Our Teachers

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Mandy Roush

Mandy Roush

Founder/Teacher

Yoga has helped me learn how to focus my attention on what is real and right now. That may be the sensation I am feeling in my body while I am in a pose, the conversation I’m having with a loved one, or the beauty of my surroundings. This practice has helped me manage reactivity, impulsivity and my fear of the unknown. By learning how to access what is real and let go of what might be or what was, I experience more ease and joy. I think the most important gift yoga has given me is a reconnection with my own inner knowing.

I love learning and I love teaching! I am so grateful for the opportunity to share this practice! My classes are strong and steady with an emphasis on breath and body awareness. I draw from my own experiences and the great teachers I’ve had the honor of studying with including Stacy and Dave Dockins, Live Love Teach, Baron Baptiste and Deborah Adele. I see each class as a practice, as teacher and student, to stay connected to what is needed moment by moment and respond accordingly.

My husband Nick and I are the proud founders of Root Down Yoga Studio. This studio and practice are central to our lives. We feel so fortunate to be surrounded by this incredible teaching team and our community of students. When I’m not at the studio, you’ll probably find me on my horse, in my garden or hanging out at home with Nick and our two cats.

Nick Roush

Nick Roush

Founder/Teacher

Like so many of us, as I found more professional “success” in my life, I gave myself less and less time to move my body and calm my mind… Before I knew it, I was an overdoing, overstressed, “professional sitter” desperately in need of a change. Thanks to my lovely wife Mandy, I started practicing yoga! After just a short time I noticed my strength return, but most of all, I just felt so much happier. I was calmer, more focused and less “knockable” by the life challenges we all face.

Yoga practice has touched and shaped every facet of my life. My relationships, my mental state, my body, the way I do business, everything! I think it comes back to “how yoga works”. The practice works because it gives you a venue to see what’s possible for you. As you are physically and mentally challenged, you learn the tools to help you grow and flourish in the midst of that challenge. Soon, what you previously viewed as a road block is now just a tiny speed bump. What would have previously taken you out is now just another chance to learn and grow. The practice creates so much more space for joy in life.

My yoga practice has led me to my life purpose: To live an inspired life and inspire others to what’s possible for them! I teach yoga because of my most sincere hope to share this life changing practice with you. I invite you to come practice with me and all the teachers at Root Down Yoga! Don’t worry, the practice will meet you right where you are today, no judgement, no expectations. Let the practice work its magic and reveal what’s possible for you!

Holly Bechtum

Holly Bechtum

Teacher

At the risk of sounding like an inspirational coffee mug, I want to state that yoga is a continuing journey for me. There is no end destination, and the path continues to change, depending on where I personally am at any given moment. This is not only true in the physical asana practice, but in all aspects of yoga philosophy. In this life that is packed to the gills with many, many obligations like; work, meetings, play dates, gym time, volleyball tournaments, a super long warrior 2, and so on, it becomes very easy to miss out on the journey portion and set my eyes on “when will it be over”, or “what’s next?”. It can feel like I’m aching for a resolution, or an end point, instead of enjoying what is happening right now.

The practice of yoga has taught me to be the very best human I can be in every moment throughout all of those obligations, by remembering that everything is one breath at a time. Not the next breath, or the one that just ended, but the precise breath I am committed to right NOW. This is the bit of the journey that so often I miss, because it seems so small. In truth, it’s the only way to fully experience life’s journey in total presence, and that is monumental.

By continuing to practice yoga and commit to each breath, I know that in those times of extreme busy-ness or stress, I possess the power to STOP at any time and simply take One. Conscious. Breath. Just one. If even for what feels like a nanosecond I’ve broken the hamster wheel of life, and come back to presence, I’ve succeeded! I just have to keep on practicing.

