Founding Board


SYP was founded in January, 2012 out of the passion and vision of four founding Board of Directors: Elizabeth Auten, Christen Iannone, Catherine Particini, and Nadine Wightman.

Elizabeth Auten, MSW, RYT-200
Executive Director, Director 0f International Programming
After two life-changing years working with youth in inner city Baltimore and then Peru, Elizabeth knew that she wanted to dedicate her energy toward service and youth empowerment.  In 2007, Elizabeth received her Master’s in Social Work from Boston College’s cutting edge Global Practice program.  Her studies brought her to El Salvador, where she had the opportunity to understand the need for connection and safety that motivates many young people to join gangs like MS-13.   Back in Arlington, Elizabeth worked with low-income families from across the globe at the Gates of Ballston Community Center and meanwhile discovered yoga, a practice of presence, compassion, and perseverence that has changed her life.  She completed her 200-hour RYT training at Dancing Mind Yoga and became a Yoga Life Coach.  In August, 2011, Elizabeth took a leap of faith by quitting her job to serve for six months as a volunteer in a small community where one year ago, she had left her heart – Jiquilillo, Nicaragua. During her first service visit in August 2010, Elizabeth met a six year old boy on the beach braving the big waves although he didn’t know how to swim. From that moment, Angel joined her in swimming lessons and yoga on the beach every day, proving that the joy of yoga transcends language, age, & education.  From August, 2011 to February 2012, Elizabeth returned to serve Angel and other community children at the local community center – starting up a program to teach yoga, art, English, math, and reading to 25 local kids and employed 4 local teens as mentors to the younger students.  SYP´s first participants came out of that group.  8 youth ages 11-16 enthusiastically jumped into whatever crazy idea Elizabeth suggested: hand stands and wheels, photojournalism interviews with local fishermen, bike rides, boat rides, bus rides, and volcano climbing!  Inspired by young people for whom there are no limits, Elizabeth created SYP.  For more information on Elizabeth and continuing efforts in Nicaragua, follow her blog at

Christen Iannone 
(Psy.D., E-RYT-200, CYLC)
Director of Training & Research
Dr. Iannone received her doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) in September 1999 from the University of Hartford. She has worked in the mental health field since 1992. After receiving her doctorate, she worked in a variety of treatment settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment centers, intensive outpatienct treatment, community mental health, and outpatient private practice. Dr. Iannone has a specialty in child/adolescent clinical psychology. She has expertise in the areas of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

Dr. Iannone began incorporating yoga and yoga philosophy into her psychotherapy work after receiving her yoga teacher training certification in June 2008. Since that time, Dr. Iannone has committed herself to studying and teaching yoga. She is a Certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Teacher and is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 200 Level with Yoga Alliance (E-RYT-200). She has since closed her psychotherapy practice and created the Yoga Shrink, where she is bringing yoga and yoga life coaching into the mental health field. The Yoga Shrink was created to integrate yoga into personal transformational work.To learn more about Christen, visit

Catherine Particini, RYT-200
Director of Marketing and Artistic Design
Originally from Florida, Catherine came to the DC area in 2010 and jumped right into the 200 HR-RYT teacher training program at Dancing Mind Yoga.  Just two years later, she is the Studio Manager and a dedicated and empowering yoga instructor.  Catherine is also a talented artist and along with so many other gifts, she contributes her art to create all of SYP’s marketing materials.  It is her intention as a yoga teacher and a Board member of SYP to serve the community through her enthusiasm, compassion, and love for the journey of yoga and all who embark upon it

Nadine Wightman
Director of Outreach, Secretary
Nadine has been teaching for seven years in Fairfax County Public Schools; her first six years in education were spent teaching third grade, and recently began specializing in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).   She completed her M. Ed in Social Foundations of Education from the University of Virginia, allowing her to specialize in ESOL instruction, as well as broaden her educational perspective and examine the interaction and impact of education and society through a variety of multifacteted contexts.  Her eductional philosophy centers around equity and understanding and honoring the whole child.

Nadine’s passion for education can be matched only by her passion for yoga; what started out as a way to exercise quickly became a physical, spiritual, and emotional journey that has opened her up and brought her new and profound joy.  A dedicated practicioner, she has experienced firsthand the powerful positive transformation that comes through yoga.  She is currently completing her 200 HR RYT Teacher Training Program at Dancing Mind Yoga and is looking forward to sharing her experience and love of this powerful practice with others.

Elizabeth’s work landed in Nadine’s heart and she knew immediately that she wanted to help.  Shakti Youth Project embodies the power of hope and transformation through education and yoga.  She is excited to bring her love of teaching and yoga together to help empower kids in communities locally and globally.



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