Meet Our Teachers

Denise Head, Owner 

Denise Head is the owner and teacher at Painted Elephant Yoga Studio. She grew up in Tampa, Fla., graduated from the University of South Florida and spent the last 19 years as a Registered Nurse working in a busy Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. After raising four great kids as a single mom, Denise met and married the love of her life and moved to the Central Valley. After years of sports that included windsurfing and triathlons, she took her first hot yoga class. Walking out of that Denver yoga studio, Denise knew that this was different and she was hooked. She believes that yoga can and should be included in a healthy lifestyle. For the last few years, Denise has been coaching CrossFit athletes of all abilities and ages, and despite the increase in strength, she has seen the need for flexibility and mobility. As she continues to deepen her own yoga practice, Denise is excited to bring more yoga to the valley and looks forward to helping support a healthy, sustainable community.

Ellie Birch

Ellie Birch took her first yoga class as a junior in high school in order to help with some health issues — and it truly changed her life. The mind-body-soul connection combined with a physical workout was exactly what she was looking for and Ellie continued her practice throughout college to de-stress from finals and meet friends.  When Ellie lived in the yoga mecca that is New York City, she experimented with many styles and classes, but her favorite was summertime Yoga outside in Bryant Park.  Ellie has recently moved to Visalia and is excited to deepen her practice and bring her love of yoga to her students.

Alicia Buss

Since practicing and teaching Yoga, Alicia Buss is stronger, healthier, more peaceful and more appreciative of herself. She has shed the superficial view of herself and has quit holding herself to ridiculous standards. She is grateful for this inward and outward practice of yoga, all her teachers, every magnificent student and all of her loving friends. She believes it is a great joy to share the benefits of yoga with those presenting a variety of considerations including: seniors, those undergoing rehabilitation from surgery or injury, those with chronic issues (such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, M.S., etc.) and anyone looking for a slower-paced practice.

Many teachers have influenced Alicia.  She was profoundly inspired studying with Julie Gudmestead, Angela Farmer and Tias Little. It was from her training with JoAnn Lyons and her incredible students with cerebral palsy (and other disabilities) that she decided she wanted to work with students with chronic concerns. 

Alicia has been studying with Brenda Proudfoot since 2006.  She has benefited greatly from her guidance and mentorship.  She is grateful to her and this remarkable community of teachers and students for their support and kindness.

Brenda Bergreen

A lover of adventure, Brenda Bergreen enjoys approaching the challenges of yoga with lightness, playfulness and humor. She is interested in the different ways that yoga can help people. Brenda has been teaching yoga since 2011 to anyone from rock climbers to seniors while working as a photographer and co-owner of Bergreen Photography. Brenda received her 200-hour yoga teacher training at the Samarya Center in Seattle, Washington, and continues to study with Molly Lannon Kenny. 

Gabrielle Johnson

With Gabrielle Johnson has been actively involved in dance and various musicals since the age of 7. She trained in various types of dance such as tap, jazz and ballet, and has been part of many Golden West and COS productions. Currently she is pursuing her nursing career at COS and hopes to one make a difference in Pediatrics. She has always had a passion for staying physically active and is constantly pushing herself to try new things. She is currently involved in Crossfit and has found a love for Yoga that continues to grow.  

 Monica January 

Monica January has been teaching group fitness classes for 20-plus years.  She teaches multiple formats, including Yoga, Piyo, Cycling, Kickboxing, R.I.P.P.E.D., and many more.   In 2007, Monica was chosen to be one of the first Master Trainers for R.I.P.P.E.D. and traveled all over the United States training and certifying instructors.  While teaching is her passion, she works full-time as a freelance court reporter.  Her biggest accomplishment has been raising her 23-year old son.  Monica’s next goal is to enroll in a more extensive yoga teacher training.


Kathy Prekoski

To Laugh is to lighten, to Yoga is to ground. Practicing gives us an opportunity to balance our lives through the joys and sorrows. Teaching yoga, for Kathy, is about sharing enthusiasm, moving with intention and flowing with the energy of fellow yogis, even without an ability to “fit into” every pose. It’s about doing what you can, with what you’ve got, today. Tomorrow might be different. She wishes to be a conduit of energy inspiring students to be curious, open and skillful with their will; guiding one’s breath as a connection to the path of mindfulness. Life offers us an ocean of opportunities and the yoga mat is a great place to dive inward. Giving gratitude to all her teachers, family, kids, friends and foe who have provided opportunities to practice and grow. She feels honored to teach/volunteer with: Valley Yoga Studio, Golden West HS Yoga Club, Sycamore Valley Academy, Tulare County Juvenile Detention Facility and the Lindsay Wellness Center.  Kathy has been teaching yoga regularly for the last three years and completed her 200 hour certification at Lulu Bandha’s in Ojai, CA with Kira Ryder.


