Teacher Feature

Tiffany Polite-Hill - August 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?
I am originally from North Jersey. I grew up in a town called Belleville. We are known for our Cherry Blossom Park! I lived there until I was 21 years old, then I moved to North Plainfield. My current home is in New Brunswick, with my partner.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?
Once quarantine started, my favorite rock climbing gym closed. So I picked up a pair of rollerblades from the thrift store. I do not have the urge to put them down! Rollerblading is so much fun. It keeps me active and definitely helps my balance! I always love to watch the ice skaters during the Olympics. This is the closest I will get to Olympic gold.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?
Marshall Rosenberg, the author of ‘Nonviolent Communication’. He is a brilliant psychologist who has changed my mind about so many things. He says that we should give compassionately with the sole intention to enrich life! We should ask ourselves and “What is alive in me?” When we understand what is alive in us, we truly speak from our hearts. His concepts have completely changed the way I communicate with my partner, my friends and my family. I encourage everyone to check out his book. It’s on Audible!

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?
I love being able to connect with students/teachers. It means so much to me to make a connection with someone both on and off of the mat. I have made so many friends here at Onyx, many whom I consider family. This community is very sacred to me. I am happy to be back teaching with friends, new and old! I am so thankful to Shannon and Nikole for keeping our community together during these difficult times.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would go to Da Nang, Vietnam! I had travel plans to go there but because of COVID-]19, the borders are closed. The south central coast is full of beaches, great food, great people and sacred sites! Thailand is very close so I hope to hop over and continue my teacher training. I plan to live and explore Vietnam once the borders are open.

Leslieann Hobayan - July 2020

1.Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I moved around a bit, mostly within Jersey (though I was born in Ohio). Englewood, Piscataway, Watchung.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

What else is there? Haha! Just kidding. 🙂 I’m also a poet, so reading is a big thing for me — it feeds the creative well. Poetry book I’m reading right now? Bodega by Su Hwang — amazing range of form, but the content is what has me hooked: experiences of the immigrant experience. Spiritual book: Pema Chodron’s Welcoming the Unwelcome, which is divine timing as I started this book before the pandemic was a thing. I also love being in nature —from hiking to lying down in the grass, but my favorite is being by the sea — swimming in the ocean, sitting at the water’s edge, listening.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

I’m wrapping up this online business course that has an amazing, supportive community. What inspires me about this group has been to watch people continue to step out of their comfort zones again and again, despite the fear, despite the hang-ups about tech and the what-ifs, and launch their businesses AND see the community respond with genuine enthusiasm, outrageous cheerleading, and endless encouragement! I mean I got excited just writing this! While this course might have been about business, it has been more certainly been more than that. It’s been about mindset shifts to revise limited beliefs. It’s been about figuring out who you are. It’s been about making real connections with real people, no matter what differences might lie between us —from niches to home countries to language to skin color. (This community is global and this year’s class is about 4,000 members.) And THAT is inspiring!

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

What I love about being a teacher is the ability to share what I’ve learned from my various teachers (whether in -person or through books). Most people aren’t familiar with sutras and yamas and niyamas and all that yoga jazz. So I try to apply the teachings to everyday life situations and invite students to consider different ways of viewing or responding from what they automatically do. When I see their eyes light up in that ah-ha moment? The best!

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Being in quarantine for this long has subdued my traveling bug a little bit so I had to think on this one. Presuming ideal conditions, if I’m going to be totally honest (and I’ll probably get made fun of for this one but I don’t care! My journey is my journey!) I’d like to follow the Liz Gilbert path of Italy (Rome), India (Vrindavan and Rishikesh), and Bali (Ubud). Yes, yes, you got it: eat, pray, and love (though I’ll probably be doing more yoga than love in Bali – haha! :p).

