Meet Your Teachers
Sandy Bielenberg, Anusara-Inspired™ yoga instructor, began practicing yoga to find relief from a painful, chronic neck injury caused by a car accident as a teenager. She is a long-time student of local Iyengar instructor, Kathy Curran. Anusara Yoga became her path after taking a workshop in 2004 with Christy Burnette. Upon retiring from teaching elementary art at Needham and Animas Valley Elementary Schools, Sandy immersed herself in Anusara, studying with Amy Ippoliti, completing teacher trainings with Desiree Rumbaugh, John Friend, and Jamie Allison, and attending numerous weekend workshops with other senior Anusara teachers. She honors and delights in Anusara's five precise and elegant Universal Principles of Alignment, its heart-based philosophy, and playful style. The alignment principles offer a way to therapeutic healing, safety on the mat, ever-deepening poses, and translate to mindful, heart-full living off the mat.
Sandy is originally from Minnesota but moved to Colorado in the mid-70's working as a river guide and bookseller, then as an elementary teacher. She has lived in SW Colorado since 1984, playing in the mountains, rivers and canyons of our big backyard.
Natalie Brandsma, is a yogini, explorer, dreamer, teacher, inspirer, and life-long student. A registered yoga teacher (RYT 600) and certified yoga therapist, it is Natalie's mission to live authentically, creatively, and consciously-- inspiring her students to do the same. Natalie began "dabbling" with yoga in her teens as cross training for equestrian sports, but it wasn't until college that she fell in love. After one of her friends brought her to a class in 2006, a life-long romance began and Natalie started going to as many classes as she could: 6-7 days a week, often twice in one day. Yoga became a haven away from the high-stress of studying, and she continued to go deeper and deeper with her practice while finishing her degree at Montana State University. After the sudden and traumatic loss of her father in 2009, Natalie found her deepest salvation and healing on the yoga mat. Continuing to pursue her own deep healing and transformation, she has completed 400 hours of training through the Inner Peace Yoga Therapy program. It is now her goal to create an environment where students can develop awareness and presence to facilitate their own healing, growth, and re-connection to self. Natalie holds a BS in Biochemistry and a minor in English Literature; she plans to pursue a degree in osteopathic medicine to further her abilities as a healer, motivator, and health-educator. Natalie's mission is to help each of us to be more present in our bodies and our hearts so that we may be more present in every moment. When not on the yoga mat, Natalie Loves to spend her time playing in the great outdoors. She enjoys hiking and climbing in the mountains, running with her dog, Mac, biking, horseback riding, or reading.
Deb Buck Through teaching yoga and plant medicine, Deb enjoys fusing devotion, strength, integrity, and grace in order to inspire contagious enthusiasm in service to Mother Earth.
As a yoga teacher, Deb finds full enjoyment through which yoga combines strength, flexibility, breath and mindfulness, Deb embraces yoga practice as something that can nourish our spiritual way of life and facilitates pathways back to our true nature. Her specialty is to encourage students toward self-exploration through their connection to nature and exploring how yoga practice can be a metaphor for how we choose to be in life. She loves to blend the teachings of the plants, our relationship to the natural world and the physical practice of yoga. Deb teaches yoga at Yogadurango in Durango, CO. and travels to teach in different states and countries periodically. She has trained with the amazing teachers through Yogadurango and with Indira Kate Kalmbach at the Pavones Yoga Center in Costa Rica.
As an herbalist, Deb has an incredible devotion for facilitating the transmission and reception of plant medicine in the oral tradition. Her curiosity drives her to dig deep, to embark on the adventures of creating relationships with our plant relatives and to seek out those that had the knowledge, the wisdom keepers. She has learned with Elders/Wisdom Keepers from around the globe. Deb’s dedication in her work is to facilitate the transfer of the messages of the Earth and the voices of the plants to create space for building lifelong relationships with the plants. She has been working intimately with the plants for 10+ years building, learning, teaching and practicing. Her daily intention is to continue to learn to live more harmoniously with all sentient beings.
Deb is a mother to a wonderful son.
