MELIA MARZOLLO, CEO/Founder
With an MFA in Education and certifications in Pilates, Yoga, Yamuna Body Rolling, Stand Up Paddleboard and Holistic Nutrition, Melia first began her wellness teachings in an old converted barn with a wood stove. In 2013, she claimed a building and sacred space for the Ascend Center (formerly a Masonic Lodge circa 1864) in the Hudson Valley.
Through its programming – daily yoga and pilates classes, workshops, festivals and access to the healing arts – Ascend is realizing the holistic vision of its founder to build an inspiring brand to elevate one’s mind, body and spirit.
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KRISTIN MCPHERSON, Studio Manager
Kristin has been teaching and practicing yoga since 1997. She is an ISHTA yoga teacher, with additional certification in both Restorative and Pre/Postnatal Yoga. She is also trained as a birth and postpartum doula. Sharing the practices of yoga with expecting and new mothers is Kristin’s passion. She especially believes in the power of breathwork as a tool to allow each one of us to connect to our own inner source of intuition. As a mother of four children, her own practice has been invaluable, helping her navigate 24 years of parenting.
Kristin is also a lover of dogs and gardens, folk herbalism and kitchen witchery, list making and organization. She is excited to be putting her love of organization to good use as Ascend’s Studio Manager
AMANDA AMADEI, E-RYT 500, Yoga Director
With a BFA in theater and more than a decade of experience teaching yoga, Amanda also holds certifications for personal fitness training, perinatal fitness and extensive training in dance and stage combat choreography (a self-declared ‘sword fighting nerd’).
Her vinyasa teaching empowers yoga students of all abilities to cultivate freedom and strength in their bodies, creating an experience that goes beyond physical aptitude to one of true self-study and integration. It’s this integration of self compassion, body awareness and breath control that brings power and clarity.
MASHA SCHMIDT, Healing Arts Director
A NYS licensed acupuncturist, Masha has also trained as a yoga instructor, herbalist, and aromatherapist. She creates custom aromatherapy blends and essential oils for use with facial rejuvenation techniques and facilitates the Ascend Center’s monthly Goddess Circle.
She holds a BA in psychology, a MSAc in Acupuncture and employs Advanced Esoteric Acupuncture utilizing sacred geometry in conjunction with tuning forks, crystals and herbs in session.
BRITTA LARSEN, COO
After 20+ years as an HR executive, Britta launched her own consulting practice to help company founders better realize growth, profitability and employee satisfaction. With a BSc degree in business and organizational behavior, her background includes fashion, lifestyle brands, advertising and a keen interest in wellness.
Not only has Britta been practicing yoga for a decade, she was previously The Omega Institute’s Head of People & Culture and a volunteer staff member at Omega’s Wellness Center. Seeking to expand her own yoga practice, Britta received her Yoga Teacher Training Certificate in 2014.
VANESSA ALFANO, Yoga Instructor
Vanessa instructs Vinyasa Flow classes at Ascend, and aims to share the transformative power of yoga with her students. Her upbeat, breath-centered classes focus on mindful movement, and use smart sequencing to help students find their flow. While challenging, Vanessa aims to keep yoga as a healing practice, always encouraging students to find ease at their edge. Students can expect a well rounded class, set to a great soundtrack that will enliven, deepen and motivate their practice forward. Vanessa is RYT certified through Yoga Alliance, and teaches private, semi-private and group classes both in the Hudson Valley and New York City. She also works as a wellness coach, motivating individuals and corporations to find more clarity, purpose and productivity in their space. She uses yogic wisdom, mindfulness and meditation to help students and clients move towards their highest potential. For more info head to vanessaalfano.com or say hi on instagram @vanessaalfanotv
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LAUREN BUCKLES, Kids Yoga Instructor
Lauren Buckles, E-RYT, RCYT, is a Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher for both youth and adults in the Hudson Valley. After practicing and teaching gymnastics to children for almost a decade, Lauren was initially attracted to the physical element of yoga. Now, the element of yoga that sustains her practice is the compassion and connection it has brought into her life. Lauren teaches kids Yoga & Creative Play at Ascend Festival’s home studio in Cold Spring. She specializes in teaching yoga in schools where shares mindfulness based practices with children and professional development for educators and administrators. Lauren teaches for and has trained extensively with both Little Flower Yoga and Katonah Yoga®.
