To kick off our first issue of 2021, we reached out to our extended community to recommend the D.C. area individuals included in this roundup. Whether working as personal trainers, nutritionists, manifestation mentors or so many other roles, they inspire the District to define health and wellness for themselves. While by no means an exhaustive list, we hope their stories uplift and center you as we work together to navigate another intense year.
Holistic Health + Sound Meditation Practitioner
Personal Journey: In 2012, I connected with different yoga instructors around the DMV to offer yoga and sound healing workshops. As I watched each teacher lead the workshop’s yoga portion, I felt inspired to teach my workshop. The first 200-hour yoga certification I took was an immersion in Mexico by SOYA Yoga school based in Canada in 2014. In 2020, I completed my 300-hour yoga certification from Beloved Yoga in Reston, Va., which expanded and deepened my understanding of yoga to a point where I have moved beyond teaching asana and simplified complicated yogic philosophy to fit our modern lifestyle.
Practice + Prioritization: Since I could not rely on my previous schedule to move my body, I choose to increase my activity level independently. I started to invest in my health by buying workout equipment, workout at specific times in the day, tracked my workout progress and ate more healthy calorie-dense foods to pack on muscle. From March 2020 to January 2021, I have increased my strength, muscular size and overall weight to my desired goals. The most important thing that helps me stay consistent in my workouts is to notice how much stress relieving I feel and how much more calm I feel afterward.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: My definition of self-compassion [is] acknowledging the feelings arising inside you and giving yourself the right amount of attention, self-care and love that you need at the moment. One of my daily practices is pranayama (breathing exercises). It helps process stuck energies, negative emotions and release negative thought patterns. Our bodies can quickly go into fight or flight mode by our thoughts and feelings alone. If we can slow down our breathing pattern, we can turn on the parasympathetic (rest and digest nervous system) to calm our bodies and minds.
Senior Master Coach, [solidcore] + Founder, Body by James
Personal Journey: I am an athlete and have always loved pushing myself physically and mentally closer to my limits, getting stronger along the way. I grew up diving, and continued coaching dive and working out, but when I took my first [solidcore] class I knew I found my next passion. Classes are crazy hard, more mentally challenging than any workout, and the results are amazing. I’ve been coaching at [solidcore] for the past six years and still love the workout and the community of coaches, leadership and clients. Once the pandemic hit, I launched my own workout: a virtual HIIT class combining fitness techniques I’ve learned over the years, and called it Body By James (BBJ). It’s been so fun to coach and connect with clients again and hear how much they appreciate the workout.
Practice + Prioritization: I spend a lot of time teaching fitness to other people, but I’m especially deliberate about scheduling and taking my own workouts. I mix it up and frequently take classes at Cut Seven, where I used to also coach many moons ago, and I love Katie Collard’s classes as well. Food is such an important part of my recovery and I love to cook so I also prioritize making enough time to make and enjoy my meals.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion means not judging myself or thinking that I’m crazy when I start to get too stressed. My schedule is completely packed and it can be overwhelming at times. Did I mention I also work at Deloitte? There is a lot going on so when I feel like my stress is rising I pull away, take some deep breaths, and sometimes I will meditate. When my meditation practice is most consistent, I feel like I can really crush any day no matter how crazy or busy.
Founder, Element Shrub
Personal Journey: Two worlds collided about eight years ago when my wife and I were living outside of Boston and had gotten involved in this group that foraged fruit from our neighbors’ backyards and learned everything there is to know about canning, pickling, jamming etc. We’d pick this fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste and make jams, pickles, pie, you name it. We learned about the concept of shrubs. And the same time, my wife was pregnant with our first child and she was looking for a healthier non-alcoholic drink that had the complexity of a cocktail, but was made with real ingredients and not a ton of sugar.
Practice + Prioritization: It’s tough, but my wife and I made one resolution in 2021: to wake up at 5:45 a.m. to work out together for 30 minutes. Obviously, the pandemic has been with us for more than just the last three weeks. Prior to that, having a schedule and a routine was the most important part of it, for me at least. We’re lucky to have a yard in Arlington (as opposed to living in an apartment building) so we would try and get outside as much as possible.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: For me, it’s exercise, long walks, playing the piano and keeping to a routine.
