Project spotlight

Mind Body Project combines elements of HIIT, yoga, breath work and meditation in a calming environment designed by wellness specialists Bright Architecture.

By Nate Storey June 17, 2021

Dimmable LED lights line the studio space of the Mind Body Project. Photography by Claire Esparros.

Like many people, Chris Stockel struggles with anxiety. The weight of the past and the uncertainty of the future can lead the mind down dangerous paths that Stockel learned to combat with high intensity fitness and transcendental meditation, two polar practices that lead you to the same place – an enlightened sense of being. “The best way to calm my mind rethink is to push my body to such an extreme limit that my mind has no thinking ability outside of the difficult task at hand. Conversely, meditation and drawing attention to the breath help me appreciate the present moment more than focus my mental energy on the essentials Future or past, ”he says.

After integrating the transformative disciplines into his life, Stockel experienced a revelation. Why can’t they be woven together seamlessly? The Mind-Body Project was born. Part HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), part yoga, part breath work and meditation, the method combines elements of practices that the audience likes in a symbiotic flow. Classes take place in the brand’s new 3,300-square-foot space in New York. Designed by local firm Bright Architecture, the interior is lined with European oak, ethereal wall coverings from Wallpaper Projects of Brooklyn, and a catamaran-style lounge area. In the studio itself, individual mats are embedded in the wooden floor, Cut by Strips of dimmable LED lights that control the mood in the entire class.

“One of our goals is to free New Yorkers from the overstimulation outside of our space. Our teaching experience begins and ends with a meditation to create this separation from outside noise. With this in mind, it was our goal for the common areas of the studio to do justice to this cathartic feeling, ”says Stockel. “When you’re in the studio, the floor lights go on and the music comes on – there is a sense of controlled chaos that is meant to challenge you both physically and mentally.”

Below, the founder of the Mind Body Project gives us a close look at the philosophy behind the brand and their holistic Manhattan studio.

The Mind Body Project exterior at night. Photography by Claire Esparros.

Project description: The world’s first meditation and high-intensity fitness experience.

Project inspiration: As a child, I always struggled with fear, and those struggles continued into adulthood. However, I was constantly looking for coping mechanisms. Exercising as a child and fitness as an adult was a haven for me as it turned my mind off due to physical exhaustion and deep immersion in the task at hand. In my adult years, I was introduced to meditation by a friend I was initially skeptical of but eventually fell in love with. It helps me calm my mind and stay present. I previously had a successful career in the digital media industry but had a desire to combine mental wellbeing and physical fitness and eventually left my previous industry.

Fitness and meditation are both uniquely effective in improving mental and physical health in very different ways. When I’m afraid, it’s usually about me rethink something in the Future or past. The best way to calm my mind rethink is to push my body to such an extreme limit that my mind has no thinking ability outside of the difficult task at hand. Conversely, meditation and drawing attention to the breath help me appreciate the present moment more than focus my mental energy on the essentials Future or past. This is the “why” behind the Mind Body Project methodology. It all comes from a personal place, but I believe it has the great scalability to help a lot of people.

Embedded yoga mats adorn the studio floor; bespoke meditation cushions from Stitchroom are available for class. Photography by Claire Esparros.

Founder of the Mind Body Project, Chris Stockel. Photography by Claire Esparros.

Project challenges: On the one hand, we have postponed our start by exactly one year to the day due to COVID. It was originally planned to open our doors in May 2020. With that, we now have many other business challenges to face. The biggest business challenge we face is convincing the world that their mental health is as important, if not more, than their physical health. We also have a uniquely nuanced class structure that demands a lot from the teacher in the room. Our task is to lead the class on a journey from zero (total silence) to 100 (body strain) and back to zero. This has never been done before, but luckily we have some of the most talented instructors imaginable who have honed their skills over time to make it a very special experience.

Project plan: My priority was to create an environment that reflected our studio experience. Our goal was a combination of calm and coolness to highlight the meditation component and bold splashes of color and textures to convey our fiery training component. We also have multiple functions that deliberately skew more residential than commercial. Arched corridors, an oversized hammock, curated artwork from Artstar, European oak, and ornate wallpaper are some of the more unexpected features of the space. My favorite design element are the custom-made mats that are built into the wooden floorboards of the studio floor and separated by strips of dimmable LED lights to create different moods in the classroom.

Photography by Nikita Dolgachev.

The hammock seats in the lounge are accented with wallpaper from Wallpaper Projects. Photography by Claire Esparros.

Takeaways / uniqueness: A new customer can expect a completely unique group fitness experience. Classes begin with a five-minute grounding meditation to arrive properly both mentally and physically. It helps our visitors to break away from the hectic world outside of our room.

Then we gradually move into an active warm-up to wake the body up and prepare for the challenging sections of the class using bodyweight exercises and TRX suspension trainers to get the heart rate up and the sweat dripping allow. Expect a dark room, fun music, and lots of energy. After our finishing, we reconnect with the breath and embark on our final 5 minute meditation to make you feel exhausted but with a sense of balance and inner stillness.

Meditation and high-intensity fitness have never been combined in one studio experience. The mind-body connection is often addressed and recognized, but never seamlessly integrated into a full studio experience.

The list’s Project Spotlight column features unparalleled projects created by our forward-thinking list members. By going straight to the source and letting the designers demystify the methodologies behind their designs, we hope to educate and inspire our creative audiences to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in design.

Mind Body Project is a member of The List, the goal for all things Surface approved. Would you like to join the list? Contact our team to learn how to apply.

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