In her classes, Lauren hopes her students will cultivate a compassionate relationship to themselves by being curious and paying attention to their experience. Lauren teaches activities that support social-emotional learning and a connection with community. Her intention is for her students to increase their capacity to self-regulate, and to enhance their ability to experience joy.
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MICHELLE CLIFTON, Sound Healing
Master Sound Healer Michelle Clifton has studied healing for over 30 years. Her teachers include John Beaulieu, Philippe and Lea Garnier, Satya Brat, Mietek Wirkus to name a few. Michelle plays Tibetan Singing Bowls for group workshops placing bowls on every person in the room giving them the opportunity to experience the relaxing and healing vibrations of the sound bowls. She has incorporated the singing bowls into her massage therapy practice (including craniosacral therapy, Jin Shin Jyutsu & energy healing). As an artist her work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian & as a filmmaker she co-founded the Hudson River Film & Video Company.
JEN DALY, Gyrotonic® + Gyrokinesis® Instructor
Jen Daly is a Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis® Specialized Master Trainer. She works directly with Gyrotonic® inventor, Juliu Horvath, and has been teaching his work since 2000. She has extensive experience working with injury rehabilitation, chronic pain, pre and post natal women, elite athletes, and the everyday person wanting to look and feel more comfortable in their skin. Jen is passionate about meeting every student where they are at and moving with them to obtain their fullest potential. As a Master Trainer, Jen is uniquely qualified to conduct all aspects of the teacher training process for Gyrotonic professionals. In addition, she previously founded, directed, and eventually sold NYC’s largest Gyrotonic and Pilates studio. Jen’s movement heritage is as a professional dancer and dance educator, with a BS and MA in Dance and Dance Education from NYU. www.jendaly.com
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STEPHANIE DIAMOND, 5Rhythms Dance
Stephanie Diamond began dancing 5Rhythms in the Hudson Valley in 2006 and completed her 5Rhythms teacher training in 2018. She teaches with humility and vulnerability. As an artist, she has exhibited in galleries and museums across the globe. Her Listings Project helps thousands of people find homes in 70 countries and across the US.
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CLARE EILEEN DONOVAN, Pilates
Clare Eileen Donovan is passionate about healing and elevation through movement. She earned her mat certification through Balanced Body (with Joy Karley and Lesley Powell) and her comprehensive certification through Balanced Pilates (studios in West Harlem, LES, and Riverdale). Her philosophy about movement (and life) is we should find what works. Pilates is so flexible and Muti-dimensional it is accessible to every individual, no matter their fitness level or level of commitment.
She has taught movement classes in a variety of settings including state psychiatric hospitals, ymca facilities, recreation departments and private studios. She is privileged to have been mentored by Kay Cessaro and Melia Marzollo and is interested in meeting everybody who walks through the doors of the studio where they are, wherever this happens to be. Pilates is a modality which makes everything we do with our bones and muscles work better and more efficiently, and she is interested in sharing her knowledge with her neighbors in the Hudson Valley.
Currently she is teaching a variety of classes including Pilates Jumpboard and Beginner Springs
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ANGELINA FIORDELLISI, 5Rhythms Dance
Angelina Fiordellisi discovered 5Rhythms on her 60th birthday. Gabrielle Roth teaches her to move, to breathe, to live, to accept, to birth my authentic self within this continually evolving practice. She is a Tony and Obie award-winning theater artist and runs the historic Cherry Lane Theatre. She is a 5Rhythms Spaceholder, mentored by Peter Fodera.
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PETER FODERA, 5Rhythms Dance
Peter Fodera completed the 5Rhythms teacher training with Gabrielle Roth in 2004 and the Heartbeat training in 2010. He is a New York 5Rhythms teacher and founding member of the 5Rhythms Reach Out. He works with special needs communities and is on the staff of the 5Rhythms teacher training. His teaching is clear, compassionate and a celebration of life.
DANIELLE LOCASTRO, Yoga Instructor
Danielle Locastro, usually known as Dani, is a professional artist and a certified yoga instructor. She has been exploring her connection to something greater than herself her entire life through her art. She initially came to the mat 17 years ago as a way back to health after a near death experience during childbirth. When she started practicing with Charles Matkin and Lisa Bennet, she knew that this practice was transformative. The first time she moved her body and breath in a yoga class for her was like drawing, praying and painting. It too would be part of her life’s practice to maintain a healthy, mind, body, and spirit connection.
