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AVI Staff and Faculty

Inspired. Passionate. United by the Teachings of Viniyoga.


  • Nancy Chapdelaine, MS, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, CYT is coordinator for the American Viniyoga™ Institute (AVI) VFP East Coast Training as well as coordinator for VFP curriculum. She is also coordinator for AVI’s Heart-Mind Program. Nancy began her yoga journey with AVI in 2005, becoming certified by AVI as a Yoga Teacher in 2007 and as a Yoga Therapist in 2009. She is a Yoga Alliance registered Yoga Teacher and a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). She holds BS (Computer Science) and MS (Electrical Engineering) degrees from the University of Washington and Carnegie-Mellon University, respectively. Nancy lives in the western suburbs of Chicago where she works as a manager for a global telecommunications company and teaches yoga classes and workshops. She could not manage her busy life without Viniyoga.
  • Mary Hilliker, RD, E-RYT 500, CYT is Teaching Coordinator for AVI's 200 Hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor Training and faculty for Viniyoga Therapist Training.  In the past she was Director of Administration for AVI and Training Coordinator for the 2011 Foundation for Yoga Therapy Training.  She is a graduate of the University of WI-Madison with a B.S. in General Dietetics and holds certifications for a 200 hour yoga teacher training with Elizabeth Patric in 2002, the 500 hour AVI yoga teacher training in 2007 and the AVI Yoga Therapist Training in 2009.  Mary had a 25+ year career in public health in nutrition and chronic disease prevention, most recently with the UW-Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, which informs her work with AVI and her teaching.  Mary resides in Wausau, WI with her husband where she has a Yoga Therapy practice and teaches general, worksite, senior and therapeutic classes and workshops.
  • Kathy Jamison first joined the AVI Viniyoga Teacher Training faculty in 2008 and is currently the VFP West Coast Coordinator and faculty for the AVI Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy at Yogaville, Virginia. She has completed AVI’s advanced Viniyoga Teacher Training (2002) and Therapist Training (2005) programs. Since 2010, Kathy has been a teacher in the Viniyoga Stress Reduction Program at the Aetna corporate headquarters in Hartford, CT. She maintains a Yoga Therapy practice at Westport Therapeutic, a group offering Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Psychotherapy, and Massage Therapy as well as Yoga Therapy, and also offers group classes near her home in Westport CT. In addition, Kathy is a certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Educator and licensed massage therapist, and tutors bodywork students in anatomy and physiology. Kathy is the president of the American Viniyoga Institute Foundation, Inc., a scholarship-granting organization.
  • Clare Collins, R.N., Ph.D., F.AAN, E-RYT 500 is certified by the American Viniyoga Institute as a Yoga Teacher (2003) and Yoga Therapist (2005). Clare is Senior Faculty for the Viniyoga Therapist Training Program.  She assisted at over 25 AVI professional training programs and served as the Training Coordinator for multiple Viniyoga Programs. Currently, Clare is a Yoga Therapist in East Lansing, Michigan, Professor Emeritus of Nursing at Michigan State University and member of the American Academy of Nursing. She completed a Master's degree in Mental Health Nursing at Yale University, Ph.D. in Counseling at University of Michigan and a five year post-doctoral research fellowship in geriatric mental health at the National Institute of Mental Health. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
  • Dawn Summers is Faculty for the AVI Viniyoga Foundations Program (VFP) for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. She has been the Training Coordinator for multiple VFP and Viniyoga Teacher Trainings and was formerly faculty for the Yoga Therapist Training. Dawn teaches in San Francisco and resides in nearby Pacifica, California. She was certified in Viniyoga in 1992 and was the first graduate of the AVI Yoga Therapist Training in 2001. She has a special love of making the wisdom of Patanjali more accessible through music and cartoons, and she also has a deep appreciation for the power of ritual and chanting. She is profoundly grateful for the skillful techniques of Viniyoga, which have allowed her to transform her body, mind, and heart so gracefully without injury.
