How to Choose a Yoga Program – Question the Questions

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then…There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.

Who really knows?…The gods came afterwards with the creation of the universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen–perhaps it formed itself–or perhaps it did not–the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows–or perhaps he does not know.”


When I decided to pursue a 200 hour certification, I did a google search and called the first local program that popped up in the results. I like to think that the Universe led me to my teacher, but you could also say I just flat out got lucky. Now, I spend a lot of time asking questions about yoga teacher training programs–what conditions create supportive learning environments?; how does our content align with our mission and philosophy?; how can we learn from what other programs are doing? These questions help to guide us through some of the practicalities of teaching and administration, but for the rest, we lean into practice, into self-inquiry. We rely on the questioning, and the mystery of practice itself. 

Today, there are many more options for yoga teacher training here in Central Kentucky. So rather than relying just on the Universe (or google), here are some questions you might ask as a beginning. 

– Time Commitment – Does the program fit my scheduling needs? How much out of class time is required/expected? Is there homework? Are there tests? How much of the stated hours (200, 300, etc) does the program offer in the classroom with a lead trainer, and how much is spent outside or in personal/unstructured study? Is the schedule structured in such a way that I will leave the sessions feeling depleted? Or rejuvenated?
– Cost and Value – Does the program cost fit my budget? Are there additional costs for props, books, etc? Do they offer an installment option, and if so, is it interest free?

Value is going to be hard to determine, but one thing to check is whether the program is an “RYS” (Registered Yoga School) with Yoga Alliance. Take a look at RYS-200 guidelines and requirements, here. However, keep in mind that the RYS standard is not monitored or regulated in any way. So once a program is registered, they can teach whatever and however they want.
– Goals – What are my goals in taking a yoga program? To become a teacher? To deepen my personal practice and my relationship with myself? Is there a particular style of yoga I want to teach, or a target population I’d like to reach? How do the stated goals or mission of the program align with my goals? How will the program support me in attaining my goals?

 – Special Considerations – Do I have special considerations as a student, such as injury or illness? Does the faculty have the skills and experience to support me in my learning journey?
– Accessibility – If I’m attending in person, is the location convenient to me? (And if not convenient, then is the value of the program worth the journey?) What is the campus like as a learning environment? Is the campus a supportive environment for self-inquiry and self-care? 

A lot of healing and transformation can take place in the course of these programs. I believe beauty and nature are an important part of those processes. 

 – Accessibility, Part II – If I’m attending online, is the training live and synchronous? Or pre-recorded? How accessible are the faculty? Are they open to questions during the live training? How responsive are they to emails and/or phone communications?
– Overall Program Style and Philosophy – Is this program teaching a particular style or doctrine? Or do they draw from the breadth and depth of yogic traditions (or other movement/philosophy traditions, for that matter)? 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with offering just one approach, but be clear about what you want, and about what you’re getting from a program.
– Lead Trainer – What is the background of the lead trainer(s) for the program? What is their experience? What is their teaching style? Do they continue to study? Who are their teachers? 

This is probably the most important question, in my opinion. Take classes from, or at the very least meet with the lead trainer for any programs under consideration. 

These questions are important, but they’re not everything. As an administrator, I also spend a lot of time talking to people who are experts in fields in which I am far from expert (accountants, IT professionals, and physicians, just to name a few), and I always ask them this: What question or questions have I left out? What should I be asking you that I haven’t already? These questions help to connect me to beginners-mind, but they also represent that stepping back into the mystery of faith. They allow me to loosen my grip on the moment enough to question the questions, to lean back into the supportive open arms of the Universe and allow the moment to unfold. 

In The Inner Tradition of Yoga (2008), Michael Stone writes: “How flexible…to allow the central axiom of your metaphysical system and worldview to be nothing other than the questioning of your basic questions. This is not pluralism but rather a very deep insight into the psychology of belief, the basis of our faith. Since what we believe determines the kind of world we perceive and the kinds of actions we take, if we multiply our belief systems by zero…we arrive in an open field of perception.” So ask questions. And then question the questions themselves. Lean back. Let go.