In 2013 Dani starting teaching after achieving her teacher certification, in the Raja Hatha Style of Yoga under Amy Pearce-Hayden. Her focus is on alignment with a dash of creative expression so that yoga on and off the mat is accessible for everybody. She works weekly in a variety of Hudson Valley Studios such as Elevate Yoga & Barre, Encourage, All Sport Fitness and Ascend Studio in her hometown of Cold Spring. In addition she works with numerous private clients to maintain wellness, promote balance, improve quality of life and explore creative expression.
She considers herself to be always a student, exploring, learning and refining. Her daily yoga practice along with her art are the richest fuel for her teaching. Her years of experience in drawing the human form before moving it in yoga have given her a unique perspective in understanding and articulating a pose. She is also certified in The Yoga Wall by Iyengar Master, Brian Legere. She continues to study under numerous teachers in NYC and the Hudson Valley to synthesize yoga styles so that yoga is accessible for all beings. Her teaching style is an emphasis on alignment with self-expression to awaken and listen to your own intuition. You’ll hear her in class saying, “ Yoga is exercise from the inside out ”. She is empowering with her energy to help the student get inside, stay inside and sometimes express it out. Her classes are playful, creatively challenging and provide the opportunity to dig down deep inside for more shine out!
KAELIN MARTIN, Ballet
Kaelin Martin did her first plie when she was 4 years old right here in Philipstown at the Recreation Center, later moving on to Ballet Arts Studio in Beacon. At the age of 15, Kaelin began training full time in New York City. There, she trained with world-renowned teachers including Elena Kunikova, Selina Chau, Vera Soloveyva, Liudmila Polonskaya, Nikolay Levitsky, Lyubov Fominih and Gelsey Kirkland. She has also studied at programs with American Ballet Theatre, The Washington School of Ballet, and Richmond Ballet. She has performed with the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet in soloist roles, and competed in international ballet competitions such as the American Dance Competition|International Ballet Competition, Youth America Grand Prix and Dance Prix de New York.
Through her experiences in dance, she has learned how movement supports self expression and builds confidence. Once Kaelin discovered the benefits of yoga and pilates to both the mind and body, she recognized a natural connection to ballet. In her Ballet Strong class, she incorporates the Vaganova ballet technique to build strength, flexibility and balance in a fun, accepting, and positive environment. Her goal is to share her love of dance and bring people who may have danced in the past or have yet to discover it to the studio, making the art form and it’s benefits more accessible to everyone.
JENNIFER MARVIN, Yoga Instructor
Jennifer Marvin, RYT200, has been teaching in the Hudson Valley since 2016. Each Warm Vinyasa Flow class begins with a Dharma talk to set the tone. Students are challenged and encouraged to find their edge, while navigating the delicate balance of effort and ease. Classes have a strong emphasis on Pranayama (breath work), self compassion, and connecting the inner divine wisdom. In this way we gain better understanding of the mind/body intelligence and of one another.
Jennifer has advanced her studies to include Trauma Informed Yoga, through Hala Khouri of OTM and through Crossover Yoga Project. In gratitude and service to all her teacher’s, she joyfully shares the gift of Yoga.
LESLIE MOTT, Yoga Instructor
Leslie Mott, E-RYT: Having accumulated over a thousand teaching hours during the last 5 years, Leslie’s practice combines her love of teaching and her desire to always be a student. She studied with Liz Schulman and Richard Villella and was certified an RYT 200 hour teacher by the Yoga Alliance in 2012. Leslie began teaching classes immediately, first at the Yoga Co-Op at the Garrison, then for Living Yoga Studios in Cold Spring. She currently teaches classes at Cold Spring Yoga and Pilates and at the Beacon of Light Wellness Center. Leslie’s classes are light-hearted and fun, and focus on using the breath to bring presence and attention to each posture. She believes that yoga expands our compassionate awareness, helping every student to rediscover grace, flexibility and groundedness. Besides teaching classes in Cold Spring and Beacon, Leslie also teaches privately and leads retreats. She is a writer, spiritual director, focusing professional, and an ordained Presbyterian minister; and in her spare time travels, reads, and hikes with her dog. www.besidestillwaters.me
JULIAN PAIK, Yoga Instructor
Julian has been teaching in NYC and the Hudson Valley since 2003. His yoga alliance certified trainings include Yogaworks in Los Angeles, the Bay area, and New York. As well, he has had a 2-year stint living in India, where he was mentored by several internationally renowned teachers including Bharath Shetty, Sharath Jois, Ajay Kumar and Venkatesh. His classes are not of a specific style, but rather they incorporate a combination of all of his influences: Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Powerflow, Yin and Gentle Yoga. In recent years, he has emphasized the importance of meditation (both guided and self), and one of the things he is most grateful for is teaching the yoga practice to beginners.
