Our Teachers

Yoga Among Friends is home to an amazing group of yoga professionals that have come together to offer the highest quality yoga in the Chicago suburbs.  Our teachers have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which they are committed and attentive to each of our student's needs.  As a student, you will enjoy a well-planned class, hands-on adjustments, and gentle encouragement in a safe, comfortable, and challenging environment.

Every YAF teacher has completed over 200 hours of training with recognized yoga masters and is dedicated to their own continuing education.  Our teachers strive to evolve and grow their own personal practice to bring new techniques and inspiration to their classes.

Laura Jane Mellencamp-Murphy, C-IYATE-RYT 500, MA, Certified Yoga Therapist

Laura Jane, founder and director of Yoga Among Friends, has been changing people’s lives for 3 decades. She has led classes, seminars, and workshops throughout the world for leading organizations and individuals. Laura is known for her depth of knowledge, practical wisdom, and unique ability to transmit yogic teachings and practices to students from all walks of life. She enjoys blending her clinical and counseling training in psychology with her yoga therapy certification to provide her clients with a holistic approach to psychological and emotional imbalances that affect the immune system.

Her background includes the following:

Laura Jane's Schedule

*Laura Jane will be sharing the teaching of Wed classes with Pam

Candy Stevens, E-RYT 200

Candy began practicing yoga consistently 12 years ago, and found new joy and open horizons in her life as a yoga instructor. As an E-RYT, Candy has taught well over 1,000 hours and is registered with Yoga Alliance. She continues to grow in her practice through ongoing classes with teachers such as Tias Little, Chase Bossart, Richard Rosen, and Elesa Commerse.

Candy strives to make her classes stimulating yet accessible, nurturing an atmosphere free of competition and judgment. She provides numerous asana modifications for you because she says, "Not only does everybody have their own range of mobility and flexibility, but each day is different for every one of us, both in body and in mind. We must always honor these truths in our practice, and appreciate how unique we are." She adds, "It is a privilege to teach, and I am so gratified when I see a student blossoming in his/her practice, not just physically, but in confidence, joy and spirit."

Candy's Schedule


Anna Phillips, RYT 200, MS, CCC/SLP

Anna began practicing yoga 22 years ago while in college after completing years of extensive ballet and dance training.

She has worked with infants, children and adults as a speech-language pathologist in a variety of healthcare and rehab settings, with special interests in brain injuries, strokes and swallowing disorders.

 As a stay-at-home parent, she has found that yoga helps her to reduce anxiety, slow down and foster greater self-love.

She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in pastoral studies with a focus in healthcare chaplaincy/spirituality.  

Under the tutelage of  Laura Jane Mellencamp-Murphy and Julie Pate, she studied yoga teacher training in the tradition of the Krishnamacharya lineage, which emphasizes students practicing at their own pace, rather than meeting any type of unrealistic ideal.  She completed her training in February 2019 and is now a 200-hour registered yoga teacher.

She has two young daughters and hopes to bring the same qualities of self-empowerment, bravery and love to her teaching as she tries to practice with them at home.  A favorite quote of hers is by the poet, Morgan Harper Nichols: “Bravery is the audacity to be unhindered by failures, and to walk with freedom, strength, and hope in the face of things unknown.”

Anna's Schedule

  • Fri 4–5pm, Yoga for Teens (starts Oct 18)


Ellen Duff, RYT 200

Ellen was trained and certified by the world-renowned White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, California.  She is also certified in Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew®, Contact Yoga (Partner Yoga), and Yin Yoga. 

Her style incorporates slow, mindful flowing movements and postures in order to facilitate opening and release on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. 