  • Juris Zinbergs is faculty for several AVI trainings, including the Viniyoga Teacher Training, Foundation for Yoga Therapy and the Viniyoga Foundations Program.  He began practicing yoga in 1993. Juris graduated as a Certified Viniyoga™ Teacher from the American Viniyoga™ Institute in 1997. He then completed AVI's Yoga Therapist Training. three-year training course in the application of yoga as a therapeutic process for managing acute and chronic disease (Yoga Therapy). Juris has been a faculty assistant several AVI Teacher Training and Therapist Training programs and can be seen demonstrating yoga postures in Gary Kraftsow’s book, Yoga for Transformation. Juris currently teaches open group classes at Yoga Works, UC Irvine, 24 Hour Fitness, and Newport Workout. He also leads small private group retreats. 
  • Mary Hallway OTR/L, CYT received her advanced teacher certification from AVI in 2003 and certification as a Yoga Therapist in 2005.  She conducts group and individual yoga therapy with individuals with a variety of health conditions and disabilities.  She has been a staff assistant with the AVI Teacher Training and Therapist Training Program and has consulted with AVI on curriculum planning and development. Mary is a licensed occupational therapist and owner of a multidisciplinary pediatric private practice in Southern California.  She teaches post graduate education courses for therapists nationally and internationally.  
  • Kenneth Tom, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, RYT 500, is an AVI certified Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist and is faculty for Viniyoga Therapist Training. He is a licensed speech-language pathologist specializing in the treatment of voice disorders and is currently Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders in the Department of Human Communication Studies at the California State University, Fullerton. Kenneth completed a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology at San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Iowa focusing on voice acoustics and biomechanics. His teaching and research focus on voice acoustics and physiology, voice disorders, and care of the professional voice. He integrates the tools of yoga, myofascial release, acupressure and techniques adapted from theatre/singing voice into his work in voice care/rehabilitation.
  • Mirka Scalco Kraftsow currently serves as Senior Faculty for AVI’s VFP and Heart-Mind programs.  Mirka has been a health practitioner and educator since 1974 and a Yoga teacher in the Viniyoga™ methodology since 1981 and a Yoga Therapist since 1988. Mirka has helped hundreds of individuals develop and maintain a personal practice and manage challenging personal and therapeutic conditions.  Born and raised in Italy, Mirka traveled and studied different modalities of dance, movement, psychology and meditation in India, Europe and the United States. Mirka's vision to train and support Yoga teachers has been fundamental to the growth and development of AVI. Mirka is dedicated to making the transformative teachings of Viniyoga accessible to all who are interested, through innovative at-home opportunities, as well as traditional live events. Her masterful and compassionate style is equally compelling via phone, recording, or on location. She has a variety events throughout the year to for both new and experienced practitioners as well as Yoga teachers.  To learn more about Mirka and her work visit www.viniyogalife.com.
  • Aggie Stewart, MA, CYT, RYT-500 is certified through the American Viniyoga Institute as a yoga teacher at the 500-hour level (2009) and a yoga therapist (2011). She initially turned to yoga to find relief from the stresses of her publishing career and found so much more. She began studying with Gary in 2007 and has assisted him at numerous programs, including the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy at Yogaville in Virginia. Aggie joins the faculty for the Foundations Program as part of the west coast team at Mount Madonna Center in 2014.
  • Margy Smariga, MA, CYT, RYT 500 came to yoga to find relief from back pain. She found the practice of yoga to be deeply nourishing and quickly became hooked. Wanting to deepen her practice and her understanding of yoga, she completed Bagheera Yoga/Pruyoga’s 200-hour teacher training in Washington, DC. She realized she was drawn to share her love of yoga with others, and began teaching in 2005. She graduated from AVI’s advanced teacher training in 2009 and its yoga therapist training in 2011. In 2013, she joined the faculty of the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. Margy lives in Frederick, MD, where she has a yoga therapy practice and teaches group classes.
