NORTH LIBERTY- It was a calm and sunny Saturday morning as just over a half-dozen students began their weekend with a yoga session. Counseled by words of mindfulness, the intimate class was led in a series of stretches and poses, de-stressing from the work week over a subtle backdrop of ambient music, tucked away in a dimly lit sanctuary north of Cherry Street.
Wellfinity opened its doors to North Liberty on Feb. 1. A culmination of many years of experience, it focuses primarily on yoga, wellness coaching and an alternative medicine known as reiki.
"We attune to the whole person--mind, body, heart and spirit--at the studio," explained Shelly Carpenter, owner and primary instructor at Wellfinity.
She cited yoga as a profound tool for working through life's challenges and a great safe space, which she personally found instrumental in managing her bout with cancer.
"We aren't just our bodies. There's a meditative practice, and there's a spiritual aspect, if you want it in a yoga practice. And that really helped me get through the cancer experience," she said. "But it's a place to get reacquainted if you feel like your body has failed you in some way, realizing there's parts of you that still feel good and that you are whole."
With the opening of her own full-time studio, Carpenter has made it her mission to make yoga accessible to everyone in the North Liberty community. Wellfinity provides a cozy, inviting setting for those daunted by the idea of joining a large yoga class.
"It's a smaller studio, so they'll never get lost in the mix. It's not just those super fit people; it's not the super-flexible people; it's not the young 20-somethings in their hundred-dollar Lululemon pants," she said with a grin. "You don't have to look a certain way to come here and do yoga. You'll be accepted and we'll work with you."
There's more to Wellfinity than just yoga. By appointment, Carpenter provides hands-on, private coaching for those wishing to make changes in their wellness, such as eating habits, exercise and stress management.
"A lot of people don't give themselves enough credit for some action they've taken- they think they've failed," she began. "Part of my job as a coach is to help them realize they have taken some action and that's a step in and of itself, and celebrate that and keep them in the right positive, motivated mindset."
With an initial background in psychology, Carpenter's yoga studies date back over a decade, having instructed at various studios in the Iowa City area and served as a health and wellness coach at the University of Iowa.
"I wasn't just interested in the physical practice but the spiritual aspects, the philosophy, the meditative aspects," she recalled. "I love teaching; I love developing that relationship with yoga students."
Her approach to wellness certainly seems to have left an impression.
"The people that come to my Saturday classes, here, I've taught for 11 years. They have stayed with me from the beginning," she remarked. "All the different places I've been, they've followed me, and I'm so thankful for their loyalty."
While the Wellfinity brand was conceived four years ago through private yoga and wellness coaching, Carpenter's first full-fledged studio now offers her a platform to better engage the community and a provide a space of serenity.
"People can just strip away the to-do lists, all the roles they play for everybody else in the world," she said. "They can just dedicate that hour to themselves and be nurtured not just physically but also use the practice to calm their minds and connect to their spiritual sides if that's important to them."
The studio partners with its immediate neighbor, Meadowlark Psychiatric Services, through cross referrals which see Meadowlark patients use yoga as a therapeutic tool for conditions like anxiety, depression, ADHD and trauma. These private sessions are unique to each individual and cater to their own unique challenges.
As for what the future holds for the new studio, Carpenter is considering offering a broad variety of specialty classes. With an instructor certified in yoga for recovery, Wellfinity is exploring the idea of hosting classes and workshops for those struggling with addiction, as well as other conditions.
"We would really like to cater to special populations that we feel are under-served. One of my instructors is interested in doing a yoga for people on the autism spectrum," she said, noting how such a class would utilize a specialized approach to match the needs of its students.
The studio plans to host a ladies' nights with yoga, wine and chocolate at the end of April. Wellfinity also plays an active role outside the studio, taking part in the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce Leadercast lunch break on May 4. The business also presents at conferences, can accommodate for business retreat days and plans to host outdoor classes.
Walk-ins are currently welcome as Wellfinity, which holds classes seven days a week, looks to introduce its brand of yoga to both the uninitiated and well versed alike.
"Don't let lack of experience keep you from trying a yoga class," Carpenter insisted. "We're very inviting and would love to have people in and give them that extra pampering experience."