Ellen’s classes are taught from the heart, with nurturing guidance and gentle humor. She is most fulfilled when helping people to grow in their heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Ellen's Schedule


J. Michael Taylor, CYT

Michael incurred Injuries in his mid-thirties which led him to yoga and with extreme luck, to Iyengar yoga.  He started practicing Iyengar yoga with Kathleen Wright in 1987 and began apprenticing and teaching with Gabriel Halpern ofthe Yoga Circle in 1989.  Under the graceful guidance of Lois Steinberg and Laurie Blakeney, he became a certified Iyengar instructor in 2008.  Michael continues to study and practice with Laurie and also with Bob Wittinghill and Todd Howell of the Yoga Circle.  His teaching places a strong emphasis on alignment and the use of props to facilitate learning. Michael’s great sense of humor keeps his students laughing. Yoga gives him the energy to teach photography at College of DuPage and play music, dance, and enjoy life to the fullest.

Michael's Schedule

Joyce Eickmeyer Owens, RYT

Joyce has many years of teaching experience and has taught at Yoga Among Friends since its inception in 1998. She received her teacher training from White Lotus Foundation. Joyce teaches her own "slow flow" style of yoga in a gentle yet powerful way. As an instructor and musician she brings a harmonious flow of body, mind and spirit to her classes. Joyce says, "When we value our bodies as rare musical instruments, we create our own music." 

Joyce's Schedule


Julie Pate, C-IAYT, RYT 200

Julie first discovered yoga over 20 years ago while working as a personal trainer, Pilate’s teacher and running coach. Julie loved the way yoga balanced her workouts and left her feeling calm and peaceful. In 2006, she graduated from her first yoga teacher training. Julie has continued her studies and now has over 1700 hours of training in different yoga traditions, and she became a certified Yoga Therapist in 2018.

 Julie believes that movement infused with focus and breath can heal the body and the mind.  She brings a love of movement and a deep appreciate for life’s many gifts into her classes and private sessions.  Julie has had success using the tools of yoga for clients with a wide variety of issues including anxiety, depression, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, low back pain and joint disorders.  

Julie is a registered Children’s Yoga Teacher and has worked with children with a variety of special needs. Julie believes that yoga can have a positive effect on academic achievement, general health, personal attributes and relationships.

Julie's Schedule


Julie Stewart

Julie's intention for her teaching is to present a well balanced practice that includes all aspects of the journey. To bring into her teaching her knowledge of ayurveda, pranayama, meditation and stillness to help us all live a balanced, grounded life. As we say in ayurveda, "living is costly, so use the tools that we have from the seasons, the asanas, meditations, proper intake of foods and lifestyle that will allow us to live in harmony with nature and our fellow beings."

Julie has been lucky enough to study and practice with some wonderful teachers: Erich Schiffman, Barbara Benagh, Laura Jane Murphy, Tias Little, Doug Keller, Todd Norian, Gabriel Halpern, and Tricia Fiske to just name a few. Her blend of style comes from all of these different teachers and outlooks. Her ayurveda training is from Pat Layton who is the director of Bhavana Institute in LaGrange, and she received her panchakarma training from Diva Ayurveda in Milwaukee.

Julie's Schedule

Thu 9:30–11a, Vinyasa Flow, L1-L2



Karen Weber-Manz, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, LMT

Karen has been teaching yoga since 2002. She is a ParaYoga teacher that uses a vast array of Yogic tools for transformation including Kriya, Bandha, Meditation, Mudra & Mantra. Classes build awareness & cultivate a stable mind, make the unconscious conscious, teach the proper use of effort & surrender, and help you to create new lifestyle patterns so you can live your Dharma. She offers workshops & lectures on Yoga philosophy & practice, offers intensive yoga trainings for non-teachers, runs women circles, leads the Blue Lotus Kiran Band. Karen is also a Kriya Yoga initiate, a licensed Massage Therapist, Ayurvedic Bodyworker, 200 hr Ayurveda Certified educator, Thai Yoga Therapist, Reiki Master Teacher and a proud mother of three beautiful children. 

