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Yoga Session

OUR  TEAM

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Jeffrey Thomas
Founder & Executive Director 

Jeffrey, RYT-200, founder and Executive Director, is passionate about recognizing people of color for their capacity to effect positive change and transcend their circumstances. He is responsible for strategy, partnerships, fund development, and day-to-day operations. He first practiced lyengar Yoga and - after yoga teacher training - continued with Trauma-Informed Mind-Body (TIMBo) and Prison Yoga Project training. Over his career, he has partnered to deliver more than $550M in public and private funds to low-income communities. 

In his roles at MYP, he draws on his experience in the design of ambitious multi-stakeholder collaborations designed to resource low-income communities of color. He has been nationally recognized for his business plan for a nonprofit social enterprise called Ploughshares Nursery that has been in operation since 2005 offering employment training to individuals emerging from conditions of homelessness. He worked with formerly-incarcerated activists and a poverty law clinic at Berkeley Law School to co-create Clean State - a program that has assisted more than 14,000 people seeking to remedy their criminal records. In 2011, he co-designed a participatory action research project at a graduate school of public policy that examined barriers to civic leadership in low-income communities. The research resulted in the creation of a training program for women of color that seek to become elected policymakers. 

Anitha Nair McKendall

Thought Partner

Anitha is a public health program specialist with more than 14 years of comprehensive experience in program management, strategic planning, community outreach, minority health, and developing evidence-based programs/curricula to educate at-risk communities. She has been successful in applying her epidemiological background towards designing and managing research studies, training staff, and creating health initiatives to promote organizational missions while streamlining structural processes. Anitha has utilized her proficiency in yoga culture, history, and philosophy to develop education components for various yoga teacher training programs. She has transitioned her experience in teaching a physical asana practice for over 20 years to offer program assistance to improve employee/client health and wellness through in-house services. She has experience working with military and refugee populations as the Lead Public Health Officer developing protocols and managing large teams on a variety of Joint Task Force missions for the US military.

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Emily Peterson

Thought Partner & Peer Facilitator Trainer

Emily is a yin yoga instructor, yoga teacher trainer, Reiki Master Teacher and lead trainer, and senior facilitator for TIMBo (Trauma-Responsive Innovations for Mind/Body). In researching yoga to create the MYP intervention, Emily draws on 20-plus years of interdisciplinary practice, training, and private consultation in yoga, the science of trauma, traumatic stress, and post-traumatic growth. She was most recently the lead trainer for TIMBo, a body-based trauma and stress resolution program which uses a proprietary system of accessible, trauma-informed yoga developed by marginalized women for women. Emily has been an early thought partner.  She is a co-creator of the Mandela Yoga integrative health intervention model, the Hippopotamus Workshop, and the Peer Facilitator Training Program. She spearheads the development of new institutional partnerships for MYP both in the United States and abroad. 

Felipe Rosario

Peer Seed Teacher

Felipe completed his 200-hour yoga training in 2021 with Men Care Now, a research-based training created specifically for men of color. Yoga was first just a workout but became a way of living, of understanding, and of having compassion for oneself and the people in one's life. Spanish-speaking and formerly incarcerated, Felipe believes that the healing resource of yoga should be made more available to men.

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Julia Naganuma-Carreras

Thought Partner

With a background in research psychology, Julia is working at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at the Boston VA Medical Center, where she conducts research on PTSD and trauma-related disorders. In addition to her involvement in research, Julia is currently pursuing a 200-hour yoga teacher training. She is a thought partner with MYP, specializing in data collection and quality improvement. Julia works with implementation partners to adapt surveys for use with participants. She will help in the collection of survey data, as well as in the analysis of data for use in future grant applications and presentations.

Keyona Aviles

Peer Seed Teacher and Peer Facilitator Trainer

Keyona Aviles, LMHC, earned her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in holistic practice from Lesley University. Her belief in the body as instrumental in mental and emotional healing led her to become an ACE-certified personal trainer in 2003, AFAA certified Group Exercise Instructor in 2006, Vinyasa Yoga instructor in 2009, and to train with Project Adventure in Adventure Based Counseling. Keyona Aviles, LMHC recently opened a home-based wellness boutique / private practice where she provides therapy and treatment to women, youth, and their families. She has integrated her 15 years of clinical mental health experience with what she knows to be true for herself and so many others: awareness of the body, movement, and curiosity is crucial to emotional/mental well-being and soul-level healing. Keyona is a co-creator of the MYP Peer Facilitator Training program and an MYP Peer Seed Teacher.

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Mike Massey

Peer Seed Teacher

Yoga Mike's indoctrination to the wonders of yoga came after a severe injury while playing football back in 2008. Mike spent many decades studying the game of football. So his style of yoga is fun, exciting, and technical.  Mike uses each session to challenge the students and build their practice by learning from their reactions to his instructions/suggestions. Mike received his yoga certification in 2014 from David Vendetti & Todd Skoglund at South Boston Yoga.  In 2018 Mike joined the N.E.S.T. (New England School of Therapeutics). After an entire year and 650 hours of study, Mike became a Licensed Massage Therapist specializing in structural integration. Mike also works as an Assistant Instructor with the N.E.S.T. - where he continues to sharpen his knowledge of the craft while ushering new talent into the world of bodywork.

Raquel Moreno Marra

Implementation Partner

A yoga teacher for over 10 years, Raquel strives to use the practice of yoga not only as a healing tool for the physical body but as a means to sharpen an inward connection that is more necessary than ever in this age of technology. Her belief is that through authentic work on self-awareness, we can emerge with a profound desire to be active participants in our community and strive to effect change. Raquel's background in administrative work and event planning, coupled with her years as a yoga teacher, bring an appropriate balance of organization and heart to this project. She was the lead implementation partner for MYP's first implementation with a federally-qualified health clinic and executive produced the Mandela Yoga films.

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

FOUNDING NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD 

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A yoga teacher and non-profit program director, of The Mel King Institute for Community Building, for a statewide association of mission-driven community development organizations

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Member of Congress


A senior leader in the United States House of Representatives who is a psychiatric social worker

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Brand Identity & Media Strategist
 

A former healthcare industry marketing executive who now works with large healthcare organizations to strategically use social and digital media

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Executive Director,
Root Cause

 

The Executive Director of a national consulting firm for nonprofits and longtime data manager for a US Department of Labor national support center

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Founder & Managing Director, Blue Ridge Advisors
 

A former philanthropy executive who now advises national and global foundations and social impact organizations

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