I’ve been working in the wellness industry as a yoga teacher, massage therapist, and doula for over twenty years, and lately I’ve been questioning what “wellness” really means. Being on my own wellness journey and interacting with thousands of clients over the years has taught me that “wellness” is a multi-layered concept.
Our mental and emotional health affects our physical health and vice versa. Our environment – the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe – affects our physical health, which in turn affects our mental and emotional health. The society we live in – its values, infrastructure, and systems – determines our access to resources, how we understand and value ourselves and others, and how we spend our time. This all affects our physical, emotional, and mental health.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. “Wellness” is not only a fit body, or the absence of disease, but also includes the health of our earth and our social systems. None of us can be truly healthy and whole unless the planet and our society are also healthy and whole. We are inextricably connected.
All the above is a major reason why I am committed to racial equity within my business at Mind the Mat. As a wellness practitioner, I see it as my responsibility to understand what “wellness” is from a holistic perspective so I am aware of crucial factors that might be contributing to stress, disease, and imbalance in myself, in my clients, within my business, and within my community.
Another reason I am committed to racial equity within my business is that small businesses of all kinds (not just health and wellness businesses) create the fabric and ethos of a community. Small business owners are not only conveyors of services and goods but also leaders who offer our communities a vision of life. We are the grassroots of our neighborhoods. Our deepest values are expressed through our businesses. When we interact with clients and customers, those values filter out onto our streets. As such, I believe all small business owners who care about the wellbeing of the communities where we work and live should care about racial equity and do what we can to enact it.
Recently I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on race and equity presented by Agenda Alexandria, a non-profit, non-partisan organization: Advancing a New Conversation on Race, Equity, and Inclusion – YouTube
The discussion was moderated by a Mind the Mat client named Alyia Gaskin, an African American woman who is now running for City Council in Alexandria. Through personal and professional experience, Alyia has a deep understanding of the intersection between business, wellness, and racial equity.
During the panel discussion viewers wrote in with questions. Panelists only had time to comment on a few. Many of the questions seemed to come from people who identify as white. I have heard from white people that they are afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to sound ignorant or hurt anyone’s feelings. I have heard from white people that they don’t know what actions to take. I have heard from white people that they feel hurt, angry, and defensive when they engage in discussions about race and equity. To feel all the above is 100 percent natural. It’s to be expected. So, let’s address the feelings. We can’t move forward unless we do.
I believe white people need more spaces to process their feelings about race. Those spaces must be wholly compassionate and non-judgmental. For this reason, I am planning to hold a processing circle for people who identify as white. It will be scheduled to occur via Zoom within the next few months. In the circle I will share my own journey as I have grappled with issues around race and equity. In addition, using valuable communication tools I have gained from the practice of yoga, which goes far beyond the mat, I will facilitate a conversation among participants.
My hope is that if white people are able to process their thoughts and feelings around race it will enable them to move past their emotional reactions and do the work of dismantling institutionalized racism. I have heard from many BIPOC people that they are tired and it’s not their responsibility to hold space for white people’s feelings or to help them understand the importance of addressing institutionalized racism. I agree wholeheartedly with this. This is white people’s work. Let’s do it!
If this is a group you might be interested in joining, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am in the process of gathering names of those who might be interested. I have not yet scheduled the event. I truly believe this would be an enriching experience for all who join. Stay tuned!
Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.
Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.