Keynotes & General Session

Catherine Cook-Cottone, PhD, C-IAYT                                

Dr. Cook-Cottone is a psychologist, yoga therapist, and professor at University at Buffalo, SUNY. She has written eight books and more than 85 research articles and chapters on embodiment, self-regulation, eating disorders, and trauma. She is co-founder of Yogis in Service. In 2018, she was awarded the American Psychological Association’s Citizen Psychologist Presidential Citation. She is co-editor in chief of Eating Disorder: Journal of Treatment and Prevention and author of Embodiment and the Treatment of Eating Disorders: The Body as a Resource in Recovery and Mindfulness and Yoga for Self-Regulation.

Adhana McCarthy, MPAS, PA-C, C-IAYT                                  

Maj. Adhana McCarthy is an active-duty physician assistant in the U.S. Army and an IAYT-certified yoga therapist. She began teaching yoga while deployed to Iraq 14 years ago. Those early experiences helped her to weave yoga and mindfulness into her clinical practice, and she is now pursuing a doctorate in public health and health behavior through San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego. Adhana has taught internationally and focuses on helping women reclaim their space.

Shyam Ranganathan, PhD, MA, E-RYT 500                                      

Dr. Shyam Ranganathan (MA South Asian Studies, MA and PhD Philosophy) is a field-changing researcher, scholar, author, and teacher of philosophy. He is an expert in the neglected traditions of Indian moral philosophy, which covers practical questions of how to live, what to aim for, and what we should value—including yoga. Dr. Ranganathan has authored, edited, or translated more than 50 scholarly works, including the books Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy, The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Ethics, and Hinduism: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation. After more than 20,000 teaching hours with 3,000 students, in 2019 Dr. Ranganathan founded Yoga Philosophy, a scholar-practitioner initiative, to provide anti-colonial, anti-Eurocentric, research-based knowledge. He is a member of the Department of Philosophy and York Center for Asian Research at York University, Toronto.

Marshawn D. Feltus                                    

Marshawn D. Feltus is a Chicago West Side native and owner of ACT Yoga (Awareness, Change, Triumph), the first yoga studio in Chicago’s Austin community. He is a student of faith and the holistic progression of humanity. Marshawn is a youth mentor and certified public health peer educator; he is also certified in crisis prevention and conflict resolution, and has training in mindfulness lifestyle redirection and trauma dissection. A program facilitator for adjudicated/detained youth and adults, Marshawn has landed local and international coverage in print and broadcast, including the cover of Yoga Journal and features on WTTW Chicago Tonight and Austin Weekly News. He is also a contributor to Best Practices for Yoga in the Criminal Justice System. Marshawn has an invested passion for restorative justice and helping people to achieve awareness, change, and triumph.

Workshops, Afternoon Sessions, & Panel

RW Alves, SEP, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT            

RW (she/they) is a social justice educator and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner based in Seattle. She specializes in teaching about various topics at the intersection of social justice, movement, and practice, including body positivity, inclusive languaging and teaching, trauma-informed yoga, nervous system resilience, accessible asana, privilege, and spiritual practice. RW is faculty for Off the Mat, Into the World and The Yoga Service Conference, teaches with Collective Resilience, and is a cofounder and trainer for Bending Towards Justice, which provides antioppression, equity, and social justice trainings for yoga teachers and practitioners. She is a coauthor of the Yoga Service Council’s forthcoming book on best practices in yoga for addiction and recovery and serves on IAYT's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. 

Kelli M. Bethel, DPT, PT, C-IAYT                                      

Dr. Bethel is director of yoga therapy experiential learning and an instructor at Maryland University of Integrative Health. She has more than 28 years of experience as a physical therapist, treating adult and pediatric clients and focusing on neurological injuries and disease as well as those with cancer. Clinically, she provides physical therapy and yoga therapy to patients through the University of Maryland Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine. She is co-chair of the Society for Integrative Oncology’s Yoga Special Interest Group and serves on the SIO Committee for Best Practices in Yoga/Yoga Therapy in Cancer.