Photo is of me & my doggie, Bailey. 🙂

Reena Singhvi - June 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I am originally from India. I grew up in a city called Jaipur which is also known as the Pink City of India, as many of the buildings and architecture have a reddish pink hue. It is now a favorite destination for vacationers, for its rich cultural history and vibrancy. I had an arranged marriage, when I was 21 years old, and right after moved to the US with my husband. As difficult as the transition was, to my new role as a wife, in an altogether unfamiliar terrain, I gradually started to see lots of options and opportunities for self growth and development in the US. Upon completing my CPA certification, I started working for an accounting firm, then called Arthur Andersen and worked there till I became a mother.

After having my first baby, I quit my job, and chose to be a stay at home mom. I am grateful that I had that option and was able to enjoy this very fulfilling albeit challenging experience!! Once both my daughters started going to school, I started to attend yoga classes. It felt natural, as growing up I had seen my parents practicing yoga at home. I felt a strong pull toward yoga, hence eventually decided to become a yoga instructor.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

Besides yoga I enjoy reading and listening to fiction, non fiction and spiritual books. Walking and hiking energize me. Family game nights or playing games on my phone( words with friends, quiz up) are also my favorite pastimes. Meditation has also become a part of my daily ritual, usually before bedtime and often in the morning as well, before I start my day. It is one of the most precious and meaningful habits, which has deeply impacted my life in a positive way. Besides all of the above, I love to hang out with friends and family and laugh and chat endlessly.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

I love listening to, and am inspired by the teachings of Elkhart Tolle, Sister Shibani, Sadguru, Thich Nhat Hanh and Gelong Thubten. Listening to one or more of them has become part of my daily ritual.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

My favorite part of teaching yoga is how present I find myself while I teach a class. I feel like I am in the moment, and the teaching just flows through me. I don’t have a structure or a plan before I step on the mat, but somehow in the presence of all the yogis around me, the flow happens and feels effortless. I feel a sense of deep gratitude toward all the people who join my classes, as because of their presence I feel totally present🙏🏽The energy of all the yogis together is immensely powerful and serene at the same time.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot and see many countries and cultures. Now I would love to go on several yoga and meditation retreats and be someday in the presence of my spiritual teachers, specially sister Shibani. Would love to do this together with a few friends who have a similar mindset😊

I constantly and consistently make an effort to be present with every experience, whatever that may be challenging or otherwise. To love each moment to the fullest, be it dancing with friends, or meditating alone. To let go of judgement and criticism of others and my own self, to let go of the past as it doesn’t serve me anymore, and above all to not take myself too seriously😘

Barbara Fritze - May 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I grew up in Warren, New Jersey. In 1992, I married and moved to Ontario Canada that’s where I found yoga and eventually specifically Kundalini yoga. I returned from Canada in 2000 and finally did my teacher training in NYC.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

Besides yoga I am a full time hairdresser and makeup artist. I love my work and spend lots of time upgrading my skills both in Hairdressing and extra yoga certifications. My husband and I love to travel and we adore our family including two energetic boxers.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

My students inspire me on a regular basis. I also study annually with Guru Singh from California, Snatam Kaur a great teacher and musician, many other wonderful teachers too many to name among them Mahan Rishi Singh Khalsa and Shakta Kaur with whom I am currently doing the Radiant child yoga program.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

I love teaching, it has changed my life in so many ways. The feeling I get when someone transforms before my eyes and I see the tension leave their face and body changing to a radiant glow of vitality is beyond rewarding . I am honored I have been given this roll in life. I strive to be the best teacher I can be and inspire others to become teachers as well. I truly feel that with Yoga we can change the world.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I adore travel and I would love to one day go to India to see the Golden Temple and other great sights since. India is the origin of so many yoga practices.

Denise Corsini - April 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I’m originally from Bound Brook, NJ, but I moved to Doylestown, PA when I was young, so that’s where my first childhood memories are. When I was first grade we moved to Bridgewater, NJ where I went to elementary and high school.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?
Aside from yoga, I love to run, cook (and eat!), and spend time with my friends and family.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

Hearing about people’s generosity during this tough time has been the most inspiring to me lately. The impact of the virus has affected nearly every aspect of life as we know it; yet, I’ve heard so many stories of people helping one another in various ways.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

My favorite aspect of being a teacher is that I get to meet such lovely people. I’ve made so many strong connections and friendships through Onyx. I also love being able to teach tools that have helped me so much in my own life.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Hawaii! My fiancé and I planned to go on our honeymoon there in June. Due to the recent pandemic, we decided to postpone so that we can enjoy the trip when it feels safe to travel. We’re looking forward to hiking, relaxing, and experiencing the culture.

