High Fives All Around

phoenix park yoga gathering is accessible, warm, and peaceful

Pan Thao, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Named after the great dane statue in Phoenix Park, High 5 FREE Yoga meets on Thursdays (5–6pm) and Saturdays (9–10am).
Named after the great dane statue in Phoenix Park, High 5 FREE Yoga meets on Thursdays (5–6pm) and Saturdays (9–10am) this summer (2016).

Summer: the season of flip-flops, melted popsicles, and pollen dancing with the breeze. We all crave it (minus the allergies) after the long, cold darkness of winter. While you may be tempted to lay low and bask in the glory of the sun, summer is going to be the perfect time to get your zen on. This summer, swing on by for some free yoga sessions right on the grassy lawn down at Phoenix Park. And don’t worry; you’ll be basking in the sun alright!

The group is called High 5 FREE Yoga and is led by Misty Ross and Wendy Oberg, both 200-hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teachers) with the Yoga Alliance. The Great Dane sculpture in Phoenix Park (also called “High Five”) was an inspiration for the group’s name as it sits right where the practice occurs. The name seemed perfect: As a hand gesture, a high five represents a celebration or greeting that brings people together.

“high 5 free yoga really embodies freedom on several levels. the community lawn means no membership fees, no rules, no right, no wrong – just freedom to come and go as it works for them.” – Wendy Oberg

“The word yoga means union or yoking, and that is what High 5 is really all about,” Oberg said. “Not only do the yogis get to find that connection within themselves but with other amazing people in the Chippewa Valley as well. The intention is to have fun and feel better.”

The duo met last spring and discovered that they had the same dream of offering free yoga in the park for the community. They teamed up with Volume One and Tangled Up in Hue to offer sessions on Thursday nights before the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series and Saturday mornings during the Artist Market.

“We offer a basic yoga class, great for all levels where you ultimately choose your level of participation,” Ross said. “As a High 5 community, we encourage and fully embrace openness, acceptance, fun, possibility, connection, and community.”

The yogis found in their own practice that some people were intimidated about trying yoga due to the cost, feeling overwhelmed with a studio setting, or other reasons. They wanted to make yoga accessible to everyone regardless of experience and background and to get people comfortable rolling out their mats while just enjoying the experience of the practice.

“High 5 FREE Yoga really embodies freedom on several levels,” Oberg said. “The community lawn means no membership fees, no rules, no right, no wrong – just freedom to come and go as it works for them.”

The group has attracted a wide range of yogis from all walks of life, from eight weeks old to 80 years old. There have even been a few dogs showing off how to properly do a downward-facing dog pose.

Worried about arriving late or your kids (or puppy) being a distraction? Don’t be! According to Ross, the group invites distractions because the true practice of yoga is not about eliminating distractions, but becoming more skilled at not reacting to them. When distraction is present, everyone is given an opportunity to practice yoga.

High 5 FREE Yoga will be offered on Thursdays from 5 to 6pm (you can get the scoop on prime parking and seating before the concert begins) and Saturdays from 9 to 10am. It runs until Saturday, Sept. 3. Kids under 18 years old will need to be accompanied by a parent or need a signed waiver from a legal guardian. To get updates on weather cancellations and other social events, check out the Chippewa Valley Yoga Community Facebook page.

The group’s first week had an amazing turnout with yogis covering almost every inch of the lawn. You’ll definitely not want to miss out on this opportunity to get fit while harmonizing your body, mind, and inner self. So bring your mat or towel (or practice right on the grass!), and reap the benefits of a practice that has been around for more than 5,000 years. This summer, let nature be your yoga