Kelly Birch, MS, NCC, LPC, C-IAYT                    

Kelly Birch is a licensed professional counselor, yoga therapist, and mindfulness teacher, with training and experience in multiple mental health modalities. Kelly edited Yoga Therapy Today for 7 years and co-edited the book Yoga and Mental Health. As adjunct faculty for Endicott College, she teaches online undergraduate psychology classes, and she has a background in scientific research. Kelly presented at the SYTAR Mental Health Common Interest Community (CIC) in 2018, co-chaired the Mental Health CIC in 2019, and presented on mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia at a nursing professionals’ conference in 2020. Facilitating the integration of yoga therapy and mental healthcare has been an abiding passion of Kelly’s since she was editor of YTT.

Michelle Bowles, LMT, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT        

Michelle Bowles is the program director for Bija Academy of Yoga Therapy. She has a proven track record in program development and oversight as well as nonprofit establishment and development. Michelle is an active community participant, co-facilitator for anti-racism self-education groups, and founding member of an LGBTQIA+ regional professional group. Michelle has worked with the St. Louis Metropolitan YMCA, helped establish a Peace Meal Project in a diverse neighborhood with faith and community groups, worked with United Way organizations in the St. Louis Metro area, and coordinated and facilitated the St. Louis Earth Day Festival for more than 35,000 participants. She also worked with GEAR UP for a $6 million grant for the University of Missouri St. Louis and St. Louis Community Colleges and supported political/social justice campaigns for 38 years.

Nydia Tijerina Darby, DPT, PT, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                                      

Dr. Darby is therapeutic yoga specialist and an experienced educator who collaborates with UTHealth to provide therapeutic yoga interventions for yoga and cancer research. She owns and directs Nydia’s Yoga Therapy Studio and the Open Hand Institute in San Antonio, Texas, providing on-site and livestream community access to therapeutic yoga and continuing education. The eight-limbed yoga lifestyle guides her daily life—whether she’s on the mat or in the garden. Nydia’s life’s work is positively influenced by a mantra she coined in her 20s: “I am in training for my next decade.”

Yana Kofman, DPT, PT, E-RYT 200, C-IAYT                                      

Dr. Yana Kofman is a pediatric physical therapist and yoga therapist who focuses on childhood development and incorporates a whole-child approach. She founded the Yoga Way Therapy Center in Morristown, N.J., where she uses a neurointegrative therapeutic approach incorporating breathing techniques and biomechanical alignment to regulate the nervous system. Yana is a researcher with an interest in pediatric yoga therapy as an intervention for the reduction of symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, and depression. She has authored a children’s meditation book and contributed a chapter on human development and sensory integration to Yoga Therapy Foundations, Tools, and Practice: A Comprehensive Textbook.

Wendy Landry, MBA, MA, C-IAYT                                        

Wendy has been getting to know people using interviewing skills for more than two decades. As a retired U.S. probation officer, she learned how to set people at ease in order to learn more about their lives, needs, and goals. These skills have translated beautifully into her private yoga therapy practice. Interviewing has become such a natural expression of communication for Wendy that her husband often jokes that she knows way more about people’s stories than she should.

Leigh Leibel, MSc, C-IAYT                                                

Leigh Leibel is a senior mind-body specialist and yoga therapist in the Division of Hematology-Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center in New York. She serves on the Society for Integrative Oncology’s Board of Trustees, is founder and co-chair of both the SIO Yoga Special Interest Group and the SIO Committee for Best Practices in Yoga/Yoga Therapy in Cancer, and is a member of the SIO Health Equity Task Force. She is co-editor of Yoga Therapy Across the Cancer Care Continuum and a contributor to Yoga Therapy Foundations, Tools, and Practice: A Comprehensive Textbook. Leigh completed a fellowship in cancer prevention and control at the U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and is pursuing a doctorate in yoga at S-VYASA, Bengaluru, India.

Stephanie Lopez, LISW-S, C-IAYT              

Stephanie Lopez is the senior director of teachings and programs as well as a senior trainer for the iRest Institute. With a deeply embodied understanding of meditation informed by more than 25 years of immersion in the nondual teachings of yoga, she leads retreats and trainings internationally with a focus on living an authentic and awakened life. As a psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and IAYT-certified yoga therapist, Stephanie bridges eastern wisdom with western psychology and neuroscience to support healing and transformation. She also serves on IAYT’s Certification Committee, helping to promote standards and credentialing for the yoga therapy field.

