Mindfulness Education Team

Sally Dallas Wesley
I discovered yoga at a time when my longstanding passion for fitness had been sidetracked by overuse injuries. I was inspired to learn more after my very first class and continue to be fascinated by how the body works and how important the mind is in that process. It is truly an amazing experience when we learn to quiet our mind and begin to better understand ourselves and our world.  My love for yoga’s restorative and healing power led me to complete Uttara’s 200-hour yoga teacher training program. Under the mentoring of knowledgeable, loving and patient teachers, yoga has become an important part of my life-long journey.

My philosophy is “yoga anytime, anywhere.” I enjoy all types of yoga — from an energetic Vinyasa class to a grounding Yin class, or the rejuvenation that comes from Restorative yoga. Everyone truly has the capacity for miraculous transformation, and yoga is an excellent catalyst for change. My goals as a teacher are to provide a safe, peaceful, loving environment; to meet my students where they are; to stimulate a desire to practice; and to provide assistance in facilitating physical and mental wellness. Yoga saved me and is helping me realign to an authentic life. It is ever changing and full of “aha” moments!

Karen Miller


Karen is a mindfulness educator and mental health social worker.  She is entering her fourth year teaching mindful practices to Community School students in Hollins, Virginia.  At Community School, Karen works with students ranging in age from 3 to 14.  In 2016, Karen developed and implemented a year-long mindful practices program for Community School’s early learners.  This program is designed to strengthen student’s positive qualities as well as increasing their capacity for attention and self-regulation.

In addition to her work with Community School, Karen teaches workshops and provides private classes for all ages.   Her clients have included women’s groups, parent’s groups, high school sports teams, local businesses, institutions of higher learning and the Community Youth Program.  Karen is excited to partner with Uttara Yoga Studio to provide secular mindful practices education for the 21st Century After School Program in Roanoke City Schools for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Karen is passionate about sharing mindfulness.  She believes practicing mindfulness is a game changer; a life skill from which we can all greatly benefit.  Karen holds a master’s degree in social work and is a graduate of Uttara’s 200 hour yoga teacher training.  She has trained in Mindful Schools and Yoga Calm curriculum as well as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

Wendi Wagner
Wendi Wagner completed her RYT 200 in 2014 through Uttara Yoga’s Teacher Training program and E-RYT 200 in 2015. She currently teaches in the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program at Uttara. Wendi has a background in movement and dance education, with an undergraduate degree in Dance from James Madison University and MALS/MFA through Hollins University.

 

Michelle W. Christian M.S.ECSE
Hi! I’m Michelle! I am a mom of two great boys, a wife to an amazing man and a special education teacher in Roanoke for 11 years. I have a Bachelor of Science from Bluefield State College and a Masters in Science from Radford University. I began my journey with the power of breath work, mindful movements and meditation seven years ago. That is when my child’s negative behavior was escalating and I felt hopeless. I made all the “teacher” things to help him with anger management, self-control and behavior modifications. Nothing was helping. I made a private appointment for the two of us at Uttara with Jill Loftis. This experience transformed both of us. I soon began researching breath work, meditations and mindfulness for kids and adults. I witnessed how simple and slight changes to basic awareness can lead to lifelong positive outcomes.

I began to teaching mindfulness to other children through Roanoke City’s 21st Century after school program five years ago. I have experience teaching this to children ages four through high school. I have co-implemented two curriculums for the afterschool program. I have completed mindfulness for teachers training through Radford University as well as attend various conferences, lectures, retreats and webinars on the science and subject of mindfulness.

There are many different methods, approaches, deliveries and activities that everyone can find some way to bring mindfulness into their day. Every adult and child has much more power and control with their breath, mind and body, yet most of us don’t know how to harness it. No matter what your age, sex, race, religion, background or beliefs, all of us breathe. Let me help you make the most out of it!

I am currently teaching at Uttara Yoga Studio, at River Rock Climbing Gym and offering various classes through Roanoke City Parks and Rec. I have continued my studies, including completion of the Mindful Schools Mindful Educators Essentials course, and am a part of the Uttara Mindfulness Educators Team, working with Roanoke City School students and teaching them Mindfulness and Yoga in their aftercare program.

Laura Leonard
As a school psychologist in an urban community, Laura has incorporated her knowledge and practice of mindfulness, yoga, and psychology in her work with students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, helping them discover and deepen their inner strengths. She has supported students of all ages by teaching them mindfulness and positive social and emotional skills to promote success in life and learning. Laura has led workshops for teachers, school psychologists, and school social workers on ways to incorporate mindfulness-based practices into their own lives and into their classrooms and work with students. Additionally, she has offered community workshops for families, with strategies to lead happier, healthier, more mindful lives at home, work, and in school. Laura has participated in the Mindful Schools© Mindfulness Fundamentals course as well as the Mindful Educator Essentials course, and has also successfully completed an additional 25 hours of “Mindful Teacher” professional development through the Radford University Training and Technical Assistance Center. She is inspired by each of her students, who have become her greatest teachers.

Suzanne Gardner
Suzanne has a background in Elementary Education and a Master of Education degree in Reading. Additionally she is a certified yoga instructor and registered with the Yoga Alliance. She is currently working on additional yoga teacher training to receive her 500 hour RYT through Yoga Alliance. She has taken the Mindful Teacher Essentials online course through Mindful Schools. She is currently employed full time as a Reading Specialist at an elementary school in an urban setting. She works with struggling readers and coaches teachers in improving their classroom reading instruction. She also teaches yoga classes at Uttara Yoga studio. Suzanne’s passions include teaching mindfulness and yoga to under privileged children and the teachers who serve them.

Jill Loftis
I began practicing yoga in 2000 as a way to make peace with my body after childbirth and fell in love with what the practice did for my mind, my body and my lilfe. I completed my RYT 200-hour training as a yoga teacher through the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago in 2007.  While still in training, I began teaching yoga at Bethany Hall, a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. That work inspired me to open Uttara Yoga Studio in Roanoke, VA in 2008 and the studio has grown into a diverse yoga community. I teach classes on yoga, stress relief, meditation and mindfulness at Uttara Yoga Studio and at other local locations in the area. I also train yoga teachers, and teach a variety of workshops and lead national and international yoga retreats. For more information check out the website and my blog, www.uttarayogastudio.com.

As a mom to three children I feel very passionately about how the practices can help people of all ages with the daily struggles of life. I completed a seven-day immersive training through YogaEd in 2007 and am certified K-8 to teach yoga and mindfulness to children and also to teach educators how to teach yoga and mindfulness to children. For more than ten years I have taught classes and workshops at many local preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges, as well as to local groups including the Girl and Boy Scouts and Girls On The Run. I am honored to work with local school children to help them develop coping skills and strategies to become healthier and happier and to find peace in the chaos that is life. As I remind my students; we cannot always change what happens to us; but we can change our reaction to what happens to us.