Teacher Bios

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Dharma Richards, ERYT-500 – Founder and owner of Yoga Garden and Yoga Alliance Advanced Registered Yoga Teacher, Dharma is an instructor of both the Classical Hatha-Raja style and Kundalini Yoga, and 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. Dharma’s studies continue with her beloved teacher Chandra Om, senior disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra, and HarDarshan and HarBhajan Kaur Khalsa.  Her 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 detailed information, see Dharma’s Personal Website.

Brittney Powell, RYT200 – Also a graduate of the North Carolina School of Yoga, Brittney offers a genuine, nurturing spirit to her classes.  A school teacher specializing in instructing children with autism, Brittney shares her kind heart and special skills with everyone in whom she comes into contact.  She allows for relaxed effort in her teachings and gently and lovingly challenges students of many levels.   Brittney completed Anusara Yoga Teacher Training in 2011 through the Triangle Anusara Yoga Institute and also holds certifications in Mini Yogis for children at both the foundations and advanced levels, Yin and Restorative Yoga.  A compassionate and beautiful soul, Brittney continues to blossom as a truly gifted and fully dedicated teacher.

Molly McKinley, RYT200 - Molly was drawn to yoga after her children were born as a way to manage daily stress and to strengthen her body. She found that yoga provided so much more for her life and now wants to share her love of the practice and these benefits with others. A student of Dharma Richards, she incorporates a classic Hatha-Raja style of teaching including basic pranayama and guided meditation. Molly is also holds a Yoga Alliance Children’s Yoga Certification.  A lover of the arts, Molly has also developed Art & Yoga Workshops to help students tap into their inner creativity. Through dedicated practice and fine tuning, we can learn to truly love ourselves and see the Divine in all things.

Anne Bequet, RYT200 – Anne comes from a ballet background. She started practicing Hatha and Vinyasa yoga regularly in 2006 between Pilate’s sessions. While getting in the practice, she felt a shift happening physically and emotionally. She was intrigued and wanted to go further.  She completed her 200 hrs. Certification in Raja Yoga with Dharma Richards’s in 2011. While in training, she was drawn to Yoga for Post-Traumatic Stress and mindfulness.

A student and a teacher at heart, Anne studied Trauma Sensitive Yoga (Dave Emerson) and completed the Yoga Warriors program (Dharma Richards). She also completed her Restorative Yoga certification (Julee Snyder). She has a definite interest in Yoga Therapy, following the teachings of Gary Kraftsow. She is also a Reiki practitioner.

Anne enjoys teaching Gentle Meditative Flow yoga, incorporating breath work and restorative poses to help students develop their body/mind awareness and reduce their stress levels. Anne strongly believes in achieving better health through a mindful practice. In her classes, she nurtures individual students needs and help them honor their bodies and souls. She feels a strong desire to share her passion for the discipline of yoga.


Dr. Heather Cassese, RYT200 –Dr. Heather began teaching group fitness in 1998 at East Carolina University while studying for her Bachelor’s in Exercise Physiology. During that time she began to attend hatha yoga classes as a means to stay connected to her gymnastics background. After graduation she moved to Portland, OR where she continued her studies at Western States Chiropractic College and received her Doctorate in Chiropractic in 2005. During her time in Portland her love for yoga expanded exponentially as she began to practice Bikram, vinyasa, and Ashtanga forms. She attended her first yoga certification in 2002 and began teaching hatha yoga and BodyFlow© at the local gym where she taught aqua and group fitness classes. Throughout the years she gravitated to vinyasa as a constant for her own home practice. Self-study and attending classes allowed her to deepen her knowledge and passion for more yoga. She has always seen the connection of yoga and chiropractic in overall health and healing, and delivers that in her whole body approach to class and treatments. In 2010 she committed to a deeper level of understanding as she gained her RYT-200 at the Yoga Garden. Dr. Heather loves to challenge her students with powerful vinyasa flows, good humor, and how to break down difficult poses into the attainable for all levels. She is also trained to teach gentle yoga, Pilates, and Yin Yoga. With a smile and a laugh, her positive energy can inspire and change those she contacts.

Dr. Heather currently owns and practices chiropractic at Back to Basics Chiropractic here in Apex. She lives near Jordan Lake with her husband, Jim, her daughter, Elizabella, and her 2 labs, Reece and Bailey. In addition to yoga and chiropractic, she enjoys traveling, snow skiing, scuba diving, painting, gardening, and playing darts for the Raleigh Dart League.

Heather Dunn, RYT – Heather, a 230 hr Certified Yoga Teacher, has been practicing yoga for over ten years. Having taught herself through books, she believes that you are your own best teacher. She hopes to lead others to listen to their intuition or inner voice and re-discover the truth that has and always will be inside. She loves to create fresh and creative sequences and always incorporates music into the class theme. Inspired by many different teachers and styles over the years, she has an eclectic style, paying attention to details of alignment and most importantly, the breath! Keeping her classes lighthearted and playful, but also challenging, she hopes to keep you smiling. Heather has taken the level 1 YogaFit certification and completed a 230 hr Total Yoga Immersion with Stephanie Keach in 2011. She continues to study and discover at home and with many different teachers around the Triangle.