Trainer + Entrepreneur
Personal Journey: When I was around 16, my dad was shot dead three blocks from where I lived. I began selling drugs to provide for my family. By 19, I was indicted on a 33-person drug conspiracy [charge] and sentenced to five years in prison where I began to workout, receiving and reading men’s health magazines that taught me to properly exercise and diet. Before you knew it, I had 20-30 guys working out with me in prison until I was released in 2016. I met Pusha T through a mutual friend and began training him, getting noticed by magazines and news stations. I started my company 23 & 1, a prison-style boot camp, that hires returning citizens as fitness instructors. Then, I woke up to a DM from D.C. top rapper Shy Glizzy. I started training him and he took me on a two-month tour around the country. [I got] publicity from Fox 5 DC and Channel 8 and have been growing ever since.
Practice + Prioritization: I’m vegan as of the last three years, juicing two days per week and taking herbs everyday: sea moss, bladderwrack, elderberry, etc. I also work out about four to five times per week. I practice stoicism, which is a philosophy that separates things I can control vs things that I can’t, and focus my energy and efforts on the things I can. Has been pivotal in maintaining a healthy mindset.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: I believe the first step in self-compassion is awareness. Being aware, and comfortable with not being perfect and accepting flaws. Being acceptable to yourself. I practice this every day. I notice myself caring less and less about other opinions about myself. I love using my shortcomings and turning them into assets and opportunities. I use being a felon as fuel, not sympathy, and keep a contagious smile.
Owner, Danimal Fitness
Personal Journey: I decided to pursue my teenage dream of becoming a yoga teacher after a friend of mine died in a car accident back in 2014. At that point, I stopped focusing on what I was supposed to do with my life and started pursuing what I wanted to do with my life; becoming a yoga teacher. For a while I taught for other studios and focused on honing my skill, but when the pandemic hit and quarantine began, I was able to put my media training and yoga teaching to use in building an online fitness studio. Over the last year, Danimal Fitness has grown from me teaching a few yoga classes a week to a full online fitness studio with a teaching staff and 20 classes a week, ranging from power yoga and pilates to drag queen-led bootcamp classes.
Practice + Prioritization: Prioritizing self-care has only become a reality for me in the last couple of months. Building an online fitness studio from nothing did damage to my body and mind. However, the first yogic ethical principle is non-violence, which is essentially synonymous to self-care when you dig deeper, and I knew I needed to practice what I teach. I canceled my Sunday classes and now use it as self-care Sunday to light some candles, foam roll, do a mask, take a bath, drink mint water, read something that makes me happy and, most importantly, do no yoga at all. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in years.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: I think RuPaul put self-compassion best when she said, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” With yoga and fitness, that means making a practice of it: waking up early or putting off work to make it to the mat. It can also mean rest, meditation or sometimes a hard drink. Most people think yoga is a series of poses, but it’s actually more of a lifestyle. Danimal Fitness takes people as they are, encourages them to make time for their practice and recognizes that when someone doesn’t make it to the mat, they’re doing the “yoga” they need.
Director of Human Resources, Balance Gym
Personal Journey: I have loved movement ever since I was little, but I didn’t decide to make it my profession until about 15 years ago. My masters degree is in athletic training, which has given me an incredibly solid foundation in anatomy and physiology, and I have been able to take that into the fitness industry. Balance Gym is a really unique community. They embraced me and my skills and gave me a place to grow. I started as the personal training director, but Balance does a really amazing job at creating opportunity for those who want it, and they helped elevate me to the role I have now: teaching classes, training clients and other coaches, and running the gym’s personnel, all while wearing leggings. It’s the dream!
Practice + Prioritization: Self-care, to me, is more about setting up my future self for success than wallowing in the present. My favorite forms of self-care are taking a shower, prioritizing my own workouts and not compromising on good sleep. If I can get all three of those in every single day, I am able to face all challenges with calm and grace. That, and maybe a spoonful of Nutella.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is the reminder that perfection is a myth, and it is the journey that matters. I can be really hard on myself when I fail something, but failure is so important for growing. Especially in fitness, goals are important and necessary, but you cannot let the goal get in the way of the process. Journeys can be difficult and emotional and frustrating, and self-compassion is embracing those roadblocks as a chance to learn, not a moment of failure. Every time that I fail, I give myself a big mental hug, take a deep breath, and resolve to learn.
