the present moment.

Many people say to me, “Oh, I could never do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.” This always brings a smile to my face, since when I first started taking yoga classes, I could not touch my toes! Over the years, I have increased my flexibility as well as my strength, in both my body and my mind. Yoga has opened me to so many possibilities, it has taught me to take on challenges and it has opened my eyes to a more spiritual way of thinking. Recently, I have discovered kirtan, and am so happy to be combining my lifelong love of music with this new spirituality. It is another way in which I can help others to connect with the goodness in their hearts, to raise their vibration and consciousness, and to create more peace and joy in the world.

Cindy Turner, RYT-500, a Certified Anusara™ instructor, began teaching yoga, aerobics and personal training in 1998 at Sarasota health clubs. She studied many yoga styles, but wanted a style that expressed her life philosophy. On a recommendation, she attended a workshop by Betsey Downing and the rest is history. Cindy completed the YTT Program at Garden of the Heart, and has studied with John Friend and other senior Anusara teachers. Cindy has two bright, talented teenagers and two mischievous dogs.

cindy-splitLittle changes can lead to big changes, and that is how my story starts. I started taking yoga classes in 1998 because I had tight muscles from doing weights. I loved the deep stretches of the yoga poses, but also enjoyed the relaxing benefits of a regular yoga practice. Out of the blue, I was offered to teach a yoga class at a local gym; I did not realize that this would set forth a chain of events that would transform my life.

I took a weekend workshop with YogaFit, which gave me the skills to teach. I then began to experiment with other yoga systems, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, Tri-yoga & Kundalini. I noticed one of my students had beautiful form and expression to her poses and she told me that her teacher was Betsey Downing. I attended my first workshop with Betsey in May 2002. Because of Betsey’s style and intelligence, I gained a new perspective and insight into my yoga practice. I decided to study exclusively with Betsey, as she was about to begin her first Immersion course and Teacher Training in Sarasota, FL.

I attended my first John Friend Workshop in Dec. of 2003. I was so impressed by his amazing ability to move and transform energy in a room and connect personally with a very large audience. He can genuinely inspire and help other people because of his strong spiritual connection. Personally, I had arrived at this weekend workshop very stressed and left with a whole new perspective of hope. I realized that there are choices in how to live your life.

Despite the obstacles of a single parent, I managed to complete Betsey’s Teacher Training in July’ 2005 and have had the privilege to study with a plethora of Anusara Certified Teachers at Garden of the Heart Yoga Center. I have traveled to study with John Friend and have met so many wonderful people. They all have inspired me with their wisdom, creativity and love. For the first time in my life, I know the direction I want my life to take.

Hopefully, with hard work and determination, I will become Anusara Certified over the course of the next year. As I enter the certification process, I will look on it as a “Life Affirming” time of transformation. This will be a true expression of my desire to grow as a person, a yogini. My wish and intent for the next five years are to offer my skills in service to others as a Yoga Therapist. I will remember John Friend’s words at each juncture, “The only way you fail is if you give up.”

Gillian Whatmore, RYT-200, approaches each class like a mini workshop. In class students ‘take apart’ the asana, engage the ‘building blocks’ of the body and put it all back together feeling lighter, brighter and stronger. Her classes are appropriate for all ages and body types – students learn from what each brings to the class as an individual. Gillian’s vinyasa approach can help students explore “old” poses in new ways, move towards advanced variations, and be more mindful of transitions as well as the individual postures.

Gillian Whatmore was introduced to yoga while completing high school in England. She was drawn to the transformative, therapeutic nature of the practice and continually sought classes through many moves and jobs. Landing in Miami in 1992 she attended classes in Iyengar’s alignment-based yoga while attending Massage Therapy School. Enthralled by the ability of the body to revitalize and realign itself through the yoga practice she began teaching.

