By Elisa Huot

Former educator, toddler parent, and Paso Robles resident

In the rhythmic world of dance and the serene realm of yoga, Vanessa Salas Orr has walked a transformative path from a dance student to a visionary and community leader. Her journey, from the dance floor to the yoga mat, has taken unexpected turns, shaping her into not only a certified yoga instructor and business owner but also a published author with a heartwarming story to share.

2023 Elisa Clark Huot Camille DeVaul51
Elisa and Clark Huot

Vanessa’s immersion into dance and culture began at the age of four, navigating between ballet, tap, and jazz. Growing up in the mining community of Globe, Arizona, she attended the local celebrations of rich Hispanic and Apache cultures. Her performances with a local dance company graced stages beyond her hometown, including Disneyland, igniting a passion for combining dance and culture.

As an adult, Vanessa completed her teaching credential with a focus on multicultural and multilingual students while minoring in dance. She taught in public school classrooms in Arizona and San Francisco. Pouring her heart into teaching, she absorbed valuable lessons from inspiring mentors. However, the demanding nature of the profession led to a seven-year itch, propelling her to explore new horizons.

Leaving education behind, Vanessa discovered her calling as a yoga instructor. Beginning with hot yoga for adults, she soon realized her heart belonged to teaching children. Armed with a kids’ yoga certification, she embarked on a journey to create meaningful connections with young minds, introducing yoga programs to schools in San Francisco and Paso Robles. She realized that she could combine her love for children with movement and the flexibility to be creative in how she taught.

Inspired by a special nickname given to her by her niece “Yaya,” Vanessa founded Yaya Yoga ca. Starting with adult classes, she later developed a unique approach to children’s classes, emphasizing parent participation. The classes focus on creating a bond of safety and love, away from daily life distractions, incorporating active playfulness, music, singing, movement, and stillness.

“All classes include yoga and breath work. Bare feet offer physiological and neurological benefits, connecting the foot base up to brain transmitters,” Vanessa explains. “Grounding with the earth, releasing toxins, and getting the current from the earth serve as the base for dancing and yoga.” 

Vanessa teaches a variety of yoga, music, movement, and dance classes for kids of all ages for the Paso Robles Recreation Services Department as well as the Class Act Dance studio. Vanessa is actively involved in mindfulness programs, including partnerships with the Mindful Life Project and the Georgia Brown Mindful Classroom. These initiatives, supported by special grants, extend the impact of her teachings beyond the physical. 

Vanessa’s most recent accomplishment was publishing “Calm McYogi’s Farm,” a fun and interactive yoga book for children and their caregivers. After her second-grade teacher told her that she was a talented writer, Vanessa knew she wanted to be an author. She began creating children’s books at a young age, binding them with yarn and a hole punch. The thought of authoring and publishing a children’s book as an adult gave her feelings of nostalgia, love, and pride, but also some nerves. After her first-grade son wrote and published his own book as a classroom project she thought “What am I waiting for?” She already had the story in her head as it was the very program that she used as the structure for her kids’ yoga classes. Her book, recently translated into Spanish, is available to purchase at Darma Yoga Loft, Saunter Yoga, Patch Thrift Boutique, The General Store Paso Robles, and Amazon.

Vanessa’s journey is a testament to the power of embracing change and following one’s passions. Her story inspires us to listen to our inner calling and create a life of purpose and joy.


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