Introducing Your Yoga Instructor: Michelle

Namaste, my name is Michelle Rene and I am honored to be a part of this uniquely awesome retreat! Phil and I met while “Kloofing” in South Africa some 15 years ago, cliff jumping down a river after we hiked up a mountain for the better part of a day, so it is very fitting that we have merged our passions and talents  for travel, photography, and yoga to bring you this special experience.  He is one of my best friends and a compassionate soul that will no doubt leave a similar mark on your heart as he has on mine.


I discovered the practice of Yoga on the same trip where I met Phil, travelling the globe by ship, in the spring of 2003 on Semester at Sea.  I have had a lifelong affinity for meditation and transcendental teachings and have been an athlete my entire life, so the practice of yoga felt a lot like coming home to me. After 6 months at sea and some 16 countries later, I returned to the island of O’ahu where I was a student of English and Spanish languages at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The natural humidity of the islands was a beautiful introduction to the practice of “hot yoga” though my early teachers and teaching style was very much the safe and alignment-based teaching of BKS Iyengar.  The best place to start!

I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado to pursue my Master’s in English Literature with a travel-inspired emphasis on Post-Colonialism at Colorado State University. I met the most extraordinary Vinyasa teacher and followed her to her primary school of yoga and studied under her at CorePower Yoga in 2009. I was hired to teach at CorePower Yoga in the North American yoga capital of the World, Encinitas, California and have been a “Professional Yogini” ever since.  I regularly attend Yoga Journal Conferences, teach yoga full time, and a YOGO Mat Ambassador for the best travel yoga mat on the market.


I have led fifteen 200-Hour Yoga teacher trainings, certifying hundreds of teachers through CorePower Yoga’s registered Yoga school, known for its caliber of anatomical cues, active language, and accessible teachings style. I have managed 2 yoga studios (+/-3 years)  and currently teach at two of the best Yoga resorts in the country – if not the world! I am honored to be a part of the Rancho la Puerta and Rancho Valencia families and cannot speak highly enough about each of these resorts. I  have studied  yoga for over 12 years now and have shifted my studios habits from the literary field to the study of yoga with the same vigor I pursued my degrees. Beyond the philosophy, I have studied a bit of Ashtanga and Anusara, but felt more compelled to teach Yin, Restorative, Hot, Vinyasa and Viniyoga Therapy styles of yoga in my classrooms and private sessions.

My style is a unique blend of all the styles of yoga I have been exposed to – I call it “Hatha Flow” because my roots are in the safety and alignment of Iyengar’s legacy, with a Vinyasa breath-to-movement spin, offered in the layer-based healing modality I have learned from restorative and therapeutic teachings. I so look forward to meeting each of you and being a part of your yoga journey and lifelong memories.

Introducing your photography instructor Phillip

Hello! My name is Phillip Van Nostrand and I love traveling and taking pictures. My very first camera came to me at the age of 21 on my first trip abroad (on Semester at Sea, where I met Michelle, the yoga instructor!) It was on that trip that I learned every button on my camera, became obsessed with photography, and started a hobby that ultimately turned into a passionate career that has taken me all over the world many times since.

I live in New York now. I moved here two years ago to further my photography career and shoot more for magazines and commercially. Since I moved to New York I've been published in the New York Times twice, Dwell Magazine, San Diego Style Weddings, Huffington Post, and more. I recently accepted a speaking position at the top wedding convention in America in Las Vegas this year. I love teaching and mentoring and was a middle school math teacher and tutor before I was a professional photographer. 
Colombia Ballet
The thing that keeps me coming back to photography over and over again is the connection I make with my clients on a shoot. It's truly like magic, and impossible to explain unless you've been on a shoot with me. Through my lens and that experience, whether it's a one hour portrait session or a 13 hour wedding, I make friends for life. And it always comes back to the human connection for me. 

Colombia Fruit

Looking forward to meeting you and taking the best pictures of our lives together.

Cheers! Phil