“That was absolutely delightful! My first yoga class—WOO!”

“I just want to say ‘thank you.’ This is such a gift for our community.”

These are just a few things that I overheard community members telling Misty Ross and Wendy Oberg (two of three women who founded High 5 Yoga in summer of 2015) after an outdoor yoga class. For those of you who haven’t heard of High 5 Yoga, let me attempt to summarize it for you:

You’re in Phoenix Park, lying down on a yoga mat, a towel or the bright-green grass. You’re in the heart of downtown Eau Claire, yet all you hear are birds chirping, the river slowly flowing by you, and the animated voices of Misty or Wendy (explaining the history of Phoenix Park, the benefits of practicing yoga and the miscellaneous details of their day). The sun warms your skin, and you’re surrounded by a group of people who came there to do the exact same thing as you: r e l a x  and enjoy practicing yoga.

High 5 Yoga

Sound too good to be true? Well, my friend, you’re in luck—High 5 Yoga occurs in Phoenix Park every Thursday night from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM (right before Sounds Like Summer) and every Saturday morning from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM (during the Farmer’s and Artist's Markets).

With the popularity of these outdoor classes, you’d think that High 5 started YEARS ago. I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s only High 5’s second year in business. Misty, a yoga instructor at Dragonfly Dance & Wellness and Highland Fitness, explained that the idea of High 5 originated two summers ago. She was finishing her training to become an instructor and immediately knew that High 5 was something she wanted to do—she would’ve started it that summer if she could have! “By the middle of December, it was all I could talk about. I just needed to find a place to do it.”

As she brainstormed possible locations, her friend suggested teaching by ‘the dog,’ i.e. the High Five statue built by artist Louise Peterson that relocated to Phoenix Park in 2012. Hence, the name ‘High 5 Yoga!’

High 5 Yoga

When asked why she ultimately chose Phoenix Park, Misty explained, “We wanted to involve the community, and to have fun. Yoga doesn’t need to be serious. We wanted to be right by the river in order to latch onto other great things going on, like the Farmer’s Market and Sounds Like Summer.”

Misty’s wish for others to join in is sincere; passersby are encouraged to join the class, even after it’s already started. “We’re out in the open—people who are walking by see the possibility and join in.”

Similarly, Wendy echoed, “This space in Phoenix Park is so symbolic of how the beauty can be there under layers of dirt. Anyone in Eau Claire in the 80s/90s is sure to remember what a nightmare this park was. It was a dilapidated old abandoned factory, yet with work and perseverance, its true beauty was revealed to create this amazing space that our community comes to celebrate with the Artist’s Market, Volume One’s Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, and of course, High 5 Free Yoga.”

High 5 Yoga

Wendy and Lorelei Ernster joined the High 5 Yoga team as Misty further developed her plans. “I needed people that really love yoga, and who would give it their best.” With that said, it’s no surprise why Misty chose these ladies—Wendy, an instructor at Dragonfly Dance & Wellness and Clean Spirit Yoga (as well as a yoga instructor for teachers in the school district), is a free spirit with a huge heart. As I talked to her, I was immediately taken by her open, bubbly and friendly personality. Moving through various yoga poses and stretches as we interviewed, she didn’t pause for a moment as we spoke. Wendy explains, “I do yoga to remind myself that everything I need is right here already in me. I just need to clear away the things that keep me from peace, happiness, and freedom. Yoga is transformational.”

High 5 Yoga

Yogis of all levels are encouraged to join Misty and Wendy at Phoenix Park for free High 5 Yoga classes. As Misty explains, “High 5 is very casual, but you still get the benefits of yoga. The intention is pure.” Wendy reiterates that “it is not only FREE, but it's also all about FREEdom. No rules, no walls, no expectations; just having fun with moving the body, breathing well, and feeling better. It's that simple. Do yoga—feel better.”

Their Thursday and Saturday classes in the park run through September; any cancellations due to weather will be posted on the High 5 Yoga Facebook page.

“Being able to teach the group that shows up on the lawn is such an honor and I feel so grateful!”