September 2013: Jake Gilmour

We’re so proud to have Jake Gilmour as one of our teachers. Relatively new to the practice (less than two years), Jake caught on quickly to the benefits and spiritual awareness that the practice of yoga brings to us all. He teaches Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, balancing his amazing mesh of mellowness and calmness with power and perseverance. He plays a great mix of tunes as well. Ever practice next to Jake in a class? If you have, you probably admire the strength and the smoothness of the sound of his breath. We are excited to see where Jake’s practice and teaching lead him. If you haven’t been to one of his classes yet, your first class is free in September.

1. How long have you practiced yoga? Studied to be a teacher? Taught?

I have practiced yoga for about a year and a half. I’ve been teaching for about seven months now, and I am currently in the middle of my teacher training.

2. What is your style of teaching? What motivates you?

I wouldn’t say I have any general style of teaching.  I like to make my classes very challenging both physically and mentally.  I work very hard when I practice so I like to see my students do the same, as long as they’re breathing.   Yoga is a magical practice that has helped me in ways that I never could have imagined, so I wake up everyday with a desire to spread this practice I love to everyone and anyone who is willing to give it a try.

3. What else are you passionate about? Jake Gilmour Yoga Nirvana

I love music, any and all music.  I especially love this new wave of conscious living music festivals that seems to be blowing up right now.  To me there is nothing quite like practicing yoga all day and then dancing all night.

4. What attracted you to Yoga Nirvana Studio?

When I first decided that yoga was something I was interested in I started looking for studios in the area.  I found Yoga Nirvana and they were having a free student special at the time so I thought I would give it a try.  The first class I went to was one of Jim’s classes, but Harper was teaching the class as part of her teacher training.  By the end of class I was completely covered in sweat and Harper had me standing on my head.  I was immediately in love with the studio and the practice and I’ve been back just about every day since then.


August 2013: Valerie Culkin

Check out our August teacher of the month, Valerie Culkin. Join Valerie Mondays and Wednesdays for a Level 1-2 class at 4:30 pm. Your first class with Valerie is free in August!

1. How long have you practiced yoga? Studied to be a teacher? Taught?
My personal yoga practice began approximately eight years ago in Atlanta, Ga. A close group of friends banded together to open one of the first yoga studios in the area. It was a small community and the studio introduced many of us to a world we never knew before…YOGA. From that moment forward I knew I had found something that had potential to change my life, I just hadn’t figured out exactly how until years later. When I enrolled in teacher training in 2011, studying under the same teacher who ultimately introduced me to yoga, I had finally begun my deepest practice and tapped into that magic of yoga.

2. What is your style of teaching? What motivates you?
I am motivated by helping people to find that part of their practice which enlightens them to the magic of yoga, that which I found in my practice. I would say my style of yoga is to focus on bringing your awareness to your body and taking slow movements. I believe, from my own experiences, that in time and with patience you can find those sweet spots. I like to help my students to feel comfortable in class, like it’s time for them to step outside of their stressful lives and step into a place of warmth and non-judgment. Don’t be surprised if I bust out the essential oils (and maybe an eye pillow) during your Savasana!

3. What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about life! I am passionate about learning and exploring. I am inquisitive in a quiet way. I am passionate about nature and inviting notice to things that I never noticed before. I love sharing thoughts and feelings with others who have the same appreciation for life.

4. What attracted you to Yoga Nirvana Studio?
When I moved to Phoenix 1 year ago, I entered a mission to find a new yoga community that would welcome me. I tried out a few other studios in town, which were great studios, but when I walked into Yoga Nirvana immediately I sensed that feeling of warmth which I was seeking. The warm colors, wood paneling, and dim lights off the bat helped me to feel at home, and upon meeting everyone involved it drew me in. The studio, all the instructors, and students have helped me so much to feel settled in a town where I knew no one. So many of the instructors here have helped me in my own practice, they are so informed and so knowledgeable, and have pushed me to new levels in my practice.

