Founder & Leadership
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.
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 bestselling At the Eleventh Hour: The Biography of Swami Rama of the Himalayas and a regular contributor to YogaInternational.com.
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.
Faculty in Residence
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, coauthor 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 ebook, “The Breath of Life—The Prana Vayus”, and articles on pilgrimage, prayer, and more.
Shari Friedrichsen has been teaching and studying yoga for more than 40 years and is a key facilitator at the Himalayan Institute’s Teacher Training & Professional Certification programs. She is a faculty member of the 500-hour teacher training program at 8 Limbs Yoga in Seattle, WA, and also conducts numerous classes, seminars, and trainings worldwide.
Shari has studied asana, meditation, and philosophy with respected teachers Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Rolf Sovik, Amma Karunamayi, and BKS Iyengar. Her unique style integrates subtle and gross anatomical awareness with breath awareness to draw the student into the inner experience of yoga. Her approach uses yoga as a vital, powerful, and compassionate component in healing the body and the psyche. Shari holds the following certifications—C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, and YACEP, and has presented over 40 videos on YogaInternational.com.
Judy Moulton is a Himalayan Institute certified and Yoga Alliance recognized E-RYT 500, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor registered with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), and a contributor to YogaInternational.com. Judy is also the director of the Himalayan Institute’s teacher certification programs and a key facilitator within those programs. Having experienced the immense transformative power of yoga directly, she relies on her own personal practice of yoga and ayurveda to support her daily life and is dedicated to helping others to do the same. Judy’s style of teaching combines breath-connected movement, classical asanas, breath training, and systematic relaxation to access a state of deep inner awareness as preparation for meditative practice.
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
Carrie Demers MD, has practiced integrative medicine for 22 years. After earning her medical degree and becoming board-certified in internal medicine, Dr. Demers went on to study massage, homeopathy, yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbal medicine, and ayurveda. She uses all these modalities to support patients’ inherent ability to heal.
Dr. Demers sees patients, writes articles, and lectures nationally on integrative medicine. She is board-certified in integrative medicine, and has been the medical director of PureRejuv Wellness Center for the last 20 years.
Shiva Tigunait earned a doctorate in classics from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught ancient languages, literature, and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and Smith College. After studying with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, she was inspired to move to the Himalayan Institute full-time in 2015. She currently serves as the Institute’s curriculum development manager and Wisdom Library editorial director. In her teaching and writing, Shiva draws on training in Sanskrit and linguistics, the texts of yoga philosophy and tantra, and the practical techniques of meditation. She strives to share how the wisdom of the sages can help us live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled life.
Irene (Aradhana) Petryszak
Irene Petryszak served as the chairman of the Himalayan Institute from 1996 to 2008 and was a senior editor of Yoga International magazine. She holds a master’s degree in Eastern studies and has studied and practiced yoga for over 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 the Himalayan Institute.
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.
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. Virat 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. Virat 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.
Sarah Guglielmi is a professional educator in the fields of yoga and ayurveda. A former engineer, she was drawn to yoga 15 years ago looking for relief from chronic stress. 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 transformative power of yoga and ayurveda accessible to her students.
Sarah has served on the faculty of the Himalayan Institute for the past 10 years. She has taught numerous workshops on yoga practice, yoga philosophy, subtle energetics, 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.
As a young boy, Luke had a very strong desire to help others and live a healthy lifestyle. After graduating magna cum laude from Marquette University with a degree in biomedical sciences, Luke immersed himself in the studies and practices of the Himalayan Tradition through residential programs at the Himalayan Institute.
His stay of over seven years in residence fueled Luke’s passion to share this knowledge. He has opened yoga studios and launched programs at centers and retreats from Venice, CA to the Hudson Valley; from Dallas, TX to Fond du Lac, WI. Luke and his family live in Westchester County, NY where he specializes in hatha, meditation, and the yogic lifestyle. In addition to teaching retreats and certification programs at the Himalayan Institute, Luke teaches locally, nationally, and internationally and leads spiritual excursions.
Founder of ParaYoga® (parayoga.com), 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‐RYT 500 and NAMA‐registered ayurvedic practitioner, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating 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).