Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo:
Jackie began her study of yoga at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo over 20 years ago. Her dedication to her practice led to a period of residential study with her husband, James, 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 guidance in hatha yoga and meditation, training in the philosophy of yoga, and practice of a yoga-inspired lifestyle. Jackie, who holds a BS in graphic design from Buffalo State College, has completed yoga teacher certification at both the 200 and 500 hour levels prescribed by Yoga Alliance. She became the Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo in November of 2013.
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.
President of the Himalayan Institute:
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.
Our Teaching Faculty:
Ann Loretan has been a student of yoga for 18 years and has been teaching yoga for six years. She is a licensed massage therapist and a retired nurse.
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.
Bonnie Prunella has been a student of yoga for many years. She has an M.A from UB in education. As a retired school teacher, she decided to combine her love for yoga and her skills as a teacher into teaching yoga. Bonnie completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training at the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo in 2012. She teaches yoga in several locations throughou WNY and is thrilled to join the teaching community at HIB. As a life-long learner, Bonnie continues to study the philosophy of yoga and the development of yoga practices on and off the mat.
Carol Stein, B.A.
Carol Stein, has taught yoga at the Himalayan Institute for ten years, following teacher training. Her interest in yoga began 30 years ago when classes were offered through the YWCA. She has a BA degree in English, and professional experience in journalism and non-profit administration. She has taught yoga in Amherst and Clarence, at Gilda’s Club, and at St. Joseph’s University Church. She and her husband have raised four daughters and have three grandchildren.
Carolyn Morell, Ph.D.
Carolyn Morell, Ph.D., is a long-time student of yoga who began teaching in 2007. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Work and Social Research from Bryn Mawr College as well as two Master’s degrees. After completing careers in social work and teaching, Carolyn retired several years ago from Niagara University to pursue other callings. In addition to yoga studies, she is inspired by family and friends, and by her connections to animals and the natural world.
Connie Gulino, LCSWR
Connie Gulino is a clinical social worker in private practice. She began her study of yoga to assist with a pregnancy, and continued with classes at various settings, coming to the Himalayan Institute in 1992. She completed teacher training in 1995 and has since been teaching at the Institute. Connie is currently studying bio-energetics after completing a 14 year career in addictions and family addictions treatment at ECMC outpatient clinics.
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.
Janet Downing discovered yoga in 1975 and in 1976 met a master teacher of yoga, Swami Rama, the founder of the Himalayan Institute. The opportunity to study systematically with him and other teachers of the Institute led her to become certified as a hatha yoga teacher. Later she trained to become a teacher of beginning meditation. She has been learning ever since.
Johnnie Piatz, M.S.
Johnnie Piatz has loved “movement” her entire life. She was awarded scholarships to the American Ballet Theatre and School of American Ballet in New York. She discovered yoga about 10 years ago through an adult education program in Buffalo. This led her to the Institute where she began teaching after completing her teacher training in 2005. She has a special interest in postural alignment and on the balancing effects of asana on emotions and energy.
Julia Kress, B.S., E-RYT 500, AYS
Julia Kress has been certified since 1995 by the Himalayan Institute and has her advanced certification at the 500 hour level. She holds a BA in Exercise Science from the University at Buffalo and is a co-teacher for the Universal Yoga program that serves students with disabilities at UB. Her focus is on helping all students feel a stronger connection to internal states of being in order to further integrate mind and body, and live a more joy-filled life. Julia is the director of the teacher training program at H.I. 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.
Mary Dedrick, M.S.
Mary Dedrick became a certified yoga instructor through the Himalayan Institute and has been teaching at the Institute since 1998. She also teaches yoga at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Gilda’s Club. She completed the Himalayan Institute’s 500-hour advanced yoga certification in India in 2004. Mary is the Director of Clinical Education at the University at Buffalo in the Department of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences. She is an avid cyclist, skier and loves to travel.
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.
Maya’s dedication to yoga deepened while living at the Himalayan Institute in PA from 2012 – 2013 where she received her 200-hour certification. Maya’s intention in every class is to lead her students towards a path of self-discovery and awareness. She believes that the most powerful teacher lies within and helps her students find that relationship through guided practice. Maya continues to explore her knowledge in yoga and philosophy through regular training, seminars, workshops and self-study. She is also active in her Para Yoga Master Training with teacher, Rod Stryker.
Nicolai Bachman M.A., M.S., E-RYT 500
Nicolai has been teaching Sanskrit, chanting, yoga philosophy, Ayurveda, and other related topics since 1994. He has a knack for synthesizing and organizing complex topics into simple and understandable presentations. His education combines informal, traditional study with the academic rigor of university classes. Nicolai studied extensively at the American Sanskrit Institute, the Ayurvedic Institute, the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the Vedic Chant Center. He holds an M.A. in Eastern Philosophy, an M.S. in Nutrition, and is eRYT500 certified.
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.
Samantha Cudney, B.A.
Samantha began her study of yoga in early 2000 while working on her B.A. in Music from SUNY Buffalo. She was soon introduced to the Himalayan Institute, where she continued her study and went on to complete the 200 hour teacher certification in 2010. Her practice has grown to influence all aspects of her life and she enjoys the continual process of learning and growth that is yoga. In her free time she likes to knit, read, play with her cats, and spend time outdoors.
Sapna is a resident at H.I. Buffalo and teaches our Laughter Yoga classes.
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.
Sherry Robbins, M.A.
Sherry Robbins is a poet who teaches creative writing throughout New York state and abroad. She has dozens of poems published in literary journals and anthologies here and in Spain and Portugal. Her newest book of poetry, Or, the Whale, was recently published by Blazevox Books. Sherry is a certified yoga teacher who did her training at the Himalayan Institute and has been teaching here since 2005.
Shobha Chowdhary began her own catering business in 1995, and has been teaching for nearly a decade. Trained in the traditional methods of Indian cooking, she is passionate about sharing the flavors, techniques, and numerous health benefits of Indian cuisine. Shobha has developed recipes that are both delicious and easy for anyone to learn.
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.
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.
Tracy Draksic, M.A., E-RYT 200
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 therapy, meditation and Vedic philosophy. She completed the Institute’s teacher training program and became a Yoga Alliance certified instructor in 2010. Many opportunities followed for further teacher education in both Toronto and Honesdale, PA. Tracy currently teaches Hatha Yoga, Sanskrit, Indian cooking, and philosophy at the Himalayan Institute, Rising Sun Yoga and Daemen College. Her passion lies in sharing the power of yoga and meditation to heal and transform lives. She received a B.A. in French Literature from Wells College and an M.A. in Linguistics from SUNY Buffalo. She is also the web manager at H.I. 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.