International Yoga Day Presenter Bios
Willow Chang is committed to creative processes, learning experiences and sacred practice. A life-long dancer, she began dancing at an early age, studying hula for 10 years with Kumu Alicia Smith. After living abroad and performing a Hawaiian Show in Egypt (1994), Willow began to study bellydance with her first teacher, Glo Ayson, in Hawai’i. Willow holds a BA in Dance/music minor, (UH, ’02) and has also studied Classical Indian dance, Balinese, Flamenco, Argentine Tango, Ballet and Modern dance. For the past 18 years, she’s focused on Middle Eastern/Northern African dances. She’s recognized as Hawaii’s premier Middle Eastern Dance artist, with her emotive and elegant dance, on spot musicality, and exceptional costumes of her own design. She is also a board member of the Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP).
Willow is respected for her commitment to innovation of the art of dance, as well as its traditions. She travels annually to study and perform with master teachers, and to give workshops around the globe. She’s always honored to share the beauty of this ever evolving art.
Miss Willow lives and walks her yoga practice. If you have ever seen Willow spin like a perfectly balanced top for minutes at a time, you recognize her flawless posture that provides the still axis of her rotation. In addition to her training and accomplishment in the dance and music disciplines, Willow has faithfully followed a wealth of yoga practices since age 15. Synthesizing her studies in yoga, biomechanics and dance, Willow shares a yoga that celebrates safe form, cultural hallmarks, fluidity, breath work and mind-body awareness. Her students experience grace and joy through movement.
Police Commissioner, Susan Ballard
Chief Susan Ballard became the Honolulu Police Department’s 11th chief and Hawaii’s first female chief of police on November 1, 2017. She joined the HPD in 1985 and worked in a wide range of field and administrative assignments, including the Narcotics/Vice and the Downtown-Chinatown patrol district. As a commander, she has led the Kaneohe and Kalihi patrol districts and the Finance, Training, and Central Receiving divisions.
Chief Ballard believes in the department’s mission statement of Serving and Protecting with Aloha. She envisions the community and HPD working together to make Oahu safe for its nearly one million residents and five times as many visitors. Her priorities include rebuilding public trust, preventing and solving crime, and recruiting and retaining quality employees. She is also committed to expanding police programs for the young and elderly. She also regularly practices Yoga.
Born in Virginia and raised in North Carolina, Chief Ballard has a Master of Arts degree in health and physical education from Tennessee Technological University and a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education from Appalachian State University.
Carmen Curtis E-RYT 500
Carmen Curtis is flying high as one of the premiere experts in the world of aerial yoga and fitness. But that is only the beginning. This petite powerhouse is simultaneously raising the bar on what it means to be a modern-day renaissance woman.
Balance is key after all, according to the inspirational and acclaimed yogi; who also counts successful entrepreneur, business owner, teacher, professional Cirque performer, aerialist, choreographer, accomplished athlete, master motivator and, most importantly, wife and mother, among her many titles.
A zealous practitioner for more than two decades, Carmen first found yoga as a way to heal her body from the extreme sports of gymnastic and Cirque performing, and has been teaching it ever since. A testament to the masterful-blending of athlete, art and yoga,Carmen, who is deeply influenced by the teachings of Shiva Rae, Gurmukh and Bryan Kest, has garnered a reputation as the go-to guide for self-love and healing through yoga and the aerial arts.
Hailed as a “teacher’s teacher” who guides practices with great empathy, compassion and a desire to help serve, the highly sought after traveling yogi teaches workshops, retreats, conferences, teacher trainings and performs all over the world.
More than a teacher, a visionary, Carmen is also the founder of AIReal Yoga™, the first brand of aerial yoga teacher training recognized by the Yoga Alliance. Following the birth of her second child and wanting to return to her yoga and Cirque roots, Carmen designed AIReal Yoga™ to use an aerial hammock as a yoga prop to align, deepen stretches and safely do inversions. Carmen’s AIReal Yoga™ also offers a 50-hour, for certified yoga teachers, and both 200 and 300 hour teaching training course accredited by the yoga alliance, where yogis learn both floor based yoga and aerial yoga. AIReal Yoga™ has expanded their student learning experiences to include online classes and specialty trainings, multi-day immersions, destination retreats, and continuing education modules.
