The Story of Us

Pacific Ashtanga Yoga Shala is more than a yoga school: since its inception in 2005, it has been a sacred space for people from all walks of life to practice. We support each other. As a community, or sangha in Sanskrit, our common goal is health: physical, mental, and spiritual. The benefits we gain as individuals from our yoga practice - such as more energy, focus, peace, and strength - spiral out into our lives beyond the shala. Each member of our colorful community has their own unique story, and each is a vital part of The Story of Us.

Scott McKnight
Scott McKnight

28 years Newport Beach Police officer.
Private investigator.
19 years High school football coach.
6 years Ashtanga yoga practitioner.

Scott planning on another 30 years of Ashtanga.

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."
Laura Rose
Laura Rose

I started my yoga journey 30 years ago. I've had the opportunity to practice with many yoga teachers through this time. I met Diana 3 years ago and would say without a doubt that she embodys a silent strength, profound wisdom combined with perfect articulation of what the practice is all about. When I first came to the Shala, I was surprised how friendly and welcoming everyone was and how Diana took such a personal approach to my practice. I feel as though coming to the Shala is a mini-retreat in my day.

The practice and teachings are very relevant in my work as a Hospice Nurse. For the last 18 years at the heart of my work is the study and practice of spiritual care, assisting hundreds in preparation for a meaningful death. Dedicated to fostering awareness and compassion for those facing their final days, the teachings at the Shala are not only beneficial for the work but essential for my own personal care and growth. Taking Dhristi off the mat and into my life is a constant reminder that this life is a precious journey. How I choose to respond to life creates energy, freedom and space for more love.

With Diana's expertise and knowledge she is able to travel with others in territory that we haven't explored ourselves. It's that exploration of our own inner life that enables us to form an empathetic bridge to others, which is evident in the space she holds for us at the Ocean Shala.

Jackie & David Heller
Jacqueline and David Heller
petsacupuncture - Kids at the Shala
Jacqueline and David Heller

Jacqueline Heller - petsacupuncture at the Shala
I began practicing at Pacific Ashtanga in 2009 at my friend Holly's suggestion. It was, and has continued to be a source of spiritual grounding and perspective as well as a path toward physical wellness for me. Yoga has been a part of our kids' lives too. They began Yoga for Kids at Pacific Ashtanga years ago and now, as middle and high schoolers they join us for conference and the occasional led class in order to continue to provide them with spiritual guidance, positive affirmations and life lessons. My practice helps me be a better person personally and professionally. It reminds me, as a mother and wife to be calm and present and live with gratitude.

As a holistic veterinarian the yogic principle of ahimsa is meaningful to me as I recommend therapies and treatments to my animal patients. In our marriage, our yoga practice helps remind David and me of the love and dedication that makes us whole. This keeps us grounded and loving as a couple. We also enjoy taking our practice with us when we travel, experiencing Ashtanga yoga around the country.

Jacqueline Heller - petsacupuncture at the Shala
My Ashtanga journey began with a Sunday evening intro class in 2011. I attended the class at Jackie's suggestion, as she could see that I was struggling with my physical and spiritual existence. That first intro class with Diana immediately resonated with me. Since those initial intro classes with Diana and Peter my practice has evolved to mostly Mysore, often early mornings with only the sound of the ocean and Merry's lovely chanting in our beautiful Shala.

Ashtanga has been transformative in many ways for me. Initially there was an obvious physical change, with looser fitting clothes and increased stamina. Gradually a more spiritual and psychological transformation has emerged. One of the most significant benefits that I see on a daily basis is how the practice teaches me exist in the present moment, and to accept and love everything for what it is as opposed to what I want it to be. This has enabled me to be a better father and husband. It has also benefited my career as a veterinary oncologist as I'm able to be more compassionate and caring towards my clients and patients.

We are so grateful for Diana and our Sangha

To learn more about Holistic Veterinary Practice and Veterinary Oncology please visit and Angel Care Cancer Center.

