The women in Tribe’s Mommy & Me Wellness class spread their mats in a semi-circle around instructor Delora Frederickson. Their toddlers stretch beside them or wander around the classroom. Their babies sit in car seats by their sides or on the mat with them, or they wear their babies. At any given moment, someone will stop to nurse or change a diaper.
This is exactly what Tribe founder Alex Winkelman Zeplain envisioned when she started Tribe this summer. “You can be Mom; they can be babies, you can relax,” Zeplain says.
When Zeplain, 28, had son Asher two years ago, she says she “felt a major void in my life as far as community.”
Before Asher was born, Zeplain was the founder of Citizen Generation, a nonprofit organization that encouraged her peers to give philanthropy. It raised about $1.2 million for nonprofits in five years as well as inspired twentysomethings to become volunteers and serve on nonprofit boards. She decided to dissolve it as she was expecting Asher so that she could become a stay-at-home mom.
The first ideas for Tribe came to her a month after Asher was born. The birth hadn’t gone as expected and she found herself feeling isolated and depressed.
She got all the advice about doing self-care, but she says, “I was so afraid to leave my house with a crying baby.”
She tried, but would spend an hour to get out of the house and then show up at a workout place to find that childcare was full or that class had already started.
Once, she saw a fellow mom working out in the hallway because coming into class with a baby would have been a no-no.
And then she had a couple of experiences that showed her that there could be a better way. She went to Baby Day at Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. There, she could watch a movie with Asher and it was OK if he cried or needed to nurse.
And then when Asher was 4 months old, she went with her husband on a work trip to Minnesota. She found a recreation center with a huge gym, a spa, a work space and more. The person at the front desk encouraged her to take Asher with her onto the gym floor. And she did.
“It was such a positive experience,” she says. “Why doesn’t this exist in Austin?”
Her experience fueled Zeplain’s need to create Tribe. She says she had an “identity crisis. I thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom,” she says. “Now it’s pretty clear I’m supposed to do this. It’s healthy for me.”
Right now about 75 women belong to Tribe, but more than 500 women have taken one of the classes. Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, two classes — the Mommy & Me Wellness and the Prenatal/Postnatal Wellness — are free and open to the community. The first time a woman attends, she gets a free week of Tribe membership to try it out.
Tribe classes include barre, yoga, strength and tone, and Pilates. In an adjoining room, children who are walking have childcare where they learn songs, do yoga, have free play and learn a lesson of the day. Moms can watch their children from a small window in the workout room or on a closed-circuit TV in the lobby at Balance Dance Studios, where Tribe is currently held.
Babies hang out with Mom and it’s pretty typical for a mom to do part of a workout, stop to take care of her baby, and jump back in at another part of the workout or at the next class.
The free classes really center on wellness and talking about the e
xperience of being a mother while doing yoga or a modified workout.
Tribe is more than a space for women to work out. It’s a space for women to connect. “I’m so open about my struggles,” she says. “It sets the tone here. It sets the tone that it’s all OK.”
Tribe is becoming what Zeplain wanted it to be. After and between classes, women hang out in the lobby together or in the workout studio. Tribe also has held moms-only happy hours, and some Tribe women have formed friendships outside of Tribe hours.
“I’m obsessed with the experience people have,” she says. “What is the vibe here? Are people making friends?” She knows it’s working, she says, “when I have to kick people out of the room. They all stay and chat together.”
The first week Tribe opened, Jessie Collins showed up. She’s the mom of 18-month-old Amelia. “There’s a common ground that’s not what a gym is rooted in,” she says. “When you go there, you automatically have something in common, something you desperately want to talk about. There’s an unspoken bond immediately.”
Erin Ungar who has both 3-year-old Stella and 7-month-old Remy, says the experience is “more than just physical. It’s therapy, it’s a support group.”
Alana Hatton started at Tribe when she was 30-weeks pregnant. Now she has son, Ziggy, who is 2-months-old.
“When you don’t have children, you have the ideals of mommies, that mommies have it all together all the time,” she says. “They just go have birth, and life is perfect again. I got a heavy dose of reality that that is not the case.”
She remembers walking in the doors when she was almost two weeks overdue and finding women to commiserate with. That class they talked about what they wish they could change. One woman said that she wished she could have had natural childbirth instead of the Cesarean section that happened. That was Hatton’s biggest fear. She started crying. “Every woman in the class got up and hugged me,” she says. “You could go to a regular yoga class and you’re not going to get that. It’s been incredible.”
Zeplain calls what Tribe is now as the pilot for what she hopes will become a full-service space for moms with children of all ages. Her plan is to move Tribe into a larger space within the next eight months and then to build a larger, custom-designed space later. Zeplain would love to have all kinds of services from spa to cafe to work space under the Tribe roof. She wants it to have “all the resources a woman needs to focus on self and wellness,” she says.
And that might mean expanding the services to be for the whole family, especially on weekends when it’s family time.
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday
Where: 4544 S. Lamar Blvd. No. 200
Membership: $99 a month or $75 five-class pass