Click here to read about the history of our building on Delaware Avenue!
Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo:
Jackie began her study of yoga at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo over 30 years ago. Her interests led to a residential study with her husband, Jim, at the Himalayan Institute’s home campus in Honesdale, PA, from 1994 to 1997. At the Institute, she learned to incorporate the concepts and practice of yoga as part of a holistic living experience that included hatha yoga and meditation, training in the philosophy of yoga, and practice of a yoga-inspired lifestyle. She holds a BS in graphic design from Buffalo State College and is an E-500 and AYS-certified instructor. She worked at Yoga International magazine for 18 years before becoming the Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo in November 2013.
Chairman, Spiritual Head of the Himalayan Institute:
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D.
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, is a modern-day master and living link to the unbroken lineage of the Himalayan Tradition. He embodies the yogic and tantric wisdom which the Himalayan Tradition has preserved for thousands of years. As a young man he committed himself to arduous spiritual practice and studied with renowned adepts of India before being initiated into the lineage of the Himalayan Tradition by his master, Sri Swami Rama, in 1976.
Pandit Tigunait is fluent in Vedic and Classical Sanskrit and holds two doctorates, one from the University of Allahabad (India), and another from the University of Pennsylvania. As a leading voice of YogaInternational.com and the author of 15 books, his teachings span a wide range, from scholarly analysis and scripture translation to practical guidance on applying yogic wisdom to modern life. Over the past 35 years, Pandit Tigunait has touched innumerable lives around the world as a teacher, guide, author, humanitarian, and visionary spiritual leader.
Guest Faculty / Former HIB Director:
Rolf Sovik, Psy.D.
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 Yoga International magazine.
Guest Faculty / Former HIB Director:
Mary Gail Sovik, M.S.
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.
Our Teaching Faculty:
Arup Bhattacharya, H.D., Ph.D.
Arup completed his BSc in Microbiology and MSc in Biophysics from the University of Bombay and PhD from Roswell Park Cancer Institute under SUNY Buffalo. He also has an MA in psychology from Annamalai University. Arup studied homeopathy at the British Institute of Homeopathy and at the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy. A researcher at Roswell Park and a homeopath in private practice, Arup also teaches several beginning and advanced courses at H.I. Buffalo.
Carissa Uschold-Klepfer, LCSW-R, RYT-500
Carissa began practicing yoga 25 years ago and is drawn to the power of healing, the creation of emotional and physical balance, as well as the mind body connection. She is a licensed psychotherapist, eating disorder/body image specialist and registered yoga instructor. Carissa completed both 200 and 500 Hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Certification at Himalayan Institute Buffalo and is registred through Yoga Alliance. She has been incorporating a mind body approach both personally and professionally for many years and is inspired and empowered by the the benefits. Carissa is honored to bring her love of yoga into the lives of those she serves and assisting them in creating balance and acceptance of self.
Cassandra Pershyn, MS, RYT-200
Cassie is a dancer, librarian, and yoga student born and raised in Buffalo, NY. She found yoga in the early 2000’s, and after years of dabbling in the practice, decided to pursue deeper studies – ultimately receiving her 200-hr YTT certification through the Himalayan Institute Buffalo in 2021. She is currently in the midst of advancing her teaching with the 300-hr YTT program. Cassie has an interest in Ayurveda and is excited to further her studies in that area. She resides in the Northtowns with a small pet menagerie. When not practicing yoga, you might find her reading, playing in the kitchen, digging in the garden and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
Cathy Zawodzinski, E-RYT 500
Cathy Zawodzinski joined the Himalayan Institute 15 years ago, initially looking for relief for her lower back pain. Years later, she is a certified yoga instructor with a strong, healthy back! Her teaching experience includes: classes at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo and multiple gyms in the Buffalo area, also working with adolescents at Baker Victory, patients at ECMC’s addiction rehab center, injured clientele at the Clarence Health and Wellness Center, and 4 year old students at School 90. Cathy works full-time as the data manager in Daemen College’s Department of Education.
Colleen Maloney-Berman, Ph.D.
After 12 years of instruction under Rolf Sovik, Wendy Dozoretz, Jackie Bogdan and Julia Kress, among others, Colleen decided to complete the 200-hour yoga teacher training program at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo. Her hatha practice and teaching incorporate elements of chair yoga and yin yoga. Colleen believes in the importance of yoga to maintain wellbeing in body and mind. Before retirement, Colleen directed a program for international students at UB.
Daniel Collins, J.D., RYT-200
Daniel was first introduced to yoga in 2012 during law school as part of his collegiate boxing team’s training regimen. Asana remained a consistent part of his mental and physical fitness routine as a student of various styles over the decade that followed. Seeking to uncover more meaning and bring depth to his practice, he embarked on his 200-hour Teacher Training in 2022 at the Himalayan Institute. The wisdom and skills passed on to him by the Institute’s talented faculty inspire him to pay it forward with each class he leads. Ultimately, he hopes to continue his spiritual journey by sharing inner peace and joy with fellow seekers along the way.