Melanie Larinde
Yoga Practitioner – 28 years
Dedicated Ashtangi – 5 years

How I use Yoga in Life

Diana's teachings, combined with my personal Yoga practice, have given me numerous tools over the years, however, two main principles stand out that have allowed me to keep moving forward with a positive outlook in my life. Those two key concepts, namely, Clarity and Impermanence, have taken me to the next level in recent months.

Studying this semester's featured book at the Shala, "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl, I was inspired to finish a manuscript I have been working on with my mother for the past 30 years. After her passing last year, I knew it was up to me to complete and publish the work - no more excuses.

It is the true story of my grandmother, Augustina, coming to America in search of a better life, and her fearlessness and tenacity to keep on going, no matter what. And although the story is about my grandmother, it is really the story about each one of us. Augustina: A Novel based on a True Story


My yoga practice gave me the discipline to set aside 2-3 hours each evening over the past several months to finish this work. I replaced television and other non-essentials that took up my evening time, with sitting down at my Mac and writing, writing, writing, then editing, editing, editing, until the final touches were put in place.


As Diana often makes reference to, our Yoga practice permeates every area of our life – it is not isolated from our behavior outside the Shala. I am encouraged each time I finish my practice, to continue being present in my breath, in my mindset, and in my focus as I move through the rest of my day. Clarity gives me the ability to see what I need to accomplish that particular day, and Impermanence makes me realize that if I do not act today, who knows if I will have the chance to get it done tomorrow?


At work, with my family, with my friends, and with strangers, I continually find a correlation - to a tee - with Diana's teachings and my life outside the Shala. I apply the concepts of Clarity and Impermanence, taken from Sunday Conference, to my role as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, and as a colleague to become the best version of myself, and trust that all those around me will benefit as well from the principles I share by example.

Cheryl Arrieta
Cheryl Arrieta - Ashtangi

I met Diana in 2004 at Yoga Works in Laguna Beach. The practice / teachings were something I had been looking for and found when I attended my first Saturday led class. Fast forward 14 years, many hours of practice, some aches and pains and wonderful friendships later, are what motivates me to show up.

I still feel the excitement of what I'll discover on my mat and how I'll incorporate my practice into my work and everyday life. The comparison between yoga and nursing isn't lost on me. My patients who have lost the most have taught me the basics of love, compassion, gratitude and the importance of living life. Yoga has taught me through smooth and rough times to keep showing up, and breath. It took many years to fully understand the meaning of, all is coming, I finally got it.

Cheryl Arrieta - Registered Nurse
Ashtanga Yoga Lewiston
Ashtanga Yoga Lewiston with Diana Christinson

Four of us had begun an Ashtanga practice with the "new teacher" in town. We were not acquainted really. We all practiced at different times. Our teacher decided to move. We had just begun to love our practice, so... we continued to pay the rent on his small space and began practicing together. We read anything we could get our hands on about Ashtanga Yoga. We helped each other with our practice. Joanna came into our group shortly thereafter. That was over 12 years ago and we are now family!

We live in the further most corner of Idaho, Washington and Oregon. A small town. No one would have ever heard of Ashtanga. At the time, there was really NO yoga in Lewiston, Idaho.

Teresa works as an accountant, Jenn is a writer for our local Newspaper, Carmen is on the sales staff at the paper, Joanna is a physical therapist and also works at the paper. Janine is a wheat farmer.

We have since upgraded to an improved space. We each share in teaching. We are GROWING, and two months ago began a Mysore class four mornings a week.

On Monday mornings Teresa and Janine "tune in” and take part in Diana's conference. The other three find time during the week!

It is truly a big part of our week. It has been such an inspiration to finally get to meet you in Montana! We are quite a distance from any other Ashtangis.

Sabrina Ericastilla
Sabrina Ericastilla

I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Ashtanga has helped to make me a better person. I am healthier, stronger, and more disciplined because of yoga. I've learned how to care for myself, my life, and my most cherished relationships. Perhaps most importantly, I've learned about the "space between stimulus and response." There is always a moment we get to take a breath and choose how to react, how to be.

