I am a social worker turned yogi, with more than 15 years of clinical experience in children's mental health. Since completing the first of multiple yoga teacher trainings in 2012, I have integrated yoga and mindfulness into my work with children and families. I have extensive training in trauma-informed and accessible yoga and am actively engaged in anti-racism and social justice education. Before taking on the role of Executive Director for ZENworks Yoga, I was an instructor for 7+ years and served as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. I previously developed and led trauma-informed yoga programs in local mental health agencies, drug/alcohol treatment centers and special education schools.
My intention in this crazy beautiful life is to be a conduit of change. I believe that each of us holds the capacity for resilience and healing, when given safe and equitable access to uncover it. I am also a wife, a mama to a 12 and 5 year old and lover of coffee and sunshine. I am eternally grateful for the gifts that yoga has brought to my life and am dedicated to paying those gifts forward in service of our greater Cleveland community.
Sonya Bapna Patel
Founder & Founding Board Member, Operations
In 2010, I moved back to Cleveland from New York after completing a two-year commitment teaching elementary students through Teach for America (TFA). While in TFA, I worked at Leadership Prep Charter School - Bed Stuy teaching 2nd and 3rd grade. I noticed that my students were very over stimulated and stressed whether it be from the pressures at home or other environments. And there were limited opportunities for them to refocus their energy and find some solace in their day. While teaching at the school, I would occasionally show my students basic yoga poses and breathing techniques during PE and quick transitions during the day. They enjoyed it very much and it provided them a chance to reenergize and refocus. Upon returning to Cleveland, I worked for Breakthrough Charter Schools in HR focusing on teacher recruiting. Prior to TFA, I worked for the Monitor Group in management consulting and Mattel Inc. in International Strategic Planning. I graduated from NYU in 2003 with a BS in Finance and Accounting and also have a MEd from Teacher U (Hunter College). I now spend my time working on Zenworks Yoga and enjoying time with my energetic daughter, playful son and supportive husband and extended family.
Founding Board Memeber
I am new to the world of yoga, but I have been working in the non-profit sector in Cleveland for several years now and was immediately sold on the idea of ZENworks. I am one of the founding members of the ZENworks Board of Directors and have enjoyed watching the organization grow and serve more children. I graduated from John Carroll University with a degree in Marketing and assist the ZENworks team with branding and outreach.
Founding Board Memeber
Bio coming soon...
I am a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, Licensed Social Worker and a US Army Veteran with 10+ years of Nonprofit Leadership. I am passionate about creating safe and inclusive spaces that encourage self-exploration and heart-centered growth for all, because Yoga truly is for EVERYONE.
Hi, I'm Dana! I'm a marketing consultant with a passion for creating meaningful and memorable connections for purpose-driven brands, with a special place in my heart for health and wellness companies. I discovered the benefits of yoga and mindfulness practices well into my adult life, and I'm so proud to be a small part of ZENworks' mission of bringing these life-changing tools to kids of all ages.
I've spent the better part of my communications career in the non-profit sector and the better part of my life practicing yoga. I believe that yoga provides many benefits including mental and physical wellness and reinforces important life skills like composure, compassion, and resilience. I am passionate about ZENworks' mission to bring yoga into the lives of young people, offering tools to cope with day-to-day stresses, and instilling the importance of self-care. I am honored to serve on the board of directors and to support marketing and fundraising efforts.
Bio coming soon...
Sami joined the ZENworks Yoga Board of Directors in 2021 with an eagerness to support an organization serving Cleveland youth. Sami has nearly ten years of experience as a nonprofit professional with a concentration in grants and foundation relations. She is currently pursuing a Master of Nonprofit Administration and Leadership degree from Cleveland State University.
Hi! I’m a sales & marketing professional with experience working in the business world. A passioned leader that believes in growing strong cultures and teams – connected by empathy, community, & compassion. That said – I pride myself on developing people and leading functional teams to make positive, uplifting progress. I know that no single approach is the right way for every individual, and so I’ve been trained in a range of methodologies – including, Gestalt’s Organizational & System Development (OSD) & Emotional Intelligence. My education foundation is a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from Bowling Green State University. I lead by example and motivate others through open communication, collaboration and cooperation – in a FUN way! My wife (Polly) and I are Certified Partner Yoga Instructors from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. And – we live in Bainbridge Township, OH - and have three grown children: Jordan (29), Dieter (26), and Ernest (22).
