Our staff and instructors are a fun group of inspired mountain adventurers who have honed their skills living and loving life in connection with wilderness. Accomplished musicians, artists, naturalists, yogis, healers and free-spirits Balanced Rock instructors have a knack for making people feel super safe and comfortable in the mountains. We strive to help people feel capable and competent in their own selves in the wilderness through our competent, attentive guidance.
Heather has lived in the Yosemite area for over a decade. The steep granite valley walls, seasonal change of the river song, and community of animals and humans have deeply shaped her being and world-view. She co-founded and served as the first Executive Director of Balanced Rock. In 2011 she assumed the role of Program Director where she blends her passion for outdoor education, self-care practices, and communal mountain living. She also co-founded Balanced Rock’s predecessor organization Wild Women Workshops.
Heather is both a yoga instructor and an accomplished backcountry guide with Yosemite destinations as well as trips in the Himalayas under her belt. Among other outdoor education jobs, she has been a NatureBridge (formerly Yosemite Institute) field instructor, a Volunteer Mountaineerig Ranger in Denali National Park in Alaska, and Naturalists at Large instructor.
Her yoga classes blend Ashtanga flow, Iyengar alignment, and a strong connection to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. Recent endeavors to live in closer harmony with the earth include beekeeping, gardening, processing & sourcing local food, delivering food for the local Community Supported Agriculture organization Mountain Meadow Farms, and riding her bike as much as possible.
She teaches a local workshop entitled, “Nourishing the Soul” which blends her passions of yoga, creative writing, connecting community and healthy local food. She is also a Shiatsu massage therapist, works as a doula (birth assistant), is an avid bread baker, and if there is extra time enjoys rock-climbing, skiing, mountain rambling, and music.
Director of Operations
Paula joined the Yosemite area community in 2011 seeking the soul solace only a wild landscape could offer. She is honored to serve as Business Director, Instructor and Guide for Balanced Rock, and aspires to share an attitude of empowerment and joy with colleagues and course participants.
Paula is a masterful yoga instructor who most deeply enjoys practicing and teaching in nature’s outdoor studio. Her yoga classes combine movement and breath-work to increase physical awareness,
strength, and mental clarity. Paula has been practicing Hatha yoga since 1999, and has trained extensively with Sianna Sherman, Dennis Eagan, Kia Meaux, Laila Kuri Murad, and Faith Russell among others. She is currently embarking on a two year journey with the Niroga Institute in Berkeley, CA to become a certified Yoga Therapist. Paula is deeply grateful to all of the teachers in her life; particularly her mother, friends, yoga students, the flora, and fungi.
In addition to 500 hours of yoga teacher training certifications, Paula holds a Masters Degree in International Agricultural Development from UC-Davis, and a certificate in Permaculture Design from the Regenerative Design Institute. She is fascinated by the overlap between the practice of yoga and the design of sustainable livelihoods. Paula currently lives just outside Yosemite National Park where she is working to create a sustainable homestead. Paula’s greatest intention is to provide opportunities for more people to explore and enjoy the wild world within, and around us.
Environmental Media Artist and Educator
Miho Aida, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is an environmental media artist, educator and outdoor adventurer in California. She is recognized for her inspirational project called “If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Empowering Women Through Outdoor Role Models.” This project is dedicated to promoting media representation of diverse women who pursue outdoor adventures and who develop powerful social, environmental and human rights movements within the backdrop of nature. With this project, Miho hopes for all girls to have outdoor and environmental role models who look, sound and live like them so that they know what careers, adventures and leadership opportunities are possible.
Her first short film: The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak was produced as a part of this project. The film received Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Earth Port Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the 2013 American Indian Film Festival. This film was selected for 2015-2016 Wild & Scenic On Tour which travels to more than 100 communities around the country to build a grassroots network connected by a common goal–to inspire people and unite communities to heal the earth.
Yoga Instructor and Wilderness Guide
Jenna comes alive when exploring wild paces and is passionate about sharing her love for the natural world with others. She has lived in Yosemite National Park for the past 4 years, teaching Environmental Education at NatureBridge. Her love for jagged mountain peaks, and exploring wilderness with granite underfoot has only deepened with time. In addition to finding peace and wonder in the natural world, Jenna has found wilderness to be a supportive and rich setting in which to turn inward.
Jenna has taught Community Yoga with Balanced Rock for the last 2 years. Her journey in yoga began 10 years ago in Berkeley, California, while an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. Jenna completed her first yoga immersion studying Anusara Yoga with Kenny and Chrissy Graham at Yoga Kula in Berkeley. She later completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Balanced Rock.
Jenna has led countless backpacking trips and has assisted children through adults with their first experiences deeply rooting into the natural world. She is driven to share the joy and peace that comes with exploring our inner and outer wilderness.
