Marni Sandler, Founder, RYT
With a background and Masters Degree in Interactive Media for Children, Marni knew it was time to bring her two favorite worlds together. While her career in Interactive Media and Advertising has given her the opportunity to produce work for organizations such as Nickelodeon Films, Disney.com, HBO Family, 4Kids Entertainment, Sesame Street, Teletubbies/PBS and National Geographic – she can’t think of anything more interactive than a Kids Yoga Class!
As a mom and kids yoga teacher, Marni believes that learning and growth happen best through play and founded Monkey Do! on those principles. Her desire to bring yoga to children, led her to Shakta Khalsa’s Radiant Child Teacher Training program. The program included training in Yoga for Autism, ADHD and Differently Abled Children. She’s continued her training with Mindful Schools as well as certifications from Shawnee Thornton Hardy’s Asana’s for Autism and Special Needs training.
Marni truly believes that yoga is an important way to help all children reach their full potential. After practicing for over 20 years, Marni is thrilled to have the opportunity to help foster a community focused on Children’s health, confidence, imagination and overall well being.
Alex Venier Ledesma, RYT
Alex grew up on a family farm in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria and has lived in the U.S. since 1997. She first encountered yoga in 2001 while working as a pre-school teacher at a Montessori school in Miami Beach, FL. She was inspired. Alex began practicing yoga herself and incorporating yoga routines in the classroom for her young students. She completed Radiant Child teacher training in 2005 and began offering yoga classes to children in Washington D.C. and Alexandria, VA. In 2007, Alex completed the 200-hour yoga teacher training at US1, a Yoga Alliance registered yoga school, and has been a yoga instructor (to adults as well as children) ever since. Alex is also a mother of two and during both pregnancies maintained a consistent yoga practice. In 2008 Alex completed the Prenatal Teacher Training through Yoga Works, taught by Carrie Parker Gastely. She can attest first hand to the many benefits of prenatal, postnatal, and “Mommy & Me” yoga. Alex has offered yoga classes in both the U.S. & Europe. She is fluent in English and German.
Alex feels deep gratitude towards all the teachers, students and supportive family members and friends that have guided helped, and inspired her along the way. Alex is especially thankful to her children who made her a mom, amaze and challenge her every day anew.
Beau Dobrikov, RYT
As a mother of a blossoming 12 year old daughter that keeps her busy; when Beau isn’t instructing, she keeps her hands full by diving into the creative arts. She is a knowledgeable instructor that teaches from a place of love and compassion. Her belief is “If you can breathe you can benefit from yoga. The more body awareness you gain, the better prepared you are to take on dreams.” Beau takes a personal and individualized approach to teaching yoga, influenced by her own experience as a practitioner of Hatha, Vinyasa, and Baptiste. She guides students through asana based on both breath and body awareness, that extends off the mat into the real world that will help you stay centered. Beau’s classes are accessible to beginners while challenging for intermediate practitioners.
Catharine Rykowski is a licensed Physical Therapist who concentrates in the treatment of children with neuromotor and sensory motor impairments. She attended The George Washington University and graduated in 2011 with a doctorate in physical therapy. Previously Catharine attended The College of William and Mary (’06) where she earned a BA in Psychology and Studio Art. She is a former swimmer, a recreational runner and triathlete, as well as a wanna-be yogi. Catharine’s passion in life is movement. She believes strongly in the need for children to move and explore their environments in order to learn and grow. Catharine currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband, 1 year old son, and her beloved dog Dubi.
Danielle Medina, RYT, AFAA, ACE
Danielle is a Brooklyn College graduate with a B.S. in nutrition science and health promotions. She has over 10 years experience working in private and corporate health club facilities. She has worked with children in several daycares, preschools and private schools around the metropolitan area.
Her approach to children’s yoga and fitness is fun, dynamic and creative. The children leave class feeling stronger, more focused, flexible and confident. Danielle holds certifications with the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America, the American Council of Exercise, Yoga Alliance, Zumba®, Karma Kids Yoga, Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness.
Dream (Jun Zhou)
Jun Zhou, our MandarinLAB teacher graduated from New York University with a MA in Dance Education. Born and raised in China he was given a great opportunity to master Chinese folk dance and also other genres such as ballroom and modern dance. He has performed all over the country and also Sweden, Denmark and Italy to name a few. During his undergraduate in Beijing Normal University he received his BA both in Dance and Chinese Language & Literature. For the past few years, he has been teaching both Mandarin and dance at many locations in NYC. Now a resident, Jun Zhou currently works as a teaching artist in public schools and continues to pursue his knowledge of dance and further his education. He remains dedicated and passionate about his chosen fields.
