Six Yoga Instructors Bring Free Yoga to the Community through Elevate Akron

words by Kristina Aiad-Toss  


Each summer, six yoga teachers reigning from Akron put together a free yoga festival called Elevate Akron, which features local performers, small business vendors, community sponsors and a yoga lesson. This year, nearly three thousand people attended to gather and practice yoga. Meet the teachers behind the event.


Tracy Rhinehart

In 1997, Tracy began practicing yoga on a videotape in her living room. Now, she has been practicing for more than 20 years. This year, she led the lesson at Elevate Akron. Yoga made her feel strong and relaxed, leading her to continue her practice even as a single mom with a full-time job.

Tracey received her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Cleveland Yoga with Tami Schneider and her 500 hour training at Awaken Yoga with Jennifer Langsdale. Currently, she teaches vinyasa and yin yoga at Yoga Bliss in Fairlawn. In addition, she trains other yoga instructors, leading the 200 level through Yoga Bliss and offering an advanced training through her own school, Yoga 108.  

Yoga is an amazing way to open hearts and quiet minds, says Tracey. She practices yoga because it allows her to find a connection to herself which helps her do the right things in the world.

What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

“The yoga community in Akron is special for the way they YES! When we step forward with ideas and ask for help and support, everyone in this community opens their door, extends their hand and supports us . . . It’s special. The practice is intended to reach beyond barriers and help people find each other with open hearts. And that’s working well in Akron.”

Stacey DeGenaro Downing

After her third child was born, Stacey began her yoga practice by attending Anasara Weekend Immersion workshops hosted by Todd Norain for her birthday each year. Stacey holds a masters degree in Cardiovascular Physiology and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years. She has been practicing yoga for 14 years. She received her Baptiste 200 and 500 level training two years ago at Yoga 108 studio with Tracy Rhinehart.

Today, Stacey is the owner of Barre Posse in Akron, a teacher of power vinyasa and aerial yoga, a fitness expert and an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, she works with student athletes at Massillon Football and Revere Local Schools.

Stacey practices yoga because it keeps her lifestyle healthy as a proud mother of five children. She also loves yoga because it’s challenging and nevering boring.


What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

We are of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and practices coming together as a community to make ‘we’ greater than ‘me.’ It gets better every year!”  


Alexis Carris

Five years ago, a friend got Alexis into practicing yoga and she has been hooked ever since. She began taking classes with Tracey Rhinehart and completed her training with one of her first yoga teachers shortly after.

Alexis enjoys teaching yoga poses and breath work to her kindergarten students at Green Local Schools, where she also works as a school teacher. In her classroom, the children love using yoga as a break from academic work. Even as an educator, Stacey is always learning. “My students are my greatest teachers, on and off the mat,” she says.

Yoga is like a “second home” to Stacey, providing an outlet for a sense of peace and relaxation whenever she practices.

What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

Akron’s yoga community is so special because they always show up. They show up with big love in their hearts and smiles on their faces. They come together with unity and togetherness and always support one another. In the Akron yoga community, it’s built up of so many yogis and I feel the general consensus of it is – no one is ever alone. Growth is better in groups and connecting the Akron yoga community through smiles at Elevate is something I hold very close to my heart.


Sarah Clark

Describing the first time she did yoga, Sarah said “it was love at first ‘om.’” While backpacking through Central America in 2013, Sarah decided to step out of her comfort zone and take her first yoga class. Since falling in love with yoga, Sarah has been practicing for six years and teaching for four.

Sarah has not only received her 200 hour teacher training, but also completed specialized ashtanga and prenatal yoga teacher trainings. Teaching everything from power vinyasa to gentle, trauma-sensitive classes, Sarah is a yoga instructor at multiple studios in the Akron area. In addition, she teaches at the Interval Brotherhood Home Addiction Recovery Center and the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties.

What Sarah loves about practicing yoga is that she feels “grounded, connected, compassionate, and mindful” when she leaves her mat.


What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

That it is growing and thriving! It is wonderful to see our community expand and flourish.


Kevin Keras

“While there are many doors to entering the practice of yoga, mine was meditation,” says Kevin while describing how he started practicing. The first time he meditated led to a life changing experience that paved the path to a yogic lifestyle.

Kevin has been practicing for over a decade and has worked with various teachers locally and nationally.

When it comes to classes, Kevin has taught many types of yoga — from hatha to laughter yoga to ecstatic dance — in many different settings and places. He holds classes locally at Yoga Squared, Zen Space, A Mindful Path, Dance Your Soul Unity of Medina and The JCC Shaw, while also hosting specialty workshops and training at major Yoga & Transformational festivals including Big Love, The Yoga Summit, Rootwire, Resonance, Shensara, Kinnection and YogaFest Michigan.

Kevin practices yoga because it constantly reminds him of his “wholeness,” and this insight gives him the courage and strength to navigate life’s difficulties.

What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

“Akron has many options for studying yoga and we are connected beyond the walls of individual studios, which is rare across the nation. I think this is due to the many community gatherings: Elevate Akron, Big Love Fest and The Yoga Summit are three which feel to me like annual family gatherings of our yoga tribe. I love Akron!”


Serenity Messner

When Serenity began practicing yoga, it was only a supplement to her workout routine. But once she discovered the unexpected profound effect on her body and mind, she instantly became hooked.

As a practicing yogi for eight years, Serenity completed her 200 hour training with Release Yoga in Green and her 300 hour training with Tracy Rhinehart through her Yoga 108 studio. Currently, she teaches vinyasa and power yoga as well as pranayama and meditation at Yoga Bliss, Yoga Squared and Zen Space by Yoga Squared.

“Yoga for me is an outlet to explore and be creative,” says Serenity describing her passion. Being on her mat allows her to be in touch with a deeper version of herself, and she aims for her students to do the same.


What’s special about the yoga community in Akron?

The yoga community in Akron is really unique. With all of the studios in the area, you can find a different vibe and practice where the energy feels really good for you. People are bringing their friends to classes with them because they want to share the connection they’ve found. More and more, our yoga community in Akron is growing and becoming more inclusive. It’s a really empowering movement to be a part of.”



(Featured photo courtesy of Elevate Akron)