Lalita Salas (Executive Director)
Lalita knew very early on that she had a passion for teaching and initially studied to become an elementary school teacher in her native Argentina. Parental influence directed her to another path, and she became a pharmacist. This gave her knowledge of traditional medicine and chemistry; however, her love of teaching and spirituality kept pulling her in a different direction. She turned to yoga and moved away from traditional pharmacology to what she called the “pharmacy of the kitchen,” and the power of food as medicine.
In 1991 she came to the west coast of Puerto Rico with her husband who had accepted a professorship at Mayaguez University. Lalita had become a certified yoga instructor at Kripalu in 1984, and continued teaching yoga in Rincon, Puerto Rico. There she met a woman who taught yoga at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute.
Experiences, community, history, and purpose all converged to bring Lalita and Ann Wigmore together on July 4, 1991 when Lalita came to the AWNHI to fill in for the injured yoga teacher. As Lalita tells it, “Ann Wigmore was the first person I met when I arrived and I felt such emotion. It was like my heart was leaping inside of me.” This meeting was to lead to an extraordinary connection between them. Lalita had found her mentor and her mission. Ann Wigmore had found her successors. Lalita and Leola Brooks would become the keepers of the living foods legacy.
When she is not teaching at the Institute, Lalita travels throughout the United States, South America, and Europe teaching and sharing the wisdom and embrace of the Living Foods Lifestyle®. Thousands of students have been touched by her broad knowledge, immeasurable kindness and boundless love. Lalita knows the Universe continues to “weave the threads” of her life.
Leola Brooks (Co-Director)
Leola Brooks, with her great talent for public speaking, ability to connect with people, and good humor, was a highly successful lecturer for a leading weight-loss organization for 10 years. She was also one of the founders of the San Francisco Living Foods Support Group.
In 1991, a year after she retired from 35 years of administrative work for the U.S. Government, Leola received an invitation from Ann Wigmore to join her at her newly opened Institute in Puerto Rico. It was a moment in time when life experience, skills, the desire to learn and serve, the love of adventure, and a commitment to the Living Foods Lifestyle® all came together to open the next door.
Leola had made annual visits to the original Optimum Health Institute in San Diego from 1980-91, and had been an invited motivational speaker at the Creative Health Institute in Michigan on several special occasions honoring Ann Wigmore. Both of these institutes had been started by former students of Ann Wigmore who would regularly visit to lecture and offer inspiration. Leola and Dr. Ann met at one of these lectures and Dr. Ann quickly recognized Leola to be a talented, passionate communicator. Leola became Dr. Ann’s assistant at many speaking engagements and Dr. Ann would often invite Leola to speak about the Lifestyle.
When Leola accepted Dr. Ann’s offer to come and work at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute in Puerto Rico, she agreed to stay for only 3 months. She never left! Leola continued to study with Dr. Ann who often told her “Leola, you have a mission here at the Institute.” Leola soon realized this was true. “I was meant to be here and learn.” She became a Reiki Master, a Biofeedback therapist, and a beloved teacher. After Ann Wigmore’s death in 1994, she became Co-Director of the Institute along with Lalita Salas.
Today, at 85 and a half, Leola is still a dynamic, inspirational speaker and teacher. She credits her longevity and vitality to the Living Foods Lifestyle®. She continues to share Dr. Ann’s legacy with people from all over the world. Leola’s deep wisdom, great warmth and contagious joy are an inspiration to our students and staff alike.