On a good day, I'm able to share this with the tiny humans in my classroom and try to impart the same wisdom. I want the students who pass through my class to learn how to breathe, love, and live in a place of acceptance and non-judgment, all while having some laughs and fun. Arms and hearts open to the world! I have learned patience and gratitude from our dear Diana and I hope to teach the same to my little monkeys, doing my best to share the legacy of Ashtanga.

Sabrina Ericastilla - Second Grade Teacher
Harbor View Elementary School, Second Grade Teacher
Priscilla Newton
Priscilla Newton

A good metaphor for the interface between practicing yoga and riding horses is "taming the horse, and riding the mind." Both are conversations that illuminate the path. For me, becoming a competent rider means being present with your horse both on the ground and in the saddle. This effort defines the art of horsemanship: creative acts supported by skill and dedication. Of course, like yoga, you need a good teacher. In both cases you listen and follow direction. Then, practice, practice, practice….

I was an accomplished equestrian when I was young and, after forty years, decided to take it up once more at the age of 60. When I started riding again I thought that I would be able to apply the principles I had learned in yoga and forgo the mat practice. Unfortunately the benefits of breath and alignment did not last in the rough and tumble of riding a horse. (Never mind the spinal curling-iron effect of the desk chair and car seat!) Eventually life and circumstances convinced me to resume my mat practice.

Priscilla Newton

Right away, I saw how yoga informs and reinforces my efforts as a rider. I feel it every time I sit in the saddle and notice how my body is elongating and becoming more supple from asana practice. For example, tadasana aligns the spine and helps place my seat in the saddle with my legs evenly on both sides of the horse. Breaking at the waist in downward dog and forward bends trains me to access my bhandas in any position, apply pressure with my legs around the horse, and put my heels down. Upward dog and the backbends open my heart so the horse knows upon my approach that I am accessible to him and his needs. Good drishti informs the horse where we want to go as he responds to my visual focus and the weight and direction of the head, shoulders and waist. Noticing the breath facilitates proprioception and allows me to be aware of where I am in the saddle and in space. It also underscores the tempo of present-centered awareness and supports connection to the ongoing rhythm of the horse's movement and stride.

Priscilla Newton

Over the years, my yoga practice has allowed me to cultivate a focused, non-cluttered mind and supported a certain clarity and precision in all of my efforts, both physical and mental. I am still amazed at how fresh this practice remains in my life. Now, as an equestrian in her sixties, my yoga practice will help me be free from injury and move forward as an athlete unfettered by age. Its future offerings will remain a mystery and I look forward to even more discoveries on both the mat and in the saddle.

Kelly and Andrew McMahon
Kelly and Andrew McMahon

Here was the quote we used for our wedding:
"A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of human is through love and in love.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for the brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved." ~ A Man's Search for Meaning

Kelly, Andrew, and Cecilia McMahon

I had read this book in college and it made a huge impact on me. When Andrew was diagnosed with A.L.L., he was 22 and I was 23. It was a terrifying time and we really had no road map to follow. It was the words of Viktor Frankl that kept coming back to me. His quote about "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" inspired us to choose our own attitude and our own way throughout his treatments and recovery. But ultimately, it was the quote from our wedding that inspired me in my role towards Andrew's healing. I truly believed that love could be his salvation - whether he lived or not, loving him and loving each other through it all would be his salvation - and my salvation for that matter. In situations like our - the truth that Frankl speaks about "love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire" becomes so clear and obvious. And the correlation about how this truth has been "set in song" over and over again through the years seemed so perfect for Andrew as a musician.

When we got married, only 16 months after Andrew received his stem cell transplant, this quote was a reminder to us about what is truly important. To not forget the gift of clarity this experience gave us. It is a road map to all that would come - a reminder to the power of approaching each other and life in general "through love and in love" and how that when we aspire to love each other, even in the midst of life's greatest struggles and tragedies, we are will all find our salvation.

Parisa Soltani
Parisa Soltani

"I have been teaching college students for over 15 years and absolutely love my job. This love has developed greatly in the last 5 years since my yoga practice has been creeping into my daily life. When my personal life was overcome by immense personal loss I went down a path that surely was not healthy for me. Yoga helped me reclaim my life's joy and meaning - through breath, through movement and mediation. Ashtanga and my beautiful teachers have helped me bring purpose, joy and meaning to my life."