Karen's Schedule

Sat 9:15–10:45a, Vinyasa Flow, L1-L2


Kate O’Grady

Kate discovered yoga in 2005 while living in Long Island, NY. She was living in a new state as a new mom and found herself looking for a way to calm her mind and soothe her sore back. Kate took her first restorative yoga class and immediately knew that she had found something very special. She began studying and mentoring with Diana Ross, founder of Restorative Flow and Breast Cancer Yoga. She also earned her certificate at Karma Kids Yoga and taught children’s yoga in NYC. Then came a move to Tampa, FL where she continued teaching children and teen’s yoga while completing my 200-hr. certification in Creative Kids Yoga with Rosemary Clough. After her last move back to Illinois she began practicing yoga at YAF.

Kate completed the 250-hr. Summer Intensive Yoga Teacher Training at Prairie Yoga with Tricia Fiske in 2015 and began teaching adults. She teaches a mindful class with breath and body awareness and strives to make each class welcoming and accessible. She’s taught Gentle, Restorative, Hatha, Chair Yoga, and Mindful Fitness classes. Kate has also taught cancer patients and caregivers.

Kate is a life-long learner, and you can find her most often studying about and practicing different types of yoga, movement, wellness and creative expression and enthusiastically sharing what she learns with her students.

Kate's Schedule
Tues 4:30–5:45p, Gentle & Restorative Yoga


Lisa Sparagna, RYT 500, MFA

Lisa has been practicing meditation and yoga for over 15 years. Her daily meditation practice brings her more awareness, calm and clarity, and loves to share this with you. She uses meditation and mindfulness to lead you back to the quiet of your own inner wisdom.

Lisa received her 200-hour yoga training certificate from the White Lotus Foundation and her 500-hour advanced yoga training certificate from Prairie Yoga. She earned an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well as her certificate of completion as a women’s retreat facilitator from The Sedona Women’s Institute.

Lisa's Schedule

Tue 6:15–7:15p, Meditation for Adults and Teens


Marina Lisjonok, E-RYT 500, MSW

Marina stepped on the yoga mat in 1994 as yoga appeared to be the sure way to physical, mental and spiritual healing and growth. Since then she studied and experienced various styles of yoga with master teachers and spiritual leaders in Latvia (her homeland), India, Nepal and US. Yoga became her life's journey and teaching yoga became her life's passion. She completed several yoga teacher trainings with Rolf Gates, Andrew Lappa, Natalia Dubinina, and Hersh Khetarpal.  

Her teaching blends dynamic breath-based movements with static holds of postures. Spiritual affirmations, mantra, meditations and themes are woven into each class to give you an experience of your own acceptance, strength, harmony and inner peace. Learn more about Marina at www.livinglightyoga.com. Her background includes the following:

  • Certified Yoga Teacher

  • MSW in Social Work

  • 22+ years of Yoga Teaching Experience

  • 12+ years of Yoga Practice

Marina's Schedule

*Marina will be sharing the teaching of Wed classes with Pam


Mary Jean Larson, CYT  200

Mary Jean started practicing yoga in 1984 with Becky Love at the Lawson YMCA in Chicago. It was undoubtedly clear to her right then that yoga would be a life long practice because of the inner peace & better quality of life it gave her with the asnas being an added bonus.

Always knowing she would someday be a certified yoga instructor MJ received her 200-hour yoga teacher training certification this passed year with her dear friend and teacher LJ at YAF.

MJ has practiced yoga at YAF since 1998 when Laura Jane opened in Downers Grove. She has also enjoys several workshops that YAF offers giving her the chance to practice with Rod Stryker and other world renowned teachers.

A favorite quote of hers:

“I Believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time, taking time to be more fully present. Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now “ —Oprah Winfrey

Mary Jean's Schedule
Mon 4:30–5:45p, Vinyasa Flow L1-L2

Meredith Harbour, C-IAYT, CYT  500

Meredith has been teaching since 2010 having received her training in the Krishnamacarya tradition. She received her training with Krishnamacharya Healing Yoga Foundation, studying under master teachers Chase Bossart and Amy Wheeler.

