Kristin Cooper-Gulak & Loren Gulak
The Kunga Yoga School was founded in 2007 out of a desire to raise funds and increase awareness for the needs of underserved populations, and to build community among those who desire to serve.
We are husband and wife and partners in life. Our backgrounds include degrees in health sciences management, engineering, and product design. We are social entrepreneurs in the fields of health and wellness, product design development, patents, and personal development/business coaching. Our brick and mortar business was the Wilmington Yoga Center; which became the largest yoga center in the southeast. After fourteen years of growth and four expansions we sold the Wilmington Yoga Center in 2014.
We are outdoor enthusiasts, passionate about adventure travel, education, healthy living, and natural parenting. We are committed to learning and implementing social, ethical, and green business practices and are very motivated to support, inspire and educate others about the rewards of social entrepreneurship. Some of our greatest joys in our journey have been the opportunity to work with children and animals around the world, along with the opportunity to mentor socially conscious leaders. We are honored to be able to use our businesses as an educational platform to support amazing non-profits and orphanages in developing countries. Please check out these organizations on our non-profits page!
A Personal Note from Kristin:
When I think of the word “Kunga,” I often remember little Rwandan faces, and big booming african drums – both with the ability to grab your heart and make it soar! When we chose the funny little word “Kunga” to encompass our mission, and introduce a foreign word with such a beautiful meaning, we knew that it was the perfect opportunity to educate others simply by offering the translation of the word. Kunga means “to serve, to reconcile”. What a beautiful concept! Reflecting on this concept, we hoped that folks would inquire about its meaning and who these “Kunga Kids” were.
I was deeply moved and changed forever after living with these orphaned children who so readily forgave those who killed their parents during the 1994 genocide. Launching Kunga Yoga felt like picking low-hanging fruit, after years of teaching in the yoga community and getting to know so many students and teachers with giant hearts that were ready to serve; perhaps by supporting these kids and many others! The desire to use the word “Kunga” came from a deep need to somehow “sneak” more of the spiritual discussions, community involvement, and philosophy of yoga into western yoga classes that predominately focus on physical postures with emphasis primarily on the body.
This love for what Kunga represented birthed many projects related to our mission and vision of approaching yoga as a path of service, and eventually evolved into our 3 Kunga Yoga Platforms:
Kunga Public Classes became our “get it to the masses” opportunity for our Kunga Yoga teachers to touch our yoga students of all backgrounds around the globe-with a bit more heart and the spiritual teachings of yoga, a bit more laughter and love, and most importantly, an opportunity to tell them about the orphanages and non-profits that their own yoga practice was supporting with the 5% contribution.
Kunga Yoga Teacher Trainings became the platform for our teacher trainees to practice the “get down and dirty” work of the physical practices, self-reflection, community building, radical personal responsibility, and teamwork as they continued to evolve into dynamic leaders ripe and ready to lead and give back.
Then came Kunga Journeys—the true icing on the cake. This was our opportunity to build a bridge between the public Kunga Yoga classes, monthly themes, donations and fundraisers, and all of the talk about getting involved. Kunga Journeys became our opportunity to truly get our hands dirty, and finally meet the orphaned children that we work all year round to raise money for and awareness of. For over a decade Kunga Journeys has raised money and volunteered with orphaned children from Thailand, India, Jamaica, and Rwanda and the work continues to grow…
About the Practice: Kunga Yoga
When we discuss Kunga Yoga classes or practices, the phrase “Service through Strength with a Smile” comes to mind. This could also be flipped to Strength with a Smile through Service, as we believe wholeheartedly in Mother Theresa’s saying, “Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.”
Kunga Yoga classes are community-oriented, powerful & creatively flowing yoga practices that fuse teachings from many inspired practices. These models/modalities include: non-violent communication, ayurveda, cruelty-free living, hatha yoga practices, music, dance, and the arts, meditation, thai yoga massage, and positive activism. Kunga Yoga Classes are open to ALL ages, shapes, levels and abilities of students, from beginners to seasoned practitioners.
The experiential and “hard-skills” set of tools within our Kunga Yoga programs have been inspired by nature and beautiful, inspiring places around the globe, the teachings of many of my loving teachers, and most of all the very children that we work with. These kids have without a doubt been our greatest gurus-showing us year after year the qualities that are available to the human spirit-strength, resiliency, commitment, and grace-if we just know how to tap in and trust that only love matters in life, and that love is an active verb that we practice.
I am so honored to acknowledge my teachers and share that I have been so especially inspired and gifted to have had my teacher Donna Gardner in my life for over a 15 years of friendship, mentorship and study. Donna has shown me through her living example the depth of a decades long meditation practice, living yoga “off the mat’, the complexities and beauty of the practice of ahimsa/non-harming, and most of all, how to maintain a sense of humor while wavering to make spiritual choices during everyday life. I am also extremely grateful for my teacher, Shiva Rea for her creativity, teachings, trail-blazing, guidance and encouragement early on in my career and for sharing her incredible knowledge of sequencing and inspired mind-body practices. I am proud and honored that she allowed me to serve as an assistant, mentor, and drummer for her students during the creation of Prana Flow. She is a tremendous catalyst for positive change in the world for many and is a true artist.
I am also grateful for the experiential approaches and sacred space teachings of the Kripalu School of Yoga, Hilary Garivaltis and the Ayurvedic Health Education Institute, the Lek Chaiya school of Thai Massage in Chiang Mai Thailand, and the trauma-informed teachings of David Emerson and the Trauma Center in Boston, Mass. All have greatly informed our approach and teachings within the programs of the Kunga Yoga school, and myself and our faculty and staff are so very grateful for the opportunities to share this work and to continually remain lifelong learners.
Like many creative endeavors, all of our Kunga Yoga programs are a fusion of the many practices that have come before us in the past, applied with our own creative twist. Our deepest hope for our students and teacher training graduates is that you recognize that each of you have the most unique, important gifts to share with the world, and that you will continue to share the vision of yoga as a path of service (beyond downward dog! 🙂 and offer your time, money, resources, and skills to whomever you choose to serve. We are so very thankful for your eagerness, enthusiasm, love, and hard work supporting our mission, the kids, and the animals, and we wish you great abundance and JOY on your journey of radical giving!
Love and Peas,