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The fitness, wellness, and beauty industries pride themselves on helping people look and feel their best, but they can often create environments that do not feel welcoming and inclusive to all. Our goal is to amplify Black voices in the wellness community and draw attention to any moments of discomfort that can help lead to positive changes.
We wanted to find out how business owners, fitness instructors, stylists, wellness practitioners, and community members alike can help improve these industries by highlighting real stories—both negative and positive—to provide perspective into marginalized experiences in wellness. We reached out to MBUnited, a diverse council of minority and allied team members dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue, awareness, and opportunity for minorities.
Here, three team members share their stories.
The lack of representation in mainstream media has been a longstanding battle against inclusivity. Many beauty advertisements, social media accounts, and magazines depict photos of blonde, thin, white women with long, straight hair. This is an issue for many reasons, as it sets a false standard of beauty that neglects most people in this country and seems to exclude them from the beauty market.
Not only that, but many women with textured hair have trouble finding a properly trained stylist who is respectful and inclusive in their practice. Antoinette Little, Technical Business Analyst at Mindbody, shared:
Hair shrinkage is natural for women with textured hair, and the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage you will have. For many years, images of white women with long, straightened hair have dominated, causing insecurity amongst black women. Being a black woman with long curly hair, I've experienced going to busy salons where I've been told ‘we don't service people with your type of hair’ while running fingers through my hair with disgust. As a result, causing me to be extremely self-conscious about the maintenance of my hair and the people I choose to service it.
Walking into a salon should be an exciting and comforting experience. These businesses and stylists exist to help us look and feel beautiful. If they are up-charging or turning some of us away, they are contributing to the false standard of beauty represented in the media and creating an environment that not only excludes but creates longstanding insecurities in Black women.
Group fitness is also often associated with one type of person. We see images of super-fit men with big biceps and six-packs, or skinny, blonde yogis in expensive athletic wear. Many have walked into fitness studios and felt out of place, whether because of their weight, age, skin color, background, or even clothing. This feeling can be reinforced—or diminished—by the type of instructors working in these businesses.
If a business is owned or operated by a diverse staff, it can provide an environment that is welcoming to all types of people. According to Nicole Ely, QA Analyst IV at Mindbody, “If you don't have a diverse staff, the chances your staff will have bias issues are WAY stronger.”
When asked about a wellness experience that stood out as welcoming and inclusive amongst the rest, many of our MBUnited team members mentioned diversity among staff, clientele, and social media.
I took a pole/aerial silk fitness class in New Jersey. The studio has since been closed, but it was the most welcoming experience I'd ever had. The studio was run and operated by black women. I'd never been to a studio run by black women, so the novelty appealed to me. The fact that they were so welcoming, patient, and encouraging made me feel like aerial silks weren't so scary and that they could be for me, a plus-sized black woman.
In classes, I noticed there were women of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, which made the class fun and interactive. Instructors never brought attention to any particular group or individual and played music that wasn't tailored to any specific genre. Oftentimes, I've attended workout sessions when instructors see too many Black faces, and they assume Rap is the type of music the group wants to work out to.
And Derelle Davis, Business Operations Specialist at Mindbody, said, “I love seeing fitness studios whose advertisements and social media looks like a melting pot.”
From diversity and inclusivity of staff, instructors, and clientele, to music played and images on social media accounts, there are so many ways businesses can contribute to a more inclusive environment for all.
If you’re an instructor, stylist, or business owner, be aware of these issues. Whether it’s remembering to encourage everyone equally, educating yourself on unconscious bias and how to eliminate it, or training on how to be a better ally, every step counts toward making positive change in the wellness industry.
When asked how businesses can do better, Ely suggested, "Hire external trainers to talk about bias. Study up about issues in wellness concerning black people and people of color. AND LISTEN when people of color are talking about what they want from their experience.”
Davis specifically mentioned giving each member of fitness classes direct eye contact and encouragement: “Saying something kind and simple like, ‘We're happy to have you, enjoy the class!’ can go a long way.”
If you’re a client at salons, spas, or fitness studios, you can also do your part to increase inclusivity and create a more welcoming environment for all.
If you walk into an establishment, and you see a person of color waiting, and the practitioner calls you up first, ask if you're in line after that other person. Call attention to the fact that someone isn't being seen. Don't support businesses that have race issues. Just because they're comfortable or familiar to you, let them know with your dollars that they need to be comfortable and familiar to everyone in the community.
And while your personal interaction with an establishment can go a long way towards promoting inclusivity, it also helps to marshal the support of friends—and the World Wide Web.
“Invite your friends to help add to the diversity, and write reviews not only explaining the service but including your ethnicity," encouraged Davis. "Personally, if I see Jane's Salon has a stylist that knows how to style African American hair, and they have a great review, I'm going to give them try.”
Over and over again, the message from our respondents was clear: sustained, intentional change from businesses requires sustained, intentional action from its clientele. Being clear about what you’d like to see from a business, leaving reviews about what you have seen, and voting with your wallet can all make a huge difference. As Little put it:
1. Engage with the business and its owners by providing ideas for improvement and feedback on the service you received.
2. Promote the business to your friends and social media groups. If business owners start to see a diverse group of recurring customers, they'll be more prone to expand the quality of service they're providing.