Ella Ayscue, RYT
Originally from North Carolina. Ella has been super active all her life, with martial arts, rock climbing, hiking, camping, and generally annoying her Mom with as many grass and mud stains on her clothes as possible. Yoga is her passion; she loves teaching children and adults of all levels and strengths. She practices yoga first for the physical health benefits and later for the mental and emotional. She believes practiced movement and mindfulness are great tools to take into adulthood, especially when introduced with a lighthearted and joyful approach! She also has a special place in her heart for kids with ADHD and caretakers in need of a calm mind.
Erika Odegard, RYT
Erika’s classes offer relaxation and restoration through play. She’s specializes in parent/baby yoga, and loves to find new ways to introduce yoga to children. Erika believes that yoga has the ability to bring families closer, creating a shared space where parents, and children (and grandparents, anyone?) can be studying, staying healthy, and having fun, together. Also… who hasn’t wanted to ROAR during upward facing dog?
Hallie is a comedian, musician, and teaching artist living in Brooklyn. She is thrilled to be teaching the Sing and Move! class at Monkey Do!, which brings together some of her favorite activities: making music and movin’ and groovin’. She spent the last year teaching music to children from infancy to toddlerhood and has been teaching youth art, creative writing, and improv/theatre for over ten years throughout New York and Western Massachusetts. As an instructor, Hallie creates an enthusiastic and playful environment where children’s ideas are embraced and celebrated. Hallie writes and performs comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and is a proud Story Pirate. She hails from Northampton, MA and is a graduate of Oberlin College.
Hannah Taxman, RYT
Hannah is a professional musician/vocalist. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston Massachusetts. Hannah took strong interest in the music therapy courses while in school which ultimately led to her love and practice of yoga. Hannah has acquired a 200 hour certification in yoga instructing from Laughing Lotus.
She is an advocate of bringing in the practice of song, movement and self-expression into her yoga classes. Hannah is a believer that there is nothing more self healing and strengthening than to find your voice in these contexts and practices. Hannah is enthusiastic to be part of such a wonderful team of teachers whom are passionate about making a difference in children’s and family’s experiences with yoga.
Jessica Mei Gershen, RYT
Jessica is a mother and a yoga instructor. Over the years, she has worked with children in various settings, whether in home based private instruction, preschool, elementary, or high school classrooms. She applies her yoga knowledge on infants, toddlers, children, and teens and has worked with both typically and atypically functioning children with a wide variety of special needs. Jessica’s classes focus on yoga as a lifestyle. She combines the physical aspects of the practice with the yoga philosophies, music, and stories to create an age appropriate and fun class that children truly enjoy.
Our movement and music teacher began leading sing-a-longs after her daughter was born. Before parenthood, she played with a number of folk and rock bands, most notably Goldenboy, based out of Los Angeles. Katy studied music, yoga and studio art in the Southern California college town of Claremont. She earned a Bachelor Degree in Studio Art from Scripps College, began working and teaching at The Folk Music Center, helped found The Claremont Ukulele Club and practiced Iyengar Yoga with local teacher Naomi Bendiner.
Katy moved to Brooklyn in 2013. She teaches private guitar, ukulele and banjo lessons in Park Slope and leads the popular Monday morning Folk Music Sing-a-long at the Park Slope Library. She performs regularly with her current project The Sparrow Sisters, a folk duo featuring 5-string banjo, guitar and violin.
Manny was born and raised in New York, he loves this city and it shows! Join him for our Active StoryTime. His diverse background, as well as experience in musical theater and dance make it an activity not to be missed. Manny loves children and has experience working with kids of all abilities. He sees beauty in the sharing of knowledge in all its various forms, while ensuring his classes are fun and dynamic Already fluent in English and Spanish, he spends his spare time studying other languages such as Portuguese, Arabic and American Sign Language – expect to hear some of that in the stories! Manny is grateful to his teachers for showing him how to be a better learner and to his parents for showing him unconditional love and support.
