In an age where diversity and inclusion initiatives are becoming the new wave, it’s important to understand how that translates in all spaces. One space in particular that needs it most is the wellness industry. While it may seem there are strides being made, there is still lots of work to do on the professional level to ensure all clients feel like they are invited in and welcomed to the spaces they occupy.
Let’s start with the basics.
Wellness journeys are all very unique. One person’s treasure could be a very daunting space for another. That’s always going to be a thing. That’s okay. What needs to change is how these spaces are presented and the culture within.
Let’s look a bit deeper.
If someone is looking to belong to a Yoga studio and is very passionate about making Yoga practice something they choose, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a space of belonging. The same goes for a boxing gym or a crossfit space or even a cycling studio.
What tends to happen in these spaces, that needs addressing, is there is a very exclusive feel to the culture. Maybe all bodies are the same or all backgrounds match or there is no welcome committee that invites in beginners. Beginner means that someone has not been a member of a fitness studio long term or is new to a particular fitness space.
Taking that a step further, there is a subset of individuals who want to learn and grow in wellness but feel intimidated by the culture of wellness spaces. Sound like it’s a reach? It’s not. People are seeking something different. People are taking ownership of their wellness journeys on their terms. And in that, they are trying their best to ensure that the spaces they occupy feel good.
That’s how spaces like Planet Fitness are birthed. Let’s look at the model.
NO JUDGEMENT ZONE.
They hinge their marketing and motto around welcoming all people. If one is willing to take the step and join, it is meant to be a safe space with easy to use equipment, all body types and they throw in some anti diet culture by having candy and pizza. May seem counter productive. But, in fact, it is that very thing that creates a draw for those who have once felt lost in the wellness space.
Access to wellness for impoverished/low income people is challenging. It’s a vicious cycle. The less money people have, the less they feel they can spend on “luxuries” like wellness. It’s hard enough to maintain day to day life. So when a space is both affordable and welcoming, it makes it more accessible for those who have once felt forgotten or left out.
ACCESS TO EDUCATION
While they may not have the most elite professionals working in these spaces, there is something to be said about the access offered by the staff at PF to education and questions. Again, the staff there may have limited knowledge, but it’s a great space for someone to get a jumpstart on their journey. And…to feel like they aren’t going at it alone is a BIG bonus.
All that being said, there is a way to make wellness inclusive for all through educating staff, making the mandates around language use and context with members of the space. It should be intolerable for members to criticize other members. That should be clear in the onboarding process of new members and instructors alike.. Instructors should focus on educating clients instead of trying to drag them to the ground. There should be something for all levels. And there should be space for those who are willing, but not necessarily able, to pay full price but face certain limitations.
This is a call for change in the wellness business. This is a call to do what we all say we are here to do. Let’s remember, elitism does not only limit class. It is a structural confine to create extreme poverty and extreme wealth. It is up to us to change that narrative.