Sweet Treats…Ayurveda-Style

Love chocolate? So do we. Did you know chocolate can be a nourishing part of your diet? The yogic health science, called Ayurveda, offers insight into how sweetness can bring balance into our life. Check out this sweet (!) video to learn more and try the recipe below to taste for yourself…

Chocolate Ojas Bars

Base Layer

5 Medjool dates, pitted

1 cup raw pecans

1/2 cup raw almonds

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cardamom

Chocolate Layer

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cacao powder

3 Tbsp maple syrup

Optional Toppings

Chopped nuts

Coconut flakes

Chopped dried fruit (Mango, cherries, cranberries, etc)

Chopped crystalized ginger

Dried edible flowers (lavender, rose)

Line the base of an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse together the base layer ingredients until the mixture starts to stick together and form a ball. Press the base layer into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Using a double boiler, melt the coconut oil over simmering water, then add cacao and maple syrup. Stir to combine, then pour over prepared base layer. Sprinkle your choice of toppings over the chocolate layer. Get creative!

Chill for at least 2 hours, then cut into squares. Bars will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Embodied Knowing: Guest Faculty Interview with Becky Morrissey

We are so delighted to welcome Becky Morrissey to our faculty! Becky is a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT), Trauma Sensitive Yoga facilitator/trainer, and an Ohio licensed mental health and substance abuse counseling professional (LPCC-S, LICDC-CS) who offers somatic-therapeutic yoga as a component of her counseling wellness practice. Becky will be bringing her expertise and passion for Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Body-Mind Centering into our 200 and 300 Hour Programs.

An Herb-Filled Sun Tea to Welcome the Summer Solstice

Guest Post by Nishaan Sandhu

As the energy of Summer rises from the Earth through the blossoming of flowers, leaves and Sun, our bodies are innately inspired to do the same. During this time, we too escape the cool, moist grips of Winter and Spring. Our blood gets warmer and our temperature rises. Our energy feels more easily moved and inspired. We may find we naturally wake up a little earlier, like the Sun, as we move into the lightness, brightness and elevated energies that Summer brings!

Your spirits may also rise, as well as your desire to connect with others. This is the feeling of your inner Fire, or Pitta, being stoked in harmony with the season and the Summer Solstice to come. 

For some, Summer Solstice feels like a long awaited blessing; long days in the garden, sun kissed shoulders, a renewed sense of relaxation, liveliness and freedom! For others, this rise of energy and temperature can feel a little oppressive, overheating and agitating. I totally get it. The changes of the season are not always easy! However, with a little practical seasonal self-care, you can feel more healthy, happy and whole. 

The spirit of Ayurveda pulls wisdom from Nature and the Elements – which can be felt within you and around you. So, in reflection of this, I’ve pulled together some of my very favorite and simple ways you can integrate herbs and Ayurvedic wisdom to feel more calm, cool, hydrated and balanced this Summer Solstice and beyond! 

So, let’s dive into the heart of Summer…

The Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year. It’s the very red carpet for the season of the Sun, Fire and Pitta (toss yellow, orange and red marigold petals here). And, let’s be real … for some, the summer can mean heat … lots of heat … too much heat! 

Not to get you flustered … just a balance of magic and realism here … Summer can feel exhausting for some. If this is you, or someone you know, read on! You’re about to discover how to make some delicious, cooling, calming and nutritive sun teas. 

Sun tea is super simple to make and something you can even do before heading to work, or as you play in the garden. While the energy of the Sun is warming in itself, it can be a lovely ritual for the Summer Solstice. It is also less heating than iced tea made from boiling water. 

I love making teas, especially from organic Peppermint leaves, Lemongrass, or, rose petals because they are so easy to prepare and tasty! 

But, First … 

A reminder that with each cup of tea, you can also welcome a sense of calm, ritual, and a connection to your body. The simple act of stillness, a few deep breaths, and truly feeling the tea go down, can transform your tea drinking experience from just going through the motions to an act of meditative self-care.

The heat of Summer and those Pitta energies, within and without, are balanced well by rest. It goes a long way to take time to smell the cooling, calming scent of the roses before you take a sip. Not only will you relax, you’ll invite a sense of celebration. Welcoming yourself into the present moment with every sip, in order to celebrate life, playfulness and connection–with yourself, your community, plants, bees, puppies, or even the whole world!

It’s your choice. Make these moments and share them with those you love.