Brinda Ramaiya Harper, RYT200 – Yoga found Brinda the beginning of 2008 as a New Year’s Resolution to focus on health (and a life long dream to finally touch her toes.) In the process of studying yoga, she also found pilates. Never considering herself an athletic person, she was drawn to the challenge and focus brought by practicing both together. She has maintained a regular weekly practice of both ever since. Through her experiences, she learned spiritually that we cannot give to others unless we give to ourselves first. With this desire to develop as a person and be a “student of life”, she pursued both her PowerPilates mat and RYT 200 yoga certifications. Her two yoga programs, EmbodiYoga with Lisa Clark and David Beadle in 2010 and Live Your Yoga with Dharma Richards in 2012, both gave her perspectives of Iyengar and Classical Raja yoga that she loves infusing in her practice and teaching. She also holds certifications in TRX Suspension Training, Reiki and plans to pursue prenatal yoga certification. Brinda aims to help people connect with what they love about life through their practice and help people be at their best. She also enjoys connecting with nature outside by running, hiking and scuba diving. She is dedicated to promoting an active lifestyle with her husband and their ridiculously cute golden retriever.


Vanessa Doherty, RYT-200 – Vanessa has been practicing yoga since 1994 (primarily Ashtanga yoga). In 2008 she found a style of Hatha yoga that resonated with her, and she was inspired to teach. In September 2010, she received her 250 hour certification from the NC School of Yoga. Vanessa has continued her training while teaching and has attained certifications in Children’s Yoga and Yoga for Seniors. Vanessa follows the traditional principles of yoga and teaches through the heart. Her classes are meditative in nature, teaching her students to move organically, and to release negative thoughts and desires about the body. In Vanessa’s classes, students practice santosha (contentment) and satya (truthfulness) — to never move beyond our capacity. She keeps a keen eye on alignment and encourages her students to close their eyes while they move — to go within and to find the joy in the movement. Vanessa is a calm and patient teacher who reflects on what each student needs in her class. Her goal is have all students complete her class feeling more grounded and connected to the beauty of their true self.

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Melissa Feimster Lido, RYT500 – Melissa has been practicing yoga for over ten years. Through a steady and consistent home practice, she quickly discovered that yoga imbued her with overall improved sense of well-being and 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, acknowledge 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, “The Avocado Queen”, www.theavocadoqueen.com.


Pablo Escalera, RYT200 – 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 Fiday evening.  His approach to Yoga is contemporary, having  explored Power Yoga, Ahstanga 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.

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Jon-Erik Lido, L.Ac., RYT-500 – 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 trainings 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 experiential illumination of the body and mind.

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Heather Blanchard, RYT-200 – Heather initially discovered the soothing benefits of yoga through a local gym she was teaching aerobics at in 1995.  At the time, her passion for movement stemmed from a lifelong love for dance, and she was fond of the alignment and lengthening the asanas provided.  After being asked to teach a yoga class while working overseas for Club Med, she quickly worked with local instructors to learn a very basic hatha yoga “routine.” Soon, yoga became her favorite class to teach and she began to search for a deeper understanding of the tranquility found through her physical practice. After returning to the state in 1998, Heather was mentored by the founders of Triangle Yoga in Chapel Hill while learning to teach to special populations at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. Their vast knowledge inspired her to explore many different styles of yoga, and she began a regular home practice. After a ten-year liaison from the fitness business due to long hours in the corporate world and to having children, she was ecstatic to find the Live Your Yoga Teacher Training program at Yoga Garden in 2012! The diverse program allowed her to explore the rich history and spiritual side of yoga, and begin sharing her love for teaching with students again. It’s a privilege to create a tranquil yet challenging environment for people to move in together, and to meet their needs at varying fitness levels. She strives to encourage everyone to practice with a smile on their face, and realize each moment spent in a limb of yoga is a gift. Heather lives in Raleigh with her husband Eddie, daughters Mackenzie and Lauren, and their goddaughter Sunshine. She gratefully works with Infinity Ballet Theatre, a nonprofit company in Apex, NC, and with the beloved staff of Yoga Garden.


Laura Funk, RYT-200 – Laura began attending yoga classes in 2008 and quickly realized the many benefits regular practice brought to her daily life.  She became a dedicated practitioner and signed up for the Live Your Yoga Teacher Training with Dharma Richards at Yoga Garden of Apex.  In 2013, Laura completed 300 hours of study and earned her RYT-200 certification.  Laura’s initial goal was to fine-tune and advance her personal practice, but she now feels inspired to share her knowledge with others through teaching.   Laura encourages students of all levels to explore the many physical and spiritual benefits yoga can offer.  She is dedicated to living a life based around compassion and loving kindness and continues her yoga studies through attending various types of classes, workshops and self-study programs.  Laura lives in Apex with her husband and four children.


