Sunlight filters through the windows of Core Essence Yoga’s loft-style studio, reflecting off the rare patch of hardwood floor that remains uncovered by a colorful yoga mat. Stretch-induced groans escape the lips of students as they lift their legs high into the air or arch their backs and touch their palms to the floor behind them. The studio’s instructors—all of whom are registered yoga teachers and many of whom have achieved 200-hour certifications in their chosen style—look on approvingly and illustrate subsequent poses with their own lithe bodies.
The above scene typifies the classes offered at Core Essence Yoga, a studio on the east side of town that caters to beginners and experienced yogis alike. Music diffuses throughout the semi-heated room during Slow Flow classes that introduce new students to the Vinyasa style with gentle movements and focused breathing techniques. Instructors crank up the thermostat for advanced Power Vinyasa classes, which establish stronger ties between breath and movement and experiment with challenging poses such as arm inversions and downward-facing octopuses. Muscles strained during these sweat-inducing sessions regain their vitality during relaxing Thai bodywork. An ancient form of bodywork that draws on the collected wisdom of 2,500 years, Thai bodywork balances the body’s energy channels, releases emotional blocks, and evaporates stresses.
The instructors at Kaivalya Yoga believe that, like yoga practitioners themselves, the rules of yoga should be highly flexible. They pioneer fresh approaches to Vinyasa techniques inside their University Square studio with the aim of inducing kaivalya—a state of freeing personal enlightenment. Heated and nonheated classes cover fluid posture transitions that synchronize breath with stretching rather than having students take one long breathing break halfway through class. Each session aims to eradicate the body's toxins and boost mental clarity, whether students are attending a free beginners workshop or hefting small weights during Power Sculpt.
Many of the teaching staff joined the yoga movement to combat physical ailments, such as slipped disks or chronic migraines, and now they deepen their practice through Kaivalya's inventive curriculum. They inject posing sequences with pieces of individual flair—Hally Marlino's classes embrace freestyle Vinyasa set to music, and director of teacher training Alex Pfeiffer leads groups through spiritually focused, dance-like routines. Certified massage therapists are also on hand to work muscles into an even noodlier state with Swedish, deep-tissue, and sports modalities.
Kaivalya Yoga's central location is no accident. Owners Dave and Tim met at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1998 and maintain ties with the school as an employee and a graduate student, respectively. They've engineered their venue and schedule to suit the student population: classes provide a meditative escape close to home, scheduling never interferes with Wisconsin Badgers games, and the boutique carries chic headbands, T-shirts, and hoodies from their exclusive Mad Yogi clothing line, ideal for moving from dorm to dining hall to yoga studio in comfort.
The chi masters at this trinity of acupuncture and health centers seamlessly weave Chinese medicine stretching back 3,000 years with modern medicine's focus on disease and pathology. Dr. Chuan Liu tends to patients with a parallel approach at Milwaukee Acupuncture & Health Center and Ozaukee Acupuncture & Health Center. Trained his native China, Dr. Liu helps patients manage pain and stress, restore energy, and obtain optimal health through therapies including the AcuRelief and AcuHealth systems, which he helped found.
Ronda Arndorfer began exploring Pilates in 2001 at the age of 40, when she was trying to recover from the multiple running injuries she incurred while training for her first marathon. Her rehabilitation was so successful that she decided to learn how to share the experience with others. She became a certified Pilates instructor and—after opening a studio out of her home—eventually founded The Movement Center, a place where students can restore both body and mind in a positive, lighthearted environment. Arndorfer continues to attend workshops and teacher trainings with master instructors throughout the country, and some of her staff members have trained in Pilates via Arndorfer's teacher-certification program.
Arndorfer's passion for movement has paid off: the center has been featured in numerous television and magazine media outlets and was voted the Best Pilates Studio by CityVoter in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In addition to traditional yoga and Pilates classes, the crew offers innovative and challenging techniques such as aerial yoga—in which students "float" on a trapeze-like swing—and yoga performed on open water using a standup paddleboard. Barre classes require students to hold onto a ballet barre or the outstretched arm of a handsome stranger while strengthening muscles with a mix of yoga- and Pilates-inspired moves.
The center's team includes massage therapists, a nutritionist, and a physical therapist and certified Feldenkrais practitioner who continue the healing that begins within each class. They also offer childcare for guests' convenience.
Dogs may be man's best friend, but having a horse show up at your wedding is more likely to impress. Milwaukee Coach and Carriage arranges such romantic gestures with its fleet of well-mannered equines and spacious coaches. Its custom wagon rides wend to and from marriage ceremonies as well as birthday parties, grand openings, and other special events, imbuing passengers’ evenings with timeless flair and romance.
For a more casual trot around the city, Milwaukee Coach and Carriage also leads 30- or 60-minute tours of downtown, rolling past popular landmarks to create a memorable date without getting involved in a high-speed chase. Each wagon holds up to four adults and two children total, though 12-person wagons are available for larger groups.
Organic skincare and haircare products populate the shelves at Onusara Salon and Spa, where staffers harness the power of these natural elixirs to customize treatments for each client. Their specialty services employ new-age methods, such as exploiting the energy in crystals and chakras, to enhance natural beauty and help relieve stress. This emphasis on relaxation extends to the massage studio, where therapist Carolyn Morrison Phillips collaborates with 100% organic essential oils to help heal and restore weary musculature. She also taps into modalities such as tui na to stimulate acupressure points and fire cupping to purge the body of pore-size Frankenstein's monsters.