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Alicia sokol of barre3
Wellness
Published Tuesday Oct 05, 2021 by Bree Lewis

Community Close-up: Alicia Sokol of barre3

Expert Advice
Mindbody Community
Wellness
Fitness

Alicia Sokol opened her barre3 location in Washington DC after a series of career pivots. As an equity analyst, she never set out to be a fitness instructor or business owner. Through self-reflection, she realized that studio ownership meant she could fully express her values in a meaningful way. She opened her studio to help people find a movement practice that not only feels good but nurtures a supportive community.

As a kid, one thing Sokol struggled with was a sense of belonging—which is precisely why she created a place where simply walking through the door validates acceptance. Alicia's always striving to bring versatility to her community through connecting people from all different backgrounds. She's consistently motivated by what barre3 has brought to individuals—it's a challenging and effective workout, but more importantly, it's the practice of feeling our intuition and following it accordingly.

We recently chatted with Alicia to learn more about her and how she views the world of wellness.

Tell us about yourself. What led you to where you are now?

I was slow to find joy in movement. As a kid, I shied away from sports. I don't have a competitive nature and I was an awkward kid—always picked last in gym class! A friend invited me for a run along Lake Michigan when I was in college—that was the first time I realized the healing power of movement. I felt so alive! I remember thinking: why didn't anyone tell me this was a thing? I have always enjoyed movement that doesn't require hand-eye coordination or special skills. I also tend to enjoy movement that is meditative and allows me to be in nature—running, hiking, swimming, and paddleboarding.

My career path has been a series of pivots. Each opportunity has been a chance to learn about myself. I started my career as an equity analyst at an investment bank—it was what I thought I should do with my undergraduate finance degree. I never set out to own a business. I never set out to be a fitness instructor! But through a series of asking tough questions and connecting with what makes me feel purposeful and alive, this is exactly where I have ended up.

Owning a barre3 studio has allowed me to fully express my values in a way that is meaningful to me. My studio is staffed by kind, wise people who love what we do. We are a place that instantly welcomes anyone who wants to be a part of what we're all about. I'm constantly trying to diversify our community—a wider range of ages, shapes, sizes, goals, experiences, backgrounds. Moving together helps us see that we all crave the same thing—a sense of belonging, a space to express ourselves, to be seen and heard, to know we are loved just as we are. My favorite part of my work has always been teaching barre3 classes. My studio is now 5 1/2 years old, and this is still what I love to do best.

One of the reasons I opened my studio was to help people find a movement practice that felt good and a community that felt supportive.
What inspired you to open your business? What motivates you day-to-day? 

Even though I went to business school, I never set out to be an entrepreneur. When I discovered barre3, I was working as a freelance writer and photographer and exploring a more creative path to my career. I had two small children and I knew it was time to make yet another career pivot. barre3 provided peace at a time in my life when running hurt and I needed both an effective workout and an endorphin release. I fell hard for the workout (tough), the community (kind), and the feeling of being in the studio (better—ways better!).

One of the reasons I opened my studio was to help people find a movement practice that felt good and a community that felt supportive. You don't need to be a dancer. You don't need to be fit or flexible. This workout is truly for any human body. As a kid, I struggled mightily with belonging. I wanted to create a place where simply walking in the door permitted belonging and support. I am always so happy to hear people say, "I've never been able to stick to a workout routine, but this is the first exercise I've really loved! I WANT to do this!"—that was the feeling I was going for.

On a day-to-day basis, I'm motivated by what barre3 has brought to people's lives. Yes, it's a tough and effective workout. But more than that, it's a practice of feeling and responding to our inner voice. It's been a tough couple of years, and for most of us, it would be easier to just go numb. What we are doing in class is permitting ourselves to feel the uncomfortable physical sensations, and in doing so, giving ourselves permission to face the uncomfortable mental work of being human. We all need that. We all struggle at some point. I love to see our community members find love and acceptance of their bodies just as they are. Diet culture has made it difficult for us to do that, and it puts us in a state of constantly trying to change and improve. I love to see people stand a little taller and become more confident in who they are.

I also love to hear when people have been able to use their voices more effectively because of the work they are doing in class, which is all about listening to one's own voice. Over the years the studio has been open, my clients have developed the courage to ask for a promotion, leave a toxic relationship, come out as gay, apply to grad schools, start new businesses, and so much more. When they connect the work they did at barre3 to the courage to do those scary things? Chills. Every time.

What does wellness mean to you? Has it evolved over the past couple of years?

To me, wellness is a continuum rather than a destination—kind of like "balance.” It takes constant attention and continued work. There is no getting there and staying there. When I was younger, I thought of wellness as something that was much more physical—staying active, getting enough sleep, eating nutrient-rich foods, enjoying some treats. But now I see wellness as much more complex—the mental component is substantial.

I have also noticed that when the mental health piece is off-kilter, it impacts the physical! I discovered that when I had a pain in my back "for no reason"—oh, there was a reason. And it had nothing to do with the mechanics of my body and everything to do with sorting out some stressors in my life. That was a serious a-ha moment for me. I am the mother of teen boys (the hardest work I have ever done!) and I think it's important to show them how I process emotions in a very real way. Even just saying "I'm feeling frustrated right now because ___" or "I'm sad because ____" or "I'm angry right now, and I need to _____ to deal with my anger." It makes everyone uncomfortable, to say the least. But I hope they are taking note somewhere deep in their brains and seeing that being able to recognize, sit with, and process our emotions is at the core of our mental health. There is no ticket to overall wellness without that.

