Hip Dhamma is a reflection of universal teachings of the preciousness of human life that I incorporate into my work as artist, yoga teacher, and nutritionist.

Dhamma or Dharma, as the Buddha taught, are the universal truths of the world, and in this world healing is our birthright.

UPDATE:  Hip Dhamma Yoga is available for custom yoga mindfulness programming at schools and organizations in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.  See where to find our original Brooklyn-based teaching team in the community.  

My story begins in San Francisco, CA where I was born and raised in a tradition of the arts and social justice. During this time I witnessed my family and community struggling with understanding nutrition and options for sustaining healthy lives. In college I embarked on my personal healing journey, and upon graduation, Harvard University funded me to create a community-based health and wellness curriculum. While implementing my program in Berkeley, CA, I became certified as a yoga teacher, working primarily with under-resourced communities in public schools and detention centers.

My commitment to the accessibility of healing resources continues to be strengthened as I offer insight into how all of our struggles as human beings are connected to our needs for healing and sustaining meaningful growth from our experiences, no matter how joyful or difficult.

I am a first generation graduate of Harvard University, with certificates from Yoga Alliance, and the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

Meet My Teaching Team

lisa biophotoLisa Johnson – Program Manager

I first found yoga when I was 19 in college in San Antonio. From that day forward yoga became a large part of my life. After moving to New York in 2007 I completed my 200 hour teacher training at ISHTA Yoga. I have studied with Alan Finger, Jean Korner, and Anoeda Judith. PGA continues to inspire me everyday.

Olaronke Akinmowo

I was born in Brooklyn, NY into a Nigerian family. I’m happy to say my parents have developed a good understanding of what yoga is although at first they were quite skeptical. I also work as a production designer and art director for films and music videos. I have a deep passion for creating beautiful interesting spaces. I enjoy telling a story through the use of furniture, paint colors, fabrics, lighting, imagery. In this work I get to be crafty and creative and I love that. I love getting into the details of colors, texture, tones.  I have tried for years to figure out how my two main points of life interest connect and so far what I’ve gathered is that it boils down to transformation. In film as a designer, I’m transforming spaces and supporting the arc of the story. In yoga I pray that I’m also guiding people in a transformative process and offering them the support they need to venture through life fearlessly. I think this might be the connection between my two loves, yoga and set design. I’m still figuring it out, either way they are both heart led interests so it feels right for now. I have a beautiful daughter and I’m grateful to be a mom its been hands down the best thing to ever happen to my life, my child is my joy and main reason why I strive towards being my best and most truthful loving me.

 Amanda Gloria Valdes

Amanda is New York City actress that found yoga during her studies at Rutgers University, NJ and William Esper Acting Conservatory, NY.  While working in the industry and teaching artist workshops Amanda found that many artists need more than just training,  a sense of freedom, healing,  and mental clarity  was truly beneficial . Amanda began her journey to see how yoga can be used to in her community. Amanda wants to use yoga as an offering to share in her community to reach those that want to “Create, Breathe, and Fly”. Amanda believes Yoga can truly be something everyone can benefit from no matter what one’s career choice or economic means.

To create a solid foundation of her yoga practice Amanda was eager to find a way to deepen her practice she found Yoga Vida where she began vigorously taking class with Alyssa Arroyo. Amanda was so inspired she took a leap and decided to get certified ! Amanda is 200 RYT certified and has completed a vigorous apprenticeship under Alyssa Arroyo. Amanda’s yoga class experience with include relatable dharma and great music!

shelley bio photoShelley Nicole Jefferson

Shelley began her yoga journey after being told that nothing, but medication would help the pain she was suffering with a hernia.  After some deductive reasoning, yoga seamed like the logical, non-pharmaceutical answer to her problem and she was correct.  That was 10 years ago and now Shelley is a Kripalu Certified yoga instructor and a member of the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association.

Shelley believes that no matter if she is singing, writing or on the mat, it is all healing work and falls right in line with her personal journey and that of sending healing vibes out to the world.

“Becoming a yoga teacher was a perfect addition to my life and a natural progression,” Shelley explains. “I believe this practice saved me so I am excited to share it with all the communities that I travel though.  Yoga is for everyone. All sizes. All shapes. All colors. Yoga for all.”


vanessakennedy_biophotoyogaVanessa Kennedy

Vanessa’s yoga journey began in 2008 where she began practicing Bikram Yoga in Atlanta, GA while studying Sociology at Spelman College. Her practice stuck with her after graduation, during her matriculation through a Master of Urban Planning Program at Rutgers University and continues to keep her sane in her hectic career as a real estate financial analyst. After a long stint practicing various styles of hot yoga, Vanessa decided to enter the 200-hr Hatha-Vinyasa teacher training program at Om Factory which she completed in April 2013.

As a teacher, Vanessa strives to present her most authentic self and to create a space where students can feel free to explore their bodies and breath in movement. Her passion is bringing underserved populations and unlikely students to the yoga mat. In her classes, she combines jazzy, soulful playlists with movement that challenges her students’ balance, concentration and stamina. She hopes that her students leave with the strength and confidence to go out in the world and shine their light.

tamar bio photoTamar

Music and movement have been integral parts of Tamar’s life since childhood.

