Teacher Highlight: Jessica Gumkowski

What was your first introduction to yoga?
Spring break 1992, Kingston, Jamaica. My memory is foggy but not because it was “Jamaica Man”, it just didn’t have much of an effect on me. My 2nd experience was quite the opposite.

Waterfront Fitness, 1996, Newport, Rhode Island. I vividly recall hating yoga and everything about it while holding Warrior II for, what must have been, 2 hrs. It made me so angry.

I also remember potent moments of calm. That was not a feeling I experienced often back in those days and it felt like an important one to experience more often. At the time, I was a Type-A, 20-something event planner working very hard to prove myself as the best in everything.

At what point did you decide you wanted to teach?
It was never a decision for me, I just knew. For a long time, I knew but I didn’t know when or who, so I waited.

On my 39th birthday I walked into the classroom of my teacher and I knew within the first words out of his mouth I would be training with him. He didn’t offer trainings at that time so I just kept going to his class, I was learning so much already. The following year, he offered an intensive training in my home town.

During the 14-day training I experienced a rebirth. I know this only because I most definitely experienced a death. I snowshoed to the training on account of historic Storm Nemo, a winter Nor’easter, and one of my fellow trainees was convinced that we had all suffered terribly together in Atlantis, and had reconnected at this training to heal. It was wild and one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

How would you characterize your style of yoga?
A strong mindfulness based vinyasa that is extremely relevant to the present moment.

What/who has made the largest impact on your practice?
Two very powerful teachers that I met while living in Newport, Rhode Island but at the end of the day, I’m the one doing the work. No one else can live my journey and it’s my job to put what’s been taught to me into action. A little bit, everyday over a long period of time.

What’s on your playlist?
I have never taught with music before being welcomed into PLAY and I am finding joy in the process. It has reconnected me to the beauty of musical creativity. I had gotten away from listening to music and it feels good to be back but don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more that I love in a yoga class than silence.

Walk Off the Earth, Head and the Heart, Xavier Rudd and Alexi Murdoch are a few examples of what you’ll hear in my class.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?
Down dog. It’s the ultimate pose; strength, length, inversion, rest, challenge. I don’t like to go a day without busting out at least a few down dogs.

What’s your most challenging pose? Why?
Low plank, it’s so obviously full body and when done patiently, I can’t imagine a more challenging pose.

Best yoga moment/accomplishment/memory?
So many! The one that always comes to mind first was during a Warrior II hold in a hot, steamy class. We must have been there for at least 2 hours when my teacher cut the silence and simply said, “if you think it’s going to suck, it’s going to suck”.

Favorite snack before you teach/take a class?
Banana. No question, a very powerful fruit.

Favorite Quote:
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.” -Bhagavad Gita

Any book recommendations?
Autobiography of a Yogi and the Bhagavad Gita are my staples. I always read the Gita before a race. It’s the quintessential story of the everyman’s battle with the mind and I take something different away every time I read it.

Top three tips for someone first getting into yoga:
Be a beginner forever because beginners are always growing.
If you feel fear, take a breath and ask yourself if that fear is truth.
Become the master of your breath

What do you like most about PLAY?
Heat and humidity is amazing for my body and I am so grateful to have found PLAY when we moved to Carlsbad last year. I’m immersing myself in the community and being met with so much love. It’s a special place.

What else inspires you? Keeps you going?
That all I really have to do is “right now”. I’m a risk-taker and with that comes risk. Risk is scary for us humans because it welcomes in the unknown.

I’ve found myself in many moments of unknown in my life, moments where fear may take a prominent presence and in the face of those moments, I remind myself that all I have to do is “right now”.

Hot Yoga in the Summer

Staying Hydrated
Hot Yoga in the Summer

Summer is in full swing in Carlsbad! Summer temperatures are rising, battling the temperature of our heated studio. But, if you’re like us, then there is no stopping you from the heated practice that you crave, which can be done safely with proper hydration. As class sizes are increasing with vacationers, we hope to spread awareness of the importance of hydration for a fun and safe, hot yoga experience!