Nicole Saputo

Nicole Saputo has been hooked on yoga since her very first class in 2013. She knew right away that it was something she would practice for the rest of her life. Already a high school English teacher, she knew that teaching yoga would someday be in her path and she could not be more grateful that Denise brought teacher training to Visalia. With practicing yoga has come so many benefits for Nicole, both physically and mentally. It has transformed her body to be healthy and strong and has given her a peaceful and positive outlook on life. Nicole has a playful approach to yoga; she believes that it can benefit everybody and body type, and thinks that yoga should primarily be something fun that people can do to lead happier and healthier lives.  Nicole completed her 200 RYT Training  program in 2015 thru YogaWorks.



Kristina Winkelmann

Kristina Winkelmann fell in love with yoga from the moment she was introduced to it. Through her own practice Kristina has connected to a balance of the physical and emotional gaining strength in both. Kristina finished her 200 hour teacher training with Yogaworks in 2015 and also began teaching aerial yoga in 2015. Kristina feels pure joy from teaching and seeing her students gain strength and confidence in their bodies while having fun and opening up. Kristina looks forward to bringing more yoga to more people to help build healthier positive lifestyles while continuing to deepen her own practice.


Emily Lucietto

A Visalia native, Emily began practicing yoga her senior year in high school and has remained a dedicated yogini, continuing her practice while earning her  bachelors in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a masters in Public Policy and Administration at Sacramento State University.  She also has a California Single Subject (English) teaching credential, and she completed her 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certified teacher training at COIL Yoga in Fresno.  In just under four years, Emily will have had three children.  As very busy (mostly) stay at home mother, she views yoga as essential to maintaining a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.  While she loves the physical aspects of yoga, Emily has come to appreciate the deeper layers of the practice.  The rigors of raising several little people at once can leave little time for true and meaningful self-care.  Emily finds complete restoration and centeredness while on her yoga mat.   Along with yoga, she has a deep passion for running and backpacking.  One of her most memorable backpacking treks was a 211-mile John Muir Trail adventure, which started in Yosemite Valley and ended at Mt. Whitney.  Emily finds that all aspects of her life are hugely rewarded through a deep and consistent yoga practice. 

Emily offers classes at the Painted Elephant Yoga Studio, Valley Yoga, In Shape Health Clubs, and City of Visalia Parks and Recreation. Her Facebook Page offers more information about her current teaching schedule:


Chelsea Stemkoski

Chelsea has always loved to move.  Childhood performances in the living room turned into time on the stage.  Falling in love with the ballet barre movement brought her to The Painted Elephant, introducing her not only to yoga but to a group of friends who quickly turned into family.  The combination of strength and flexibility yoga provides, along with the balance of mind/body connection, has changed the way she stays fit.  Recently completing her 200-hour YogaWorks training here in Visalia, she's excited to share her love of yoga and barre with anyone who comes to their mat.   


Errin Hurtado

Visalia native, Errin Hurtado, has been practicing yoga for 6 years. The moment she found yoga she knew this would be a part of her everyday life; knowing that this is a unique way to align our mind, spirit, and body through breath awareness, meditation, and physical practice. After moving to northern California and studying Massage therapy at Phillips School of Massage, she knew that the holistic lifestyle is what she would live and teach. Errin is a Certified Massage Therapist, enjoys healing arts and is compassionate about getting her students/ clients in tune with themselves while they learn to bring a higher consciousness to life in all circumstances. Life is a precious gift that need not be taken lightly, we are forever learning and should be forever grateful for all we are and who are meant to be.

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To contact Errin for Massage Therapy or Private Yoga Rates Please Email:


Nicole Schafer

Nicole recently relocated from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she earned her fitness certifications in Yoga, Spinning, Pilates, and Water Aerobics. Her background is in kinesiology and business, and she currently works for a public relations firm in Fresno. She began yoga as cross training for swimming while she was in high school. As she got older, it became the only way to calm her mind and make her feel centered. Nicole is passionate about philanthropy, traveling, striving to lead a healthy, well-balanced life and promoting that lifestyle to others. To contact Nicole, please email or follow @nicoletravelyoga on Instagram!