How to Make Sun Tea:

You’re welcome to use fresh or dried herbs. Mints dry really well and can feel cooling upon first sip. Lemonbalm and Peppermint can both also aid digestion, Lemonbalm being the more deeply cooling to mind, body and spirit of the two (in my opinion).  Because the green world is bursting forth this time of year, if you can go with fresh, that’s great! These plant teas will hold more life vitality … and hopefully get you connecting to your garden or local farmers market as you gather! 

Gathering Violets

What you will need:

A clear glass jar {1 Quart or larger}

A will to collect herbs {1 Cup/Quart}


A sunny day

A sunny window, or, place outside to place your jar.

1. Collect and rinse a couple handfuls of your favorite organic herbs, fruits and/or flowers. To be honest, I don’t always rinse mine. I personally like the opportunity to boost my immunity and am a fan of a little bacteria and microbes in my diet {of course within reason}. I do, however, always check for insect friends to make sure they are safe and left outside! And, to emphasize, do go organic! Non organic teas are likely to have herbicide and or pesticides on them – and my goal is to keep you feeling healthier! 

2. Say a little thank you to your plants and water for the nourishment {as long as it feels good to you and you have time}. If you have the time and are gathering your own herbs, make a longer graden visit of it. 

3. Place your findings in a clear glass jar, cover herbs completely with cool water (spring water if you can) and place the lid on your jar. Use one cup of herbs per quart of water. 

4. Give your jar a few gentle shakes to ensure all the herbs are well coated. This is a nice time to set an intention, set in some of your juju, and give some more thanks. You may even consider writing your intention on the jar to infuse some extra love into your Summer Solstice Sun tea. 

5. Place your jar of Solstice Tea in a sunny spot on the grass, porch or table for at least 3-5 hours. The warmer the day, the less time you may need. 

Placing your jar on the grass is a lovely way to embrace the energy of the Sun and the Earth. If it will be out in mostly high noon sun, which comes from directly above, you may want to consider placing it on its side for a higher sunlight to glass jar exposure.

6. Let your sun tea sit throughout the day to soak up this Solstice Sunshine. When you get home you can strain it and enjoy your favorite tea ritual. If you have a metal lid, just remember to be careful removing the lid, in case it’s still hot from the Sun. 

Some Herbs to Consider (gather organic plants from non-treated lawns):

Cooling Calendula

Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis): A favorite herb of many with gorgeous orange blooms and a sunny disposition all around. It’s a bit salty, moistening, earthy and cooling. It’s a lovely lymphatic for immunity purposes, but can be too salty for those who tend to retain water easily. 

Dandelion Leaf and Flower (Taraxacum officinale): If we would keep more of this beautiful flower in our yards we may have healthier livers, more interesting salad greens and added joy from wishes from those sweet, spent little tufts and seeds! 

Sunny Dandelion

Dandelion leaf is high in Potassium and Vitamin A, delicious in salads, tasty in teas, and an excellent diuretic. It’s a great fit if you tend to retain water. The leaves are most delicious when picked just prior to flower. As they age they become a bit more bitter and this is the same with the flower. This bitterness can be good for someone with Kapha, who also tends to retain water, especially at the extremities. 

The roots are only slightly bitter and also a bit sweet. When chopped and toasted the roots can make a delicious coffee replacement {with chicory and carob as well}. I find the tea from the dried roots to be very drying, almost puckering to the mouth if you drink too much for your own body type.Though, I have not seen this in everyone, the slight bitterness can also be a nice oomph for Kapha.

For this sun tea I suggest using the leaves. If you make a salad, go with some of the beautiful, lioness-like yellow flowers! 

Hibiscus Leaf (Hibiscus sabdariffa): Hibiscus is high in Vitamin C and cooling to the mind and the body and considered an antioxidant and antiinflammatory. It is sweet and sour in flavor and offers itself as a crisp refreshment similar to lemonade on a hot summer day.  A great drink to keep you cool in the summer. 

Lemon Balm Leaf (Melissa officinalis): Oh, Lemon Balm! How I love you.

This is one of my all time favorite herbs to use for its cooling effects on the mind. Lemon Balm is a delicious mint with a (can you guess?) lemony flavor. 

