We are the bhav brigade

Bhav Brigade is a grassroots, entirely donation-based, pop-up platform that brings affordable, accessible, philanthropic yoga and wellness out into the community.

 We believe in inclusivity. The word mahayana in Sanskrit means the “greater vehicle,” or as Pema Chödrön explains it, “the path that leads us out of our cramped world of self- preoccupation into the greater world of fellowship with all human beings.” At the core of the Bhav Brigade is this idea of mahayana. We were born from a desire to broaden the scope, to unite those at the periphery of the yoga community, so that one day there may be no outsiders. Our goal is, to bring this transformative practice out from behind closed doors in a way that is inclusive and available to all. So much of our energy rests in our diversity. In our classes, the neurosurgeon practices next to the dancer, practices next to the business executive, practices next to the high school student, practices next to the retired veteran. First time-ers are intermixed with experienced yogis who are advanced teachers themselves. The woman in her late 60’s practices alongside the 6- year- old with her expectant mother surrounded by a whole bunch of people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds in between.

We believe in accessibility. Yoga means “union” and we’re getting back to the root of it by focusing simply on the yoga. When our three co-founders, Danielle Stern, Jeffrey Villanueva and Jessica Johnson came together in early 2015, it was decided that we would offer yoga in a format that didn’t require memberships, strict arrival or departure times, specific clothing, or even money. By doing so, we hoped to reach the people that weren’t already being reached by the dozens of talented and well-established studios in town—people who hadn’t found their way into an organized yoga class, whether because of class prices, transportation issues, class times conflicting with personal schedules, feelings of intimidation, or any number of preconceived notions—and as a result hadn’t found yoga. Here, we’d whittle away all the excess and it would just be yoga. Nothing more. To this day, each and every one of our offerings is either free or donation-based and takes place in creative outdoor spaces, local businesses and public landmarks. All of our classes are appropriate for all-levels of yoga experience and our teachers are skilled in simultaneously providing a variety of possible modifications so that the practice can be adapted to meet every practitioner exactly where they are.

We believe teachers are conduits. Bhav is a divine, uplifted mood, an elevated disposition, a joyful expansive energy, “good vibes” in their purest form, a rich sense of belonging and fellowship and connection to what is good and sacred and beautiful. We operate from the belief that as yoga teachers (and students!) it is our job to always, always bring the bhav. It’s this bhav that turns any place into a sacred space, transforming our neighborhoods and cities into yoga studios and our practice into a conduit for something greater; and it’s our reverence for bhav that guides our expansion—organically, collaboratively, soulfully, and intentionally.

We believe in yoga as a tool for social change. Our primary goal is to empower individuals to take their practice beyond the four corners of a yoga mat, traversing the traditional limitations of today’s yoga culture and moving it out into the world where it matters most. It’s our hope that what we learn and move through during our time together on the mat will enable us all to live life in a way that is more loving, more compassionate, less divisive and more peaceful. 

Meet the brigade

Danielle Stern
Co-founder, PhD, e-RYT 200, RYT 500
Danielle is a co-founder of this amazing community of yogis. Practicing yoga and satsang keeps Danielle grounded amidst the hectic pace and ego of academia. She came to yoga in search of a respite from graduate school stress in the early 2000s. Soon after receiving tenure as a communication professor at Christopher Newport University, Danielle made her yoga practice a priority. She teaches inclusive, dynamic, slow, but strengthening yoga for all bodies. Danielle is also trained in trauma-informed yoga, Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, as well as myofascial release, yoga nidra, and yin and restorative yoga styles. She also leads classes specific to LGBTQ+ communities. Danielle serves on the board of Virginia Community Yoga.

Brynn Sheehan
Teacher, PhD, RYT 200

Yoga has been a major part of Brynn’s life for over 10 years now. Her practice became consistent while in graduate school and led to an opportunity to practice various yoga styles up and down the east coast as she found her way to Norfolk, VA in 2011.

With a PhD in health psychology and an athletic background, Brynn’s personal practice and teaching style incorporates balance and strength challenges through mindful flows. A non-judgmental, supportive environment for the self is the focal point of Brynn’s classes, and encourage groundedness, confidence, and freedom to move and breathe as you. When not on her mat, Brynn is researching, spending time with her family and their two pups, and exploring the world.

Carly Joelle Bennyhoff
Teacher, LMT, RYT 200
Carly accidentally embarked on her yoga journey in 2004 when she enrolled in an elective yoga class at St. Louis Community College, thinking that it would be similar to Pilates. This launched her into a sporadic practice where Carly slowly began to understand that yoga is much more than physical exercise; practicing yoga is an art of living that can bring you more acceptance, balance and serenity in daily life.

Carly completed her first 200-hour yoga teacher training course in 2018 with Bhav Brigade’s inaugural training program led by Dr. Diane Malaspina and is currently enrolled in Embrace Yoga's Roots: Susanna Barkataki's 300hr YTT. Her continuing education studies include Restorative Yoga, Yoga for Addiction Recovery and Trauma-Informed Yoga, and traditional Kundalini Yoga; she also participated in an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and UMASS Memorial and continues to sit in meditation weekly with her MBSR classmates.

