Our teachers are some of New York City’s most talented, with extensive and continuous training and experience in yoga for back care and scoliosis, as well as other complementary healing modalities (body mind centering, physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage, Rolfing, etc.). We offer unique yoga teaching. Our existing student community will recognize many of the same teachers from the Yoga Union Center for Backcare and Scoliosis, plus some new ones.
Deborah Wolk, C-IAYT, has been teaching and working with students with back issues, scoliosis, and other injuries for over 17 years. Her yoga practice working with her own scoliosis informs the work she does to help others.
Deborah met Bobbie Fultz in 2000—her first Yoga & Scoliosis teacher. She later met Elise Browning Miller and was certified as a Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer through Elise’s training program in 2005. Her primary teacher is Genny Kapuler, whose class she assisted for 10 years, and she has also studied extensively with Kevin Gardiner in NYC (now in Budapest) and Donald Moyer in Berkeley, among others. In 2007, Deborah travelled to India to study with the Iyengar family and spent most afternoons observing the medical classes there. Also in 2007, she co-founded Yoga Union Center for Backcare & Scoliosis and co-directed it for 8 years. In January 2015, Deborah founded Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective. Samamkaya is a democratically run workers cooperative and is devoted exclusively to scoliosis, back care, teacher education in therapeutics, and adaptive yoga for students with disabilities and nervous system disorders.
Deborah’s teachings are based in the principles of Iyengar style yoga and Body Mind Centering (BMC) techniques. She is warm and funny and her teachings are subtle yet explained at a level everyone can understand. Deborah teaches workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings on Back Care & Scoliosis in New York City, across the US, and around the world, and has a thriving private practice. More about Deborah. An autobiographical piece / The NY Times Article/ Deborah Teaches 1 pose 3 ways/A review of Deborah’s class/ An Interview with Deborah Wolk, Emily Gould’s Article
Jon Musgrave is the manager of Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective and a bodyworker and conductor. Jon came to Samamkaya to help work with his scoliosis, and remained because of the incredible spirit of support and generosity of the studio and faculty. Raised in the mountains west of Golden, Colorado, Jon spent his early years doing gymnastics before beginning in music in late elementary school. He began studying yoga during graduate school in Ithaca, NY and continued at several studios in New York before finding the Yoga Union Center for Backcare & Scoliosis to help with his own scoliosis. His interest in bodywork began in college while taking lessons in the Alexander Technique with James Brody. He earned a certificate in Therapeutic Massage and Hydrotherapy from the Finger Lakes School of Massage in Ithaca, New York and has practiced massage privately in Ithaca and New York City. Visit jmbodywork.com to find out more about his bodywork practice.
Wendy Baranello (Santoshi), C-IAYT, has been teaching yoga to various populations in New York City for over 20 years. She has touched countless students in a variety of venues: the YMCA system for 20 years, at Integral Yoga, teaching meditation in the CUNY system, and Hatha Yoga at Marymount Manhattan College. She taught yoga at GMHC for several years for people with AIDS, and at the Mind, Body, and Spirit program at Rutger’s Church. Wendy was a teacher at Yoga Union Center for Backcare and Scoliosis since its inception. Passionately committed to personal empowerment and social justice, Wendy sees a connection between her work as a Yoga Teacher and Union Organizer for the New York Hotel Trades Council as two sides of the same coin. She feels that the yoga mat is where yoga begins—a place where we can examine our feelings and observe our impulses in a non -judgemental and loving way. We then bring our yoga practice off the mat and into the world to take responsibility for healing ourselves and the planet.
Wendy was certified by Integral Yoga in NYC in 1994 to teach various aspects and levels of yoga, pranayama, and meditation. That same year, she began her study of Iyengar Yoga with Brooke Meyers at the New York City Iyengar Institute. Wendy has studied with Senior Level Iyengar Teacher Elise Miller since 2002, and completed her yoga for Scoliosis training in 2004, again in 2008, and regularly assists Elise in her teacher training. Wendy also studies with Senior level Iyengar teacher Joan White, whom she met in 2003, and is enrolled in Ms. White’s teacher training program. In addition to her yoga certifications, Wendy has a certification in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction from Jon Kabit-Zinn and Saki Santorelli, of the Omega Institute. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Farleigh Dickenson University. A description of Wendy’s class
Julie Brandwein, MSPT, LMT, came to yoga seeking help from a back injury and found her way into her first Iyengar yoga class with Kevin Gardiner in 1992. In this technique she found the answer she was looking for to heal her body, and began a lifelong study and practice of Yoga.She has extensive training in Iyengar Yoga, in addition to studies in the Alexander Technique, Somatics and Pilates. She has taught yoga since 1997 both here and abroad.