Now well-known as a pioneering & successful brand that makes yoga accessible to everyone, AIReal Yoga™ also has the distinction of being licensed to luxury resorts and hotels throughout the world such as The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain in the heart of Vail Valley, Colorado. As well, Carmen Curtis and senior certified AIReal Yoga™ instructors are featured presenters at leading global yoga festivals, such as Wanderlust 108, Wanderlust Festivals, Bhakti & Shakti Festival, and Telluride Yoga Festival.
When not traveling, Carmen can most likely be found hanging around at The Aerial Studio, in Ventura, CA, a certified RYS that she was encouraged to open in 2012 after wowing the community with her aerial abilities that she practiced out of her garage. Carmen co-owns the popular multi-faceted modern cirque, acrobatics, dance, yoga and AIReal Yoga™ studio, along with her husband and fellow former Cirque performer and creative, Gregg Curtis.
The duo also co-owned AIRealistic, an internationally renowned aerial theatre and rigging company, that has worked with such prestigious clients as: Dancing With The Stars, Cirque Du Soleil, Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The 2008 Beijing Olympics, The World Stunt Awards, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Bregenz Opera Festival, Toyota, Disney, Red Bull and many, many more.
Celebrities are often among the thousands of people Carmen touches with her craft, most recently training Beyoncé and her dancers, in the art of aerial dancing, including harness and AIReal Yoga™, for the superstar’s current Formation World Tour. In addition, Carmen choreographed, and Gregg directed the aerial acts featured in what is Beyoncé’s biggest and most spectacular world tour to date.
Other well-known students Carmen has trained and worked with include such incredible talents as Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Edyta Sliwnke, professional dancer often appearing on the hit television series Dancing With The Stars, and Ruby Rose during her appearance on Lip Sync Battle.
A star in her own right, Carmen has performed in many incredible shows including De La Guarda, where she was drumming, harness flying and running the walls, in NYC, Las Vegas and South Korea. and has worked for such high-profile outlets as Cirque Du Soleil, MTV and the Olympics. So impressed with her talent and ability, the director of Cirque Du Soleil, Franco Dragone, hired Carmen to collaborate with the research and development team for Le Reve, in which she also performed, at the Wynn hotel.
Carmen is a former gymnast at UCLA where she helped her team win a NCAA National Championship. From early childhood and throughout her college and post-graduate career, she consistently trained in dance, theater and swimming. She earned a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Higher Education at UCLA and pursued her M.S. in Holistic Nutrition.
Fast-forward to present day and Carmen is still masterfully maneuvering life with grace and balance as a successful working mother of two, literally walking and dancing on air…while jumping through an occasional hoop.
Dr. David Frawley
Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is Vedic teacher (Vedacharya) and author of forty published books on Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic studies translated into twenty languages worldwide.
Vamadeva has received a Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of the govt. of India for his Vedic educational work. He has a D.Litt from S-VYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana) and received a National Eminence Award from SIES (South India Educational Society). He is director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in the United States (www.vedanet.com), which offers publications and courses in Vedic knowledge systems. He is associated with Vedic organizations worldwide. He is regarded one of the pioneers in the global spread of Yoga and Ayurveda over the last several decades.
Senator Mike Gabbard
- Senator Mike Gabbard represents Hawai‘i’s 20th Senatorial District (West O`ahu) and has served in the Hawai‘i State Senate since 2006.
- Senator Gabbard currently serves as Chair of the Agriculture and Environment Committee. Prior to that, he was Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee for seven years.
- His daughter, Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, represents Congressional District 2 in the US House.
- Senator Gabbard is a practicing Catholic and has been a practitioner of bhakti yoga for over 45 years and helped to pass legislation to recognize June 21 as International Yoga Day in our state.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green
Josh Green is a local doctor, husband, and father of two. He has spent his life caring for Hawaii families.
After completing his medical training, Josh joined the National Health Corps and started his life’s work as a family physician and ER doctor in rural hospitals and clinics on the Big Island.
Josh served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008 and in the Hawaii State Senate from 2008 to 2018 where he chaired the Health Committee and Human Services Committee.
In 2005, Josh met his wife Jaime Ushiroda, a local girl from Kaneohe, and they were married in 2006. Together they are the proud parents of 12-year-old daughter Maia and 8-year-old son Sam.
In 2009 he was named “Hawaii Physician of the Year”. The hopes, challenges, and values of the families he cares for inspire Josh to do more to make life better for the people of Hawaii and he is honored to serve as their Lieutenant Governor.