Gillian moved to Sarasota in 2001 with her husband, Cliff to raise their two children, Sarsen and Reece. Here she embraced the heartfelt Anusara Yoga style and enjoys how this complements her alignment-based training, bringing a fun expansive nature to her teaching. Gillian’s classes combine safe, therapeutic alignment-based instruction appropriate for all levels, simple breathwork and a subtle intention to celebrate and express our spirit from inside out.

Travel is close to her heart and she has combined this with attending yoga workshops, trainings and Wanderlust Yoga Festivals across the country.

Gillian holds three 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training Certificates. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Neuromuscular Therapist and qualified in Thai Massage and Myofascial Release Therapy. Gillian is also an avid swimmer and enjoys sailboat racing.

Eva Saunders is a longtime practitioner of Hatha Yoga. She began teaching in 1969 in Illinois and later taught in Maine. Locally, she studied with Babe Weiller, (who was in her 90’s), and began teaching in Sarasota in 1998. Eva met Jaye Martin and followed him to the Garden of the Heart where she was introduced to Anusara Yoga and met John Friend, and where she fell in love with the Tantric Anusara philosophy. Eva is currently in the Teacher Training Program with Betsey Downing, Jaye Martin and Rita Knorr, and she loves to share her passion for yoga with people of all ages.

Harmony Ananda Joyce, RYT-500, has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 25 years. She is a 500 hour certified teacher through Yoga Alliance, and also certified in TriYoga as taught by Kali Ray, Kripalu Yoga as taught by Yogi Amrit Desai, Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yoga and Laughter Yoga as taught by Dr. Madan Kataria. She specializes in Flow Yoga, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga in every class. She has taught yoga in the Sarasota area for over 15 years.

Maureen Willams-Gillum, RYT-200, RNC,OB, EFM. Maureen (“Mo”) began her yoga practices in 1975. It was the same year that she graduated from nursing school. She made her first trip to India in 1976, where she met her husband Steve. They both studied with Swami Laxmanjoo, a master in the line of Kashmir Shaivites. On that first trip to India ,she also met her current teacher, Dr. V.G. Kulkarni , a great Tantric master, with whom she continues her studies today. She went on to teach Yoga for the American Yoga Association in the 80’s and 90’s, all the while working as a labor and delivery nurse, where she became certified in High Risk Obstetrics and Fetal Surveillance. Yoga and Obstetrics have both been her life’s work and passion since then. Mo will show you how you can weave your Yoga practice into your pregnancy to fully appreciate this most auspicious time in your life!

Randall Buskirk, RYT-200, an Anusara-Inspired™ instructor, grew up in Kentucky, where he took a T’ai Chi class at the age of 14. He forgot most of what he’d learned except for the phrase “embrace the tiger and return to the mountain,” not really knowing what it meant. When he discovered yoga in 2003, he felt as if he were again back on the mountain. Randall has taken workshops with John Friend, Todd Norian and Ann Green, Sianna Sherman, Desiree Rumbaugh, and Douglas Brooks. Randall has completed the GOH Teacher Training Program. Despite a degree in English, he still enjoys reading, and despite no trace of a southern accent, still hopes to write a hit country song someday.

Once or twice a year, when I was a kid, a magician would come to town and do a show in the school gym. My friends and I had gotten interested in magic tricks and gimmicks you could carry around, coins that appeared and disappeared, objects that amazingly changed color. Pocket miracles. Soon we’d be able to read minds and predict the future, reveal or conceal secrets as appropriate. These things always worked at home in front of a mirror, but in performance they quickly turned mundane. Coins and cards dropped to the floor. Suave, adult patter provided with the tricks sounded even more ridiculous from a 12-year old. One day a real magician came who had the same kind of show that always cursed us-rabbits popped up at the wrong place, birds flew away, balls rolled across the floor. But we were out of class, so it was still great fun. After the show I went backstage and persuaded the magician to let me help him pack up his tricks. He relented and said, “Ok, kid, take this box out to the van.” He was surly and smoked a cigarette and argued with his wife who doubled as his lovely assistant. We packed the splintered plywood cases into the van and shut the door. He reached into his wallet and said, “Here’s my card, kid.” I kept it for a long time, maybe even wrote him a letter. But no secrets were ever revealed. It wouldn’t be the last time I was disillusioned.