  • Kathy (K.O.) Ornish, BS, MFA, E-RYT 500, CYT, is certified by the American Viniyoga Institute as a Yoga teacher (2006) and Yoga Therapist (2008) and is currently faculty in the East Coast AVI Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. She is also faculty at the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania and a consultant at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California. She received her B.S. in Biology/Chemistry and M.F.A. in Sculpture/Ceramics, and was a Professor of Art from 1990 - 2000. K.O. has a Yoga Therapy practice and teaches group classes in East Lansing, Michigan where her main focus is on teaching the breadth of the yoga tradition and helping people find better health and happiness through the many tools of yoga. She also offers yoga practice videos on the Yoga International website.
  • Ellen Fein is a guest faculty member of the AVI Viniyoga Therapist Training.  Ellen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)  and a certified  Yoga Therapist.  As a result of her husband’s illness and death, and then her own experience with cancer, she now works with people whose lives are touched by cancer.  As a Cancer Coach, she supports individuals and their loved ones on the cancer journey.  As a yoga teacher and therapist in Montpelier, VT, she assists those with serious illness , injury and chronic disease to establish a sense of well-being.  Ellen  runs workshops and groups for patients and health care providers about healing and mind-body techniques such as imagery and meditation.   Ellen is also on the Faculty of Center for Mind-Body Medicine and is a published author, her most recent work Not Just a Patient, How to Have a Life When You Have a Life-Threatening Illness  and her healing CD are valuable tools for individuals to use as they become active in their own healing.
  • Emily Large, PT, CYT, RYT-500, is certified by the American Viniyoga Institute as a Yoga Teacher (2002) and Yoga Therapist (2006). Emily received her Associate of Arts degree from the University of Florida in 1992, her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Central Florida in 1994, and attended Emory University for graduate studies in Neuroscience and Movement Science. Emily has practiced physical therapy for 15 years, participated in physical therapy research and provided continuing education for health care professionals. She is the founder of Living Large Therapeutics which combines the science of physical therapy with the time-honored practice of yoga. Emily is a program assistant in AVI's Foundation for Yoga Therapy program.
  • Vijai Sharma, Ph.D, CYT is an AVI certified Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist.   He is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in mind-body medicine. Over two thousand visitors come to his website www.mindpub.com every day to refer to his 600 + self-help and self-care articles for insights into emotional stressors, positive mental attitudes and positive health behaviors and choices.  Vijai has developed two exercise DVDs and companion workbooks, “Stretching and Breathing Exercises Adapted for People with Severe COPD,” and “Stretching and Breathing for COPD for All Levels of Fitness.”
  • Paul Entwistle, LMT, CYT,  serves as faculty for the Viniyoga Foundation Programs on the East Coast, as well as fulfilling a variety of technological rolls for AVI. Paul began studying with Gary in 1998 and completed both the teacher and therapist training programs. He has assisted Gary at a number of teacher training programs for more than a decade. Paul is a licensed massage therapist and a graduate of Feldenkrais® Professional training program. He has studied Oriental bodywork modalities for more than 20 years. In a previous life, he worked as a mechanical/electrical engineer. Paul was introduced to yoga by his mother when he was a teenager and has practiced consistently for over 25 years. Now, Paul keeps a large garden, raises a small family, and practices yoga therapy and bodywork in rural Tennessee.
  • Staff

  • Dona Robinson, E-RYT 500, CYT, is Student Advisor for the American Viniyoga Institute.  Dona has a B.S. in Management Information Systems from the University of Illinois.  She was Director of News for American Quotation Systems and Financial Officer for Water Island.  She has discovered additional joy as a yoga teacher (10 years) and yoga therapist (3 years).  You can contact Dona at studentadvisor@viniyoga.com.