Leah Burgmeier-Olson

Leah Burgmeier-Olson

Teacher

I’ve been described in many ways: woman, mother, teacher, daughter, student, and lover of all things gifted from Mother Nature.  I am honored to now add the title of yogi to that list.  What started as a means to heal a physical injury has allowed for a transformative journey, one where I fell in love with yoga and it’s power to heal.  The emotional and spiritual aspects of yoga have taught me patience, compassion, and self-love.  What began as a class, became a practice and then a way of life.  And with healing came the desire to share this passion with others, especially children.  Open hearts and minds make children inherently able to receive the gifts that yoga has to offer.  Having seen the power and impact of mindfulness in my first grade classroom, I know that extending this gift through the Root Down community is part of my journey.  I feel blessed to help children embrace this mindset while increasing their confidence and filling their hearts with compassion for self and others, breath by breath, pose by pose.

Stephanie Callen

Stephanie Callen

Teacher

An avenue to live full and love well. I began yoga a month after my dad died. I was 24, fresh out of college and reluctantly back in my hometown, La Crosse, Wisconsin. I felt angry, bitter, lonely, and trapped; I carried sadness and my heart was empty. A friend recognized this void and recommended yoga. As I began to practice more regularly, I experienced brief pockets… moments of space, where my mind wasn’t fixated on the thoughts of wishing my dad was still here or wondering what life would be like without him. I began to tap into, a sensation, a deeper calming breath; a new awareness of my body as it moved on my mat. The more I practiced, the more I felt present in my daily living. I noticed a greater ability to take joy in whatever it was that was happening right in front of me. Yoga has been, and will always be, a continuous journey of shifting myself to THE moment. It is with a joyful heart that my commitment to yoga has equipped me with the tools to live full and love well. Namaste!

Manny Felix

Manny Felix

Teacher

There is neither a more perfect time nor a more perfect place to be truly genuine and kind to yourself than right now and right here. Nick told me this on the first day of my yoga journey when I walked into the studio. This has become my mantra every day when I step onto the mat and is my continual goal every moment of the day when I am off the mat. I find it amazing that my yoga practice offers me much more beyond the obvious physical benefits. It further allows me to make connections between my physical, mental and spiritual states which positively enhances every dimension of my life. Two years ago, I never imagined that yoga would be a core pillar in my life. Reflecting upon my own practice, I am amazed at and sometimes overwhelmed by the evolution of who I am today because of yoga. I learn continually in my practice and am excited to now be able to share my love of yoga in Yoga Sprouts.

My professional background is in physical education teacher preparation with particular interests in teaching students with special needs. I taught in higher education for twenty years at UW – La Crosse and am now in my fifth year at Winona State University. I currently provide yoga activities to K-4 grade students at the WSU Children’s Center. One of my desires is to help future teachers attain the knowledge and skills to incorporate yoga and other mindfulness activities in their future classrooms and gymnasiums. This is important especially given social-emotional learning and development have extremely strong influences upon academic readiness and academic achievement. Through Yoga Sprouts, children can greatly enhance their personal (self-control, self-awareness, impulse control), emotional (willingness to try and try repetitively, sustained effort), and physical (body management and awareness, fitness) development. I’m fortunate to be part of Yoga Sprouts and RDY!

Jessie Fortuna

Jessie Fortuna

Teacher

Yoga entered my life in 2009, as a simple invitation from a new friend. It was a fun way to move my body in a way that didn’t cause pain. It led to another invitation to join a small group of yogis practicing hot yoga in a garage. I now call these people my dearest friends. Through my practice and training over the years, I now know who I am and I love that person. I am JOYFUL! Yoga has helped me find the best
version of myself. It reminds me when to take a pause-perhaps in a single breath. Yoga has pulled me out of autopilot and has given me tools that help me choose my own reactions. Yoga will meet you where you are at. Yoga is a gift that has been given to me and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Lori Freit-Hammes

Lori Freit-Hammes

Teacher

As a busy mom of three with a full-time professional career, I turned to Vinyasa Yoga as a way to help me manage my stress, offer an element of cross training to my exercise routine, and provide me with relief from chronic pain in my neck, back and hips.  It’s done all that, plus so much more.

