Sankalpa: Aspiring to Inspire

Monday, August 22, 2011 -

Michele Hoffman knows something about setting an intention. Today, Michele is a graduate of AVI’s Yoga Therapist Training Program and is on the staff of Fairview Hospital in Red Wing, MN as a yoga therapist. She creates programs for special populations and sees referrals from departments such as occupational therapy and physical therapy. She teaches therapeutic classes and offers one- on-one sessions. Long before this was reality, however, Michele was called to teach yoga. She created a vision of herself as a therapist and made a flier that she put on her mirror. She saw it every day. It was that flier that she put in the hands of the Fairview Hospital management who decided to hire her.

In an interview in Yoga International, Gary says “Sankalpa, determination, implies the ability to strengthen our will and to set and activate an intention. Sankalpa is the foundation of all yogic practice.” Michelle took a variety of yoga classes and found that yoga spoke to her heart, but she sometimes found it difficult. “I’m not one of those people with a Gumby™ body”, Michele says. Then one day, Maggie Kessell, an AVI graduate, subbed at one of the classes. “Viniyoga was completely different. I could DO this!”

Michele studied with Maggie at firstand then went on to complete teacher training with AVI. She began to teach on her own and realized she would either have to cut down on her job in information management and fund-raising with a small college or her yoga teaching.

She listened to her heart’s desire and knew she was called to teach. So, in short order she left her job, moved to a new town, and set out to make yoga accessible to her community.

The hospital job didn’t happen overnight. It took determination and cultivation of relationships over a period of time. Now, as an employee of the hospital, Michele has the opportunity to discuss her work with physicians and other staff who may not be familiar with yoga therapy. She's also part of some creative approaches such as her early morning yoga practice for the maintenance and housekeeping staff, which the management hopes will help reduce workplace injuries over time. When Michele does work with employees injured on the job, workman’s’ compensation covers the yoga therapy intervention she provides.

And she’s recently begun working with hospice patients, particularly those with end-of-life breathing difficulties.

The AVI Viniyoga Therapist training has provided Michele with the tools to work across disciplines in the health care environment. She developed a program for Yoga and Diabetes and is interested in pursuing research in this area and offering the class to other hospitals in the area. Clare Collins, RN, PhD and AVI Viniyoga Therapist Training Coordinator has been a key mentor for Michele in these efforts. “I found the AVI Viniyoga Therapist Training to be wonderful.

The second and third sessions (physiology and emotional/spiritual) were rich in learning for me. Watching and learning from Gary is magical and he and Clare make an excellent pair in presenting knowledge and teaching style.”

Along with her long term plan to offer her diabetes program at multiple facilities, Michele holds a vision of a grant or endowment that will support dedicated space at Fairview for yoga and other healing arts. And Michele knows something about setting an intention…

If you are an AVI student or graduate who is interested in learning more about the Viniyoga Therapist Training, join Gary Kraftsow and Clare Collins on Sunday, September 18 at 2 pm PT, 3 pm MT, 4 pm CT, 5 pm ET OR November 7 at 4 pm PT/5 pm MT/6 pm CT/7 pm ET. Contact Dona Robinson at to register for either of the calls.

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