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, as a dancer and gymnast for most of her younger life, Deb has always had an appreciation for movement. After her first yoga class in 2000, she was immediately attracted to the open possibilities asana has to offer. In finding full enjoyment through which yoga combines strength, flexibility, breath and mindfulness, Deb began to embrace asana practice as something that could nourish her spiritual way of life as well. As her practice of yoga deepened, she completed her 200 hr yoga teacher training at Yoga Durango in the fall of 2010 and felt drawn to share the gift of yoga with the Durango community. Having worked in the field of holistic plant medicine for more than a decade, Deb notices the benefits yoga can offer to facilitate a healthier lifestyle and deepening our connection to our wholeness. She is always eager to deepen her practice and explore the infinite possibilities of integrating the principles of Yoga into her daily life. Through teaching yoga, Deb enjoys fusing devotion, strength, integrity, and grace in order to inspire contagious enthusiasm in service to our wholeness.
Deb is a Clinical Herbalist, practicing from her home and teaching classes about the local medicinal plants. She is also co-creator of Chanchka Remedios. She spends as much time as possible with her wonderful son, Cedar, hiking, backpacking, and observing the wild places on the Earth.
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.
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.
Celeste Greene Celeste Greene has been practicing yoga for over ten years, starting when she was in high school. She was initially attracted to yoga because of the peace and patience she found within herself at each class. With a background in dance, she started to fall in love with the fluidity, creativity and mindfulness of yoga.
Celeste received her teaching certificate (RYT 200) in 2008 at the Yandara Yoga Institute, and has since continued her education with a concentration in Vinyasa and AcroYoga. As a student and teacher, she is continually inspired by the natural unfolding of the body and mind. Celeste has a strong meditation practice with her teacher of 4 years and often incorporates this into her classes. Celeste's teaching style is grounded in breath, strength and the exploration of our inner selves.
Celeste's loves (other than yoga) are acrobatics, dancing, her dog "Edge", cooking delicious meals, baking delicious things, gardening, and planning events. She is an event coordinator planning weddings, local food events, The Living Yoga Project and progressive neighborhood dinners. She loves creating a space in which others can enjoy, learn and grow.
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.
Joy Kilpatrick is a certified, registered (RYT 200+) Yoga Teacher and Thai Yoga Therapist as well as a Wholistic FitnesTM Trainer and LifeStyle Coach. It is Joy's honor and sacred duty to safely guide and empower her students as they journey inward and upward on the Path of Unity. Joy has also been featured in InStyle Magazine and has written and instructed a "Quick Fix" Power Yoga DVD for Current Wellness which can be viewed and practiced on Gaiam TV. Joy is also a contributing Yoga writer to various magazines. Joy and her daughter, Dewachen, have been teaching 'Lil Yogi' classes since 2008. Joy works privately with individuals as well as in group practices.
To learn more about Joy, visit: BreathWorksWithJoy.com
Daniel Pelletier First learning about yoga in 1998, Daniel began practicing regularly in 2002 when he took his first Bikram Yoga class. Reading his first yoga book, Religiousness in Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar, he learned early on that yoga is much more than a physical practice. With an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, the philosophy of Yoga resonated with Daniel. Pranayama and meditation quickly accompanied his asana practice at home. Daniel has a deep appreciation for all forms of yoga and also for the martial arts. In 2006, Daniel went to massage school in Crestone, Colorado where he learned Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Kundalini Yoga combines several schools of yoga including Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raj Yoga, and Laya Yoga. Kundalini Yoga blends asana, pranayama, mantra, music and last but not least, meditation; it is an energetic practice affecting the student on many levels beyond though still including the physical. Daniel quickly fell in love with the discipline of KY and started his first 40 day meditation less than a week into massage school with several more to follow. The main 'goal' of KY is to raise the Kundalini energy (referred to as prana, chi, or life force in other disciplines) so that the practitioner may activate her fullest potential, physical and beyond. Yogi Bhajan brought this technology to the West in the late 60's in order to create teachers, not disciples; he wanted to prepare mankind for the coming changes of the Aquarian Age. Daniel has had profound life changes and realizations with this practice and hopes to share it with you soon. Daniel also practices massage and continues to study various forms of health and healing including diet/nutrition, Astrology, ecstatic dance, music, the power of intention, communication, breakthroughs in science and technology, social/political theory and more. He enjoys spending time with his dog, hiking (barefoot), cold plunges in the river, traveling, learning and teaching what excites him, and more. He believes that all things are possible and that each person is capable of anything. Daniel is excited to be alive in this day and age.
Joan Pope moved to Durango in 2006 from Boone, North Carolina where she taught Iyengar influenced since 1996. Joan received her teacher training from Lillah Schwartz, a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor in Asheville, NC. Since then she has continued her studies with teachers in the Iyengar tradition including: Patricia Walden, Elise Miller, John Shumaker, and Manouso Manos. Locally Joan studies with Kathy Curran, certified Iyengar instructor. She also enjoys exploring other alignment based practices with such teachers as Rodney Yee, Doug Keller, Eric Schiffman, Aadil Palkhivala, and Desiree Rumbaugh. Joan also works as an Occupational Therapist at 4 Corners Health Care Center here in Durango where she incorporates Yoga into her treatments to assist the aging population with postural alignment and more effective breathing. Joan feels that one of her missions is to teach people ways to use yoga throughout the lifespan to enhance quality of life. Her classes are infused with practical ways to weave yoga into everyday life. Nonviolence is a key focus in Joan's classes as she encourages each individual to meet themselves where they are and to allow yoga to help free them both physically and mentally.
Lily Russo (RYT 260) My goal as a teacher is to impart my love of yoga on my students, so that they may use it as a tool in their lives towards achieving mental calm and clarity, as well as physical strength and flexibility. I relish the joy and expansiveness that comes with finding freedom in your body as you progress through deeper and more powerful poses, but for me yoga is much more than just physical fitness, . It is about training your mind, breath, and body to work harmoniously, taking the practice from your mat into your everyday life. It is about bringing your own highest potential to light, and developing positive energy to radiate and share..
I began practicing yoga regulary over 10 years ago. Even before I took my first class, I would take study breaks to stretch and rejuvenate, innately sensing the power of the body mind connection.
In June 2008 I attended Shoshoni Yoga Retreat in Colorado for the 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training and have since gone back for additional training. As a frequent traveller, I've been blessed to have studied with many incredible teachers around the country and internationally. My teaching style is influenced by Anusara, Iyengar, Prana Flow, and Ashtanga, among others.
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.
Erika Wilson Golightly taught classical dance forms for 10 years and was working toward a professional dance career when she was stolen to yoga. Since her first class in 1994, Erika has enjoyed practicing various styles of yoga that add new dimensions to a deep understanding of the body as a means to increase awareness for meditation. When the spiritual experience of the body equates to a religion, yoga is a natural conduit toward unity with our inner luminosity.
It was in attempt to escape the chaos of Manhattan when Erika discovered Jivamukti Yoga and immersed in intense practice and teachers encouraged her to teach. Erika endeavors to inspire and nourish her students through passionate playful practice.
A Colorado native, Erika enjoys everything the southwest offers, especially the community. She has worked in hospice care relief and has experience with death and dying. Erika earned degrees in communications and psychology from Fort Lewis College and is working on obtaining a MS in Transpersonal Psychology. She is a student of the buddhadharma and a practitioner of vipassana meditation. Erika is currently obtaining a certification with Prajna Yoga facilitated by Tias Little.
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!