As a student, yoga has created a space within me to see life differently – to see the possibilities.  I’m the typical Type A, driven, overachieving perfectionist.  I push myself, push some more, and then wonder why I become overwhelmed, frustrated, resentful, or injured along the way.   Yoga has taught me to slow down, to accept, forgive, and to be gentle with myself and others.  It’s helped me quiet the voice of my inner critic, get out of the way of my self-imposed limitations, and begin to love and accept myself for who and what I am.

I teach yoga because I love and believe in the power of this practice.  I’ve been blessed to be part of this growing community and I want to offer that same opportunity to you.  Throw out any preconceived notions you may have in your mind about “yoga” and give it a try.  I hope to see you on your mat!

Carole Gibb

Carole Gibb

Teacher

Fourteen years ago, I started practicing Iyengar Yoga as a response to being told I had degenerative disc disease following back surgery. I needed to increase my core strength to help support my back and hold my body together! What started as a purely physical need and practice, grew into something huge and wonderful with the entrance of Mandy and Nick and Root Down Yoga into my life. Hot Vinyasa yoga together with all the wonderful teachers at Root Down, has taught me how to breathe, focus, be calm, be strong when needed and yet be gentle when that is necessary, let go of the “bad” stuff and the stuff I can’t change, take time for myself without feeling guilty, connect my breath to my actions on my mat AND in my life, respond vs react, be present in the moment, and above all feel gratitude for everything that my practice and this world presents to me. There is so much more, but you should come try it and see what can happen to you.

In 2014 I took an Assisting Workshop at Root Down, and was amazed at how much joy it gave me to help other students in their practice. I knew then that I wanted to teach, but hadn’t a clue how to fit it in with my 60+ hour a week job and already over full life. A year later the job went, and, after a suitable time of grieving, I booked my Teacher Training.

Over the years practicing yoga I have grown in strength and awareness of my body and mind. I haven’t had any more instances of major back pain, and thrive in the knowledge that I have been able to make a difference to myself that will see me though the rest of my live as a healthier person both physically, mindfully and spiritually.

Yoga has given me another chance and I want to share it with others. I want to make a difference in other people’s lives, and see this as the perfect avenue. As in the story The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley… “It made a difference to that one.”

Jill Guzman (Berger)

Jill Guzman (Berger)

Teacher

Since a very young age, I’ve had a huge attraction to human anatomy. How amazing the human body is… all the things it does and can do without thought. How incredibly beautiful and unique we all are. No two bodies are the same. I was drawn to Massage Therapy and yoga for all of these reasons. I can geek out on anatomy for endless hours. I am very grateful to be able to do something I love so much.

I was seeking a way of recharging after a busy year when I found Root Down. It would be an understatement to say I fell in love with the community, the space, and the yoga. I loved the added challenge of the heat. I learned how to bust through “I don’t think I can” thoughts. Many practices ended in, “WOW! I just did that (?!?!)” – feeling strong, empowered and content. Always leaving with a smile! When I began considering going through yoga teacher training, a dear friend encouraged me to ask “Why not?”

Those two words, “Why not?” have become a reoccurring theme in my life. The next time you are teetering a decision, I nudge you to ask “Why not?”. It has brought many mind-blowing experiences to my life. I’ve added teaching yoga to my list of loves! I feel so lucky to be a part of this warm, loving community here at Root Down.

Julie Hatlem

Julie Hatlem

Teacher

From my first introduction to vinyasa yoga I fell in love with the grace and power of the practice. What I have come to love and respect even more, is the powerful connection of breath, movement, and community. Every breath, every movement, is a gift to connect to what is happening right now … and a choice to respond with intention and awareness. Life will always have a rhythm and cadence to it and my yoga practice gives me the opportunity to respond to life’s ups and downs with a pace that keeps me grounded. Not reacting, judging, or creating story.

I will always be a student of this practice and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with you. I believe that yoga, just like life, is filled with moments of curiosity, change, inspiration, problem solving, and self-acceptance. Join me for a class. Be curious, have fun, and discover the grace and power of yoga!

