In creating Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness, one of the most impactful decisions we had to make was to choose teachers who could co-create this community with us. We intentionally sought out individuals from whom we enjoy learning, and who engage in ongoing exploration and have a sense of humor.
Our amazing team of teachers continues to grow! Check them out!
I’m a native Upper West Sider, an educator, yoga teacher and integrative therapist who uses yoga, Reiki, aromatherapy, nutritional and contemplative counseling, and Thai Bodywork with my clients. I have spent over two decades working with diverse populations: from the homeless and incarcerated to the economically secure. Whether a person is in a hospital bed with highly limited mobility, in hospice or fully ambulatory, brimming with strength and vitality, I love working with people who, at the very least, are open to learn. The moment of inquiry can be a dynamic time of new action and change. It is one that I relish! I am grateful to have studied with (and continue to study with) an amazing grouping of teachers. Here is a partial listing: Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee, Richard Freeman, Mary Taylor, Richard Rosen, Joan Halifax, Koshin Paley Ellison, Robert Chodo Cambell, Alan Finger, Charles Matkin, Jason Ray Brown, Jenny Arthur, Chrissy Carter and Jodie Rufty, as well as workshops with Rod Stryker, Mark Whitwell and Ramanand Patel. Apart from yoga, I hold an MA in Counseling and Guidance from NYU and a BS from Ithaca College.
I’m a transplanted Upper West Sider by way of Massachusetts as a baby, Germany as a child, New Jersey as a tween/teen, upstate New York as a college student, and Manhattan post-college (with a little stopover in Paris for a year and the Caribbean for six months). Prompted by my own health crisis in the early 90s, I dove headfirst into studying every imaginable method of natural healing (nutrition, bodywork, mental/emotional/spiritual practices, energy practices, movement) and my main entry points became healthy eating and practicing Reiki. A natural-born klutz (yes, the last picked for kickball, always), I was also stunned to find that I could feel strong and graceful while doing yoga. I was hooked. So blessed to train with the best teachers I could imagine at YogaWorks, Urban Zen and elsewhere (alongside Stephan the entire time, so I’m conveniently saying “ditto” to his list above), yoga became my tool to finally integrate my mind and my body. As an integrative therapist and wellness tourguide, I specialize in yoga, Reiki, aromatherapy, nutritional counseling, feng shui, spiritual counseling and life-cycle ceremonies for a diverse array of private clients and groups, from the radiantly healthy to the dying. I’m an RYT-500, completed and continue to mentor for the Urban Zen Integrative Therapist training, am a Reiki Master in the Usui lineage and am an ordained Interfaith Minister. Of course, most importantly, I’m also a full-time mom to our fabulous daughter, Shakti, my most powerful teacher so far.
Sylvie came to NYC intending to pursue a dance career, but Life quickly re-routed her towards the healing arts professions. A Certified Yoga Teacher from the World Yoga Center, one of the longest-running Yoga centers in NYC, she began teaching yoga full-time in 1996. Since then, she’s become a skilled Thai massage practitioner (Lotus Palm School), licensed massage therapist, and obtained certifications as a Meditation Teacher and Ayurvedic Health Coach from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. All those modalities have shaped and sharpened her teaching in many ways. Sylvie’s style is thorough, with a strong emphasis on proper alignment while being accommodating to everyone’s unique needs. She’s often been told her classes were “deep”, her voice “immensely soothing” and her “down-to-earth spirituality easy to relate to.” Equally at ease within the western and eastern health paradigms, her classes appeal to left and right-brain individuals alike. As a long-time NYC dweller (and Upper West Sider!), Sylvie is forever grateful to yoga and meditation for keeping her calm and grounded in this fast-moving world. She teaches Yoga as a tool for optimal health of body, mind and spirit, knowing that it can help us all reach our highest potential. www.stressfreeinthecity.com and http://yogavpk.com/blog/