She has earned her Masters in Physical Therapy from Columbia University, completed training at the Swedish Institute of Massage and has certification in a Pilates for Rehab Professionals training from Polestar Pilates, Inc. Licensed in both physical therapy and massage therapy, Julie has worked in a variety of clinical specialities, including pediatrics, orthopedics, sports injury and dance injury.Her massage training includes myofascial unwinding, integrative deep-tissue massage and neuromuscular repatterning. She has a private practice in Manhattan and Brooklyn offering services in therapeutic bodywork, stress-reduction massage, and yoga privates. For more information, you may contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-832-7973
Dahlia Galler: While studying at Parsons School of Design, Dahlia worked as a visual merchandiser at Yogaworks. It was there where she practiced her first Downward Dog and learned to let go. In class one day, a friend noticed her scoliosis and recommended that she check out Yoga Union Center for Backcare & Scoliosis. After only one class, Dahlia was hooked. It was at Yoga Union Center for Backcare & Scoliosis where she seriously began her yoga journey, which she sees as a balance between effort and ease, and between hard work and letting go.
After completing her 200 Hour RTS Certification with Alison West’s 200 Hours Yoga Union Teacher Training receiving her 200 Hour RYT Certification, she began her apprenticeship with Deborah Wolk, assisting with back care and scoliosis classes.
Dahlia lives in New York City and is not only a yogini, but a freelance interior designer and stylist. Knowing that there is no one-size-fits-all pose, she brings a fun, light-hearted, artistic style to her teaching of all levels!
Jen Gorman was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of eleven. Less than a year later she underwent surgery that involved fusing much of her thoracic spine. The doctor’s instructions were rather vague and involved continuing to dance but avoiding gymnastics. Jen carried on through life as though nothing happened. She attended the University of Notre Dame and studied accounting (noting that extended hours studying hurt her back!), became a certified public accountant (noting that extended hours working hurt her back!), and then returned to dancing professionally (noting that extended hours dancing hurt her back!). She began practicing yoga to balance her body, discovering that it also allowed her to manage and even prevent pain. After years of practicing yoga and completing a teacher training, Jen finally found her way into a yoga for scoliosis class, which brought to light an even deeper understanding of her body and the effects of scoliosis! She studied yoga for scoliosis and back care with Elise Miller Browning and Alison West, and with Deborah Wolk, with whom she still apprentices today. Jen continues to dance, sing, and act to the beat of her own drum. She is also a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and holds certificates in Functional Movement Systems and TRX Suspension. Learn more about Jen at www.jengormanwellness.com.
Debby Green has been studying yoga since 1984. When she encountered Iyengar yoga 10 years later, she realized that she would have to start all over again. Her main teachers are Kevin Gardiner, James Murphy and the late Mary Dunn. She travelled to Pune in 2011 to study with the Iyengar family. She teaches a serious subject with lightness and humor, so that students can enjoy the intensity of Iyengar yoga. Debby is also a certified and gifted Rolfer. WSJ on Debby Green’s private lessons, YogaCity on Debby Green’s Rolfing Sessions
Eve Holbrook, C-IAYT. Initially drawn to yoga in 1994 for relief from back pain following a childhood horseback riding injury, Eve has grown to view it as an exploration of life and what it is to be a human being. In 2005, Eve completed the two-year teacher-training program at the Iyengar Institute of New York, where she now teaches, and is a certified Iyengar teacher at the Junior Intermediate two level. Since 2006, she has made five extended trips to Pune, India to study and assist in the medical classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute. Her beloved teachers include the late Mary Dunn, Kevin Gardiner, James Murphy, and Lara Warren. Eve is a graduate of Northwestern University and The British American Drama Academy. You can learn more about Eve at evesyogaspace.com. YogaCity
Hess Kim began her yoga practice well over a decade ago and it has evolved from a physical curiosity to a grounding way of life. She finds yoga an eternal lesson on mental flexibility, strength and compassion and teaches her classes with that in mind. Hess studied with Dharma Mittra for her 200 hr Teacher Training, received her Prenatal/Postnatal certification with Deb Flashenberg and Nikita Maxwell at the Prenatal Yoga Center and Alison West for her 300 hour Teacher Training. She is in the process of becoming an Elise Browning-Miller certified Yoga teacher for Backcare and Scoliosis and studies with Deborah Wolk and assists her Yoga for Scoliosis classes. She is also a birth doula (DONA) and holds a degree in Child Development and American Studies from Tufts University. When she’s not up to her C7 reading and exploring anatomy, philosophy and pranayama, you can find her somewhere outdoors hiking, biking or photographing nature.