A crowd favorite, Michael studied Piano Performance and Music Composition at the University of Houston and with Dr. Robert Abramson at the Dalcroze Institute at The Juilliard School. He has extensive knowledge of the First Steps in Music/Conversational Solfege method developed by Dr. John Feierabend, and studied the Montessori Music Curriculum with Marcia Perez at The Mater Amoris Montessori School in Ashton, Maryland. Michael Harren tours as pianist with Sandra Bernhard, is the musical director for Cabaret for a Cause, and has performed at Dixon Place, (le) poisson rouge, Joe’s Pub, Judson Memorial Church, Manhattan Theater Source, The Duplex, Don’t Tell Mama, The Laurie Beechman Theater as well as numerous venues around the country.
Nayobi Perdomo, RYT-200
Nayobi is a Zumba instructor, certified Holistic Health Coach and a dedicated teacher who received her yoga certification from Sacred Sounds Yoga, directed by Adrienne Burke. Her love and passion for fitness and health has inspired her to help people in the community and around the world improve their health and achieve a better quality of life. She believes that everyone, no matter what age, can benefit from the effects of yoga.
As a Spanish bilingual yoga teacher, she takes a personal and individualized approach to teaching yoga, influenced by her own experience as a practitioner of Vinyasa Yoga. Nayobi has been teaching high-risk youth Kids Yoga for four years and has developed her teaching style to be educational, dynamic, energetic and steady. The basis of her classes focus on breath, while leading students through their own personal awareness. Throughout her years of practice she understands that the acknowledgement and importance of the breath can lead a child to become more patient and mindful.
Shenaaz first came across yoga by chance almost 20 years ago when, now world renowned teacher, Shiva Rea offered yoga classes in their World Arts & Cultures department at UCLA. Although it would be years before she could do a handstand, there was no turning back from the way yoga made her feel- calm, clear, challenged physically and mentally, yet deeply connected. She would return to the mat again and again over the years.
A chance encounter in 2010, brought her to a kids yoga teacher-training program at Bija Kids in Brooklyn. She later went on to become a staff teacher and work with the company, teaching afterschool, preschool and little ones just learning to crawl. Having loved children growing up, combining her love of yoga with teaching kids was a wonderful fit.
Shenaaz decided to branch out on her own in 2012, establishing the yoga company, Little Feet Wise Heart yoga, specializing in kids and family yoga. Little Feet has also developed unique classes for children and grandparents or family elders to enjoy together, in addition to their unique Little Feet Story yoga classes, Boys Do yoga and fun, outdoor classes in the summers! Shenaaz continues to teach adults yoga as well, humbled at how young and old alike are delighted when achieving a yoga pose; seeing the laughter on little faces and the look in all yogis eyes when they make a connection to their mind, body and soul.
Siomara was born in Colombia and moved to NYC when she was 22 years old. She got into her first Yoga class not really knowing the language or what to expect from that “gym class”. That unexpected Yoga session was the door for a new and meaningful life. She decided to learn more about this incredible practice and six months after that first class, she got enrolled on her first teacher training. A couple of weeks after the training was completed, she found herself teaching Yoga at a pre-school. Her background on Childhood Education made it easy for her to connect with the children.
She teaches full time at different pre-schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and she is part of the leading teachers at the Asana Alphabet Teacher Training Certification Course. Siomara is also actively teaching adults, she runs womens’ circles and retreats. Siomara is certified in Hatha and Kundalini Yoga, Children’s Yoga, Reiki, the Energy Medicine Technique by Donna Eden, and she is also a certified Moon Mother by Miranda Gray.
The children will not only get immersed in a movement class; they will be introduced to breathing techniques, silence, and relaxation. Not to mention that it will be fun, full of giggles, animals, colors, aromas, challenges, singing bowls and more.
“I feel incredibly grateful to do what I love and share it with others”
Our Theater Sports teacher, Susan Collins has been in the entertainment industry for over 25 years and has coached actors for 7 years. A coach/actress/writer she worked in both NYC and LA, in TV, film, and theater productions, including such shows as Star Trek Next Generation, Murder One, Profiler, Roseanne Barr Movie of the Week, Saved By The Bell, Saved By The Bell The College Years, Murder She Wrote and many others. One of the top consultants at AIA Studios in LA. She worked teaching the craft as well as the business side of the acting. She has assisted casting directors on two independent films and have worked as an assistant for two different management companies, to submit actors for auditions. She has trained in many different acting techniques, from method to cutting edge, used by the best in Hollywood. She has studied under HB Studios NYC, Anthony Abeson NYC, Roy London LA, and Ivana Chubbuck LA.