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The Full Story

About the Models

Each of the twenty-five models volunteered their time to be part of this project. Below are their bios in their own words, why they decided to be part of the project and what surprises them about yoga. 

Christyl Brown

Flower children of the 70’s, Christyl Brown met Justin and they fell in love, and married all within 6 months.  Both musicians, they continue to be free spirits. For much of their life they supported their family in music; performing in bands, teaching piano, and traveling as a duo specializing in private events. That led to creating a start-up recording studio and allowed them to contribute to music and jingle production.  

 

Together they also started a local nonprofit called The Education Partnership which supplies teachers with free school supplies for their students.  Now retired, they enjoy travel in their Winnebago Travato van but reside in Pittsburgh.  Justin and Christyl have three married children and two granddaughters who all enjoy each other immensely.

 

Through all these years yoga was something Christyl has valued. Whether she had much time or little time to practice, there was benefit. The benefits were even more obvious during times when we didn’t practice!  Even a little practice makes an obvious difference.

 

I am excited to be part of this project because it is bringing me back to my love of yoga and the wonderful people who share this beautiful practice.

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how quickly the body can lose the benefits of yoga and substitute them for stiffness!

 

Justin Brown

Blessed to have three children, Tricia, Hilary and David, now grown and two precious granddaughters, Emma and Tatum, Justin Brown wades into retired life with his wife, Christyl. He leaves behind a career in the nonprofit sector, The Education Partnership, a corporate career and the life of an entrepreneur in the music business.  However, his musical pursuits will now come the forefront again in the form of solo piano and a duo with Christyl. He is very happy when navigating their motorhome around the USA and playing music when he can.  Introducing exercise and wellness into his new life is a work in progress.

 

Being back involved with yoga is a major plus.  Justin have said often that he would sign a court order to attend regular yoga classes, if such a thing was possible.  The smallest efforts can return significant results.  Even though Christyl and Justin started yoga in their 20’s, the benefit only comes from regular practice.  He is praying for the discipline to do just that in this new stage of life. 

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that no matter how long you're away from your practice, there is always a place to start your return.

Renee Prymus

Renee Prymus lives in Pittsburgh with her spouse, two children, and two cats. She teaches composition at the University of Pittsburgh, where she incorporates yoga and mindfulness into the classroom. She loves to play board games, read, and travel with her family. Renee has an MFA in writing and is a certified yoga instructor.

 

I am excited to be part of this project because this deck demonstrates that yoga is accessible to all body types of all ages and ranges of motion. As a working mom with back problems, I don’t often have time for a regular, full yoga class—but I need the restoration I find in yoga. This deck reminds me that yoga can be part of my daily life in small increments.

When I think about yoga, I remember to slow down and be present to my breath in this moment.

Gloria Potter

Gloria Potter is a business owner of 3 companies. Gloria is a vital part of the youth ministry at her church. She is passionate about helping and giving back to the kids in the community. She started her own ministry called “Lifeline.” She enjoys watching movies and traveling. Gloria’s most important job is as mother to her three children, Meleak, Charles, and Abigail. 

I am excited to be part of this project because it's an alternative measure of personal deflection and healing that can be used by all. 

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is all the health benefits it can provide not only physically but mentally. 

Shamus Brennan 

Shamus Brennan is a Biology student at the University of Pittsburgh, and between studying for his exams finds work as a PCT at a local hospital. Even off the clock however, he devotes
time weekly to volunteering with senior patient populations. When he catches a break, you’ll commonly find him reading webcomics, tinkering with computers, tending to a few plants or
enjoying some theatre. No stranger to introspection, Shamus has been meditating for years as a tenet of his practice as a student of Tang Soo Do karate. After his bachelor’s degree Shamus hopes to pursue a PA program, and as such can frequently be found shadowing a healthcare provider from one of many exciting specialties. Or at least, as many as he can pester enough to let him!


I am excited to be part of this project because it represents the real breadth of Yoga. Big or small, simple or intense, there are so many methods and applications that I genuinely believe
anyone could find that perfect way to incorporate yoga into their life.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is its ease of practical use. From an outside perspective, people who’ve never practiced much yoga can find it very easy to dismiss.
But for me, and many others, it’s just as easy to be surprised by how calming, focusing and healing yoga can be when sought out. Yoga doesn’t have to be your lifestyle to help you, you
only need to find the yoga that fits into the life you already lead.

Barbara Davis

Barbara Davis is an occupational therapist and mom to Riley Davis (also in this card deck). She is currently working on a doctorate degree in occupational therapy at Chatham University.She loves to travel, read historical fiction books, and spend time outdoors hiking and biking with her daughter. Barb is a veteran of the US Army and served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  


I am excited to be part of this project to show that yoga can be accessible to people of all body types and backgrounds. I am a busy mom and healthcare worker, and I like that
yoga can be done almost anywhere, and I can feel the benefits after only a short time. 


