About Our Team

Each instructor here at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga brings his or her own love, style, compassion, and expertise for the practice to the students of yoga. With instructors of various backgrounds and techniques, we’re able to offer a full range of classes and are excited to have you discover your own individual practice. Learn more about our instructors below.

Sujantra McKeever

Sujantra McKeever

Founder

Sujantra was born in San Francisco in 1962 and moved to San Diego in 1980 to attend UCSD. He is the founder and owner of the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. He first became interested in hatha yoga as a young boy and used his practice of asanas (the yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques) as a stepping stone into the “inner aspects” of yoga: concentration, meditation and contemplation.

Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Two of his books were used by major universities to teach wellness, stress reduction and comparative religion. Over the past 20 years, he has delivered over one thousand lectures on meditation and yoga in over 25 countries.

Sujantra opened the Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. In each of his yoga classes, Sujantra offers the complete yoga experience by teaching all eight aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern lives. He teaches Beginning / Gentle Yoga; Yoga for Children and Hatha Levels I and II, which includes Sun Salutations, shoulder stand and headstand. He encourages students to practice both at home and at the studio.

Sujantra has studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy since 1980. Sujantra is an ACE certified Group Fitness Instructor.

Blair Hartwell

Blair Hartwell

Blair's Bio

Blair began her teaching journey here at Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2008, and has enjoyed the love, community, and growth that surrounds this beautiful studio ever since. In 2010, she took a year traveling the world, using her breath as a center within the ever changing scenery and experiences. Incorporating a sense of balance between self, others, and the universe, Blair encourages her students to follow their own inner voice and lead a life full of compassion.

Lena Schmidt

Lena Schmidt

Lena's Bio

Lena Schmidt is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance. With a background in gymnastics and dance, Lena finds the physicality of yoga to be a delightful and challenging way to move the body without competition. The spiritual aspects of yoga have aided Lena in the never-ending search for peace, calm, and positivity within and she is passionate about sharing these tools with others. Lena is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression. To complement the creative practice of yoga, Lena holds degrees in ethnic studies and women’s studies and is dedicated to making the joyfulness of yoga accessible to all people. Lena offers a hatha/vinyasa class that includes strong asana, pranayama, and a philosophical theme woven throughout.

Tom Warner

Tom Warner

Tom's Bio

Tom Warner, the studio’s musical director, currently leads Pilgrimage of the Heart’s Kirtan ensemble (Chanting, Musical Meditation), guides free meditations and works on community development. Tom has been haunting Pilgrimage of the Heart almost since it’s inception in 2006. Tom’s exposure to yoga occurred in 1990 in Los Angeles. After over 20 years of practice he enrolled and completed yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage in the spring of 2011, and then completed Silver Age Yoga teacher training and certification, a practice of safe yoga for senior citizens.

Tom is a life-long musician of over 40 years, and says, “The Kirtan practice we have developed at Pilgrimage of the Heart has been one of the best experiences of my life, both musically and for my soul. We are in our 5th. year and are rapidly approaching 250 meditational sessions. We have had close to 75 musicians perform in this group over the years and what a fantastic experience it’s been to work with such talented individuals. Over 1500 people a year participate in this practice. Participation is the essence of Kirtan. Join us Thursday at 8:15pm.”

Tom looks forward to a deep immersion in the yoga world for the rest of his life, and extends his gratitude to the entirety of the Pilgrimage family, Sujantra, staff, teachers, studio members and friends. Together, peace…

Danielle Brand-Lemond

Danielle Brand-Lemond

Danielle's Bio

Danielle is a yoga practitioner and teacher, a writer, and a mother. She strives to align her actions with her deepest held values—an aspiration that has led her family across the country from Washington, D.C., where she taught yoga professionally for many years, to a remote Colorado homestead, and finally to San Diego. As a teacher, she delights in sharing the benefits that she has found in her personal yoga practice, and in helping her students feel at ease in their own bodies, in each moment, just as they are. As a writer, Danielle seeks to illuminate something real about the nature of consciousness and the human condition with stories from her own life and experience. Becoming a mother has opened her heart wide and she sees it as a privilege and challenge – as well as her primary dharma, or life’s work at this moment – to help guide two souls to be who they are truly meant to be.

Yesica Rodriguez

Yesica Rodriguez

Yesica's Bio

Yesica firmly believes in the importance of exercising the body from the inside out. This is what drew her to yoga over 7 years ago. In 2011, Yesica completed her first Yoga Teacher Training at Namaste Yoga Center in San Diego. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200 hour with Yoga Alliance. Most recently, Yesica completed her 100 hour Prenatal, Postnatal and Baby Yoga teacher training at Nature’s Whisper School of Yoga, also in San Diego.

With a background in dance, Yesica is comfortable with the movement and focus on alignment associated with yoga but is drawn to the inner awareness and spirituality brought about in practice. Yesica loves to incorporate music, gentle touch and deep relaxation in her classes. She teaches Vinyasa and Hatha styles but has a special place in her heart for family yoga practice. When not teaching yogaclasses, Yesica loves caring for her boys Max and Manuel, playing guitar and cooking healthy meals for her family.

Tyler Lavigne

Tyler Lavigne

Tyler's Bio

Tyler incorporates the natural organic movements of the body and breath to open the heart, and create avenues to relax the everyday activity of the mind. He believes yoga is a wonderful physical practice, creating a spiritual connection and oneness with the mind, body, and breath. Practicing yoga for over eight years at various studios in Santa Cruz, Honolulu, and now here in San Diego, Tyler has had exposure to a variety of yoga styles and different methods of teaching. He focuses strongly on the correlation between movement and breath, incorporating the individual needs in an effort to reach a feeling of inner peace, relaxation and complete surrender.