Lee Majewski, MA, PGDYEd, C-IAYT                                      

Lee is an author, researcher, and founding director of the Toronto-based nonprofit Yoga for Health Institute. She is also a visiting senior yoga therapist at Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in India. Lee is recognized internationally as an expert yoga therapist in cancer care and psychosomatic chronic diseases. Her expertise in is captured in Yoga Therapy as a Whole-Person Approach to Health, which she coauthored in 2020. Lee lives and has a private yoga therapy practice in Toronto, Canada.

Steffany Moonaz, PhD, C-IAYT                                      

Dr. Moonaz is Professor and Chair of Integrative Health Research at Maryland University of Integrative Health, which offers the only Master of Science in Yoga Therapy in the United States. She earned her PhD in public health from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the effects of yoga for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Since then, she has served as subject matter expert, consultant, and investigator for research on yoga and other integrative health practices, and has co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Moonaz trains yoga professionals in various contexts and is passionate about fostering evidence-informed practice in yoga therapy.

Maryam Ovissi, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                                      

Maryam is an artist and poet as well as a trauma-informed yoga therapist. She shares the comprehensive tools of yoga therapy with individuals on a cancer journey, those who have endured medical trauma, and those ready for lifestyle changes in pursuit of svastha, well-being. During the pandemic, she has addressed collective trauma in the media and by organizing events through her studio, Beloved Yoga: A Sanctuary for All. In 2020, Maryam published Care of the Whole Self: Yoga Inspired Tools to Befriend the Self in response to the impact of collective trauma and the need for collective care. Her articles have been featured by Yoga Therapy Today, World Medical & Health Policy Journal, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and Yogi Times. 

Shelly Prosko, PT, C-IAYT                                      

Shelly has more than 24 years of experience integrating yoga into physiotherapy. She guest lectures at physiotherapy and yoga therapy schools, contributes to yoga research, and offers courses and resources for yoga and healthcare professionals in a variety of specialty areas. She has authored chapters on yoga therapy in rehabilitation textbooks and is co-editor of Yoga and Science in Pain Care. She is also part of the yoga research team at University of Saskatchewan, whose study is highlighted in her SYTAR 2022 session. Shelly is a respected pioneer of PhysioYoga who maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada, and believes connection, joy, and compassion are the foundations of healthcare and well-being.

Jody Ryan, RYT-500                                      

Jody is a certified Pain Care Yoga Teacher who offers private yoga therapy primarily to peri- and postmenopausal women. She has a special interest in those living with complex pain and integrates contemporary pain science with yoga’s holistic approach. Additionally, Jody develops online courses and presentations around topics such as persistent pain and sleep’s influence on health challenges. She shares this work in community settings such as hospitals and to support mental health initiatives. Jody believes environment is important to well-being, so you’ll often find her out walking forest trails, capturing the beauty nature offers.

Cheri Dostal Ryba, C-IAYT                                      

Cheri serves as co-director and lead faculty of the IAYT-accredited program AlcheMe Yoga Therapy. One of her favorite topics to share (that permeates all other training subjects) includes navigating dynamic informed consent and discerning touch to enhance rapport, awareness, movement efficiency, and self-efficacy. Her SYTAR presentation introduces key principles from an intensive she's developed and taught since 2017. Whether through writing her first book (Pelvic Yoga Therapy for the Whole Woman, due out in spring 2022), mothering and marriage, or outdoor pursuits, yoga for Cheri means choosing presence and active embodiment as a lifelong experiment. 

Rebecca Sebastian, C-IAYT                                      

Rebecca owns Sunlight Yoga + Apothecary, hosts the podcast Working in Yoga, and mentors for Inner Peace Yoga Therapy. Also co-founder and board president of the nonprofit Quad Cities Yoga Foundation, she has a passion for supporting yoga professionals as they grow, and for sharing strategies for creating a business that aligns with the ethics and values of yoga while allowing her to thrive in all other aspects of life. Rebecca is a chronic joiner of whatever service organization you might be starting, avid lover of all things tea, and will happily sit down to chat with you about life, the mysteries of the cosmos, why cake is delicious, and how music can change an entire day. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Sejal Shah, BHMS, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                                      

