She’s studied yoga with the top teachers in the U.S. and learned massage in Thailand; he’s an Ashtanga expert and massage therapist who’s trained everywhere from Colorado to India. Together, Gina Norman and Stan Woodman are the founders and co-directors of Kaia Yoga, Connecticut’s largest whole living practice. Married since 2006, and parents of a two-and-a-half year-old daughter, the couple oversees three booming centers (two in Greenwich, one in Westport) that offer yoga, bodywork, organic cafes and juice bars, and on-site health and wellness practitioners. (They also started an online co-op that allows clients to share bulk orders of organic groceries and household products.) “Yoga teaches you to become mindful of other parts of your life,” says Woodman, “and the more you do, the more you think about what goes into and on your body. Our goal is to offer little ways to encourage health and mindfulness in daily life.”
Restorative Yoga, which uses breathing techniques to encourage the mind and body to rest, is one of your signature classes. Why is it important to learn these types of calming skills?
Stan Woodman: We use—and waste—so much energy that by the end of the day we are depleted; just think about how much energy we lose through emotions like stress or anger. Targeted breath work—particularly that connection between the inhale and exhale—creates a rhythm in our nervous system, in our wiring, that settles the organs, increases blood flow, and re-energizes us.
Gina Norman: Our bodies are generally in “fight-or-flight” mode, so we need to give the nervous system time to rest and rejuvenate, so it can support the body. Plus, it’s when we take time to be still that the answers come. Being present in the moment guides you.
What are some at-home techniques you employ for relaxation and stress-relief?
SW: We’ve each created our own personal space for meditation with things that mean something to us—photos, candles, and calming things that help us begin the process. You can create a quiet, clean, and private place in your home, light a candle and begin by meditating for just one minute. Count your breathing and try to even out your inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, start over without judgment.
GN: If you can take the time to meditate in the morning that would be ideal, so you can connect with yourself before you go out in the world. I like to do breath work in the bathtub—it is a peaceful, solitary place, and the water and stillness makes you more aware of your breath and your breathing patterns. Self-massage is great, too; it relaxes sore muscles, gives you insight into where you are tight, and maybe why you hold your tension in certain places.
Any tips for fighting insomnia?
GN: When we sleep our breath naturally evens out and our exhale is smooth and long, encouraging our body and nervous system to restore. Try lying with your legs against the wall in an “L” shape, then inhale for the count of four and exhale for the count of six; if you feel comfortable lengthening the breath, extend this count to six and eight. If you feel strained, shorten the count, but always keep the exhale longer than the inhale. www.kaiayoga.com