If you’re in the DC area, you should definitely check out Alicia’s barre3 location to help you advance your wellness routine. Not in the area? No worries—barre3 offers live stream studio workouts that can be done at home. Or find a studio near you at one of more than 150 locations sprinkled all over the US (in cities like Seattle, New York City, and Austin—just to name a few) and Canada. They even offer a complete virtual membership for folks who prefer to work out at home—so everybody has a chance to get that barre3 experience they are known for. Ready to lengthen and strengthen with Alicia and her team? Book barre3 classes on the Mindbody app.

bree lewis headshot
Written by
Bree Lewis
Marketing Content Associate
About the author
Born and raised in a small mountain town just south of Yosemite National Park, Bree is an avid lover of health, wellness, and connecting to the outside world around us. As a Cal Poly English major alumn, she has a knack for books, writing, and all things words. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, drinking craft beers, and keeping life jazzy!
corey and kiara johnson atl kula
Wellness
Published Tuesday Oct 05, 2021 by Bree Lewis

Community Close-up: Corey and Kiara Johnson of atl kula

Expert Advice
Mindbody Community
Wellness
Fitness

For atl kula founders Corey and Kiara Johnson, prioritizing wellness means getting outside and soaking up the transformative power of nature. They started their Atlanta-based wellness studio to help bridge the gap between the natural and modern world through promoting a natural lifestyle through movement, consuming healthy products, and keeping the spirit of community at the forefront.

Inspired by their own wellness experiences, their studio offers classes that have personally impacted their own lives and require minimal equipment—yoga, Pilates, barre, and Tai Chi.  Their MO is to make sure that each person that steps foot through atl kula’s door leaves feeling better than ever before.

We recently chatted with Corey and Kiara to learn more about the mission behind atl kula and what wellness means to them.

Tell us about yourself. What led you to where you are now?

Corey: Being born and raised in Atlanta, I've always loved being outside and noticed how I naturally recovered from many of the ailments I came down with as a kid by spending time in the sun, moving around, and playing until I tired myself out. While attending Georgia Tech and even when I started working after school, I’d make it a habit to get outside and reset and learned that taking care of myself had to be a priority in this life that often pulls us in a million directions.

Kiara: He took me to Sweetwater Creek Park one of the first times we ever hung out. I remember loving how peaceful and rejuvenating it was but also how distant it felt compared to how often we were outside as kids. Our outside adventures became little “getaways” for us. He showed me all around Atlanta’s parks and hidden gems and somewhere in-between the dreaming began. It started with understanding how wellness very much includes nature and the all-natural from the sun that shines on our skin to the food we eat, and it continued with planning how we could build something special using nature as inspiration to touch lives near and far for years to come. We are about living naturally and that started as a very personal walk for us.

We are big dreamers, and we knew we wanted to help define what it means to live naturally in a modern world...
What inspired you to open your business? What motivates you day-to-day?  

We are big dreamers, and we knew we wanted to help define what it means to live naturally in a modern world—which inspired us to build atl kula and what motivates us every day. We turned what was once an empty storage space into a nature-inspired studio with a biophilic design, meant to make you feel well just from walking inside. You’ll also be greeted by our koi fish in our indoor pond on your way to class, relaxed by our warm colors and soft aesthetics, and yet energized with pops of plant life throughout the space. We were inspired to offer the practices of yoga, Pilates, barre, and Tai Chi—amazing practices that have transformed our own lives. These practices are ones that you don’t necessarily need a lot of equipment for, but that you could do more with…. naturally! And lastly, our lifestyle products, such as our soap and body butter, inspire us to work towards providing an all-natural self-care regimen for our community—products that are better for the environment, better for our bodies, and beautifully scented for our enjoyment.

What does wellness mean to you? Has it evolved over the past couple of years?

While wellness includes good habits such as eating more naturally, exercising, being involved with your local community, and making progress towards your fullest potential—it is also deeper than that for us and atl kula. We don’t believe people necessarily choose to make poor decisions that negatively impact their lives, but instead, we often find that it’s the very infrastructure and systems around them that are designed for them to be unwell (take food deserts for example). That’s why it’s so important for spaces like ours to exist and to be everywhere—ultimately helping to change those very systems where wellness can truly start.

If you're in the Atlanta area, you should definitely check out atl kula’s in-person classes to help you advance your wellness routine. Not in Atlanta? Don’t sweat—you can book virtual classes at their studio or check out their online streaming options, too. Still looking for more atl kula? They also have their SoN2U Wellness Retreat coming up November 12-14—which focuses on meditation, movement, and mental health. You’ll experience a weekend of transformation, sowing into yourself—while growing with a community of individuals seeking to do the same.

bree lewis headshot
Written by
Bree Lewis
Marketing Content Associate
About the author
Born and raised in a small mountain town just south of Yosemite National Park, Bree is an avid lover of health, wellness, and connecting to the outside world around us. As a Cal Poly English major alumn, she has a knack for books, writing, and all things words. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, drinking craft beers, and keeping life jazzy!