Amber DeHerrera, born and raised in Colorado, Amber was introduced to the mountains as a young girl and naturally finds her heart and soul anchored here in Durango. She finds her connection with nature, the earth, body, mind and spirit by taking long hikes, running, and mountain biking with her little dog Frankie. The beginning of her journey began right here at Yoga Durango almost three years ago and then this summer she completed their 200 hour Yoga teacher training program. Drawn to all types of Yoga, Amber embraces the transformations that can occur when intertwining Yoga and life. Inspired by many local and visiting teachers, Amber has found the weaving of spiritual teachings and the expression of the heart to have a strong presence in her Yoga practice and teaching style. Her practice reflects a love for music,Vinyasa Yoga, and the power of intention and devotion. Her hope is that each time we come "home" to our Yoga mats we will have an opportunity for healing, learning, forgiveness, gratitude, and grace.
When she is not practicing Yoga, Amber works as a Registered Nurse at Mercy Regional Medical Center. She has also studied Nutrition and Exercise Science prior to nursing which has given her a good foundation and understanding of health, the body, and movement.
Jessica Denison first stepped onto the mat in 1996 and immediately fell in love with yoga. After 15 years as a competitive swimmer, the freedom, grace and flow of yoga was a welcome change. The practice took hold and over time became a much deeper journey steeped in all aspects of yoga. Drawing from many influences and teachers, Jessica weaves together a fun, heart centered practice rich with philosophy and spirit to help participants touch into a deeper meaning within their practice. By sharing her experiences with people she hopes to bring about connection, growth and service of the greater community. By day, Jessica works for a medical gear company, helping provide essential medical supplies to our countries military, law enforcement and first responders. When not at work or yoga, Jessica enjoys backcountry treks, skiing, traveling, dancing and leisurely hikes with her dog, Taber. A graduate of West Virginia University with roots in Rochester NY, she has been in Durango since 2003.
Scott Fallows began studying Ashtanga in 1991. He studied directly with Sri K. Pattabi Jois in Mysore, South India on two separate occasions; and has studied with many great teachers in a variety of other yoga and meditation traditions over the years. Ashtanga yoga remains the spine of his personal practice. His teaching is informed as well by a personal study of anatomy, Advaita Vedanta and Ayurveda. Scott now lives in Durango but has traveled and taught at a number of reputable schools throughout the US and abroad.
Sandra Fleming’s passion for the practice of Yoga has been a lifelong one, though she did not realize this until her later years. Sandra’s mother, Virginia, first to introduced her to Hatha Yoga in the late 1970’s, at the local YWCA. Since that first encounter, she has been fortunate to be introduced to many different schools of practice and to study with some of the most renowned teachers in the country, some who are known worldwide. Among these are Jeanie Manchester, Shannon Paige-Schneider, Amy Ippoliti and Richard Freeman. The journey has been about much more than postures and practice.
Sandra’s practice has carried her through life’s many challenges including divorce, a life threatening illness, and the untimely death of her mother. Each time, she turned to her practice, the soothing meditation of vinyasa, the guidance of gifted and giving teachers. Each class, every return to the mat was like coming home. With every breath, every posture she found more strength, a deepened awareness, greater confidence, compassion and gratitude.
After 25 years of attending classes, seminars, and workshops, she decided that the time had come to deepen her practice once again, to begin teaching, and to share this passion with others. To date Sandra can be found teaching classes in Alignment Based Flow, Bhava Vinyasa Flow and Anjali Restorative Yoga. Two years ago she discovered yet another passion when she was introduced to Stand Up Paddleboarding and now adds SUP Yoga to her list of talents. At 56 years young, she continues to deepen her knowledge through practice and study. Who knows what’s next! You’re never too old; it’s never too late.