A little about your body in response to hydration levels and thirst: water in the body can be lost through urination and sweat. Sweating is a very important cooling mechanism of our bodies in hot climates or during physical activity. This loss of water sends thirst signals to your brain. There are two mechanisms in the body that signal the feeling of thirst; inside or outside of the cells. As water in the body decreases, water is pulled from inside cells and thus causes cells to shrink. The resulting shrinkage is detected by brain receptors that send hormonal messages to induce drinking, and causes the sensation of thirst by way of the taste buds. When you feel the sensation of thirst, your body is already experiencing some degree of dehydration. Excessive water loss can lead to a more serious level of dehydration, which can affect brain function, gastrointestinal function, kidney function and more.

Proper hydration is critical for the body to control its temperature! Water loss through sweating on an average day, for the average adult can range from 0.3 liters per day to 2 liters per day. During times of activity or in the heat (or both in our case) the body looses up to 6 liters of water in a day! Wow!! If this loss of water is not replaced and sweating continues, the body looses electrolytes and as well as the amount of blood plasma and the body cannot properly offset it’s core temperature.

It’s important to remember that it’s not only that you are drinking liquids, but also what you drink. Taste buds can also communicate to the brain a craving for certain beverages or foods related to a “reward system.” Whether for the energy or sugary component of a drink, like soft drinks or coffee/tea, or the pleasure component, like alcoholic beverages, a similar signaling occurs. Although, these beverages can help stop the sense of dehydration before it starts, some can also have negative effects on the body like an increase of caloric intake or added sugar, for example.

Not only does the body need water but it also important to supplement drinks with additional salt when excessive sweating is experienced. In this case, when the taste buds might be craving salt, a good healthful option is coconut water! It has a high electrolyte content and is an isotonic beverage due to its balanced electrolytes like sodium and potassium that help restore losses of electrolytes through skin and urinary pathways.

Don’t let the summertime heat and humidity stop you from your regular heated practice, but be mindful of the signals from your body! For the best results, drink before your thirsty and before you come to class! Continuously drink fluids and electrolytes throughout the day. This will allow your body to properly and safely maintain its core temperature as well as improve your athletic performance during your heated practice. For your benefit, we keep a fully stocked refrigerator of not only water but coconut water as well!

Stay hydrated to stay safe on your mat this summer!

Popkin, Barry M., Kristen E. D’Anci, and Irwin H. Rosenberg. “Water, Hydration and Health.” Nutr Rev 68 (2010): 439–458.

Yogi Mat Spray

As hot yoga practitioners, we put our mats through so much! It’s time to give a little back. Yogi Mat Spray is the perfect refresher for your mat. Give it a spritz before and after each class to keep your mat feeling and smelling fresh and clean! This spray, provided by Cream of the Crop in Oceanside, is 100% all natural and non-toxic that brings freshness and balance to your mat. Yogi Mat Spray is dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment with recyclable glass bottles.

Filtered Water
Essential Oils (Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon & Tea Tree)
Grapefruit Seed Extract

Did you know:
Some yoga mats require submersion to be fully cleansed (ie. open cell mats which are porous and absorb moisture), while other mats you simply can spray and wipe (ie. closed cell mats which are impermeable and water resistant). Be sure to do some research before your next purchase! Our Manduka mats are closed cell which make for easy cleaning!

Purchase Yogi Mat Spray in the Studio this month and receive 20% off!

“Jump Into the New Year with Kid’s Yoga at PLAY!”

Next Generation Kids Yoga returns to PLAY! NGY Kids classes have really taken off at the studio. We want to continue to share this special program with North
County kids and their families. Yoga can offer balance, calmness and a grounding connection for the entire family. NGY Kids yoga at PLAY offers a fun outlet providing a chance to explore movement and breath, at the same time learning mindfulness that kids can take off the mat with them. There is no surprise that kids yoga is becoming more and more popular as parents are able to connect in different ways with their children. People have taken note, schools are offering yoga in the classroom, as educators have noticed the many positive benefits yoga can add to the learning process.