Jennifer Griest Hayes
Curriculum and Instruction
As an Intervention Specialist and Educational Consultant, I have seen first hand the need for children to incorporate movement and mindfulness into their learning and play. While having practiced yoga myself for many years, in 2012 I took my first children’s yoga training with ChildLight Yoga. Immediately, I fell in love with the concept of teaching yoga to children of all ages and abilities! Since then, I have become a licensed trainer and consultant for the Yoga 4 Classrooms program, obtained certification in Creative Relaxation: Yoga Therapy for Autism and Special Needs, ChildLight Baby & Toddler yoga, and mini yogis® for Tweens and Teens. After spending almost seventeen years teaching in the classroom setting, I am thrilled to join the ZENworks Yoga team!
I am a native Clevelander who has been immersed in the local yoga community for the past 17 years. I have been a dedicated student of yoga since the late 1990s and a certified yoga teacher since 2005. Additionally, I hold a Masters in Education. I am thrilled to be back in the classroom, combining my love of working with children, and sharing yoga and mindfulness.
Mackenzie received her Masters of Public Health, worked as the Co-Executive Director & Chief Information Officer of a Health and Wellness non-profit in Youngstown, Oh, and is currently working as a marketing consultant for a few different companies and organizations. Traveling has fueled her desire to meet new people and embrace differences in cultures while growing herself and showing the value of these opportunities to her children. She has always had a passion for working with underserved communities and embracing a diversified community while taking a grassroots approach to a happy, healthy, community. She is a strong believer in supporting and investing in the communities you are a part of.
Sinéad O'Neill Gibson
Teaching yoga since 2013, Sinéad received her 200-hour teacher training at Dhyana Yoga in Philadelphia and her 300 hours at Mount Madonna Institute in the Santa Cruz area of California. She is also a first-year graduate student in the School Psychology program and a research assistant for the Center of Urban Education at Cleveland State University. She believes in making kids feel seen, heard, and valued and loves how yoga facilitates that empowerment.
Ariel Jordan is RYT 200 level yoga instructor who began teaching with ZENworks in 2020. She is also certified in trauma-informed yoga through Street Yoga. She believes yoga is for everybody and seeks to share yoga as a practice that is accessible for all. Yoga is a journey and that journey can be different for everybody and she believes that is the beauty of it all!
Margaret started practicing yoga to help recover from a Traumatic brain injury, and she describes it as being heaven-sent! When she thought nothing else could help, she found yoga. Her classes are trauma informed and helpful for anyone in recovery; physical, mental and/or spiritual. She's been teaching regularly since 2013 with a 200hr/YT certification and training in Trauma Sensitive and Children's Yoga. She offers private, group and corporate classes, retreats and workshops. She's taught for The Manhattan School of Music, The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Cleveland Metro School District, Abide Yoga, The Yoga Room Cleveland and The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. You can view her practice by visiting her Youtube Channel Margasway Yoga for free online classes.
Sara is a compassionate creative with a love for both teaching & learning. Often found in a classroom, kitchen, out in nature, or dancing with her family, she is fueled by challenging the status quo and empowering others. She earned a Masters in Education as an Intervention Specialist (2014) and is an RYT-200 level yoga instructor (Awake to My Soul, 2018). She also has served as a Mentor and volunteer at the American Youth Foundation's National Leadership Conference since 2011 and is currently a CollegeNow Mentor. Sara is dedicated to guiding individuals through accessible, meaningful practices which build confidence to develop their best selves, and in turn, their communities.
Lisa Meranti has been practicing yoga since the age of 16 and teaching with ZENworks Yoga since the fall of 2012. Lisa works with pre-K to 8 and mixes in her love of the outdoors into her classes. Watching students grow in their practice and hearing how they apply it off the mat has been a privilege for her. Lisa received Yoga Alliance 200-hour yoga teacher certification through Namaste Yoga Studio in June 2012 and has since continued to study during various local teachers. Other certifications include American Canoe Association (ACA) SUP Level 1, ACA SUP YOGA, Red Cross Lifeguarding, and First Aid/CPR, Yin Yoga, MiniYogi Kids Yoga, Street Yoga Trauma-Informed Yoga, and Bridges out of Poverty.
Elyse Morckel is an E-RYT 200/YACEP certified yoga instructor who has been teaching in her hometown of Akron since 2016. Elyse joined the ZWY team in 2018 and loves teaching students from PreK all the way up to highschool. In addition to teaching yoga, Elyse also is a dance teacher and loves seeing the impact of how movement benefits children. Since 2017 Elyse has performed with the Cleveland modern dance company, The Movement Project, and serves as their Youth Artist Ambassador Coordinator.
