Who We Are

  • Alyssa Hjembo

    Alyssa is a busy mom of 4 kids.  After experiencing chronic lower back pain as a result of abdominal weakness and great amounts of stress due to deployments and frequent moving due to being married to a U.S. Navy Officer, Alyssa turned to exercise to help recover physical and mental strength.  The success of this led her to want to share its benefits with others.

    Alyssa does personal training and teaches a variety of classes around Alexandria including cardio kickboxing and PIYO.  Her certifications and training include AFAA Group Exercise, NASM Certified Personal Trainer,  and AFAA Perinatal Fitness. She is a committed life-long learner, believing that the more you discover, the more questions you have.

    “My classes incorporate free weight and body weight training, balance training and dynamic stretch with elements of Pilates and yoga choreographed right in to the workout.  I focus on moving with control and grace and I believe in the many physiological and mental benefits that challenging exercise provides”

  • Brooke McDonough

    Brooke was a long time client at the studio and has been practicing aerial since 2015.  She completed her 20 hr aerial yoga fundamentals training in 2017.

  • Christine Heckel

    christineChristine Heckel grew up in Tucson, Arizona and since then has devoted 19 years to the art of classical ballet as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, and has danced, choreographed, and taught with Tucson Regional Ballet, Ballet Rincon, Ballet Arts Academy at The Old Waldorf School, and The Studio Cooperative, dancing principal and soloist roles in many classical ballets as well as several contemporary works. Her teachers and mentors include Christopher Hird, Danile Geisy, Randall Marks, Daniel Catanach, Carolyn Haatainen-Wallace, Gary Mackenzie, Devin Krahling, Jayne Stephanie-Keating, and Oscar Hawkins.

    In 2009 Christine was introduced to Pilates and found it provided strength and control in her dance technique, as well as a method to both prevent and rehabilitate injuries. Her desire to share this with her students led to continuing her studies of movement, anatomy, and kinesiology through a contemporary, anatomical approach to Pilates. She studied at Balance Pilates Training Center in Richmond, Virginia and obtained her full certification as a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor in 2011. This includes training in the essential through advanced levels of Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Stability Chair, and Barrels as well as training in the use of props and exercise modifications through the Injuries and Special Populations (ISP) course. In 2012, she was accepted into the STOTT PILATES® Instructor Trainer course for Matwork and Reformer in Toronto, and will be continuing her study of Pilates at the next level. She currently teaches at The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia.

    Christine continues her study of ballet in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. She has practiced yoga for ten years and believes that the mind/body/spirit connection is at the core of all forms of movement.

    “In my ballet classes, I have made the study of the Vaganova (“Russian”) ballet syllabus with its artistry, passion, discipline and simplicity, a key component of my teaching philosophy. It is my goal to provide any student who wishes to learn or return to dance with the skills needed to safely develop or hone their technique in a positive environment.”

  • Emily Rusch

    Emily has been teaching for 10 years and is passionate about overall health and wellness. She received a BS in Health Science from Brenau University, and is AFAA certified in group fitness. She loves incorporating functional movements, combination exercises and athletic drills into her classes.  Any class with Emily will focus on balance, core strength and heart pounding fun.

  • Ila Conoley

    Ila Conoley Paladino began her studies at the Dance Center of Colorado Springs and continued her training at the Alabama Dance Theatre. She earned her BA in dance from the University of Colorado at Boulder and MFA in dance from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Ila returned to Colorado to chair the Pikes Peak Community College Dance Department. Ila choreographs concert dance, site-specific work, dance theatre, and community modern. She is an instructor of modern dance, ballet, dance appreciation, dance history, and composition. Currently, Ila is faculty at The Kentucky Center Governor’s School of the Arts teaching dance composition each summer, an instructor at Local Motion Studio in Alexandria, Virginia, and director and choreographer of ICONography Dance, a pick-up modern dance company.

    “Whether the students are recreational or professional, the classes technical or academic, I seek to instruct intentionally and correctly while bringing gaiety and humor to the classroom. I work to create exercises and phrases that challenge the participant intellectually and physically while instructing in a manner that builds confidence and supports the whole person.”

  • Jo Echard

    Jo was first introduced to yoga by her daughters, who are seasoned acro and aerial yogis. Like so many others, she was initially attracted to the physical aspects of increased flexibility and strength derived from a yoga practice.  Before long, she came to see the deeper benefits that yoga offers through mind, body and spirit balancing. Jo has a particular appreciation for ‘Yin Yoga’, which draws upon the energy of stillness, to balance the mostly ‘Yang’ yoga and athletic pursuits that draw upon the energy of action.

    In addition to teaching yin, she also teaches flow and aerial, including restorative aerial yoga.  She received her 200-hour yoga teacher training certification at Radiance Yoga in Old Town Alexandria; Aerial teacher certification at Flying Buddha through Flow and Fly Yoga; Yin teacher training Level 1 and 2 with Kari Kwinn at Kindness Yoga in Denver; and Yin Yoga Immersion Training with Braja Kishori at Ease Yoga and Café in Alexandria. 

    “I embrace a very yoga focused approach to aerial classes, using the hammocks to practice balance, alignment and inversions in a way that can deepen and compliment your yoga mat practice, regardless of your starting point.  My restorative aerial class is an especially great way to experience the release and relaxation that aerial yoga provides. The hammocks are at knee height so you can find support and relief in key areas such as the hips, shoulders and low back while floating in the air without fear!”

