"How a yoga A-board in Sheffield transformed my life completely"
In 2016 Chris Downham was running a successful financial services and property company with his twin Rob when they were subject to fraud and the result was bankruptcy.
For the 18 months whilst their assets were disposed of they both worked on a one acre plot of derelict land in Crookes and created a community farm. Little did Chris know it would be the beginning of a completely new life...
Chris said: “We just wanted to give back and spend time outdoors after years of being in an office. We loved the farm. It gave us time to think, rediscover ourselves and once more find our passions and purpose.
“Whilst digging I hurt my back, then one day whilst walking to the farm I noticed an A-board outside Hot Yoga Sheffield that said ‘life transformation inside.’ I was certainly having a life transformation so it piqued my interest.
"Looking in the window I saw mention of yoga for backache. I also had a crippling back. So I started doing hot yoga every day!
“I loved it, my pain started to disappear, I shed weight, I felt younger, my mind started to clear. For years I had been a type A, uber-competitive, steak-eating, red wine devouring, happy, Conservative capitalist. My transformation started to give me the opportunity to try something completely different. I became vegetarian and then entirely plant-based, I stopped drinking, I meditated, slowed down, slept more, got out in nature loads and felt amazing. My pain had vanished and soon I was running ultra marathons and feeling incredible. A total change, both Chris' were happy but this one felt better for me, my relationships, my kids and the planet.
“Although I loved yoga and pilates and thought everyone should do it the overtly spiritual vibe and use of confusing language wasn't quite for me and made it harder to get all my friends involved.
"My wife, Jen was also a keen yogi and a qualified PE teacher, and together we decided that we could create a new type of studio in Sheffield, something more urban, modern, combining the best of yoga with the best of the surging boutique fitness industry. Combining our skills we created R1SE Yoga. We set up our studio in an amazing building made from shipping containers called Krynkl in hipster Kelham Island. We were rammed from the start. “With our signature classes being delivered in a hot room with Ibiza inspired beats, gentle lighting and an amazing atmosphere proving very popular. R1SE was flying and people loved what we were doing. By February 2020 we had filled all our 200 memberships and every class was full but then....Covid struck and like so many other businesses we were closed overnight and for most of the next 12 months. We have always loved a challenge and quickly managed to create an incredible online studio. We have since filmed over 1,000 classes, created loads of courses and totally diversified. This combined with the support of our amazing members and good government and council support meant that we didn't just survive lockdown, we thrived.
“In May we started work on a brand new space. A 4,000 sq ft of state of the art, studio at Brook Place, Napier Street, it will comprise luxury changing, a large community area and two studios with underfloor heating. We can't wait to open in late June and have some really exciting plans. The mission of R1SE is to help people be their best self.
“Oh and my twin also ended up in a totally different life. In March 2020, one day before lockdown was announced, he signed the lease on The South Seas in Broomhill. Rob and his wife, Nikki, have created the most incredible wizard themed, cafe, bar, ice cream parlour, retail and entertainment space called The Steel Cauldron.
“So what a few years it has been. So many lessons learned. So much gratitude and so much excitement for the future whilst trying to go at a pace to enjoy the everyday.
“If I had a favourite thing in Sheffield it would have to be the green spaces, both the parks and peaks. The countryside is absolutely world-class. I am a keen runner and I could run different trails every day for the rest of my life. I love the fresh air, incredible views and the way that everyone says hello to one another.”