Lisa has been teaching for over 20 years and is renowned for her brilliant sequencing, her radiant energy and her ability to lead you through intensity while getting you to smile the whole time. She was trained through personal mentorship from Alan Finger and her teachers include Angela Farmer, Glenn Black and Kevin Gardiner. Lisa’s Yoga Zone: Power Yoga video was rated #1 by Natural Health magazine and her classes have been rated as the “best high energy in the country” by Allure magazine. She co-directed the Teacher Training at the Mind Body Therapy Department at Haelth, a complementary Health Care Center in NYC founded by Dr. William Fair, and she has been on the faculty of Kripalu, Omega and The Open Center. Lisa is the star of Anchor Bay’s Healing Yoga line of videos and she has participated in writing, developing and producing over 23 retail videos and DVD releases. She is currently a contributing editor at Fit Yoga magazine and has also contributed to numerous other publications. Lisa’s teaching style finds inspiration from her own life challenges and experiences, which she shares generously from her heart and spirit to guide others to reconnect with their own uniqueness. www.lisabennettyoga.com
Kelly Brennan teaches yoga to people of all ages, from babies to seniors and everyone in between. She also has the honor of traveling to cities around the world sharing her passion for kid’s yoga through her role as Teacher Training Facilitator at Karma Kids Yoga. She has completed numerous certifications including those of Om Yoga, Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater, Prenatal Yoga with Janice Clarfield, Yoga Mom Buddha Baby, Karma Kids Yoga, Radiant Child Yoga Program, Circus Yoga, and Every Kid’s Yoga for Children with Special Needs. Kelly is known to be a patient, nurturing, and fun yoga teacher. Her adult classes incorporate a creative flow of sequencing that links movement to breath while practicing mindful alignment. Her classes for kids often include playful games, music, adventures and contagious laughter. www.kellybrennanyoga.com
Jason (LMT, ERYT500) is a seasoned yoga teacher, anatomy educator and licensed massage therapist. His interest in Eastern philosophy and human movement were piqued at an early age, the former by browsing through his hippy mom’s illustrated Bhagavad Gita and the latter by watching Bruce Lee movies and taking martial arts classes. He discovered yoga much later in life, but it seemed like the perfect mix of those early influences. After acquiring teaching certifications from Integral Yoga and OM Yoga, he dove headlong into teaching group classes and private lessons and eventually workshops and teacher trainings. A desire for a stronger education in anatomy eventually led Jason to the Swedish Institute, which not only added massage therapy to his growing list of professional offerings but a passion for studying and teaching anatomy through his widely acclaimed Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers programs (www.ASFYT.com). While in massage school, he also began studying tai chi and Zen Buddhism, and started incorporating aspects of each in his classes. This eventually led to the creation of Zenyasa®, a slow-paced, moderately challenging but accessible flow practice that is relatively unique in its sequencing and approach to yoga asana. He taught Zenyasa® at Reebok Sports Club, Yoga Works, Pure Yoga, and most recently the Zenyasa Yoga & Wellness Studio, where he continues to offer private yoga and massage therapy. Jason resides in Riverdale with his wife Frances and their two children, Gabriel and Mikaela. You can visit him on the web at www.jasonraybrown.com
Alex hopes to share with others the experience of balance and serenity that yoga has unlocked for her. She spent three years researching adult development in a psychology lab and seven years working in the financial industry before shifting her focus to teaching yoga. Alex has completed over 500 hours of training in yoga and integrative yoga therapy, primarily in the Yoga Shanti lineage under Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee, and her teaching style is a rhythmic flow that is sequenced to promote balance in the body. Alex also practices restorative yoga therapy, utilizing yoga movement, restorative postures, essential oils, and Reiki, and is currently in the process of becoming an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist. She completed her first teacher training at YogaWorks and her second teacher training at Yoga Shanti in NYC. She received additional training in Restoratives at YogaWorks with Jillian Pransky and with the Urban Zen faculty at Yoga Shanti. Alex is grateful for all of the wonderful teachers and mentors that have influenced her teaching, including Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee, Joyce Englander Levy, Gillian Cilibrasi, Tracey Toomey McQuade, Jenny Hudak, Menna Olvera, Maggan Daileader, Lippy Orem, Kari Harendorf, Leah Kinney, Jodie Rufty, Dani Zuccheri, Amy Tobin, Mary-Beth Charno, Kirtan Smith, Keely Garfield, Koshin Paley Ellison, and Robert Chodo Campbell. In addition to her yoga training, Alex holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology from Georgia Tech.