Donna Mattucci, M.S.
Donna Mattucci, M.A., has been practicing yoga for over twenty years. She was initiated in the yoga tradition by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait in 1993. She completed the Himalayan Institute Teacher Training Program in 2006 and has studied and traveled in India. She has a Master’s degree in Education from the State University College at Buffalo and a career in Elementary Education teaching students with special needs. Currently she is studying homeopathy. Donna teaches beginning and advanced meditation at H.I. Buffalo.
Erika Curran RYT-500 began practicing yoga over 20 years ago as a way to help her body feel better from competitive sports and activities. As she experienced the physical effects of a regular asana practice, she also noted the beneficial and lasting effects on her mind and emotional well-being. Erika went on to grow in her yogic lifestyle by receiving both 200 and 500 Hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Certification at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo and is registered through Yoga Alliance. Erika received an AS from Erie Community College, BA from Medaille College and is an active Property Manager by profession.
Erin Verhoef, MLS, YT-200
Erin cannot touch her toes without bending her knees. Growing up, she fell down a lot; and she was convinced that she could make herself invisible. When she developed a regular yoga and meditation practice, her life changed significantly. Now she falls more skillfully and is content to fully occupy the space of a body. She completed the 200-hour teacher training with HIB in 2021, and she will be completing the 300-hour training in April 2023. Since moving to the Buffalo area in 2001, she has held various occupational labels: bookseller, archivist, librarian, beekeeper, dog-walker, bookkeeper, and farmer, to name a few. As it turns out, everything is yoga. And flexibility is first and foremost in the mind.
James has been studying yoga since 1992. For ten years, he studied at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in New York City with Carolyn Christie. When he moved to Buffalo in 2003, he started studying with Kerry Mitchell at the Himalayan Institute where he completed his 200 hour Teaching Training in 2016 under the direction of Julia Kress, Sarah Guglielmi, Kerry Mitchell, and Shari Friedrichsen. For the past three years, he has also been studying under the direction of Michelle Gigante at Shakti Yoga. His practice and teaching are informed by the attempt to work gently with posture, breath and energy awareness as a means of finding ways to inhabit and make space within the difficulties of depression and other long-term mental wellness issues.
Julia Kress, B.S., E-RYT 500, AYS
My initial experience with yoga in the 1990’s at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo led me to making a radical shift in lifestyle and moving to the Institute’s educational headquarters in Honesdale, P.A. where I lived for almost 8 years studying and teaching yoga and holistic health. I learned the art and science of Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking, as well as, yoga as a therapeutic healing art. In 2004, I returned to Buffalo and received a B.A. in Exercise Science from the University at Buffalo. Shortly afterwards, I began my studies with Sue Mann Dolce and Matt Sanford and explored how to use yoga in a more accessible way – working with the Universal Design Yoga program at UB. I am currently serving as Administrative Coordinator and Senior Teacher for the 200 hour and 500 hour Teacher Training Program and the Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist Training Program at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo.
Kandy Svec, B.S., E-RYT 200, AYS
Kandy Svec has been practicing yoga since 2005. She has studied with a variety of teachers including Mary Gail and Rolf Sovik, Shiva Rea, Maria Garre, Sandra Anderson, Natasha Rizopaulus, and Sri Dharma Mittra. She incorporates yoga philosophy into her daily life by volunteering with numerous local non-profits. A graduate of the Cornell Hotel School of Hospitality Management and mother of two, Kandy is registered to teach yoga with Yoga Alliance. Kandy has continued to enhance her teaching abilities and knowledge by fulfilling the requirements for Certification as an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist through the Himalayan Institute. This training enables her to work with students to enhance their lifestyle and wellbeing through ayurveda and asana.
Kerry Mitchell, M.A., E-RYT 200, RYT 500
Kerry has been practicing yoga since the early 90’s and teaching yoga at the Himalayan Institute since 1995. She is a graduate of both the Himalayan Institute’s Teacher Training Program (200 and 500 hour) and Meditation Training Program. Foremost among her other programs of yogic study is the Living Tantra program with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. Following a 25-year career in international affairs, Kerry is now focusing her time and attention on the study and teaching of yoga and restoring a few of Buffalo’s wonderful old homes.
Laura Grube, LCSW-R
Laura Grube, LCSW-R, has been a practicing social worker and yogi for over 20 years. She completed her 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in 2008 at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, and also completed the 40 hour Certificate Program in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga through the Trauma Center in Brookline, MA. Laura teaches Gentle Yoga on a regular basis and has taught Yoga and Meditation for Anxiety and Depression.
Lawrence “Larry” Pignataro, MSM, CFP
Larry has been studying the philosophy and practice of Yoga since 2000. He completed his teacher training in the Himalayan Tradition in 2008 under the auspices of Rolf and Mary Gail Sovik, as well as a host of other highly talented individuals. He enjoys the opportunity to gently guide people further along the path of Self realization. In “civilian” life, Larry is a Certified Financial Planner, which has helped him come to the realization that ALL parts of life are Yoga.
