By Erica Moser The Day, New London, Conn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Kula Project is the creation of entrepreneurs Julie Kikla and Rebecca Foss. "Kula" is Sanskrit for "community," and that's what the women are trying to build together in Mystic, Connecticut.
The scent of hardwood floors is still fresh in one of the airy yoga studios upstairs, with views overlooking the boats on the Mystic River. Across the hall, infrared heating panels can get the other studio up to 97 degrees for a class appropriately titled "Ultimate Sweatfest."
Downstairs, jars of spirulina and chia sit next to packages of acai powder and matcha atop the bar of High Tide Juice Co., open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For $8, one can get a 12-ounce juice, a 20-ounce smoothie or a small acai bowl.
Also on the first floor is a lounge area and a play area for kids, with miniature Adirondack chairs and a picnic table on which to draw. Then there's the retail space, featuring sunglasses, candles and coconut oil from eco-conscious brands.
Outside are several paddle boards for rental -- $25 for an hour, $40 for two hours -- through Paddle Surf RI. They're open for business at 10 a.m. seven days a week and are experimenting with closing hours.
As if that's not enough going on, Independence Day festivities will include rides across the river, to Red 36, on a giant inflatable unicorn.
This is The Kula Project. "Kula" is Sanskrit for "community," and that's what owners Julie Kikla and Rebecca Foss are trying to build at 37 Water St., across from the Captain Daniel Packer Inne.
Kikla and Foss are both in their mid-30s, and opening The Kula Project has been quite the journey for both.
Kikla, a Philadelphia native, was a college gymnast at the University of Pennsylvania. She "came out of that pretty broken" and started doing yoga about a decade ago while going to back therapy.
Over the next decade or so, she worked for Google, YouTube and GoPro, mostly living in San Francisco. This past March, she left her job at GoPro and got her yoga-teacher certification.
She is an ambassador for the athleisure clothing company Lululemon, and a retreat last June had inspired her to leave the corporate world behind.
Foss, meanwhile, was working in New York for women's fashion designers Intermix and Diane von Furstenberg before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She got into yoga when she was pregnant six years ago -- around the same she and her husband moved to Stonington Borough.
Her husband is C.J. Bardy, owner of Universal Package Store in Mystic -- and Kikla's cousin. Kikla visits southeastern Connecticut every year, and during her visit last summer, she heard about how Foss wanted to open some sort of wellness space.
The question, Kikla said, became: "How do you bring people together in a collaborative space, where they can be inspired, where they can learn something new, where they can challenge themselves?"
And here they are. The Kula Project opened Memorial Day weekend and now typically offers three or four yoga classes per day.
Stonington resident Jeffrey Fleischer heard about The Kula Project at Universal Package Store but had never done yoga before. He has since been to about a dozen classes and seemed pretty pumped about the experience while leaving a Kula Core class on Tuesday morning.
Heidi Anderson, who is from Ohio but spends her summers in Groton Long Point, said she likes the "beachy-chic yoga atmosphere" and that it's a "no-judgment zone."
Prices are $20 for a drop-in class, $90 for five classes, $170 for 10 classes, $185 for a month of unlimited classes, and $30 for a week of unlimited classes for new students.
Every Friday, The Kula Project holds "Pose + Pour," a one-hour yoga class followed by a tasting of wine, beer or kombucha. The instructor each week can choose a theme based on his or her interests, meaning the music playing during the class can range from hip-hop to '70s to Americana.
Every Sunday at 10 a.m. is a "Revival" class to funk, soul and gospel music; Kikla described it as "church for people who don't go to church, or if yoga is your church."
Within the next few weeks, The Kula Project plans to start offering stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga. Some ideas Kikla has for future offerings include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, a running club and biking club, film screenings, and yoga retreats.