Since 2011, Erik has been criss-crossing Philadelphia going from yoga studio to yoga studio, possessed with a passion and burning desire to bring to life the ancient teachings of yoga and meditation for a modern audience living amidst a busy, hectic city. He has accumulated more than 15,000 teaching hours, teaching more than 8,000 group and private classes during this time. In 2015, alongside his wife Lauren, a manifestation came to fruition with the opening of Roots Philly Yoga. Erik takes pride in his path to yoga studio ownership, from yoga grunt, mucker and grinder, learning to teach by teaching, eventually leading into an undeniable role as the visionary guide of Roots Philly Yoga. He is humbled to be one such teacher saddled amongst a number fantastic yoga studios and teachers in the City of Philadelphia.
Erik’s passion for practice and the wisdom of dharma are two of the tallest pillars of his teaching. For years Erik disciplined himself in practice under the direction of Philly based, internationally known Hatha-Ashtanga Teacher David Garrigues. Since that time his approach has slightly changed, with a focus on finding the best teachers in the city and practicing with him or her diligently. He is currently a vehement student of Joan White in the Iyengar Yoga lineage, and also a lover of Bhakti Yogi learning under South Philly based Daniel Cordua.
The Yoga Sutras tell us “If we really follow one direction in yoga as far as we can go, then it will lead us along all paths of yoga.” This is where Erik currently finds himself, at the intersection of many varied, yet beautiful paths of Yoga. His signature, divinely conceived yoga teaching, Zen Warrior Yoga is reflective of this. Classes feature some flow with alignment integrity, a little yin/yang and meditation, infused with yogic and Buddhist philosophy. Come, take practice!
LAUREN MCDONALD Teacher
Lauren McDonald discovered yoga while in undergraduate school, but it wasn’t until moving to Philadelphia and finding Roots, that she began to make the commitment to regular practice. Having completed her 200-hour teacher training in February of 2018, she is continuously surprised by how much teaching improves her own practice. She has since honed her ability to create an inclusive and exploratory environment for students, which encourages growth and self-discovery. Her Ashtanga-based classes provide many modifications for beginners to help bring yoga to a wider audience. In her day job, Lauren is a Graduate Program Coordinator and Curator at The University of the Arts. She holds a degree in Art History with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. An avid traveler, she has always enjoyed the study of different cultures and was initially drawn to yoga for its 5,000-year-old history in India. One of her favorite pastimes is creating new yoga playlists that enhance the practice and allow her and her students to listen to music in a mindful manner.
BILL SCHMEDDING Teacher/ Community Engagement Director
Bill Schmedding started practicing yoga around 2007, but practiced irregularly until January 2015. In 2015 he remembers making a New Year’s goal to practice at least three times each week, which he accomplished. In 2016, his New Year’s goal was to practice at least five times each week, which he has done ever since. The main reason he practices yoga is for the workout that it provides. Bill loves to sweat. However he feels that yoga improves his patience level and helps him be calmer and more relaxed as well. Yoga has helped him live in the moment and breathe more fully as he moves through each day. Bill selected Roots as his home studio because of the consistency of each yoga class and the caliber of teachers. He also appreciates the sense of community at Roots. The students get to know each other, as well as the teachers. Bill is currently enrolled in the 200-hour Teacher Training at Roots and is the pioneer of their new Community Engagement program. If you'd like to talk to Bill about partnerships in the community please e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org
LAUREN BURLING Co-Founder/Teacher
Co-founder & social media coordinator, Lauren has been studying and teaching yoga since the age of 18. She first practiced & taught Power Yoga in the Baptiste-style before moving to Philadelphia. She began deeply studying Ashtanga Yoga with certified Ashtanga teacher David Garrigues in 2012. She became a student of Joan White, renowned Iyengar Yoga teacher in 2015. She has taught weekly classes since 2008 and has had the pleasure to host teacher trainings. Lauren is a full time Oncology Social Worker and is a student of Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR). Her teaching is a reflection of her Ashtanga, Iyengar and MBSR studies. Lauren also has a degree in creative non-fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Lauren is a supportive and hands-on teacher who loves a "long hold," inspires curiosity in her students, and encourages them to live on the edge of any uncertainty in their practice and in their lives. Lauren and Erik live in Mantua with their four animals. They are constantly revisiting the ways in which they can live a more sustainable lifestyle while giving back to their neighborhood and city.
BRANDON EVERETT Meditation Teacher
Brandon Everett recently had the tremendous honor of being named to the Faculty of ClearLight Meditation Institute, where he completed his 900-hr meditation teacher training on 2017. His teachings about the science of meditation weave together the latest findings in neuroscience & psychology, while his meditation instruction is direct, practical, and can be easily integrated into daily and working life. His motivation in teaching is to help others recognize their inmost capabilities and potential for happiness & joy.
KATIE AZZARA Teacher
Katie Azzara took her first yoga class in 2012, and has been a dedicated yogi ever since. When she began practicing at Roots, she was immediately drawn to the positivity and authenticity characteristic of the Roots community. Following the completion of her 200-hour teacher training in February 2018, she began a daily Mysore practice to more deeply explore the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. In her day job as a speech-language pathologist for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities, Katie finds that the principles learned and refined on the yoga mat help her to cultivate patience and gratitude. She loves the way the yoga practice enables her to be constantly learning, evolving, and seeking balance.
