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8 Influencers Making the wellness world more inclusive

As a kid I was not very athletic. It took me several years to learn how to bend my knees while walking, a fact my siblings still enjoy making fun of me. Therefore, I remained uninterested until the summer of 1996 to become active. Every night I sat in front of my parents' big boxing TV, which was excited about the Atlanta Summer Olympics. I was fascinated by an athlete, gymnast Dominique Dawes. Of course it was impressive to see her strength and balance, but there was something special about her. She looked like me! Dominique was the only brown face in her team and one of the few in the sport. I felt connected to her and this summer I knew that I should become a gymnast. I practiced slopes of kitchen tables and sofas and stalked landings head and arms. Seeing her participation in the Olympics encouraged me in a way I had not previously encouraged. It made me proud.

Representation makes power, and needs it above all in the spa . We often associate certain activities with specific socio-demographic factors such as race, age and income. As a result, it is perceived that individuals with particular backgrounds or races do not fit into specific spaces and activities. And in the age of the Internet, the media can either continue that perception or promote an alternative narrative.

Today I'm not a gymnast, but a registered nutritionist . I have often heard from clients that there are many health promoting activities that we as colored people do not do. We do not hike, we do not swim and we only eat certain vegetables. Listening to these things reminds me that representation is important and necessary to create a culture in which factors such as race (or gender, height or age, ability status) do not limit the way in which you move , or the wellness practices you use in.

When it comes to wellness, diversity in representation helps at many levels. When people see others they identify with, meditate with or even prepare a meal, they may feel less lonely in their own activities. It could inspire them to try a new activity, as Dominique Dawes did for me. It can even challenge others in the wellness community to have a more inclusive attitude. The Necessity of Representation is Reason Tamara Melton and I founded Diversify Dietetics a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in nutrition and dietetics. According to the Commission on Dietetic Registration 75 percent of registered dieticians and registered nutritionists are white . Ever since I started with Diversify Dietetics, I've heard stories from students, young professionals, and established color connoisseurs about isolation experiences in this area. That's why Diversify Dietetics was founded: To build a community, increase representation in a less diverse area, provide education and resources, remove barriers for future dieters, and ultimately change the face of nutrition. We are not alone in our search for change. Take a look at these other amazing companies and organizations that take the lead and bring representatives into the spaces that used to be lacking.

DJ Akisanya

1. Briana Owens, Spiked Spin New York, NY

Briana Owens founded Spiked Spin in response to the lack of diversity in the boutique fitness industry, the need for affordable fitness and the need for people to do so Health and wellness, beyond the body image, be enlightened, she says. She noted that there were many health trends that focused on other demographics, leaving people with color behind. "Spiked Spin is committed to educating, supporting and inspiring people at every stage of their wellness journey," says Owens to SELF. "We are committed to improving the health of generations and to diversifying the wellness sector in terms of race, culture, body types and socio-economic backgrounds."

Owens says she saw that #SpikedSquad did great things. "The two things that inspire me most are [my clients’] increased confidence and change of mindset. I have often been told that Spiked Spin has brought people beyond what they considered capable, not only during class but also in other areas of their lives. Frequent participants begin to consider wellness as a lifestyle, and know that this is only part of their overall size. The transformation happens internally when I make it my mission to remind each member of his size and to constantly demand to perform well in everything they do.

Courtesty of Ilya Parker

2. Ilya Parker, Decolonizing Fitness online

"For me, decolonization means reinventing, restyling, and restructuring fitness practices that feel supportive, affirmative, and empowering," says Ilya Parker, founder of Decolonizing Fitness , SELF. (You can read Parker's story for SELF on the creation of more inclusive fitness rooms .)

Formerly known as Forseca Fitness, in loving memory of the owner's dear friend "Big J" Forseca Decolonizing Fitness is a platform that provides compelling and affordable personal training, wellness resources, and apparel to support all bodies. Parker and Forseca met during one of Big J's frequent hospitalizations, when Parker was his physiotherapy assistant. The two joined together quickly about shared experiences. "We were both color Trans people who lived in the rural South and needed medical care for chronic conditions," Parker told SELF. Unfortunately, after Forseca became a friend, she was hospitalized one last time. Parker vividly remembers these visits: "During this hospital stay, we often talked about the struggles trans queens and queer people face when trying to access appropriate health services, especially those of us that are chronic Ill, disabled and / or living in poverty. We talked about our dreams of a future in which the weakest were freed and what they might look like. "In his last days, Forseca Parker encouraged not only to follow his passion for personal training, but also to carve a space that supports trans, gender-neutral, disabled, fat, chronically ill, and other persons living on the margins of society. "I made a promise to fulfill his dying wishes." On April 4, 2011, "Big J" Forseca died of lung cancer and Forseca Fitness was born.