Medical Qi-Gong, Chef, and Co-founder of Shri Cuisine
Patrick has been studying the visual, energetic, medicinal and culinary arts since before highschool. With a innate interest in indigineous cultures, shamanism, and natural healing, he began personal studies in the Taoist and Tibetian healing arts as a curious kid in gradeschool. During his highschool years he met his first teachers outside the family that taught him all about the alchemy of food and the healing potential of Intention. Here he began his culinary track taking him through the process of healing with the culinary arts for the last 18 years. Within the family circle, Patrick was influenced greatly by his mother who is an award winning metalsmith and alchemist at heart. She first introduced him to the magic between the lines of ordinary reality.
Just after highschool, Patrick experienced a series of spontaneous energetic and spiritual awakenings allowing him an estute awareness of the subtle energetic states of the body. Since then he has studied with many masters mainly focusing on healing the subtle body through ancient Hawaiian, Tibetian, and Taoist meditations and techniques. Patrick currently works out of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas and is empassioned in bringing the visual, medical and culinary arts together to balance the body, mind, and spirit. Through his medical Qi Gong practice he strives to bring his clients closer into their own inherent Divine light, allowing them the opportunity to experience their highest potential.
Outdoor Guide, Yoga Instructor, Founder of WildYoga
Dennis Eagan E-RYT 500 is the Director of the Balanced Rock Yoga Alliance-certified WildYoga Advanced Study and Teacher Training Program as well as the instructor for the Balanced Rock Energies of Nature backcountry course.
He became a dedicated sadhaka in 1989 and gradually developed an hour-long home practice under the guidance of Lynne Minton, an Iyengar-style teacher in Anchorage, Alaska. Yoga saved him from back surgery twenty-three years ago and since then it has allowed Dennis to lead a very active life. The positive results in his own body inspired him to learn more about yoga.
After nine years of dedicated practice, Dennis moved to Berkeley, California to pursue yoga studies full time at the Piedmont Yoga Studio, directed by Rodney Yee. He graduated from their 320-hour program in December of 1998 and has been teaching ever since. Dennis spent seven years in Berkeley, teaching 15 classes a week and attending weekly classes with Donald Moyer, the director of the Yoga Room (one of the earliest yoga programs in the country), Tony Briggs, the director of Turtle Island Yoga, and of course Rodney. During that time he experienced a wide range of students from the high-energy vinyasa/ashtanga students at 7th Heaven in Berkeley to wheelchair bound yogis at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Oakland. In addition, he attended many weekend workshops with other top teachers including Ramanad Patel, Tias Little and Richard Freeman. Currently he directs the Advanced Study/Teacher Training Programs at the Yoga & Movement Center in Walnut Creek and the Bo Tree Yoga Studio in Davis.
Dennis has also been a wilderness guide and outdoor educator for over three decades. His guiding experience ranges from the Artic to Baja and from the summit of Denali to the depths of Grand Canyon. Dennis offers workshops and wilderness retreats throughout the west, from Alaska to Mexico. He is a contributor to Prana, the online newsletter of the Green Yoga Association, and is writing a book about the Gulf Coast of Alaska from the perspective of a kayaker.
LA Wilderness Training Executive Director
As a young woman, Chelsea dreamed of the mountains and camping. Unfortunately, she lived in suburban Chicago and her family just did not do that sort of thing. Chelsea began rock climbing in 1993 and backpacking as a means of getting to backcountry rock. She was soon hiking and climbing every weekend.
Chelsea moved to Yosemite in 2001 to be close to the Yosemite rock climbing Mecca where she became the Business Manager of Yosemite Guides, a local guide service. She helped to create the Balanced Rock Women of Color Backpack Program which she has guided since its inception in 2004. She has also worked at the Colorado Mountain School. After moving to the Bay Area, Chelsea became the long-time program manager at Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) before leaving to pursue her dream of founding a Los Angeles Wilderness Training in 2011.
A yogini for over 12 years, Chelsea has practiced regularly with Rusty Wells and Bryan Kest, studied Acro Yoga, and has completed 100 hours of Yoga Teacher Training with Rusty Wells. Photos of Chelsea periodically crop up in Patagonia catalogs, Essence Magazine, and Sports Illustrated Women. She is also proud to be included in Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, Dudley Edmonson’s book about Afro American outdoors enthusiasts.