Originally from Stockholm, Sweden, Maggan spent 15 years in corporate finance and banking before hanging up her pinstriped suits. After 2 Master’s degrees in finance and accounting, she came to realize that she wanted to be a human development specialist or, specifically, a stay-at-home mom to her now 4-year old twins, Madeleine and Declan. Maggan has been practicing yoga since 1993, is a graduate of the Yoga Shanti 300-hr program and is also certified as an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist. Maggan’s principal teachers are Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman, Richard Rosen, Richard Freeman and Heidi Fokine. She and her family split their time between the Upper West Side and the East End of Long Island.
Melissa’s life changed when she discovered the healing and transformative effects of yoga, and after having been a lawyer at the NYPD, she left the law and trained at Rasa Yoga (sound-based Kripalu-style), the Breathing Project (individualized, breath-centered derived from viniyoga), and Integral Yoga (Hatha; Gentle and Chair). Melissa has taught at Integral, The Open Center, The Breathing Project, Gilda’s Club, JCC, Rasa Yoga, and Omega Institute. Certified in Pilates Mat by LindaFit Pilates at Equinox, her yoga classes are infused with core-strengthening movements. A Tai Chi Easy™ facilitator, she teaches that and Qigong at Dorot for seniors and Visions for the Blind. Combining her modalities and Third Degree Reiki training, she teaches Stress Reduction Workshops for organizations. Also currently an assistant ballet teacher at Steps, Melissa completed a children’s ballet teacher training at ABT, returning to her roots as a dancer — having danced professionally with Pennsylvania Ballet before attending Barnard College and Columbia Law School. She recently filmed the “Ten Minute Stretch Break” DVD with Finis Jhung. Delighted to be teaching at this wonderful addition to the neighborhood — Upper West Side Yoga & Wellness — Melissa is a long-time resident of the UWS, and co-founded The West 80s Neighborhood Association (www.west80s.org). www.goodenergymovementandwellness.com and www.facebook.com/goodenergyyogareiki
Michael Fergot is an RYT500 Anusara-Inspired Teacher who first stumbled across yoga in 1982 in Madison, Wisconsin, as an Asian Studies major. Flowing through several martial art forms and a dance career, Yoga has been a consistent thread in the tapestry of his life. In 2001, on retreat at a Zen monastery, Michael was introduced to Anusara by Jackie Prete. Feeling a profound connection to this practice, the next year was his first Teacher Training with Jackie and Ellen Saltonstall, which changed his life trajectory. He has been teaching full-time ever since. Over the next decade, thanks to dozens of amazing teachers, he continues to explore the expansive possibilities of Yoga. His classes are always an exploration of the gift and privilege of practice, a playful alignment approach to the wonder of life. www.facebook.com/michael.fergot.9
Susan Genis, an E-RYT-500, became a yoga teacher after progressing through a few other careers. She began as an actress, moved on to work as a legal secretary, attending law school at night, and then practiced law for 15 years. She stumbled upon yoga as a means of stress relief from the daily grind of working as an Assistant District Attorney in NYC. Through yoga, she discovered a new way of relating to herself and the world around her. She completed yoga teacher training in 2001 and has been teaching ever since, with no regrets about leaving the law. She has taught at yoga studios, health clubs and senior centers, as well as one-on-one private sessions. She teaches a wide variety of populations, including beginners, seniors, and individuals dealing with or recovering from cancer, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. She strives to demystify yoga so that it is accessible to everyone, and they can discover their own capacity to change and benefit from this ancient practice. Her teaching incorporates elements of Anusara, Iyengar, and Kripalu yoga.www.susangenis.com.