Salil Wilson

Salil Wilson

Salil's Bio

Born in Australia Salil has lived in New York since 1990. He was first introduced to meditation in 1984, at the age of 19 and shortly after began to incorporate a daily practice into his life. In 2004 Salil’s meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy asked him to serve as the Executive Director of the Peace Run, a running relay which takes a “Peace Torch” to over 100 countries each year. Salil still serves in this capacity.

Nikole Fortier

Nikole Fortier

Nikole's Bio

Nikole is amused by the poetic irony of pop culture introducing her to yoga: “I went in looking for ‘yoga butt’ and walked out profoundly changed–physically, mentally, psychically.” Nine years later, she’s dedicated to creating space in her classes for students to experience something similar.

Nikole has a 200 hour certification from UCSD training with Arturo Galvez in the Iyengar & Astanga traditions, and recently completed a 100 hour interdisciplinary flow certification from Yoga One with Amy Caldwell & Diana Beardsley. She’s been blessed to have studied with many amazing teachers, and often credits her students for teaching her most. In her classes, she likes to incorporate chanting, pranayama, Sanskrit, philosophy, still and moving meditation through asanas with emphasis on the breath so that students can experience the spectrum of transformational yoga expressions. Foremost, she encourages students to practice loving kindness, truth, peace and acceptance on the mat as these qualities invariably translate into life.

Lauren McLaren

Lauren McLaren

Lauren's Bio

Yoga found Lauren in 1998, and she credits it with transforming her life from an unexamined existence into a deeply felt experience. The physical practice has its own rewards, and soon after coming to the mat, she found relief from chronic back pain. What amazes her is the subtlety of yoga’s power. Out of this simple desire to be free of pain grew an awareness of the immeasurable value of each moment of our lives. This new mindfulness inspired a sense of deep connection that has carried her through some grave times with hope and humor. Yoga offers many lessons, but one of the most personally resonant is that to let go of suffering, you must first accept things as they are, and then accept that they will change.

Originally from Canada, Lauren holds a B. Ed in secondary education and taught at the secondary level for several years before moving to the Caribbean and then later to Savannah, Georgia. Her yoga journey began in the Caribbean, but she has studied with amazing teachers there, in Canada and in the US. A teacher at heart, she returned to her calling and began teaching yoga in 2009 after completing her first teacher training with the Aura Wellness Center in Rhode Island. Always seeking to expand her knowledge and training, Lauren completed a second 200 hour program with Deva Parnell at the Discovery Yoga Center in St. Augustine, Florida. Kripalu inspired, her teaching style is grounded in honoring the body and its innate wisdom. She bring dedication, compassion and a sense of lightheartedness to her classes, but what drives and inspires her most is a profound belief in the transformative power of the practice both on and off the mat.

In addition to the classes she teaches, Lauren is honored to be part of the Yoga Teacher Training Program at Pilgrimage working to assist fellow travelers on their journey.

Carolina Moreira

Carolina Moreira

Carolina's Bio

Carolina discovered yoga in 2008 with the intention to improve physical fitness, strength, and flexibility. However, she quickly found a powerful transformative effect through a daily practice, which brought her mental and emotional benefits beyond the physical aspects. Initially, yoga fed her inside with self-discovery, balance, and acceptance. Carolina knew that she had discovered her path through yoga, and she made a choice to passionately share it with others.

 Courtney Yezzi

Courtney Yezzi

Courtney's Bio

Courtney Yezzi has taught at Pilgrimage since 2008. She teaches the full array of classes from our power classes to our gentle classes. She understands yoga as a tool on the great journey to self-awakening. Courtney is an inspired yogi who is constantly focusing on sharing her highest with her students.

“To my shining spirit and the shining spirits of others who I will meet on this path. May our hearts beat joyfully together as we journey forward.”

Astika Mason

Astika Mason

Astika's Bio

Astika Mason is a 40 year disciple of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy. A universalist who has practiced several spiritual traditions in both monastic and non-monastic communities, he believes the essence of personal practice is the same across all faiths. A poet, essayist and short story author, Astika is a lay contributor to the Buddhist Text Translation Society when not working on his first novel, The City of The Goddess.

Papaha Gosline

Papaha Gosline

Papaha's Bio

Papaha has studied meditation with Sri Chinmoy since 1982 and has been teaching meditation classes free of charge for over 25 years. He helped build Jyoti-Bihanga vegetarian restaurant and was one of their chefs for over a decade. Papaha now owns a gallery and art studio across the street from the yoga studio in Normal Heights that focuses on showing spiritual contemporary art and producing commercial design.

Inspired by the example of Sri Chinmoy he also lives a very athletic lifestyle teaching tennis part time, along with enjoying many other sports activities in sunny San Diego. “Learning about spirituality with Sri Chinmoy has revealed paths with heart, creativity and fulfillment. Meditating and working with the Sri Chinmoy Centre has been the most powerful and enlightening experience of my life.”
Tom is a life-long musician of over 40 years, and says, “The Kirtan practice we have developed at Pilgrimage of the Heart has been one of the best experiences of my life, both musically and for my soul. We are in our 5th. year and are rapidly approaching 250 meditational sessions. We have had close to 75 musicians perform in this group over the years and what a fantastic experience it’s been to work with such talented individuals. Over 1500 people a year participate in this practice. Participation is the essence of Kirtan. Join us Thursday at 8:15pm.”

Tom looks forward to a deep immersion in the yoga world for the rest of his life, and extends his gratitude to the entirety of the Pilgrimage family, Sujantra, staff, teachers, studio members and friends. Together, peace…

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