Student Features

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Student Features2016-11-06T19:51:35+00:00

Some of Our Inspiring Students

60 Day Yoga Challenge Wall of Fame

These inspiring students completed the challenge of practicing yoga at least 5 times a week for 60 days, even during their summer travels! Congratulations to everyone who participated.

Pam Monroe

Lori Hultman

Harriet Roberts

Bruce Black

When I pulled into the Garden of the Heart parking lot for my first yoga class, I had no idea that I was setting out on a new path in my life or that eight years later I’d end up with Writing Yoga, a book about my experiences on the mat. At the time I thought I was simply exploring another form of exercise, another way to stay in shape, because my legs could no longer endure the stresses of running. Instead, I found something much more valuable than an exercise program. I found a way to open my heart (and eyes) to the world around me.

In each class, my teachers opened their hearts to me and, in doing so, helped me move past the fears, doubts, and uncertainties in my own heart. Each time Jaye, Rita, Vesna, Nancy, Cheryl, Randall, Betsey and others encouraged me to “shine out” or to “set an intention,” they gave me the confidence and support to expand more deeply into each pose. And in time, although I still struggle to find my balance, I’ve learned how to sustain that same feeling of expansiveness off the mat in the routines of my daily life.

It was Rita who handed out blank journals to our class one day. She told us that she hoped writing in the journals might help us deepen our understanding of our yoga practice. That’s when I began writing about yoga and how it influenced my understanding of writing and life. Each pose, each class, I discovered, was teaching me how to open my heart more fully and listen more closely to my own voice.

I am so grateful to my teachers and new friends at Garden of the Heart for sharing their wisdom and insights into yoga and life, and for helping me “see” the world and all of its beauty as it unfolds each day.

Bruce Black, a writer and editor, has been studying at Garden of the Heart since 2003. For more information about his book, Writing Yoga, you can visit:

Sean O’Neill

I have been playing the violin for over 30 years and have been playing professionally for the past 15 years. Even when I was younger and early on in my career, I always had difficulties with flexibility and overall range of motion in my hips and shoulders. In addition, I have suffered from a rather debilitating case of TMJ that affects both sides of my jaw causing pain and soreness that would travel from the top of my head and down my legs. Both of these problems ultimately were exacerbated when my stress level would go up and my quality of sleep would go down and a downward spiral of pain and discomfort would ensue. As a professional violinist playing with the Sarasota Orchestra plus commuting to play with the Florida Orchestra in Tampa and down to play with the Naples Philharmonic, these problems were beginning to ramp up and started to drastically effect my playing. In the summer of 2008, my masseur, who was doing a wonderful job keeping me from completely falling apart, recommended to me yoga at the Garden of the Heart as a more long term solution to my problems. He was absolutely right! From my very first Yoga 1 class I was very happy with the progressive method of teaching that included an attention to detail I had not experienced before going to “free” yoga classes at the gym. The knowledge of all of the teachers at Garden of the Heart was truly inspiring. With this gentle intensity, places started to open up in my body that had been closed for years and at first, my body’s first reaction was pain. At the same time, fear was becoming a rather prominent feeling during poses but the Anusara Yoga philosophies of organic and muscle energy, the loops and spirals and most of all being open to grace, guided me and gave me the confidence to continue.

Fast forward a year later. My experiences at Garden of the Heart have deepened as my body has opened and my TMJ and overall stress level have become more manageable and allowed my quality of life to rise. As far as my violin is concerned it is as if the clock has been rewound to when I was starting my career. It has helped me become a far more effective teacher of the violin and Garden of the Heart has become a model and source of inspiration for the new music school my wife and I are opening this year. It is called the Sarasota Music Academy and will be a musical Kula of musicians from the Sarasota Orchestra coming together to provide the children of this area the absolute best in musical instruction and guidance in the region.

I just want to say thank you to everyone involved in the Garden of the Heart Kula including the teachers, staff and fellow students who have helped usher in a new chapter in my life that I am confident will be the most creative and productive period thus far.

Mary Anne Pogan

About 5 years ago I was asked the question, ”What do you see yourself doing in five years?” At that time, I would never have predicted that yoga would be such a part of my life now. My husband Dave and I had just moved our family to Florida from our lifelong home in upstate New York. We left our families and many friends behind. We were renting a small house, building a new house and helping our three young children become familiar with their new surroundings. It was extremely stressful to say the least.

I started to develop health problems…migraine headaches, heart palpitations and food sensitivities. Thankfully, many medical tests showed that there was nothing seriously wrong with me. But, how was I to feel better? A friend suggested that I try a yoga class. After one of Michelle’s classes, I felt so relaxed and peaceful. I went home and said to Dave, “Book me in for once a week for the rest of my life!” From that very first class, I knew that my life was taking a different direction.

I’ve been studying yoga at Garden of the Heart for 3.5 years. I can honestly say that the experience has been life altering for me. As a mom of 3, life can become so hectic and overwhelming. Yoga has helped to keep me focused and fully present in the moment so that I find it much easier to experience joy in my everyday life. I so appreciate my many blessings and I am much better at accepting life’s unexpected bumps in the road. My life now has a sense of clarity that has come from feeling more connected to my inner self.

I feel so fortunate to be a part of the wonderful community at Garden of the Heart. I love my role as Office Manager, and it has given me the opportunity to meet so many of you. Betsey and the instructors have created a warm and welcoming space where we can be uniquely ourselves while coming together to share our yoga experiences.

So, “What do I see myself doing in five years?”….I can confidently say that yoga will always be a part of my life!! Much love and a very special thank you to all of my teachers at Garden of the Heart.

Mary Anne is our office manager and we are so appreciative of the great job she does.