Whether we realize it or not, walking into a gym or fitness studio — maybe trying a form of movement that’s completely new to you — and getting your sweat on with a bunch of strangers can be, well, intimidating.
Historically, fitness spaces have not been the most accommodating when it comes to creating brave spaces for those who don’t exist within strict gender binaries, or who don’t fit mainstream notions of beauty and ability. But moving our bodies and grounding our thoughts are powerful tools for healing, wellness, and community engagement that should be accessible to all.
That’s why the mission of Vancouver fitness space CMMN GRND is to flip the switch on aspects of fitness and wellness that have not been given the attention necessary to create accessibility for all by creating a space that intentionally — radically, even — fosters inclusion.
Classes are available for every level, whether you’re a hardcore fit bunny, a first-timer, or just there to sweat out a hangover. Offerings include two signature classes: Reign MVMNT, a beat-based cardio and strength training class, and The WYLD Method by India Dania, an experimental flow that taps into rhythm, expansion, and contraction.
Additional options include yoga, spin, pilates, and meditation classes.
Focus tags are ascribed to all fitness and wellness classes so you can determine what feels right for you, which is something that is likely to change and evolve from day-to-day. It’s also more than just a place to sweat as CMMN GRND is a social collective committed to IRL connection and social change for everybody.
As the name suggests, the space is meant to invoke a sense of common ground where anyone can move their body and feel empowered to do so in their fullest self-expression.
On this subject, fitness studio founder Dylan Archambault (he/him) remarks that “inclusion found its way into the business model from the very beginning.”
As such, an incredible amount of thought was put into curating a brave, body neutral, and gender neutral space where the safety and expression of studio-goers is a key consideration. Because, in CMMN GRND’s own words, “your body is your body, and it is the least interesting thing about you.”
Using radical inclusion as the lens through which they wanted to create the space, the team partnered with Netflix star and award-winning designer Karin Bohn of House of Bohn to bring the fitness facility to life.
“The colour scheme, the bathrooms, the lighting, all of these have intention around them,” says general manager Jessie Hutton Nelson (they/them).
It is surprising the extent to which the design of spaces can inform our sense of belonging. For example, the “feminine” colour scheme of a barre studio can inadvertently signal that this form of exercise is reserved for women, Archambault explains.
Working with a neutral palette of pastel yellows, walnut woods, and terrazzo stone accents in the design of their space was an important part of celebrating the spectrum of personal experiences and the CMMN GRND community. Hints of the black, orange, green, and yellow found in the terrazzo can also be found sprinkled throughout the space.
Also important are the all-gender accessible washrooms where everyone can feel comfortable doing their business without feeling like the sign on the door is an affront to their identity.
“It’s not about erasing masculinity and femininity. It’s about allowing people the space to self identify and not have to perform — or maybe even [the ability] to experiment with that spectrum of gender expression in a way you might not feel comfortable in other spaces,” says Nelson.
House of Bohn’s mission in creating the space was to match both the physical and environmental aspects of the studio to CMMN GRND’s ethos of equity and social justice.
Even the lobby was built to be conducive to social wellness in order to encourage connections with others and acknowledge the connective power of fitness and movement.
Movement classes are conducted in dim LED lighting to encourage introspection and create and incite curiosity about exploring and listening to your body’s individual needs.
But it’s not all just about the aesthetics. Inclusivity, Archambault and Nelson maintain, is also a commitment to using language and practices that make everyone feel seen and celebrated.
The use of “humxn first” language, in particular, is an important facet in communicating to people that their humxnity is not informed by their ability, gender identity, gender expression, race, or attraction.
There is also an emphasis on creating a body neutral space in which all bodies are celebrated. We move our bodies for so many reasons beyond just aesthetics, and each class reflects this by rejecting the notion of the perfect body or that slender white bodies should be idealized.
“No matter who you are and how you present, you are a humxn first,” says Nelson.
This is why trauma and diversity training are crucial elements of training for all staff. Using language that’s suggestive rather than forceful, as well as normalizing the exchange of pronouns, has also been weaved into the fitness experience.
The benefits, too, of creating an inclusive movement space can have ripple effects on an entire community and have positive implications for social justice.
Nelson likens this link between self-care and being active in your community to helping yourself before you can help others.
“What you’re doing is taking care of your own energy, filling your own bucket so that you can go out and support other people around you because you have something to give,” they say.
In an effort to protect studio-goers, the facility is currently operating at 50% capacity with strict cleaning and disinfecting policies due to COVID-19.
Feeling inspired to move, meet new people, or reconnect with your body? Book a class today at cmmngrnd.ca (your first one is free!).
Address: 121 West 2nd Avenue