By Eileen Weber
If you’re looking for a yoga studio that’s got it all, look no further than Kaia Yoga. They opened eight years ago in two locations in Greenwich and three years ago on the Post Road behind Crate & Barrel in Westport. Kaia boasts yoga classes and workshops, an organic cafe and juice bar, spa treatments, and massage therapy.
It was time for a visit.
From their front door, there’s a split staircase. Head up for classes and the café; head down for the spa. The entire space occupies 10,000 square feet. With the 5,000 square feet they have at the Greenwich locations, Kaia is billed as the largest yoga studio in Connecticut. And, they take that status very seriously.
“It was like a beehive and all the bees showed up,” said co-owner Stan Woodman about opening the Westport location.
Woodman and Gina Norman, his wife and business partner, have cornered the market on the mind-body-wellness connection. As Woodman puts it, it’s a lifestyle.
“Yoga isn’t just about doing different postures. It’s about how you treat your body,” he said. “You can’t practice yoga every day and then eat at McDonald’s. How much healthier are you going to be?”
Yoga is a whole mindset and Kaia Yoga is happily tapping into it. And, that’s where the organic café comes in.
Originally, the café was added to the Greenwich location as merely an expansion of their already thriving yoga studio. With the Westport studio, it started out with a café that clients would eat in after class. But after three years of good word-of-mouth, people come in off the street just to have breakfast or lunch there. No need for a Down Dog and a Pranayama. You can nourish your inner Om by grabbing a quick bite with a friend.
From juices to smoothies to wraps, salads, and paninis, they’ve got it all covered. The also sell shelf stable organic products like Doc’s maple syrup, Mary’s Gone Crackers, and they use Andrew’s Local Honey behind the counter. Got a food allergy? No problem. They can make your order to suit your needs.
They even make their own almond milk. (Soak almonds in water overnight. Sieve through cheesecloth. Add agave, cinnamon, and sea salt. Et voilà! It’s a simple process that takes time, but is well worth it.)
Nothing goes to waste. The by-product of making almond milk goes into their almond pâté, which is used in their best-selling spicy almond nori roll. It’s just like sushi—only not.
But the best part is that in addition to serving only 100% organic products, they also source as locally as possible. Kaia works with local farmers in the tri-state area and, more specifically, gets a lot of their foods from nearby Double L Market.
Every foodie within a 50-mile radius knows Lloyd Allen and his beloved Double L. What started out as nothing more than a seasonal shack in Southport has become a regular stop off in Westport for anyone seeking organic and farm fresh foods.
Fresh produce goes into making Kaia’s fruit and vegetables juices, which can be found in the Grab ‘n’ Go cooler or made to order. They also offer a juice cleanse for one, two, and three days. Woodman made a point of mentioning that they don’t go beyond a three-day cleanse. If a client wants a longer cleanse period, he wants to know what the motivation is behind it and if there is a doctor’s approval.
“Our March sales on cleanses are higher than any other time of year because people want to lose weight for the spring,” he said. “But a cleanse is meant to make you more mindful of what you’re eating.”
That mindful cleansing comes with a “fresh start” program by removing those things from your lifestyle that are toxic to your system. Before you begin cleansing, reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. Cut back on refined foods, sugars, and dairy. Start cleaning out your cabinets and remove those products that have toxic chemicals.
As Woodman explains, the juices are pure liquid with no extra pulp or fiber—just pure nutrients. All of the produce used must be organic. Otherwise, what’s the point? All those chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides—used to eradicate undesirable bugs and weeds end up in your cup. No sense in cleansing your system only to put back all those toxins you just took out.
“I know other cleanses that don’t use organic produce,” said Woodman. “That’s disgusting. That’s just juicing pesticides.”
To the Kaia staff, the most interesting by-product of a continued healthy lifestyle is watching the changes that take place in their clientele. The atmosphere of yoga mixed with organic food and a relaxing spa treatment could make even the most tightly wound client calm, cool, and collected. As Spa Manager Renée Napoleone says, their whole demeanor changes and it’s visible.
“You can see this light about them that you might not have before,” she said. “They’re happier. They’re healthier. It’s pretty profound.”
Spa treatments range from facials—using the Australian-based Jurlique organic skin care products—to massages, reflexology and aromatherapy. They even offer craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, and something deeper called “Rolfing.”
Named for Ida Rolf who developed the system in New York in the 1930s and subsequently founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in 1971, it is a holistic approach to a deep massage of the connective tissues. Rolfing is meant to relieve pain and pressure, provide greater flexibility, and better posture.
If all of this sounds great but you’re wondering what to do with the kiddies while you indulge, no sweat. They’ve got childcare by reservation. For $20, you can get two hours of “me” time. Now that’s a bargain!
Kaia Yoga is located at 1200 Post Road East in Westport. It is also located at 328 Pemberwick Road and 49 River Road in Greenwich. Locations are open seven days a week. Monday through Friday, hours are 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. On weekends, they are open from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Each Thursday Kaia Yoga is a vendor at the Westport Farmers’ Market on Imperial Avenue.
For more information about Kaia’s class schedules, café menu, or spa treatments, call 203-532-0660. Or, visit them online at www.kaiayoga.com.