Student Stories: Meet Adrienne

At Namaste, all kinds of students come through our doors. Some of them develop weekly or regular practices, some find their perfect teacher and stick with them, and some of our students find themselves called to share their passions by diving into our teacher trainings. Each student is special, like a gem waiting to be polished. Each student has a path awaiting them. Meet Namaste student and graduate of our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program, Adrienne Shamszad. She is a musician and yoga teacher. She began practicing at Namaste in 2012 and she did her very first teacher training with us in 2013-14.

What inspired you to begin a yoga practice?

I started practicing yoga seriously when I was in college. I needed help with chronic pain and depression that had followed me since childhood. It has taken years of dedication and mercy to be as healthy and happy as I am now. There will always be ups and downs in my body, mood, life, but yoga stays steady.

What type of yoga calls to you?

Student Stories: Meet Adrienne Shamszad

My favorite styles of yoga encourage gentleness, fluidity, thoughtfulness and are grounding. I like to be challenged physically in yoga classes. A yoga practice that inspires love, humility and patience is the yoga for me!

What makes Namaste so special for you?

The community at Namaste has been a big part of my life. I have met really wonderful, warm, kind and intelligent people in classes as fellow students and teachers that have inspired me and my practice. I also appreciate that Namaste strives for inclusivity and accessibility – donation based classes, classes for POC, diverse teachers and unique programming make it a safer place for me to practice.

What is your definition of wellness?

Student Stories: Meet Adrienne Shamszad

Wellness means that we have within us an energetic well of love that we can take a dip in for replenishment and to be reminded of our essential nature which is Love. Pursuing wellness is a path towards that sacred well within that gives us clarity when life is at its’ hardest.

What might we be surprised to learn about you?

Even though I am a very outgoing performer and love to make new friends, I am very introverted!

Favorite things you do to help make every day sacred?

Student Stories: Meet Adrienne Shamszad

I make music. Singing love songs for the Divine is insta-sacredness! I love singing first thing in the morning and then having a cup of tea. Being quietly in the trees is also a very sacred time. Many little songs emerge when I’m walking through the wilderness and feeling the breeze carry my voice out into the leaves and down the creek…

What makes you smile when you are out in the world:

When strangers do nice things for each other. It is the thing that gives me the most pleasure to witness and one of my favorite parts about being human. I also really love dogs whose faces always look like they’re smiling and babies in strollers at grocery stores that look at me in the eyes like they know me. What do you know, Baby?!

What is the best advice you’ve heard lately?

“Don’t get down about what I bring up in you,” Meher Baba said. When we are healing our lives, a lot of garbage and grief comes up to the surface. It’s easy to start putting ourselves down for all of our flaws and undesirable traits, but to God, it’s all gotta come up to be cleansed away. So when the wellness bug bites you, get ready to learn how to love yourself harder and deeper than ever, ESPECIALLY when you feel like everything is a mess. This path is polishing you like the gorgeous gemstone you truly are.

Just because we want to show how human we all are…Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Jelly Bellies!!! And campy female driven dramedies.

Tell us about your passion project!

Student Stories: Meet Adrienne ShamszadI am a musician, songwriter and singer! I combine American folk, soul and blues with traditional Persian music and it makes for a really good time. Please visit my website and listen to things there. Performing music for people is a huge part of my spiritual path, it is my intention that others feel welcomed into the divine romance of the music at every show. Get your ticket to my upcoming show on August 3 at Freight and Salvage! I also teach private music lessons from my home and teach yoga publicly at Ojas Yoga Center in El Cerrito.

200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Summer IntensiveLike Adrienne, are you called to dive deeper and share your practice? Consider our upcoming 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training.

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Student Stories: Meet Danielle

Danielle profoundly inspires us with her commitment to her practice. Each day she devotes an hour to practicing vinyasa with teachers like Sita Devi and Satya Gita Aune (truth be told, she’s admitted that sometimes she even shows up twice a day!) In Danielle’s story, we see her wielding her practice to align her heart and ethics with her innermost beliefs. We strive to follow suit.

What inspired you to begin a yoga practice?