Dr. Breezy Jackson
Ecologist, Yoga Instructor and Adventurer
Breezy Jackson is a 7th generation California native whose grandmother took the stage coach into Yosemite Valley to vacation as a girl. Deeply familiar with Sierra Nevada ecology, Breezy just completed her doctorate in Ecosystem Ecology. For her dissertation work, she studied how past and present forest fires effect streams and rivers in Yosemite. Breezy began practicing yoga in 2003 to enhance her balance, core strength, and mental acuity as a collegiate rower. Later she studied Iyengar Yoga for five years with Jeri Stewart at the Moscow Yoga Center in Idaho. During this time, Breezy also received a Masters of Science in Leadership in Physical Education and Recreation, worked as a graduate assistant in the Wellness Program at the University of Idaho, and designed and tested an evaluation and assessment tool for group fitness instructors as her culminating thesis. Breezy’s teaching style is vigorous and playful while drawing on a foundation of proprioception and breath awareness. She enjoys spontaneous self-discovery and contemplation enhanced by wilderness travel and simplified living in a stunning landscape. An adventurer, Breezy has worked in Antarctica where she met her husband and volunteered as the Yoga coordinator, as a Fire Lookout in the Cascade Mountains, and as a research scientist in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. She always looks forward to an adventure of body, mind, and spirit shared among good friends, old and new!
Co-founder of Balanced Rock, Yoga Instructor, Ayurvedic Specialist
Eliza has been living in Yosemite since graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies in 1993. She has been leading people on adventures in the outdoors since 1989, working for NatureBridge (formerly Yosemite Institute), Outward Bound in Colorado and Alaska, Where There Be Dragons in Tibet, and Wild Women Workshops in Alaska and Yosemite. Eliza co-founded Balanced Rock in 2007 and since then has served as an instructor. She has served as both President and Vice President of the Board of Directors.
Eliza first discovered yoga in 1991 while living and studying in Nepal and India for a year. Since then she has been a passionate practitioner, studying a variety of styles including Iyengar, Bikkrim, and Ashtanga with Pattabhi Jois and her primary teacher, Richard Freeman, with whom she has completed a month long teacher training, as well as twelve other week-long intensives. Eliza has been teaching a blend of these styles in Yosemite since 1995 with an emphasis on breath, flow and joy. She was certified as a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist from the California College of Ayurveda in 2000 and also holds Ayurvedic certificates from the Amercian Institute of Vedic Studies, Rishikesh College of Ayurveda, the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and the Ayurvedic Institute. She is currently practicing Ayurvedic medicine in Yosemite.
Eliza is passionate about making the world a better place through cultivating personal balance and awareness and facilitating others doing the same. For Eliza, connecting with the natural world and yoga have been two powerful forces for growth and peace. In her work she aims to share these experiences so that others may reap the benefits. Eliza lives with her husband, Nate, and two daughters, Calliope and Scarlett. While not busy with her little girls, she enjoys rock-climbing, surfing, and playing guitar.
Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, and Co-Founder Shri Cuisine
A born seeker, Jana began studying Meditation, Eastern Philosophy, Culture, Arts, Cooking, Plant Medicine, and Mythology early on. By age 15 sports injuries and chronic pain motivated her to find healing through Massage, Yoga & Nutrition. She has been studying & teaching ever since.
Jana holds a healing space for the soul to unfurl and express it’s inner beauty through Alignment based Vinyasa Yoga, Integrative Massage Therapy and Ayurvedic Medicine. She specializes in Yoga Therapy, Cross Training for Athletes, Detoxification and Recovery and Empowering Women of all ages through reconnection to Nature.
Yoga Instructor, Co-Founder of Blue Oak Ayurveda
Jon-Paul has been a resident of Catheys Valley since childhood. In the rolling oak lands of the central California foothills, he realized in adolescence that healing and spirituality were his calling. When others were joining the football team, he was seeking out Yoga instructors and studying Taoist philosophy. Through his early adulthood he experimented with an eclectic health program, fusing Taoist health maintenance and Live Foods, Food combining and Colonics (to name a few), in an effort to find suitable healing tools for himself and others. He eventually came quite naturally upon Ayurveda, a sister science to Yoga. His training in the California College of Ayurveda not only enlightened his mind, but introduced him to his future wife, Ruth. Jon-Paul graduated from the California College of Ayurveda (CCA), in 2002, and established Blue Oak Ayurveda shortly thereafter. He is also a Certified Massage therapist, trained in Myofascial release, trigger points and Ayurvedic Abyanga, Shirodhara, and Swedana relaxation and cleansing treatments. His yoga instruction is a creative blend of Vinyasa flow practice infused with his deep knowledge of health and wellness practice.
Massage Therapist, Esthetician, Co-founder Blue Oak Ayurveda
Ruth Smiley is an energetic advocate for the art of balanced living in a modern world. Through the lens of classical Ayurvedic medicine, she aims to give clients and students a well-rounded experience of good health through the arts of food preparation, self-care practices, Pancha Karma, rejuvenation, and energetic healing. Ruth is a co-owner of Blue Oak Ayurveda, an active Ayurvedic practitioner, Reiki Master, Craniosacral Therapist and Esthetician, and offers services at Mariposa’s Wellness Nook and Blue Oak Ayurveda’s home base in Cathey’s Valley. She lives in the Sierra Foothills with her husband, Jon-Paul and two daughters.