Nick Gould's yoga path began in 2010 when he decided to take his personal training and professional mountain biking to the next level. He was looking for a way to balance bike racing and DJing personally, as well as expand his knowledge as a fitness instructor; yoga seemed like a perfect fit. Strength and flexibility were at the forefront of his interest, but after stepping onto the mat, he soon found the practice taking him much deeper spiritually. Yoga gave him an escape from his yang driven life, and his mat provided him space to slow down, breath, and connect to himSelf on a deeper level. Nick uses yoga as a tool to aid in recovery from racing, heal injuries, and keep his mind, body, and soul balanced in order to live a healthy, fulfilling life. He has dabbled in all things yoga, but his heart lies in teaching (and practicing) energetic, dynamic vinyasa flow practice. Combining fast-paced movements with alignment cues, Nick's classes will challenge even the most experienced yogis. Being a professional DJ, it was only natural for him to start DJing yoga classes. Uniting people through music and yoga is a passion of DJ Niko. His live sets take students on a musical journey combining rhythm with movement, taking your practice to a deeper level.
Kirsten Gum, a Dynamic Vinyasa Instructor, joins the Durango yoga community from the mecca of yoga in the US - Venice, California where she studied under Hatha yoga greats as Ganga White, Annie Carpenter, Vinnie Marino, Baron Baptiste, Kathryn Budig and Shiva Rae. She received her teaching certification 8 years ago from the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA and has taught at retreats all over the world including Ecuador, Peru, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the US. Kirsten loves diving deep into a playful vinyasa flow practice, infusing lots of soul & inspiration into her sequences. For her, yoga is a lifestyle, not just to be practiced on the mat, but in all aspects of life!
All levels are welcomed in class as she offers variations to each asana (pose). Kirsten reminds her students, not to take themselves too seriously, as yoga is not to be perfected, but offered as a form of growth: physically, mentally and spiritually. Smiling & laughing are part of it. Each class includes verbal instruction, pranayama (breathing exercises), sun salutations to warm the body & link the breath, before diving into more playful vinyasa flow (sequencing & moving with breath), challenging inversions and balancing poses.
For Kirsten, yoga is expansive and ever changing. Just as your body & soul feel differently each day, Her sequencing and music change as well, allowing the body to grow and adapt. You start where you are, holding yourself in the brightest most compassionate light, then step forward into your practice and onto the mat.
*Kirsten is available for private instruction in the privacy of your home. Please call 310-729-0968.
***Kirsten Gum is also a certified raw/vegan chef and instructor and owns Earth Girl Goodies in Durango, CO. If you’d like to know more about her “chef” services, please visit www.earthgirlgoodies.com
Heather Hooten's yogic journey began here in Durango in 2000. At that time, she was primarily interested in asana as a way to connect and center herself...never suspecting that path would eventually lead to teaching others.
Practicing more on than off, Heather became most dedicated when pregnant with her son, Grady. Committing to a regular practice changed her perspective of yoga, learning what the asanas have to offer both physically and emotionally. A Winter Retreat (2008) was a first for Heather in many ways, her first time away from her baby, and her first intensive practice...she never looked back. She began taking advantage of every opportunity to continue her education, including workshops with Christy Burnette, Darren Rhodes, Peter Sterios and Alanna Kaivalya. When her local studio offered a Yoga Teacher Training, Heather was the first person to turn in her application. She completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training through YogaDurango in fall of 2010. Heather teaches a variety of Vinyasa style asana, and infuses her classes with the other seven limbs of yoga as well. She recently attended a 20 hour PreNatal Yoga Teacher Training, and is excited to add yet another path on her yogic journey.
With a blind leap of faith, Heather moved to Durango in 1992 with the support and encouragement of her Aunt and Uncle. She is a graduate of Fort Lewis College and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology. In 2002, Heather went back to school and received an Associate's Degree in Nursing, and has a background in Labor and Delivery. Shortly after her son was born in 2007, she created and now teaches a Childbirth Education class, Go with The Flow.
Heather considers herself lucky to live in an area like Durango that nourishes her both emotionally and physically...none of which would be possible without the unyielding love and support from her husband since 2003, Jason.
Sara Keyser uses an integrative approach to teaching that combines insight, playfulness and compassion to form deep connections with her class. She is passionate about the value and transformative aspects of yoga and is grateful to have the opportunity to share its virtues. Drawling inspiration from many styles, Sara places precedence on understanding the needs of her students with keen awareness to the changing environment and the season.
