Your Professional Yoga Teacher Trainers are:

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LARA WARD, Founder & Director of Lotus Gardens, LLC Lara has been studying and practicing eastern and western physical arts for 30 years. In her mid-teens, she was introduced to Masakazu Takahashi and the traditional Japanese martial art of Shotokan Karate. The concept of life energy, known as Ki, began an avid study of all things energetic. In 1980, at the start of America’s exercise craze, Lara certified to teach Aerobic Slimnastics, a form of aerobic fitness cooling down with yoga. By the mid-80’s she was teaching a blend of yoga, fitness, martial arts and eastern healing practices to clients throughout western Connecticut.  While guiding Yoga programs for Cardiac Rehab patients at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, she also created weekly employee programs for Boehringer Ingelheim, Cartus, Dow, Duracell, Ethan Allen, Goodrich, Kimberly Clarke, Praxair and Scholastic corporations. In 2001, out of her love of sharing yoga and the growing need for yoga teachers, Lara founded one of CT’s first nationally registered Yoga Alliance schools. Under Lara’s direction, Lotus Gardens Yoga School (LGYS), has guided over 400 people into the world of yoga teaching. In 2013, her desire to advance her knowledge in anatomy, kinesiology, acupressure and reflexology Lara earned Massage Therapy licenses in NY & CT.  In 2015. Lara is an adjunct professor for the Health Promotions & Exercise Science Department of Western CT State University and an Advisory Board member of the Institute of Holistic Health studies. Lara holds dual Bachelor degrees in Business & English.  Contact Lara at

REBECCA SMITH, co-director 300 Hour Training Rebecca first tried Yoga to recover from a dance injury in 2003 but didn't fall in love with it until years later. After enjoying an assignment as an Army Instructor, she looked for a civilian path with a similar sense of duty, purpose, and service to others. Rebecca turned to fitness and yoga, wanting to share the amazing health benefits of an active lifestyle that had helped in her own life. She enjoys teaching a variety of styles of yoga. Whether restorative or vigorous, she always seeks to empower each student with self-care knowledge physically and mentally, always encouraging and hoping to inspire a consistent home practice. She draws on her dance background for creative movement, her personal injury recovery for modifications and healing, and her military years to bring discipline and strength to the mat. Her disciplined, strong style is still playful and open. Rebecca highly recommends Lara Ward's Lotus Gardens Yoga School where she obtained her 200 hour YTT as well as Childrens' Yoga Certification, and Veterans Yoga Project with Daniel Libby, Ph.D. with whom she continues to study Yoga for Veterans.  Contact

GUEST FACULTY for 200 & 500 Hour Trainings:

Carrie Grossman

(Dayashila), MA, is a devotional singer, composer, and lifelong student of the mystical traditions. For over 20 years, she has studied the art of sacred sound, guiding people into the sublime realms of the heart through her concerts, workshops, and retreats. With a warm, approachable style, Carrie weaves together music and mantra, meditation, healing modalities, and wisdom teachings to nourish and inspire seekers from all walks of life. Her acclaimed albums include Soma-Bandhu: Friend of the Moon, The Ram Sessions, Pranam, and Dayā (forthcoming). Also a prolific writer, Carrie is the former editor of Common Ground magazine. You can find her creations on Apple Music, Spotify, and the popular meditation app, Insight Timer.

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Dayna Holli

is a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner & Yoga Instructor offering Ayurvedic consultations, Panchakarma bodywork, private and group yoga instruction. She specializes in introducing the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and the Vedanta to beginners, supporting the invocation of divine spirit and a deeper connection with the earth. Discovering Ayurveda cultivated an opening in her own life, leading her to the path of her true calling: teaching students and health seekers how to nurture and blossom their innate power to heal and grow. In her “slow flow” yoga classes, she inspires students to recognize the flow of energy through body, mind and breath with intelligent use of props and interwoven Yogic philosophy.

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Phoenix Matarazzo

returned to the Naugatuck Valley upon completion of her degree in Dance from The Hartt School. Phoenix earned her 200 & 500 hour advanced Yoga and Yin Yoga teacher certifications through Lotus Garden's Yoga School. Since then she has enjoyed bringing yoga to students of all ages at her Seymour studio Phoenix Yoga & Pilates. Phoenix is also a certified Pilates Mat & Reformer instructor; and attended a restorative yoga training with Jillian Pransky, holds certificates in Integrative Health and Healing from the Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT and Reflexology under the guidance of Nova Matarazzo, her mother.

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Lisa Rosenthal

is the Founder of Fertile Yoga and PathtoFertility. She is a reproductive rights advocate and supports people, at all stages in their growth, to live an abundant life. Lisa earned her 500 hour advanced level Yoga Teacher Certification by Lotus Gardens Yoga School with Lara Ward. She practices daily, with an emphasis on Viniyoga and Vinyasa. Lisa's classes move through poses, using breath, body, spirit, love and compassion.

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Anne Novak

is a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher, a Yoga Alliance RYT, an ACE-Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with a background in physical therapy and a certified Hypnotherapist, who has been working in the health and fitness industry for over twenty years. She is the creator of Radiant Health & Authentic Happiness DVD and is a Spirit Voyaga and My Yoga Online teacher. Anne teaches students of all levels of fitness and experience and focuses on creating an environment that is safe, accessible and effective for all.

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Jess Rawling

earned her 200 & 500 hour training through Lotus Gardens Yoga under the tutelage of Lara Ward. Jess's classes are Vinyasa and Hatha informed, with a healthy sprinkling of Buddhist-influenced philosophy. She is also a Yoga Nidra and Meditation guide. Jess sees Yoga and Meditation as transformational tools; the means by which we emerge as the best version of ourselves. She consistently challenges her students to make space between their thoughts, to develop awareness of their habitual reactions, and to respond to challenges in ways that benefit themselves and others. Jess has been a practitioner of Hatha/Vinyasa Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for over a decade, and she tirelessly works to deepen her knowledge and understanding of this captivating practice. In addition to her RYT certification, Jess holds a BA in Theater Performance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has participated in Commedia Dell'Arte and Suzuki Movement trainings.

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focuses on sharing the strength, balance, flexibility, and contentment that he has found through yoga practice. He is a graduate of Lara Ward’s Lotus Gardens 200 & 500 Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Programs. Although Michael has studied a variety of yoga styles with a number of gifted teachers, he now primarily practices and teaches Vinyasa/Hatha Flow Yoga,Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, and Kirtan. He is a clinical psychologist whose yoga teaching is informed by his Jungian-based psychotherapy practice, his college background in physical theatre, and his martial arts training in aikido and tae kwon do. Michael has a special interest in the spiritual, emotional, and psychological development that can come through yoga practice. His goal as a teacher is to help students find their own yoga path, believing that one size never fits all. He also believes that a sense of humor is helpful in most of life’s pursuits, including the practice of yoga.