Colleen was born and raised in northeast PA but has called NYC her home for almost 3 decades, moving here in the 80’s to pursue a career in Communication Design, working in advertising and eventually retail design. Her tentative initiation into yoga began back in the mid-80’s when “sweaty aerobics” were all the rage (guilty as charged) but it wasn’t until a decade later, following the birth of her second son, that yoga became a guiding force, a daily practice to instill and maintain balance day to day. It was the calm amid the storms. She often relates to her students that she pursued yoga in an effort to improve her mental health and her body benefitted, and, as a teacher, she sees many who may start out to improve their bodies and they find their mind also benefits. As one of her esteemed yoga teachers says, “Yoga is a WORK-IN disguised as a WORK-OUT.” Colleen continues to be inspired and humbled by the many teachers, students and others who have most generously shared their wisdom, curiosity, insight and humor. Certified by Sri Dharma Mittra, she is continuing her studies in Yoga Therapy with Ganesh Mohan and also with his parents, AG and Indra Mohan. The diversity of influences, travels and interests are reflected in Colleen’s classes, which have a dynamic, ever-evolving and intuitive flow that explores the mind, body and breath relationship, as well as guides her students toward the fundamental wisdom of yoga: the essence of well-being. www.thesanghastream.com.
Having completed her initial training at OM Yoga Center, Jessica has been teaching yoga in NYC since 2001. She entered this tradition as a dancer looking to rediscover the simple joy of movement. She found not only a way to bring balance to her body but a lifelong practice that encourages a deepening relationship with oneself and an ever-expanding sense of our interdependence. Jessica has earned her 500hr certification and has furthered her knowledge in both yogic and Buddhist traditions with (to name a few!) Cyndi Lee, Rodney Yee, Susan “Lippy” Orem, Larry Rosenberg and Doug Phillips. In 2011, to bring greater anatomical understanding and safety to her students, she completed Jason R. Brown’s Anatomy Studies for Movement Professionals. She studies under the guidance of Barry Magid, dharma heir to Joko Beck, at the Ordinary Mind Zendo. In continued exploration of bringing health to our lives, she completed her culinary degree at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Wellness in 2009. Now a health-supportive chef, she spent a year learning and working in NYC’s original sustainable restaurant, SAVOY, and a summer in the kitchen of San Francisco’s Zen Center’s Green Dragon Monastery and Farm. She continues to be excited by the different choices we can make to bring clarity and joy to our lives and inspired by the many students who invite her to show up and listen. www.jessicaliphillips.com
Sage teaches yoga and writes — two not unrelated practices. Both are about articulation and self-expression. Her academic background, studying English Literature at Princeton University and Art History at The Courtauld Institute, has been invaluable in teaching her how to look at and analyze what she sees in a classroom of yogis. She is RYT-500, trained in Anusara and also Structural yoga in the lineage of B.K.S Iyengar. She completed her 200-hour training with Lois Nesbitt at Blue Sky Yoga and is completing her 300-hour training with Alison West at Yoga Union. She is grateful to Lois and Alison, and the other teachers from whom she also continues to learn: Witold Fitz-Simons, Kaitlyn Hipple, Robin Janis, and Zhenja La Rosa. In class, Sage gives precise physical directions for how to get into and be in the asanas. She sequences ambitious, well-rounded classes with a focus on alignment, always reminding students of the importance of easeful breath. In her self-practice, she tries to balance movement and stillness. She meditates daily and studies Buddhism with Lama Yeshe and Delphine Forget. Inspired by her father’s birthplace, India, she lived in Mumbai after graduating from college. In a country of so many, the space of a mat—like a patch of garden—is extremely valuable. Even though yoga is generally seen as a luxury in the West, in the East it is rightly considered a necessity. Sage decided to teach yoga after returning to the US, to keep alive the sense of humanity and community that is unforgettable in India. www.yogasage.com. (Photo by Chae Kihn)
