2020 goals for more than just your physical health
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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.
Since 1992, April has been recognized as Stress Awareness Month. It was established to help shed light on the issues behind stress, teach us how to fight it, and create methods to overcome it. While this initiative has existed just shy of three decades, this year it seems particularly important.
With a year under our belts in pandemic mode—a lot of us had to get creative when it came to keeping our cool. On top of that, everyday stresses didn’t just magically disappear during this time either. Just think about it—have you ever been in a situation that was overwhelming? Maybe you’ve had a looming deadline or a to-do list that seems, well...totally un-doable? If you’ve ever felt you were in over your head, please know you’re not alone—you never are. At one time or another, we’ve all been affected by stress—although each person may manifest it differently. Me? I'm definitely a frequent rider on the "hot mess stress express."
There are many ways to help combat stress—some of us seek out support from friends and family, while others find solace in taking up meditation or unwinding with a relaxing yoga class. Whatever helps you find peace, just keep doing you. But also know we have some resources to help you overcome stress whenever the need arises.
Here are some blog posts that are always available to you when you feel a little stressed out:
When in doubt, breathwork expert and sound healer, Shanila Sattar, always has tips to help ground yourself—especially in times of need. In this blog post, she gives you the recipe for incorporating self-love into your daily routine by encouraging us to ask ourselves these questions: How do we treat ourselves? How do we talk to ourselves? What foods are we putting into our bodies? How are we thinking about our overall well-being when practicing self-love? As we all know, self-love defines and redefines itself for everyone over the years, here are a few foundational tips to think about when easing into your self-love journey.
Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and it aims to restore the mind, body, and soul through deep, guided meditation. The way it works is like the way a power nap helps one feel refreshed during a particularly exhausting day, except you aren’t technically sleeping. I describe it as a long-form of savasana—anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. (Real talk: savasana is one of the best parts of practicing yoga, am I right?)
TLDR: I learned that I could conquer stress in a matter of minutes with Yoga Nidra.
Are we safe in saying this last year brought up a ton of emotions the likes of which we did not plan for? The good, the bad, the “unprecedented”—our hearts and minds have been taken on a wild rollercoaster ride, and for many of us, our mental health is suffering. With our minds running in thousands of directions, it’s hard to notice our own needs. Yes, our attention to the goings-on of last year is vital but caring for ourselves is as important as ever. Here are some tips from our favorite yoga instructor, Dani Schenone.
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last year is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves. Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.
If you've got those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety coursing through your body right now, you're definitely not alone. We get it. Times are uncertain, our mental health is taxed, we're doing what we can to reduce stress and anxiety in general, and relaxation has taken a back seat. It’s no secret that stress is proven to weaken our immunity, so now more than ever, it's important to relax, deal with what's happening, and find the coping mechanisms to help you reclaim your mental health and reduce your involvement in stressed moments. Let's deal with stress and anxiety together and see what we can do to reduce them.
Meditation will change your life if you let it. The pace of our modern life is at least ten times what it was just 10 years ago. Technology improved our lives but also created a more frenetic and stressful pace. If we decided to stop, breathe, and become more mindful, we would reduce stress and experience much more enjoyment in each moment of our everyday lives.
There’s always something to worry about. Whether it’s our career, relationships, dating, or trauma, we go through moments that bombard us with negative thoughts that can make us feel anxious and stressed. Our worries may often define our choices, our view of the world, or ourselves. This doesn’t mean they are faults, flaws, or downfalls—we just need to practice managing them in a healthy way, placing deserved value on self-care. Yoga is only one connection. Check out these seven yoga poses that can help your mind and body when you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or overall stress.
We’re all guilty of our routines and habits running our lives at one point or another. We’re all guilty of being attached to our schedules and our to-do list. We’re all guilty of running on a loop every now and then. As the energies of 2021 continue to shift, we get to ask ourselves the intentions of why and how we are participating in the places we are participating in, the thoughts we are thinking, the habits we are cultivating, and the communities that we are a part of. This intention and mindfulness process can not only shift our own experiences but of those around us as well.
If you have found meditation to be useful in trying times, right now is an incredible time to also try virtual sound baths to receive the deep sound healing benefits. As many of us are processing a variety of emotions as a collective—stress, worry, fear, anxiety, uncertainty—we can start to cause long-term damage to our bodies, especially to our immune and nervous systems. Giving ourselves self-care in a way that is easy, non-intrusive, and simple, can be the perfect way to help your body restore.
These resources aren’t the only thing we have to help you deal with stress—they’re just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are tons of classes available to you on the Mindbody app and through Mindbody Flex to help you reignite your calm whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. And always remember, at the end of the day, your best is always good enough.