I was searching for a workout that would connect my mind, body and soul. I tried the New Student Special and was immediately hooked.

Student Stories: Meet Danielle

We are inspired by Danielle's commitment to her daily practice. Hear what drives her to practice.

Posted by Namaste Yoga + Wellness on Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Do you have any daily routines or actions that help you to make every day sacred?

I like to sit in the morning before the day starts, drink something warm and set intentions for the day.

What is the best advice you’ve heard lately?

Make choices which align with your goals and values.

What do you think is the highlight of taking class at Namaste?

The teachers are incredible. Some of the best in the world. Professional, sensitive to our needs and allow me to make the most of my practice.

Student Stories Meet Danielle Bound Side Angle

What is your definition of wellness?

Taking a break throughout your day to listen to your intuition and invest in your body, mind and soul. To use this break to understand under which values and motives you will act during the day and throughout your life.

Student Stories Danielle Neubauer

What is one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve relocated more than 7 times in my life. I’ve lived in Israel, India, Zambia, Germany and the US. These transitions and adaptations have allowed me to realize how important it is to strengthen your core. Because at the end of the day, when life changes, it’s important to keep your backbone and have that inner strength that can only be achieved with hard work, intention and practice – what yoga has given me.

Danielle loves coffee and yoga, and her perfect day includes a combination of both. Follow Danielle on her adventures on insta @danzln

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Student Stories: Meet Carley

We hope that sharing Namaste student stories will inspire your own journey on and off the mat. Meet Carley Hauck, a devoted Namaste student for the last six years, taking a broad range of Vinyasa classes with teachers like Rachel Heron, Satya Gita Aune, Jaimi Patterson, and Anj Manitsas. Carley is passionate about teaching conscious leadership. Read on to see what inspires her, how her yoga helps her on her journey, and where her passions have taken her.

What inspired you to begin studying yoga?

I started my yoga practice at the age of 17. I taught myself from reading various books. Yoga has been a steady foundation and anchor of mine for half of my life. Yoga led me to my meditation practice and I practice both together multiple times a day. Thank Goddess for yoga!

Meet Carley Hauck Goddess PoseWhat is your favorite thing about taking class at Namaste?

I enjoy taking classes with instructors that challenge me in ways I wouldn’t do in my solo practice. I appreciate the skill and heart of the teachers at Namaste.

What is wellness? Namaste Student Story

What is one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

I feel like I am just beginning to learn how to harness the power of being an empath.

Tell us some favorite things you do to help make every day sacred.

I try to incorporate grounding meditation, green tea, being grateful, spending time in nature, and being with those I love.

What is the best advice you can offer to someone struggling to start their own health and wellness journey?

When I practice yoga, meditate, move my body, and eat healthy foods I feel so much more grounded, patient, happy, and focused. There is a palpable difference that I commit to the practice everyday.

Share some details about your passion project!

cultivate-inner-game Namaste Student Story

I just finished my book SHINE – Ignite your inner game and lead consciously at work and the world. This book wanted me to write it and I was very committed to its birthing for 3 years amidst many twists. I wrote this book from my heart, body, and soul. I feel excited to see how it impacts those who read when it comes out March 2020. I hope it will awaken the leader in all of us and inspire a more sustainable and harmonious world.

Meet Carley Hauck - meditationMy heartfelt commitment is to support people and planet to flourish.  My heartfelt commitment is to serve leaders and businesses with the inspiration and tools necessary to be a force for good in the world.  I believe that when you cultivate your inner game, you change your life and from here you can transform the world.

Join Carley for her first public offering to develop a strong inner game with a community who want to create meaningful impact in March with 30 Days of Mindful Living.

Learn more about Carley at

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Student Stories: Meet Mick

We are so curious. How does each of us begin our love affair with yoga, what draws us to it, and what holds us there? We adore learning and sharing the stories of our students on their yoga journey.

Meet Mick Renner, a consistent student of Vickie Russell Bell’s and many others at our Berkeley studio.

What inspired you to begin a yoga practice?