Nutrition Therapist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor + Macro Social Worker, Truly Real Nutrition
Personal Journey: Like most dietitians and other healthcare providers, I was trained through the weight-normative lens that equates health with thinness and ascribes moral value to foods. I practiced this way for a long time because it was what I knew. It wasn’t until I burned myself out from overworking out and got fed up with chasing this elusive body that I realized there had to be another way. I came upon the body positivity community and the “all foods fit” philosophy on social media. The idea that I didn’t need to micromanage my body and everything I put into it deeply resonated with me. I immersed myself in all things HAES [Health At Every Size], body liberation and intuitive eating. I changed my life and professional philosophy, and have not looked back. I am a nutrition therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor and macro social worker in private practice. I proudly empower my clients to give up dieting in exchange for trusting their bodies and breaking free from food rules that result in feelings of failure and shame.
Practice + Prioritization: I’ve had to redefine self-care for myself because this has truly been an unprecedented year. This has meant slowing down significantly. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to meet deadlines, be responsive to every single inquiry and maintain a social media presence. I no longer have the bandwidth for any of that, and it has truly taken a lot of pressure off. Eating intuitively and getting out for fresh air are also important self-care practices.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion means extending grace, understanding, and kindness to myself in the same way I would to a friend or a loved one. It means recognizing my own humanity and not holding myself to unrealistic standards that do not serve me. Practicing self-compassion is one of the ways in which I care for myself. It is a health practice that I use in all areas of my life. If I find that I’m being hard on myself because I’m having a bad body image day or because I didn’t move enough on that particular day, I may imagine myself embracing myself in the same way I would a loved one who is being hard on themselves. I remind myself not to place expectations on myself that I wouldn’t place on others.
LAUREN A. HERSH
Personal Journey: My holistic wellness interest started in my early 30s when I realized the deleterious effects of the use of hormones in birth control pills over a long period of time. I realized that I had grown up in a different paradigm of what good health looks like, focusing more on external appearances and putting a Band-Aid on any internal signals from my body. That’s when I decided to take back control and tune into my body to get to the root of my concerns, becoming my own health advocate, seeking out alternative methods to support my system and trusting my body’s innate capacity to heal. Through my exploration of various modalities and positive results, I was excited to spread the word to my family, friends and community at large. My passion led me to create Wunderwell, an online platform dedicated to providing information resources and connecting individuals with holistic practitioners. Wunderwell works with the community to help support, encourage and promote wellness in all forms.
Practice + Prioritization: The pandemic has opened the opportunity for me to slow down my usual pace of life, giving me additional space to pause and nurture my mind, body and spirit. I take more time with my morning and evening routines of meditation, journaling, visualization and reading. It’s also provided the chance for me to further expand my education in the health in wellness space and become certified as an integrative nutrition health coach over the winter.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion means tuning in and being kind to yourself. For many years I would push myself into overdrive with my fitness routines, scheduled commitments and desire to control my health. Nowadays, I’m more mindful in my intentions, focusing on slower, low-impact movements through yoga and Pilates to sustain my longevity. I am no longer rigorous with my routines, but pick and choose what feels right for my body at the moment. I also honor simple moments of gratitude throughout my day and appreciate the beauty in letting things unfold naturally rather than forcing an outcome.
Co-Founder + CEO, Vegetable and Butcher
Personal Journey: There are certain characteristics – some inherent, but most developed or learned – that are responsible for bringing me to my current role. The path from here to better is rarely linear. And getting to better is an endless pursuit with no clear destination. Along the way, we are occasionally presented with opportunities disguised as problems. And so an insatiable curiosity and a willingness to show up – every day – are prerequisites to better. Without a desire to understand and the willingness to work, problems are likely to remain problems. Or maybe I just have a problem with authority, don’t like rules or being told what to do, and I am naïve enough to think I can make things better.
Practice + Prioritization: If I don’t intentionally create the environment that makes caring for myself easy, I will forget. Over time I have discovered there are certain non-negotiables for me. These evolve with my priorities, but a few are foundational and will likely never change: sleep – a minimum of seven, ideally eight hours per night; exercise – a thoughtful and structured program; nutrition – healthy food to support my active lifestyle; play – adrenaline-filled physical activities or sports.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Recognition that we’re only human (and a dash of deterministic perspective). Once we realize there are many others all over the world experiencing similar challenges and struggles, self-compassion is easier to find. Meditation. And community by choice, not by default – intentionally surrounding myself with people I admire and care about, and who aren’t afraid to challenge me.