Jeff Lehrer - March 2020

I was born a long time ago (not going to tell you my age) in Newark, NJ. My family moved to Colonia, NJ (part of Woodbridge Township) when I was 2 and I lived there until I was 11. We then moved to Edison Township where I attended Oak Tree School elementary school, John Adams Middle School and JP Stevens High School. I graduated from the University of Maryland with combined political science and history degrees. I then received my J.D. from Temple University School of Law. I have been a practicing land use and municipal attorney since 1982 (ok.. now you know a bit more about my age).

Yoga is my passion but I have other activities that I enjoy, including traveling with Esta (my beautiful wife) to exotic places, reading, and spending quality time with my best buddy “Arielle”, a 12 year old pit bull/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. I could not have been luckier to have such a sweet dog.

Teaching yoga truly inspires me. Although I had a rough start (feeling intimidated and not being my authentic self), my teaching slowly evolved and now it is my true passion. I love to see students come to my classes and feel enriched by each class and want to come back for more. That gives me tremendous satisfaction.

As many of you know, I studied Ashtanga under Ross Marshall, Beryl Bender and David Swenson. It is my favorite form of yoga. It is a disciplined practice which demands deep concentration and is replete with salutations, standing poses, seated postures, forward bends, twists, back bends, hip openers, inversions, arm balances, leg extension and flexion and shoulder openings. There is no part of my body which feels left out of this practice.

I also enjoy and participate in Yin classes and vinyasa flow classes of various types. I am truly inspired by one teacher in particular at Onyx, namely Ranjitha. She has taught me so much about the practice of yoga. What I mean by this is that she has taught me not just the asanas but a way of yogic living. Yoga has changed my life in so many ways that it would take pages to tell you why. Suffice it to say that I cannot imagine my life without yoga.

My favorite place in the world is South Caicos. I enjoy the quiet and the natural beauty of the island and its people. Someday I will depart this world and my instructions are that my ashes be spread over the waters of East Bay in South Caicos.

I look forward to seeing you in my classes.

Jay Karlinski - February 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?
I grew up by LBI, and I have lived in Guatemala, Mexico, Thailand, and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I have traveled extensively all over the world, with some of favorite spots being Borneo, Vietnam, Tasmania, the Peruvian Amazon, and the national parks of Utah

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga? 
Besides yoga, my favorite thing to do is play with my best friend/ dog Diesel. We traveled together 1,800 miles across the USA on a bicycle. Amazing adventure!

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately? 
I teach preschool to the purest yogis in the world and am constantly inspired by their relentless pursuit of play!

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher? 
I love being able to contribute to and witness the growth of my students, on and off of the mat. I love to hear my students tell me about how they apply the lessons that they learn on the mat to their life outside of the studio. As I always say, “we practice yoga on the mat in order to live life more skillfully off of the mat.”

 5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? 
My wife and I are traveling to Koh Samui, Thailand, for yoga. It is one of the most beautiful places the world. So excited to return to one of my favorite spots and eat all of the delicious food!

Michael Kohan - January 2020

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?
I was born in Connecticut but spent my formative years living in Branchburg, NJ. As a young adult I lived in NYC for over 15 years. Over time the fast pace of the city was starting to drain my energy. Therefore, I returned to my roots and currently reside in Somerville, NJ with my lovely and adoring fiancé.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga? 
Well thats an interesting question as a yogi… My main love is yoga but if I am not practicing, I like to swim laps at the pool, hike in the woods and play the guitar. I am huge movie buff as well and I can’t resist a good book.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately? 
Lately I have been inspired by the present moment. Really just trying to discover more time to slow down rather than always having to do or achieve something.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher? 
I love watching people transform their lives by practicing yoga. It never gets old and is always a joy to watch someone new come to yoga and see them open up their body, heart and mind.