Jody Hassel, 300-Hour TCTSY
Your facilitator, Jody Hassel, is the TCTSY Trainer for Alaska and Hawaii and a Supervisor for the 300-Hour TCTSY Certification program. Creating access to an embodied practice of being present and feeling empowered is her highest priority in facilitating yoga.
Jody facilitates Trauma Sensitive Yoga in small-group and private sessions at Blossom House Healing Arts and to community members in various programs in Fairbanks, Alaska. She is the founder and Executive Director of Blossom House, a nonprofit service organization providing accessible, trauma-informed interventions to incarcerated and in-custody communities. As a headquarters for healing, trauma stewardship, and community gatherings, Blossom House facilitates a collective of artists, teachers, and therapists who work to create access to wellness in order to cultivate a caring and just community.
Blossom House’s Yoga Service Project Alaska and Breadcrumbs Theatre Company currently offer weekly sessions for men and women at the Fairbanks Correctional Center, and for youth at the Fairbanks Youth Facility, and Family Centered Services Residential Treatment Center. Jody also offers Trauma Sensitive Yoga for clients of Turning Point Counseling.
Iyengar-based hatha, restorative, and vinyasa yoga styles add to Jody’s trauma-informed practice in other community classes at University of Alaska Fairbanks and Tanana Chiefs Conference facilities. Jody continues to develop her understanding of personal and community trauma through yoga and the arts.
Jody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About TCTSY: website https://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/
About JRI: website http://www.traumacenter.org/
Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar BAMS, MD is a classically trained Ayurvedic Physician with over 30 years of clinical experience. He has traveled all around the globe popularizing Ayurveda. He is a best selling author, sought after motivational speaker, researcher and an acclaimed educator in the field of integrative medicine. He was featured in numerous Radio & TV shows including NBC the Dr Oz show.
He is a Consultant for the Chopra Center, Dean of Mount Madonna Institute and the Director of Ayurvedic Healing Inc.He is a formulator & consultant to many nutritional companies that have generated Millions of dollars in revenues. He is an adviser to many International Organizations in the field of Yoga & Ayurveda.
Author of: The Hot Belly Diet, The Art & Science of Vedic Counseling, Change Your Schedule Change Your Life
Dr. Raj Kumar
Dr. Raj Kumar is the Founder & President of Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP) in Hawaii. He laid the foundation of this institute on 9/11/2001. Since then, he has been raising awareness about peace & nonviolence. He initiated a bill SB 2522 to establish Oct 2 as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”. Hon. Governor, David Y. Ige signed this bill into Act 5 in April 2015, making Hawaii the first state to declare October 2 as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”.
In December 2018, Dr. Kumar also initiated another bill HB 349 through GIIP into Hawaii Legislature to declare June 21 each year as International Yoga Day in Hawaii. The Senate and the House passed the bill unanimously and Hon. Governor, David Y. Ige signed this bill also into ACT102 in June 2019.
Dr. Kumar is also an author of numerous books including the best -seller book on Yoga –“The Secrets of Health and Healing.”
To know more about Gandhi International Institute for peace, please visit www.gandhianpeace.org
Professor Ramdas Lamb
Ramdas Lamb is a professor of Religion at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he has been teaching for more than 3 decades. Prior to entering higher education, he was an Hindu sadhu (ascetic monk) for nearly 10 years in India. While there, the study and practice of the ashtanga yoga system was an integral part of his life and it remains a focus of much of his continuing research and teaching at UH.
Whether small or large, Sarah’s classes feel personal and create a safe environment to let your true self shine through, providing a path to apply yoga in your everyday life. Like many who practice at the Still & Moving Center, Sarah is an ocean-loving yogi. She moved to Hawaii in 2002 to attend graduate school at UH, specializing in coral reef ecology. When life subsequently carried her to the east coast she was introduced to, and became a dedicated student of, the Jivamukti style of yoga. Studying with the founders, David Life and Sharon Gannon, and under the rigorous and inspiring mentorship of Andrea Boyd, Sarah received her certification to teach Jivamukti in 2011. Since then, Sarah has augmented her yoga practice and teachings with the study of massage therapy.
Kara Miller E-RYT 500
Committed to the practices of Yoga as a lifestyle and path, Kara deeply cares about her students and clients and this authentic love and support is evident in her teaching. She believes Yoga is a vehicle for personal development and growth, thus is committed to holding a safe and sacred space for her students. When you attend a class with her in Oahu, you can expect classical education and instruction in yoga philosophy and breathwork coupled with dynamic sequencing in a fluid, powerful flow style called Mandala.
