One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD
Chairman / Spiritual Head
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker, the best-selling At the Eleventh Hour: The Biography of Swami Rama of the Himalayas and a regular contributor to Yoga International magazine. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Family tradition gave Pandit Tigunait access to a vast range of spiritual wisdom preserved in both the written and oral traditions. Before meeting his master, Pandit Tigunait studied Sanskrit, the language of the ancient scriptures of India, as well as the languages of the Buddhist, Jaina, and Zorastrian traditions. In 1976, Swami Rama ordained Pandit Tigunait into the 5,000-year-old lineage of the Himalayan Masters.
Rolf Sovik, PsyD
President / Spiritual Director
President and Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute and a clinical psychologist in private practice, Rolf Sovik has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Nepal. He holds degrees in philosophy, music, Eastern studies, and clinical psychology. Former Co-Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, NY he began his practice of yoga in 1972, and was initiated as a pandit in the Himalayan tradition in 1987. He is the author of Moving Inward, co-author of the award-winning Yoga: Mastering the Basics, and a columnist for YogaInternational.com.
Initiated into the Himalayan tradition in 1988, author and teacher Sandra draws on traditional yoga texts and 20 years of study and practice under the guidance of Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. She teaches all aspects of yoga nationally, trains teachers, and instructs programs at the Himalayan Institute where she lives. Sandra holds a degree in geology and began her studies in yoga while working throughout the west as an environmental groundwater geologist. View her videos on pranayama and other practices online, and visit YogaInternational.com for her e-book, “The Breath of Life—The Prana Vayus”, and articles on pilgrimage, prayer, and more.
Greg Capitolo began practicing hatha yoga and meditation in 1994. He studied with several experienced yoga teachers while working in accounting, finance, and IT. After completing the Himalayan Institute’s teacher training program in 2005, Greg began teaching yoga classes at corporations such as Oracle and Sybase. In 2006, Greg took residence at HI where he currently serves as the Director of Finance and Information.
Carrie E. Demers, MD
Board-certified in Internal Medicine, Dr. Demers is a holistic physician who blends modern medicine with traditional approaches to health. After receiving her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and completing her residency at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Demers went on to study massage, homeopathy, nutrition, herbal medicine and Ayurveda. She is on the faculty of the Himalayan Institute, and is Medical Director of the Institute’s Total Health Center. Dr. Demers has been interviewed by numerous magazines and newspapers and lectures nationally on holistic health and ayurveda. She is a frequent contributor to Yoga International.
Teaching yoga for more than 35 years, Shari Friedrichsen is a key facilitator of the Himalayan Institute teacher certification program and a member of the 500-hour teacher training faculty at 8 Limbs Yoga in Seattle Washington. Shari has studied asana, meditation, and philosophy with respected teachers Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Rolf Sovik, Amma Sri Karunamayi, and BKS Iyengar. An expert in subtle anatomy, her unique style integrates breath, alignment, and anatomical awareness to draw the student into the inner experience of each posture. Her approach uses yoga as a vital, powerful and compassionate component in healing the body and the psyche.
Sarah Guglielmi has been on a personal journey of healing and spiritual growth for over 15 years. She has taught yoga since 2002 in corporate, studio, and clinical settings. Originally drawn to yoga practice to relieve chronic stress and illness, Sarah has not only regained her health, but has discovered a spiritual dimension of life she finds rich and inspiring. Sarah serves on the teaching faculty of the Himalayan Institute and is the Professional Education Manager at their headquarters, where she has lived in residence since 2004. She holds a Masters Degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Delaware, and completed an eight-year engineering career with W.L. Gore and Associates, prior to joining the Institute.
Michelle Head, DC
Dr. Michelle Head is a chiropractor and certified applied kinesiologist at the Himalayan Institute Total Health Center. She has a holistic philosophy of health care and evaluates the structural, chemical, and mental aspects of health utilizing manual muscle testing. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College in Davenport, Iowa. Dr. Head lectures on stress management, workplace ergonomics, and headache prevention.
Luke Ketterhagen earned a degree from Marquette University in Biomedical Sciences, and then immersed himself in the study of yoga. He is certified by the Himalayan Institute, and specializes in hatha, meditation, diet and nutrition. He currently teaches at Santa Monica Yoga Center and throughout the US, conducting yoga teacher training programs and weekend workshops.
Rosy Mann holds a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery from the prestigious Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, India. She practiced clinical Ayurveda in India prior to coming to the United States. She currently serves on the faculty of Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and offers personal consults as well as workshops and programs as an Ayurvedic educator. Her expertise includes pancha karma (detoxification procedures), Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking, Ayurveda for women, pulse diagnosis, and Ayurvedic herbs.