Eva Lev’s passion for yoga was ignited in the late 80’s through years of study with Glenn Black as part of the summer staff at the Omega Institute in upstate NY. After settling in NYC, she continued her studies with Kevin Gardiner and many of the other senior teachers at the Iyengar Yoga Institute including the late Mary Dunn, Brooke Myers, Genny Kapuler, Lara Brunn and Carrie Owerko. She began teaching in 1997 completing 200 hour certification from Integral Yoga and in 2001, the two year teacher training program directed by James Murphy at the Iyengar Institute of NY. She also assisted Deborah Wolk’s Yoga & Scoliosis class for over 2 years.
Rachel Lynch-John, C-IAYT, is a founding member of Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective. She began practicing Iyengar yoga in 1990 as a way to care for her body while pursuing a career in modern dance. Rachel assisted her Iyengar teacher, Genny Kapuler, for over ten years, and is certified through the School for Body-Mind Centering® as a Somatic Movement Educator and an Infant Developmental Movement Educator. She is also certified in Embodied Anatomy and Yoga and Embodied Developmental Movement and Yoga, both of which are Body-Mind Centering® approaches to teaching yoga that utilize anatomical and developmental principles to allow for an embodied exploration and mindful yoga practice to evolve. Along with her Embodied Back Care Yoga classes at Samamkaya, Rachel offers private sessions, small group classes and workshops in somatic movement education, embodied anatomy, pre & postnatal yoga, infant developmental movement education and asana alignment. Rachel has taught in numerous teacher training programs in NY and Japan, and is presently on the faculty of the teacher training program for The Yoga School NY. Rachel originally trained as a dancer in her native England, and in 1999 earned a “Bessie” (NY dance and performance award) for her work in the field of dance and performance.
Melva Max came to the mat initially seeking relief from sciatica brought about by years of waitressing in her Chelsea restaurant, La Lunchonette. As her practice deepened, it enriched her life. Melva yearned to impart her passion for yoga and guide others in the transformation that is yoga. She completed her teacher training in 2011 at the Iyengar Institute of New York with James Murphy. After being certified, she began assisting Deborah Wolk in both her Yoga & Scoliosis and Back Care classes. In addition to studying therapeutics with Deborah Wolk, Melva has studied extensively with Genny Kapuler in New York and Faeq Biria, Senior Iyengar teacher in Paris, France. Melva is grateful to all of her teachers, especially her students.
Catherine “Cat” Murcek is a dance artist and yoga instructor at the 500-hr level. Cat first connected with yoga in Boston after receiving a B.A. in International Economics from Franklin College of Switzerland. What began as a supplement to her dance training quickly became a vital tool for maintaining tranquility and groundedness in her life. Cat received her 200-hr certification from Yogaworks with Natasha Rizopoulos in 2009 and did her 300-hr training with Alison West at Yoga Union. She has also completed the Yoga Tune-Up(R) Level 1 Certification, an introductory course in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation patterns with Irene Dowd, and participated in both parts of Elise Browning Miller’s Yoga for Scoliosis training. She continues to study Yoga for Back Care and Scoliosis with Deborah Wolk and Alexander Technique for yoga teachers with Witold Fitz-Simon. Cat leads retreats in the US and internationally, and continues to perform in dance theatre chocolate-tasting productions with the company “Chocolate Dances.”
Frank Ricci: After leaving behind a career in the New York fashion industry, Frank Ricci was ready to find inner peace. What began as a casual yoga practice quickly became his passion, he found his true career calling: to help heal others. Frank received his yoga teaching certificate from Yogasana in Brooklyn, where he began teaching in 2010. Since that time, he has received extensive training in therapeutic yoga, including assisting Deborah Wolk. He studies regularly with his mentors and has had the pleasure and privilege of studying with Donald Moyer in the Yoga Room. In 2011, Frank traveled to India for a 5-week course of study In Iyengar Yoga with Rajiv and Swati Chanchani. Frank’s compassionate teaching style draws from Iyengar yoga as well as the Alexander Techique, creating a unique experience that is both encouraging and challenging. 2 reviews of Frank’s Classes: #1, #2
Miriam (Mimi) Rosetti, C-IAYT, was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 16. Following 6 months wearing a brace, she underwent corrective surgery fusing a large portion of her spine. Nearly 10 years later, in 2005, while simultaneously pursuing a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and delving into her first yoga teacher training at YogaWorks, Mimi began to reconnect with her scoliosis and the impact of her surgery. Since then, she has apprenticed extensively with Deborah Wolk and is certified as a Yoga for Scoliosis teacher through Elise Browning Miller. Mimi spent January 2011 as a student in the medical class at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India and is currently in the second year of the teacher training at the Iyengar Institute of New York. Mimi lives in Manhattan with her husband and her two beautiful daughters. An Article about Mimi’s experiences at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune.
