“I thought, ‘where is the Headspace content which is very practical and accessible, they don’t talk about religion at all, where can I go and do that?’,” he says.
Harris – who previously worked in finance, including five years at Virgin Active – wants to scale MYND in a similar way to F45 Training with more studios across Sydney and Melbourne.
“This might sound arrogant, but we think there’s massive scope,” Harris says.
”I don’t see why it couldn’t be in 10 years’ time something similar to F45 where every city has a studio where you go and meditate and it sits along your fitness regime.“
While meditation centres aren’t new, the more common format they offer is a multi-day or multi-week course, or less frequent drop-in sessions, often within a more authentic, Buddhist context. Some fitness and yoga businesses also have meditation but as a secondary offering. But studios like MYND are purpose-built just for meditation, teeming with minimalist Millennial aesthetic, and a class timetable and membership options that you might expect at a Fitness First gym.
Over in South Melbourne, meditation studio Mirosuna has a very similar model. After a stop-start launch due to lockdowns, it properly opened in November, designed with German cork floors, pitched ceilings and custom-made beds. With memberships starting at roughly $60 a week, the studio runs several daily meditation classes “without the woo” and offers meditative massage as well as events like “wine and wind down”.
Founder Sally Kellett is a meditation teacher who studied under Zen Buddhists, but with her studio she aims to “strip the religion out and deliver a mindful way of life”.
“A lot of meditation studios are non-secular … and that can be a challenge for the everyday person,” Kellett says.
She believes a gym-like framework can work well for meditation because many people need the regular guidance. “Just like you go to the gym to train your physical body, you have to train your mind and that takes work.”
Associate Professor Craig Hassed, a mindfulness meditation expert from Monash University, believes this new type of studio helps make it “convenient and accessible” for people new to the practice. And while Hassed doesn’t think it necessarily takes away from “genuine” meditation, he has some reservations.
“There is a bit of a risk that the motivation becomes the commercialisation rather than a true desire to offer something that improves people’s lives. I’m not saying these guys are doing that. [But] the more commercialisation you get, the more you risk the integrity of the motivation,” Hassed says.
He adds: “One of the cautions is that if people feel like it’s only in this quiet space with water features and aromatherapy and so on that they can be mindful or calm, then all of a sudden it gets tied to a small part of your life rather than it being portable … You want to be able to be mindful in challenging environments, not only the easy ones.”
Meditation has an increasing amount of scientific backing, and its popularity has hit fever-pitch as people search for ways to deal with the stresses of the pandemic. Sign-ups to Hassed’s free eight-week course doubled last year.
University of Melbourne psychologist Dr Nicholas Van Dam feels that studios are missing the mark if they suggest they’re dispelling a myth that meditation is “only for hippies”. “[It’s] pretty mainstream these days.”
Van Dam suspects meditation will go down the road yoga did by moving to a “gym model”.
“[Yoga has become] very minimalist, stripped of all its context,” he says. “It becomes more of a commercial entity and enterprise and the idea of it resolving the greater problems of modern life evaporates.”
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Nicole Economos is an online producer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Sophie is Deputy Lifestyle Editor for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.