Karina Ayn Mirsky
Karina Mirsky is a certified ParaYoga teacher and the director of Sangha Yoga in Kalamazoo, MI. She holds a master’s degree in East/West Psychology and is an adjunct professor of Yoga Studies at Antioch University Midwest. Karina draws on her experience as a performance artist, massage therapist, and cancer survivor to convey yoga as a therapeutic science and catalyst for personal transformation. In the March 2008 issue of Yoga Journal, she was featured as one of 21 teachers under the age of 40 shaping the future of yoga in America. Karina hosts teacher trainings and conducts private practice at Sangha Yoga, leads seminars in the USA and Canada, and holds annual retreats in Costa Rica.
Kathy (K.O.) Ornish
Kathy Ornish is a certified yoga therapist and teacher through Gary Kraftsow’s American Viniyoga Institute (AVI), a certified ParaYoga teacher, and has studied in the Iyengar and Himalayan Institute traditions. She is a consultant at the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California and is a program assistant in the Foundations for Yoga Therapy program at AVI. K.O. has a yoga therapy practice and teaches group classes in East Lansing, Michigan.
Irene (Aradhana) Petryszak
A senior editor of Yoga International magazine, Irene Petryszak served as the Chairman of the Himalayan Institute from 1996 to 2008. She holds a master’s degree in Eastern studies and has studied and practiced yoga for 30 years in the United States and India under the guidance of Swami Rama and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. She teaches meditation and yoga philosophy at HI.
AnaMargret has studied extensively with Rod Stryker and is a certified Para Yoga teacher. She also has extensive yoga therapy training, has trained in India at the Viniyoga school founded by T.K.V. Desikachar, and is certified by Judith Lasater as an advanced restorative yoga trainer. In addition to group classes, she teaches workshops, leads retreats and coaches private students. Her classes are strong and fun, and create a compassionate space for students to shine in their own light.
Mary Gail Sovik
Mary Gail Sovik has studied yoga and meditation since 1973 under the guidance of Swami Rama and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, and holds a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in educational counseling. She served as the resident administrator in the Minneapolis and Buffalo Himalayan Institute centers for many years, teaching yoga and meditation and leading women’s spirituality groups. She currently resides at the Institute headquarters where she serves as a residential faculty member.
Founder of ParaYoga®, Rod Stryker is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on the ancient traditions of yoga, tantra, and meditation. Rod’s teaching weaves together his depth of understanding, experience, and ability to make the ancient teachings and practices accessible to students of all levels. Rod has trained teachers for over 25 years and leads retreats, workshops, and trainings worldwide. He lives in the mountains of Colorado with his wife and four children.
Kathryn Templeton has devoted her life to the health of others. A psychotherapist for more than 20 years, Kathryn is a Master Teacher in the field of Drama Therapy and continues to work both clinically and as an educator specializing in the treatment of individuals with complex trauma. As an E‐500 RYT and NAMA‐registered Ayurvedic practitioner, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatmentsintegrating the principles of yoga and Ayurveda with clinical therapeutic techniques. Kathryn is an Adjunct Professor of Human Development and General Psychology in the Connecticut Community College system. She holds memberships with the International Association of Yoga Therapists, the National Association of Drama Therapists and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. (kathryntempleton.com).
Son of Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ishan Tigunait received his first spiritual lessons from Swami Rama. He earned a degree in computer engineering and worked for IBM before returning to the Institute to lead the Energy Farming initiative which provides sustainable rural empowerment for communities in developing countries. Ishan now serves as Director of Strategic Development for the Himalayan Institute and spearheads the expansion of the Institute’s humanitarian projects around the world.
The founding editor of Yoga International magazine, Deborah Willoughby holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Virginia. After a career in Washington, DC, as a writer and editor, she turned her attention full-time to the study and practice of yoga. She has studied with Swami Rama and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait in both the United States and India and served as President of the Himalayan Institute from 1994 to 2008. She currently teaches meditation, yoga philosophy, and Vedanta at the Honesdale campus.
Lawrence (Virat) Xavier
Virat Xavier has studied and taught raja yoga for more than 35 years. He holds a master’s degree in educational counseling. He was born in China, raised in Japan, and educated in the United States. In 1973, he was initiated by Swami Rama with whom he studied in the US, India, and Nepal, where he managed the Hansda Ashram. He served as the Director of the Himalayan Institute branch centers in New York City; Buffalo, NY; Glenview, IL; and Cameroon, West Africa. He now lives and teaches at the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA, where he works with the Global Humanitarian Projects.