The benefits of healing touch can be profound, and we want everybody to have access to that.

Today’s wellness-conscious consumers often see health as a guiding principle in everyday purchases, rather than a means to its own end. But the wellbeing sector’s new luxury associations has some worried about accessibility.

Enter EVERYBODY, a new, radically inclusive gym and non-traditional movement center in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. With gender-neutral bathrooms, a diverse staff that reflects its core values and classes such as “Fat Kid Dance Party” rooted in body positivity, EVERYBODY embodies a truly holistic and community-oriented approach to health, fitness, and wellness.

Below, founders Lake Sharp and Sam Rypinski discuss feminist business practices, creating safe spaces for gender nonconforming folks, and how the big-box gym industry has disenfranchised those who need its services the most.

How did the concept for EVERYBODY take shape and eventually become a reality?

LAKE SHARP: When we met, Sam had already been working on the business model for several months. He had already found the location and was actively seeking partners. After a chance encounter at the Women’s Center for Creative Work, we met several times to suss out our business relationship, then we hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since.

SAM RYPINSKI: I had already been developing the business model and looking at spaces, and Lake had a background in the fitness industry as an instructor at high-end clubs. We mega-bonded around being caretakers to our parents during their final days, which I still am. It felt like a really inspired partnership, so we decided to move forward with the space on San Fernando and go in on the project together. It really started with our mission statement to be a radically inclusive space committed to providing access to those most disenfranchised by the big-box gym industry, and the programming, hiring and design of the space all emerged from there.

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EVERYBODY walks the line between a traditional gym and a holistic wellness center. Can you speak a little bit more about the interconnectedness of physical fitness and body/mind wellness?

SHARP: Sam and I both share the experience of caring for dying parents with mental illness. This is central to our holistic approach. My father used exercise as one way to manage his bipolar disorder (along with traditional psychiatric medication). I grew up following his example and have always appreciated the importance of physical exercise in relation to mental health.

At EVERYBODY, we focus on those benefits, not outer appearance or body shape or size. Everyone deserves access to healing bodywork. A lot of gender nonconforming folks don’t have access to bodywork because practitioners generally are not trained to work with trans or non-conforming bodies. Being cis[gendered] myself, I always took it for granted that I could go get a massage safely, without invasive questions or discomfort about the expression of my gender or body. While typical gyms are very gendered spaces, what is less talked about is the gender exclusivity of the wellness world. The benefits of healing touch and acupuncture can be profound and we want everybody to have access to that.

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RYPINSKI: The problem with most gyms is that they forget that people need to feel good while they are there, not only as a result of being there. The gym should be a place where you can relax, be vulnerable but know you are safe, and learn how to be comfortable in your body in a way that you never have been before. This runs totally counter to the typical gym or fitness establishment mentality which stresses a “No pain, no gain” philosophy on every level. If it’s not fun or doesn’t feel good, it isn’t really healthy or serving you, and you probably won’t keep doing it. You have to feel good to feel better. And this encompasses a wide range of activities that fall outside the traditional fitness realm including mindfulness, meditation, healing body and energy work, and learning how to surrender.

Can you elaborate on some of the ways you’ve made or are working to make EVERYBODY accessible to all bodies?

SHARP: EVERYBODY has borrowed from the non-profit model of having a board of advisors. Our board is made up of activists, organizers, healers and group exercise teachers who come from the communities we want to serve. They provide us with resources, help shape our programming and keep us on track with our mission.

RYPINSKI: We have consciously built our business to ensure that it is affordable, accessible, and that our hiring practices reflect our commitment to serving all of our diverse communities. We consciously hire trans people, people of color and women. We priced our memberships so that they were affordable to the immediate surrounding community, extending a 20% discount to those who live within a mile radius. We offer classes in Spanish. We do not tolerate any forms of discrimination or oppression, and refuse to allow any such behavior in the space.

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Wellness can often feel exclusive due to financial limitations, etc. How do you balance the desire to create an aesthetically pleasing environment (which takes care, money, and work) with your ambition to create a truly accessible space?

SHARP: The folks that provide the wellness work have to align and join in our mission in order to be under the banner of EVERYBODY. Our wellness program is just now opening, but we are hoping to have a sliding scale and group bodywork available. We will also continue to have free workshops and events. But we need help from our community. There is an important element of accountability here. The folks who can afford our full membership pricing and can easily pay $100 for an excellent massage need to show up too. They help offset and supplement our low and median income pricing and directly contribute to our ability to create a safe space for all bodies.

RYPINSKI: It is our hope that our model allows those who can afford to pay full-price membership to effectively subsidize the cost of providing low-income membership options to those who need it most. This is the radical (and feminist, I would argue!) model that we are hoping will continue to sustain the business moving forward.

For more on today’s rapidly evolving wellness culture, download our newest trend report, The Well Economy.

Header image: Evan Mulling