Sound Healer, Intuitive Business Coach + Founder, Woo Woo Company
Personal Journey: It all started with a regular yoga practice. The yoga helped my mind to quiet and I began to listen to my intuition. Manifestation, mindfulness, chakras and more began to help me really figure out my truth and purpose. I knew I needed to share these modalities as tools to help others so Woo Woo Company was born. I like to describe the company as a gateway into the world of woo woo and spirituality. Until a few years ago, I was a skeptic working in a PR agency, now I’m super grateful to be able to learn about these topics every day and share them with others in accessible ways.
Practice + Prioritization: Rest is productive. I can’t stress that enough. It’s easy to get into the cycle of doing and forget to be a human being. I’m incorporating rest into each day. These last few months, I’ve also added in days for creativity and learning. I block time off and find that I am more efficient when I return to work. Another way to describe self-care is how do you have fun? Self-care looks different for each person. Find what works for you and don’t compare it to anyone else’s routine.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: You can only feel as compassionate for others as you feel for yourself. And the ways we speak to ourselves are harsher than when we speak to a friend. When I am feeling critical of myself, I know I need to shift and ask myself, what would my best friend say? The mind is where we truly live. We must make it a safe and supportive space. More flow and less force.
Boxer, Personal Trainer + Founding Trainer, Rumble DC
Personal Journey: I actually used to work at a stock brokerage as a Senior Analyst when I left to pursue fitness full-time in 2018. I knew I was sitting in a puddle of wasted potential at my desk and that my talents are best used elsewhere. My first job in the fitness industry was at Equinox as a personal trainer, where I had the chance to become a subject matter expert in movement science. The Rumble DC founding team then had to move to New York for four months for onboarding and to bring this concept to our city. Fast forward to now I can confidently say I have made an impact on my clients’ lives, mindsets and boxing technique, of course.
Practice + Prioritization: It is important to give the world the best of you, not what’s left of you. So, I take my self-care and alone time very seriously. I make sure to tend to my thoughts, anxieties, fears and emotions instead of suppressing them, especially during such a stressful time. One way to do that is with a licensed professional. My therapist has been such a blessing throughout Covid and going to therapy is like brushing your teeth, but for your brain. I also make sure to move, the hardest part is just getting there. Yoga and boxing have also served as a yin and yang for me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s important for us all to find what works for us and what we need as individuals.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: It means that I release myself from all the judgments I make on myself. It’s not a one-time thing, but rather, a constant practice. It’s easy to fall under the comparison trap, so I also make sure to eliminate any Instagram accounts from my feed that trigger any type of self-deprecating thoughts or comparisons. None of my clients have ever reached their goals by hating themselves, so it’s important to remember that self-compassion and positive self talk goes a long way.
Meditation Teacher, Coach, Speaker + Business Trainer
Personal Journey: I have been practicing and teaching mindfulness and meditation for over two decades. In my late 20s I was working in a role that triggered a stress response in me that I’d never experienced before. I felt fatigued, unwell and I was desperate to find relief. This led me to study Sri Chinmoy; learn from Dr. Tara Brach; and complete multiple Vipassana meditation courses under S.N. Goenka, based on teachings of the Buddha rooted in 25 centuries of tradition. Today, I lead by drawing from thousands of hours of meditation study, practice and facilitation. I blend Western science and psychology with Eastern, indigenous and intuitive practices. I have a positive and holistic approach as I work with fundamentals of the person as a whole.
Practice + Prioritization: These are intense times. I have an array of tools I use to find peace and grounding. Starting mornings with meditation allows me to feel bigger than my mind, and more peaceful than when I let my mind run the show. Meditation calms my thinking and leaves me feeling more at ease. I feel most grounded and happy when I move daily. There’s a lot of intense energy that I can pick up and moving in some way helps me keep it flowing, so it doesn’t get stuck in my mind or body. Then, there’s eating for vitality. I do my best to prepare and cook most of my food from scratch, incorporating lots of colorful organic vegetables and fruits. Making a point to connect with people in some meaningful way has a noticeable effect on my mood and tends to leave me feeling more optimistic. Then there’s going into natural spaces [such as] parks and trails. I will often physically write what I’m grateful for or what I am happy about. This is a deliberate way I direct my attention to positive thoughts and emotions.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: When I become aware of my inner critic, I sometimes take some deep breaths and use mindfulness to see the automatic negative thoughts from a larger perspective. While I was previously zoomed into my mind, unquestionably believing the self-critical thoughts to be true, I don’t have to. They are old habitual thoughts and I can choose to be kind to myself instead of believing the automatic negative thoughts. When I notice that I’m believing those automatic thoughts, it helps me to become mindful and compassionately realize, just because thoughts are present doesn’t make them true.