Laura Staton’s, C-IAYT, OTR/L, yoga classes cultivate increased body awareness and organization. She currently teaches yoga in Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective, and in Brooklyn at Yogasana and her home studio in Clinton Hill. Past influential teachers have included Kevin Gardner, Lara Warren, Genny Kapuler, and Alison West, and she currently studies with Naghmeh Ahi and Brooke Myers. Laura completed her 800 hour professional therapist program through Integrative Yoga Therapy, is an affiliate teacher of the IYT 200 hour teacher training and was recently certified as a yoga therapist through IAYT. Laura is a graduate of The Juilliard School and was a performer/choreographer in NYC before receiving her Occupational Therapy Degree from NYU. She also works as a senior Occupational Therapist specializing in acute rehabilitation and is the co-founder/author of Baby Om -Yoga for Mothers and Babies, published in 1999.
Ashley Taylor is a yoga therapist who came to yoga as a tool for healing both emotionally and physically. When she was a teen she wore a back brace for scoliosis before undergoing spinal fusion surgery. It was then she began her yoga practice but after a few years her body rejected the metal hardware and it was removed. Ashley completed her 200 hour training at Mindbody Centering Yoga in Durham, NC, in 2013 and is RYT200. After moving to NYC Ashley studied with Deborah Wolk at Yoga Union Backcare and has been assisting Ms. Wolk for the past 3 years. A full member of Samamkaya, Ashley serves on the Adaptive Yoga Committee writing a grant, fundraising and developing a class for students with disabilities. She also serves on the Cooperative Committee—which connects Samamkaya to other Co-ops and supporting non-profits throughout NYC. Ashley teaches at her home studio in Brooklyn: Future Posture and at the YMCA. She holds a B.A. from Duke in Cultural Anthropology and is currently working on her MS in Data Analysis and Data Visualization at CUNY Graduate Center. She also works as a community organizer and digital systems designer and just opened RE:GEN:CY, a space for community development in Red Hook.
Ashlee Willaman is an 8-time marathoner, ultramarathoner, an RRCA Certified Run Coach and a 500 RYT. She began practicing yoga as part of her dance training at the age of 13, just around the same time she was diagnosed with scoliosis. She learned that yoga kept her back pain at bay and stuck with the practice for the next 20 years. She received her 500 RYT certification from YogaWorks in 2012 and attended a Yoga For Scoliosis Teacher Training Workshop with Elise Miller in October 2014. Having always been a mover and a shaker, when Ashlee stopped dancing she started running and found that she was drawn to long distance running. In 2012 she founded Run Like a Yogi to help athletes infuse training cycles with yoga and meditation. Her alignment-based classes focus on restoring balance to the body in order to avoid injury and recover faster. She teaches at various locations throughout NYC, is a running coach for Hot Bird Running and is on the coaching staff as a yoga instructor for Team Continuum, a charity that provides immediate and vital non-medical assistance to cancer patients and their families when the diagnosis results in disruption, hardship a and uncertainty in everyday lives. Read More about Ashlee. A review of Ashlee’s Yoga for Athlete’s class
Andi Wirz is a native of Switzerland. He found his way to yoga through dance and creative movement. He has been studying and teaching the Iyengar method for the last 20 years. Teachers that have influenced him most are Kevin Gardiner, Robin Janis, Donald Moyer and Genny Kapuler. He also studies yoga with the BMC ® approach with Roxlyn Moret and travels every summer with her to Switzerland to teach workshops. Andreas holds a physical education diploma from the University of Basel, Switzerland. He moved to NYC to pursue a career as a modern dancer. He performed with many modern dance companies and spent half a year in Japan performing with the Swiss mime group “Mummenschanz”. More about Andi A review of Andi’s class.
All photographs © 2015 by Kaz Sakuma