Yoga studios are popping up all over the world for yogini’s young and old to practice with others. Some individuals may participate in yoga to become more flexible, improve balance, or for their overall physical health. Yet, yoga is about more than the physical practice. There are benefits to a person’s mind and spirit. One studio with a fresh perspective just opened in Eau Claire, WI. They go by the name of Moonrise Aerials.
"I think yoga is about becoming a better person. It's about acknowledging the things you do that you unconsciously do that are actually guiding your life's decisions, and it's about recognizing those things that you do and just getting better and better at calling yourself out and changing your actions." - Michelle Anthony
Owners Michelle Anthony and Rachel Duffenbach created the business to support women empowerment, through exploring creativity and expression in movement. However, anyone can attend their classes from children to couples, women, men, both young and old. They offer a twist on fitness with fun and inspirational classes in aerial yoga, acro, circus conditioning, flow arts and more.
Michelle has been teaching yoga for a number of years. Her first class took place in college at Concordia in Moorhead MN, around nine years ago. After that she fell head over heels and looked into teacher trainings. During her time in training she was introduced to aerials for the first time. Throughout the years Michelle has taught yoga out of her home studio as BlissTonic Yoga and Movement Arts and at Dragonfly Dance & Wellness. Owning a business wasn’t something new to her, but Moonrise Aerials is quite unique.
“I always knew I was going to run my own businesses,” says Michelle. With Moonrise Aerials, she had bigger plans, such as running her own space and offering more classes than what her home studio could offer. The mission statement of Moonrise is about support, so Michelle called in for some. This is when Rachel came in as part owner.
Rachel began practicing yoga by watching videos and with her mom’s church. Long distance running was more her niche at the time though. With encouragement from a friend she attended one of Michelle’s candlelight yoga classes a couple years ago. Following the class she went to a series of classes and couldn’t stop. “I want to do this every day,” Rachel expressed. Since then, she’s practiced almost every day, anything from traditional yoga and acro to aerials and hooping.
Aerials and Community Support
Moonrise Aerials focuses on exploration with aerial hammocks and acrobatic silks. These can seem intimidating to the beginner yoga enthusiast, but need not fear! “Hammocks make poses more accessible. Inversions people normally can’t do they can with the help of the hammock,” says Rachel. Not only does it make some poses more accessible, but they have a lower impact on the body compared to traditional yoga. “I remember seeing pictures and videos on Instagram of circus people doing this stuff, I was like ‘wow I would love to learn how to do that,'” Rachel expressed. She then took every single intro class Michelle and yogini Kerri Kiernan offered for Aerials.
As a new business, the two have gotten a lot of the support from those in the community. They applied for what is called ‘The Red Letter Grant’, which assisted with many start up fees, advertising, and marketing. The grant is given by local organization Reds Mercantile once or twice per year to two women entrepreneurs. More men than women own and operate businesses in Wisconsin. So, this grant is to encourage women to go for it and achieve their dreams of running a business.
Moonrise Aerials was thankful to win such an amazing grant while up against 12 other local women entrepreneurs. “It almost felt like a validation, with all of the hard work we’ve been putting in. Working and teaching for free, especially in personally a really low point in my life. So, it just felt like validation, like my hard work was worth it and my mission was on point,” says Michelle.
Moonrise Aerials Journey
The journey of opening Moonrise Aerials is different for both ladies. Michelle, already an experienced entrepreneur and for Rachel it’s just the beginning. “Owning a business is super rewarding. It’s like a baby, not a human, but a business baby. I never would have seen myself doing this in a million years. I’m by nature really introverted and socially awkward. Doing something like this is such a leap for me. – At the same time it’s a bit like exposure therapy almost. It makes life less scary when you do things like this that are pushing outside your comfort zone,” Rachel expressed.
Michelle and Rachel worked hard putting on classes ‘for free’ to save up funds for Moonrise. The process consisted of putting in good intentions and a lot of hard work. Now the studio (housed in Banbury Place) is adorned with eight aerial yoga hammock silks and a couple acrobatic silks. The hammocks are used for traditional yoga, but in a magical and airy sort of way. It’s like your floating! Acrobatic silks have a higher impact on the body. They are more difficult, can cause some soreness (like a workout), but create an inspiring atmosphere watching each other. “Everybody supports one another. We all respect each other no matter where you’re at. If you can’t climb the silks or you can climb to the top and down a million times, we all treat each other the same. Great groups of people gravitate towards this,” says Rachel.
Their passion for yoga and empowering women doesn’t go unnoticed. Michelle and Rachel work hard practicing every day and hold multiple classes each week. As stated earlier, yoga is so much more than physical practice. It’s great for stress relief, mindfulness, and even aches and pains. Michelle teaches esoteric yoga in her studio and incorporates some of this into the aerial studio as well. Esoteric’s is all about finding your inner stillness and understanding yourself and the world you live in. It’s the inner part of your yoga practice while your poses are the physical and outer part of practice.
"On a physical level I think yoga is so important because it builds that awareness first physically, then mentally and more and more subtlety into the spiritual realm, where we can get in touch with who we actually are. For many, many people, especially in the midwest it starts as a physical journey, because we are so out of touch with our physical bodies. I really like aerials and circus arts for this unique ability to show you your limitless potential. This is why we really encourage our studio. We don't have too many rules, but no negative self talk is a huge one because that is something that is really important to us in the practice of yoga." - Michelle Anthony
Attending Classes With Moonrise
Michelle and Rachel want clients to get a variety of things out of attending classes at Moonrise Aerials. With hopes that they will feel empowered, physically stronger, and graceful. Those who have attended classes already have expressed they’re surprised by what they can do and don’t always realize how strong they really are. “It’s beautiful seeing clients blossom,” says Rachel. Michelle expresses, “we want to be that community for people to be themselves, to feel inspired in a non-competitive way, and to just grow as a person.”
Moonrise Aerials offers a variety of classes such as: aerial yoga, aerial silks, lyra classes, and fun alternative fitness. They even have a ‘Twerkshop’ coming up January 12th and an ‘Aerial Angel Photoshoot’ on December 23rd. Talk about unique! Some closer up and coming classes include ‘Family Fun Day’ on December 10th, ‘Holiday Open House & Grand Opening’ on December 15th, and ‘Lyra Hoop All Levels Class’ on December 16th just to name a few. You can check out their classes via their Website or their Facebook page.