A seat at the table

CVTC student’s passion for aerial yoga and Eau Claire community

Avery Shanahan

More stories from Avery Shanahan

Police Blotter
November 24, 2021

Chippewa Valley Technical College student, Shea Weidenkopf, has found “fun and fitness” in the local Eau Claire yoga studio, Sky Yoga.

Originally from Baraboo, Wis., Weidenkopf is currently a third-year nursing student, and she said her journey into aerial yoga started years before she even entered the yoga studio.

Before an unexpected injury and genetic condition diagnosis at the age of 14, she was a gymnast for almost eight years. 

Despite her genetic condition permitting her body to heal properly, Weidenkopf still tried to stay as active as she could after her early retirement from gymnastics. 

“Working out was fine but I could never stick to it,” Weidenkopf said. “I didn’t like just going to a gym and working out — there was nothing artistic about it.” 

An Instagram story posted by a friend in October of 2020 introduced Weidenkopf to her perfect mix of art and athletics. 

She said she saw her friend performing and had to know where she was, what she was doing and how she could do it too. She signed up for the introductory class for aerial yoga the next week, and she has been going regularly ever since. 

“I am very much someone where my activities and hobbies come in waves,” Weidenkopf said. “This [aerial yoga] is something that has been very consistent, which I think is really beneficial for anybody right now especially.”

Weidenkopf has been able to pick up the skills of aerial yoga in a short amount of time and is now an instructor at the Sky Yoga Studio. She reached out to the owner of the yoga studio about an instructing position and was being trained the next month. 

She credits her ability to perform her aerial yoga skills so swiftly and proficiently to her previous gymnastic and dance experience. 

Mallory Woodle, a third-year geography student at UW-Eau Claire and roommate of Weidenkopf, said she always has nothing but great things to say about Weidenkopf’s journey in aerial yoga.

“Shea is someone who is naturally gifted at things, so aerial yoga for her comes easily and so naturally to her,” Woodle said. “She comes home from yoga and always has videos of new skills to show us. I’m always so impressed and it seems like a great stress reliever and hobby for her.”

Weidenkopf is currently in charge of instructing two different classes in the studio, the introduction level class and a beginner sequencing class.

Photo by Submitted

The beginner sequencing class is for people who are still relatively new to aerial yoga but are ready to move on to more advanced skills. 

Wiedenkopf also described what different types of yoga she participates in at Sky Yoga Studio. She said she mostly performs aerial yoga or hammock yoga. This type of yoga uses a silk hammock hung from the ceiling that can act as a ‘swing.’

Other forms of yoga offered at the Sky studio include lyra, which integrates a large hoop into aerial yoga. This allows for different skills and movements from the aerial hammock yoga. 

She also said Sky Yoga Studio has a strong connection to the community. 

“We have this showcase where we perform for the community. We offer the people to come and watch us so that they can see the potential of what they could learn,” Weidenkopf said. 

She also utilizes her social media pages to show her friends and family what she does and reach out to others who may want to join her class. She said she has people reach out to her when she posts photos and videos on her social media stories, wanting to know more. 

She related this back to how she found aerial yoga back in October and said how community-building comes full circle because of social media. 

“I have had a lot of people reach out and say, ‘Oh that’s so cool, can you tell me more?’ and ‘What is this? I didn’t even know this place existed.’ So that definitely helps build up a larger community,” Weidenkopf said. 

She also discussed how aerial yoga isn’t an exclusive club. She said they have class members of all ages including mother-daughter duos, groups of sisters and even children as young as six. 

Weidenkopf does not stop at instruction. She is also looking forward to competing in the ‘Aerialymics.’

According to their website, “the Aerialympics is the largest aerial and pole competition in the U.S., and we are excited to be expanding even more! Our event includes beginner, intermediate, advanced and all-star levels of aerial silks, lyra, aerial hammock, specialty apparatus and pole.”

Currently battling a pulled hamstring, Weidenkopf is hoping to be able to compete at the Aerialympics in May. She says if she cannot compete in May, she would be happy to compete in the competitions taking place in October or December. 

Weidenkopf currently teaches the introductory course for beginners on Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. and the beginner sequencing class takes place from 7 to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesdays as well.

“I can’t say enough good things about aerial,” Weidenkopf said. “I think the thing that I have taken away from it is my confidence. There’s an instant gratification with getting a skill and seeing, ‘Wow that’s actually pretty. I didn’t think I could do that.’ You can also get strong and flexible really fast which is a perk in itself.” 

Anyone interested in taking a class instructed by Shea or any other classes the studio offers can check out Sky Yoga’s website or their Facebook page. 

Shanahan can be reached at [email protected].