Kia (rhymes with hi-ya) Meaux’s path to yoga began with older men speaking a language she didn’t understand on dirt floors in India, where women were relegated to the back of the room.
She discovered a gentler and more egalitarian form of yoga known as ashtanga yoga from a mentor, Richard Freeman, in Colorado. A decade ago, she opened her first studio at the top of an outside stairwell above University Imports Automotive on Fifth Street.
Her new studio lacks that initial aerobic workout getting up the stairs, but her loyal clients were glad to follow Meaux to her ground-floor studio at 612 Fourth St. on June 1.
The Kaya Yoga studios offer 25 to 30 classes every week, with most running for 75 minutes. More than half of those sessions are for the most popular class, vinyasa flow. However, Meaux and a dozen or more teachers also offer classes that vary over time, but typically include group meditation, prenatal classes, mom-and-baby classes, gentle yoga, bhakti yoga, yoga core Pilates and “Flow and Restore.”
In addition to her work in her own studio, for nine years Meaux has led a 200-hour vinyasa teacher training class to expand knowledge and skills in yoga. That training ultimately allows someone to obtain Yoga Alliance certification to become a registered yoga teacher. Many of Meaux’s teachers have completed that training.
The vinyasa flow class begins with people signing in on a computer, putting their shoes in a cubby, rolling out their own mat or taking one provided, and possibly adding a quilt and one or two spongy blocks from the equipment available at the back of the studio.
Within moments, there is silence as Meaux opens with three 10-second long meditative chants of “om,” and the outside world disappears. She gently starts encouraging people to take a particular pose on the mats and people follow through on their own, or with a gentle reminder from their instructor.
Student Tara Diel appreciates Meaux’s support and says she always leaves “with a tweak to my poses to help me improve.” Meaux demonstrates in the front of the studio, but wanders among the 12 women and four men in the 9 a.m. class that day, so she can help those who need it or challenge others to extend themselves.
As student Catherine LeBlanc said, “Yoga builds grit, as teachers encourage students to find, but not go beyond, their edge in poses.”
For the next 75 minutes, everyone in the class follows Meaux’s gentle guidance and encouragement, listening to her specific directions to do yoga poses such as downward-facing dog, dolphin, cobra, child, plank, warrior and butterfly.
Interwoven with all of the stretches and poses, Meaux reminds participants to “dissolve your attachments to life outside the studio,” ”surrender to gravity” or “embrace the gift of listening to what is going on inside your body.”
Student Pam Peterson says what distinguishes Kaya Yoga is that “the practitioners at Kaya Yoga continually remind us of the connection between our physical postures and breathing/mediation exercise with their spiritual counterparts of mindfulness, humility, acceptance and inner peace.”
The studio is not hot in temperature, and the music and pacing are on the quiet and gentle side, which allows for a wide range of abilities and ages in her classes. Meaux focuses on proper alignment and balance to ensure safety and avoid injuries.
Kasia Stepien said Meaux is the best yoga teacher she has ever had and values how mindful each class is. Annette Cody was pleased that there is no competition to do something better than anyone else but only encouragement for self-improvement. Several students said the classes impact both their physical and mental health and carry over to life after each class.
The class concludes with everyone lying still in the corpse pose for several silent moments, with some people adding eye pillows to keep their inward focus. The silence is gently broken and the corpses rise for one more chant of “om” before putting on their shoes and heading back into the world.
Go to www.kayayoga.com to learn more about the classes and the variety of payment options that include unlimited monthly and annual passes and discounts for students.
Kaya Yoga is one of many retailers and service providers in Davis who are part of the Shop Davis campaign. Why shop Davis? Sales taxes help pay for infrastructure, schools and city services; local business owners support local charities and causes; convenience; jobs; creating a city brand helps grow tourism and attract other businesses; and it’s eco-friendly.