I’d like to add that I just enjoy meeting new people and learning about their lives and what THEY are passionate about. I believe that the more you know about a person, the more you can help them to cultivate little things in their practice that will help them achieve what they need. Everyone is so different, which means every body requires different things. No body is exactly the same, and I try to pay attention to that.

July 2013: Toffler Niemuth

All of our teachers are unique individuals and have busy lives outside the studio. Just like any yoga practitioner, they balance out their busy lives with a committed yoga practice on and off the mat. Our teacher, Toffler Niemuth, is no exception. Toffler’s been a busy entrepreneur. She spent five years in China and is fluent in Mandarin: an ability that shocked and impressed me the first time I witnessed it at the studio. Her passion for living a vibrant and healthy lifestyle led her to start World Vitae: a company that offers health coaching, wellness trips, nutritional supplements, natural products and more. Toffler teaches a class at Yoga Nirvana Studio, titled Relax & Rejuvenate, Fridays at 5 pm. Your first Relax & Rejuvinate class is free in July. T.G.I.F., or at least, maybe it’s almost Friday when you’re reading this and you should fit in that class as a recuperating end to your busy week. Read Toffler’s Q&A below to learn more about this busy woman’s teaching style and yoga practice.

1. How long have you practiced yoga? Studied to be a teacher? Taught?

Thirteen years ago I tried yoga for the first time.  But it was after my second encounter with yoga–an entire year later–that I began a practice of yoga. It then took me 10 years before I even considered the thought of teaching or studying to be a teacher. Perhaps I was a reluctant yogi, but like all good teachers, yoga was patient with me. And for that I’m very grateful!

In the Spring of 2012, I began Yoga Teacher Training, completing it that summer and have been happily teaching ever since.

2. What is your style of teaching? What motivates you?

Because of my other work, I’m very conscious of health in yoga. Sometimes the best thing we need is to de-stress and unwind to let the body recover and heal and that’s what I try to do in Relax and Rejuvenate. Other times we need to sweat, to move, stretch, push, and build muscle, and that’s better served in active flow classes.

No matter the style of class I’m teaching, breath is going to be an important component because that’s one of the few ways we can actively integrate body, mind, and spirit. Connecting breath with movement and recognizing what the breath and body are trying to communicate, positively impact mental and physical health.

3. What else are you passionate about?

Obviously, I’m passionate about health: empowering individuals to take responsibility for their own health, and holistic, natural ways to be well and feel truly alive. I also love travel, tea, and entrepreneurship.  Do what you love and love what you do!

4. What attracted you to Yoga Nirvana Studio?

In my reluctant yogi vein, two friends at Yoga Nirvana kept encouraging me to come, but I kept passing. Finally, I gave in and haven’t gone anywhere else since.  It’s nice to have a studio to call home. Yoga Nirvana is a special place with great teachers and a supportive, growing community. Yoga has played a powerful role in my life and I hope it can have the same positive influence on your life.

Aw. We love you, too, Toffler!

June 2013: Sarv Varta Khalsa and Jeremy “Siri Gobind” Prescott

Dear reader, do you remember where and when you began your yoga practice? With so many studios and teachers, the options can be overwhelming. Adding to the inevitable indecisiveness are the different styles of yoga to choose from. We’re proud to offer several different class options at Yoga Nirvana Studio, one of which is Kundalini.

The Kundalini class description on our website reads that it is ‘various exercise sets (kriyas) which utilize specific postures, breathing techniques, mantras, mudras and locks to raise the Kundalini energy, improve physical health, elevate consciousness and expand self awareness.’


