Meet our Certified Accessible Yoga Teacher Trainers
Our global team of in-person trainers are experts on topics like accessibility, social justice, trauma-informed teaching, marketing, and more.
Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of Accessible Yoga, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. He’s the author of the book, Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications 2019), co-owner of the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, and an Integral Yoga Minister. He lives with his husband and two children in Santa Barbara, California.
Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities with an emphasis on community building and social engagement. Out of this work, the Accessible Yoga organization was created to support education, training, and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. In addition to offering Conferences and Trainings, Accessible Yoga offers a popular ambassador program.
Jivana coined the phrase, “Accessible Yoga,” over ten years ago, and it has now become the standard appellation for a large cross section of the immense yoga world. He brought the Accessible Yoga community together for the first time in 2015 for the Accessible Yoga Conference, which has gone on to become a focal point for this movement. There are now two Conferences and over thirty-five Accessible Yoga Trainings per year, as well as a strong underground yoga community supporting them.
Over the past 25 years, Jivana has led countless yoga teacher training programs around the world, and dedicates his time to supporting yoga teachers who are working to serve communities that are under-represented in traditional yoga spaces. For more information head to www.jivanaheyman.com
Amber Karnes, E-RYT-200, is the founder of Body Positive Yoga. She’s a yoga teacher trainer, ruckus maker, social justice advocate, and a lifelong student of her body.
Amber is a community-builder who trains yoga teachers and studio owners to create accessible and equitable spaces for wellness and liberation.
Through her retreats, workshops, and the Body Positive Clubhouse, she coaches with folks who want to build unshakable confidence and learn to live without shame or apology in the bodies they have today.
She’s the co-creator of Yoga For All Teacher Training, an Accessible Yoga Trainer, a member of the Accessible Yoga board, and a sought-after expert on the topics of accessibility, authentic marketing, culture-shifting, and community-building.
She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband Jimmy. You can find her at bodypositiveyoga.com.
Kelley Palmer is a writer, wellness advocate and community organizer committed to using the tools and philosophies of yoga to cultivate liberation, joy and peace for herself and others. Her connection to the living practice of yoga, a path of mindful wellness and self realization fuels her work, impacts her life and propels her to want to share it with others through her writing, events and guest teaching opportunities. She remains focused on making this healing practice accessible to all, connecting to communities that are normally excluded or ignored in mainstream wellness circles.
Being a mother of two liberated souls has created a point of focus that brings these tools to the way she is mothering them and also calling her to share this with all parents. Through in person and online offerings, Kelley centers her work on making these connections with authentic and sustainable tool building. Her writing, offerings and more about her can be found at www.peacefilledmama.com.
Melanie “M” Camellia (they/them) is a yoga teacher and advocate, called to create profoundly accessible spaces for self-inquiry by integrating mindfulness and adaptive movement practices with the spirit of social justice. They believe that the goal of yoga, as of life, is collective liberation and in turn challenge contemporary yoga practitioners to dismantle the systems and beliefs that hold us all back. Melanie teaches group and private classes in the Washington DC Metro Area and as a Founding Instructor on the online class platform Core to Coeur. They offer regular workshops exploring queer identity, body image, and agency. Beyond their direct work with students, Melanie co-leads the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and trains teachers in accessible teaching methods for all bodies and abilities through their one-on-one teacher mentorship program and as an Accessible Yoga Trainer, and manages operations for Accessible Yoga Trainings internationally. They’ve been called a “tour-de-force of encouraging radical self-love” (DC Refined) and listed among the “top thinkers and activists in the field of body positivity” (OmStars). Melanie lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with their wife and two cats, Matcha and Chai.
Brenda Bakke, PT, M.Ed., C-IAYT, is a Physical and Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) who has successfully integrated yoga methods into her physical therapy practice since 1999. By integrating the ancient teachings of yoga with the developmental and biomechanical systems of physical therapy, Brenda creates individualized movement and mindfulness practices that are fully accessible and promote health and well-being in her students. She focuses on breath awareness to inspire a sense of calm and connection with one’s true self.
Brenda has participated in advanced trainings with Sonia Sumar, founder of Yoga for the Special Child (YSC), and has completed in depth studies with Gary Kraftsow. She is an Accessible Yoga Teacher & Trainer and a contributing author of Healing Practices to Help Kids Grow Up Easier. Brenda enjoys teaching yoga and physical therapy workshops around the country and introducing yoga and mindfulness into educational and healthcare settings. Connecting with the elements of nature is vital in her life and in her sharing of yoga. Brenda lives in Seattle, Washington with husband Dennis and dog Otis, and owns Bakke Physical and Yoga Therapy Services.