Lisa Hesch

Lisa Hesch

Teacher

I am so honored to have the opportunity to share yoga with all of the children who attend our Sprouts classes here at Root Down! I have been a student at Root Down since the year the studio opened. I am so grateful for all the ways this amazing place has enhanced my personal growth.

Yoga has allowed me to create more space and balance in my life. Through regular practice, I feel stronger and more flexible, more centered and more peaceful. What a gift we can give ourselves – and our children! I love that we are able to plant seeds of all of the benefits of yoga with the little sprouts that join us on Saturday mornings!

When I’m not at the studio I enjoy time with my family, walking my dogs, kayaking the beautiful waters of the coulee region, and working at an area elementary school.

Beth Hietpas

Beth Hietpas

Teacher

I am a “Yogi” (don’t you just love that word?!) for many reasons.  Always an active person, but, not athletic by any stretch of the imagination, I was looking for that one physical activity that really settled in my body.  My experience with Vinyasa Yoga has opened up an entirely new and wonderful world for me.  This powerful, though not over-powering, flowful Yoga practice has helped me better understand my own self, both on and off my mat.  The warmth, the community of breath, the community of people, the sweat, the tears and laughter, the challenge, the ease, the doing and being……ahhhhh…..Yoga.

Some days go better than others on the mat……just like anything else, some practices go more smoothly than others and, that’s OK.  However we show up, whatever our body shape, size, whatever our fitness level, no matter how strong, flexible, coordinated we are or are not…it doesn’t matter.  Yoga is an “equal opportunity” opportunity.  I have been teaching Yoga for several years and have as much to share with you as I have to learn from you. We can explore and experience the awesome, invigorating, humbling and grounding avenues of Yoga together.

My life’s work as a mother of 4 grown children and as a hospital-based Lactation Consultant provides me with endless opportunities to use the flexibility, strength, and balance of both mind and body that I have available to me because of my teaching experiences and personal Yoga practice.  This is gonna be amazing!  I promise….you will be changed by this practice!  See you in class!

Avis Johnson

Avis Johnson

Office Manager

Avis is the beating heart of the Root Down Yoga community. Nick and Mandy were blessed to meet her many years ago and before she was officially hired, she was a dedicated student who always wanted to lend a hand. We had to pull the laundry out of her hands! Her smile will light up any room and she embodies this practice we call yoga. She is the first person to arrive and the last to leave, she knows when to offer a comforting hug or a listening ear, and her fantastic sense of humor keeps us all on our toes. She makes sure all of the teachers, students and volunteers have what they need, when they need it. She is the welcome wagon for all students and she warmly and willingly offers her guidance and support. She does so much for all of us and yet never wants any recognition or attention for it. Which is why we had to write this for her. If Avis did write this, she’d say she loves her yoga practice, she loves her job, and she loves sharing the Root Down community with each of you.

Amber Moesch

Amber Moesch

Teacher

My grandma Marion lived to be 98 years old, and I often wonder if I will follow in her footsteps, perhaps even passing a century!  More than anything, what motivates me and shapes the way I practice yoga is the humbling thought that I might have more than 50 years to live in THIS body!  I am passionate about keeping my own human body working well and helping other people to do the same.  Through teaching yoga, I hope to be able to inspire you and give you skills to inhabit your body with more joy, strength, balance and ease, through all your years and in all that life brings you!

Trish O'Neil

Trish O'Neil

Teacher

In my mid-twenties, I taught myself yoga asanas from a book and set up a daily practice for myself. Before long, I was feeling more confident physically and emotionally. I was able to leave behind a dead-end relationship and finish college. I continued to practice yoga, often at home, throughout the next decades of my life. Then I put myself out to pasture: sinking into a comfortable couch night after night, eating comforting foods and gaining pound after comfortable pound. Yet, inside, I wasn’t comfortable at all. When Root Down opened its studio close to my home, I decided to try out “the hot yoga.” I lay on my mat in a puddle for most of the first class. I wasn’t even able to hold child’s pose! Then I went back, again and again. I took every class and workshop that Root Down offered, including teacher training. I regained enough strength, balance and flexibility to do a wheel and a headstand. Today I am younger than I was five years ago. My goal as a teacher is to share the self-acceptance and vitality that come from moving beyond self-imposed limitations – on the mat and in the world.

