On M3Yoga’s website, four pillars are listed as foundations to the business: “inclusivity, community, playfulness and intelligent movement.”
Co-owner Nick Combs said that the instructors and the students strive to keep each in mind during their practice — community especially is relevant to Athens. As a smaller city, Combs attributes the tight-knit environment to the people who live here.
“There’s a positive and nurturing atmosphere in Athens,” Combs said. “[Athens is] a microcosm of individuality and self-expression which is especially unique in the South, but that atmosphere is partly because of the size of Athens as a smaller city.”
Athens roots help foster yoga community
Combs has roots in Athens, as his family is from here, and he began working in the Classic City again six years ago. With his experience living in other places and practicing yoga in a large city like Washington, D.C., he said the Athens yoga community reflects the greater community of people who live here.
“It’s much easier to build a yoga community in Athens,” Combs said. “In D.C., a yoga class might be in a smaller space and you only go for the instructor and to work out. In Athens, you come for the instructor, but you also come for the community that has formed around you and for the community that the class has to offer.”
According to long-time students like Nicolette Tobin, who has been practicing at M3 for a year, the studio embodies the same positive and tight-knit atmosphere Athens offers.
“[M3 is] very inclusive — you feel like you’re apart of their own community there,” said Tobin. “The owners and instructors make an effort to learn other people’s names, there are always new classes offered at different levels that teachers create to further your practice.”
Inclusivity as a priority, growth as a result
Fostering this welcoming environment is what M3 aspired to do with co-owners Combs and Matt Chambers began developing the studio’s mission. With the opening of their new business venture, Combs and Chambers decided to ensure, their students were their main focus.
“I believe that our core values are what drew, and what continue to draw, people to us,” Combs said. “It may have been a bit of naivety, but we opened with the sole purpose of helping people.”
Whether it was naivety or wisdom, locals and Athens businesses responded well since opening in August 2017 — M3Yoga has changed drastically in a small amount of time. They’ve opened a bigger studio in less than a year of starting up, offering space for larger classes, partnered with Athens businesses like Maepole, Condor Chocolates and Athens PRIDE to get involved with Athens businesses. While the studio also works with local makers on a project called “Lifestyle Partners,” where they can sell their goods at the studio when they otherwise wouldn’t have a workspace.
Instructor Katie Kuipers, a Ph.D. student studying linguistics at UGA, has been with the studio since its opening. She attributes M3’s ability to become a success in Athens to Chambers and Combs’ initial mindset.
“From the foundation of [owners] Nick and Matt, who wanted to start the studio as an inclusive space, the community has taken that attitude and really embraced it,” said Kuipers.
But Combs gives credit to the students; their willingness to cultivate their own positive experience is an important factor in allowing the business to grow.
“We initially set out to create the community at our studio, but eventually the community began to create itself,” Combs said. “I think because we initially wanted to cultivate that atmosphere, people felt more open to come and interact with each other — it’s been super cool to see friendships evolve at the studio and watch connections be made from people in the Athens community.”
Small community, big heart
It’s clear that Combs is passionate about cultivating a harmonious space at the studio, and that passion is evident to students like Tobin.
“I talk to friends who attend yoga classes in Atlanta and in other cities about their yoga experiences, and I find that our descriptions are totally different,” Tobin said. “Ttheir instructors don’t know their names. M3 is representative of Athens as a whole everyone is friendly and helpful to everyone else. it motivates you to get more involved in your practice.”
Because M3Yoga prioritizes a positive atmosphere in their classes and through their partnerships, they set out to create an opportunity for every person to attend.
“We stick by the ‘yoga for everybody’ motto — there’s a class on the schedule every single day that somebody could participate in,” Combs said. “Whatever gender, race, sexual orientation or body type you are, you belong here and I think that’s something that not every other yoga studio could say.”