Parisa Soltani with her students
Parisa Soltani
Carol Canning

Carol Canning
"With large wind swell driven by wind gusts up to 40 mph Ashtanga helped me stay in the moment rather than fearing our safety. Ashtanga practice gave me the ability to focus and paddle when 290 competitors deceided to drop out due to conditions. Ashtanga allowed me to trust in my outrigger training and place 5th in our division."

Carol Canning
JJ Flowers
JJ Flowers, one of our most dedicated Ashtangies, and a Shala Novelist.

Check out her New Novel Juan Pablo and the Butterflies (Simon and Schuster, May 2017).

Find this book! Inspired by the loss of her husband Dr. John Flowers and their son Jonpaul, Juan Pablo and the Butterflies magically appeared on Jen's keyboard. It is a fast pace spiritual thriller, a page-turner that rips beginning to end.
After facing a vicious drug cartel in Mexico's Monarch Butterfly sanctuary, Juan Pablo and his best friend Rocio risk everything and try to escape the cartel's henchmen—determined to pursue them at all costs—by following the butterflies' migration all the way to California.

Best of All: All royalties go to the, which brings a music education to the most disadvantaged children of the world and us, and

Kirkus Reviews: "The novel is powerful. Flowers delivers a[...] moving contemporary novel that is[...] relevant in its treatment of drug-trafficking, immigration, and human rights..."

Troy Eckert

Troy Eckert is an avid surfer and worked with Volcom clothing for 20 years in marketing. Since his introduction to yoga about 10 years ago his passion has only grown. So much so that he is launching an environmentally and socially responsible mens yoga clothing brand. It's called KOZM. The website landing page can be found at
Dear Pacific Ashtanga students, please use Coupon code: pacificashtanga for 20% off plus free shipping at checkout to purchase anything they want on the site.

"Yoga, and specifically Ashtanga, has been the way I've been able to truly connect and get to know myself on the most intimate level. It has given me the ability to remain both physically and mentally confident with anything I chose to do. When I come to the Shala, I know I will leave a better person than when I arrived. I truly cherish Diana and the environment she provides for everyone."

Phillip Nardulli

Phillip Nardulli, photographer, artist, adventurer and yogi.

In 2017 Philip is going to participate in the Festival of Arts, Laguna Beach.

See some of Phillips work by visiting

"I am thankful for the opportunity to share my photographic artwork with fellow travelers from around the world. If my work inspires viewers to take time to observe and treasure the Earth's unspoiled features, I have fulfilled my goal of sharing my appreciation of the planet's intrinsic wonders."

Diane Alcorn
"Practicing at the Shala means the world to me. I've been here since its inception nearly 12 years. There are so many facets to our meditative breath practice. It helps us to become more mindful of things in our everyday lives. It has boosted my energy and flexibility. Everyday, Diana's conferences give us a little morsel of how we can better our lives whether it's spiritual, physical or emotional. Diana has taught us how to be more optimistic and live our lives trying to focus on others rather than only on ourselves. Wim Hof breathing has changed us all. It has given me more energy and helped to fix little health problems that crop up... especially with us older folks. And it fits in so beautifully with our breath practice! That Diana is a treasure is an understatement. I think she is a throwback to another time. I'm sure Guruji beams with pride as he watches her carry on the lineage in our Ashtanga practice."
Gugut Salgado
Gugut Salgado, artist, musician, songwriter, producer, engineer, surfer, golfer, goofball, big fan of Intro to Ashtanga.
"No matter what kind of day It's been, I always feel better after yoga. Ashtanga is a meditation for me. It resets and recharges me. I never regret practicing."
We're so proud and excited as Gugut launches Betterlark, his new musical venture. Listen at and watch on YouTube. Enjoy and SHARE!
Time Stands Still by Betterlark (Official Music Video)
Chris Wagaman
Chris Wagaman, professional athlete, soccer coach and Ashtanga Mysore student.
"Mysore practice is my time to be honest with myself about comitment through true grit and determination with a twist of elegance."