Gina Norman is the owner and managing director of Kaia Yoga Complete Wellness. With four locations in Connecticut, the business has grown over the years.
Below, Norman shares an inside look into Kaia Yoga.
Mindful Studio: Describe your business. What makes your studio stand out from the rest?
Gina Norman: Kaia Yoga was originally created as Greenwich Yoga. Thirteen years ago, we changed the name to Kaia Yoga when we started to expand into other towns. Kaia means “to embody” in Sanskrit and is also my 11-year-old daughter’s name. All locations have a hot and non-hot studio. Our Westport location has five studios, including aerial and an Iyengar rope wall room and a dedicated meditation room.
We are unique as we offer a very wide variety of programming — our gentle classes are just as packed as our heated rooms. Our heating system is a mix of humid and infrared heat depending on the locations.
I think of Kaia as an education hub and a teacher’s studio. Because of our many locations and 10,0000-square-foot space in Westport, we are able to run a vast variety of programming beyond yoga and into many other healing modalities. We are closer to an Omega or Kripalu center, and a destination spot for our unique offerings. We offer a full spa, private mediation, teacher training and retreats around the world. Our goal is to offer classes and trainings that encourage growth for every practitioner.
MS: How did you come to practice yoga? What are key turning points in your story?
GN: I am proud to say I have practiced yoga and meditation most of my life, having come to my mat more days than not in my 25 years of practice. This has created the foundation needed to sustain the growth of Kaia Yoga and my teaching. Living in Manhattan, I was part of the growth of the original boom of yoga in the city and was on the the ground teaching yoga to so many that needed support the very next day after 9/11. I feel blessed to have studied with many of the original greats, and the fact I have grown up with these teachings still amazes me today. I have had the opportunity to teach around the world, study meditation in India and have taught yoga to royalty. I have also donated hours of time to develop non profit projects to support the community. As I tell my kids, I have been teaching yoga before cell phones, Instagram or YouTube.
I have an eye for alignment and my adjustments are informed by my 20 plus years of private work and Thai massage training. I love the management part of owning a yoga studio as much as I do teaching. It can be a challenging mix but I take enormous pride in the quality of our classes and the teachers we continue to train.
My big influences are Rodney Yee and my meditation teacher David Nichtern. I work deeply every day with the practices of yoga and meditation. It’s not just a business but my dharma.
MS: How would you describe yourself as a yoga studio owner/teacher? What makes you as a person unique?
GN: The ability to bring something I love to students that come into my studio is a gift. By continuing to develop programs and continuing to teach, I am able to give people a platform to be who they were meant to be. I am very structured about how I hold the space at Kaia Yoga and create clear boundaries as a studio owner and teacher. I am here to support my employees and my students through a professional ongoing relationship. I have taught for Omega consistently and have been honored to teach yoga for Pema Chodron on her retreat.
MS: What is one lesson you have learned that other yoga studio owners would find beneficial?
GN: I have learned that running a studio is its own practice. I have to show up every day for my students, my teachers, my clients and my community. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t do that in an authentic way. I have worked to create a healthy openness between me and my students, but I can’t be everyone’s friend. Sometimes people look to their yoga teacher to fix things that aren’t really yoga. I have learned that it is OK to have boundaries in those situations; in fact, it is necessary.
MS: What do you think your yoga studio does really well?
GN: We offer high quality classes at every level, throughout the entire day. There is always something for every need and the schedule is balanced to include active and passive classes throughout the day. We also create a very consistent format for our Kaia yoga flow classes so students can grow in the consistency of their practice.
MS: Finally, if able, please list the companies that you work closest with in the following areas:
1. Accessories (mats, props, bathroom amenities, etc.): Manduka and DoTerra
2. Software: MINDBODY Online
3. Profit centers (brand of clothing you sell, etc.): Alo, Spiritual Gangster, Beyond Yoga, Free People
4. Studio (flooring type, etc.): Most studios have bamboo or laminate wood.