A natural athlete and outdoors enthusiast, Sara’s perspective of the body has evolved through her experience in competitive sports, endurance training and outdoor pursuits. She emphasizes the pertinence of proper alignment on the yoga mat to maximize strength, flexibility and ease in other activities. Devoted to the path of self-realization, Sara traveled to Southeast Asia to deepen her study of yoga, meditation and eastern medicinal methods. In beautiful Bali, Indonesia she became accredited to teach yoga under the guidance of Tara Judelle, certified Anusara & Body-Mind Centering teacher.
The Anusara method, rooted in Tantric philosophy, has inspired Sara to weave all of her interest into a grounded, spiritually infused, mind-body practice. She invites students to come to the mat with respect to where they are. Outside of teaching, Sara is a writer, chef and designer.
Joy Kilpatrick is a certified Yoga Therapist & 500 hr registered Yoga Teacher, Thai Yoga Bodyworker, Wholistic Fitness™ Trainer and LifeStyle Coach. Joy also teaches Kids Yoga and offers FamilyTime Yoga Classes. Joy has been featured in InStyle Magazine with Oscar Winner Marlee Matlin, and wrote and instructed a “Quick Fix: Power Yoga Workout” DVD, which aires on Gaiam TV. She also contributes articles on Yoga for various magazines. Joy’s passion in life is to sacredly serve others through various healing modalities while empowering them to live authentically from their Essential Self.
To learn more about Joy, visit: BreathWorksWithJoy.com
Sarah Klein Sarah’s passion and enthusiasm for the practice of yoga shines through the minute you meet her. Her classes are upbeat, lighthearted and fun, aiding students to push themselves to their edge, but no further. She strives to lead a class in which individuals of all levels and yoga backgrounds feel comfortable and able to develop their own personal practice. Her mission is to assist others in finding a moving, breathing, meditation on and off the mat. Initially inspired by Ashtanga yoga, Sarah began her studies in 2008 with Larry Schultz, completing her first 200hr YAC. She then stayed with the school to complete a master’s level YAC Rocket training led by David Kyle. Sarah took the role as a leader in training teachers to be YAC through the It’s Yoga System. Inspired by the idea that anyone can do yoga, Sarah turned her studies to therapeutic yoga. She completed a training to specialize her to work with cancer survivors during all stages of recovery. She is continuously moved by the role yoga can take in the process of healing. Sarah is also a health and nutrition coach and owner of Whole Health Lab, to learn more about Sarah check out her site www.wholehealthlab.com
Michelle Hemingway, MD received her BS in Biochemistry and BA in Psychology from the University of North Texas. She graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1986 and completed her internship in Family Medicine at the University of Massachusetts. She is a life-long student of Buddhism and Eastern spirituality and her relationship to medicine is informed by and deeply rooted in the spiritual domain. She moved to Durango in 2010 and discovered the power of yoga. Upon completing the Yoga Durango Yoga Teacher Training (YTT 200) in 2013 she strongly resonated with yoga nidra as a potent healing tool for the whole person and especially the nervous system. She has discovered the power of Yoga Nidra in helping truly relax the body, mind and spirit to help bring both physical and energetic body awareness to the healing process.
Damiane McMillen has been practicing yoga, meditation and pranayama since 1998. She is a certified yoga instructor, RYT 500, Natural Therapeutics Specialist and Ayurvedic Practitioner. Damiane studied for two years at the Ayurvedic Institute with Dr. Vasant Lad and was fortunate to be invited to the Guru Kula Program, an advanced study working with Dr. Lad and his clients. She has been a volunteer for the Art of Living Foundation since 2000, teaching stress reduction workshops that include yoga, pranayama and meditation. Her passion is to inspire others to continually return to balance, wellness and happiness using the ancient wisdom Yoga and Ayurveda.