Ginger’s passion for creativity, dance, music, and performing has helped her explore the world. She’s traveled and lived in Russia, Germany, Italy, Canada, the Caribbean, and almost every state in the US. Although now a New Yorker, the South Shore of Massachusetts will always be her first home. After earning a BA in Theatre and Speech with a minor in Dance at Wagner College, she became a dance teacher at Ballet Academy East, where she first fell in love with yoga, and later taught with the National Dance Institute. In the middle of practicing tripod headstand, it dawned on her that she had to teach yoga! She wanted to help others discover that same sense of empowerment and inner strength. Ginger was awarded a work/study position with YogaWorks, where she received her 200-hour certification, mentored by Jodie Rufty and Ann Mosca, and hasn’t stopped teaching since then. She combined her love of teaching yoga with her passion for working with children, and was certified at Karma Kids Yoga to teach children and prenatal yoga. Ginger very much enjoys incorporating movement and singing into her kids yoga classes, and brings that same joy into her adult classes, where she loves teaching arm balances and inversions. Her motto is: Yoga should be fun! There are plenty of chances to be serious in life, so leave your inhibitions at the door…get ready to soar, fly, toes in the sky…grab a partner, dance solo or with friends, spread your wings, dip your toes in the ocean of life and experience yoga with Ginger. FYI, her hobbies include scuba diving and crocheting, but of course not practiced at the same time. http://gingermerritt.com
Tzahi, an E-RYT-500, discovered yoga between rehearsals early in his acting career and soon trained in NYC at Be Yoga, which later became YogaWorks. With his focus and skill, he quickly became a senior teacher trainer there. Another senior teacher urged him to take an Iyengar class and he was struck by its effects on his body and mind — it was a perfect fit. After completing a rigorous two-year Iyengar teacher training program at the NYC Iyengar Institute, Tzahi passed the Introductory 2 Assessment in 2012. He spent the month of July 2012 with the Iyengar family in Pune, India, and is now a certified Iyengar teacher. His primary teachers are Mary Dunn, James Murphy and Carrie Owerko. Renowned for his clarity and humor, he loves sharing yoga and enjoys observing his students make their own discoveries. Tzahi-Yoga on Facebook or www.tzahiyoga.com
Danny O’Brien’s path has been a circuitous one. After moving to NYC over 26 years ago, the Western Massachusetts native (and former Marine) worked in the music business, broadcast news, graphic design and publishing before a freak scooter accident and casual lunchtime practice brought his true calling and passion to light. For the past decade, Danny has taught yoga through a therapeutic lens in a variety of settings—hospitals, PT offices, homes, offices and gyms—integrating yoga, meditation, Reiki and essential oils with contemplative care. In 2012, Danny helped implement the integrative therapy program at Beth Israel Medical Center. From 2005-2013, he was on the Integrative Medicine Team at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, using yoga and meditation with HIV, stroke, post-op, and substance abuse patients. Danny is a graduate and mentor of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapist Program with Rodney Yee & Colleen Saidman Yee, and completed the Professional Integrative Yoga Therapist Program with Joseph and Lilian Le Page. He’s registered RYT-500 with the Yoga Alliance.
Menna’s journey with yoga began in 1993, but it was not until she moved to New York City that her practice went from her mat into her life. After creating One Route Media, where she continues to Executive Produce, she went to follow her dream of becoming a yoga teacher and an Urban Zen Integrative Yoga Therapist. Following her own path, she was led into Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, where she achieved a 300 RYT in the study of vinyasa yoga, then continued her education with the Prenatal Yoga Center, where she obtained her prenatal yoga certification, and finally rounded out her training with a 500 RYT with the prestigious Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program, founded by Donna Karan, Rodney Yee, and Colleen Saidman Yee. Integrating modalities such as yoga, restorative yoga, essential oil therapy, and contemplative care, helps her to design the right class to meet the needs of all students, with all ailments. Menna teaches the principles of self-care, meditation and vinyasa yoga as a way to live a balanced, joy-filled life.