For more than two decades, Sejal has dedicated her life to practicing and teaching yoga, motivating people to integrate yoga wisdom into real life. She is faculty at Healing Breaths and Sri Sri School of Yoga. Sejal is also a SKY and sahaj samadhi meditation teacher and facilitates yoga-based continuing education retreats for healthcare professionals. When she is not teaching, Sejal writes body-mind wellness blogs, learns and plays flute, sings, chants, and receives ancient knowledge on yoga, Vedanta, and spirituality from her mentor, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Jeyarajeen Sivalingam, MSc, RMT, RYT-500, C-IAYT                                      

Jey Siva is a wellness professional with more than 20 years of holistic healthcare experience. He is a massage therapist, osteopathic manual practitioner, and a PhD candidate. His innovative yogic research is based on experimental intersections of marma points and yoga poses and has demonstrated positive results with clients. Jey believes that the practical knowledge of multiple holistic practices has enabled him to blend the benefits of quality yoga instruction with marma chikitsa, or therapy.

Marlysa Sullivan, DPT, PT, C-IAYT    

Dr. Marlysa Sullivan is a physiotherapist and yoga therapist with more than 15 years of experience working with people suffering with chronic pain conditions. She is the physical therapy coordinator of the Veterans Administration's Empower Veterans Program, specializing in working with people with chronic pain. She is also the author of Understanding Yoga Therapy: Applied Philosophy and Science for Health and Well-Being and co-editor of Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain, as well as several peer-reviewed articles. Marlysa teaches for yoga therapy trainings including Maryland University of Integrative Health, Kripalu, and the School for Embodied Yoga Therapy.

Priya Verma, PA-C, MSPA, C-IAYT        

Priya Verma is a physician assistant with more than 20 years of private practice in orthopedic surgery; integrative medicine; allergy, asthma, and immunology; and interventional radiology into which she integrates yoga and mindfulness. In 2017 Priya founded Sandalwood Yoga, a dedicated yoga therapy practice where she offers complementary nonpharmacologic solutions to pain management and surgery, meditation classes, and trauma-informed management of chronic conditions. Priya specializes in clinical resilience using evidence-based assessments and in developing self-care practices for all types of clinicians and healthcare workers. She leads workshops and trainings about clinical resilience, the history of yoga, cultural appropriation, DEI, yoga for teens, and more. She is a board member of the Southern Yoga Therapy Association and faculty member for the Optimal State of Living yoga therapy training program.

Amy Wheeler, PhD, C-IAYT      

Dr. Amy Wheeler is the founder of Optimal State Yoga Therapy School. Amy has recently developed a mobile app for yoga therapy assessments for use with practitioners and clients. She has been involved in developing numerous yoga therapy research projects with university scientists. Her research studies include using yoga therapy tools to decrease diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes; increase the effectiveness and positive experience associated with kidney dialysis treatments; and lessen the negative impact of chemotherapy in the treatment of colorectal, ovarian, and uterine cancers.

Alison M. Whitehead, MPH, RYT-500, C-IAYT    

Ms. Whitehead served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and earned her Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University. She joined VA Women’s Health Services in 2010 and in 2015 transitioned to program lead for Integrative Health in the VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation, where she heads program and policy development for integrative health implementation across the VA. Alison recently completed a 3-year term on the board of directors of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health. In addition to being a yoga instructor and IAYT-certified yoga therapist, she is a personal trainer. In her free time, Alison enjoys spending time moving her body or meditating outdoors.

Morning Practices

Heather Indu Arena, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                                      

As a senior trainer for Amrit Yoga Institute’s IAYT-accredited training, Heather offers a unique and powerful experience of yoga anchored in Eastern philosophy. Living at an ashram offered her a deeper wisdom about the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual uses of yoga to facilitate transformation and balance in life. Clients describe Heather as a joyful and compassionate revealer of yoga. Also an ayurvedic lifestyle consultant, she works with groups and individual clients in person, remotely, and via online programs to spread the light of yoga in the world.  

Susan Bass, CAP, AYT, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT    

Susan left her career at The Wall Street Journal in 2003 after ayurveda and yoga saved her life—she wanted to share these ancient, sacred sciences that helped her so much. Susan studied the vedic sciences at The Ayurvedic Institute, Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and Maharishi International University.