Pam Popp

Pam Popp

Teacher

Somehow yoga found me…. It all started with a simple invitation from a friend and from then on, it was LOVE ! Right away I realized that yoga touched me very differently. Was it the breath? Or the physical challenge? Maybe it was the peace that I felt on the mat or simply the love of hanging out with a group of awesome yogis? All I knew was that each time I practiced, it was a new, incredible experience in my mind and body. True awareness was found, so I kept going back.  Yoga has created a transformation in my life, it continues to remind me to let go, to stay in the present moment, to meet challenges with compassion and to just… breathe. One of the greatest things about yoga is that it is always a practice, both on and off your mat.  Lately, combining nature, water and yoga has sparked a new passion for me! SUP(stand up paddle board) yoga . After spending many hours on the water and receiving training, I am so lucky to now fill my summers paddling and teaching SUP yoga classes. How amazing it is to soak up the beautiful surroundings while practicing and teaching yoga on a floating board! Come join a class and play! This special yoga journey is so inspiring, evolving and exciting, I look forward to sharing, teaching and experiencing it with you!

Cheri Schuyler

Cheri Schuyler

Teacher

Yoga opened up a new world for me in 1999. A friend of mine was studying to be a yoga teacher and asked if I would be her practice student. I was hooked! It started me on a path of study to learn how my body works and how my mind is connected to all that is goes on in my body. The physical practice of yoga helped me connect more deeply with what was going on in my body. The unexpected bonus was that the anxiety that ruled my days diminished so much that I felt like a new person. With my breath and awareness, I could look at the world with less fear and more love.

This lead me to a deeper study of anatomy through massage school. It was also in massage school that I was introduced to Yamuna Body Rolling. It is a practice of deep body awareness that uses balls to create space and optimal function throughout the body. Gravity draws us down every day. YBR is a way to counteract the effects of that pull by releasing tight, constricted tissues opening space for joints to move more freely again. I love to work one-on-one or in small groups so you receive lots of individual attention.
I am humbled to be a part of the amazing community that is Root Down Yoga, both as a student and a teacher. I am always learning from everyone I meet here and am loving it all.

Emily Sustar

Emily Sustar

Teacher

Yoga, for me, is not just a practice of movement, but a way of choosing to live. I use yoga every day whether I’m on or off my mat!  Yoga goes beyond the physical asanas (poses) and into every aspect of life.  Yoga for me can be the choice to pause before reacting to a challenging situation, choosing to connect with someone instead of rushing through the moment, or tuning into my own awareness of my body and my thoughts.  Sharing these skills with people of all ages; adults, and children alike, is vitally important!

I was first drawn to yoga as a teen for the physical practice and physical benefits, but what kept me coming back the was feeling of being grounded, clear, and able to breathe in any situation after I left.   My practice and my teaching have been ever-evolving since I first started on this journey. After moving back to the La Crosse area after spending 10 years living in different parts of the country I was delighted to find Root Down!

I am a mother and have a background as a Montessori teacher.  I am passionate about families, children, mothering, and the sacred journey a woman embarks on to become a mother.  I teach Vinyasa, Yoga Sprouts (kids yoga), and prenatal yoga classes at Root Down.  I am a 200 hr RYT, certified to teach both adults and children and have trained with Stacy Dockins and Deborah Williamson.  I am a certified prenatal yoga teacher, and did my training at Blooma in Minneapolis.

Shelly Wolf

Shelly Wolf

Teacher

Yoga. What a gift yoga has been in my life. I am so grateful for the discovery of this ancient practice. Each practice brings a new opportunity for me to be fully present, to breath, to move and to experience something in a new way. Who knew? What I thought was a new form of “exercise” would become such a vital and dynamic part of my life. More mindfulness, more joy, more grace. Yoga inspires me to live my best life on and off the mat.