Like many of my peers, I’ve benefited from yoga, meditation, alternative therapies and the communities around them in a big way. In theory, I believe in and recommend these practices. In reality, unfortunately for a lot of us, participation isn’t an option. Not everyone sees themselves in the daily torrent of pics hashtagged #wellnessgoals.
The thing is, a lack of representation in this industry doesn’t benefit any of us. If wellness is really about being whole and happy and living our best life, then one person’s healing journey can’t support the oppression of another’s. If our wellness is hurting someone else… is it really helping us be more well?
For Dawa Apothecary founder Sulafa Silim, the answer would be no. Seeing a lack of options for marginalized women lead her to start her community and wellness consultancy business so she could start working toward this very necessary change.
She shares, “over the course of my career, I had seen ways in which women of color were being marginalised, misunderstood and disengaging from their work. When looking for reprieve from ‘healing spaces’ where they could be heard, understood and be ‘seen’ – anecdotal stories began to emerge about being one of a few racialized women in those spaces, further emphasizing the privilege of healing and wellness.”
Image of Sulafa via Drake Blog
So, Sulafa began flipping the script. She’s retooling how wellness can serve us by working to integrate it into the space many need it most – the workplace. When we can lessen the need for a respite from day to day life, we lessen the pressure put on designated wellness spaces – and we build a more integrated life. After all: Wellness isn’t just about what we do in yoga studios or juice bars. It’s about how we live.
She explains, “my work is evolving from thinking past community engagement to how we can shapeshift workplaces to create healing spaces where we spend the most time? How do we build wellness into inclusive practices – like having roundtable discussions with racialised women within the workplace. In a world where we define ourselves by our work and there are many mental health issues related to workplaces – how are women of color fairing?”
Sulafa is proving that ‘healing space’ can be created anywhere – and it can be done by creating conversations where conversations are needed. It doesn’t need candles, cucumber-infused water, etc. – just conversations. Holding space. Being seen. Being heard. Sharing within a community. Building connections and understanding around how we can support each other. That’s what helps support wellness.
So how can we make sure we’re helping our healing spaces and studios become their most inclusive? In a few words, embrace change and a two-way dialogue.
Sulafa says, “a healing space is an evolving space… for a space to be truly healing, (it requires) the freedom for people to be who they authentically are, the ability for diversity of voices, especially in the cancel culture in which we live, and permission to be able to reveal your truth in the way that most honors you. It needs no true membership but it does need to be grounded in authenticity and an ability to know when it no longer serves its audience or the creator of the space.”
Consider that wellness doesn’t need to happen in any sort of designated space at all, but rather, is, at it’s core a conversation – energetic, or verbal. Do you feel seen? Heard? What is your core desired result for your wellness activities? Consider your own definition or standard.
Expanding your awareness can help – invite more diverse examples of wellness into your feed, and your daily routines, and be willing to challenge your idea of what wellness is / looks like. Also know that there are people and organizations working to make wellness inclusive, many of them just aren’t at the forefront of the media. In Toronto, Sulafa gives a shout-out to Syzygytoronto and HERDAY for hosting membership-free, inclusive events in Toronto.
Keep an eye out for events from DAWA apothecary in the future, and also check out….
- Trapsoul Yoga at Good Space
- Body Positive Fitness classes and events
- Kundalini flow classes with body positive activist and plus-sized, trauma sensitive yoga teacher Demetria Jackson at YogaSpace, Rainbow Flow at Yogaspace
What are some of your favourite inclusive spaces/classes in downtown Toronto? We’d love to hear from you!
(Story by Contributing Editor, Kait Fowlie)