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Cultivating a community through yoga, salt

North Central Wisconsin studio provides accessible classes for everyone

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June 10, 2024

WAUSAU – Carissa Whalen said having a space where she can feel powerful and present with others is crucial to having a fulfilling life. 

That’s why Whalen said she decided to open SALT Movement + Meditation, a yoga studio located at 302 N. 7th St. in Wausau, a little more than two years ago. 

The winding journey to opening the studio, she said, started with a move from her hometown in Wisconsin and planting roots on the West Coast. 

“Growing up in Wisconsin, I always felt somewhat dissonant,” she said. “I couldn’t find my own place there and a community that embodied my interests and spiritual depth.”

The disconnect, Whalen said, led her to make a move to California, where she played professional sports.

“I found community and so much growth and love (in California),” she said. “(And there) were women embracing women and supporting women.”

Witnessing the connection and camaraderie amongst peers on the West Coast, Whalen said, made her realize it was something she wanted to bring back to the Wausau area so others could experience it, too. 

“(Wisconsin) is competitive,” she said. “I feel like there’s so much power in people realizing their worth and beauty and discovering themselves… The more comfortable you become with that, the more you’re able to support and bring that out of the people around you.”

A few years ago, Whalen said she was back in the area visiting family when she decided to join a hot yoga session at a studio downtown – something she did often while in California and found community in.

However, when leaving the class, she said “everyone in the lobby was sobbing.”

After talking with the owner, Whalen said she discovered the studio was closing, and that was the last class. 

“What are the chances?” she said. “I finally find this community there, finally find someone who’s doing it and is committed to supporting Central Wisconsin with that space, and then it’s about to close down.”

The timing, she said, felt a bit like fate.

“I went back (to California) and… I was like, ‘I’m going to open a studio (in Wausau),’” she said. “‘I’m going to figure out a way.’”

At SALT, Carissa Whalen said instructors meet and appreciate class participants where they are at. Photo Courtesy of SALT

And, in December 2021, Whalen said she purchased the yoga studio back home, and by February 2022, the doors to SALT were open.

“It was a space founded on the desire to cultivate community and allow women – and all people – to feel beautiful and confident in the skin they’re in,” she said. 

The owner said she now splits her time between Wisconsin and California. 

Bringing Cali to Wausau

While preparing to open the studio, Whalen said she knew there were certain aspects from studios she’d been to in California she wanted to incorporate into her space. 

“I would say the most interesting part and the part I connected to with a lot of classes (in California)… everything felt like a family,” she said. “Everyone knew each other, and they were chatty before and after class. They were hanging out outside of the studio. That was something I wanted to cultivate (at SALT).”

Whalen said, to her, it was important to have a space where people come to work up a sweat and release endorphins and find people to be present with. 

She said she also wanted to make sure classes at SALT feel like a “full-spectrum performance” from the instructor.

“You’re almost leaving the studio space and entering a flow state,” she said. “That was more so the meditative aspect for me from California classes.”

Whalen said SALT’s name was also well thought out and intentional.

“For me, the ocean has always been a cleansing space,” she said. “And, it’s scientifically proven that when you enter salt water, you reemerge completely energetically cleansed. There’s something about salt that takes over your energy field and purges it.”

Which, she said, is exactly what she wants the SALT space to be.

“SALT, as a studio, was this visual of entering the ocean and reemerging from the space after that sweat, after that workshop or after that breath work completely cleaned and completely reset,” she said. 

Something for everyone

At SALT, Whalen said, she wanted to make sure there was something for everybody to tie in with the community-centric theme of the space.

“I wanted everyone to come, whether they wanted a soft, gentle workout or if they wanted to come and get after it,” she said. “I didn’t want to exclude anybody for their workout style.”

Some of SALT’s classes include:

  • Hot Pilates – a heated, core-based, low-impact workout that also incorporates HIIT (high-intensity interval training). 
  • Heated and Unheated Vinyasa Flow – an accessible, candle-lit vinyasa (stringing yoga postures together, paired with breath work) class.
  • Hot Power Flow – a heated, more intense vinyasa class focusing on building heat, strength, flexibility and stamina.
  • Heated Pilates Barre – a total-body workout that includes mat work with low-impact bodyweight movements, as well as optional light free weights and pilates balls.
  • Hot 26 – 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a heated and humid room (also known as Bikram yoga).
  • Hot Yoga Fusion – traditional Bikram yoga postures that also incorporate vinyasa style movement and flow.

These classes, Whalen said, are taught by the 16 different instructors on staff, depending on what their specialty is.

The studio owner said she will also host breathwork classes when back in Wausau, something she’s “evolved into because of accessibility.”

“Overall, I think the power of yoga and the power of the elevated state of mind you get from a workout is held in the breath itself,” she said. “I got to a point where I was like, ‘how can I strip this down?’”

Carissa Whalen said she took many aspects from California yoga studios and brought them into her space at SALT. Photo Courtesy of SALT

Whalen said she began to study breath more.

“I (found) all of this breath work is simulating a workout,” she said. “You’re laying on your back on your mat, and you’re entering this elevated buzzy state in your body, but you’re not having to move at all. It’s still releasing the same things in your brain and your body chemically that you would be if you were doing a five-mile run or a crazy hour-long HIIT workout.”

What it boils down to

Whether someone has been to SALT several times or is new to the yoga studio, Whalen said what it all comes down to is every person feeling “seen and appreciated for where you’re at.”

“We’re not like a workout community striving to get you somewhere, like give you bigger muscles or more cinched-in waistline… we don’t say that stuff,” she said. “We want you to come in and feel good right where you’re at in your body – no changes – just glorifying and giving gratitude and appreciating exactly where you’re standing right now, being fully present.”

To learn more about SALT Movement + Meditation, visit

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