  • Nadiya Mahmood

    Sitara Nadiya Mahmood has been practicing yoga asana for over 12 years. Nadiya received her 200 Hour CYT in Costa Rica in 2016 at the Marianne Wells Yoga School. She teaches different styles including flow and Vinyasa classes. Nadiya enjoys practicing power yoga and Rocket yoga on her own time. She prides herself on incorporating more movement into her classes then the typical flow class and she likes to introduce a few postures that challenge each student. She also makes sure that her class is available to students of all skill levels from beginner to intermediate and advanced students are welcomed as well.

    “I like to make sure all my clients feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. Maybe you wont be able to get a certain posture today, but if you continue to practice, one day you may be able to get that pose. Make the goal to be consistent, not to get to a certain destination.”

  • Renee Miller

    After over a decade of chance encounters with yoga asana classes, Renee found herself signed up for an Iyengar Yoga series in 2000. It was in this series with a master teacher that she began to deeply experience the transformative effects of a consistent, diligent yoga practice. Practicing yoga has been a profoundly empowering experience for her and she aims to share a sense of wonder and empowerment with each of her students.She teaches yoga to adults, children, and families. With adults her classes are anatomically focused explorations of movement and action in the body. When teaching children she embraces fun, age appropriate yoga that encourages kids to develop healthy and peaceful minds and bodies. Her sense of humor infuses her approach to life, including her practice and teaching. By approaching the asana practice in a humorous, playful and light-hearted way, she hopes to find the depth of human experience that we all share.

  • Sara Lavan, Owner

    Sara is the founder and co-owner of Local Motion Studio. She started her movement journey studying ballet in her home town of Sandy Hook, Connecticut. She continued her dance training at Peridance in New York City with Igal Perry and Deborah Damast, and at New York University. She performed and taught in NYC and surrounding areas for over a decade before moving to Alexandria, Va. After moving she joined Choreographer’s Collaboration Project as a dancer and choreographer.

    Sara received her Pilates training at the Kane School of Core Integration. She has continuing education in Pilates from Kinected Pilates Center and Balanced Body University. She has also completed trainings in Franklin Method, Brain Dance developed by Anne Green Gilbert, Pregnancy and Postpartum fitness with Debora Goodman MSPT, where she completed the advanced training and she has completed Ring One Teacher Training in Circus Yoga. Sara has her certification in Holistic Health Counseling from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University’s Teachers College.

    Sara is a commissioner with the Alexandria Arts Commission, and also the founder and executive director of Local Motion Project; a non profit dance organization. With this organization, Sara co-developed the first dance integration program in Alexandria City Public Schools. More information at www.localmotionproject.com.

    “I encourage my students to be their own movement investigators, knowing there is no “one way” to do anything. All my work highlights the importance of movement quality and an understanding of how to use the core muscles reflexively and dynamically. My passion for movement and all of its wonder and benefits spills into every modality I teach.”


  • Sarah Craig, Owner

    Sarah Craig came on as business partner and co-owner in 2016. She was a client at the studio and a long time enthusiast of creative and well taught group fitness classes.  Sarah has completed her Level 1 and Level 2 aerial training.  After discovering aerial at Local Motion Studio in 2016; she was drawn to teaching to deepen her knowledge of the aerial art form and share the joy of aerial with everyone.

    “My aerial class incorporates movements from different disciplines such as yoga, Pilates, and dance.  Classes include stretching exercises, core and strength work, mixed with fun aerial tricks and creative sequences.”

  • Silvia Burstein-Hendi

    Silvia Burstein-Hendi was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied at the National School of Dance, obtaining her degree as National Teacher, and studied at the prestigious Teatro Colon where she obtained her Diploma as Professional Dancer. Ms. Burstein performed extensively in Canada with Le Ballet Classique de Montreal, Theatre Ballet of Canada, P.M. Ottawa Jazz and Le Groupe Lab (Le Groupe de la Place Royale). Ms. Burstein’s teaching experience includes  Le Groupe de la Place Royale,  Elaine Hunter Dance School, Le Petit Ballet, Dance Educators, Atelier de Dance Carole Brouard, and Ottawa University. She choreographs and performs with Choreographers Collaboration Project.

    “I strive to challenge each and every student in each and every class. From a beginner to a professional, there is always something to work on. The main goal of a ballet class to me, is not to do everything perfect, it is to try to make small achievements each time. I ask them to sense the joy of moving to different types of music. It is amazing how active the brain has to be in a dance class. It is constant stimulation for the body and soul!

  • Tess Dorrier

    Tess Dorrier received her Pilates training with Physical Mind, her yoga training at Tranquil Space and Barre training at Barre Body.  Additionally, she studied ballet though college. Has been teaching yoga and Pilates since 2003 and barre since 2014.

    “My classes draw from dance, Pilates, strength training and yoga.  My Cardio Strength class is a high energy full body workout that will move quickly and challenge mind and body safely.  My yoga teaching aims to help raise body awareness with a focus on anatomy and breath. My Pilates class incorporates movements from other disciplines, and includes arm and leg work as well as traditional mat work. I strive for creative classes that are challenging, but also offer modifications and variations for all levels.”