(ERYT500, CIYT, RYP, RYC, YACEP)
I was blessed to learn yoga under the loving guidance of Sri Swami Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) since I was a child. My father was a disciple of Sri Gurudev and my first Hatha Yoga teacher. Yoga has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
I became a certified Integral Yoga instructor in my early twenties. This was back in 2002. I spent most of 2003 living at Integral Yoga’s South Indian Institute studying and teaching and learning and growing. I’m completely dedicated to this lineage as it’s brought me so much peace in the midst of everything that life brings.
Each year I invest in my continuing education and personal development and have studied with some of the world’s pioneers in yoga for different abilities.
Today, I’m an authorised Integral Yoga teacher trainer, Accessible Yoga ambassador and trainer, Kidding Around Yoga trainer, and Yoga for the Special Child practitioner. This combination allows me to ensure that no matter which person walks in the door, they can find the approach that best suits their individual needs AND they can also learn how to teach others.
I’m dedicated in helping adults and children with different abilities or health conditions discover the benefits of yoga from the inside out. The media portrays yoga as something so different from what it truly is.
Alessandra Uma Cocchi
Uma is an Accessible Yoga teacher trainer, certified yogatherapist, and teacher from the Integral Yoga tradition of Swami Satchidananda. She trained in Italy, Portugal, USA and Austria through the different stages of Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Teacher Trainings, Accessible Yoga, Yoga of the Heart (for cardiovascular and oncological pathologies), Therapeutic Applications of Integral Yoga, Prenatal and Labour Yoga, Integral Yoga for Children trainings.
As an Accessible Yoga activist, she is a co-leader of the movement’s International Team, and Regional Representative for Italy.
As a yogatherapist, she is part of a research team in Italy carrying out medical studies on the impact of Yoga on health, with special reference to Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
As an Integral Yoga teacher, she founded YAP Integral Yoga Centre in Teramo, Italy, 2004 – a non-lucrative organization recognized by Satchidananda Ashram. She still teaches Integral Yoga there.
Amma Fandiño, RYT500, MSc, has been a devoted yogini for over 28 years and a passionate biologist for 27 years. Certified Integral Yoga and Accessible Yoga teacher. Amma’s passion is to share yoga with communities with challenges and conditions of vulnerability on a physical, mental and emotional level. Her initial teaching experience was in Santa Barbara CA under the support and mentorship of her teachers Rev. Jivana Heyman and Rev. Vidya Vonne (†) to whom she professes immense gratitude for their teachings and their example of life that inspired her on her journey as a yoga teacher. Upon the return to her home country, Colombia, Amma has been dedicated to teaching cancer patients and their caregivers. Her inspiration is to help alleviate pain and support symptom management associated with chronic and terminal diseases, accompanying patients to improve their life quality and their ability to cope with the difficult circumstances of the disease. Another facet of Amma´s vocation is teaching yoga to people with anxiety, depression, and addictions. Amma offered Yoga classes at the Santa Barbara County Jail, CA, and currently teaches in two prisons in Bogota. She dedicates her efforts to provide a space that promotes empowerment, rehabilitation, and healing of those deprived of liberty, as well as supporting their addiction recovery processes. Amma is contributing to the Accessible Yoga Program since 2015 and is a regional representative of the AY group in Spanish. As a Yoga Accessible trainer, she feels honored and fortunate to support the training of yoga teachers in the Spanish-speaking community. She lives in Colombia with her husband and two kids and loves to spend her free time in contact with nature.
Amma Fandiño, RYT500, MSc, ha sido una devota yogini por más de 28 años y una bióloga apasionada por 27 años. Profesora certificada de Yoga Integral y Yoga Accesible. La pasión de Amma es compartir yoga con comunidades con desafíos y condiciones de vulnerabilidad a nivel físico, mental y emocional. Su experiencia docente inicial fue en Santa Bárbara, CA, bajo el apoyo y la tutoría de sus maestros Rev. Jivana Heyman y Rev. Vidya Vonne (†) a quienes profesa inmensa gratitud por sus enseñanzas y sus ejemplos de vida que la inspiraron en su viaje como profesor de yoga. Al regresar a su país de origen, Colombia, Amma se ha dedicado a enseñar a los pacientes con cáncer y a sus cuidadores. Su inspiración es ayudar a aliviar el dolor y apoyar el manejo de los síntomas asociados con enfermedades crónicas y terminales, acompañando a los pacientes para mejorar su calidad de vida y su capacidad para hacerle frente a las difíciles circunstancias de la enfermedad. Otra faceta de la vocación de Amma es enseñar yoga a personas con ansiedad, depresión y adicciones. Amma ofreció clases de yoga en la cárcel del condado de Santa Bárbara, California, y actualmente enseña en dos prisiones en Bogotá. Dedica sus esfuerzos a proporcionar un espacio que promueva el empoderamiento, la rehabilitación y la sanación de las personas privadas de libertad, así como a apoyar sus procesos de recuperación de adicciones. Amma está contribuyendo al Programa de Yoga Accesible desde 2015 y es una representante regional del grupo AY en español. Como entrenadora de Yoga Accesible, se siente honrada y afortunada de apoyar la capacitación de maestros de yoga en la comunidad de habla hispana. Vive en Colombia con su esposo y sus dos hijos y le encanta pasar su tiempo libre en contacto con la naturaleza.