 5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? 
COSTA RICA would be the place to go. I will be running a retreat there in April 2020. If you are interested in going feel free to reach out to me, I’d be happy to talk to you.

Sandy Marotta - December 2019

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I am a born and raised Jersey girl. There was also a time in my life when I briefly lived in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

Hiking, hiking and MORE hiking! I’m also a big lover of the ocean and all things related to it.

3.Who or what inspires you the most lately?

Swami Satchidananda continuously inspires me on a daily basis. I listen to his talks almost every motning in my car and I keep a copy of his commentary on the Yoga Sutras in my purse.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

Acting as a vessel for unconditional love. I want each and every student to feel that they can come to class exactly as they are and I will care for them no matter what.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

COSTA RICA, and you should come too! My partner and I will be running a retreat there in April 2020. If you have any questions feel free to reach out 🙂

Shannon Elliott - November 2019

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I was born in Southfield, Michigan and was there until I was 4 years old.  I have lived in Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and of course New Jersey.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

Honestly, yoga asana is my core form of movement.  Beyond that, I love pretty much anything outdoors.  Hiking, rock climbing, and recently even some mountain biking. I really love a great book.  I also have been playing around with singing, mostly in the shower for now haha. Oh, and I freakin love to dance.

3.Who or what inspires you the most lately?

Presence inspires me the most lately.  Onyx inspires me the most lately.  Trust in the Universe, expanding perspectives. I have this secret mission (although not so secret now) to help make others dreams come true.  Onyx is a place which started with a small number of absolute angels creating the base of our family.  And now we get to continue to grow that.  Over the last 10 years my heart continues to overflow as I look around at our incredible platform.  I believe we exist to individually enrich ourselves and here at Onyx we also get to create lifelong relationships. I believe in our humanness above all.  I am continually inspired by the many who live their lives in deeply authentic ways.  With each passing year, I become more and more comfortable with being verses doing.  I was reminded by Pema Chodron recently:  (paraphrasing) Letting go sounds like a doing and can be quite hard, intimidating, and self judging.  So instead, the invitation becomes:  Letting Be. The more I repeat Letting Be, not only do I better know what to walk away from, I also have the courage to go big and take actions trusting in myself and the Divine.  I envision the Divine now as a partnership, God and me are united and on the same team.   Additionally, when I can feel that God exists in all, separation begins to dissolve.  I have also learned to forgive myself, others, and to release the internal violence towards myself which can be anything from negative self talk to straight up inappropriate behavior.  Healing is my focus, and that comes with a bunch of honesty, integrity, and self love right alongside loving others more fully.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

Authentically sharing the teachings, I feel a great responsibility to put my Shannon-ness aside and share the ancient teachings of yoga related to present day times.  But the most exciting piece, is watching others when yoga begins to heal people’s insides and they get to experience who they really are.  It in indescribable, and a gift to watch individuals living their own truths and dharma and then coming together collectively to raise the vibration of this planet.  And this circle then continues because as our students evolve, I am continually inspired to do the same.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Dominica!  (kindly must say it is not the Dominican Republic.) I have been to Dominica once before and there is no place higher on my bucket list at the moment to return to.  It is the most magical place, lush jungles, volcanic terrain, boiling lakes, the most incredible people, living off of and within nature. Truly what I imagine the Garden of Eden to be. Onyx is going in February, and this time I get to go with old and new friends alike.  Lucky me!