Renee Szarowicz, M.S.
Renee Szarowicz dabbled as a young person in yoga. After completing her education as an advanced practice nurse she began to use yoga techniques in her practice. Frequently, guiding a person to watch their breath, stretch, or focus their mind diminished their pain and anxiety. Board certified in holistic, psychiatric, and rehabilitation nursing, she completed yoga teacher training as well. She now teaches yoga full time and volunteers at several hospitals.
Rosa has been a long-standing practitioner of yoga and meditation. She maintains a daily yoga and meditation practice and enjoys teaching yoga and mindfulness to adults and children. Rosa has completed 200 hours of Yoga teacher training, 23 hours of children’s yoga, an Ayurveda Yoga Specialist program and is currently enrolled in a year-long course being conducted by Daniel Rechtschaffen titled “Transformative Educational Leadership Program”. As the Coordinator of Student Services for the Williamsville Central School District, Rosa is one of the many people helping to bring mindfulness to teachers, related service providers, and K-12 students. Prior to being an administrator, Rosa was a Math teacher and a School Psychologist. While her work has always centered on student and teacher wellness, her recent work in mindfulness has been particularly meaningful and rewarding.
Sapna Patel is a Certified Classical Hatha Yoga Teacher. She has been practicing and studying yoga for nearly 20 years. Sapna completed her first Teacher Training through Inner City Yoga with Roseanna Frechette. She continued her study with Nischala Joy Devi, where she received a certificate for completing Yoga for the Heart training. In 2005, Sapna was initiated in the Himalayan Tradition. She moved to the Himalayan Institute to study with her teacher Pandit Ragmani Tigunat and completed her 200hr Teacher Training. Her teaching style focuses on giving her students the tools they need to relax and strengthen the nervous system, as well as, create the habit of being present. They can then incorporate these tools to support themselves as they move through the challenges and joys of the human experience.
Sarah Guglielmi, M.S., E-RYT 500
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.
Stephanie Limoncelli-Vealey, B.S.
Stephanie Limoncelli-Vealey is a wife, mom, and dedicated yoga instructor, who has practiced yoga for over 14 years. She is a former award-winning gymnast and gymnastics coach, with an extensive background in dance performance. Her deep interest in yoga led her to pursue certification at the Institute as a hatha yoga instructor. Stephanie teaches a variety of classes at the Institute and is on the faculty of the Teacher Training program.
Steve has been practicing yoga for the past 13 years and completed his 200-hr teacher training with HIB in 2016. He is currently working towards becoming a certified yoga therapist through the IAYT, specializing in using the techniques of yoga therapeutically. Outside of yoga, Steve holds Shodan rank in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu and a Masters in Kinesiology. He draws upon this body of knowledge to help bring an awareness of presence, alignment, and breath to his classes.
Tess Schwartz, OTR/L
Tess Schwartz is an occupational therapist who works with preschool children throughout the area. She has been involved in yoga for 12 years and completed her teacher training through the Himalayan Institute, both here in Buffalo and in Honesdale, PA. Originally from England she now lives in WNY with her husband and 9-year old daughter.
Tosca Miserendino, MSW, MLS, RYT-200
Tosca’s yoga practice has spanned 20 years. She received her 200 hour teacher training at the Himalayan Institute and is registered through Yoga Alliance. A social worker, with an interest in the role that trauma and chronic stress plays in long-term physical and psychological outcomes, she was drawn to yoga because of its capacity to support individuals in their healing journey. Tosca’s classes provide students with a space where they can fully and authentically connect to what they are feeling in their bodies, honor that feeling, and use that experience as a means of moving toward a life informed by the insight and clarity critical for creating better health outcomes. Tosca received her MSW and MLS from the University at Buffalo.
Tracy Draksic, M.A.
Tracy began her formal study of yoga at the Himalayan Institute in 1998. After many years of hatha yoga practice, she began expanding her interests into yoga philosophy & psychology, meditation, and Sanskrit. She completed the Institute’s teacher training program and became a certified instructor in 2010. Many opportunities followed for further teacher education in Toronto, Hamilton, and Honesdale, PA. Tracy manages the company web site at HIB and serves as a member of the teacher training faculty. She received a B.A. in French Literature from Wells College and an M.A. in Linguistics from SUNY Buffalo.
Wendy Dozoretz, M.A.
Wendy Dozoretz, M.A., is a former French teacher and a longtime student of yoga, trained and certified in the tradition of the Himalayan Institute. She is proud to have been teaching for the Institute since it was established here on Delaware Avenue. Her classes provide a peaceful and nurturing environment in which to explore the connection between mind and body. Hatha yoga and meditation have enhanced her life and are integral to her health and well-being.