Our Teachers

Our teachers are some of the finest in Western New York and around the world. All of them have completed in depth teacher training of varying levels and have a passion for sharing the practice of yoga with others. We invite you to try a variety of classes to experience the different teaching styles and offerings of this exceptional group.


Richard Jason Bruke

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Richard is an energy intuitive healer, that intends to guide you deeper into expressing your true nature through awakening love. He is a RYT 500 Yoga Instructor, a Reiki Master, has a B.S. Landscape Architecture, and is a Raw Vegan Chef. He continually has amazing opportunities to travel the world and is guided to learn and share healing practices from the spiritual lineages of a tapestry of cultures. 

Richard began experimenting with Yoga at age 15 cultivating his practice by attending classes throughout the years, and by living in intentional communities where yoga is a focus. He has lived and worked at The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies where he practiced multiple styles of yoga. He completed his 200 hr YTT at  ISHTA Yoga in NYC. ISHTA stands for Integrated Science of Hatha (Sun & Moon), Tantra (duality integration) and Ayurveda (life science). He completed his 300 hr YTT at Shri Kali Ashram in Goa India learning more about Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda integration closer to the source. "In my expanding circle of connection I share my gifts and talents in service of the oneness."


Maryna Caputo

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Maryna Caputo has been practicing yoga for over 10 years. Her practice inspired her to complete 250-hour teacher training in India at Yoga Vidya Gurukul ashram in the tradition of Swami Satyananda in 2008. Originally from Ukraine, Maryna has a degree in translation and worked as an interpreter at many international yoga seminars in Europe. She teaches classical Indian yoga, emphasizing the benefits of each posture and technique on physical, mental and spiritual levels and helping students reach a blissful state of body and mind. Maryna offers many traditional yogic methods and specialty classes, including pranayama and yoga nidra.


Susan Garguiolo

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Susan is an Experience Registered Yoga Teacher, a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider, LMT, Stress Reduction Therapist, CEP, Health Educator and a Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) Provider. Susan seeks to remove the effects of stress, anxiety and physical pain by encouraging education through yoga, mindfulness and deep relaxation techniques. Her classes and workshops teach others to become present and learn how to react to repetitive thoughts. She has spent years guiding and coaching individuals to work with both their minds and bodies through moment-to-moment awareness - strengthening the muscle of our attention. In the years of working in these practices, she has learned to cultivate a deeper level of concentration, patience and compassion along with increased creativity. 

Susan believes it is critical to address the source from which all activity arises - our inner world.  “If we can learn to turn our attention inward we can clarify our relationship to our self and shift our relationship to the world around us.”  She looks forward to being part of your journey as you travel this path in life.


Sonora Greer-Polkow

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Sonora began her mindful movement practice as a Bikram enthusiast in 2010. After several years,several moves, and several injuries, she found a small studio on the Oregon coast that nurtured her search for a meditative, personalized yoga framework. A graduate of East Meets West Yoga’s 200 hour YTT program here in Buffalo, Sonora teaches a mix of Hatha & Vinyasa with a focus on individualized movement. She believes yoga at it’s best enables us to move through our inner and outer worlds with confidence and grace.


Sarah Guglielmi 

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Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor 

Sarah Guglielmi is a professional educator and wellness coach, in the fields of yoga and ayurveda.  A former engineer, she was drawn to yoga 15 years ago looking for relief from chronic stress and illness. Sarah not only regained her health, but discovered a deeper dimension to life she finds rich and inspiring. Her overarching intention is to make the healing power of yoga and ayurveda accessible to her students.  

In addition to her private Wellness Coaching practice,  Sarah serves on the faculty of the Himalayan Institute.  For the past 10 years she has taught workshops on yoga practice, yoga philosophy, and ayurvedic lifestyle.  She travels nationally as a teacher trainer for the Himalayan Institute's Yoga and Ayurveda Professional Certification programs. Sarah currently resides in Buffalo, NY, where she serves on the faculty of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo and Daemen College.


Maddie Hallmark

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Maddie’s love to move and move others was the fire behind her becoming a RYT. She stumbled upon a Bikram studio about 8 years ago and the practice developed her love for movement, the body, and yoga. Sometimes the word Bikram can be scary to some that may not be familiar with the practice, but the strong relationship between body and breath throughout the practice is what drives Maddie in and out of the studio. She has a B.S. in Marketing that she pursued when the idea of a huge career was something that ticked inside. After a life-changing event, she quit her job and decided the passion for yoga was something that she needed to go after at that moment.

When she isn’t teaching, she can be found reading, doing agility training with her dogs, or working at Beulah’s!


