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kundalini_120On a Delta flight, jammed in the middle seat, three across, Caryn Sheckler plugged her headphones into the seat and listened to a guided meditation.  The music was beautiful, and the meditation worked for her.  When she got home she checked out the artists online and found they were associated with Kundalini Yoga.  Not long after she was walking down Green Street and saw a sign for a Kundalini Yoga class.

"I took the class, and it changed my life," she recalls.  "I walked out so radiant.  My heart was open.  I was so energized.  Presto!  My life was better.  I met my husband for lunch, and I felt like my whole world had changed and how do I get that across to him?  That's all it took. One class and I was hooked."

Today Sheckler is a Kundalini Yogini who teaches the discipline locally around Ithaca.  Most of her students are adults from their mid-30s to early 70s, with about as many men as women of all different shapes and physical abilities taking her classes.   Sheckler has been teaching yoga since 2005.  She trained in India in 2004 for five weeks, and returned a second time for more training.  She started practicing Kundalini Yoga in 2003 after trying other styles that she says did not work for her body type.

"You don't have to be flexible," she says.  "You don't have to be an athlete.  You don't have to be well.  We all have a good time.  It's about doing what you can do without hurting yourself, and stretching what you think your limits are.  Push a little harder, get a little farther.  But it's not about having to fit into a perfect position, holding a perfect pose.  Kundalini works really fast.  You can walk in not happy and walk out happy in an hour and a half.   Pretty good.  It's cheaper than therapy!"

Sheckler is currently teaching yoga once a week at her home, but is starting a new class in the next few weeks at Decorum, Too in the Triphammer Mall.  The shop specializes in Turkish and other rugs and furniture, and its quiet, accessible art gallery elegance seems the perfect spot for a yoga class.  The 90 minute class will meet Mondays at 10am.  A Sunday morning class in Fall Creek is planned starting in November.  She also offers private classes at the student's home.

Originally from Westchester County, Sheckler was interested in becoming a veterinarian, but she says she was a party girl, not a good student.  She studied communications at SUNY Oswego, then spent years traveling with a Renaissance festival, selling food, working for a weaver, and a wood worker, and a jeweler, among others.  Next she became a court stenographer.  She has lived all over, including Texas, Pittsburg, the Boston area, and Cato.  She landed in Ithaca about 16 years ago.

Sheckler has been in the food industry for 20 years.  She previously owned an Ithaca pie shop called Pie Girl, and today owns the Goddess Cookie Company.  The company specializes in Vegan and gluten free cookies that Sheckler wholesales to establishments around Ithaca.

Sheckler says that meditation connects her cookie company and her yoga classes.  The idea for Goddess Cookies came during a meditation, and she says that if she weren't a Kundalini Yogini she wouldn't have the cookie company today.

"It has brought me from being a party girl to wanting to live a much purer, cleaner life," she says.  "That's got a lot to do with eating right and watching the consumption of things that aren't necessarily good for me.  It's changed my life for the better -- for the cleaner.  That's just one of the things that's been beneficial."

kundalini_shecklerCaryn Sheckler

Sheckler says that people come because they want some exercise, and sometimes they just need to work out a block in their body.  If they have a low back problem, or are feeling anxious she adjusts the class to their specific needs.  She keeps it low key.  She says ideally students would meditate every day, but if that doesn't fit their lifestyle in a busy world, it's OK.

Students wear casual sweat pants and T-shirts that are easy to move in.  Each class begins with tuning in with a mantra so that students can connect with their inner teacher.  Then they chant  a mantra for protection.  Next are gentle warmups, and from there the class goes into the exercise phase, called the Kriya.  A period of rest begins to wind down the session, followed by meditation to end the class.

Sheckler says she loves the almost instant result, and that students feel tangible benefits over the course of a class session.  When she talks about how much she loves teaching yoga, she almost sounds addicted.

"When I share it I get a buzz from it," she says.  "I really feel good when other people get it also.  Even if I'm teaching a class and I can't do the exercises because I'm teaching, I still feel the high from everybody else in the class.  The energy is just radiant.  That's what makes me want to share it.  I can get it more often, get bigger doses of it."

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