Joan Pope, OTR/L, MS, certified Iyengar Yoga instructor, began her yoga practice in 1994 while in graduate school for occupational therapy at UNC-Chapel Hill. When she discovered the many ways her daily yoga practice supported her, she wanted to share the benefits of yoga with others and began teaching in 1996. Joan has studied with teachers from various traditions, but continually returned to Iyengar Yoga practice as she found its focus on precision and alignment very grounding as well as helpful in keeping her back pain free. Joan completed her 200 hour teacher training at Lighten Up Yoga in Asheville, NC. In 2006 she moved from Boone, NC to Durango, CO and since then has taught yoga at various locations (i.e. Yogadurango, 4 Corners Yoga, Inhabit). In 2013 Joan completed the Iyengar Yoga assessment and is now a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher at the Introductory II level. Joan enjoys teaching Beginner’s and students who have back pain or other joint pain as she feels learning the precision and alignment offered in Iyengar yoga will assist students in practicing yoga safely no matter what style of yoga they choose to practice.
Tess Riabokin "Build an honest practice". This quote from one of Tess's longtime teachers - sums up why she gets on the mat and loves to teach.
"How you show up on the mat is a reflection of how you show up in your life and what is going on in your life - listen, watch, breathe!"
Tess is a 200HR YAC instructor. She began her training at the It's Yoga Studio in San Francisco with Larry Schultz in 2008 wehre she studied Ashtanga and Rocket. Her time with the It's Yoga School was a game-changer in her life - in addition to teaching yoga she was inspired to take up study of Ayurveda and philosophy. She has traveled to India where she spent time exploring Ayurvedic medicine, Tibetan Buddhism and Iyengar yoga.
She has taught in San Francisco and D.C. in a variety of settings from residential rehab facilities to studios to the wilderness. With foundational elements of Ashtanga, Tess's classes are athletic and creative with a healthy sense of humor. She aims to guide her students to build an honest practice on the mat, meeting their bodies where they're at and moving at an authentic pace.
Tess finds a similar peace and connection to the self in the wilderness. She has been a guide for 10 years. A former doglsedding guide, she has led trips in the Boundary Waters, Canadian Quetico, Wind Rivers and Alaska. She moved to Durango in 2011 to work as wilderness therapy guide and was able to incorporate her knowledge of yoga to work with her students. She has found great reward and passion for helping connect individuals to healing experiences in the wild.
She is currently a student of the Vedic Institute in Santa Fe, studying yoga and Ayurveda, and is Field Director for Open Sky Wilderness Therapy.
Lily Russo has been practicing yoga most of her life. It has been a tool of transformation, health, and empowerment since her teen years. Her initial practice of yoga asana lead her to study all the other facets including pranayama, meditation, and yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, as well as other influential disciplines, primarily Buddhism, the Tao, and plant medicines. Through these studies she has come to an understanding that all systems of life are intricately interconnected, and practices which lead us to recognize our relations to our higher selves and to all other beings as well as the natural world create a life of harmony. As a teacher Lily’s goal is to impart her love of these practices on her students, so that they may use them as tools towards achieving mental calm and clarity, as well as physical strength and grace. She attended the Shambava School of Yoga in 2008 for her initial training, and has since gone back for additional studies. As a frequent traveler, she’s been blessed to have studied with many incredible teachers around the world. Her teaching style is influenced by Prana Flow, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and many others. She crafts classes based on the needs and abilities of her students, the time of day and year, and her intuition around what is energetically calling for attention in the moment. Her other work as an independent artist allows her to channel her life force energy built through these practices into colorful works of creation. She is open to all mediums, especially painting, mosaics, ceramics, and textiles. With her husband, she leads Fire Walks, another transformational tool of self empowerment. More information on her teaching can be found at facebook.com/yogaflowlilyrusso, and her artistic endeavors at www.lilymosaics.com
Rusty Toth enjoyed a career as professional ballet dancer and found the need to do some cross training when he discovered Ashtanga yoga. He fell in love with the practice and upon retiring from the stage, completed a teacher training program with At One Yoga in Scottsdale, AZ. He began teaching power vinyasa yoga and discovered a passion in the practice. His journey with yoga has been founded on energetic movement balanced with grounding postures. His hope for guiding a practice is that it may be like a journey, beginning in one place and reaching another.