Allison Higgins

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To me, yoga is about bringing together the body, mind and spirit. In my classes I strive for a sense of one-on-one connection, in order to guide students inwards. My goal is to have all students feel safe and comfortable, so modifications are always offered for students who have lower mobility or who love a gentle practice. I danced my entire young life, and as an adult found yoga provided a safer, healthier and more accessible way to keep moving and connecting to my body, as well as relieving stress. In my hatha classes, I draw on both western and eastern knowledge and practices developed in my yoga training and professional background as a masters level, licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). I received my 200 hr Yoga teacher certification from the Himilayan Institute, and am registered with Yoga Alliance.


Spencer Jones

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Spencer believes yoga is a powerful vehicle of direct personal experience for both physical and spiritual transformation, acknowledging the guru within each of us as the driver.
Spencer first came to yoga in 2008 as a stressed out student at Erie Community College who needed one more credit hour to qualify as studying full-time. He immediately knew he made a life changing decision and fell in love with the practice. Since then his practice has taken many forms and many intentions, from practicing hot yoga to successfully losing and keeping off over thirty pounds, to practicing vinyasa and hatha yoga to recover from a long-standing running injury.  

Spencer Jones is a Buffalo area native yoga teacher who has served children and adults with special needs his entire adult career. As a direct care provider for over eight years he has experience meeting people where they are and providing them with the support they need to be successful in day to day living. As a program counselor at summer camps for children with special needs since 2010 Spencer designed and facilitated therapeutic recreation activities that are both educational and fun. Spencer has completed 500 hours of yoga teacher training with Yoga Alliance and 95 hours of Yoga Alliance accredited instruction with Yoga for the Special Child. Yoga for the Special Child is considered the world leader in offering yoga to children with special needs, based on the Sonia Sumar method established in 1972. Spencer is also an Accessible Yoga Ambassador. Accessible Yoga is a not for profit that advocates for creating more inclusive yoga classes around the world. Spencer serves on the logistics team of the 2018 Accessible Yoga Conference in Toronto, Canada.

Spencer's teaching style reflects his own practice of finding stillness and steadiness in every asana and his belief in making yoga accessible to all people and helping them reconnect to a higher sense of Oneness.


Julia Kress

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Julia Kress has a BA in Exercise Science from the University at Buffalo, is a Certified Yoga Instructor at the Advanced 500 Level, E-RYT500, Yoga Therapist, and Ayurvedic Specialist. She has training in “yoga for disabilities” and has been part of the Universal Design Yoga program at UB since 2009. She is the Administrative Coordinator and Senior Teacher for the 200 and 500 hour Teacher Training Program at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo and has served as instructor for other teacher training programs in PA and Western NY. She works privately with clients to find the most effective method of yoga practice and lifestyle methods to fit their unique needs and abilities


Molly McDermott

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Molly has been teaching yoga for the past 6 years. She is a Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor, a Certified Prenatal & Postpartum Yoga Instructor and a Birth doula/birth services provider and educator. She began her yogic path in 2005 upon moving to East Aurora after a significant life changing event. She sought a new purpose and longing, which led her to yoga and an awakening to the spiritual path. This eventually transformed into becoming a yoga instructor, a passion for teaching pregnant women and providing various birth services to these women and their partners. 

Molly teaches a variety of yoga classes, including gentle and all level, as well as prenatal and postpartum and fertility yoga. Raising two children on her own for many years, Molly found peace, stability and strength by bringing yoga into her life and felt a passion to share the benefits with others.
Molly has always had a passion for learning and continues to educate herself to expand her knowledge to serve those with the same passions.


Alison Photiadis

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200 Hr RYT- trained in Sampoorna Yoga, the yoga of fullness, Alison has been teaching for 10 years and is currently working on her E-RYT. She specializes in chakra harmonizing or balancing, pre/post natal, birth prep, mommy & me, family yoga, The EssentialYoga and Aroma Touch classes.


Jill Wojcik Pula

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Jill grew up in Buffalo, NY but left after completing her Master’s Degree in Social Work from SUNY Buffalo.  She was blessed with the opportunity to live in Hawaii and travel the Pacific and Asia.  Her experience opened her eyes to different cultures and spiritual practices.  It stirred a deep interest and desire to learn Yoga.  After she left the islands, she moved to Tennessee where she took the next step in shaping and advancing her interest in Yoga.  She completed for 200-hour teacher training in the spring of 2012 in Nashville, TN with the hopes of integrating it with her work as a child and family therapist.  As her passion for yoga grew, she continued with training to lead yoga for family and kids.  Seeking more knowledge, Jill returned to Nashville, TN to complete her 300-hour teacher training with a specialty in Ayurvedic Wellness (one of the world’s oldest whole-body healing systems).