PLAY is excited to offer “Jump Into the New Year” the next NGY kids series starting Tuesday, January 14th running for 6 consecutive weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 ages 3-7 and Family yoga on Sundays at 10:00am. It’s been so great to see this program grow and flourish. This series is set to become a regular staple on our schedule. As always, drop-in’s for both parent(s) and child(ren) are always available.

Want to learn more about becoming a NGY Kids Yoga Teacher in 2017? Maybe you are considering taking that leap to inspire and share yoga with a younger generation? Learn a skill that you can take anywhere with you, the opportunities are truly endless. PLAY is hosting the next NGY Kids Teacher Training, an approved 95-hour Registered Children’s Yoga School. Open to Parents, Educators, Yoga enthusiasts and child care professionals, all are welcome to participate in this top rated training. No prior teaching experience required, just a love for kids & an existing Yoga practice (the best teachers are students too!)

Learn More »

Play Turned 6 and We Celebrated

We want to send a special thank you out to our beautiful community of yogis who celebrated with us. You all have helped to make Play the inspiring place to practice that it is for the last 6 years. We so appreciate everyone who took the time to come by share the love, meet with our local vendors, see some fantastic art and gather as a community. The night was so great, you could just feel the love throughout the entire studio. We had plans on doing a special face-time with Jessica so she could join in on the fun to. But her family was also celebrating, as Jess went in to labor this very evening giving birth of their daughter Ella (pictured below). She chose to make her appearance on this special day, making this celebration even more exciting than anyone could of expected. Again thank you all for the continued love and support that is shared, cheers to another amazing 6 years…

















Special thank you to all of our local vendors for spending the evening celebrating Play turning 6 and helping make it so special:

Cream of the Crop

Living Tea

Peace Love & OM

Paulette Fashion

Dhanika Yoga

Hana’s Heart Art

Francesca Heyer

Lauren Tanehill Art




Teacher Spotlight- Shane Robson

We are very excited to introduce you to our newest team member, Shane Robson. Shane is a lighthearted gentle grounded avid yoga practitioner, with strong fundamentals in alignment.

We sat down with Shane and asked him to tell us a little bit more about himself…

How did you find yoga?
When I was 17 my friend Tom hired me to make juice for him every morning as part of his cancer treatment. Then I would sit and read books to him for a few hours while he would drink.  We completed a mystic school called Astara; a broad overview of world mythology and rituals, including some breathing techniques and guided visualization.  Soon we found the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, a guru from India who came to America and founded the Self Realization Fellowship.  Yogananda’s guidance helped me to express spiritual love in prayer and song. To help me stay grounded, Tom brought me to my first yoga class at Synergy Yoga Center. My first teachers were Elia Nikoliaev and Roxanne Depalma, they have become my best friends and mentors.

Favorite quote and why?
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”- Kahil Gebran

The person who influenced you?
The person who had the largest impact on my yoga has been Paramahansa Yogananda.  From him, I learned to chant and pray. He taught me to open my heart and experience connection with the mystery of life.

Why yoga?
My style of yoga has shifted many times over the years. At first I was so excited to share, I led vigorous sequences and spoke with a poetic emphasis. As my focus shifted toward alignment, I began to slow  down and take a closer look at the fundamentals. My practice became more subtle and sophisticated until poses that would have seemed too easy in the past revealed new opportunities for growth. I have become engrossed in exquisite alignment. I am awestruck by the brilliant synergy of complementary actions moving through the core of my body.

What is your favorite pose?
Favorite pose is handstand. It’s fun to challenge my balance, and it’s refreshing to get upside down.

How did you find us, PLAY?
I enjoy exploring a lot of studios throughout San Diego and all over, so I just walked in one day.

Why do you love PLAY?                                                                                                                                     My favorite thing about Play is the lighthearted and delightful sweetness of the community.  Everyone has been very welcoming and supportive.

Shane teaches: Monday’s at 8:30am and Tuesday’s at 7:30pm