How much time and money have you spent on different wellness courses, therapies and treatments only to find that you still keep facing the same challenges? Maybe you feel good after that weekend retreat and you leave on a high feeling ready to transform your life. The motivation lasts for a week or so until life happens again and you kind of feel like you did before the retreat. Or perhaps you were promised some incredible benefits from taking an expensive supplement (hello, reishi mushrooms) but still aren't quite where you'd like to be. It gets exhausting when you feel like you're putting in all the effort and money but are progressing at a slower pace than you would have hoped. It's like something is missing and it seems impossible to find the answer amongst all the noise and promises that are out there. If you have ever experienced this in some shape or form then know that you are in great company. And it's honestly nothing that you are doing wrong - in my opinion, it's the wellness industry that is stepping in our way.
The industry is growing more and more everyday and it's no wonder ~ we need the care more than ever. We've paid such a high price for civilisation; our careers, expectations and commitments are demanding everything from us. It has taken our breath (most of us only breathe at 30% of our total capacity), the health of our bodies and the health of our minds. Tech is faster and it's with us all the time which apparently makes it more convenient to do our work even after we've clocked off. We're working longer hours, spending less time with our families, less time in our kitchens and way more time on our phones, computers, tv's and takeaway menus.We are facing addictions and mental health issues at an unprecedented volume and all of this we have given in exchange for our survival. Society has placed some ridiculous expectations on us and we're pushing ourselves to our limits purely because we feel there is no other way. If it sounds like I'm upset it's because I am. All of this breaks my damn heart! We shouldn't have to do this and we also shouldn't be expected to balance this all out with sporadic and/or really expensive wellness investments. There needs to be more balance in our lives and we need to be thoroughly educated on how to create this on a day to day basis rather than only at crisis points. This is where the role of the wellness industry comes in.
Let me get straight to it: the wellness industry is thriving not only because we need it but because the solutions they are providing are not long-lasting, sustainable, supportive, embodied or truly holistic.
What I mean by this is that for many of the offerings/products out there (not all of them - there are loads of genuine and valuable ones) they are:
Too niche - you're paying a pretty penny to work on one aspect of your multi-faceted existence. e.g. shadow work is great and important but what about the daily practices that are going to move physical energy. Are you being educated on how to eat to support your mental health too?
They are superficial - the downfall of some retreats, courses or therapies are that they tend to be either a quick fix or they lack the continuity of care. There's not enough community building, ongoing or slow-paced but change-making support. The industry has a lot of "one-time-offer" types of services that rarely give you the tools to continue on the path. Or, they promise big changes after only a few sessions when real, long-lasting progress needs to happen over a longer period of time.
Physically unsustainable - herbs, essential oils, product packaging, over-harvesting, shipping and the list goes on. How many products lack the mindfulness of their world-wide impact? We're sold the product with promises of changing our lives and emphasising the effect on our individual experience while totally ignoring the elephant in the room - how sustainable is that product? This kind of wellness marketing keeps us disengaged and disconnected from the ripple effect of our decisions on the whole - these products depend on our myopic and selfish choices in order to thrive. Holistic wellness should be teaching us to consciously consider our impact on our Earth because our health is dependent upon it. This awareness alone can sometimes be enough to create a huge healing shift within us when we truly embody the meaning of it all. When we become more mindful of our choices and our impacts, we naturally accumulate a sense of compassion for not only our planet but also for our fellow human beings. It becomes a lesson in it's own right because we no longer live for just ourselves but we live for the greater good. Compassion has the ability to set us free. Side Note: the other problem with product-based wellness is that it keeps us looped in the cycle of searching for the answer/leaning on external support or cures. "They" don't want you to know that you could live a healthy and happy life without their product. Empowered self-healers don't = $.
Financially unsustainable - I don't know about you but I certainly can't afford to pay for a gym membership, a regular massage, an online retreat for manifestation plus a kg of organic celery every week and every month. While I'm sure these individual offerings have improved the lives of many, and even I have personally enjoyed them, it also adds up to a lot of money. It's disheartening when we feel like our health has to take the back seat because we can't afford it. The wellness industry is really good at making us believe that health is only accessible for a hefty price. So how accessible is that for everyone? Can someone with a low-socioeconomic status reap the benefits? Aren't we all entitled to feeling well? There's so much wrong with this.