The newest of roles for Jill is that of mom.  She has an amazing little man, Alexander, who has been her best teacher so far.  He motivates her to want to be a better person, someone he will admire and model himself after.

Jill likes to incorporate a holistic approach to her yoga practice and teachings.  She works with students to connect movement with breath, providing them space to experience yoga within their own body.  Her main emphasis is to help individuals to find aspects of strength, balance and acceptance within their own yogic journey.


Aris Otminski

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Aris’ passion for wellness has been her driving force over the last 10 years. It is what led her to pursue an education in Exercise Science and Nutrition. She holds a BS Exercise Science, and MS Nutrition, she is CPR/First Aid Certified and FMCHC (Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach) in progress, expected completion June 2017.

While in college, Aris developed a love for yoga, and is a RYT Registered Yoga Teacher. It was a way for her to move, release stress, and tap in to a peaceful place in her mind that she hadn’t experienced before. Her relationship with yoga began with the Bikram practice, but has expanded to many other areas, including Hatha, Flow, Vinyasa, Yin, and many others. Aris began her Yoga Teacher Training in 2015 and received her certification in 2016 in Hot Yoga (similar to Bikram) and Hatha Yoga. She has an appreciation for all forms of yoga and is always eager to learn more.

While on a yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia, Aris was inspired to dedicate her life to the health and wellness of others. She decided to quit her full-time job so that she could focus on sharing her love for yoga through teaching. She also began her training to become a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach at this time, where she is learning how to be a guide for others to become the healthiest versions of themselves – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  

In Aris’ classes she encourages a focus on the breath throughout the asanas – seeing the practice as a breathing, moving mediation, and approaching your practice with love, patience, acceptance, and gratitude. 


Jessie Reino

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Jessie has been practicing yoga for 7 years.  She has completed her 200 YTT at the Himilayan Institute in Buffalo, NY and plans on continuing her education both with online courses and local workshops and classes.   She is currently enrolled in and will soon be certified in the Yoga for All curriculum.  

She has a calm presence and a compassionate, approachable style to her classes.  When you come to her class you can expect a slow and nurturing pace.  Her focus is on incorporating the breath with slow, gentle movements, providing a variety of options and modifications and using restorative postures to help her students relax.  Her desire is to create a safe and inclusive yoga practice for everyone that comes to her classes.


Rebecca Sophia Strong

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Rebecca Sophia Strong, MA, LMHC, RYT200 is a Contemplative Psychotherapist, Social Artist and Yoga Teacher. Rebecca holds a Master’s degree from Naropa University in Contemplative Psychology/Psychotherapy; is a trained systems-based group-facilitator; and is trained in the Hakomi method of body-centered psychotherapy. Rebecca has studied with Kira Sloane of Yoga Anytime and is a graduate of the Asheville Yoga Center for Hatha Yoga. Rebecca’s personal training in mindfulness began in 1995 with Hatha Yoga and overtime has grown to include the practices of; Aikido, the 5 Rhythms, Contact Improvisation dance, Shambhala meditation, the New Cosmology, Animas Valley Nature-Based Soul work and Tibetan-Buddhist meditation of Shamatha and Vipashana. Rebecca has been leading and teaching groups since 1997 through her Movement As Medicine body of work. Rebecca works full-time as a Mental Health Counselor and teaches yoga in Niagara and Erie Counties. Rebecca cherishes time in nature, loved-ones, laughing, dancing, coffee with nutmeg, and sharing mindfulness practice with others for the sake of creating a more peaceful, just, sane and happy world. She can be found at

www.movementasmedicine.com


Debbie Whiting

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Debbie is  a certified Hatha yoga teacher and  has a restorative certification from Judith Hanson Lasater. She has studied with various teachers at the Center for Mindfulness at UMASS Medical Center and has became a Qualified MBSR(Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) facilitator.

Debbie’s first experience with yoga was 15 years ago while rehabbing from her reconstructed ankle. Yoga not only provided physical assistance but taught her to work with the mind as well.  Yoga and meditation continued to provide a connection to the stillness needed in the busy years of raising her three children and working as an educator.

As a retired, empty nester, Debbie has traveled the world, which has nourished her adventurous spirit. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her one year old granddaughter. She is looking forward to sharing yoga and meditation experiences with the community and people at Creative Wellness.Please join Deb in a Introduction to Meditation class, guided meditation, open meditation or restorative yoga class.