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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

MKE Yoga Social Deftly Weaves Socialization with Well-Being

Aug 31, 2021 08:30AM ● By Sheila Julson
Yoga is often a personal meditative practice, but it also has a social component. Yogis often yearn for camaraderie with like-minded people. That is what inspired Jessica Hope Wagner, a teacher of Bikram yoga—also known as hot yoga—to form MKE Yoga Social. Wagner and her fellow teachers bring yoga to the masses in an accessible, approachable way at Milwaukee venues such as taprooms, breweries, distilleries, taverns, parks and other locations.

While teaching Bikram yoga, Wagner had difficulty getting her friends to come to her classes. At that time, one of her favorite hangouts was Gibraltar, a local music hall in the Walker’s Point neighborhood owned by Milwaukee musician Evan Christian. When Wagner explained her plight to Christian, he offered to host Mind, Body & Mimosas at Gibraltar.

“He played live acoustic guitar, and I taught yoga. After yoga, we included mimosas to encourage attendees to stay and socialize,” recalls Wagner. “I thought this event would be a one-time thing, but it was very popular, so we did it again—and again. Eventually, I applied this event format to other venues and went on to create Milwaukee’s first formalized yoga event business.”

Wagner emphasizes that when attendees enjoy a class, they are not only supporting MKE Yoga Social—a small, locally based business—but also the businesses with whom they partner. Yoga participants get all of the benefits of yoga, but also the benefits of socializing and connecting with like-minded people in the community.

The social component of the business makes it unique. “I practiced in the same hot studio before becoming a yoga teacher. I would see the same faces daily, and I literally never knew them because the culture of a typical studio is to practice and immediately leave,” Wagner says. “That makes sense for that business model, but I was craving social connection. I knew that if I was missing this social component, others were likely missing it as well.”

Through events geared towards creating community connections, MKE Yoga Social offers unique, out-of-the box experiences that might challenge one’s comfort zone. In addition to yoga classes held at taprooms, music venues and taverns, past events have included Yoga + Paint, Elevated Yoga and Goat Yoga.

“We are always continuing to evolve and add new experiences as we grow,” concludes Wagner. MKE Yoga Social demonstrates a commitment to Milwaukee through events such as the upcoming Light the Hoan Fundraiser, at 8 p.m., September 8. The glow-in-the-dark yoga event takes place at the Riverfront Boat Launch, 600 South Water Street, Milwaukee, with an afterparty at the nearby Cooperage event space. Funds from the event will support the effort to complete LED lighting on the east side of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge. (Lighting on the west side is complete through an effort catalyzed by Northwestern Mutual.)

This fall, MKE Yoga Social is adding hot yoga to their class offerings. Admission to classes and events may be purchased on a case-by-case basis, or patrons may choose from two monthly membership levels which include a specific number of yoga classes, as well as discounts and early signups for special events.

For more information, email [email protected] or visit MKEYogaSocial.com.

Sheila Julson is freelance writer for Natural Awakenings magazine.