Kaia Yoga owner Gina Norman
By Caitlin Brown
Many of us are looking to taking our fitness from Zoom to the classroom, studio, or gym. We crave the community those spaces provide, coming together to better our body and minds among familiar faces. Cultivating a sense of community is an essential part of our sense of well-being and helps us lead more compassionate and inspired lives.
Sadly, many area studios were forced to close their brick-and-mortar locations because of the pandemic and Hurricane Ida.
While Zoom offerings and outdoor classes have been a boon for businesses and students alike, it’s just not the same. A yoga studio isn’t like your typical boutique fitness venue. Yoga and community are one in the same. Without the space, there is no community and without the community, there is no space. So, when owner Toby Kundid announced in April that her beloved Mamaroneck studio, Tovami, would shutter its doors after a long battle to stay afloat through the pandemic, a large community of yogis were left without a studio to practice — a community built over five years, consisting of individuals whose hearts were tied to the space and each other.
When one door shuts, another opens and though it can be bittersweet, new opportunities reveal themselves, it just requires an open mind and heart, something that seems to come naturally for seasoned yogis.
This week Kaia Yoga, owned by local yogini and Connecticut mom Gina Norman, who operates two studios in Greenwich, as well as ones in New Canaan, Darien, and Westport, will open her first Westchester studio on October 11. She has put her own touch on the former Tovami studio in Mamaroneck. Kaia Yoga will offer a wide variety of classes: gentle, yin, restorative, hot vinyasa flow, and non-hot flow (something that has been lacking for a while), in addition to meditation, workshops, and travel study opportunities. Norman, is “determined to keep spaces open for people to gather and practice as part of a Kula.”
“Kula”, a Sanskrit word, loosely translated means “community”. It is a term often used in yoga to highlight the sense of togetherness in practice. “The practice of working on oneself is also about working on one’s relations with others,” offers Norman. “This is something that is at the core of yoga practice, and it is what differentiates a yoga studio from a typical boutique fitness studio. It is a sacred space to build ourselves amongst others together.”
Norman is excited about expanding Kaia Yoga across the Connecticut border to Westchester. She hopes to build a bridge between the Kaia community she has built over 15 years community and neighboring towns like Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, and Larchmont.
Derived from the Sanskrit word, “yuj,” often translated as “yoke,” yoga means to “unite,” or “integrate.” It is a practice from India that goes back thousands of years, rooted in uniting the body and mind through breathing techniques (pranayama), asana (movement) and meditation. Just sitting in a yoga class on your mat in a room full of others, connecting to the earth and breathing together is an experience that feels different. It feels different because it is.
As Norman puts it, “It’s about coming to your mat, wherever you are right now, using the breath and body as a tool to be more wakeful. When you are more wakeful, you’re more intuitive, and when you’re more intuitive, you’re more balanced inside and out.”
She brings with her a solid yoga foundation, having studied meditation, Thai massage, and yoga philosophy extensively in Thailand and India under many invaluable mentors and teachers. “I want to give this to others. I love to see people fall in love with yoga.”
The yoga space — the four walls that hold a place to practice as a group — is just as important as the people that fill it.
If you build it, they will come. But in yoga, the converse is true as well. If they come, you will build it. Gina Norman is looking forward to “yoking” communities and bringing people back together to do what she, and so many, love most, yoga.
Pre-opening specials at the Mamaroneck location include 30 days of unlimited yoga for just $30. The first class is free. Kaia Yoga is at 112 Boston Post Road. There is plenty of on-street parking and public parking behind the studio. Call 914-341-1576 or visit www.kaiayoga.