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how yoga can bring people together.  I love doing yoga with my daughter, and seeing how our bodies and minds
grow stronger together.

Riley Jo Davis

Riley Jo Davis is a 3rd grader who loves to take walks and travel with her mom. Her interests are reading and biking. She plans to learn how to skateboard this summer.

 

I am excited to be part of this project to show other kids that they can do yoga too.

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how easy it is to do. I like to do yoga breathing before bedtime to calm myself down.

Chareeni Kurukulasuriya

Chareeni is a proud Pittsburgh native and current medical student at the University of Pittsburgh. She is enjoying being back in her hometown for med school after moving away to get her undergraduate degree at Yale University and then working on the West Coast as a clinical trials coordinator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She is a movie fanatic and even starred in an indie movie that was filmed in NYC, titled King Lahiri. When she’s not planning trips to new states and countries with her friends, she likes to try cooking novel recipes she discovers online and knitting things for her friends and family while rewatching her favorite TV shows.

I am excited to be part of this project because I think it’s so important to make yoga more accessible to all kinds of people by showing that there is more than one way to incorporate it into your life and more than one way to share it with others.

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how quickly I can feel myself improving with regular practice. Poses that were challenging for me initially become more natural to achieve with each attempt I make, and it’s a really great positive feedback loop that keeps me motivated to keep yoga a part of my routine! Even a small amount of yoga each week has me noticing small improvements in how I feel in my own body, usually through simple daily things, like how I sit at work or get into my car or how easily I can fall asleep.

Charles Potter

Charles Potter currently attends high school and is pursuing creative activities he is passionate
about. Some of these activities include speech and debate club and singing lessons.


I am excited to be part of this project because I get to try something new.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is all the benefits from doing it.

Abigail Potter

Abigail Potter is in her last year of elementary school and loves to be creative. She shows her
creativity through singing and dancing. She enjoys hanging out with her friends and spending
time with family. She loves watching movies and traveling. 

 

I am excited to be part of this project because it’s something new for me and I love trying new
things.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how relaxing and calming it is.

Susan Randall

Susan Randall is the contented wife of Eric Randall (another model in the deck). When not spending time with Eric, she is a sedan driver for a county transportation company, a gardening enthusiast, and mom to Dayna, Alex, Ben, and Kayden. She loves reading books out loud with Eric, baking, enjoying the beauty and wonder of trees, Girl Scout troop camping, and bicycling
with family and friends. Susan has a BS in Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh.


I am excited to be part of this project because Joanne Spence is a dear friend. While on a fundraising bicycle trip, Joanne led the team through simple yoga stretches, poses and breathing exercises to keep us pedaling from Pittsburgh, PA to Georgetown, DC.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that the practice of yoga fits many lifestyles. Just a few minutes of yoga helps get my blood flowing throughout my body. The equipment needed is minimal making it practicable almost anywhere.

Kylie Prymus

Kylie Prymus is an avid board gamer and the owner of Games Unlimited, a tabletop gaming store in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to practicing yoga, he is a physical and spiritual fitness enthusiast and father of two.

I am excited to be part of this project because it is important that people be able to visualize themselves doing yoga. Yoga is not just for the physically fit and super flexible. It can be practiced by all and has no prerequisites of body type or range of mobility.


When I think about yoga, what really surprised me is how much deeper the tradition goes beyond the physical and mental health benefits. We have a tendency to think dualistically and while we may recognize that yoga helps align our physical and mental selves with each other, something more often happens in our practice that makes us aware of how inadequate that type of thinking
is to our lived experience.

Cassie Semler

Cassie Semler is a wife of 10 years to Tyler Semler, and together they have three amazing daughters. She is working towards her Masters of Divinity, and hopes to be a pastor in the PC(USA) church. She currently works as a Faith Formation Director at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, where her favorite part of her job is working with the children and youth of the community. She loves reading, hiking, and all things Disney. 

 
I am excited to be a part of this project so that people can see that anyone, regardless of body shape or
size, can participate in yoga practices. I love practicing yoga, both by myself and with my children, and it
in encouraging to think that young people will see a bigger body doing yoga and know they can do it, too.
 
 
When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that it is a practice that most everybody can participate in somehow, even just with breath. I love watching how it can calm my body and my children down, or wake us up, or any number of things when we do yoga together.

Saige Smith

Saige Smith is an actor, singer songwriter, and theater production manager based in Pittsburgh, PA. She met Joanne Spence when she was a baby in her mother's belly, and has known and loved her ever since. She enjoys performing in plays, musicals, and with her band, Samurai Velvet. She loves hiking and taking time to appreciate the beauty of wilderness, especially trees. She has a Bachelor's degree in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. 