3. Don't give up easily! Once changes are made, business owners will sustain if forced to.
Overall, the wellness industry is supposed to exist to help everyone look and feel beautiful, safe, healthy, and welcomed. At Mindbody, our goal is connecting the world to wellness—not just the blonde yogi or shampoo model.
We all want to be well. And we all want each other to be well. But, in order for the wellness industry to feel attainable and inclusive to all, some changes need to be made. And these changes start with all of us.
In the words of Ely,
I want to support your business. I want to feel beautiful and fit. I want to have an amazing experience at your business! If you don't see people of color at your establishment, if they aren't coming back after coming in once, DO THE DEEP DIVE AND ASK WHY! Look at your staff. Look at your products. Look at your fitness plans. Do your homework and figure out if you can build the same experience for white people AND people of color with the tools and staff that you have. If the answer is no, fix it, and don't just write POC off as a ‘not our target clientele.’
Wellness transcends physical fitness. It’s a dedication to social, emotional, spiritual, and environmental well-being—everything that makes each of us and our communities whole. True wellness cannot be achieved while Black people face ongoing injustice. This is why we fight for Black lives.
If you’ve ever taken a hot yoga class, you know it’s always going to be one thing—outrageously hot. Not the “let’s hang by the pool and get that sun-kissed glow” kind of hot either. I’m talking that “I can't believe I have this much sweat in my body” and “I may or may not pass out” kind of hot. It’s nothing to mess around with, and after a year or so of not being able to go, it’s easy to forget just how serious that heat can be.
To get the maximum enjoyment and benefits out of your heated yoga classes, you need to prepare yourself before and take care of yourself afterward. Luckily, I’ve been taking some classes (sweating enough for the both of us) and I’ve listed my five favorite must-dos to help you readjust to your heated classes and get back to the hot yoga summer that we all want.
Heated classes are difficult in nature. The normal difficulty of regular poses is mixed in with the added challenges of sweating and dealing with the humidity and the heat (at times, I’ve seen the thermostat climb to 108 degrees—yikes!). Depending on what type of yoga class you’re taking (sculpt, Bikram, power vinyasa), the difficulty level and temperature are going to vary. It’s also important to remember that each person in the room is going to practice in a way that’s unique to them. Hours slept, hydration levels, food intake, and different lifestyles are all contributing factors that make our practices different. What you practice on your mat is your own––trust your body and only do what feels right to you. And remember, it’s okay to take breaks!
The rise in temperature mixed in with the humidity that we all know and love creates the perfect recipe for sweating—like A LOT. You go into a heated class dry and come out feeling like you just took a dip in the pool. Before heated classes, I had no idea it was physically possible to sweat that much. If you’re going to a heated class, especially after a long break, it’s easy to forget just how much you might sweat. Is it possible to lose that much water if you haven’t consumed it first? Trust me, going into your heated class super hydrated is going to make a world of difference and help you feel good throughout your practice. And don’t forget to take some sips of H2O while you’re practicing!
Heated classes are challenging, but I can’t stop going. Nothing quite compares to overcoming the challenge— and experiencing the cleanse my body feels after I’m done. It’s the perfect blend of hard and rewarding, but I couldn’t do it if my body wasn’t properly nourished. On the days I know I have a heated class booked; I like to make sure I am eating right. I make sure to take my vitamins and fuel my body with fruits, vegetables, and my favorite superfood shake. I hold off on food about an hour before my practice, so I feel comfortable. After the class, I like to replenish with a big protein shake (boosted with collagen to aid with muscle recovery and skin elasticity). There is no one-way path for properly nourishing your body but making sure you’re fueled for the challenge of a heated class is essential for getting the most out of your practice and feeling good on and off your mat.
Increasing and maintaining your water intake on the days you take a heated class is important, but sometimes you need something a little extra. If you’re sweating that much, you’re basically an athlete (at least in my book) and if you’re performing like a rockstar yogi, you need to hydrate like one as well. That means replenishing those lost electrolytes. Reward yourself and your body for the hard work and treat yourself to your favorite drink. I switch off between electrolyte-boosting drinks and coconut water depending on what I’m in the mood for that day. Adding these to my post-practice self-care routine has helped me feel more hydrated after and ready to take on the world again after especially sweaty classes.
Usually, a yoga mat is all you need for your practice––but heated classes are a different ballgame. I’ve gone with just a mat, and I’ve slipped all over the place. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having sweat drip all over the place while you’re trying to hold a pose that makes you grip your mat for dear life (never again). Make sure you bring a towel to place over your mat, this will help with support and grip. Bringing a smaller towel is also a good idea. You can use the smaller towel to dry yourself off during water breaks or whenever you’re feeling just a bit too sweaty. This is a small step that makes a world of difference during those super-hot classes.
So, there you have it. Five of my favorite tips (more like lifesavers) that have helped me readjust to those heated classes I love so much. Getting back into it is a challenge for us all, so know you’re not alone. No matter where you’re at in your practice, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself––celebrating your health and your body’s ability to do what you love. We’re all just getting back out there, together.
Ready to jump back into your hot yoga routine? Browse Mindbody to find the perfect class for you.
While you’re at it, check out some Intro Offers near you that can help you get back to your cadence of hot yoga classes.