OUR PHILOSOPHY

Ambu means water in the ancient yogic language of Sanskrit, and our name represents the connection between the flow of energy in our surrounding waters and the mind-body-spirit experience of yoga. We believe in the transformational physical and emotional benefits of yoga and allow a deep respect for our natural island setting to inspire all that we do. 


Our Team

Yoga Teachers

Yali Zawady (E-RYT 200) is the founder of Ambu Yoga. Inspired by the beauty of nature and her passion for life, she loves traveling, tasting delicious, real food and practicing yoga outdoors on Sanibel and Captiva. Yali has been influenced by many amazing teachers and yoga disciplines and is committed to her continued growth and education. She has trained and studied at Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, the Foundation of Pathanjala Yoga Kendra in India, and Bala Vinyasa Yoga in Naples, Florida. She is also a certified holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Yali first found yoga and self-inquiry at a very young age through meditation practices with her father in Colombia, and has since developed a life-long passion for practicing and sharing yoga with others. 


With yoga, I discovered a way to balance my emotions, honoring my body with breath, movement, and playfulness. This mind-body connection is what keeps me coming back to the present moment and confronting the challenges that life brings every day.
— Yali Zawady

Fran White (200 E-RYT, 500 E-RYT) found her way to yoga after suffering from back and knee injuries. What started out as a daily physical practice has become her way of life. Fran is inspired by the Iyengar tradition, and her classes focus on alignment. Recognizing that everyone is anatomically different, props are used to help with the alignment process, also giving the student a chance to explore their body in the poses. She lives on Long Island, NY and comes to Captiva for the winter months. 

Three words to describe your teaching style: Hatha, alignment, props

What do you love about Captiva Island? I love Captiva because it brings me closer to nature and ignites the inner child in me.

What do you do to be kind to the planet? I do my best to live as sustainably as possible. I plant flowers and vegetables that encourage pollination by bees in an effort to combat colony collapse. I support local farmers as well.


Allyson Parzero (500 RYT) has studied at the Pyramid Yoga School and Bikram Yoga College of India. Allyson leads yoga retreats around the world, sharing her passion for yoga with communities from Vancouver Island to Jakarta, Indonesia. She enjoys being a part of the Ambu Yoga Team when she is at home on Sanibel Island. "Yoga enables me to stand tall, breathe deep, feel good, smile often, and most importantly live the life I want to live." Allyson has also studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.


Michelle Harmon (200 RYT) decided to leave the corporate world in 2010, when she traveled to India to complete her yoga teacher training, in hopes of sharing the gift of yoga and its many benefits with others. Michelle believes that yoga gives us a taste of a new way to be in this world, a new way of moving, and a new way of responding to everyday life events and challenges.                                                                      

Three words to describe your teaching style: Approachable, calming and balanced

What do you love about Captiva Island? Its natural beauty and true island feel.

What do you do to be kind to the planet? I recycle, and I'm becoming more committed to eating sustainably sourced foods!


Cynthia Petrakis-Mason has been a teacher and counselor for thirty years, and brings her passion for the process of self-discovery, healing and growth to her workshops, retreats and women’s circles. Beyond her Masters degree in counseling, she has additional trainingin the Hero’s Journey Program, Family Constellation Therapy and Dance Your Bliss. She feels honored to share this path of living life consciously with others.   

Three words to describe your teaching style: Heart-centered, open, connected

What do you love about Captiva Island? The natural beauty. This is a special place made more special by the community that has gathered here at Ambu Yoga.

What do you do to be kind to the planet? Part of my work with the Heros Journey Foundation is a young women’s week long retreat in the mountains of West Virginia. An important part of the experience is to appreciate and feel our connection to the planet.


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Malú Doherty is a Kripalu certified yoga teacher, and a jewelry artist. Her style of teaching mirrors the artful jewelry she creates and her love of nature. She blends traditional yoga poses with creative expressions of movement to help students find what feels natural to them. Students are urged to follow their instincts and move beyond familiar lines of a yoga pose and into a personal variation. In this way, each person finds the practice that fits their needs and awakens creative energy. Malú brings a light, open hearted presence to all of the classes and workshops she leads.  


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Nancy Wickham (200 RYT) completed her teacher training at the Kripalu School of Yoga in Massachusetts a long, long time ago.  She offers a spirited and fun Vinyasa-style yoga class that is open to all levels and promises to strengthen body and mind. Her teaching is informed by her personal practice and life experience as a runner and full time island resident.

Three words to describe your teaching style: Breath-centered, vinyasa, light-hearted

What do you love about Captiva Island? Its all encompassing beauty, the pervasive quality of 'Island Time', and the sense of forgiveness and peace an island offers.

What do you do to be kind to the planet? A full commitment to a plant based diet, committing to 'conscience consumerism'  by asking do I need it and what can I do to reduce the impact of this purchase (for example using reusable bags, bringing a travel mug, buying 1 instead of 3), whenever practicable I choose to bike rather than drive.


Studio Staff

Mercedes Walter


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Leah Biery is passionate about helping non-profit organizations and businesses with a cause communicate about their work. With a background in fisheries management, she has worked on marine conservation projects around the world and thinks caring for our planet and its creatures is our most important responsibility as humans. She provides marketing and website support for Ambu Yoga and believes deeply in the mind and body benefits of yoga. 

What do you love about Captiva Island? I love Captiva's lush foliage, seeing dolphins, manatees, birds, and so many other animals every day, the incredible sunsets and the warm climate. 

What do you do to be kind to the planet? I don't eat meat, I try to eliminate plastic from my life as much as possible (especially the single-use disposable kind), and I am dedicated to learning how to make more sustainable choices in my life.


Theresa King