Heather Blanchard, RYT200
Owner & Instructor
Heather took her first yoga class in 1995 at a local fitness club where she worked. At the time, her passion for movement stemmed from a lifelong love for dance, and she was fond of the lengthening and alignment yoga provided. Upon being asked to add yoga to the fitness classes she offered, Heather worked with a local instructor to learn some simple hatha sequences. Soon, yoga became her favorite class to take, and she searched for a deeper understanding of the tranquility found through her physical practice. In 1998, she was trained by Triangle Yoga to teach special populations at Duke’s Diet & Fitness Center. Their vast knowledge inspired her to explore many different styles of yoga, and she began a regular home practice. In 2005, Heather took a hiatus from teaching fitness and yoga classes in order to care for ageing parents and her young children. During that time, she took classes at various small studios and gyms, but truly missed her community of students. In 2012, she was ecstatic to begin renewing certifications, and discovered Dharma and the Yoga Garden in Apex. She truly loved the rich history, Holy Science and variety of styles taught through Yoga Garden’s school, and found it encompassed far more than other programs. Heather joined the staff in 2013, and has continued studies with Dharma over the past seven years.
Heather is a self-described yoga, anatomy and essential oils geek. “After years of teaching yoga, I yearn to expand the benefits of this ancient practice, both mentally and physically, to students everywhere. I’m passionate about sharing knowledge while continuously learning myself, and believe that each moment spent in a limb of yoga is a gift that translates off the mat to our everyday lives. It’s a privilege to share that with students, and to follow my dharma of giving back to others.” Heather lives in Cary with her husband Eddie, and has three daughters that are the light of their lives. She was truly honored and grateful when Dharma approached her to talk about transitioning The Garden into new hands, and is excited to continue offering the nurturing training and classes this community has come to love with our exceptionally trained and dedicated teachers.
“When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Dharma Richards, ERYT500
Dharma Richards, ERYT-500 is founder of Yoga Garden Apex, co-founder of Yoga Garden Pittsboro, and Director of Yoga Warriors International.
A Yoga Alliance Advanced Registered Yoga Teacher, Dharma is an instructor of both the Classical Hatha-Raja style and tantric Kundalini Yoga, Reiki Master, and is immersed in feminine earth wisdom. Dharma encourages organic movement and an open heart as she routinely leads students through nurturing practices of pranayama/ breathwork, asana/physical postures, and dhyana/meditation. Dharma hosts workshops, intensives, retreats and teacher trainings nationwide and in the Caribbean. She also offers the unique Mindful Muse women’s circle and a variety of online study courses.
Dharma's certifications also include Core Strength Vinyasa, Judith Lasater’s Relax & Renew, Prenatal, Children’s, Yin, and Yoga Warriors (for PTSD). Dharma is also a certified Reiki Master and continues studies in Thai Massage (Nuad Boran).
For more information on Dharma's offerings, see Dharma’s Personal Website.
Molly McKinley, RYT500
To move, to release, to refine, to calm, and to still. All effort in yoga is for the “soul” purpose of remembering the beauty and grace of the divine in all things. For over ten years, Molly has been a student of Dharma Richards. Molly incorporates vinyasa, pranayama and guided meditation to cultivate the awareness of the still, small voice that exists in everyone and unites us all.
As a mother of three, Molly is called to help teens find peace and self-acceptance in our modern, digital lives. She received her children's yoga training at the NC School of Yoga and now leads training for upcoming children's yoga teachers. Founder and CEO of Intentionaliteas, she travels nationally as a featured speaker discussing topics such as the power of intention in business, emotional intelligence, and how to incorporate everyday rituals to increase mindfulness in the workplace. She hosts a weekly podcast called Afternoon Tea that celebrates Women in Business.
Gene Cannata, RYT200
Starting practice in 2015 for exercise, Gene never imaged the path that would unfold into a deep appreciation for the multi faceted expression of Yoga. Practicing unknowingly next to Yoga Sutra 1:14 on the "Sutra Wall", he explored the eight limbed path and embraced philosophies of enlightenment. There he began realize Patanjali's vision to "...form a firmly rooted, stable, and solid foundation." Every day Gene is thankful for the people and circumstances that provide him the opportunity to practice yoga. Gene is a RYT200 graduate of the Yoga Garden Teacher Training program.
