When the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdowns took a toll on the fitness industry, a group of yoga, fitness and dance instructors banded together.
Yoga instructor Raija Nalepa opened MI Fitness Community at 1016 E. Sibley St. in Howell earlier this month.
Thirteen other instructors, almost all women, joined Nalepa and are sharing the approximately 1,200-square-foot studio, which features a multi-purpose yoga and workout space with a studio in back where Reiki master and healing arts practitioner Martina Fenech sees clients.
“I really wanted to provide space where people can feel uplifted and support each other,” Nalepa said.
She said some of her instructors were practicing at studios that closed during the pandemic.
“I connected with each of the women in a special way. I wanted to give them a space to be themselves,” she said.
She said she also wants to bring the community together in a place where people can motivate and encourage each other in person.
While opening a new business during COVID-19 presents challenges, Nalepa said in some ways it was the best time for her to open the studio.
“It was like all my ducks fell in a row, finding the space, getting all the painting and flooring done, and how all these people fell into my life, and the response from the community,” she said.
Yoga instructor Korie Parent said people are craving what has been lost.
“A lot of people lost things that made them happy and are hoping something new will blossom,” Parent said.
Yoga instructor Amanda Asaro completed her yoga teacher certification last year at SoulShine Yoga, which closed.
“I started training and by the time I finished all the yoga studios were closed,” Asaro said.
Group fitness instructor Aliisa Carter, who is Nalepa’s sister, previously taught classes at the Howell Area Aquatic and Fitness Center, which closed.
Carter said many people do not want to work out at big gyms but get motivated working out with other people in smaller settings.
“I know I’m not going to go to the gym with all those people. But there is something about working out together,” she said.
“I’m very proud of my sister.”
Nalepa said she plans to offer virtual options in the future.
“I definitely feel we need to offer them options. We want to be inclusive, and you have to offer choice or you’re not inclusive,” she said.
MI Fitness Community also offered Fenech a home base for Good Vibrations Healing, her Reiki, herbal, sound therapy and reflexology business.
Her business had been mobile. She would see clients at their homes and at other businesses, like Vibology in Howell.
“This is the first dedicated space I’ve had,” she said.
“It’s better because you get the whole experience here. When you’re in your own home, you have all the junk going on around you.”
She said having her own space has also allowed her to do group herbal classes. Before, she only offered them one-on-one.
Dance instructor Allison Hoover said she is ready to put the pandemic behind her.
“MI Fitness Community is devoted to providing a space where others can build their own wellness as well as their business. Our space allows for each individual to expand their connection within themselves and the community around them,” Hoover said.
Nalepa said she also hopes to hold special events and sales at the studio in the future, as well as offer some classes outdoors.
“I’d love to do a block party sometime. I feel we’re stronger together and we need it, especially coming out of the pandemic,” she said.
The roster of instructors and practitioners, which could grow in the future, includes:
- Yoga instructor Raija Nalepa
- Group fitness instructor Aliisa Carter
- Group fitness instructor Julie Friend
- Yoga instructor and fitness trainer Tiffany Woltman
- Yoga instructor Korie Parent
- Yoga instructor Jodi Limbers
- Yoga instructor Steve Buchanan
- Yoga instructor Joy Echlin
- Yoga instructor Krisan Fedokovitz
- Dance instructor Allisson Hoover
- Yoga instructor Lauren Somers
- Yoga instructor Megan Shehan
- Yoga instructor Emily Vanderhovel
- Yoga instructor Amanda Asaro
- Reiki practitioner, herbalist, sound therapy practitioner and reflexologist Martina Fenech
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.