I was getting serious about performing a one-man show, and I realized that I needed to increase my stamina if I was going to be on stage for 80-90 minutes. I signed up at work for a Walking exercise class, but it got cancelled because of rain. So instead I took a Yoga class scheduled at the same time. Luckily it had a terrific teacher (Johanna Classen) and I worked with her for 5 or 6 years until I retired.

Favorite parts about taking class at Namaste?

The teachers: Vickie Russell Bell in particular, David Schlussel, many others–the Ashleys, Julia, Sarah, Ada, more.

What is your definition of wellness?

Self-acceptance. Awareness. Embodiment. Aliveness.

One thing people might be surprised to learn about you is…?

I have a PhD in English and was a college professor for several years.

Favorite things you do to help make every day sacred?

Stretch. Walk.

Yoga Student Stories: Meet MickWhat is the best advice you could give to someone who is struggling to start their health and wellness journey?

Being aware of a need, honoring an ambition, discovering an inner curiosity–I think a person can decide to take a step toward something, and then a second step, and so forth. Making a path. Actually, struggle itself is significant. There is no progress without struggle. The nature and feel of struggle changes along the way, but there is always struggle. So if a person is struggling, the journey has already started, hmm?

What are your passion projects and how can we find out more about you?

I am an actor, appearing in various Bay Area theatres. I was recently in the Inferno Theatre’s production of “The Gods are not Happy. Coming up in April, “All the Way,” at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre.  Learn more about me at

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Student Stories: Author Suzannah Neufeld

Recently, recommendations for the book Awake at 3am started rolling in from a few of our perinatal teachers. Turns out, not only is this book solidly relevant to our population of mamas and mamas-to-be, but the author is one of our very own Namaste students. We love supporting our student’s passions and projects, so you can find this small volume of wisdom in all of our boutiques.

What led to your book idea? Did you have a personal experience that led to its’ development? Or did it come more from your work with clients in the field of Psychotherapy? 

When my daughter was about six months old, a friend of mine who worked in publishing came to me and floated the idea of writing a book on mindfulness for pregnant and new moms. I was so excited that my fantasy of writing a book was now a possibility, but it felt hard to think about writing an inspiring book about mindfulness when I was in the thick of coping with my own mood and anxiety struggles in new motherhood (not to mention having no time to write!). It took me about a year to get going on the writing after that because I was so exhausted all the time. Then when I finally had the energy to start writing, I noticed that everything kept being so informed by how hard I had found that time period, as well as by the stories of the moms I was working with in my therapy practice.

Yoga Student Stories: Suzannah NeufeldAs I got through about half of the writing, I had to go back to the publisher and ask if we could change the book to speak directly to the moms like me and my clients that struggled with mood and anxiety concerns.

I know you are a part of the Namaste community. How long have you been with us, who do you practice with? What attracts you to these instructors?

I first tried a class at Namaste 2.5 years ago after I opened the Rockridge Wellness Center, a counseling and health collective a block away. I knew about it from the wonderful Antonia Fokken, who had mentored me when I first studied yoga therapy. I would drop in here and there, but I started coming more regularly because my favorite teacher from when I lived in San Francisco, Sean Haleen, started teaching right at my lunch break. I love his alignment-based approach. He stopped teaching there earlier this year, and so I’ve had the pleasure of trying a few other teachers. I try to take Naushon‘s class every week. Her class is challenging yet something about how she teaches makes the practice feel simple and direct. No words or poses feel wasted or show off-y. And I always feel amazing afterwards. It’s also fun to take her class because so many of my therapist colleagues are in the room! I think it may be half therapists in that class–it’s like a therapist reunion.

What style of yoga do you like doing and why?

It’s hard to say what style of yoga I like doing because it seems to always be changing. In my 20s, I loved super challenging vinyasa classes–the thrill of learning new things, pushing my limits, and moving to music is what hooked me in to yoga. In my 30s, I had sustained a few injuries, and realized that I had turned the vinyasa classes into a form of striving. Those years, I focused on restorative, yin, and alignment-based practices, with a significant focus on meditation instead of asana as well. I loved prenatal yoga during my two pregnancies, and I studied yoga therapy. Yoga therapy teaches to the individual, and this shifted my yoga to a short home practice responsive to my needs each day.