Have you been to our Kundalini class on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm? If not, don’t worry, reader, our Kundalini teachers are the June Teachers of the Month. And, you know what that means: your first class is on us.

newhouse-011-for-webOur two Kundalini teachers, Dr. Sarv Varta Khalsa and Jeremy “Siri Gobind” Prescott, rotate every other Wednesday. Both teachers offer a unique opportunity for our yoga practitioners to search inward through breath, movement, mantra and meditation. I bet you’re wondering how one becomes a Kundalini teacher, eh? Well, we had both teachers answer a few of our Teacher of the Month questions. One of the teachers spent a portion of her childhood in India; the other was surprised to learn that he could strive to reach a meditative state through his construction painting work. Both teachers are inspired by their students and eager to share the Kundalini practice.

Read on to quench your curiosity and join us for a Kundalini class this month.

Q: How long have you practiced yoga? Studied to be a teacher? Taught?

SVK: I have been practicing yoga since my childhood. I grew up in a family with a strong spiritual foundation. In the 70’s my parents were seeking a more natural and spiritual lifestyle when they passed through Phoenix and came across a group of people that were teaching and practicing Kundalini yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Yogi Bhajan was a Kundalini yoga master and a Sikh who moved here from India in the late 60’s with the desire to help guide people to live a more enlightened existence through the practice of yoga. With his long black beard and white turban, his goal was to “create teachers, not students”. Soon thereafter my father started teaching Kundalini yoga classes and my parents adopted the Sikh religion. When I was nine years old, I moved to India to attend a Sikh boarding school where yoga, meditation and prayer were part of my daily routine. So, it has been a part of my life from the beginning.

I became a KRI certified Kundalini yoga teacher in 2007 after attending Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training through Yoga Phoenix. I have been teaching Kundalini yoga for the past eight years. I also received specialized training in the art of gong playing and conduct monthly gong meditations at Vision Quest Metaphysical Bookstore in Scottsdale.

JP: My bank statement says Jeremy Prescott, but when I feel connected to the Source, I am Siri Gobind Singh. When someone calls me by my spiritual name, it reminds me that this Soul is on a ride in this body, bumpy or smooth, it’s just a ride. Where are we going today?

I’ve been practicing Kundalini Yoga since 2002. I have worked as a Painter in construction for the last 20 years. To my delight and surprise my first Yoga Teacher was a General Contractor. I realized “Wow, even me, a blue collar worker can achieve some level of higher consciousness.” He taught me that the repetitive nature of my work could be transformed into a meditative practice by the use of mantra, helping me to train my mind to find the sacred in the mundane.

Q: What is your style of teaching and what motivates you?

SVK: My style of teaching is very motivational and supportive. I like to push my students to go beyond where they think their limits are. In class I often say things like “keep up” or “be great” which are phrases that my father and Yogi Bhajan would use as well. I emphasize the idea that yoga is an internal journey. It isn’t about being the most flexible person in class or perfecting every posture/asana. The goal is to put in your best effort, keep your focus inward, and have an experience of your higher consciousness. Ideally each student is able to bring a state of increased awareness and elevation of spirit into their daily lives. My students motivate me. I find that they are my best teachers and it is rewarding to see them grow and blossom as a result of committing to their yoga practice.

JP: In 2006 I took Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training and I have been teaching ever since. The practice is universal, powerful, and works swiftly, regardless of the strength, flexibility, age, or limitations of the practitioner. If you simply breathe and move, bring your focus inward; push yourself beyond your comfort level, the transformation happens! By the use of conscious breathing linked with simple but powerful exercises, along with mantra and meditation you experience a deeper connection with yourself, bringing the mind, body and spirit into union.

Q: What are you passionate about in addition to teaching yoga?

SVK: I am passionate about being a Naturopathic physician. I have been a physician for over 10 years and feel blessed to have the privilege to help people become the best possible versions of themselves: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That is what I love about Naturopathic medicine; it treats the whole person in a supportive and natural way, resulting not just in the absence of disease but also in optimal health.

JP: For the last few years I have been passionate about gardening, mostly vegetables, and herbs. I enjoy being able to go into the back yard and harvest fresh produce.

Q: What attracted you to Yoga Nirvana Studio?

