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.


Website: www.Nishaan-Sandhu.com

Newsletter: https://nishaan-sandhu.us4.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4aebe49a045ae3f3c04e2c33f&id=f1d06e75a0

YouTube: www.youtube.com/NishaanSandhu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nishaan.sandhu.11/videos/10220888446133519/

Row Your Own Boat

When we hear the name Navasana, or Boat Pose, for the first time in a yoga class, we might think we’re in for a sweet and sunny experience, but for many of us, Boat Pose can be anything but. Depending on the length of the spine and torso, the length of the legs, and existing habits and patterns in the body, we might find ourselves struggling to maintain stability even as those around us are sailing blissfully on.

But sunny skies and calm seas are ahead! Check out the video below for the kinesiological keys to a happy, strong and cohesive boat pose.

Unlock the Power of the Bandhas

The Bandhas, or “locks,” in yoga practice can often feel esoteric, inaccessible or intimidating. However, utilizing the Bandhas in our practice can lend the body greater support and cohesion, as well as improving organ health and overall well-being. The good news is, there is a simple and natural muscular action behind this ancient practice. Try this short practice to “unlock” the mystery of this powerful action!

The Core of the Matter

Image courtesy of Rayner & Smale

We’ve all heard that to ensure a healthy, strong and pain-free back, we need to focus on maintaining or increasing our core strength. However, all core work is not created equally.

For many of us, when we think of the core, we think of what we can see and feel: the “six-pack.” However, there are three additional layers to the core in the front of the body alone! It’s the deepest layer of the core, the Transversus Abdominis, and the “back core,” the Multifidi, which we want to target in our efforts to protect and even rehabilitate the spine.

The good news is that achieving this enhanced core integrity is as easy as breathing. Literally! Try the short practice below to see what we mean…

Evidence based research explains why these two sets of deep core muscles are so important to our ability to move gracefully and safely through our lives. For more information on the Transversus Abdominis, check out this article, and for the low-down on the Multifidi, find more information here.

Our 200 and 300 Hour Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Programs explore these concepts and practices in depth through embodied experience. Want to join us? Check out our upcoming offerings on our homepage.

What’s the Vagus Nerve Got to Do With It?

As the longest cranial nerve, the vagus nerve makes its wandering way from the head all the way down into the lower abdomen. While it might be tempting to think of this nerve carrying information from the brain into the body, the truth is that 80% of its function is to carry information from the body to the brain. In essence, the vagus nerve is responsible for letting the brain know how the body feels. It is our interoceptive nerve.

This short practice is designed to release some of the common tension that arises around the base of the skull, where the vagus nerve “begins” its journey. The more freedom this “vagrant” nerve has as it journeys through the body, the more easily it can communicate crucial information to the brain.

For more innovative self-care tools, consider enrolling in our 200 hour Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Program, beginning October 10th!

Special thanks to our teacher Doug Keller for sharing this work. For more information about Doug, visit him over at doyoga.com.

Questions for Clarity and Intention

The short, cold, dark days of winter are ripe with opportunity for the self-care practices I treasure: I huddle and cuddle inside the house with my two- and four-legged loved ones; I take long soaks in steamy baths; I get on my mat and practice yoga nidra to my heart’s content; I walk next to the dog until we find a place where the quiet cold of the winter sunshine rimes the tree limbs with beauty to cover their bareness. And from the fertile ground of all this being, I find the space to reflect.

The frenzy of the last few months–all of the hurdles and hiccups attendant to running a business, and a busy, albeit joyful, time in my personal life–left little time to take stock, to allow pure awareness to transform the bareness of experience into useful beauty. I stumbled upon this article at onbeing.org from the lovely Courtney Martin, and I’ve spent the afternoon considering my answers to the questions she poses, and considering what questions I would add or adapt to ask of myself as a yogi. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. What have I held on to this year? Where have I been resistant to the flow of life? How has this affected my body-mind?
  2. What have I let go of? How have I surrendered? How has this affected my body-mind?
  3. What have I learned through practice this year? About my body? About my spirit? About my mind? What would I like to learn in the new year?
  4. Which relationships have enriched my life this year? What teachers have informed my practice, and my life? Is there a teacher I would like to learn more from in the coming year?
  5. When did I feel most balanced and whole this year? What conditions, actions and/or self-care practices led to that feeling? How can I continue to cultivate those conditions in the new year?
  6. When was I most physically joyful this year? How can I get there more next year? (I just couldn’t improve on this question…it is too good.)
  7. What is my deepest longing, my heart’s desire, my sankalpa? Can I be brave enough to live that desire as true in the coming year?

I’ve scribbled my first answers in my journal. I say first answers, because my wish for myself, and for us all, is that we keep asking, that we keep reflecting, that we keep transforming through this practice we love.

To that end, we here at The Essence of Yoga Center have been working on finalizing the details for our upcoming 300 hour Advanced Yoga Immersion Teacher Training. If your sankalpa leads you to take the next step in your yoga journey, we humbly hope you’ll journey with us.

In gratitude for this year, and in hope for the next,

Cara Sparkman

Did You Know?

You are perfect. Just as you are. And in this moment and every moment, the yoga practice you love is waiting to help reveal your perfection to you. To uncover your inherent wholeness. Will you follow the call?

Our 200 and 300 hour Yoga Immersion and Teacher Training Programs are designed with you in mind. We believe wholeheartedly in:

  • Approaching yoga asana as a tool to foster functional movement
  • Inclusivity and accessibility for all bodies, ages and ability levels
  • Giving ourselves and our community members permission to be ourselves, just as we are
  • Fostering an understanding of trauma, holding a safe space for practitioners and students, and conveying the tools to teach a trauma-informed practice
  • Providing space for students to develop their personal practice
  • Creating a path between interested, dedicated yoga practitioner and an inspired, capable and confident teacher

Our 200 and 300 hour programs take place one retreat-style weekend per month for 12 and 18 months, respectively, and represent a solid investment in your personal development, your future and the yoga you believe in.

Email us today to follow the call!

On the precipice…

In 2009, I found myself on the edge of a cliff. In the steep. At the moment of “about to”.

I had just ended a relationship, moved cities, and changed jobs. My life was in turmoil, but I caught glimpses here and there–like the sun stubbornly piercing the clouds–of stillness, and that place beyond stillness, and I decided I wanted more of that.

So I enrolled in a 200 hour yoga teacher training program. Yoga helped me with the turmoil and the chaos and the anxiety of in-between-ness. Yoga helped me balance on the precipice, and it gave me a path forward. A map to help me move onward.

For a year as I was skillfully guided through the rich and yielding labyrinth of my body-mind, I felt illuminated by moments of that sun-pierced stillness. I began to experience myself as more than myself, and it felt like coming home. I began to understand that yoga is not so much about learning, as it is about uncovering what we already know in our deepest, truest selves, and I felt excited and inspired and called to share what I had gleaned.

I began to teach, and life carried on in the way that life does. And in 2015, I realized it had carried me to another cliff. Another ending-beginning. Another in-between.

The problem with the precipice is that we can’t always see a clear way forward. Sometimes it feels like the only way down is to leap into the nothing-ness before us. We’re handed a map, but it’s partly blank, and life relies on us to fill in the missing pieces.

That map came to me in the form of 300 hour yoga teacher training with Amanda McMaine. I didn’t know where I would end up at the end of the 18 months of study and self-inquiry, but I knew it would be unexpected. I knew that if I leapt into the unknown that I would come out the other side, like that sun through the clouds, more myself than I had been before. Uncovered, and more precious for having been hidden for a little while.


I leapt.