Tina Malone - October 2019

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I am originally from Hamilton Twp, NJ about an hour south of Warren, NJ. Besides two years in Europe and my college years, I’ve lived in NJ my entire life. I may need to move somewhere soon. That’s a long time in Jersey.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

I’d have to say my favorite activity would be swimming in the ocean when there are huge waves. It’s exhilarating and makes you feel like you are one tiny speck but still a part of the whole ocean. I have a new comfort bike that I love riding. I also like to read. I’m currently reading Educated by Tara Westover, which I highly recommend and my next book will be Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

I’ve never been able to pick a single person who inspires me. It’s more little bits here and there of stories I’ve heard or news articles about people. However, if I had to pick someone it would be Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish environmental activist.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

Taking the time to plan out a class that makes sense from a physical perspective with transitions that are smooth and poses that build on each other and flow naturally and then tying the physical movements to the mind so that when the students leave class they feel a sense of well being in the mind and body.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I have a large bucket list of places to visit from Morocco to Alaska to Thailand. I really enjoy new and different experiences. Lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to go someplace and just wander around without a plan, no reservations made. I think that goes with the yoga experience of living in the moment, staying present. Usually I’m a planner, enjoying planning the trip just as much as taking the trip.

Jane Lindemann — September 2019

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I am a Jersey girl through and through. Born and raised right here in Bridgewater, NJ.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

I enjoy hiking with my husband and our dog Jack. Playing fetch with Jack but I’m the one doing all the fetching. I love to cook but mostly bake. I enjoy gardening around the house and being outside. Not sure if you would call sitting on the beach with a cocktail in my hand an activity but for today lets call it one.

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

I don’t know if I have anything or anyone who inspire me right now but what I do like right now is being quiet and still, preferably outside.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

Seeing students grow and progress in their practice, physically, mentally, emotionally. When a student has been trying to do a certain “pose” and they finally get it. Those little successes fill me with joy. Teaching alignment so students understand what will work for them and that it’s ok if it doesn’t look like the person next to them. Teaching the teachings of Yoga. Teaching makes me happy, it gives me a purpose, keeps me accountable, it gives me joy to be of service to others and it makes me stop thinking about me and forces me to be present. And if you are one of my students reading this you know sometimes that is not always true, lol. Making those personal connections and cultivating those relationships. I want to share everything I love about yoga.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would like to go to Africa to see the natural beauty of Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cape Town, Seychelles to name only a few. Experience the wildlife while during the migration season the diversity of cultures, explore the natural terrains and while I’m there I would also go to Mauritius. A small island off the coast of Africa that has the Chamarel Waterfall and the seven colored earth. Visit all the temples and statues. Taste the culinary cuisine. Swim the in turquoise waters walk on the white sands (with that drink in my hand) and explore the coral reefs. So I’m sending this out into the Universe.

Jules Defreitas — August 2019

1. Where are you originally from? How long did you live there?

I was born and raised in Swisher, Iowa (not to be confused with Idaho or Ohio…) I moved to New Jersey right before my 21st birthday for a nanny job. I try to visit my family and friends in Iowa once or twice a year. I have gratitude for my roots even though New Jersey feels like home to me now.

2. What activities do you enjoy besides yoga?

Aside from the usual “I love spending time with my husband and kids” -which I do! I made a promise to myself about 5 years ago that I would travel every season. I’ve been blessed with the ability and means to achieve that and then some!
I really love fitness in general. I do Crossfit a few times a week either at the gym or in my garage. I tolerate running and completed my first half marathon in May. I truly appreciate being in nature and welcome any opportunity for hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and will make any excuse to go to the beach!

3. Who or what inspires you the most lately?

Honestly… anyone I see following their dreams and achieving massive goals!
I just finished reading MC Yogi’s book, Spiritual Graffiti so I’m pretty pumped up by his story and journey of overcoming delinquency and drugs, finding yoga and totally changing his life with immense positivity (Ps his music is pretty dope and you might hear it in some of my classes).

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching/being a teacher?

What I truly LOVE is being able to share yoga philosophy and teachings with my students. The real reason I chose YTT was because I wanted to expand my knowledge for personal reasons. I didn’t expect (actually I was terrified) to teach the physical aspect… but here I am! I’m over the moon grateful for and humbled by the push and opportunity.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Since I love traveling, this is a hard question! Seeing new places and different cultures gives me a deeper appreciation for the world. As much as I love laying on the beach and swimming in clear oceans, I think traveling with a purpose feels more well-rounded. India was incredible to say the least, and I want to see more of the globe. I’d like to find a mission trip and volunteer while still having time to relax and recharge. Suggestions are welcome!

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