Bill Brown, C-IAYT                                    

Bill Brown is executive director of Prison Yoga Project (PYP), a nonprofit organization that supports incarcerated people worldwide with trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness programs. Through his work with PYP, he hopes to promote social change, transforming our systems and culture to create a more inclusive, equitable, and just world. Bill began working with PYP in 2013 and has served in federal, state, and county facilities. In 2016, he began offering training with PYP in trauma-informed yoga for incarcerated people and assumed the executive director role in 2018. Bill is a contributing editor for the Yoga Service Council/Omega Institute’s Best Practices for Yoga in the Criminal Justice System. In his downtime, he enjoys the creative outlets of photography and cooking and is an avid reader of science fiction.

Arnab Bishnu Chowdhury, C-IAYT    

Arnab is an explorer of consciousness as a composer, yoga therapist, and founder of Know Your Rhythm, a training program that has engaged 20,000 caregivers to discover their own sense of rhythm in life with yoga and music therapy. He is from the third generation of a family of Indian classical musicians. Arnab serves as a researcher at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, and as senior faculty at the Sustainable Livelihood Institute, Auroville, India. His therapeutic music has found applications at hospitals and yoga centers. He received the 2021 Seva Award for Project Susthiti, an online program to reduce stress and raise empathy that reached 300 COVID healthcare workers across India.

Lisa Faremouth Weber, E-RYT 500                                      

Lisa Faremouth Weber studied under Judith Lasater, Kartar Khalsa, Sharath Jois, and many others. She is a student in the Master of Arts in Yoga Studies program at Loyola Marymount University, focusing on yoga therapy. Lisa founded of Heaven Meets Earth Yoga in Evanston, Illinois, and created The Illuminated Soul 200- and 300-hour yoga teacher training programs. Lisa has personally experienced the magic of yoga therapy and is excited to share her wisdom with you.

Abby (Abhaya) Geyer, AWC, C-IAYT              

Abby (Abhaya) Geyer is IAYT’s advertising manager. She has been a student of yoga since the 1980s and began teaching in 2000. Intrigued by ayurveda and realizing the important relationship between yoga and ayurveda, she trained in the latter and began teaching, including for Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. Always interested in bringing new perspectives to any class, Abby has also studied qi gong and plant medicine. A student for and of life, she believes that to study, practice, and teach what one has learned is one of the greatest joys. She is passionate about weaving together these teachings to offer a full experience for students and clients.

Kim Gray, CPT, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                                      

Kim is a yoga professional, personal trainer, and studio owner in Highland, Illinois. Through her own practice of more than 20 years, she has experienced the multilayered transformation that a consistent yoga routine provides. Breathe. Feel. Let go. You are enough. So simple, yet so life-changing. Practical application of the eight limbs, exercise principles, and ayurvedic guidance has produced a sustainable, sharable lifestyle for Kim—and making yoga accessible and relatable to those who do not consider themselves yogis became a passion. Kim’s direct experience in corporate wellness provides the roots for this practice.

Shanchoy Mahajan, RYT-500, E-RYT 200                                      

In addition to being a yoga therapy student—she is completing Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Therapy Rx program—Shanchoy is a children’s yoga instructor, singer-songwriter, and kirtan leader. She is also an adult educator and former adult literacy program manager/advocate. Shanchoy comes from a long family tradition of bhakti, focusing on the honoring of various deities of the Sanatana Dharma pantheon. She is excited about sharing the healing potential of music integrated with daily yoga practice. Shanchoy serves as senior accreditation specialist for IAYT.

Kathryn Shafer, PhD, LCSW, C-IAYT                                      

Dr. Shafer is a certified addiction professional, certified EMDR practitioner and EMDRIA Approved Consultant, Gottman relationship therapist, LifeForce yoga practitioner, Brainspotting therapist, and practitioner of yoga nidra. Author of the FUN program, her lifestyle management program from her book Asthma Free in 21 Days, Kathy collects data in her work with clients in rehab for addiction and at her private practice on the power of intention. During yoga nidra sessions she teaches how to show up, lay down, wake up, and have FUN…no talking or movement required. Shift happens here!

Nishita Shah, CAP, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT                          

In addition to being an IAYT-certified yoga therapist, Nishita is a passionate ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher and trainer. While studying at the Ayurvedic Institute, Nishita had the great fortune to learn Ayuryoga with Dr. Vasant Lad. Nishita now leads and develops the curriculum for all of the 200- and 300-hour yoga teacher trainings at the Ayurvedic Institute and serves as the Ayuryoga faculty for the immersive ayurvedic studies programs. Being in the classroom and on the mat is Nishita’s greatest joy.