Celebrating 20 Years in 2020!

Words by Executive Director & Co-Founder Heather Sullivan

Welcome 2020!  

I don’t know about you but I am REALLY excited for 2020! 2019 felt like a powerful year of change and interesting events perhaps laying a lot of the framework for the potential of this new decade.  

And, well, I just love the whole 2020 thing…

photo credit: Patrick Bremser

So check out 20 Exciting Things in 2020 for Balanced Rock!

  1. 20 Year Anniversary  Balanced Rock is celebrating the 20th year since our very first trip (as Wild Women Workshops)! We’ve come a long way, baby!
  2. Rad Staff: Title Changes and New Faces  We have an incredible team moving into 2020 infusing both veteran wisdom and creative new energy:  Heather Sullivan as Executive Director, Deana Barone as Office Manager, Meaghan Olsen as Operations Manager, and Heather Bromberg as Program Support. We really looking forward to what this team can accomplish and provide to participants. For staff bios, visit our Staff & Instructors page!
  3. Nancy Aronie to lead Reunion Weekend Retreat in June 2020  Nancy was on the very first WWW trip in 2000 and will be returning to celebrate the 20-year milestone of our first transformational trip, which was in honor of Joie Ruth Armstrong.  Learn more about Nancy:  chilmarkwritingworkshop.com
  4. Nat Kendall’s New Offering:  Join us in March for Balanced Heart // The Yogi’s Path with Nat Kendall. Nat joined us in 2019 for Yoga Jambalaya and the community loved his offerings. We are excited to have him back! Learn more about Nat: natkendall.com  
  5. Yosemite Yoga is the new tag-line for Balanced Rock though we still offer many types of wellness practices and guided journeys, hikes and backpacks in wilderness and wild places.
  6. Two Courses at Esalen Institute  We are honored and excited to bring Balanced Rock’s curriculum to Big Sur and the esteemed Esalen Institute. I will be instructing a course in April and in December with special guests. The April trip will have a hiking/yoga focus and the December trip will have a yoga/journaling/and seasonal self-care focus.  See the Esalen Course listing for details.
  7. AutoCamp Partnership  BR will be celebrating a 1-year anniversary in June 2020 working with our friends at AutoCamp Yosemite to provide yoga to their guests twice a week and for custom offerings.  Check them out: autocamp.com
  8. Mammoth Yoga Festival  Balanced Rock will be attending the Mammoth Yoga Festival again this June offering free community yoga.   Check out this cool yoga festival happening in the Sierra Nevada: mammothyogafestival.com
  9. Finding Balance and Breath in Yosemite  BR will partner with Yosemite Mountaineering School to offer two of our favorite activities that really go hand in hand…climbing and yoga! Register for this upcoming retreat here.
  10. 20 Year Celebration in October  Come party with us! Our amazing Board of Directors and Staff are currently planning a 20th Anniversary shindig in October. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more info! IG: @balancedrock | FB: Balanced Rock Foundation
  11. Co-Founders to Instruct 5-Day Yoga Immersion in November  Balanced Rock’s Co-Founders Heather Sullivan and Eliza Kerr will be joining forces for the first time to lead a 5-Day Yoga Immersion in 2020. This is an experience not to miss!
  12. Yoga Tune-Up  This new half-day workshop will be in early December with the intention to tune up your yoga practice and create a realistic routine to move into the shorter days and longer nights of the holiday season. I am really excited to offer this as I feel I often need this before the Solstice season! Registration is open on our website!
  13.  Custom Trips We have some really great custom trips on the books with groups and partners like Rhodes Scholars, Julia Clarke,  AutoCamp, and more. If you are looking for a completely customized retreat with Balanced Rock…let us know as we are filling up!
  14. Restorative Yoga Training with Julia Clarke  Julia just released her first book: Restorative Yoga for Beginners and will be coming to Balanced Rock in the Yosemite area in April to teach a weekend Restorative Yoga Training. Check out Julia: juliaclarkeyoga.com
  15. Complete our 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training  including exciting stand-alone modules such as Yoga and Ayurveda Intensive and Adjusting and Hands-On Assisting.  
  16.  Kid’s Yoga & Mindfulness Program  Balanced Rock will offer weekly yoga and mindfulness classes at the El Portal Elementary School for 79 students and 6 faculty.
  17. Community Yoga Benchmark  In 2020, we will have served over 2000 individuals in our Community Yoga Program which offers free bi-weekly yoga classes to locals and visitor in Yosemite Valley and El Portal. Woohoo! What a powerful Sangha.
  18. Free Outreach Programs In 2020 we will serve over 700 people in free outreach/yoga classes at events such as Yosemite Medical Symposium, Localizing CA Waters Conference, Yosemite Facelift and trainings for NPS and Park Partners.   
  19. New Venue  Fingers crossed we will have access to a new venue in 2020!  
  20. Planning 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training for 2021  We will be putting together logistics and curriculum for our next 300-hr YTT. Stay tuned!