Manifestation Mentor, Distill + Express
Personal Journey: The decision to make wellness the journey and not the destination came not from a life-changing event, rather from a deep awakening that I had not yet reached my highest potential. Only when I changed the path I was on, with the intent of living the life I had always wanted, did I understand that the universe was waiting to show me the answers to life’s questions. The pivot from student to teacher came, and it is my passion to share the beauty of manifesting with others, so that they can realize the life they always imagined is already here.
Practice + Prioritization: I start early in the morning, getting up an hour before my kids with self-hypnosis. Then I move onto visualizations and a gratitude journal. I make myself a Bulletproof coffee with adaptogens, ghee and almond milk in the Vitamix, while listening to binaural beats. Then I am ready for the kids! Then it’s time to move the body: a combination of yoga, pilates and barre. Before I hit the shower, I dry brush with essential oils in the direction towards my heart. At lunch I mix it up between a hearty soup or a huge salad, [adding] beans, seeds and sauces. At night I wind down with an Epsom salt bath, more journaling and hypnosis. The best time to meditate is first thing when you wake up and last thing before you go to bed, because your brain is in alpha brainwave states.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: For self-compassion, I practice Ho’oponopono, a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. I say the prayer to myself three times a day: “I love, I’m sorry, I forgive you, thank you.” When I set aside time on my calendar, I feel much more in flow with the universe and obstacles don’t sway me. So, I set an alarm in my phone.
Founder/Owner, The Om Room
Personal Journey: Growing up in a home of two generations of immigrants from India, I was lucky to be exposed to temples, yoga, meditation, incense, rituals and ancient remedies. These experiences carried through my life; scent and rituals, in particular, became a big part of my life, so much that 10 years ago I got certified as an aromatherapist to start a scent-related business. After getting a cushy corporate job, however, I kept putting off that dream until last year after getting laid off. Two months ago I launched The Om Room and my first product: sage and palo santo smudge sticks. The Om Room offers natural aromatherapy and energy-healing products to bring balance into your life and was born with the deep roots of my upbringing, as well as my own pursuit of finding harmony in my daily life.
Practice + Prioritization: Self-care is such an important part of my life. I meditate 10 minutes every morning and every night. I use essential oils daily because of their mood-enhancing abilities (i.e. orange and ginger body wash and lavender spray on my pillow at night). I get outside once a day to get a mental break, free of digital. I burn palo santo and practice positive affirmations; the smoke brings focus and leaves a pleasant lemony scent behind. I truly believe in the importance of self-care rituals to keep me grounded.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is about feeding your mind and body with love, just as you would to a small child or a plant that needs that water. By filling yourself up with love, you give yourself a chance to be the best version of yourself, which brings a sense of harmony and a ripple effect to those around you. Some practices I incorporate are: hot lemon water in the morning, weekly visualization practices, positive guided meditations, HIIT and yoga workouts, and weekly journaling of things that are going right (I know that sounds extra, but it’s super powerful).
Founder, Booze Free in DC, The Sobriety Collective + Zero Proof Nation
Personal Journey: I got sober in 2007. I didn’t intend on quitting drinking forever, but I knew I needed help. Over time, I got more comfortable in my sobriety and living a life without alcohol. About eight years into my journey, I wanted to share my story more publicly and connect with others, especially those that had creative outlets and celebrated multiple pathways to alcohol-free wellness. So I started The Sobriety Collective. A few years later, I got heavily interested in the boom of nonalcoholic beverages and wanted to be a part of spearheading the zero proof movement, both in D.C. and nationally. That’s how Booze Free in DC and Zero Proof Nation came to be. Now is the time to embark on a journey of sober curiosity. So many resources and beverages. It’s wildly exciting.