CAROLINE CHEN Teacher
JUSTIN ROSE Teacher
Justin has been moving for most of his life - whether on the baseball field, in ballet or tap class, gymnastics, or musical theater. After obtaining a professional certificate from Pig Iron Theatre School for Physical Theater and attending countless vinyasa classes, he began practicing ashtanga yoga with David Garrigues, Jorgen Christianson and Eddie Stern. He graduated from NYC’s Kula Yoga 200-hour teacher training in 2016, where he studied with Nikki Villela and Alex Auder. He was honored to be asked to be a part of Roots Philly Yoga where he has been teaching for over two years. He continues his personal practice with Ellen Greenberg at Practice Yoga, as well as the many Senior Iyengar teachers that visit her studio. His classes are guided by his deep abiding passion for intelligent alignment and structural integration, as well as an easy-going humor. He continually challenges himself to find new methods of creating dynamic stability and movement adaptability in his students.
ANNA KESSLER Teacher
For Anna Kessler, yoga is a journey that has had all of the challenges, self-exploration and moments of bliss that so many travelers experience. Anna attended her first yoga class in 2009 in NYC and felt like a fish out of water. The room was crowded, the class was fast-paced, and she felt as though she received no outreach or assistance from the instructor. After a number of years practicing irregularly and at various studios, Anna moved to Philadelphia for law school, and quickly found yoga classes where everything clicked, and she fell into a routine that has become her outlet and inspiration. A naturally grounded and balanced person, Anna discovered yoga to be a natural expression of herself, while allowing her the space and means to explore her physical and spiritual being, and its interconnectedness to the larger whole, as she had never done before. Drawing from her teacher training in 2016, and the teachings of her wonderful teachers along the way, Anna aims to provide students the guidance to move presently, let go of the ego, steady the mind, purify the body, cultivate compassion, and ultimately evolve. Anna is thrilled to be part of the Roots community!
COLLEEN MCGREGOR Teacher
Colleen McGregor was apprehensive to take her first yoga class. She was certain she wasn’t flexible enough to contort her body into pretzel-like shapes, let alone touch her toes. A lifelong equestrian and runner, a weekly yoga class was an attempt at healing injuries sustained from other forms of movement. Over time it became her regular and cherished practice for healing the whole self. Turns out yoga is for people who ‘aren’t flexible’ too, or maybe, especially. Colleen infuses her teaching with this ethos, encouraging all students that this can be a practice for them. Just show up. By day Colleen is a practicing speech-language pathologist and by early morning a Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. She continues to explore a variety of movement modalities. Let’s practice!
LINDSAY KUTSCHMAN Teacher
Lindsay began practicing yoga in 2002. It was introduced as a cross-training exercise with her swim team. She was inspired by her first teacher, who maintained health and wellness by committing to a regular yoga practice during the course of her pregnancy. Lindsay appreciates that yoga enables her to use her mind and body to achieve strength, balance, and flexibility. She has also realized the benefit that yoga has had in preventing and alleviating pain caused by her scoliosis. In the spring of 2018, Lindsay completed her 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training with Roots Philly Yoga. Lindsay became a teacher in order to deepen her personal practice and share her love for yoga with others. She is thrilled to teach at Roots and be part of this community!
JENYSBEL DURAN Teacher
Jenysbel Duran began to explore the practice of yoga in early 2010 and has been devoted to her practice ever since. Growing up in a Latin household Yoga was foreign thing to her until she walked into her first yoga class during her last year of high school and instantly felt a mind body connection, something she had been searching for many years. She learned and practiced different styles of yoga at many studios but was never able to find a home studio. From the very first day she stepped into Roots Philly Yoga she was taken back by the welcoming and loving community her teachers, Erik and Lauren have created. She immediately knew she found her home studio, so she quickly signed up for a 200YTT within the same week. She enjoys the way the practice of yoga has helped her grow stronger and fearless, both on the mat and off the mat. Yoga has been a core center of gravity throughout Jenysbel’s life, it has helped her complete her Degree in Paralegal Studies and has shown her how to combine the physical, spiritual, and emotional practices of yoga in her daily life. She creates a safe space where people can sweat, breathe, and break boundaries together. She loves teaching playful, energetic, and heartfelt classes with a playlist that will make you want to break out dance moves. Yoga continues to inspire her to live each moment more mindfully.
SHELLEY SAUNDERS Studio Manager
Shelley Saunders began her practice in the fall of 2011. She was always the first one to arrive at her former yoga studio, eager to learn and to take practice. Since developing a strong relation with yoga throughout the years, Shelley has formed a close bond with Erik and Lauren and has proudly been practicing with the Burlings for nearly 5 years. Her favorite aspects about Roots are the community and friends that she has made, as well as getting to class early and staying late chit-chatting about everyone's favorite poses. Personally, Shelley's favorite pose is anything with an assist and she is working on binding in marichyasana c. When she is not acting as the studio manager at Roots, Shelley works as a Development Associate at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Broad Street. Be sure to introduce yourself to her at the studio!