Sonya Bapna Patel
Executive Director and Founder & Founding Board Member
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.
Bio coming soon...
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...
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
I am a 500-hour RYT and a certified children's instructor through ChildLight Yoga. I worked for 14 years as a school therapist within the city of Cleveland, particularly with trauma and loss. My joy in teaching for ZENworks is watching students find empowerment, courage, strength, and peace through their yoga & mindfulness practices.
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!
Marketing & Social Media
Celeste has been part of the ZENworks Yoga team since summer 2015, as the person responsible for Marketing & Community Relations. Her introduction to ZENworks was through the East 4th and Yoga classes at House of Blues. Yoga is Celeste's favorite way to decompress and take time to connect with herself. Celeste lives in Lakewood with her husband, two children and rescue mutt.
Over the last 6 years, I received my Masters of Public Health, worked as the Co-Executive Director & Chief Information Officer of a Health and Wellness non-profit in Youngstown, Oh, traveled the United States, and most recently have been working as an assistant marketing consultant for a few pharmaceutical companies. My traveling fueled my desire to meet new people and embrace differences in cultures and places while growing myself. I have always had a passion for working with underserved communities and embracing a diversified community while taking a grassroots approach to a happy, healthy, community. I am a strong believer in supporting and investing in the communities you are a part of. I am very grateful to be a part of ZENworks Yoga.
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.
Bio coming soon...
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!
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.
Mary is a Cleveland-based yoga teacher with a focus on the brain-body connection. She completed her 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Vida in New York City. Mary’s goal is to make yoga accessible for all ages & levels and to have her students carry the positive impacts of the practice off the mat and into their everyday lives. Mary's passion lies in sharing the power of movement and the breath with those who may not typically find themselves in a yoga studio - including children, athletes, seniors, and those impacted by traumatic brain injury. Mary was thrilled to discover ZENworks Yoga and enjoys teaching mindfulness techniques, including yoga and breath awareness, to students in grades preK-12 in the classroom and after-school programs.
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.
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.
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.
Bio coming soon...
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.