Nicole Jameson, RYT
Nicole was introduced to Yoga through a high school soccer coach and immediately fell in love with the practice. However, it wasn’t until years later, when she found herself faced with a breast cancer diagnosis at age 33, that Yoga would save her life! Asana, pranayama and meditation were an integral part of healing her body and mind.
Now a thriving survivor, she felt called to teach and empower others to feel at home in their own bodies. As a full time working mother of two, she is passionate about embracing the present and finding joy in all moments! Nicole is a RYT200 graduate of the Yoga Garden Teacher Training program.
Pablo Escalera, RYT200
A mechanical engineer by profession, animal lover by Karma, Pablo completed his certification as a Yoga teacher at the 200 hour level with Dharma Richards at the Yoga Garden of Apex. Pablo had his first serious encounter with the physical activity around the age of 16 as a late start playing football (the American way), and first, ever encounter with Yoga at the age of 31 when by curiosity attended Heather Cassese’s Power Flow Yoga session one Friday evening.
His approach to Yoga is contemporary, having explored Power Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Prana Flow, Hatha Raja and several other Vinyasa Yoga offerings around the Triangle region in NC. He strives to embrace the Eight Limb Path to Yoga through everyday life. He ‘turned’ vegetarian when he started his Yoga teacher training as part of the commitment to Ahimsa and sustainability of the planet.
An enthusiast for motorsports, Pablo travels several times during the year to race tracks working as a volunteer communications official for national and international events. As an enthusiastic runner, he also participates in 5k, 10k, half marathons, adventure races, and fitness competitions.
Connie Bisesi, RYT200
Connie began taking Yoga classes in 2003 and for the first time experienced a deep connection to mind and body. She incorporated the practice of Yoga into her life and its many benefits helped her to grow in many aspects of her life.
Connie is an elementary school Art teacher and has always felt a natural inclination for leading and supporting others in their learning and growing their own lives. She felt a pull to teaching Yoga and in 2013 completed the Live Your Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Garden. Connie found that the training not only gives her an opportunity to grow in her own practice but also created another opportunity to connect with others.
Deborah Dixon, RYT200
Deborah began practicing Hatha Iyengar style yoga in 2006. It was a revelation to her practice when she found Dharma Richards in 2010. Her practice blossomed and she completed 300-hr. yoga training with Dharma in 2013.
She practices classic Hatha Raja yoga with a particular focus on breath, alignment, and finding a true expression of a pose in every level of practice. She also holds a certificate in Restorative Yoga and has been a Reiki Master Teacher practicing Usui/Tibetan Reiki since 2008.
Melissa Feimster Lido, ERYT500
Melissa has been practicing yoga for over 15 years. Through a steady and consistent home practice, she quickly discovered that yoga imbued her with an overall improved sense of well-being and a deeper connection to her own spirituality. She began taking regular yoga classes with Dharma Richards in 2008 and was inspired to deepen her practice through Yoga Garden’s Live Your Yoga Teacher Training.
Melissa’s mission is to provide students with opportunities to discover new possibilities and transform themselves spiritually, mentally, and physically through the science of yoga. Melissa’s classes come from a place of patience, love, and joy. She offers her students classes rooted in creative and well-rounded Asana sequences, breathwork, and meditation. By cultivating a supportive class environment, she encourages students to be true to themselves, acknowledges and honor the teacher within, and tap into that deep awareness that ultimately leads to self-realization.
Melissa has a special interest in restorative yoga and holds a certification in this specialty area from the NC School of Yoga. Additionally, she has had the privilege to study with several master teachers including, Sri Dharma Mittra (Classical Hatha Raja Yoga), Judith Hanson Lasater (Restorative Yoga), Susan Jackson (Hatha Yoga), Satya Tara (Ashtanga Yoga) and Hardarshan Khalsa (Kundalini Yoga).
One of the ways Melissa “lives her yoga” off the mat is by exploring the benefits of a “raw/live foods” diet and vegetarian lifestyle. Combining her love of yoga, raw/live foods, and vegetarianism, she has authored a blog,
Jon-Erik Lido, LAc, RYT500
Jon-Erik came to yoga after years of studying Chinese internal martial arts and qigong. He took his first yoga class in 2007 and realized its incredibly transformative effects. Since then he has been studying and practicing yoga, becoming especially passionate about the styles of Classical Hatha-Raja and Yin Yoga.
Jon-Erik completed Yoga Garden’s RYT-200 and RYT-500 teacher training in 2012 and 2013 respectively. He holds a certification in Yin Yoga from the Asheville Yoga Center.