Kara is a 500 hour certified Yoga Instructor and Yoga teacher trainer who has taught in Hawaii for almost 10 years as well as internationally. She holds annual Yoga Empowerment / Service retreats in Kosrae, Micronesia, and is currently building a Yoga Empowerment project for Pacific Islander women in the islands she works on.
Throughout Kara’s life she has spent time living and working in Fiji, Indonesia, St. John USVI, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall islands. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Marine resource and environmental management from the University of Hawaii, where she resides full time. She has worked in international fisheries management and policy, marine education and training, and capacity building on small Pacific Islands for the last 10 years. Her affinity for Pacific island culture and nuances is strong, and she is very passionate about working alongside and supporting the people of this region.
Zeny Ogrisseg E-RYT 500, YACEP, AWC (Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor)
Zeny is a Yoga Educator, Musician, Sound Healer and Sri Vidya Practitioner. With a mixed heritage that includes Punjabi Indian, Filipino and Spanish, Zeny was raised in a culturally and spiritually diverse home. Her first yoga experience was listening to her mom chanting “Om” when she was a child.
Zeny’s yoga teaching emphasizes alignment, core stability, balance and deep stretching for the hips and shoulders. Her favorite poses are backbends, because they help open the heart. Zeny’s classes are noted for their depth in alignment, practical philosophy and rich spirituality.
She has traveled extensively all over India, studying Yoga, Tantra, Mantra and Ayurveda. She is certified at the highest level recognized by Yoga Alliance as a Yoga Teacher Trainer, conducting 200 and 500 Hour Yoga Trainings through her school Hawaii School of Yoga. Her teachers include Guru Karunamaya, former head priest at Devipuram temple, a lineage holder of Sri Vidya, one of the most ancient Indian spiritual traditions whose main icon is the Sri Yantra; Swami Khecharanatha, a lineage holder of Kundalini Sadhana (derived from Kashmir Shaivism) and founder of Rudramandir in Berkeley, CA; and Russil Paul (Anirud Jaidev), recording artist, music producer and author of the book “The Yoga of Sound.”
Inspired by one of India’s greatest Yogi’s, Sri Aurobindo, who was the first to say “All Life is Yoga”, Zeny promotes the yogic way of life, not just the practice on the mat. Her own daily practice involves meditating and chanting daily, studying the source texts of yoga, practicing Sri Vidya, and teaching yoga classes.
With a passion for sacred music, Zeny plays the piano, harp, harmonium and Tibetan singing bowls. And her main instrument is her voice. She has a gift for Sanskrit chanting and conducts kirtan and chanting sessions all over Oahu.
In her free time, Zeny enjoys spending time at the beach with her family, and cooking Indian food… of which cauliflower pakoras are a particular favorite!
Yogi Ramesh Pandey
Guru Yogi Ramesh is an Int’l celebrity and a laughing icon of You Tube. He is a founder of laughing yoga for the last 20 years in Palm Springs, CA. He says, breath more, laugh more and be happy instantly.
Renée Tillotson, 2nd Degree Nia Black belt
Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center to share mindful movement arts from around the globe. Her inspiration comes from the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and from the lifelong learning she’s gained at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. Still & Moving Center aspires to serve the community, support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!
Enthusiasm fills every class and event Renée leads. The motto: ‘Move your body. Still your mind. Find center. Find Joy!” motivates her daily life.
A second degree Nia Black Belt, Renée says, “Through Nia I realized that I was born to dance…and perhaps everyone is! Nia connects me to pure Joy. I aspire to extend that Joy into the rest of my life and share it with every student who steps into my circle. Nia embraces both the yin and yang energies, helping all of us to balance our natures. Nia serves as a moving meditation for me, as well as a chance to play like a child again! I like to think of my classes as invigorating the body and elevating the spirit.”
Engaged in an earnest, life-long spiritual quest, Renée assembles the Still & Moving Center Almanac each year, filled with inspirational quotes by everyone from the Dalai Lama to Dolly Parton. She loves taking part in conversations that merge philosophical, spiritual and scientific thought with a lifestyle of compassion.
Renée has been moving and sharing Nia since 2002. She took all of her Nia intensive trainings at Nia International Headquarters from the co-creators of Nia: Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas. She considers herself a citizen of the world, and brings mindful movement practices from around the globe under one roof at Still & Moving Center.