When Shaktibarre opened a studio in Williamsburg in 2016, it was with the mission to teach fitness classes in a way that was welcoming, affordable, and community-centered. Over the next four years, co-founders Corinne Wainer and Shauny Lamba opened two additional locations while dealing with everything from flooding to collapsed skylights. But none of those issues compared to the obstacles created by the pandemic.
"It felt like every day was changing," says Emily Ho, an instructor at Shaktibarre. "The change felt like a sudden yank of our community. We were no longer able to go into our own space. So creating that space in this virtual world was a priority."
They quickly realized that Zoom classes weren't working for them financially or experientially. Wainer and Lamba decided to go separate ways in late 2020 and Wainer, who is one of our 2021 Changemakers, pushed full steam ahead to create the web-based Shaktibarre App.
"There's no way that we can help our students stay in shape and stay moving and stay trusting if we don't have something that has music and videos that you can access at other times of day, and prices that match a lot of people's income right now," says Wainer. "And so that's when we pivoted to the app."
Through the app, they're able to offer classes at an affordable price point (packages start at $26 for two classes) and continue to share the tenets that shape their brand. Wainer started Shaktibarre after dealing with her own struggles with eating disorders and exercise addiction and finding that the existing barre studios in New York City weren't very welcoming.
"I was a four-sport athlete. I was very used to working out all the time and not really so mindful about what I ate, and after playing four sports, I didn't know what hungry was, what full was I didn't know what, working out too much or too little was. And I spent the better part of 10 to 15 years really struggling to find that balance," says Wainer. "Because of how exclusive the wellness industry is, I really had to brave my own path in this sense and create an organization that does the same—[one that] helps other women figure out what's true and how to get fit... but how to do it with a healthy mindset."
While the app has proved to be a welcomed substitute to in-person classes, it's hard to maintain the feeling of community that existed within the physical space. But, they're making it work.
"I miss the in-between moments, the five minutes before class where we check people in or the five minutes after where someone would tell us about their favorite move or part that was really challenging for them that day," says Ho. "But we're trying our best to create space for those moments to still happen online, whether just in a chat box or finding other ways to see our friends really—our students—come online with us."
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