The new Uprising Arts Culture and Movement studio at 1839 E. Passyunk Ave. has big goals and even broader initiatives in connecting with the South Philly community.
The new hub, which includes yoga and other movement exercises, opened virtually in September and began welcoming live guests for classes in recent months. It stresses the importance of inclusiveness in a non-judgmental environment. That includes breaking down stereotypes on yoga itself.
“I love what yoga has done for me and I love what the community in South Philly has done for me, but I’m also very aware of the fact that yoga can have a look,” said co-owner and yoga instructor Achola Simkins. “Movement and wellness and all of those words can have a look or maybe a socioeconomic level and I really want to start breaking that down. Even if someone just comes to a class and sits on a mat, you came. That’s healing. It need not be anything else but feeling good in your body and no one can tell you what that looks or feels like.”
Simkins is a Grays Ferry resident and worked as an instructor at the previous studio Wake Up yoga at the same location. She partnered up in a business venture with longtime close friend Kole, who identifies as non-binary, and the two opened Uprising ACM together during a time many other small businesses closed up due to the pandemic.
When Simkins and Kole found out Wake Up Yoga was closing pre-pandemic, they felt the area still needed a place similar to it, but even more inclusive.
“Wake Up Yoga had a really beautiful community,” Simkins said. “And when it closed down, something in my spirit was like absolutely not. We are not losing this. My business partner and I just chugged on through and kept it going and now we have this space.”
Simkins admitted she and Kole didn’t know what would lie ahead when they went into business together as the first few cases of COVID-19 began trickling into the United States.
“I was in way too deep before I understood fully what was happening,” Simkins said. “The wheels had begun moving. There was no turning back now but I’m super happy.”
Unable to open immediately, the extra time was used to give the small business a makeover internally. Gorgeous hardwood floors were redone, walls were painted and bathrooms were remodeled. The only thing missing were the clients — at least in person. Former clients were welcomed back and the venue is attempting to take it a step further.
“It was gorgeous,” Simkins said of Wake Up Yoga. “There were moms and babies and business people and black and white and Jewish and Christian and it was perfect. I think those spaces are rare. So it’s incredibly important to me that those places stay. We’re trying to keep that same vibe, but turn the volume up and really start bringing in people that traditionally wouldn’t think that a yoga studio or movement is for them. Really reflect what South Philadelphia is.”
Virtual classes began in the fall and now that restrictions are starting to loosen up, Simkins wants to make sure residents in the area know Uprising ACM is a place for yoga enthusiasts as well as people who have never tried that sort of thing. She says there’s something for everyone there.
Aside from yoga, ACM is planning on offering art and cultural events such as talks and workshops directed toward the principles of body neutrality, holistic healing and inclusivity.
“My personal philosophy is that movement is movement,” Simkins said. “Yoga did it for me. It opened my mind up to what my body can do and how important it is to be healthy, but I recognize that’s not for everybody. I just want to be as inclusive as I possibly can be. We’ll have other movement styles and once more of the restrictions get lifted, we’re hoping to have more arts and culture and speaker discussions or have local artists do little galleries in here. Very few people are doing yoga at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night so I figure we can use this space for something cool in the community. And this avenue is such a great place to be.”
The location has two spacious floors with beautiful natural light peeking through the second-floor windows.
Several different types of yoga are offered, including vinyasa and yin as well as strength building classes. There is also a yoga for people of color class that is gaining momentum.
Uprising ACM offers memberships as well as drop-in classes. Due to limited capacity, pre-registration is required for all in-person classes at uprisingacm.com.
Simkins said it’s not only important to feel good in your body, but also your mind. During the pandemic, there has been an increase in self-isolation, which has caused unhealthy effects including depression and generalized fatigue in many people.
“We are over a year into this pandemic,” Simkins said. “I am just beginning to maybe feel stability and the teensiest little release in my muscles. We all collectively, as humanity, just have to purposefully and consciously start wringing all of this out of our systems. I really would like for this space to be a leading edge on helping people actively heal. We have to work into getting over this.”