Education and Experience
Raised in Ojai, California, Melissa was introduced to yoga and meditation as a child at the Oak Grove School founded by Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher and spiritual teacher from India. Inspired by her early experience, she began practicing regularly in high school. She met her first meditation teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy and her first serious yoga teacher, Tim Miller, in California. These practices brought her joy and supported her in cultivating resilience in the aftermath of her father's chronic illness and death when she was a child.
After high school, she took these practices with her to Yale University. While studying at Yale, she taught her first yoga classes at a magnet school in New Haven, Connecticut. After Yale she studied several different types of yoga, from active to therapeutic, completing her first teacher training in Prana Vinyasa Flow with Shiva Rea in 2005. Since then she has augmented her training with subsequent trainings with Shiva Rea, in Ashtanga yoga, and by studying yoga therapy in the professional yoga therapy program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts.
After completing her early trainings, and a masters at the California Institute of Integral Studies, she gave her first guest lecture on the roots and benefits of yoga at Holy Names University (HNU) in Oakland, California. Shortly thereafter, she began teaching philosophy, religion, and interdisciplinary studies at HNU, where she delivered interactive lectures to 150+ people, facilitated small group discussions, and taught online video conferencing/in-person hybrid courses. Additionally, she taught yoga for HNU's Health and Wellness program to their sports teams, and for academic credit. She augmented these courses by teaching classes, workshops, and private clients at 4th Street Yoga in Berkeley, California and group classes at Orinda Country Club.
In 2015, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to pursue her Master of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). At HDS she was interested in researching and developing the Mind Body Wisdom process for groups. She began teaching classes that integrated the components of this process at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Center for Health and Wellness, Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, Athleta, and as a guest for the course, Apocalyptic Grief and Radical Joy, co-taught by her former professor Matthew Potts and one of her mentors, Terry Tempest Williams.
In addition to teaching classes that integrated the Mind Body Wisdom process, she led an 8-week meditation series at Massachusetts General Hospital during her chaplaincy internship, co-taught a family yoga series for the Harvard Graduate Commons program, and joined Williams at the 2018 Bilbao International Literature Festival to help celebrate the translation of Williams' book Refuge: An Uncommon History of Family and Place into Spanish by giving a short talk, "What does it mean to be awake?"
Melissa has augmented her studies with pilgrimages and retreats in both Buddhist and Christian contemplative traditions, as well as studies in dance, trauma, sound healing, and art as a sacred process. Through her journey, she has learned that as long as we are bringing our attention to the present moment, our minds and bodies settle, transformation occurs and our awareness deepens. She sees yoga as a way of life. She feels immense gratitude for her teachers, mentors, friends and family for their support and inspiration. Her wish to support others is her inspiration to teach. When she is not teaching she enjoys spending time in nature where she feels most at home.