Student Highlight: Kari Doherty |

Mar 3, 2020 11:30:00 AM | yoga Student Highlight: Kari Doherty |

Yoga studio owner Kari Doherty incorporates aromatherapy into her classes as she works toward her Master of Science in Aromatherapy at ACHS.


Image Copyright: Kari Doherty

Yoga studio owner Kari Doherty incorporates aromatherapy into her classes as she works toward her Master of Science in Aromatherapy at ACHS.

Kari is a co-owner of YogaRIOT, a yoga studio in Portland, Oregon. 

Before becoming a yoga teacher, Kari was a professional private chef at a Catholic school in Beaverton, Oregon. "It was a decent job, I enjoyed it, but I knew that wasn’t my life task," she says.

Kari started attending YogaRIOT as a student four years ago through a work-trade program where she traded two hours of work per week for unlimited yoga. "I started coming back and eventually the opportunity to take yoga teacher training was presented to me," she says. Kari started to take on more leadership at the studio until eventually the owner, Annie, asked her to teach full time. So, Kari quit her job as a private chef and became a yoga instructor.

Finding yoga

“Part of what got me into yoga was that I was on a weight loss journey, Kari says. "I was up to 330 pounds when I decided that I needed to change my life. I had a whole bunch of different things I was trying but I knew that exercise needed to be a part of it. That’s what got me into yoga. I found this power yoga studio that pretty much checked all the boxes as far as what I needed to be active.” 

Kari says that overall, she's lost about 120 pounds and probably over 80 doing power yoga. "Doing hot power yoga helped me with my goals," Kari says.

However, she says that her journey to change was not just about losing weight. "I think that in addition to needing physical support, you also need emotional and spiritual support if you really want to make sustainable and lasting change. It’s not just food and exercise, it’s about teaching your brain. And that’s what I like about yoga. It helped to shift my perspective in ways that just going to the gym didn’t accomplish."


The type of yoga practiced at YogaRIOT is Baptiste Power Yoga. "In power yoga, it is considered to a certain degree an athletic type of yoga. The idea is to get your heart rate up but to also maintain your slow, calm, steady breath. The way I like to think of it is that you’re creating the storm to find your calm. You are in these poses that are challenging and require full-body integration and it’s getting your heart rate up, but you’re still maintaining the slow calm steady breath. When people leave our studio, they are definitely hot, sweaty, and in need of a change of clothes,” Kari says.

Kari says that her studio uses infrared heat, which not all other studios are using. “We practice in a heated studio which we believe makes the practice safer. We do infrared heat which is a pretty specific awesome magical thing. If you go to other hot yoga studios, not everyone has infrared," she says.

Kari explains the effects of infrared heat: “It warms you from the inside out and it’s the same type of heat from the sun. It safely warms your body and lubricates your muscles and gets you moving and sweating without adding dry heat to the room. Oftentimes you’ll go to a yoga studio and they are blowing dry heat almost like a furnace system, and that hot air dries out sinuses and creates other environmental issues."

In addition to teaching yoga, Kari also makes several products that she sells at the studio. "I make pit paste that sells really well, people really love it. I use cedar and orange in my pit paste. I make hand sanitizer and I also make a hair wax product. People really like it,” she says.

Yoga and aromatherapy

Once per month Kari teaches AROMAflow, a mellow yoga class that incorporates essential oils. “It’s a 75 minute class where I integrate five or so oils over the course of the class. I diffuse a blend, I give people a drop of a citrus to put in their water, I do something on the chest, something on the forehead, and something on the feet. And those all get integrated throughout the practice,” she says. Kari says that the essential oil becomes a meditation anchor that anchors you to the present moment during yoga. 

Kari started teaching AROMAflow before she began her degree at ACHS. She says, "I realized I really wanted to learn more about essential oils. Since I started taking classes with ACHS, the AROMAflow classes definitely evolved in terms of what I’m able to offer the students in regards to what oils we’re using and what the oils do.” She says that she found ACHS when she was looking into taking some anatomy courses. "I’m also interested in essential oils and started looking for classes in that, and I just wasn’t seeing anything that was very satisfying. My searches led me to ACHS and I realized that the MS in Aromatherapy included both anatomy and essential oils. And so that just seemed like it checked several boxes,” Kari says.

Chai essential oil blend

Kari created a custom chai essential oil blend for her studio that she has agreed to share with us. It contains cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper essential oils.

She says that she created the blend because originally the studio brewed chai every day for the smell, but not a lot of people were drinking it. “We used to brew chai tea in the studio every day for years. Most days 99% gets dumped down the drain because maybe two people took a cup. Every year, the tea maker breaks because it’s probably used 8 to 14 hours per day. Once a year we have to throw out the teamaker and get a new one. This is just a lot of waste," Kari says.

So, Kari came up with the idea to create an essential blend. She says that people have been responding well to the blend: "The beautiful thing about all of those oils is that they’re antibacterial. So it smells amazing but it’s also sanitizing the air. So we have people coming into yoga who are sweating and maybe are sick, so it seems like a good idea to me that we would be actively creating a sanitary breathing environment. People love it," she says.

Kari says that AROMAflow is an intimate class with only ten seats available and that it is almost always sold out in advance. If you are interested in signing up for this class or any other classes at YogaRIOT, please view the class schedule here.

Are you interested in being interviewed for the blog?

We would love to highlight more ACHS students and graduates! An article on our blog is a great way to share your holistic health story, show off what you've accomplished, or spread the news about your new wellness practice. Please fill out this form and our Social Media Coordinator, Gillian Wilson, will be in touch with you to schedule a phone interview. 

New call-to-action

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the Social Media Coordinator of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

About American College of Healthcare Sciences

ACHS-Building-ExteriorFounded in 1978, is a Portland, Ore.-based, accredited college offering online, on-campus, and study abroad integrative health education. With undergraduate and graduate degrees, diplomas, certificates, and continuing education units in integrative health, ACHS makes holistic health and wellness education accessible to a diverse community, including healthcare professionals, military students, stay-at-home parents, and lifelong learners. Specializations include aromatherapy, herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, and integrative health. ACHS is a Certified B Corporation® and was named two of 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon 2017 by Oregon Business magazine. ACHS is also accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In response to our commitment to service members, veterans and military spouses, ACHS has been designated as one of the top 16% of military-friendly institutions in the U.S. for nine years in a row. For more information visit

Gillian Turner

Written By: Gillian Turner

Gillian joined ACHS after graduating from Linfield College with a BA in Mass Communication and a minor in visual studies. She grew up off the grid in rural southern Oregon and spent time exploring the forest surrounding her house and teaching gardening classes to other children in her garden. While at Linfield, Gillian gained valuable experience in public relations, social media management, and digital art. She was awarded a strategic communication scholarship and inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honor society “that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism and mass communication.” When not at work, Gillian can most often be found making art, enjoying nature or drinking coffee with her husband, Preston. Her interests include sustainability, mental wellness, and trying to stay connected to nature while living in the city. She studied abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and has traveled to over ten different countries. Her favorite place that she has visited is the Scottish Highlands, and she hopes to visit many more countries in the future.