Beyond Duality: Yoga & Social Justice Speaker Bios!

Posted on January 7th, 2014 in OTM News by offthematintotheworld

Off the Mat is thrilled to announce its speakers for the newest online training, Beyond Duality: Yoga & Social Justice. Beyond Duality: Yoga & Social Justice is an online training for yogis willing to talk about race, equality and oppression with honesty & mindfulness.


Hala-forwebsmallerHala Khouri

Hala Khouri, M.A., E-RYT,  has been teaching the movement arts for over 20 years. Her roots are in Ashtanga and Iyengar  yoga, dance, Somatic Psychology, and the juicy mystery of Life itself. Creative movement and honest self-exploration has always been a source of tremendous healing for Hala, and her calling to share this with others has been clear to her since she began teaching at the age of 16. Hala earned her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Religion from Columbia University and has a Master’s degree Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She wrote her thesis on using yoga and other complementary disciplines such as eco-psychology and somatics for self-empowerment to inspire a global shift towards peaceful and sustainable living. She is also trained in Somatic Experiencing  a technique which focuses on trauma’s impact on the body-mind and ways to resolve it. Hala is one of the creators of Off the Mat, Into the World, along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling.  This is a yoga and activism initiative that aims to get yogis to take their practice outside of the yoga studio and to touch the lives of others. Hala has taught yoga and the movement arts to a wide variety of people and places ranging from juvenile detention centers, mental health hospital and police stations, to yoga studios, conference halls and jungles. Teaching is her absolute favorite thing to do! She currently lives in Venice, California with her husband Paul and their two sons.


Nikki-forwebsmallerNikki Myers

Nikki Myers is an accomplished teacher and practitioner. She is a Yoga Therapist, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Certified Addictions Recovery Specialist, MBA and Founder of CITYOGA School of Yoga and Health. Born from her personal struggle with addiction, Nikki is also the founder of Y12SR , The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery. Based in its theme ‘the issues live in the tissues’, Y12SR is a relapse prevention program that weaves the art & science of yoga with the practical tools of 12-step programs. Y12SR meetings are now available all over the United States and the curriculum is rapidly becoming a feature of addiction recovery treatment centers. Nikki’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Yoga Journal, Black Enterprise, The Huffington Post, Origin Magazine and more. She is honored to be a co-founder of the annual Yoga, Meditation and Recovery Conferences at Esalen Institute and Kripalu Center.


BKBose-forwebBidyut ‘B.K.’ Bose

Bidyut ‘B.K.’ Bose is the founder and Executive Director of Niroga Institute. Bidyut earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley and spent many years in research and development in Silicon Valley. He has multiple patents to his credit, and has presented at international conferences and at universities around the world. Having learned yoga and meditation from his father since he was a child, and later with monks in the Himalayas, he longed for greater integration of his personal and professional life. Inspired since childhood by the twin ideals of self-realization and selfless service, he founded Niroga Institute in 2005, and his research interests have now shifted to the scientific application of TLS and developing cost-effective architectures for lasting social transformation.








MichaelSkolnik-forwebMichael Skolnik

Michael Skolnik is the Political Director to hip-hop pioneer, Russell Simmons and the Editor-In-Chief of, an online destination founded by Mr. Simmons.   As his role as Political Director, Michael oversees Mr. Simmons’ entire social justice and political activities.  The focus of their work together is based around three core themes: education, poverty and ignorance.  GlobalGrind reaches over 4.5 million people a month, predominantly serving a multi-racial segment of the 18-34 population, covering entertainment and celebrity news, lifestyle content, fashion, style, music and politics. Michael serves on the Board of Directors for The Trayvon Martin Foundation. He is also active on the Leadership Council of Gen44, the Democratic Party’s group for young professionals, and was an official surrogate for the 2012 Obama campaign.


Tess-forwebsmallerTessa Hicks Peterson

Tessa Hicks Peterson is the Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement and Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Pitzer College, where she has been teaching since 2006. Her research interests revolve around social movements, indigenous studies, community-based teaching, learning and research, and the links between individual well-being and community building/ social change. In her many years as the director of an anti-bias education institute and continuing today as a consultant, Tessa has conducted hundreds of diversity trainings, anti-bias education seminars and workshops on a variety of social justice issues across the county. As a scholar, Tessa has conducted community-based research projects around issues of poverty and economic success with families in Los Angeles, notions of cultural affirmation and de-colonization of native practices in the Andes of Peru, the links between spirituality and social justice for activist professionals in Los Angeles, and the impact of engaged scholarship and service-learning on students, faculty, staff, and community partners at Pitzer College. In all of her work as a scholar, teacher, and activist, Tessa aims to link individual well-being and collective transformation through critical thinking, sacred movement, and communal grace. Tessa lives in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains of Los Angeles with her husband, John, two boys, Isaiah and Jonah.