SVK: There are a couple things that attracted me to Yoga Nirvana. The main thing is that I’ve known Jim Keegan for many years and have always had a lot of respect for him as a teacher. He actually attended some of my father’s Kundalini yoga classes many years ago during his Yoga Teacher Training and I feel a special bond with him because of that. I think his experience helped to foster a supportive attitude about Kundalini yoga at Yoga Nirvana, which I appreciate very much. Also, the space that is currently Yoga Nirvana used to be called Body Works and my father taught there for many years. So I feel the energy and spirit of my father in this sacred space.

I feel honored to be part of the team at Yoga Nirvana and look forward to many more years of growth and community. Sat Nam!

JP: Jim and I met in line at sunflower market. We spoke for a few moments and realized we had an influential teacher in common; in fact, I attended classes with this teacher right at the studio under a different name.


May 2013: Jenna Jensen

Jenna Jensen is making May a little sweeter! We sat down with her, and rest-assured, no interview with Jenna could be mundane. The girl is passionate, creative and motivated. She’s not only a yoga teacher (she teaches at the studio 4 times a week) but she bakes up tasty treats on a weekly basis with her company, Sometimes she has a little extra cupcakes and brings them to the studio. A little reward for turning up the sweat.

Not only is your first class FREE with Jenna anytime in May but she’s giving away a gift basket of goodies. Read on past the interview for details.

1. How long have you practiced yoga? Studied to be a teacher? Taught?

I have been practicing yoga since 2008. After avoiding the “peer pressure” of taking my first yoga class, I eventually gave in; looking back now, it was easily one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. I began my Yoga Teacher Training in June of 2012 and started teaching in March of 2013.

2. What is your style of teaching? What motivates you?

When teaching my classes, I like to let my students know they are the reason I stepped into the room to teach. I once had an instructor say that students usually get the class their instructor needs that day, I don’t abide by that motto; I like to get a feel for what my students need, physically as well as emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I offer a well balanced atmosphere, keeping the class attitude light and playful while still taking the practice of yoga seriously and offering a sense of respect to the purpose of yoga and the Asana practice. Physically I like to challenge my students to reach their potential, to release habit and look at transitions and postures with a new eye each time they step on their mat.

I stay motivated by my absolute belief in the practice of yoga and the benefits you gain from practicing all limbs of yoga. Taking a look at where I am now compared to where I was without my practice… I feel a responsibility to share it with others. This sort of feel and state of being shouldn’t be hid away.

3. What else are you passionate about?

I am a pretty passionate person so I will try to keep it short and sweet. I am passionate about the relationships in my life. I cherish each and every person that has come in to (and gone from) my life. Aside from that and my unmasked passion for yoga, I am passionate about baking. I trained at Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Le Cordon Bleu in 2008 in their Patisserie and Baking Program. Since graduating I have started a small cake business where I find the utmost joy in making wedding cakes as well as sculpted cakes for birthdays and other special events. I love to create edible art and provide something that I’ve created in honor of a special event.

4. What has attracted you to Yoga Nirvana studio?

It is almost impossible for me to formulate words that express what attracted me to Yoga Nirvana but I will try. From the very first moment I stepped foot into the studio I knew it was a special place. The vibration of energy that I felt was unparalleled to any other studio (or any environment for that matter) I’d stepped foot in. The studio felt like Home. My first class was with the studio owner, Jim and I couldn’t believe how much I learned in that 90 minutes, given that I’d been practicing for nearly 4 years. I knew this was a place that I could continue to learn not only about Asana but about this whole practice of Yoga; I was naïve to the rest of the practice and it blew my mind.

Every time you you attend one of Jenna’s classes in May, you will be entered in to a raffle for a gift basket! The gift basket will include, but not be limited to: an ipod nano, a yoga strap, a yoga block, essential oils, a journal, a variety of teas and protein bars and other goodies. You have four chances a week to be entered. Drawing will take place after the 6 am class on May 30th.