Carly loves to share the benefits of yoga and the 8 Limbed Path with her community and hopes that her slower-paced classes offer you the tools to connect with your inner refuge of steadiness, resilience and peace.

You can learn about Carly's small business where she works as a Board Certified Massage Therapist, Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, and Yoga Teacher. Connect with her via her website createmindfulmoments.com.

Lanique Powell
Teacher, RYT 200
Influenced by my past challenges with Anxiety and Depression, I aim to encourage mindful habits and express the importance of gaining peace of mind. After almost 8 years of practicing as a student I decided to commit to YTT to share how yoga helped change my mental health tremendously. I guide students by teaching breathing techniques and various poses to calm the mind and body.

Dominique Eborn
Teacher, RYT 200
"Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff"

As a person with overactive thoughts and a mind that never stops, yoga has offered me a place of solace and tranquility from the fluctuations of the mind or the gritty "mind-stuff". In 2019, I earned my yoga teacher certification with the goal of being able to offer this same peace and solitude to my students. I accomplish this through practical techniques such as breathwork, meditation, guided imagery and asanas (poses) to slow and steady the mind.

Kayla Monroe
Teacher, RYT 200
Kayla Monroe is a certified yoga instructor that focuses on vinyasa flows, meditation, and building trust and strength within yourself. Based in Virginia Beach, she’s practiced yoga for 10 years, began teaching in 2019, and credits yoga for the incredible growth she’s seen in herself and others.

Alishiya Kapoor
Teacher, RYT 200
Alishiya (She/Her/Hers) is a South Asian and Dominican queer woman working as the the co-executive director of a community circus in O'ga P'ogeh, colonized as Santa Fe, NM. In her experience with movement and the wellness community, Alishiya values moving with the seasons, being in community and coming back to the self. She dreams of creating spaces that allows others to just be, slow down, and reimagine our worlds. She is a wanderer, lover of crochet, macrame, and creating for and with others.

Jessica Ruff
Teacher, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP
Jessica Ruff, E-RYT® 200, RYT® 500, YACEP® teaches an empowering, dynamic practice that emphasizes mindful alignment and strength with a soulful touch. She is passionate about sharing all eight limbs of yoga with others in classes, workshops, trainings, and one-on-one. Jessica completed her first 200-hr teacher training in 2013 and has since had the privilege of training with Jason Crandell and Stephanie Snyder. Outside of yoga, Jessica has a BA in Psychology and an MBA. She spent over ten years incorporate marketing before pivoting in 2018 to fully invest herself in yoga. When not immersed in learning or teaching yoga, she loves to travel and spend time with her beloved corgis. She’s also a lululemon Ambassador for the Williamsburg store.

Rebecca Gilmore
Teacher, RYT 200
Rebecca Gilmore, a classically trained professional musician, is Assistant Principal Cellist with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, where she has been a featured soloist in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and in chamber music with JoAnn Falletta, an NPR Broadcast of Schubert’s Guitar Quartet. With the Virginia Arts Festival, her chamber group, Ambrosia Quartet, was featured in concert with internationally acclaimed pianist, Olga Kern.  As soloist, Ms. Gilmore has most recently performed piano and cello sonatas with Olga Kern and cello concertos (Schumann Cello Concerto) with Orchestra director, Dr. Paul Kim and the Old Dominion University Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Eastern Shore. With performance degrees from Indiana and Rice Universities, Gilmore continues to seek the highest quality in performing/recording as a Spotify Artist, to grow as a performing artist #classi-crossover and to create connections across cultures .As a mentor to college-age students (CNU & ODU in VA) and to younger students in her home studio, she draws from both her traditional and Suzuki roots. With students, she shares her entrepreneurial spirit and the art of cello performance. Along with teaching yoga at the YMCA and more casually with her Virginia Symphony colleagues, VSO Musicians, she is completing her 500 hour Registered Yoga Training with Briana Ward of Chesapeake Hot Yoga. #Yogawithcello grew from combining two passions, yoga & cello.

Mica Deckard
Teacher, RYT 200
Mica came to yoga during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 seeking inner peace and a pathway to healing from chronic pain and stiffness, anxiety and depression. In 2022, Mica completed their 200-hour yoga teacher training at the Integral Yoga Academy at Satchidananda Ashram - Yogaville. During this time Mica also assumed the role of Executive Director of Virginia Community Yoga - a 501(c)(3) grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to providing yoga to undeserved and marginalized communities. With a PhD in criminology and criminal justice and a long history of community involvement and outreach, Mica soon turned their research towards the intersection of yoga and social justice.

Mica's current work with VCY includes overseeing the "Balancing Your Life" living yoga program offered at the Norfolk City Jail in partnership with the Norfolk Sheriff's Office. As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University, Mica is currently planning an experimental evaluation of yoga as a pathway to reduce violence and future criminal justice system contact for formerly incarcerated people in Virginia.

