Kula Yoga provides a “loving community” through its variety of classes
by Tracey Weiss

Lisa Berman is a newcomer to yoga. She's just finished her first class with Julie Miller, director of Kula Yoga, and has just signed up for 10 more.

“I thought, ‘You want me to do what?'” she said. “But my back always hurts and after having kids, it puts you over the edge. This is great. I feel better already.”

Indeed, the rest of her classmates in the beginner class are flushed and calm, and stay for a few minutes after the class to chat with each other.

Karen Zetoff is also a beginner who has taken classes with Ms. Miller before, thinks she is ”great.”

“It's so relaxing to come here,” she said. “I have a bad back and even after my first day here I felt better.”

“Kula means loving community, Ms. Miller said. “That's what we're trying to create here.”

According to Ms. Miller, the response to the business, which opened January 31, has been good.

Offering classes for all levels of students starting at age three, one of the keys reasons for feeling comfortable at Kula Yoga is its studio space.

Now occupying a renovated barn from a dairy farm amidst the Riverdale Farms shopping complex, the space itself is a wide open A-frame with a very high ceiling, windows that allow the light to stream in, and best of all, a magnificent view of Avon Mountain and Heublein Tower.

Ms. Miller has added a bamboo floor and has decorated the space with candles, tapestries and other accessories that convey warmth.

There's even a re tail shop that offers everything needed for the practice of yoga, including clothes, mats, blankets, blocks, straps, books, CDs and more.


Time for class

Kula Yoga offers a variety of classes for adults, including sessions for beginners and those at the intermediate level. There's also a mixed level class.

The “Yoga Pilates Fusion” class combines the principles of Pilates with a meditative focus on Hatha Yoga.

“Power Yoga” and “Dynamic Flow Yoga” are more challenging, using a continuous flow of postures and providing students the opportunity to improve strength, endurance, and flexibility.

For those who prefer a slower pace, have injuries or are new to the practice, there's a “Gentle Yoga” class, which combines gentle postures, stretching, and restorative poses.

In addition to Ms. Miller, classes at Kula Yoga are also taught by Martin Berson, Deborah Cullen, Leslie Gordon, Ann Gorjanc, Iris Kmiec and Robin Nolin, all of whom have extensive training and have studied under some of today's foremost experts.

Julie Erasmus teaches classes for children at Kula Yoga, which includes sessions for ages 3 to 6, 5 to and 7 to 12.

A certified instructor, she has studied and practiced yoga since 1991.

“At ages 3 to 6, they need it,” Ms. Erasmus said

“It's a way to release, breathe and learn their posture. It helps them concentrate better at everything else they do. It's calming.

“It also makes the child in me come out.”

While the children's classes are offered in six-week sessions and cost $75, adults class options are more flexible.

Anyone can drop in to a class for $15, or buy a class card that entitles them to go to any class Kula Yoga offers. Class cards cost $125 for 10 sessions, $230 for 20 sessions or $300 for 30 sessions.

Kula Yoga also offers private instruction with all of its teachers for $70 per hour.


Open your heart and other themes

Even Ms. Miller's husband, James Miller, takes his wife's yoga classes.

“I love it,” he said. “I love the flow.

“I used to work on machines but this is much better. I have back issues, and I was as close to getting an operation as anyone could be, but because of her classes, I'm not even on medication now.”

Ms. Miller, a West Hartford native, has lived in Avon with her husband and their two children, Craig, 10, and Allison, 9, for six years.

After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Finance and Management from the University of Vermont, she said, “I spent years doing sales, but decided to go back to school for a masters in elementary education at the University of Hartford.

“I raised my children and very reluctantly started to run and lift weights.

“But I love stretching and my trainer told me to go to a yoga class. So I took one with (instructor) Wendy Dion and I got hooked.”

At the same time, she discovered John Friend, a yoga instructor whose personal style of the form is the 5,000 year-old tradition of Anusara Yoga.

Anusara means, “flowing with grace,” according to Ms. Miller, and embodies a focus on alignment.

At Kula, she teaches Hatha yoga, influenced by Anusara, that, “with an open heart and mind, helps students awaken and unite with the larger flow of life,” according to Kula Yoga literature.

“It's very spiritual without being denominational,” she said.

Plus, keeping the body aligned, she said, prevents injuries.

“I always have themes running through my classes, like balance, life affirmation, opening your heart…they help people connect to their own lives.”

Ms. Erasmus, who also comes to Ms. Miller's class on a regular basis, said “Julie focuses on the posture and alignment and assists us so that we get out of our own way.”

Having completed a 200-hour training course with Deb Neubauer at Anahata Yoga Center in Hatha Yoga, Ms. Miller's now working towards a certification in Anusara Yoga.

It was when Ms. Dion, with whom Ms. Miller had working for years, decided to move to another state last year, Ms. Miller was motivated to open her own place. The Riverdale Farms space was the third place she saw and she signed the lease last November.

“I wanted to teach in a studio setting,” she said.

Customer Marlys Austen was happy to learn of Ms. Miller's new studio.

“Julie is good,” she said. “She's gentle in her approach and not judgmental.”

You use every muscle in your body.”

Reprinted with permission from Avon Life/Life Publications.