TeoDrake-forwebTeo Drake

Teo Drake is a yoga and martial arts teacher, educator, and activist. As a queer-identified trans man living with AIDS, he has 101 reasons to not want to be present in his own skin. The physical and spiritual practice of yoga and Buddhist traditions made it possible to begin to heal and feel at home in his own body. As a yoga teacher, he works mainly with adults and children who do not have access to mainstream yoga venues for a variety of reasons. As an activist and educator, he works with institutions to increase queer and transgender individuals’ access to care.









Jacoby-forwebsmallerJacoby Ballard

Jacoby Ballard is a white working-class queer transperson who has been teaching yoga for 13 years and practicing western herbalism for 9 years. He is the co-founder of Third Root Community Health Center, a worker-owned cooperative holistic health center in Brooklyn that opened in 2008. He is also the Program Coordinator of Third Root Education Exchange, the non-profit branch of Third Root. Jacoby is a regular columnist on healing justice in make/shift magazine, and his work has been featured on the Huffington Post, the Decolonizing Yoga website, in the Brown Boi Project’s book ‘Freeing Ourselves”: a Guide to Health and Self Love for Brown Bois, and in Original Plumbing Magazine. Jacoby has been working with Off the Mat, Into the World and the Yoga Service Council around issues of diversity and skill-building for yoga teachers to be agents of social change. He has received training by Kashi Atlanta, Kripalu, the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine, the Dinacharya School of Ayurveda, the Lineage Project, Off the Mat, Into the World, Street Yoga, and the Challenging Male Supremacy Project. Currently, primary inquiries in Jacoby’s healing justice work is around making this work both accessible to various communities and sustainable for practitioners, and in examining and experimenting with the role of healing trauma (individually and collectively) in social justice work.


speakerbioimages-LezlieLezlie Frye

Lezlie Frye is a yoga and meditation teacher, political educator, poet and performance artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is committed to slowing down, making room, and holding space for all the communities and movements she holds dear. Lezlie’s background is in organizing and social justice work, dance and other visual art forms, healing practices that include movement-based story-telling and western herbalism, and an embeddedness in communities that practice interdependence and collective care. Lezlie dreams of collective access in and as yoga. Drawing on values, strategies, and learnings from disability communities, she offers workshops to yoga teachers and studios on language, access, and addressing ableism with an open heart. Lezlie also leads a broad range of workshops around the country, facilitates conversations about difference and power, and regularly teaches on topics including gender and sexuality, race and US Empire, and disability studies. Lezlie was trained in the lineage of Swami Kripalu, whose heart-felt practice inspired the “yoga of compassion.” She seeks to offer inviting, accessible instruction to people of all bodies, capacities, and experience. Working from an awareness of how yoga circulates unevenly in the US, often in ways that contrast starkly from its origins and current practice in India, Lezlie seeks to tread softly and humbly in engaging these sacred traditions.


speakerbioimages-PatPat Payne

Pat Payne is director of the Indianapolis Public Schools Crispus Attucks Center which comprises the Office of Multicultural Education and the Crispus Attucks Museum. She came to IPS in 1962 as an elementary classroom teacher and served in that position until 1987 when she was appointed to create the IPS Center and become its director. The state-of-the-art African/African American History museum opened in 1998.

Pat chaired the National Education Association’s Black Caucus and co-chaired the NEA Minority Affairs Committee. She has served as a member of the NEA Civil Rights Committee, the NEA Board of Directors, the NEA Instruction and Professional Development Committee and was the NEA representative on the National Teachers Exam Policy Council.  She represented the National Education Association at a meeting with South African teachers in Botswana; was the NEA representative at an international meeting of teacher leaders in Switzerland; and, was keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King, Jr. observance and facilitated diversity workshops for teachers in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska.

Pat has presented at numerous conferences, programs, school districts including Palm Beach County, the National Association for Multicultural Education, National Alliance of Black School Educators, Indiana Commission on Civil Rights, University of Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Central State University Institute of Urban Education, Butler University’s Diversity Initiative Group, Indiana Consortium of State & Local Human Rights Agencies, to name a few.  Additionally, she taught ‘Teaching in a Pluralistic Society’ at Indiana University -Purdue University at Indianapolis and is a certified trainer for the REACH (Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage) diversity program. She is a diversity consultant for the Indiana State Museum, the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center and Central State University Institute of Urban Education.

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