Exclusivity/image-driven - wellness is for everyone and should be available and accessible to all. I see this strongly in the Yoga circle where the image of super-flexible, super-strong, able bodies are flooding the pages of instagram and selling this as the image of Yoga. It deters people from even trying the practice by giving a false image of what it means to partake. I mean, the heart of Yoga has very little to do with the postures anyway. It does have everything to do with meditation though and this is 100% attainable by all. There's a lot of this kind of "image selling" in the health & wellness industry and it's unfortunately a big deterrent for many. How is anyone suppose to benefit if they feel discouraged before they even have a chance to try it out?
Disconnection/lack of true, inner meaning - this is a big topic but one worth touching on. On a global level, three of the biggest health concerns are depression, anxiety and addiction (to technology, substances and more). There are undoubtedly many causes for these conditions but one of the lesser recognised is - disconnectedness. This is both disconnection from each other (from less face-to-face time and genuine interaction) and disconnection from ourselves ~ our true selves. We haven't been taught how to find meaning in who we are and so we spend our lives searching for it in all the wrong places. Not to flog an old cliche but everything that we are searching for is already within us. When we don't know what that is or how to find it, we can only do the next best thing ~ start searching for the answers externally from us. Wellness marketing bombards us constantly and makes us think, even if it's just for a moment, that perhaps that next purchase will get us closer to knowing who we are. We seek our purpose or identity as a way of grasping onto this idea by refining how we relate to the world through our clothes, our company, our investments, our beliefs and so on. If we knew how to experience the true beauty of who we are and find our purpose in that then we wouldn't need to continually chase the horizon in search of the answer. To find the answer is absolutely possible ~ it's just not going to be found outside of us.
It's a combination of all of these reasons that leaves many of us feeling unsatisfied or unsupported by the services and offerings we seek on our journey to wholeness. We just need more offerings that are creating sustainable and empowered change within our lives so that we have all the tools to support ourselves.
Please hear me out here - everything I am talking about is a part of an industry that I myself am a part of. I've held all the workshops and created all the courses. I have also struggled with undervaluing myself and killing myself for the offerings I provide for an unbalanced financial exchange. So I'm most certainly not saying that we should be giving our services for free or wipe them out altogether. I recognise that for many of us we do what we do because a) we believe in it, b) we have invested so much of our own time and money in it that we want to share it and c) this is our livelihood and we couldn't imagine it in any other way.
What I am proposing is that the wellness industry needs a wee shake up:
Firstly, we need more embodied practitioners - ones who practice what they preach and are genuinely here for the benefit of all.
Secondly, we need to be offering holistic support - how niche are your offerings? Will this take care of a person's mental, spiritual and physical health? Will this offer meaning? How can we generate more community and continuity of care? And, if that's something we can't provide then perhaps it's time to seek others to co-create with --> less competition and more collaboration.
Thirdly, how can we make our offerings more accessible and sustainable? Are we able to offer a sliding fee scale? Can we invest some of our earnings in a cause we believe in? Are you offering truly sustainable products?
Then lastly, as consumers, know this: you already have everything that you could need to feel healthful, energetic and emotionally resilient. The best things in life are free: a regular, self-guided meditation practice (no expensive apps or courses), exercise and stretching, well defined values, a compassionate heart, discipline, screen-free mornings and some undisturbed time in nature.
My personal truth is this: the biggest and most sustainable shifts I have had in my life happened when I was broke and desperate. Yoga found me and gave me everything I needed - it gave my body health, my mind resilience, my heart a genuine expansiveness and above all else - it answered all of my questions and gave my life meaning. It ticked all of the boxes and I healed so so much, all on my own for very little money. It is still the backbone of everything that I do; every action, every decision and every resolution. All I had to bring to the table was determination, curiosity and a willingness. In exchange, I found an all-encompassing practice that went well beyond the quick fix. YouTube had some info, the library had some books and now the rest is history. I just wish you could all see how different I was back then and how quickly my health did a 180. All of this is so possible for you and every other person out there and it doesn't need to cost a lot. I do what I do because I believe in it so much and I will always endeavour to give you more than just a "nice experience" when we work together. It will always be life-long wisdom that will support you and carry you through the ups and the downs ~ because this is true wellness.
It's time to stop selling wellness in small, expensive packages if we really want to create a world that is balanced, healthy and happy. If we continue to utilise the industry as a means for profit over progression then we aren't really doing what we set out to do. It should be about education, empowerment and support beyond the bullshit and deep within the long-lasting, life-changing power held within you. Because your wellbeing isn't found in your wallet ~ it's found in your heart.