He teaches a playful, uplifting and heat-building class with much attention to alignment and dharana (concentration).
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CRISTINA ROY, Yoga Instructor
Cristina is a dedicated Iyengar yoga practitioner. Her classes are thorough and purposeful, guiding students through a safe and systematic succession of poses (asana). She provides a focused yet lighthearted class, allowing students to feel comfortable and find purpose working on their own practice. Through her clear demonstrations of the postures, student’s develop an understanding of correct body alignment. Props such as blankets, blocks and belts are used as an aid to deepen learning and adjust postures to individual needs. Cristina’s teaching focuses on form which in turn directs awareness to the body. She believes that in working towards alignment in the body we develop equanimity in the mind and in life. Cristina obtained her 200 hour RYT and is a graduate of the BKS Iyengar Yogamala Teacher Training Program where she trained with senior teacher Patricia Walden in Boston, MA. To learn more please visit www.CristinaRoy.com
KRISTEN SHERMAN, Yoga Instructor
Kristen spent 8+ years teaching barre in San Francisco, CA before relocating with her family to Cold Spring. She discovered barre after years of running rendered her with serious tendonitis and knee pain. Barre classes not only helped to rehabilitate but improved her posture and muscle tone simultaneously. Kristen loves teaching barre for those same reasons and considers it one of the more sustainable forms of exercise accessible to all different body types and ages. When not teaching Kristen spends time with her two little girls, spouse and Labrador Retriever exploring the beautiful Hudson Valley, and still gets out for a nice trail run as much as possible!
JENN STEBBINS, Yoga Instructor
Jenn believes that the practice of yoga is a way of life that extends beyond the mat. Her classes incorporate movement that is both grounded and graceful, linking correct alignment with healing use of the breath. Her teaching style is warm, joyful, and supportive. An E-RYT-200 hour instructor and Continuing Education Provider through Yoga Alliance, Jenn has been teaching workshops, yoga classes, and individual clients in the Hudson Valley since 2012. She taught locally at Living Yoga Studios before joining the Cold Spring Yoga and Pilates team. In addition to her yoga and meditation practice, Jenn works as a psychotherapist in Westchester Medical Center’s Health Network. She has enjoyed her career as a professional clinician, consultant, and administrator in the field of public health for over 15 years. In her free time she loves to surf, travel, and hike with her dogs.
KATHY TORIS, Yoga Instructor
Kathy finds inspiration from her own life’s experiences which she shares generously from her heart to guide others to reconnect with their own uniqueness. She has studied with many gifted teachers, who have influenced her teachings from energetic vinyasa, to healing therapeutics of yin yoga to nourishing restorative yoga. She invites her students honor their body and to move mindfully, while riding the waves of their breath. Kathy’s inspirational classes will challenge your body and mind to invoke a deeper purpose for stepping onto the mat. She feels honored to be able to share her passion for yoga with her community since 2003.
BETTINA UTZ, Pilates Instructor
Bettina Utz became a certified Pilates instructor in 2006 through Brooke Siler’s teacher training program, a 700 hour certification in classical Pilates, and has been changing bodies ever since. In addition to her work as a senior instructor at re:AB Pilates in NYC, she trained numerous private clients in Manhattan and the Hudson Valley, and she had the honor to be the Pilates instructor for the staff at Rodale Publishing for three years.
Outside the world of Pilates, Bettina uses her powerhouse as a graphic designer, organic gardener, and avid beekeeper.
ALI VERDICCHIO, Yoga Instructor
Ali creates unique, fun and balanced yoga sequences, that provide a physical workout for Yogis of all levels. She grounds her students in awareness of breath, and guides them through poses with clear direction and modeling. Ali received her 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certification through Living Yoga Studios in Cold Spring, N.Y., which trained her to focus on an alignment based flow, with an emphasis on conscious sequencing. High energy, killer playlists, and a couple of laughs are key elements in all her classes! When Ali is not in the yoga studio, she’s hiking with her dog, trail running through the beautiful Hudson Valley, teaching Italian to her High School students, or relaxing in Italy and enjoying time with friends and family.