Lynn Wickersham (RYT 200) has been practicing yoga and meditation since 2001 and has studied a variety of yoga styles including Iyengar, Hatha, Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Yin Yoga. A former fitness instructor, Lynn initially turned to yoga to increase her flexibility and reduce stress; but, through regular practice, she experienced not only yoga's physical benefits but also deepened her connection between mind, body, and spirit. Lynn received her formal yoga training in 2009 at the Yandara Yoga Institute, Baja California Sur, where her practice blossomed as both a teacher and a student. She believes that the practice of yoga is a journey into the self, which leads to compassion for others, attunement with the environment, and personal contentment. It is her intention to guide students along their own journey to realize the physical, mental, and emotional benefits that yoga has to offer.
Outside of her yoga practice, Lynn is a professional wildlife biologist, primarily conducting avian research and monitoring in the Four Corners region. She lives and plays in Durango with her husband John, and together they enjoy backpacking, skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Katie Walsh, RYT, Calming Kids Certified Instructor, and MA/Ed. has been practicing yoga for 17 years. A former fitness instructor, competitive runner and cyclist, Katie sought out yoga due to injuries and a quest for spiritual fitness.
Katie's primary practice is rooted in Anusara Yoga, which she is fortunate and grateful to be guided by master teachers Desiree Rumbaugh, Christy Burnett, and Christina Sell. Katie continues to develop her practice and instruction by attending workshops with Seanne Corn, Rusty Wells, Tias Little, Richard Freeman, John Friend, Noah Maze, Regina Zwilling, and Scott Blossom. In addition, she has attended Kripalu Yoga Institute with Shiva Rea and Kundalini master, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. A breast cancer survivor, Katie believes strongly in the gifts, lessons, motivation, and well-being that the discovery of yoga offers.
Katie is a former educator of 25 years, teaching elementary and middle school students in Arizona and Colorado. She is an ambassador for the Calming Kids program, focusing on yoga principles and anti-bullying education. Katie is recognized throughout local school communities sharing her knowledge, enthusiasm, and love for yoga and kids. Katie also teaches toddlers for Durango Pediatric Associates. The most rewarding aspects of her teaching, Katie finds, is watching her students/gurus grow in their own personal and physical transformation. Katie believes that the challenges that occur on the mat often parallel those in everyday life. Through her practice and teaching of yoga, Katie has found that transforming ourselves is a process rather than an event. Katie also believes that through the consistent practice of yoga that we begin to acknowledge our true grace and connection to self, others, and our communities.
Originally a Durango native, Katie takes advantage of every outdoor activity that the San Juan Mountains offers. She instructs weekly hot vinyasa classes and kids yoga classes.
Brady Wilson, born and raised in Colorado, has lived happily in Durango for the past thirteen years. A childhood student of aikido, Brady’s spiritual development began at a very early age and was nurtured throughout his life through exposure to chi gung, Dzogchen, Tibetan Buddhism, and various Native American traditions. His father first taught him Trikonasana when he was twelve years old, and his curiosity for yoga was spawned! A natural born athlete, Brady balanced his spiritual life in modern culture with a career in professional snowboarding for the majority of his adolescence.
Having practiced at the Yogadurango studio since its beginnings under the careful guidance of Michele Lawrence, Sheryl McGourty, and Kim Self (among many other wonderful instructors), Brady completed Yogadurango’s 2010 Teacher Training Program and gained tremendous insight into the ancient and honorable tradition that is Yoga. Taking every possible opportunity to deepen his own practice and understanding, he is eager to share what he is learning with the greater community.
A Dancer, Poet, and all-around outdoor enthusiast, Brady is very aware of the importance of maintaining the body and mind for optimal performance in this long and often challenging life. He believes with yoga we learn to care more deeply for ourselves, and become better equipped to care for those around us, enriching our families and communities, and eventually effecting positive change in greater world in which we live!