The first time I drank the tea was during a major cram-session at my first herbal apprenticeship. I was task-mastering in a frenzy, which is never good … so, like any herbalist, I decided to take a break with a cup of tea.

Oh, boy am I so happy to have chosen Lemon Balm. It set me back big time. I went from frantically tasking in spirals to a deep breath followed by a totally calm, cool and collected mind. I got so much more done, and felt relaxed and happy while doing it. Lemon Balm is also gentle on the stomach, can help to alleviate gas, cramping, tension, and general malaise of the belly. 

It is an excellent, excellent, excellent herb to have around for the person who gets super fiery in the summertime and is quick to temper, irritability, or outbursts of anger (that Pitta fire in action). I think it’s also great for those who feel very airy and anxious – needing a moment of calm from the storm (Vata). 

If this is you, make a big old jar of sun tea {or regular tea from a pot} to sip on throughout the summer time. Lemon Balm will give you even more reasons to love the world and how you project yourself into it.

If Lemon Balm grows in your garden, place it in a container and collect it right before/as it goes into flower. One plant, when well watered and sunned, can grow large enough for a summer’s worth. It is a pervasive plant {as are all mints} and will take over your garden, and your neighbor’s garden and their neighbor’s-neighbor’s garden if you are not mindful.  All that means is more fun harvest time in the sun for you! And harvest sharing, which everyone loves!

Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita): This is another fantastic mint tea to drink in the summertime. Peppermint tea, like the essential oil, is cooling at first and then eventually becomes warming. 

It is an anti-inflammatory, reduces histamine responses and can help to clear a runny nose or sinus congestion. Like eucalyptus, it disperses energy and has an opening quality to the body. Like dandelion root and Calendula, Peppermint too can eventually be drying and puckering to the mouth if you drink too much for your body type (or if you steep it in heat for too long). 

It is an excellent remedy for an upset stomach, and can even be used for nausea (road trip anyone)? 

Peppermint is also energizing, Zing! It can help perk you up in the morning or in the middle of the day, particularly if your mind is wandering and lacking focus. So, if Summer makes you feel groggy and lacking in motivation, this may be a nice fit for you. 

Raspberry Leaf (rubus idaeus): Raspberry leaf contains many vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A and vitamin E. It is sweetly aromatic and sour in flavor and safe to use in pregnancy. It has an astringent quality that allows for it to tone the tissues and is commonly used as a uterine tonic.

Raspberry may be a nice nutritive and nourishing support in a blend with lemon balm, hibiscus, peppermint dandelion and rose petals. 

There are many other herbs that I would have loved to cover such as Tulsi, Nettles, and Rose…but we’ll save that for another time! 

In the meantime, enjoy your sun tea and let me know how your experiments go!

Much love,


Photo by Kaitlyn Sylvestri

Nishaan Sandhu, Holistic Herbalist, Certified Mind-Body Eating Coach and Intuitive Healer

Nishaan supports huge-hearted women who want to stop feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and out of control so they can start feeling more  calm, confident and connected.  

For the past fifteen years, she’d worked with over one thousand individuals one-to-one to help ease symptoms and struggles with anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, binge eating, mental fog, fatigue and weight imbalances. Clients report lasting results …  feeling confident, energized, balanced, grounded, and less anxious … finally finding freedom from a lifetime of crash diets, fatigue, bloating, anxiety, mood imbalances, weight challenges and negative body image. 

Having been there before, Nishaan loves to lead motivational talks, transformational programs and inspirational teachings to help inspire deeper trust, compassion and intuitive confidence in your relationship with your body, food, daily routines, workflow self-care rituals and energy.

Nishaan shares a down to earth and spiritual approach to healing through an integration of Plant Medicine, Mind-Body Eating Coaching, Astrology and Ayurveda.  She believes healing starts from within and can ripple out like a wave. When you heal and nourish yourself,  you help heal and nourish those around you, the world, and generations to come.