I am excited to be part of this project because I have spent a great deal of my life around people who are more
flexible than me. Lacking those abilities made me feel like yoga was out of the question for me. I was stunned when
Joanne asked me to join in, and overjoyed when I realized that the moves were something that I could do with the
body I had. Taking part in this project helped me to become more accepting of my body. 

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that anyone can do it! It may take a bit of mindfulness and patience, but yoga can be as simple as taking a deep breath. I have never participated in yoga without feeling more in touch with myself afterwards.

Doug Spence

Doug Spence is the happy husband of Joanne Spence (author of this card deck). When not editing Joanne’s work, he is a university administrator, avid hunter and outdoorsman, and dad to Merryn, Jacob, and Lucca. He loves to read suspense novels, play chess, and walk the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain as a spiritual pilgrim. Doug has a JD from the University of
Pennsylvania and a BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.


I am excited to be part of this project so that people can see that if old guys like me can do yoga, then they can too. For me, practicing yoga is part of our family life together - our common language, so to speak. I am glad when others see and realize that yoga may not be what they think it is.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how good I feel after just ten to fifteen minutes of easy practice. After twenty-plus years of practicing yoga on and off, I am still surprised by this revelation! I want more people to know what is possible for them.

Milonica Stahl-Wert

Milonica Stahl-Wert serves as Senior Partner at Center for Serving Leadership. She earned her BS in Social Work from Eastern Mennonite College. Before becoming a mother, she worked in Elder Care, managing a Senior Center. She also enjoyed a year of seminary classes, is a certified CoreSomatic Practitioner, and with the help of her husband birthed and raised two daughters. Milonica is an artist who has worked in a wide variety of media, including restoring stained-glass windows, writing icons, painting, or quilting in the tradition of her Mennonite foremothers. Her newest vocation is embarking on weekly Saturday adventures with her grandson.


I am excited to be part of this project because I hope it helps people to move even when they initially do not feel like doing yoga.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how significant regular intentional movement is to the health of one’s body, mind and spirit.

Kayden Randall

Kayden Randal is currently 14 and trying to get a job. They are the youngest of four siblings in the Randall family. They like watching videos of diarama build and little model making. Kayden plans to attend CAPA for high school in instrumental instruction. They enjoy caring for Earl
Grey, their pet parakeet.


I am excited to be part of this project because I got to see Lucca and support his mother, Joanne Spence. My parents made me do it though.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that it can be done by anyone. It can be done almost anywhere.

Ben Randall

Ben Randall is a freshman undergraduate student at Duquesne University. He grew up playing
piano from a young age and has come to fall in love with creating music, and continues to do so as he works towards his Bachelor's in Music Composition. He has started a band and has also taken up drums, bass, and guitar. He also loves to play ultimate frisbee, go on bike rides, and spend time with loved ones, especially in nature. 

 

I am excited to be a part of this project because I would like to continue making progress on becoming more in touch with my body and emotions. Yoga is a great way of calming down the mind and becoming relaxed. Taking time to focus on my thoughts and body eases a lot of stress
and I don't get to do that enough. A clear mind also helps with having room for more creativity when I am playing and making music.


The thing that surprises me the most about yoga is how well it works when you do it correctly. I was part of a week-long 300+ mile long bike ride from D.C. to Pittsburgh and Lucca Spence, led us on some yoga lessons throughout the week. These sessions which were after a long day of biking giving us time to stretch all of our sore muscles. It was unbelievably therapeutic and relaxing. When done regularly, yoga can relieve so much pain and stress and just makes you feel strong and healthy.

Lucca Spence

My name is Lucca and I am the youngest Spence kid. I am a psychology student in my last year at the University of Pittsburgh. I am planning on going to graduate school for clinical or cognitive psychology. I am a man of many interests including but not limited to reading, writing,
drawing, playing video games, yoga, cooking, baking, biking, hiking, camping, ultimate frisbee, singing, playing guitar, board games, and watching movies and shows. I have particular passions for having fun, eating good food, and comfortable seating.


I am excited to be a part of this project because I get to support my mom! She has helped so many people throughout the years and this book with its companion card deck is an extension of her work. I hope many people are able to use these practices for the betterment of their life by using yoga in a trauma-informed manner.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how often I want to do it. When I pay attention to my body, I realize that I am often holding tension and that I can help to relieve that tension by moving and breathing.