Stacey is a multi-faceted Holistic Wellness Practitioner, yoga instructor, Group
Ecotherapy Facilitator, and movement artist, who uses music, sound,
movement, & mindfulness practices to help connect us with ourselves as
whole, healed beings. She is passionate about restorative & transformative
justice, decolonizing wellness, and contributing to efforts to uplift those who
have been marginalized & oppressed. She loves providing children with the tools
to listen to their inner wisdom, make healthy choices, and lead with care for
themselves and our communities.
Judi had been practicing yoga for years before she became a certified 200-hour yoga teacher in 2013. She has since become certified in trauma informed yoga through Street Yoga, as well as has taken several workshops in trauma yoga. Judi believes in the ZENworks Yoga mission, which is bringing yoga to the under-served, especially children. Yoga is for everybody And every body. Judi also volunteers for Medworks, which provides free medical, dental, and vision clinics throughout the year.
Bio coming soon...
Mary is an RYT-200 HR (OM Yoga, NY 2007) and RCYT-95 HR (Childlight Education Company, NH 2020) and is currently working toward her Advanced Training in Yoga (Love Yoga, CA). She has completed numerous trainings in Trauma-Informed Yoga and Mindfulness for both children and adults. Mary has been part of the ZENworks Yoga team of instructors since 2014.
Cassandra is an accomplished RYT 200 Yoga Instructor focusing on flow, slow gentle movements.
She is on a mission to help teach and share the power of Yoga with others as a pathway to deeper self-discovery, healing, and personal power. Although she is both a U.S. Army Veteran and Plant-Based Chef, Cassandra was introduced to Yoga more than 30 years ago while studying Martial Arts.
She has been practicing Yoga for more than two decades and has been teaching Yoga in the Cleveland area for a little more than a year. She joined ZENworks yoga in 2020.
Cassandra says that practicing Yoga has enabled her to evolve; to dive deeper into finding herself, letting go and connecting with the life force within. It is Cassandra's desire and honor to help others experience this for themselves too.
Wanida has been practicing yoga for about ten years. She came to the practice to help calm my mind and better deal with the chaos of life. Wanida completed her 200-hour training in 2015 and will finish her 300-hour training in December 2020. She started teaching with Zenworks in 2017. Her hope is that her students can find the same calm and peace through their practice together that she has been able to find during the years. Every class is always a journey but Wanida is so grateful to be able to lead all these wonderful kids.
Liz Kardamis is a 200hr RYT (Awake to My Soul, 2021), a Childlight Yoga certified instructor
(2015) and currently training in the Trauma Conscious Yoga Method. She is also a licensed
counselor and a Registered Art Therapist with 8+ years experience working in local pediatric
psychiatric hospitals. After stepping away from the world of mental health to focus on raising her
3 children she began to contemplate how she could bring her love of yoga, mindfulness, and
creativity to the community. Enter Zenworks! Liz has been teaching with Zenworks since the
2021/2022 school year and is grateful for the experience, connection and joy it has brought to
I took my first yoga class in 2000 as part of an after-school program for school-employees where I was currently working. In 2019, I became a certified yoga instructor (RYT 200) through the Cleveland Clinic School of Yoga, which maintains a focus on wellness-style yoga. I believe that yoga can be taught in a way that makes it accessible to everyone regardless of age, health, or fitness level. I truly believe in the benefits of teaching yoga & mindfulness to kids! Mindful movements can enhance students’ ability to learn and focus even after yoga class has ended. Bringing yoga to kids gives them skills they can use for the rest of their lives, and I am honored to be a part of teaching those skills to our students. I hold a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology and have spent many years in the schools as a speech-language pathologist. I have helped with yoga/mindfulness programs at my local school district and have been a presenter at Tri-C on the topic of wellness. I volunteer as the student relations chair for the Ohio University Women’s Club of Greater Cleveland and have worked in the non-profit sector including Hospice. I am a mother to 2 boys and love doing anything active, especially being outdoors!
Founding Board Member & Director of Curriculum and Instruction
As a retired elementary teacher, Joie felt that the benefits she received from yoga could be offered to “children” of any age from 3 to 83. Yoga taught her to say “yes” to what life has to offer and to live skillfully. Yoga should be fun-filled, meaning-filled, and skill-filled. She began working with ZENworks Yoga in 2010 as an instructor and became a founding board member in 2013 when ZENworks became a non-profit. In 2014, as the teaching staff grew, it became her privilege to take on the role of Teacher and Program Development.