Jon-Erik is a licensed acupuncturist trained in Classical Chinese Medicine. He informs his Yin Yoga classes from years of experience with the acupuncture theories that form the basis for Yin Yoga. He translates and transmits Classical Chinese Medicine theory and Daoist philosophy through his Yin Yoga classes.
It is Jon-Erik’s mission as a teacher for his students to feel empowered to improve their own health through yoga. His style of teaching is infused with compassionate and playful energy. His classes invite a meditative inward journey of self-discovery; students experience ample quiet space for reflection as well as experiential illumination of the body and mind.
Lindsay Withers, RYT200
Lindsay’s passion for movement began when she was 3 years old as a dancer. She continued to dance and study classical ballet though school years, but her path to yoga started while in college at UNCC where she took her first yoga class. She graduated with a psychology degree and then continued exploring different styles of yoga while living in NYC. After moving back to NC and the birth of her first two children, she fell in love with yoga as it provided her much needed balance, peace of mind, and physical exercise. After several years of self-study, she had a thirst for more knowledge. Lindsay felt called to enroll in the 200hr Live your Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Garden, where she explored the rich history and spiritual side of yoga as well as the anatomy of yoga. The completion of her RYT-200 certification had such a positive impact on her life, she feels compelled to teach and share this powerful practice with others. Lindsay is passionate about helping people live a physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy life. She believes in the inward journey that yoga provides each of us to find our own truth. Lindsay lives in Cary with her husband Alex, her children Anna, Benjamin, and Lucy, and her French Bulldog Penelope.
Pam Callaway, RYT200
Pam Callaway’s yoga journey began over 20 years ago, when she was seeking a way to manage chronic lower back pain following a car accident. Little did she know she would fall in love and eventually become a yoga teacher herself!
Pam is drawn to many aspects of yoga – health, strength, but most importantly the goal of bringing peace to the mind and spirit, so that one can be happier and more settled in life. Pam brings elements of nurturing and calm to her classes, while still providing a challenging and fun class.
Pam is a graduate of Yoga Garden’s Live Your Yoga Teacher Training, and is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200) with Yoga Alliance.
Anne Bequet, ERYT200
Anne is a Graduate from the Yoga Garden (ERYT200). She has a background in education and a fascination for movement. After years of Pilates practice, Anne discovered yoga in 2007 while seeking new ways to find better health and inner balance.
During her 2011 training, she was drawn to Yoga for Post-Traumatic Stress. She completed the Yoga Warrior Program, studied Trauma Sensitive Yoga and became a certified instructor in Restorative Yoga in which she found her voice.
Seeking additional ways to nurture students, she developed an interest in mindfulness and Reiki. In the last few years, Anne has been focusing on her studies and practice of Raja Vinyasa Yoga (Yogastha Sadhana Method). Through her training, she deepened her knowledge along the eight limb path of yoga and yogic philosophy (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita).
In her classes, Anne emphasizes the importance of a finer mind/body connection and self-care. In restorative sessions, she combines gentle movement, breath work, and visualizations. She pays close attention to individual students’ needs and works on providing a safe environment that promotes deeper relaxation.
While teaching Vinyasa sequences, she focuses on alignment, concentration and strength development. Her intention is to support the student’s journey into a greater vitality and the joy of knowing a deeper inner peace. Her classes include breath work and meditation.
Over the last seven years, she has been offering classes, individual sessions, and workshops. She is devoted to sharing the discipline of yoga and her love to serve the community.
Heather Bryant, RYT500
Heather has a passion for teaching young children. She is the lead 5 day 4’s teacher at Cary Presbyterian Preschool, and holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed with a focus in special education. She has been teaching for over 18 years, and her teaching career includes public school, private school, and online teaching. She holds a highly qualified North Carolina teaching license, is trained in Conscious Discipline and is CPR/First Aid certified. Heather completed her 500-Hour Teacher Training with Yoga Garden in 2021, and also holds a Children's Yoga Certification. She will always be a student of practice, and is deeply grateful for the wisdom from her teachers and fellow yogis.
"In my classes, I always strive to intertwine my love of music and yoga into a gentle flow to help my students deepen their practice. My hope is that my students step off the mat feeling loved, nourished and balanced." She and her husband, Mark have 4 children, and have lived in North Carolina for over 20 years. Heather loves reading, yoga, and paddleboarding.