Yoga Student Stories: Suzannah Neufeld

In the past year, as I have moved into my 40s, I find it very full circle that I am drawn to vinyasa again. I crave that movement because I sit so much in my work as a therapist. I think I was afraid to try vinyasa again since I associated it with injuries and pushing myself. But ten years off from it steeped me in tools to move more mindfully, and I have been delighted to be able to approach vinyasa with less ego and more curiosity. I love that each decade of yoga seems to teach me new things.

Has your practice in general or your practice at Namaste specifically influenced you or this project?

About six years ago, I did a few yin intensives with Sarah Powers. She taught a vow at the beginning of her classes: “I commit now to developing awareness of this body, mind, and heart for my own or others’ well being. I affirm the immeasurable value of this practice, and I acknowledge that it is possible to practice inclusive of all feelings and circumstances.” I now say this commitment at the beginning of my own practice and every time I teach–because it sums up exactly how my practice has influenced my life, and by extension this project.

Yoga Student Stories: Suzannah Neufeld

I view yoga as an awareness practice that benefits both me and those I go out in the world to care for–my kids, husband, friends, and clients. And I remind myself that if I think that I can’t “do” yoga because I am too sad or too out of shape or too whatever, then I have left yoga behind and am in the realm of judging mind. Yoga is not what we see on Instagram. It’s an awareness practice that can be practiced inclusive of all feelings and circumstances–including feelings of depression or panic and circumstances like when you have a crying baby in your arms in the middle of the night.

How do you personally define wellness for mamas?

Yoga Student Stories: Suzannah NeufeldSo many moms struggle with “wellness” and blame themselves for not eating healthfully enough or doing “enough” yoga or working out some special way, when really the struggle has nothing to do with them and has everything to do with a society that offers so little support for new families. We drop off a casserole for a new mom, but then that’s it. We need to fight for things like better paid parental leave for both parents, subsidized childcare, and more places for moms and families to come together, talk in a real, unfiltered way, and support one another in hard times and in celebrations for all moms to have true access to wellness.

What is your favorite self-care tip for mamas?

Take a moment to stop, tune in to your own body, notice what you feel without judgement, and then let that guide you to what your body might need. One day, you might feel stiff from sitting all day and some simple movement could make all the difference. Another day, you might be exhausted and a nice restorative pose may be what your body is calling for. And let people in your life know when you need support, and then take it without guilt! People feel special and included if you let them be there for you.

Yoga Student Stories: Suzannah Neufeld

How do you maintain a positive outlook when the world around you is changing or becomes difficult? As a psychotherapist, what advice can you give us for living in these difficult times?

I don’t always maintain a positive outlook. So much of what happens in the world and our community merits feeling upset! My advice as a psychotherapist is to make room for all feelings and thoughts that pop up–from sadness, to outrage, to fatigue. Let those feelings inform you in the community you build, the actions you take, and in choosing how to nourish and care for yourself as you take those actions.

Does your book have any relevance for men with babies or other populations of people?

The book is absolutely relevant for men–they just have to get past the word “mom” being used throughout the book. I’ve had a number of male friends who read the book and said that it spoke to them about their time with a new baby. And my husband, who is for sure not a yoga person, read it and said it has been helping him with his non-baby-related insomnia! Truthfully, I included in this book everything that I have to say about yoga, mood, and anxiety in general–even if these things have nothing to do with babies. I’ve had folks with no kids, adult kids, and everyone in between tell me that they read it and found it healing to read. And for sure, I think this book is wonderful for partners, family members, or health professionals who work with new moms.

Do you have a recommendation for a current podcast, website, or inspiring social media outlet?

I just started listening to Mom & Mind, which is a great podcast for moms about mood and anxiety issues in pregnancy and early motherhood. I also love The Longest Shortest Time–which not only has the best title for a podcast about parenting, but also has wonderful interviews.

Learn more about Suzannah at, on instagram at @suzannahneufeld and Facebook as Suzannah Neufeld, Yoga + Therapy

Plus, as an occasional sub, you might find Suzannah teaching pre or post natal classes at our studios. Look out for her book, Awake at 3am, in all of our Namaste boutiques!

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