Trish Johnson

Manitou Founder, Teacher, Activist

“What I have come to learn on a deeply personal level throughout my life, is that relationships are the foundation of living an intimately present and engaged life; the relationship with myself, with others whom I know and don’t know, with nature and with the dynamic unfolding mystery around me.  This relationship, of meeting ourselves and others with compassion and an open mind and heart, begins the process of healing ourselves and the world.”


My first personal experience into how the mind-body connection works was the late 1980s, when a guest instructor visited my highschool and offered our volleyball team something I had never experienced before;  an access point into feeling/experiencing my mind, body and emotions as an interconnected unit. What she lead us through that day was a simple body scan, a way of connecting with the different parts of one’s body and emotions for the purposes of recognition, checking-in, awareness, and relaxation.  I was immediately fascinated to this day, I have never forgotten that experience because it was so unlike anything I had felt within myself before. Unfortunately (because I was so ready for more), I never saw that woman again, nor did I come into contact with this way of deeply connecting with my whole self until the end of my college career (early ‘90s) when I took  a tai chi class at Winona State University. I was immediately drawn to the integration of mind-body practice and continued to study tai chi until the end of college, and for a brief time in Minneapolis, before moving to France. Tai chi was an entry point for me into meditation. While living in Paris, I began reading books on meditation and practicing meditation on my own. Over the next many years I lived and traveled overseas from Europe, to Africa, to Asia. I volunteered and worked as a teacher.  I spent a lot of time with myself and developed a deep sense of self awareness both through meditation and from the diverse relationships I developed across the world. For me, there couldn’t have been a better and more impacting education than those years throughout my 20s. I began to settle into myself and to understand the reality of the human condition; life is filled with wonderful AND painful experiences (and many others in between) and those realities change all of the time. Once I began to realize that I could be available to myself during the ups AND downs of life, I began to understand how I could be more deeply and fully available for anyone I met along the way.  It was both scary and empowering!

During the late 90s, while living  and working in Taiwan, I was studying Tai Chi with an inspiring and seasoned Tai Chi teacher in her mid 70s.  I signed up for my first silent meditation retreat (in Thailand) in 1998, and eventually ended up in India and Nepal where I spent much time, over the course of a year, studying and practicing meditation with different teachers. In 2001, I returned to India to volunteer at a women’s weaving project and orphanage.  It was then that I began my practice in Iyengar yoga. I have a deep amount of gratitude for the multitude of offerings that Asia provided to me throughout those years. There was so much to learn everywhere I ended up and I am deeply and forever grateful to all of the people who offered up their homes, their teachings (of all sorts), their friendship and their life stories with me.   In the early 2000s I returned to Minneapolis and found a meditation and yoga community to maintain practice with and began to really understand how these life experiences and the practices of meditation and yoga were the foundation from which I was, and continue to, living my life.  There is no “practice” and “life”.  It’s ALL life!  Since university, I have spent thousands of hours working with children, adolescents and families in various capacities;  in the classroom, individually, in partnership with schools, nonprofits and community organizations. In 2008, I moved from Minneapolis, with my family to Winona, MN where my husband Paul Stern and I eventually opened Manitou Center in 2010. Since then, I have completed a 300-hour teacher training through Mindful Schools in CA, launched mindfulness in the classroom in 7 schools in the Winona area, developed mind-body trainings for individuals, children, adults, families, workplaces and communities at large throughout the midwest. In 2018, after nearly 18 years of practice and study, I became a certified yoga teacher and have grown my knowledge of working with trauma by studying with Firefly Yoga International.  

Life is a continuous journey, there is no end to our own self discovery and how all of us inter-relates to and with those around us and the world at large. I am dedicated to my own mind-body, breath-based practices. I believe strongly that the more we understand who we are, the more we can understand others. This philosophy naturally builds the foundation for living in the present moment with curiosity, patience, love and compassion; which are at the heart and foundation of how I work. I feel deeply grateful to live in the beautiful bluff country region of SE Minnesota with my wonderful globe-trotting husband of many decades and our 2 children who provide ongoing inspiration and joy.


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686 W. 5th St., Winona, Minnesota

(507) 961-5665    |

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