Meredith's breath based classes are designed to bring focus to the mind while creating strength & flexibility in the body and reducing stress.  Her practice is perfect for students looking to find balance in their lives.

As a yoga teacher and as a certified yoga therapist, she brings joy and understanding to every class and private session, meeting her students where they are.

Meredith's Schedule


Nancy Fox, C-IAYT, CYT
(formerly DL Heraty)

Nancy teaches classic Hatha Yoga with emphasis on alignment and specializes in Yoga Therapeutics for those with specific issues and ailments, particularly those with Scoliosis and spine issues.  She trained with Iyengar teacher, Elise Miller, to become a Yoga for Scoliosis trainer and continues her studies with Gabriel Halpern at Yoga Circle in Chicago. Nancy is an artist and potter, and her creativity shines through in her teaching. Learn more about Nancy on her website: www.yogajourneystotheheart.com. Her background includes the following:

  • Certified Yoga Teacher

  • Certified Yoga for Scoliosis Teacher

  • 14+ years of Yoga Teaching Experience

  • 20+ years of Yoga Practice

Nancy's Schedule


Pam Keilor, CYT 500

Pam began practicing yoga in 1978 and knew from the very first class that this was something she would always enjoy.  Throughout the years, Pam has studied with many different teachers and in many different styles of yoga.  In 2007, she received her 500 hour teaching certification.

Pam believes that yoga does it all.  Yoga soothes us when we need calming; it stimulates us when we need energizing; it restores us when we need healing; and it challenges us when we need to develop courage. With dedicated practice you develop strength, flexibility, and endurance as well as peace, clarity, and joy. Her background includes the following:

  • Certified Yoga Teacher

  • 9+ years of Yoga Teaching Experience

  • 35+ years of Yoga Practice

Pam's Schedule

*Pam will be sharing the teaching of Wed classes with Marina



Patti Bilbro, RYT 500

In 2007, Patti earned her 200-RYT and her Meditation Teacher training from the Temple of Kriya Yoga and continued studying at the Temple as an apprentice teacher. She completedher 500-RYT at The Bhavana Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda.

In her teaching, Patti's emphasizes finding the practice that is right for you both physically and mentally. She believes that through a consistent yogapractice, you will find greater peace, harmony, and joy.

Patti is currently bringing the teachings of yoga to both inpatient and outpatient settings at Good Samaritan Hospital's department of Behavioral Health. She thanks her teachers Joyce Owens, Kathleen Wright, and Laura Jane Mellencamp Murphy for guidance and opportunity.

Patti's Schedule

Thu 4:30–5:45p, Basic Beginning Yoga, L1


Ryan Faye, RYT 200

Ryan discovered yoga in his early twenties as a method of stress and anxiety relief. Since then he has delved deeper not only into the physical practice of yoga, but also the mental and spiritual aspects. He has practiced and studied locally with Marina Lisjonok for 7+ years and Hersh Khetarpal for 5+ years while also completing 200 hours training with internationally renowned yoga master, and creator of Universal Yoga, Andrey Lappa. 

Ryan's Schedule
Tue 7:30–8:45p, Universal Yoga


Therese Carlson, RN, CYT 500

Therese is a registered nurse and yoga teacher. Therese has taught hatha, a mindful Vinyasa, and gentle yoga but found a love for Prenatal yoga. She uses her 33 years of nursing experience and her love of yoga to nurture, strengthen and guide moms-to-be through this exciting journey. The teachers that have strong influence on her life and yoga are her mom and dad, Tricia Fiske, Lori Gaspar, Julie Gudmestad and Tias Little. She also works as a nurse in the community and is the mother of 3 young adults. Her background includes the following:

  • Certified Yoga Teacher, 500hr, Prairie Yoga, Lisle, IL

  • Certified Prenatal Yoga teacher, Global Yoga Center, Chicago, IL

  • 8 years of yoga teaching experience

  • 20 years of yoga practice

  • 33 years of nursing

Therese's Schedule
Tue 6–7:15p, Prenatal Yoga