And if you feel inspired, here is a journal prompt: 

Write about 20 things you are excited for in 2020.

Here’s to a powerful start in 2020!

With love and gratitude,

Heather Sullivan

Embracing Change in 2019!

Happy New Year!  

We are grateful for the continued dedication of the staff, board, volunteers and donors for making Balanced Rock such a solid, inspiring and loving organization. We hope you will join this incredible community on one of our 2019 courses! 

If your new year’s resolution includes spending time in nature, recommitting to self care and wellness routines, and/or exploring personal growth in supportive community then these courses are just the thing.  

Balanced Rock is also welcoming 2019 with some significant and exciting changes within the organization. Read on for the latest news!

Changes to Our Staff:

In 2019 we bid farewell to Paula Wild, Director of Operations, who has served Balanced Rock for almost eight years in a variety of roles. 

Paula leaves a wonderful legacy at Balanced Rock. She has implemented many organizational systems with an attention to detail and professionalism that has allowed BR to grow and therefore, become a more efficient and polished organization.  Also in her tenure, Paula has served as a wilderness guide and yoga instructor. She has helped co-create the WildYoga Advanced Studies and Teacher Training Program by contributing engaging curriculum, attentive instruction and a compassionate and caring teaching style.

Paula has truly embraced the Balanced Rock mission; to inspire health and well-being through deep connection to nature and spirit, in her work and life. We wish her well on her new, exciting position as Program Specialist at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA.  Here, Paula will continue to serve people by focusing on exploring the human potential in a dynamic landscape.   She will also continue to cultivate her amazing organizational talents and her passion for teaching and bringing compassion and wellbeing to the world. 

Immense gratitude for all she has given to the Yosemite, Mariposa, and Balanced Rock Communities. We love you, Paula.

Board of Directors:

Balanced Rock is also experiencing a transition in our Board leadership as Anne Baxter steps down from her role as Board President.  She has held this role for four years. We are so grateful to Anne for her dedication.  She has graciously exercised thoughtfulness and compassion in her managerial position. We honor and thank you Anne. And we are so glad you will stay on the Board!

We are equally excited to welcome Pete Van Kuran as the new President of Balanced Rock’s Board of Directors.  Pete has served on the BR Board since 2010 as Secretary.  He brings a wealth of organizational and fiscal skills to the organization.

We are thrilled to have Pete’s expertise and guidance in this new role.  Pete’s daughter, Kim Marcis, was a participant on the very first BR trip in 2000. His three grandchildren participate in the Kid’s Mindfulness Program with BR in the El Portal school system. Thanks to Pete for stepping up as our new President!

2019 Administrative Staff
  • Heather Sullivan Managing Director/Co-Founder
  • Deana Barone, Admin Assistant
  • Operations Manager  In process
2019 Board of Directors
  • Pete Van Kuran, Board President
  • Eliza Kerr, Vice President/Co-Founder
  • Rosa Aranda-Lister, Secretary
  • Monte Myers, Treasurer
  • Marcia Hodges
  • Sarah Ottley
  • Brenda Ostrom
  • Anne Baxter
  • Maggie Jones
2019 Instructors and Volunteers
  • Breezy Jackson
  • Jon-Paul Salonen
  • Jana Kilgore
  • Patrick Bremser
  • Miho Aida
  • Grace Anderson
  • Nancy Aronie
  • Heather Sullivan
  • Eliza Kerr
  • Dennis Eagan
  • Erin Dickman
  • Schuyler Greenleaf
  • Paula Wild
  • Cassidy Engfer

Exciting Opportunity: Balanced Rock is hiring an Operations Manager!


Balanced Rock (BR) is excited to be hiring a part-time position of Operations Manager (OM) to support Balanced Rock’s high-quality wellness, yoga, nature-based programs & retreats in 2019.  Balanced Rock is a small dynamic non-profit 501c3operating in Yosemite National Park since 2000 with a mission “to inspire health and wellbeing through deep connection to nature and spirit.” Successful candidates will have experience in accounting and fiscal management, systems management, and marketing work well with others and independently, and align with BR’s mission.  This position will report directly to the Managing Director.

 Job Brief:

We are looking for a competent Operations Manager to enthusiastically take on a variety of operational and marketing tasks and effectively manage the administrative side of program operations. Significant duties include but are not limited to:

  • Budgeting, Accounting and Human Resources
  • Marketing and Outreach
  • IT and Online Systems Management


The candidate must have their own housing, a working vehicle, clean driving record, and have familiarity with the local area and systems within Yosemite National Park. Must be able to take direction as well as have initiative and good problem solving skills.  A kind, positive outlook and excellent verbal and written communication skills are essential. Prior knowledge of and experience in Microsoft Office Suite, Quickbooks Online and WordPress is desired.