Heather Sevika Ford
Heather Sevika Ford, C-IAYT, RYT-500, Reiki I/II, MFA Design, is a certified yoga therapist with over a decade of teaching experience. Her experience and extensive classically based training allows her to work safely and therapeutically with a wide range of clients.
She believes that Yoga is for every body and is passionate about bringing yoga to those who do not think they have access to it. Her approach is collaborative and incorporates mindful movement, restorative postures, breath work, Yoga Nidra and meditation. These deeply healing practices are designed to strengthen the body, increase flexibility, support the immune system and soothe the nervous system fostering deep healing and transformation of the human experience.
Whether on the mat, in a chair or in a bed, Heather believes that Yoga is inclusive and accessible to all. Her foundation as an Integral Yogi, Heather has designed and led yoga classes at Stanford University School of Preventative Medicine and Graduate School of Business, Mercy Senior Housing, United Studios of Self Defense and Mission Blue community center.
In addition to leading classes, workshops and trainings for various organizations, Heather also brings her visual design skills to many of the organizations where she teaches, such as; Accessible Yoga, Integral Yoga Institute and Stanford University’s Health Improvement Program.
When she is not teaching, practicing or designing she can be found immersed in nature. A life long naturalist and outdoor enthusiast she draws inspiration, resilience and bliss from being outdoors. Please visit her website for more information: www.sevikayoga.com
Sarah Elizabeth Helt is a 500+ hr RYT. She began working with Accessible Yoga directly following the first Accessible Yoga Conference in 2015. Sarah currently lives in South Pasadena, California where she teaches individualized sessions for people of all ability levels; specializing in spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and persons with neurological difficulties; she also teaches group lead classes at various locations in East LA, and is currently lead teacher at Hot 8 Yoga (Pasadena). She is deeply involved in this, and other, teacher training programs. Sarah is inspired by her past in the performing arts to help all teacher find their voice, and by her in-depth study of anatomy to make complicated subjects easier to digest. Sarah is light-hearted and compassionate teacher trainer with a fresh perspective on adaptive asana.
Lakshmi Sutter, C-IAYT, eRYT500, Ph.D., has practiced movement for much of her life. Integral Yoga® captured her heart and mind in the 1990s, and the richness of Yoga began unfolding in her life. With a deep understanding and appreciation of Swami Satchidananda’s teachings, Lakshmi weaves the wisdom from contemporary yogins throughout her practice. She is a trainer of Integral Hatha Yoga teachers at the basic and intermediate levels and enthusiastically shares her fascination with the human body during basic anatomy workshops. Lakshmi served as the Director of the Integral Yoga Academy and the Integral Yoga Teachers Association at Satchidananda Ashram – Yogaville for five years. Her current seva is developing the Integral Yoga Therapeutic Yoga certification program. Lakshmi’s supportive instruction is suitable for a wide range of abilities, with different classes ranging from gentle and restorative to energetic and challenging.
Mary Gengler Fuhr, OTR/L, RYT, has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years and is the founder of Relaxing Resources, PLLC and Maple Valley Pediatric Therapy. She was drawn to yoga about 20 years ago as a way to heal and strengthen after several surgeries. She became interested in pursuing the practice in more depth, becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2009. She now specializes in sharing yoga with people living with autism, sensory processing disorders, anxiety, and other neurodevelopmental and health issues.
Some of the highlights of Mary’s teacher trainings have included Radiant Child Yoga, Yoga Calm Intensive, Relax into Yoga for Seniors, Essential Low Back Intensive, Therapeutic Yoga with Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peel, and the Accessible Yoga Training with Jivana Heyman.
Mary enjoys a variety of outdoor movement activities including skiing, hiking, and biking. She and her husband have 2 grown sons and split their time between living in the Seattle area and Chelan, WA.
Mary and Brenda Bakke, PT, have taught a variety of workshops on Yoga and Mindfulness throughout the country for parents, educators, and health care professionals for over 10 years. They are especially excited to be Accessible Yoga Ambassadors and Trainers.
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