Where there is Love, there is Light - Mahatma Ghandi
Jaime Warkonyi, RYT500
Jaime found her breath and began practicing yoga in 2000, while attending a weekly Hatha Yoga class while attending Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. As an elementary (K-6) and special education (K-12) certified teacher, she understands the importance of cultivating relationships between a student and their teacher. She continues to practice both on and off her mat, finding community in vinyasa classes, yin, restorative practices, and hot yoga. Her home practice is a sacred time of self-care, meditation, prana, and asanas. She enjoys practicing and teaching at various studios to access a diverse community of practitioners and teachers.
Since her move to North Carolina in 2005, she proudly serves as an elementary school assistant principal in the Wake County Public School System. She began providing weekly meditation and yoga classes at the elementary school for the teaching staff. She has also provided students access to yoga and meditation class throughout the week. While living out her dharma of serving others, she advocates for self-care and wellness.
Jaime feels most at #hOMe while on her mat. She focuses on how to be of service to others, and honors relationship building. Jaime teaches from her authentic, most present self. She’s known for her adaptability and flexibility to change. She expects the unexpected and loves a good adventure. You can count on her growth mindset and positive perspective.
She completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training in March 2018 with Asura Yoga Academy where she was blessed with lifelong #OMies. She begins her yearlong Mindful Muse RYT300 Advanced Teacher Training with Dharma Richards from Yoga Garden Apex in September 2018. You can find her guiding Yin Yoga, Vinyasa, Restorative, Hatha, and community classes.
“No mud, no lotus” is her personal manta. She embraces the muddy waters of life, trusts the guidance of her prana, and meditates on the #OMazing lotus garden creation before her.
Laura Perry, RYT200
Laura’s journey to yoga began in college as a purely physical practice to compliment her fitness focused lifestyle. She was drawn to powerful flows that challenged her body, but avoided ending practice in savasana. Stillness was scary and foreign to her and she was not ready to see the value in quieting the mind. She continued practicing yoga on and off but found a new calling to the practice when her life began to pivot in a new direction. For the first time, she craved moving into stillness to find guidance, peace, and strength. As she started to feel a connection between her body, mind, and spirit, she began to experience the deeper benefits of yoga; a life flow. She realized yoga had always been there for her, she just had to open herself up to receive the beauty the practice has to offer. Today, Laura has a passion for sharing the gift that yoga has given her by offering a safe space to cultivate balance, peace, and serenity. She believes yoga has the power to change a life and provide one with tools to live fully and freely. As a fifth grade teacher, she enjoys sharing yoga with her students and colleagues. Laura is an RYT200 graduate of the Yoga Garden Teaching Training program.
Kiersten Sledge, RYT200
Kiersten Sledge has been practicing yoga since she attended Appalachian State University for her undergraduate degree starting in 2007. Throughout the last decade and a half, Kiersten has found yoga to be a thoughtful way to provide her body with the physical nourishment it needs while ground her mind and opening her spirit.
Kiersten focuses on the eight limb path of yoga and embodies a yogic lifestyle while acknowledging that everyone's path to and through yoga is diverse, valuable and valid. Kiersten brings yoga to her students by focusing on the individual asanas, the purpose of the poses, a focus on breath work and alignment, and with the goal of enhancing her clients whole life, not just their time on the mat.
Kiersten is also certified in chair yoga, restorative yoga and is always focused on continuingeducation. Currently, in 2021 Kiersten is finishing her Ayurveda certification and her 100HR Meditation certification. In addition to being a yoga instructor at Yoga Garden, Kiersten is the head yogi at Animal Assisted Life in Apex, NC. She also is a full time School Counselor and takes a trauma informed approach to yoga as well as provides yoga to kids. Kiersten has a passion for animals and also holds a certification in Equine Sports Massage Therapy in addition to her yoga work which further helps her understand body movement. In her free time Kiersten enjoys spending time with her husband, Marcus, her stepdaughter and their house full of animals!
Bethany has practiced yoga off and on for several years but fell in love with yoga again two years ago after visiting Yoga Garden. She completed the 200 hour teaching training at Yoga Garden of Apex in June 2021. Bethany grew up dancing ballet and pointe, an has been a memeber of the Apple Chill Cloggers in Chapel Hill for 7 years. She is an elementary school teacher and has enjoyed teaching Kindergarten and First Grade for 20 years. She hopes her love of music paired with wisdom from family and friends, along with her extensive teaching history, will combine to create welcoming, peaceful classes for all .