Practice + Prioritization: In mid-March of 2020, when all sense of normalcy dissolved around us, I made the decision to move my body more, choosing to view fitness as a celebration of my body rather than a punishment. I walked outside and found copious amounts of cheesy/fun YouTube dance workouts. I don’t guilt trip myself into exercising just so I can use the calorie deficit to eat more. I take baths. I read. I’ve watched almost every show that ever existed. I reach out to friends and family via FaceTime. I stay hydrated. I sleep. It’s all about going back to basics and listening to our bodies and minds right now.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: It means being gentle with myself. Of honoring how my body, mind and spirit are feeling. The old adage “one day at a time” really means to “be here now.” You can’t live in regret of the past; you can’t live in anxiety about the future. All you can do is really have the present, the now – sometimes it’s just a day at a time, a moment at a time.
Owner + Instructor, barre3 14th Street
Personal Journey: I have struggled with feeling good in my own skin my entire life. I have also struggled with belonging. I never dreamed of teaching fitness or owning a business, and now I do both. When you open your heart and mind to possibilities far beyond “should,” you may be very surprised. I love this work so fiercely because it has allowed me to build community at a time when we need it so badly, and it has helped me teach others how to settle into their own skin as well. My studio is that place of belonging so many people crave – me included.
Practice + Prioritization: The last 10 months have been a roller coaster with more valleys than peaks, to be honest. I’m learning to ride this roller coaster with more presence and honesty. When I show up to teach class, I am smiling and the words I use are positive and encouraging. That is my job, and I do my best to make that positivity authentic and warm. But I think it’s important for people to understand I am just a person. I am not always smiling and feeling hopeful. There are days when I have cried a river out of anger, frustration, fear or grief. It’s possible to be at the same time incredibly grateful for all you have, but devastated for all you have lost. Lately, self-care for me looks like this: Very little news (Sunday New York Times only); time connecting with friends by phone – Zoom or outside; time outdoors every day, even if it’s just a walk around the block; and time for quiet. I am a quiet person. I need space to think, time to rest and time to read. I also take an epsom bath almost every single day.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: We are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? I try to think of the voice and actions I use with small children: patient, loving, kind, gentle. This same intention turned toward myself is a good start. It’s a regular practice and I need frequent reminders. Much like the muscles in our bodies, we have to regularly stretch and flex the self-compassion muscle to make it strong and healthy. I have two sons, ages 15 and 12. These are tough ages for kids and they’re tough parenting years, too. I feel a real responsibility to model self-compassion at this time. I’m giving myself grace right now to eat foods that bring joy, let my emotions be fully expressed (especially the difficult and ugly ones), sleep when I need to sleep (even if it means missing out on watching a show with my family or skipping a morning workout), [and] trying to relax my own self-imposed “rules.”
Learn more at https://online.barre3.com/studio-locations/dc-14th-street and follow @barre3dc14thst on Instagram.
Personal Journey: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a “doodler,” but I didn’t actually start selling or sharing my art publicly until 2015. I made an illustration of a local coffee shop where all my friends and I would hang out and gave everyone a print as a present. Other regulars started asking me if I was the artist selling the prints, so I decided I would be! I’ve been selling my art ever since.
Practice + Prioritization: One look into my sketchbook and mixed media travel illustrations expose my slightly chaotic brand of self-care. I’m definitely not “chill” by nature, so any activity that involves me making a huge mess, doing a million things at once, and then cleaning it all up (sometimes) is my happy place. I’ve been able to make a ton of messes during the pandemic, and not had to worry about cleaning it up because no one is coming over. Ha!
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: One of the services I provide as an illustrator is “live doodling.” Essentially, while an event or lecture is happening, I freehand whatever I hear or see onto a poster and create a one-of-a-kind visual representation of what happened. People always ask me how I’m able to do it without mistakes, but all I see are my mistakes! Self-compassion to me is knowing the truth and deciding to love it anyway. Everyone is a perfectionist and overly self-critical about the things they love. You just have to choose to love yourself a little more than your mistakes.
Exercise Physiologist, Yoga Teacher + Founder, calm/cool collective
Personal Journey: I’ve shifted from improving the physical health of BIPOC communities to taking a more holistic approach to well-being. Many of our life experiences warrant the need for yoga and other healing practices, yet the lack of representation and inclusion in many of these spaces give the impression that they aren’t for us. Last fall, I launched the calm/cool collective, a wellness community that offers healing through holistic wellness practices, mindfulness tools and resources for BIPOC facing stress and trauma from their lives. A space to strengthen self-awareness, resiliency and the ability to feel at ease in any given moment.