Decolonizing Fitness seeks to put healing justice into practice by redefining and reformulating what fitness can look like when it's liberating and restful. Parker says, "The current fitness industry has caused so much grief to many trans and queer people, based on gender-based violence, homophobia, and inaccessibility to affirmative and inclusive services. When we work in a restorative way with our clients, we literally call for fitness and use it as a cure to help marginalized people connect with their bodies in a way that feels supportive and liberating. "

Pamela Urcid

3. Alicia Tillman, Awkward Yoga Girl Houston, TX

She is awkward, she is authentic, she does it for the culture and she brings yoga into the world. Alicia Tillman (Awkward Yoga Girl) describes herself as a black woman with thick thighs that save lives. She started teaching yoga in a less-varied studio with lots of Lululemon. Over time, she developed her own teaching style and brought her personality into a more diverse community. "I like to bring humor into the classroom! This allows people to keep their alertness and really let yoga pass. I'll say pretty much what everyone thinks, "That's hard!" Or "Man, it's hot and she's trying to kill us!" I want people to be real and to love each other. "

Tillman did it Her business and her brand grew to create events like Trap Yoga and Tacos, a popular event that features a live DJ mix featuring some of their favorite music while enjoying an all- The event culminates in a huge crowd and when she started to find and create her yoga style, she was met with resistance. "Other teachers criticized me and said it was inappropriate and" not yoga. " Students loved it! "The first event of Trap Yoga and Tacos sold out for a week, bringing 315 people to a packed venue in Houston, Texas." The thing that struck me was the craziest of all: blacks! I'm usually the only one in the studio or there are less than five in each class, to look at the crowd and see all of my brothers and sisters who came to yoga was huge, the fact that I teach yoga to so many people and a large percentage of them have since evolved in their practice and grown, "says Tillman.

. 4 and 5. Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez, Food Heaven Made Easy Online

Food Heaven Made Easy was founded in 2011 as a creative place for two friends to spread the word of delicious and nutritious life. Today, Wendy Lopez and Jessica Jones, the two amazingly registered dietitians behind the business, are still BFFs and have built a brand that has outgrown their wildest dreams. They first began working together in the New York Health Department and conducted nutrition workshops and cooking demonstrations in underserved communities in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn. "After the farmer's market season, we decided that we wanted to offer culturally relevant nutrition education on a larger platform," says Jones. Since then, Food Heaven Made Easy has become a multimedia platform designed to help people rearrange their eating habits, find peace with food, and live their best lives. "We help our clients care for themselves in ways that suit their health as well as their preferences. They recognize that eating a healthy diet is not synonymous with a set of limitations, but rather with a flexible eating style that makes them feel physically and mentally balanced, "says Jones. Their nutritional philosophy lives on: "Healthy food should be tasty, inexpensive and above all funny!"

Raul E. Diego-Freeglass.press

6. Rina Jakubowicz, Rina Yoga Miami, FL

Rina Jakubowicz is an international bi-lingual yoga teacher, Reiki practitioner, motivational speaker and author. The native Spaniard from Miami started Rina Yoga in 2003, but by 2007 her platform expanded when Tú Desayuno Alegre was asked by the Univision television program to become a trained yoga instructor on the show. Jakubowicz had taught yoga for five years and realized that there were few opportunities to learn Spanish, to learn yoga, if at all. She decided to teach it herself. "I started offering Spanish yoga classes in my studio, and I was thrilled to see the Yoga Journal 2013 offering their first Spanish yoga class at their conference," she says. Rina's business grew and she continued her mission of offering inclusive yoga. She said that "all people should have access to these sacred teachings, regardless of their language or background." She later teamed up with the former CEO of Kripalu, a non-profit educational organization on yoga. Together, they pioneered the first official Yoga Teacher Training in the US to be accredited by the Yoga Alliance. Jakubowicz says her training and teaching has enabled students to see themselves in a different light, to give the Hispanic community a voice in a room where they were not recognized, and allowed the teachers to teach in it Bringing land and sharing it with other people would not have access to yoga.

Zoe Litaker Photography

7. Jessamyn Stanley Durham, North Carolina (and tours throughout the US).

Jessamyn Stanley invites all bodies, all abilities and all levels to get on the mat. Inspired by the multitude of people who believe that yoga practice is unattainable for them, their classes offer a physically positive approach to yoga and encourage students to refine their feelings in comparison to their looks. "It's not uncommon for my students to go into class with anxiety, with the brunt almost always focused directly on themselves. At the end of the lesson, the level of self-compassion that is harvested through exercise is really felt by me and others, "says Stanley. Stanley lives in North Carolina but has taught all over the world. "My mission is to reap compassion in me, to spread compassion to others," she says.

Courtesy of Shannon Wagner

Shannon Wagner (middle row, second from right)

8. Shannon Wagner, Women's Strength Coalition New York, New York, and Online

Although we generally talk about the benefits of weight training and physical activity in terms of individual influence, that changes Women & # 39; s Strength Coalition The conversation focuses on the impact of exercises on the overall strengthening of communities. WSC founder Shannon Wagner explains to SELF that she founded the WSC "because it's up to all people to feel safe and strong in their bodies." The organization's mission is to become stronger through improved access to strength training Build communities. We envision a world in which everyone has the opportunity to express their voice and use their power, "she says.

Women's Strength Coalition believes that access to fitness infrastructure, health education, and mental health care for WSC offers a national network of like-minded fitness professionals, community representatives and affiliated gyms who can build stronger communities through improved access to strength training. "Women's Strength Coalition organizes events across the country, including: To gather local social justice charities that fit our mission and vision We strive to connect the gyms to the organizations that serve their communities to raise awareness of issues while empowering trainers to give something to le and grow, "says Wagner to SELF.

Deanna Belleny is a recognized nutritionist and public health practitioner in Boston, MA. She is co-founder of Diversify Dietetics a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in nutrition and dietetics.

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