  • Whitney Davis, RYT 500, has a B.S. in Business Management with a background in Trust Investments and Administration. She discovered the gifts of yoga in 2008 from a local AVI yoga teacher and enrolled in the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy 2009 and Viniyoga Therapy Program in 2012. Her passion for the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali led her to edit Gary Kraftsow’s audio commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Chapters One and Two.  Currently Whitney serves as the VFP East Administrative Coordinator.  She enjoys teaching the Viniyoga Stress Reduction Program at Aetna in High Point, North Carolina and teaches regular group and private yoga lessons in her hometown of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
  • Stephanie Harding, RYT-500, CYT, is AVI's Registrar and Store Manager. She also handles email and phone inquiries, and is involved with various technological tasks. She holds a BS in mathematics and an MS in Computer Science and worked in Information Technology for many years before completing a Viniyoga teacher certification in 2006 and a Viniyoga therapist certification in 2013. Stephanie currently has a Viniyoga therapy practice and offers general Viniyoga classes as well as specialized classes in chair yoga, back pain, stress reduction, and sleep at several locations in central and northern Westchester County, NY. She also serves as AVI coordinator for the Viniyoga Stress Reduction program at Aetna Insurance Company,and is one of the teachers in the program. Stephanie often assists Gary at his workshop appearances in the Northeast, and also serves as secretary for the American Viniyoga Institute Foundation.
  • Donna McCloskey, RYT-500, CYT, serves as AVI’s Director of Administration, Event Coordinator, and Administrative Coordinator for the West Coast VFP.  She schedules conferences, workshops, trainings, and private consultations for Gary Kraftsow and the American Viniyoga Institute.  Donna is currently a faculty assistant at the Foundations for Yoga Therapy training at MMC. Her study of personal transformation began in 2001 and she went on to receive her AVI 500-hr Viniyoga Teaching Certification in 2006 and AVI Yoga Therapist Certification in 2008.  Donna’s background includes 25 years as assistant to the Vice-President of Environmental Planning at URS Corporation and 10 years of administrative support for Texas health agencies.
  • Robin Gage Lilly, M.Ed., RYT-500, helps AVI with content, marketing and training support. She was first introduced to yoga by her grandmother, watching Lilias on television. She later continued to practice many styles of yoga but had an "aha" moment while attending one of Gary’s workshops during her 200-hour training. She completed the AVI 500-hour teacher training and operates Lilly Wellness, giving Reiki and working with clients and small groups to develop a personalized yoga practice that suits individual needs and schedules. She has run her own media business, RGL Media, and taught language for almost 20 years. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia and teaches English as a Second Language and Spanish at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Steve Rooney is Planning Consultant for the American Viniyoga Institute.  He draws on his experience as the International Center of Photography's CFO since 1982 and its Deputy Director for Administration since 1992, Steve helped lead ICP through its founding and growth.   Steve was a yoga and tai chi practitioner as a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 70's and during his early working years.  He fell away from practice until a health crisis brought him back to yoga in 2001 when he began weekly private lessons with Charles Matkin.  He then went on to study with Zack Kurland, Leslie Kaminoff, and Katherine Bridges.  In 2005, he was the first graduate of The Breathing Project's Advanced Studies Program.   He has participated in numerous workshops led by T.K.V. Desikachar, Kausthub Desikachar, Menakar Desikachar, and Mark Whitwell. Steve is a graduate of AVI’s Yoga Teacher and Therapist Training programs.
  • Julie Shaw, RYT-500, CYT, assists with maintaining the Yoga Therapist training manual, as well as providing other administrative  support where needed.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Adult and Continuing Education from Rutgers University.  Over 28 years ago, Julie’s long commute to her job as a corporate trainer resulted in back pain.  She looked up “yoga” in the yellow pages, and stepped into so much more than an exercise class.  Many years and a few teacher trainings later, she found herself in a Viniyoga workshop with Gary, and her search for clear direction in the world of yoga practice and teaching ended at AVI’s doorstep. Julie is a graduate of FYT 2009 and YT 2012.  She teaches group classes and sees private yoga therapy clients in central New Jersey.
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