Introduced to the art form of Raqs Sharqi (Bellydance) in early 2000 by award winning dancer ‘Oreet’, Tamar took to the dance like a fish to water.

She has since studied with internationally renown dancers Arianna al Tiye, Dalia Carella , Jillina and most recently Egyptian Master Randa Kamel. Having toured internationally as a professional musician; Tamar considered the return of dance to her repertoire of creative expression, a blessing.

Tamar has performed at various NYC Belly Dance venues as well as LIU’s Kumble Theater and was selected to debut solo choreography at Bric Studio’s ‘Out of Space’ series co-presented with Dance Space Project in it’s third season.

As a performer, instructor and student of the dance, it is her goal to continually expand her knowledge and experience as well as enrich the lives of women through this art form. As a daughter of the African Diaspora, Tamar acknowledges Raqs Sharqi as an ancient tradition within this circle as well as a tool for healing and education. In her commitment to bring knowledge of the art form to a wider audience; Tamar produces a Solstice Hafla (‘party’ in Arabic) Series at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAM Café.

kellybritt biophoto

Kelly Britt

Kelly began to seriously study yoga in 2007 in Philadelphia when she found that it provided therapeutic relief for long held injuries acquired over the years as an archaeologist. As she moved back to New York in 2009 to complete her Ph.D. in Anthropology at Columbia University, her love for yoga blossomed and she felt the need to share this love with others. She received her 200-hour teacher training in the fall of 2010 and started to also study eastern philosophy with Dr. Douglas Brooks and Eric Stoneberg combining her two loves-learning about other cultures and practicing yoga. Instead of heading directly into teaching yoga full-time, Kelly settled into another new role as mum and began to explore how to incorporate this new role into her practice. Pregnancy, delivery and parenthood led Kelly to explore the changes throughout a woman’s lifecycle and desire to make every step of that lifecycle a healthy positive experience. Her desire to learn more on how yoga and natural foods can enhance these cycles and provide relief for women’s health issues such as endometriosis or infertility led Kelly to complete prenatal and postnatal yoga training in 2012 and take courses in ayurvedic practice. She began to work with private clients in different phases of women’s life from pregnancy to post-natal and into peri-menopause. While she continues to explore all aspects of yoga, her practice and teaching now primarily focuses on women’s wellness and health in all stages of life.

mihoby bio photoMihoby Rabeharison

Mihoby Rabeharison, comes to Brooklyn via her native homeland of Madagascar!

As a little girl Mihoby always had an affinity for dance. As a young adult she formalized her training and received an M.A. in dance pedagogy from Temple University. She has since been invested in using and sharing art as a tool for personal and social healing.

In addition to launching her own works, she has most recently danced with Balafon West African Dance Company and See Wee Dance Theater Company. She has taught dance and movement classes at D.C. Dance Collective, Capital City Public Charter School, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Temple University, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, Slope Gym, and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

hannah biophotoHannah Gruber

Hannah came to yoga from a stressful, jam-packed life with debilitating allergies and asthma. Tired of medication, inhalers, doctors, and caffeine, she was willing to try anything and through yoga learned that she was in charge of her own health and life. Yoga practice continuously brings her confidence and peace and she believes that everybody deserves to live a life they love. She started teaching yoga to help people connect to their own power: to grow, thrive, and evolve. Her distinct and playful yoga classes challenge you to be your best self: through curiosity, play, and a willingness to evolve. Hannah is a yoga teacher, trained in Anusara yoga and Yogahour®, Reiki practitioner, and avid student of Ayurveda, passions that led her to create Grow Your Self.

sokhna biophotoSokhna Heathyre

Sokhna Heathyre is a gemini.  Her 2 sides each have 2 sides, making sokhna a woman of many veils.  She is mother of two, supporting vocalist in electronic band “The Crystal Ark”, Birth Doula, Herbalist and performance artist.  Yoga is the weaver of all of her expressions, each complimenting another’s potency and tool for healing.  sokhna has performed all around NY and around the world, touring music and art festivals since 1998.  Over the past 19 years she has taught yoga in studios, gyms, cancer centers, schools, forests, and prisons.  sokhna has a BS in psychology from University of Michigan, a BA in education from Western Michigan, and certifications in Hatha Yoga (Laughing Lotus), Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan (Krishna Kaur Khalsa, KRI), Herbalsim (Karen Rose, Sacred Vibes Apothecary), Doula Arts (DONA), and a M.O.M (the OMNIVERSE).  In 2012, sokhna birthed her prenatal teacher training ~ MamaSutra Prenatal Yoga.  This past June she began a 13 Moonth Yogini Svadhyaya in which 11 women are collectively educating themselves about themselves through yoga, herbs and art.  In July, sokhna co~led her first yoga retreat to Costa Rica:  “Original Woman Yatra.”  She has just taken sabbatical from her birth support work to write a book on the permanence of parenting.   JAI MA!!!

