Viva’s Instructors

Viva Institute’s mission is to bring the spirit of the retreat center to your home. Our instructors are hand-picked for their warmth, humor and expertise. They include an award-winning author and speaker, a yogi, a nutrition expert, poets and healers—the very definition of the modern mystic. Unlike most e-courses, you’ll receive direct communication and meaningful feedback from your instructor, along with our promise to keep your participation confidential. Create community—discover your tribe.


Leigh Hopkins

Viva Institute’s Director Leigh Hopkins is a self-described curiosity junkie and an experienced educator, speaker, and seminar leader. Before founding Viva Institute, she worked in public policy and education reform for more than 20 years. From 2010-2013 Leigh was the chef at “Instituto Viva,” Viva Institute’s raw-vegan retreat center in Brazil.

Among her career highlights, Leigh was vice president for a social policy think tank, running literacy programs in underserved communities across the country. She worked as a policymaker, a grant writer, a raw-vegan chef, a reading specialist, an elementary school teacher, a creative writing teacher, an intuitive coach, an accompanist, an ice cream scooper, and a swimming instructor. To learn more about Leigh, visit her blog.

Leigh Hopkins received her Bachelors in Elementary Education and Music and a Masters in K-12 Reading Education. She has a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University and is a certified Usui Reiki Master. Connect with Leigh: Leigh’s Blog | Twitter @LeighHereNow.

Click here to view Leigh’s Courses

FUN FACTS about Leigh
• Leigh is an accomplished classical pianist, and she’s currently working on Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso, Op.14.
• Leigh slept in a cave on the beach in Greece on a bamboo mat.

Praise for Leigh
“Leigh is so kind and encouraging! When I hear her voice, it instantly calms me.”

“It is so beautiful how encouraging Leigh is in helping us accept who and where we are. She is so giving of herself.”

“I really like the platform, the thoughtful and concise presentation of materials and how encouraging and direct Leigh is in her approach, charismatic and anecdotal (but not waffling or spouting platitudes). You really feel Leigh’s enthusiasm for the subject matter.”

Abbey Ryan

Abbey Ryan, Viva InstituteAbbey Ryan is an artist’s artist, known for her inspiring, illuminating, and supportive teaching approach. Abbey’s paintings have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Seth Godin’s bestseller, Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Brainard Carey’s Making It In the Art World, FOX’s Good Day Philadelphia, American Art Collector, and BoingBoing, among countless others. Abbey was recently recognized as #5 on the list of “49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art” by BoostBlogTraffic.

Inspired by the “A Painting a Day” movement, Abbey started making daily paintings for her blog on 9/23/07. Seven years later, Abbey’s blog has had over three quarters of a million visitors from over one hundred countries. More importantly, painting has become part of her mindfulness practice and daily meditative time. Making a painting a day speaks to her interest in ritual, practice, classical still life and trompe l’oeil painting, in relation to the complexities of Internet globalization. Abbey’s paintings are in over 900 private and public collections all over the world. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and Europe.

Abbey studied with David A. Leffel at the Art Students League of New York. She also completed undergraduate work in both science and art at Arcadia University (BA & BFA, 2003); and post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hunter College/CUNY (MFA, 2007). She was born and raised in New Jersey, USA. Abbey teaches painting workshops, offers private painting instruction/mentoring online, and is an assistant professor of art at Arcadia University. She lives and works in Philadelphia.

Click here to view Abbey’s Course “The Innernet”

FUN FACT about Abbey
• Abbey is a Certified Advanced PADI SCUBA diver, and her favorite place to dive is in Pohnpei, Micronesia.

Praise for Abbey
“I’m not sure I have met another teacher who is so willing to give and share, and put in so much effort to finding out the needs of her students. Abbey is a gem.”

“Abbey is a soulful and supportive teacher who clearly wants to help her students grow.”

“Abbey is a great teacher with unsurpassed talent and sensitivity. She an extraordinary artist who can direct and mentor her students, and creates a welcome, positive, creativity-engendering space.”

“I love how Abbey keeps everything simple. From her philosophy on painting and her personal approaches to life, meditation, etc. I liked being reminded that it is possible to un-complicate your world.”

“Abbey really gives her full presence. She is able not only to delve into the questions I pose, but to also intuitively sense the “questions behind the questions” in what I am asking. I am moved by Abbey’s ability to create profound connection with the people she speaks to. Every part of her approach demonstrates that she feels invested in helping others to grow on their creative paths.”

Abbey’s selected publications
Seth Godin writes about Abbey Ryan in Linchpin Abbey Ryan in O, the Oprah MagazineAbbey Ryan in American Art CollectorAbbey Ryan in "Making It In the Art World"

Abbey Ryan in Plein Air MagazineAbbey Ryan in New Markets for ArtistsAbbey Ryan on the cover of Sedona Arts Center catalogAbbey Ryan on Fox's Good Day PhiladelphiaAbbey Ryan in BoingBoing