Connie Bisesi, RYT-200 – 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 give her an opportunity to grow in her own practice but also created another opportunity to connect with others.


Leah Shugars RYT-200 – Leah began taking Yoga classes in 2011 as a way to compliment her daily fitness routine. She was drawn to the practice of yoga through reading various books on the mind, body, spirit connection and found that yoga was a beautiful way to combine her interest in spirituality with her desire to remain both physically and mentally healthy. While practicing yoga she began to feel a shift happening physically and emotionally and decided to go deeper into the practice.  In 2013 she completed the Live Your Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Garden with Dharma Richards. While her intention was to deepen her own personal practice she now wants to share her love and knowledge of the practice with others through teaching. Yoga has provided so much more for her life then she expected and she looks forward to the opportunity to share with others.  Leah lives in Apex North Carolina with her husband, Shawn, and two daughters Shelby and Sarah.

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Tiffany Greene, RYT-200 – Yoga began gently knocking on Tiffany’s door several years ago and has naturally developed into her way of life. After taking an early morning, outdoor class and feeling the extreme relaxation – she was convinced she needed to look further into this practice called yoga. She began her journey learning through books and developing her home practice. She was then led to take classes and quickly fell in love with the positive energy and level of expertise at the Yoga Garden. Noticing the overall transformation in her daily life and hoping to deepen her understanding of the yoga philosophy, she enrolled in the teacher training program with Dharma Richards. With a background in Social Work, Tiffany’s heart is service-focused as she enjoys volunteering in the community with Meals on Wheels, serving at her church and her kids’ school, and participating on international missions. She is passionate about her love for God, family, community, nature, and health. She has been involved at the studio as a Gardenista and continues the journey by sharing her love of yoga with students in Hatha Raja style focusing on pranayama(breathwork), meditation(concentration), and asana(postures). She provides a safe, nurturing, genuine yet playful environment in which she encourages her students to feel the true inner peace that comes through dedicated practice and connection with the Divine.


Susan Hecht, RYT-200 – Susan began practicing yoga 15 years ago, quickly finding that her practice evolved into something much greater  – a way to stay centered and bring peace and awareness into all aspects of her busy life. In 2014, she took the plunge and enrolled in Teacher Training at the Yoga Garden with Dharma Richards simply as a way to deepen her own practice. Her intention shifted as she was nearing the end of training, realizing she wanted to share this knowledge and the gift of peace that yoga provides.  An artist by profession, Susan has witnessed the many connections between the practice of yoga and the creative process.  “As an artist I know that beauty abounds in the simplest of things; and as a yogi I know it very much abounds in each of us. If I can help someone see and experience these gifts, well….  What better gift could I give? “   Through breath and movement, Susan’s classes focus on finding balance, building strength, and working on flexibility. Susan hopes to inspire peace and promote happiness both on and off the mat.  When Susan is not on her mat, you will most likely find her at her easel.


Deborah Dixon, RYT-200Deborah 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 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.


Stephanie Hutcherson, RYT-200 – Stephanie discovered yoga through a need for physical activity. After attending her first class she immediately feel in love learning that yoga is not only a physical practice, but a mental and spiritual one as well. Stephanie enjoys all types of yoga, but has a great love for pushing the limits and achieving new goals. Her purpose in teaching is to guide students on their own path toward health and happiness.  Stephanie is a RYT-200 graduate of Yoga Garden.  In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her family and her beloved poodles.

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Lisa Shapiro, RYT-200 – Lisa first experienced the physical benefits of yoga as a young teenager growing up in Thailand. With a passion for all types of music and dance, she was intrigued by the way vinyasa flow reminded her of dance. After a brief hiatus while attending college in Hawaii and serving in the military, Lisa was immediately drawn back to focusing on her personal practice of yoga to help guide her through the emotional and mental stresses of life.  In 2014, Lisa completed the Live Your Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Garden with Dharma Richards. Through the Teacher Training, Lisa has come to truly rediscover yoga as more than just a physical practice, but instead as a way in which to continue serving others.

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Brenda Schnable, ERYT-500 – Senior yoga therapist and instructor and  an author of two award winning books:  Access Your Inner Power: Awakening Your Health and Vitality and Qi Infused Yoga®. She has developed her own style of yoga, Qi Infused Yoga®, that melds the flowing movements of Qigong and yoga postures into one fluid practice. She is passionate about helping people gain and maintain their health, sharing yoga to all, especially baby boomers. Brenda is also certified in 24 Postures of Therapeutic Qigong, and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

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Dave Rossi, RYT-200 – Dave describes yoga as a blessing that changed his life.  His daily practice has brought him health and a deep sense of wellbeing.  Dave enjoys all types of yoga, but has a great love for the meditative and breath-control aspects.  His purpose in teaching is to share his results with others who are on their own path toward health and happiness.  Dave is a RYT-200 graduate of Yoga Garden.