Compensation & Schedule

Compensation will be commensurate with skill and experience with a range of $20-$25/hour. Hours and schedule to be negotiated to fit organizational need as well as applicant skill-set and availability.This position is non-exempt, part-time (approximately 3 days per week).

To Apply

Please submit current resume & cover letter to:

Heather Sullivan, Managing Director


Deadline to apply is December 19, 2018.

Fire Season Reflections: With a Yoga Lens

Agni, the Hindu God of Fire, is personified in actual flame, in the fire of the sun, in lightning, celestially in the stars, and in sacrificial and ceremonial fire.

The word Agni is used in many contexts, ranging from the fire in stomach, the cooking fire in a home, the sacrificial fire in an altar, the fire of cremation, the fire of rebirth, the fire in the energetic saps concealed within plants, the atmospheric fire in lightning and the celestial fire in the sun.  ~Jayaram V 

Fire is one of the five elements in both Samkhya and Ayurvedic Philosophy According to both, the universe is composed of the 5 Elements:  Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space (Ether). Concepts like seasons and time of day can even hold the qualities of these elements.

Here in California, we are well aware that this is fire season and see and experience on a daily, very gross level fires physically burning around us.   We see the burning or recently burned landscape, we smell and taste the smoke in the air, and we evacuate our homes on what feels like a regular basis.

When left unchecked, fire can burn out of control and be very destructive.   Many of those we know have lost their homes and some their lives or their loved ones in these big fires. Fire becomes the ultimate transformer in these moments and often we are not ready for it.

One of the original founders of Balanced Rock’s predecessor organization, Wild Women Workshops, had parents who lost their home in the recent Carr Fire just a month ago.  The Ferguson Fire, which burned through the Yosemite Region, claimed the lives of two hard-working, local and beloved firefighters this summer.  We mourn these losses of life, livelihood and homes deeply while increasing deep reverence for the power of fire.

Firefighter water puja. El Portal, CA.

Not mentioned much is the great loss of animal life and habitat in these monstrous western wildfires:  the bears burned over in Swall Meadows, the charred rattlesnake found in a coiled position by Mono Lake as though trying to defend and strike the flames, the deer family huddled together in a burned out tree stump hole that couldn’t outrun the Butte Fire.

The Vedic people were aware of his (Agni’s) destructive ability, as he sets the forests aflame. “Urged by the wind he spreads through dry wood as he lists, armed with his tongues for sickles, with a mighty roar. Black is thy path, Agni, changeless, with glittering waves! When like a bull thou rushes eager to the trees, with teeth of flame, wind-driven, through the wood he speeds, triumphant like a bull among the herd of cows, with bright strength roaming to the everlasting air: things fixed, things moving quake before him as he flies.”  ~Jayaram V 

But wildfire is one of ten forms of Agni described traditionally.  The first five are material:  and the last five are ritualistic. Fire in its healthy and balanced state consumes, transforms, purifies and conveys as it engulfs matter and reduces it to ash, transforming it from one form to another. As it consumes it morphs matter from a gross level to a more subtle level. Fire can do the same for us in our yoga and breathing practice in terms of transformation.   We use the fire of our breath and the heat generated by physical postures to burn through obstacles, establishing a fertile landscape for new energy. This is something we can witness in our outer landscape in the springtime after the rains come and new life abounds.

The fire of our breath cultivates tapas, discipline and focus and (when burning well) slowly consumes them, revealing our true authentic nature. The fire of our digestion helps us consume our food as well as all that we take in through all of our senses.  Hence, our physical practices are essential for us to handle all of this input from our environment, diet and habits and assimilate them in a healthy way.

When fire is unharnessed as in a wildfire, it can create chaos, stress, fear, and confusion. It poses danger as it can burn out of control and be extremely hot and destructive. But just like a well-tended campfire, when fire is harnessed and able to be controlled it sheds light and warmth, it purifies, and it serves as the ultimate vehicle of transformation.

There is a reason Agni, the Hindu fire god was revered so much and that hundreds of hymns in the Rig Veda were addressed to him.  Though he has fallen out of vogue as less sacrificial ceremonies were held over time in, his qualities are still observed in Hindu wedding ceremony, in burning of butter lamps, during funeral ceremony and many of his qualities have been absorbed by other deities with more of a re-directed focus on the inner transformation that Agni represents.

Topics for Reflection during this Fire Season:

  • What are you sacrificing to the fire?
  • What is transforming for you during these heated months?
  • What could benefit in your life or yoga/meditation practices from the purification properties of fire?
  • How can you harness the power of fire through your breath work and physical practice?

Written by Heather Sullivan