Samantha Kern
Teacher & Digital Marketing Lead, RYT 200
First introduced to yoga in grade school, Sam has drifted and returned many times to a yoga practice in different phases of life. Sam pulls the often cyclic ebb and flow nature of life into her approach to yoga practice and mindfulness journey. The principal of flow and balance is often seen in her teaching style, focusing on the balance between strength and flexibility. As she developed a deeper connection and personal yoga practice, she embarked in Bhav Brigade's inaugural 200-hour yoga teacher training course in 2018 led by Dr. Diane Malaspina. She now helps support the Bhav community as a teacher incorporating vinyasa and restorative styles and as digital marketing & communications lead for the group. As a lifelong learner, she is completing her 500-hour Registered Yoga Training with Jason Crandell.

Christal Rabalais
Teacher, e-RYT 500
Christal is a native New Yorker who made Virginia her home after serving in the Navy. She is a dedicated practitioner of Yoga as well as guiding classes, studying yogic philosophy and all things Yoga. “When the seeker is ready to acquiesce to the practice with continued dedication yoga is the pathway to transform body, mind, spirit.” Christal focuses on the importance of matching breath with movement to inspire a deeper connection to self and to take yoga to a higher body-mind connected level. Also, guiding underserved groups is a passion as she loves to share her knowledge with those who may not have access to yoga for whatever reason however, like all of us, absolutely need it. Lastly, Christal is a lover of life, animals, friendships and of course yoga. Christal has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from Old Dominion University. She holds current certification through International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT), Yoga As Medicine Level I certification, extensive YIN Yoga training and experience, is registered through Yoga Alliance e-RYT 500 and is a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP).

Connect with her on Instagram or Facebook.

Diane Malaspina Kassir
Teacher, Ph.D., e-RYT 500
Diane is an experienced, 500-hour registered yoga teacher (e-RYT 500), an applied psychologist, and a Senior Teacher with Yoga Medicine©. Combining yoga tradition and modern science, she teaches evidenced-based methods for healing, stress prevention, and sustainable well-being through yoga sessions, workshops, and teacher trainings - both locally and across the globe. A wife, rescue dog mom to Prana, and a vegetarian based in Virginia Beach, VA, she’s up for anything that’s outside. Preferably in warmer climates with the sun shining and the sea nearby.

Connect with her via her website dianemalaspina.com.

Kim McCoy
Teacher, RYT 500

For Kim, teaching is one of her great passions.  She had the opportunity to teach waterskiing and wakeboarding for six years in Walt Disney World, has taught snowboarding, surfing, and piano.  She was introduced to yoga in the late 1990s.  Over the years of developing a dedicated practice, she found a deep connection to the earth on her mat, similar to the experiences she cultivates in the natural elements and with music.  Kim earned her RYT, 500 in 2012 with Lisa Rapp and through that teaching certification, met Shri Manorama, the founder of Sanskrit Studies Method & Luminous Soul Method, where she was introduced to the ancient language of Sanskrit and the Nine Pillars of Luminous Soul.  Kim’s life was changed.  Kim, aka Gītā, continues her devoted studies with Manorama today.

Neve Fletcher Loehr
Teacher, e-RYT 200

Neve has been a yoga practitioner off and on since 2003. After several car accidents, it became apparent to her that she would be practicing yoga the rest of her life in order to self-heal daily. She received her RYT 200 teaching certificate in Hatha alignment-based yoga at Health Advantage Yoga Center, in Herdon Virginia. Neve has studied many different styles of yoga under various senior teachers.  She is drawn to Ayurveda and Tantra as they teach all of life is sacred. With 14 years of teaching experience, Neve enjoys guiding her students along the yoga path of self-discovery. Her classes tend to be more playful in nature yet with an element of reverence for the Divine.

Connect with her on InstagramFacebook , or on her website, Sacredlifepractices.com.

Jessica Johnson
Co-founder, MD, RYT 200

Jessica is an integrative yoga instructor, entrepreneur and physician who believes we are here to feel, to love, and to take care of each other with the gifts we’ve been given. Ultimately, she feels she is here both in yoga and in life to facilitate healing, a process in which we realize we’ve actually been whole and perfect and absolutely worthy of this beautiful thing called life all along. After seven years of personal practice, she began teaching at the start of medical school, completing teacher training with Jivamukti teacher & owner of Satya Yoga, Logan Taylor Tymoff, while developing a yoga and meditation program for the hospital's campus community. Jessica now teaches a dynamic Jivamukti- inspired vinyasa practice founded in a deep understanding of human anatomy and physiology and is most passionate about integrating her eastern and western studies to foster true healing in a way that is accessible to everyone. Her classes are rhythmic, transformative, intuitive and as playful as they are deep. While living in Virginia, she was best known in the community for her role in creating the Bhav Brigade and particularly for her sunset classes that attracted hundreds of individuals each week and raised thousands of dollars for charity each year. Now that her other hat has pulled her away from the east coast to Stanford for residency, we’ve gone bi-coastal and Jessica is pioneering the San Francisco Bay Area branch of Bhav Brigade.

Connect with her on Instagram orFacebook.