In the last three decades, fitness has served as a pastime and profession for Chris Isom. The 36-year-old native of Beaumont, Texas, played on the basketball team at East Texas Baptist University and also spent a year playing pro ball for a team in Iceland after college. Since then, the sport has sent him into career moves as an athletic trainer, coach, and youth mentor. But it was a chance conversation in 2010 that brought him to the ancient practice of yoga. “A gentleman told me at a health food store in North Houston that yoga helped him with his alcohol and drug addiction,” Isom says. “I’m thinking, how does stretching help with addiction? I just don’t understand; I’m stretching all the time. But it’s one of the things that made me take the class. ”
From his first session, the lifelong athlete felt the benefits of his new calling for both the body and mind. Moving to Austin later that year, Isom got immersed in the community, competing in national Bikram yoga competitions and even becoming a brand ambassador to local studios like Pure Yoga Texas, Wanderlust, Practice, and Sanctuary. “Yoga is the one thing that healed me, and yet it traumatized me at the same time,” he says. “I was doing those classes, and I was the only person that looked like me in there. First, I was male. And then I was a Black male on top of that. I felt like I had to try something in class. ”
Throughout his decade in Austin, Isom found himself falling on hard times where he couldn’t afford to pay rent, even having two periods where he experienced homelessness. He couch-surfed, lived in his car, and even slept on park benches, but almost no one knew of his plight: Even though he was an ambassador at several studios, he still didn’t feel comfortable discussing his struggles with people who didn’t. ‘t look like him.
As he got back on his feet and continued working in the training and coaching sphere, Isom was inspired to open up a fitness space on the East Side that catered to all individuals, especially the underserved BIPOC community. “Just as there are food deserts, the East Side feels like a fitness desert,” he says.
Isom signed a lease on a 1,200-square-foot space in East Austin in August, right in the middle of the pandemic and during the proliferation of the Black Lives Matter movement. After six months of buildout and pop-up events, he opened EveryBODY Studios in January.
Located on the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, the studio puts its emphasis on diversity. While yoga is often stereotyped as a bougie workout for affluent white women, he wanted his space to attract everyone, including collegiate athletes, men, and children. As befitting its ethos, the space shares a wall with Chris Rogers ’unifying 2018 mural,“ We Rise, ”which depicts BIPOC activists and artists such as Prince, Selena, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin.
In addition to a variety of yoga classes, including hatha, vinyasa, and community yoga, EveryBODY Studios has offerings such as high-intensity interval training, extreme hip hop, pole-dancing, and capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial arts). But the business goes beyond just fitness. The space also has regular events like Spoken Word nights and Sunday Soul Service, where participants journal, meditate, pray, and communicate with each other.
Recognizing that many BIPOC youth do not have a relationship with their fathers, Isom also wants his company to help provide positive male figures to children through the inherent benefits of yoga. EveryBODY partners with organizations like the Tools for Life youth program and hosts kids’ movie nights, community clean-up events, and glow-in-the-dark yoga for children.
More than anything, the owner of the studio wants it to be a place for individuals to come together and experience healing. “It simply came to our notice then [ask] people before the class: ‘How does your head feel? How does your heart feel? ‘”Isom says. “Being able to pull people from various groups under one roof and heal — I think that’s the essence of yoga.” The business offers $ 99 monthly memberships as well as class passes and drop-in rates. Learn more online at everybodystudiosatx.com.