Yoga Nidra…The Sleep of the Yogi

The practice of yoga nidra is as ancient as the practice of yoga. Designed to take practitioners through the experience of the koshas, or layers, of the self, this practice offers deep rest and integration after your yoga practice. Try this 20 minute practice offered by Partner Cara Sparkman, in the style of Dr. Richard Miller’s iRest. For more information about iRest, please visit

The Psoas…our true ‘core’

The iliopsoas complex lies at our deepest interior muscular level. As the muscle group that joins the upper body to the lower body, it has to intermediate between that which moves us through the world (the legs and lower body), and our thinking mind and feeling heart (in the torso and upper body). Because it lies so deep in the body and because it has a tendency to act as an emotional storehouse, it needs a subtle touch when we work with it. BUT! Subtle doesn’t have to mean complicated. Try the short practice below, to experience just how impactful working with the psoas can be.

Light as a feather, stiff as a board

In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali famously wrote “sthira sukham asanam.” This phrase is often translated as a recommendation to find a balance between effort and ease in our yoga postures. When we try Plank Pose for the first time, we might laugh at the thought of ever finding ease in such a demanding posture. However, with a little help from kinesiology, you might find yourself laughing with delight at how easeful your Plank can feel. Practice along with Amanda and our friend Cherie to find out how!

The Surprising Benefits of Online Training

Kitty’s favorite part was “meditation”

In March, as businesses the world over were grappling with how to move online, I got to experience the dilemma from both sides. Even as we set up a Zoom account for the school, purchased a webcam, and rearranged the studio, I was deciding whether to forfeit my spot in a long-awaited retreat, or to go ahead with online attendance. In the end, I decided to attend online, so I was able to experience first-hand some of the unique benefits of an online retreat or training. 

So what is it really like? And how did I translate my experience and feedback from our students into improvements for our 200 and 300 Hour Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Programs? Read on to find out!

About a week before the start of the retreat, I received the retreat materials–a booklet and a schedule of events. I love to know when things are going to happen, and what to expect, as it helps me to feel safe. Our students receive the Student Handbook, including the weekend calendar, as well as the Program Workbook in advance of the first training weekend!

A few days before the start of the retreat, I received the Zoom Meeting Information for the retreat. I was already familiar with Zoom, but I haven’t always been! If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Quick Start Guide on Zoom’s website. 

The day before the retreat, I made sure my space was ready. I reviewed the retreat materials for any special items I might need to have on hand. We recommend that our students have a yoga mat, 3-4 yoga blankets, 2 blocks, a yoga strap and an eye pillow. Don’t have some of those items? Don’t despair! You can substitute towels for the yoga blankets, thick books for the yoga blocks, and a long scarf or bathrobe tie can stand in for both the yoga strap AND the eye pillow!

I made sure to get a good night’s sleep, and then it was finally time to begin! I dressed and got ready, just as if I was actually attending the retreat in person. This can be so helpful as a means of letting our brains know that something special or out of the ordinary is about to happen. This was not a regular old day–I was going on retreat! I logged in using the information provided, and then we were off on our adventure.

Throughout the retreat I attended, the facilitators offered lots of opportunities for participants to speak up and ask questions, and to visit virtually with each other. Here at The Essence of Yoga Center, building community is part of our heartfelt mission. Our students have a private student portal where they can learn more about each other and access class resources, whether they’re attending online or in person!

The best part of attending a retreat or training online? I got to engage with new practices and learn new things in my space–where I can keep to my routines, sleep in my own bed, and not worry about commute times. Research indicates we learn best when we feel safe, and I found that to be so true with my online learning experience. Most importantly, I didn’t have to delay or cancel my retreat. I was still able to obtain the highest quality educational experience from the safety and comfort of my home.

The good news? You can too! Our 200 Hour Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Program is second to none, and it is now available 100% online. Your yoga, your way. Visit our 200 Hour page or contact us today to find out more!

Just do the twist!

We’ve all heard spinal twists are good for us, but why? The obliques are crucial for our postural support, and they are often neglected, particularly if we spend most of our time seated in a stationary position (ahem…perhaps in front of a computer screen?). But the obliques never have a chance to create a spinal twist if we are using our arms to pull ourselves into the rotation. Using the arms in this way is a cue you might hear often in yoga classes, but we’d like to invite you to try something a little different, and notice the effect on the obliques and on your spine. The arms do have a role, and believe it or not, so do the eyes!

Try out this exploration of a simple spinal twist, and surprise yourself with how good you can feel! You can do this one right at your desk…