I still searched for the magic. I longed to understand the mystery. I knew there had to be something else because I felt it so strongly. I shot basketballs and threw baseballs. I picked up a guitar and dragged it around and said “Show me that song,” or “How do you play that lick?” I read books and looked for the revelation in words. I studied physics and tried to solve the equations. I looked at paintings, at color and form. I drank a lot of beer, worked crap jobs, and had guns put to my head. I played in bands, wrote some stories, wrote some poems, wrote some songs. I searched for love and a place in the world.

Randall 2016 auto levelAnd then one day I walked into a yoga class at a gym and practiced in my sneakers. I didn’t know where I was, but it felt like home. I went back another time, then finally took my shoes off and dived in. Let me tell you, it’s a deep pool. When I emerged I felt clean and good and my breath came easy and I felt alive like that for days. I wanted more of it. I felt connected to that mystery again, that I moved within it and it moved within me. It wasn’t the mystery of darkness, but instead the mystery of light. And this light began to shine on those things I was still searching for, so that now they seem almost within reach, and if I stretch just a little farther…. See, I’m not sure how to talk about yoga, but if given a chance I’ll talk all day. So just let me say come to the studio, come to the mat. Come home to your heart, wherever you are.

Stephen Gillum has studied and practiced meditation for more than thirty-five years, a calling that grew out of his initial training as a yoga instructor. His mentors included Swami Lakshman Joo, then the world’s leading authority on Kashmir Shaivism; Dr. V. G. Kulkarni, with whom he studied mantra and meditation; and Shunryu Suzuki and Edio Shimano, from whom he learned Zen meditation. He is certified to instruct mantric meditation, but has developed his own non-theistic style that fuses Eckhart Tolle, Zen, and yoga, with the focus on relaxing and observing the mind.

stevesukhWhen I was 19 my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was devastated and angry with God . As I started to think about God and how does all of this work, I began to look at eastern thought. Even as a child I was fascinated with India and Japan. I was never able to buy into the God in the sky idea . I started reading books on Yoga and Meditation. They made sense in a very deep way,so I began to do asans breathing and meditation on my own, always thinking in the back of my mind that one day I might meet a Guru. I moved to Sarasota in 1975 after coming in contact with The Light of Yoga Society. They were building an Ashram so I decided to help, having a background in construction. They said I could live in the Ashram and meals would be provided if I helped build it. This sounded like a good idea to a young man in his 20s. So I found my self living and working at the Yoga Center on Orange Ave. They asked me to go to India with them in the summer of 1976. The next thing I knew I was in teacher training and living on a houseboat in Kashmir studying with Swami Laksmanjoo. This was a magical, wonderful time, learning Yoga under the stars on Dal Lake in Kashmir. This is also where I meet my beautiful wife to be Maureen . I continued training for three more years, living in the ashram ,returning to India three more times. I moved to Cleveland in 1979 where I taught for 11years. Meditation became my main focus. I studied and taught with Dr. Kulkarni, a Tantric master, who holds a Phd. In Chemistry and Sanskrit. I had always been drawn to Zen and started to meditate with the Zen Center in Cleveland which was connected with Dia Bosatu Mountain Monastery. wI I was able to go deep into meditation. Maureen and I moved back to Sarasota in 1999. She began to attend classes at The Garden of The Heart. I met several people here and feel drawn to teach my life’s passion meditation. I feel very fortunate to have found such a beautiful place with so many beautiful people to teach meditation again. My life has been very blessed and I sincerely hope that I can in some way help others to find the deep peace and joy I have found through my meditation practice. I feel it is what is needed in our busy lives and the best gift we can give the world. Happy Healthy People!