Meet The Team
Vidya Jacqueline Heisel - Director & Founding Partner
Vidya Jacqueline Heisel, E-RYT 500, SYT, is the Director of Suryalila Retreat Centre and the Director of Frog Lotus Yoga International Yoga Teacher Training Programmes.
Vidya grew up in England, and lived in India, Bali and the USA, before arriving in southern Spain in 2011. Yoga has been Vidya's life-long passion. She started studying, practicing and teaching yoga in 1975 and since then has taught yoga extensively worldwide. After founding Frog Lotus Yoga Studio in Massachusetts in 2002, Vidya created a comprehensive Yoga Teacher Training programme, which she has taught at retreat centres around the world. Vidya currently runs most of her Yoga Teacher Training Programmes, retreats and holidays at Suryalila, where she resides. Vidya’s other interests include nutrition, gourmet vegetarian cooking and interior design, all of which she joyfully expresses at Suryalila. Vidya was one of the founding partners of Suryalila. She oversees the running of Suryalila and upholds and manifests the vision.
Mario Puljiz – Guest Services and Property Manager
Mario is our amicable Guest Services and Property Manager, Croatian by birth, he spent most of his life in the UK and has a background in hospitality, care and property industries. Mario has a wealth of professional experience, and ensures that all of our guests and visiting teachers receive the best possible care and att ention during their stay with us. When off duty he enjoys singing and strumming his guitar and enjoying the beauty of Suryalila and the surrounding countryside.
Jon Valdivia – Guest Services and Danyadara Communications Manager
Jon is an inexhaustable curious person who showed up in Suryalila a few months after escaping corporate 9 to 5.
A cocktail of a poet, an adventurer and a urban mystic, Jon has had an array of pintoresque experiences both in work as well as in life. He worked with a UN contractor in Sudan, managed a hot air balloon safari company in Tanzania, and written music for films, ads and documentaries.
He condenses all of his life experience through his Life Coaching practice as well as his blog and YouTube channel.
In Suryalila you will find him working with the Guest Services team, putting his techy and media side to good use in the communications of our non-profit Danyadara, as well as offering his life-coaching sessions and ocasional workshops.
He likes a good chat, so feel free to say hello! (edited)
Tanea Garcia - Assistant Manager/HR/Accountancy
The lovely Tanea is a local from Prado del Rey. She is very spirited and fun and takes care of our accounts and is our indispensable liaison with Spanish bureaucracy.
Lidiya Petkova - Marketing & Website / Teacher Training Manager / Yoga Teacher
She is the personal assistant of our CEO Vidya. Lidiya has a background in International Tourism Management and is very excited to be at Suryalila contributing with her marketing & product development skills. She has beed trained with Frog Lotus Yoga and is one of our on site Vinyasa Flow Yoga teachers. She organises the Adventure and Yoga Retreats here at Suryaila. Her classes are vigorous and energising, and at the same time balanced with more gentle and calming sequences, making them accessible to everyone. She is also our onsite photographer and will be glad to capture beautiful memories of your group.
Gemma Russell - Head Chef
Gemma is from Brighton in England. She is a classically trained chef with seemingly no end to her creative talents. She has worked in kitchens all over the world and brings this knowledge of ethnic cuisines into the Suryalila kitchen. Gemma is passionate about whole foods and ensuring that her meals both look and taste amazing!
Kali – Chef
Kali puts her heart in crafting beautiful, colourful and delicious food. This is what brings her a true joy in life. She is delighted to be able to express her creativity and love for cooking here at Suryalila.
Cátia Garcia - Thai Massage Practitioner
Cátia possesses an incredible healing touch and we are so lucky to experience her heavenly massages here! She had her first contact with the ancient healing art of Thai Yoga Massage in 2010, in Thailand through the well known Sunshine Network centre. After two years of training, including several additional courses in Thailand and India, she became a Thai Massage practitioner in 2013.
Cátia has held a degree in Occupational Therapy since 2005, where she started her healing path in the neurological disorders field. During her studies and time working as an Occupational Therapist, she felt there was a lack of body-mind connection and that the treatments were very much directed towards the physical body, on the surface level. She decided to go beyond, to get in touch with the energetic and emotional body. Through Thai Yoga Massage she found the depth that she was looking for.
Zoe Strickland – Shakti Boutique Manager
Zoe is our charming shop manager. She artfully manages the shop now. Her background in fashion design and carpentry, combined with her passion for environmental projects and healing gives the shop a special pizazz.
Ellen Aarts - Juice Bar & Shakti Boutique
Ellen is a lovely soul with many different talents: She not only works in the Shakti Boutique and the Juicebar but she also teaches relaxing Yin yoga classes here at Suryalila. She has a passion for personal growth and when not working at Suryalila she is working on her own coaching business, where she helps people that are going through stress and burnout.
Manuel - Maintenance
Manuel is from the local town of Prado del Rey has been at Suryalila, since the beginning, having worked at La Fabrica before staying on to help out at Suryalila. He has loved the project from the beginning and takes great care of our gardens as well as doing painting and any other odd job we need a handy guy for. Manuel is one of the few Spanish staff at Suryalila who loves the food we serve here and enjoys eating with us.
Jacob Evans – Head of Danyadara (Our Permaculture Project)
Jacob is our hardworking permaculture wizard. After having worked with permaculture extensively in South America he settled at Suryalila. He is currently growing a food forest with his dedicated team. Meanwhile, he is busy creating a nursery, a bigger composting project and working on landscaping.
Encarni - Our Amazing Head Housekeeper
Encarni manages the housekeeping at Suryalila. She is from Prado del Rey and has been at Suryalila since the beginning. She was our first local employee. You will see her busy around the property keeping everything beautiful and clean. She always has a smile for you, even though she has one of the hardest jobs at Suryalila