After 25 years as a top manager in the frenetic and aggressive world of magazine and internet publishing, Brette Popper wandered into her first yoga class in 2001 and was immediately transformed by its benefits. She soon found herself deeply immersed in yoga asana and philosophy. She is a 500-Hour RYT and was certified at that level in 2009 by Alison West’s Yoga Union. She has further completed Ms. West’s Backcare and Rope Certification Programs. She has completed several modules of Dr. Ganesh Mohan’s Svastha Yoga Therapy Training and is currently enrolled in Amy Matthews’ 9 Month Online Embodied Asana Training. Brette continues to study with Ms. West as well as Iyengar teachers Genny Kapuler, Bobby Clennell and Nikki Costello. In addition, Brette has combined her interests in yoga and the media business to create YogaCity NYC, New York’s premiere website for yoga news and listings. http://yogacitynyc.com and http://www.fullfiguredyoga.com
Priti, an E-RYT-500, holds advanced level teacher certifications with over 20 years as a leader in the field of yoga and wellness. She is currently co-director of the Kripalu Yoga teacher certification training at the Kripalu Center in MA, as well as of the Prana Yoga training at the New York Open Center in NYC. In addition, she also served as co-director for Kripalu’s Integrative Yoga Therapy teacher training for ten years. Priti pioneered a Cardiac Yoga program at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center with Dr. Mehmet Oz and has developed recognized yoga programs for a number of top NYC hospitals and major corporations, as well as founded and directed “Worksite Wellness Solutions”. Priti also conducts private yoga therapy sessions, personal growth workshops and exciting worldwide yoga retreats. She has been published in two major medical textbooks on yoga therapy and has been featured on network television and in leading magazines. Priti is known for her big open heart and passion about the art and science of yoga, and for her unwavering devotion to supporting her students in leading extraordinary lives. She creates a safe and nurturing learning environment with personalized attention for every student. Priti is thrilled to be a part of the UWS Yoga team and looks forward to creating a loving Sangha (spiritual community) with her neighbors! For current events: www.PritiRobynRoss.vpweb.com and www.LifeAsYoga.com.
Kristen began practicing yoga in 2004 when a studio opened locally in her hometown in New Jersey. Always drawn to physical activities such as swimming, competitive cheerleading/dance and collegiate-level rowing, she was instantly intrigued with the yoga asana practice and it didn’t take long before she was completely hooked. Though she admittedly began the practice for its physical attributes, it was the calm awareness and balance that it brought to her daily life that continued the love affair. Focusing on thoughtful sequencing and clear anatomical cuing, her classes provide a combination of strength and ease while moving with intention and fluidity. The importance of the breath is also not forgotten as it always serves as a reminder to be in the present moment and one with the limitless. Kristen has been lucky enough to practice under the guidance of many extraordinary teachers and she has deep gratitude for all of them. Most notably, her teaching is influenced by her time studying with David Vendetti, Todd Skoglund, Georgia Reath and, most recently, Alison West. Off the mat, she holds a B.S. degree in Geology from Lafayette College and has a strong passion for nature, the environment and resource conservation. She loves to dance around, cook delicious meals, and travel every chance she gets.
Facebook at Kristen Woods Yoga and http://www.kristenwoods.com
Nancy is a certified yoga instructor and Urban Zen Integrative Therapist who has taught the very young, the very old and everyone in-between. She has taught in libraries, schools, studios and far-away places. Some of her favorite students have been at an assisted living center, where the average age was 80! She loves teaching children, hearing them shout out Sanskrit words she teaches, and enjoys beginner students who are thrilled at standing on one foot and feeling like the most beautiful tree in the forest. She is encouraged by all students and wants people to know they can bring yoga into their lives, off their mats. For instance, we can use mountain pose, Tadasana, while waiting on line to purchase groceries, and feel a sense of calm and presence, instead of wishing we were elsewhere. Yoga is something you take with you — it’s our gift to ourselves and others. Nancy also owns a Human Resource consulting and recruiting firm, bringing top talent in H.R. to clients within the tri-state area.