Jorge biophotoJorge Arévalo Mateus – Musician in Residence

“Guitar for Yoga is my service, practice, and meditation.  It is a way for me to contribute to a sense of community, healing, and love.  Music is the way I connect to my soul and to the souls of those around me.  It allows me to transcend my ego while I “tune in” to the energy of others.”

Jorge Arévalo Mateus holds a doctorate in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University (2013), as well as M.A. and B.A. degrees in Music (Hunter College, CUNY, class of ’98).
Areas of specialization include Latin-American and Caribbean, American Jazz and Folk musics; archiving and music collections management; and transnationalism, identity, and hybridity theory in popular culture and urban studies.
Dr. Arevalo is also a professional musician and archivist.  Since 1995 Mr. Arevalo has been Curator/Head Archivist for the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives. In 2008, Dr. Arevalo won a GRAMMY for producing the best historical recording, “The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance, 1949”.  Dr. Arevalo also served as Assistant Director at the Louis Armstrong House and Archives, Queens College, City University of New York,  from 1993 to 1998 assisted in initiating the capital project to convert and develop the Louis Armstrong House into a historic house museum.  He has also served as Archivist/Librarian for Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem and at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), where he established the archive of traditional and contemporary Native American music within the NMAI’s Film and Video Center.  As a principal in his archives and collection management and development consultation firm, Arevarc Consultants, Mr. Arevalo has provided services to numerous museum and historical organizations including the Alan Lomax Archives at Hunter College, CUNY; the RAICES Archives of Latin Music at Boy’s Harbor, Inc.; and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, where he is currently Project Director for FolkCOLOMBIA Música y Danza, a community cultural initiative.

Tanya Diallo Welsh – Co-founder of Hip Dhamma Yoga

Tanya Diallo was first introduced to yoga and meditation in 2000, a few years after moving to the United States from Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa. She was re-introduced to yoga in college, at first as a way to relieve her knee and lower back pain. She quickly fell in love with the practice discovering for herself that the movements of her body were not separate from the movements of her mind and breath. Tanya has been practicing yoga for eight years. She has completed 500 hours of certified teacher trainings, mainly through the School for Compassionate action, where she was trained to work with at-risk youth and post-trauma patients. Tanya is also a certified meditation instructor. She has interned at the DOME project (an alternative to incarceration center) and Gouverneur Hospital, working mainly with women. Tanya is currently working on building relationships with international organizations interested in merging the tools of yoga & meditation, and other healing arts with international development and human rights work, and hopes to help with the creation of future programs. Tanya has lived in Bedstuy for six years and is thrilled to be sharing the tools of the practice with the Brooklyn Bed-Stuy community.


Shantay Armstrong

Shantay Armstrong

Shantay teaches the little ones how to flow through life gracefully and powerfully in Yoga Meets Dance. Shantay is a Brooklyn born and raised nomadic poet, educator, and health practitioner. Shantay believes in balance and justice and each person’s courageous participation in remembering their full potential. She is committed to healing in the forms of somatic movement, holistic health and continual growth. Shantay has nurtured and taught parents, and children ages 2-17 for over 10 years. She is studied for six years in meditation, spiritual practices, yoga, intuition and Shamanic healing. Shantay has an 8 month old son who she loves very much.
Yoga Meets Dance was created by Beth Rigby, it is a journey through the elements of nature involving simple yoga postures followed by dance movements. It It is simple and easy and made for anyone. For more information check out facebook.com/navigateUP or yogameetsdance.com

seema bio photo yogaSeema Sabnani

Seema Sabnani is a yoga instructor, social justice trainer, educator and artist. Born in India and making her home in Brooklyn, Seema brings her experience as a dancer, choreographer, public school teacher, activist and world traveler to design vinyasa-style classes which emphasize movement, meditation and creative self expression. She received her teacher training certification from Finding Sukha, (200 RYT) in New York City. Seema has a B.A. in International Community Development from University of Illinois and M.A. Degree in Teaching from Fordham University.

jessicaparks_biophotoyogaJessica Parks

Jessica’s life is constantly fluctuating between the pursuit of stillness and the pleasure of motion. She began her path as a committed mover at age three when she started dancing and has never stopped tip-toeing and skipping down this road… in fact her earliest memories are linked to movement. 13 years ago, at a time when life was flying by and her body was beginning to break down, Jessica discovered the beauty of a yoga practice. It started as a physical pursuit but Jessica began to feel something reminiscent of stillness in her mind and body at the end of her practice- she fell in love with the feeling. After a few years of spotty practice, 9 years ago Jessica found herself in NYC and discovered the true power that lives in the respite that her practice offers her. Yoga changed from an occasional pursuit to a way of life. In 2011, Jessica completed her 200-hr training through Yogaworks and is a certified 200-hr RYT through the Yoga Alliance. Jessica is an avid practitioner of any and all types of yoga and is passionate about assisting others on their journey to find internal stillness, peace and physical freedom. Jessica believes that yoga aids each of us on a deeply spiritual and physical level and should be available to all people.