Practice + Prioritization: Having regular check-ins with myself to notice how I’m feeling and what I need in any given moment became the foundation of my self-care practice. I often don’t realize I’m stressed or anxious until it shows up in my body, so developing that self-awareness was key in learning how to meet my physical, mental and emotional needs during this period of chronic stress. When my mother passed away unexpectedly in October, grief and despair compounded the already stressful situation, and at that point self-care became a necessary tool for survival. Currently, my self-care practices include exercising three times a week, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, breathwork and restorative yoga.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is being the best friend you’ve always needed, but to yourself. It’s telling your inner critic to chill with the judgements and instead offer yourself kindness and empathy for how you’re feeling at the moment. As someone who inherently feels the need to always be “strong” and “put together” (both of which are trauma responses from childhood), I struggled with allowing myself to feel and process the influx of emotions I experienced after my mom died. I’ve since learned that acknowledging and validating my feelings on a daily basis is the first step in releasing resistance and allowing the energy of the emotions to flow freely.
Mentor, Movement Facilitator + Somatic Healing
Personal Journey: My journey into this work isn’t linear. I was very much living a life that was no longer landing with me. I was involved in toxic romantic partnerships, working a job that didn’t showcase my strengths or passions, and would take myself into a drug-induced state on the weekends. I decided to leave it behind and discover pieces of myself that I hadn’t yet looked at. I worked many different jobs, found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, opened myself up, let myself make mistakes, and let go of this idea of who I had to be. I discovered that being of service and supporting others was my passion. I wanted to create a space where people could be supported and validated. The somatic-based movement that I guide clients in and the group work I facilitate allows me to bring all of the things I love and am great at into a space.
Practice + Prioritization: When we think of self-care, we often think of cozy bubble baths, hot tea and facial masks. While those elements do speak to self-care, there are other ways in which we can tend to our own wellbeing such as setting boundaries, learning to say no, and being honest with ourselves about what our capacity is. Over this last year, I have had many cups of delicious tea and walks in nature but more so, I’ve become more honest with myself about my own boundaries and what I’m available for. Self-care doesn’t always feel comfortable because it’s about creating sustainability within our own well-being.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Practice it through the lens of tenderness. Self-compassion is learning that we can continue to come home to ourselves time and time again. We can practice learning how to trust ourselves and tune into the cues that our body is giving us. We all have moments when we aren’t living with self-compassion. This makes sense as compassion and practicing self-intimacy isn’t encouraged by our societal conditioning. Somatic based expressive movement is one of the ways I connect with myself. Through movement, I can find compassion for the many pieces of my own inner being. For me, this is some of the most powerful healing I can offer to myself.
Indoor Cycling Coach + Meditation Leader
Personal Journey: I started my fitness journey back in 2012 not setting out to teach, just trying to find a way to move my body that I enjoyed and didn’t feel like punishment or a chore. I tried every workout and while all of them were enjoyable in their own way, indoor cycling was the only workout I genuinely loved and looked forward to. I would notice however that even though D.C. is incredibly diverse, I often found myself as the only Black woman in the room. Black women are not very often represented in fitness so when I did see a Black woman leading the class or in the room with me, I loved it and wanted to see more. That’s what planted the seed that I could do this and perhaps another Black woman to feel seen and like she belongs there too, not just as a member of the pack but leading it.
Practice + Prioritization: I speak a lot about self-care on my platform and believe the world could use a lot more of it. The biggest way I’ve been practicing and prioritizing self-care, particularly during this pandemic, is being mindful of my energy and protective of my peace, joy and happiness. That means if something isn’t resonating or disturbing my spirit, I don’t allow it in my space. As we are plugged in now more than ever as a result of the pandemic, I’m mindful of my screen time and to unplug when necessary. Then use that time I’m unplugged to do things that fill my cup. Meditation has also been hugely important for me during the pandemic, finding that time to introduce stillness into my day and do some inner reflection.
Self-Care as Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and recognizing you are enough as you are. We’re living in a time where we can hop on social media and be greeted with millions of images of what “perfection” looks like. This can be especially true in the fitness industry which can be very toxic as it pertains to putting a certain aesthetic on a pedestal. Respectfully, I reject all of it. This abundance mentality is what guides my life and mindset and is what I take into my health, wellness, mindfulness and fitness practice.
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