Cathie Sunderman

Cathie is so very thankful for the adventure of family, which in her case is made up of one husband, two young adult children, and two maturing cats. She enjoys walking, as well as reading, especially mysteries, and sharing her good finds with her good friends. She spends a lot of her time conversing with three- and four-years-olds, as a pre-Kindergarten teacher at Shadyside Presbyterian Church Nursery School—coincidentally, the same church in which she got married forty years ago. After several decades of working out in the world and inside the home, she found the restful workings of using breath and body movement to reset and restore, and has been using these tools ever since, both in her own body, and in teaching these workings to adults and to children of all ages.


I am excited to be a part of this project because I have seen first-hand how yoga can be a tool in working to reset the nervous system, especially when working with anxiety—in adults and children. I have seen how paying attention to self through breath and body connection can change the tone of the whole being.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is my daily discovery that the practice of breath and movement brings so much balance to my physical and emotional self. Every day I continue to be surprised that something so accessible can be so life changing.

Merryn Spence

Merryn Spence is a bug loving, beet eating, barefoot being. She works and plays as a Trauma-Responsive Entheogenic Integration Guide for Entheogration who intimately weaves alternative and complementary medicines in her services such as yoga, plants, fungi, ecstatic dance, sound, somatic and energetic work. Body sovereignty and deep connection to Mother Earth remain at the center of her work, as her goal is to share and teach self-cleansing and self-regulation tools to empower all beings to connect to their inherent birthright of eternal connection. 

I’m so excited to be a part of a project that expands the Western perspective of what yoga is perceived as. It truly can be a practice and a way of life for anyone who chooses.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how expansive it really is. I learn more every day. Yoga truly is a way of life, not just a physical movement practice. 

Leslie Wright

It was because of Joanne’s encouragement that Leslie trained to become a yoga instructor. Joanne also offered Leslie her first paid teaching opportunity when Joanne owned her studio “Fitness Yoga for EveryBody.” Even then, almost 20 years ago, Leslie was happy to have found Joanne who actively cultivated a yoga community that emphasized inclusion of all sorts.


I am excited to be a part of this project because yoga has changed for the better how I feel in my body, especially as I have gotten older. I hope that by using the card deck everyone can cultivate and enjoy better health.


When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is its portability! We need not necessarily go into a studio to “do” yoga. It is possible to practice some aspect of yoga just about anywhere: Balance poses can be explored in grocery lines! Breathing patterns can be practiced in the
dentist office; long delays in traffic snarls can become opportunities for mindfulness practices. It is the ability to bring yoga out into the world as we go about our day, that it can reveal itsprofound benefits to managing the stressors of life.

Joan Prentice

Joan Prentice is the Founder, Executive Director, and pastor of the The Ephesus Project. She received her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Pittsburgh
Theological Seminary of Pittsburgh. Joan considers herself to be a life-long-learner and enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family. One of Joan’s favorite things
to do in the summer is visit the Pittsburgh Zoo. Joan teaches contemplative prayer practices and leads contemplative healing retreats and seminars. Joan and her
husband Marvin are the very proud parents of Erica, Nikkisha, and Marvin and grandparents to nine beautiful grandchildren.

I am excited to be a part of this project because it provides a way of holistic healing and
well-being. Trauma has many faces and this project is unique in its ability to touch the body, emotions, and spirit of persons experiencing the effects of trauma. Moreover, this project is good for anyone who is interested in their spiritual, mental, and physical health and wellness.

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that yoga can be practiced by almost anyone. I am not athletic by any means and even I can practice yoga in a way
that inspires, strengthens, and heals.

Eric Randall

Eric Randall loves God, his lovely wife Sue, his four amazing children, hanging out with friends, playing games, telling stories, and other activities too numerous to mention. By day, Eric tends to focus on making things better, storytelling, and driving people towards the conversations they need to have. (Hey, wait – he does that nights and weekends, too!)

I am excited to be part of this project because it's a tangible marker of how yoga has recently invaded my life. I had the privilege of going on vacation last summer with some friends who also do yoga, and so it was group yoga almost every day. I loved it!

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is how taking the time for myself, and being kind to myself, really puts me in touch with my emotions.

D'Arcy Marshall

D’Arcy Marshall may be part cat.He has loved cats of all sizes since he was an infant.Perhaps it’s their loving nature, or their fearless independence, but D’Arcy personifies all of the best aspects of the feline world.From an early age, D’Arcy has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, China, South Africa and many other places, fostering an appreciation for the bigger world around him and the cultures of the people he has met.He has an innate ability to connect with people and all who know him, adore him.

 

I am excited to be a part of this project because I believe in Joanne’s dream to introduce yoga to those who may not initially recognize it’s benefits. 

 

When I think about yoga, what really surprises me is that it is so easy.  It doesn’t have to replace my day-to-day activities, it is in addition to, and complimentary, to them.

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