There is no right or wrong way to be well, good health and self-care look different for everyone. One woman’s path to wellness may involve a 5 am yoga class, while another woman’s path may involve sleeping in.
So, in honour of International Women’s Day, we’re putting the spotlight on a few badass women who have played a part in helping us understand how to approach wellbeing and self-care. We spoke with 4 amazing women who practise healthy habits to build a holistically healthier version of themselves, and in doing so are also encouraging other people, especially women, to explore different forms of self-care to find something that works for them!
Vandana Verma, Founder The Tonic
Vandana Verma started her wellness journey some 10 odd years ago, and her routine has evolved tremendously since then. “In my twenties, I was focused on how my body looked. That was pretty much it. But now, approaching my forties(!), I’m enjoying what my body can do, and I’m actually a little bit in awe of it every day.”
A lot of that growth comes from realising that wellness is incredibly personal. “I’m prioritising rest. That’s what I need right now, but ask me again in a year and I’ll likely say something different. It took me a while to trust this and have the energy to attempt it properly, but it’s like a muscle: The more I’m able to practise boundaries and restraint with my self-care, the easier it becomes.”
It’s been a long journey of trial and error, but, Vandana feels stronger now than she did in her twenties. “I actually really, really like my body now and I didn’t then, at all. Isn’t that funny, but also kind of sad? I spent so much time waging war on this beleaguered body when actually what we both needed was just to take a breath.”.
On Community Engagement As Self-Care
The biggest and most visible shift in self-care for Vandana has been an increased focus on mental health and the opening up of that dialogue. There continues to be a lot of shame around mental health issues, and it is incredible to see that shift, even if slightly and slowly. “I think I’d always treated my self-care like a solo journey, but the forced isolation of 2020 and 2021 nudged me into a better understanding of how important community really is, and highlighted to me where I’d sacrificed some of that in prioritising my individuality. For a lot of us, I think we asked ourselves: ‘What does the future look like if I continue on the path we’re on now?’ and I didn’t love what I saw at the time so for the first time ever I’m prioritising people, friends, family, community and I think this is a common theme for a lot of us.”
Sarah Nicole Edwards, Founder, Copper + Cloves
For Sarah Nicole Edwards, wellness is about the small things that add up to overall health. When she discovered the wellness industry, she dived in headfirst and went too far, measuring her success in kgs lost and putting the aesthetic over the holistic. Over the years she has overcome a lot of that rigid thinking and outcome-driven focus and realised that true wellness for her is a relaxed way of living, where connection, community and daily enjoyment are just as important as moving the body daily, eating well and meditation. “Wellness and self-care is about recognizing we have to design our lives on purpose and do things daily to look after ourselves physically and emotionally.”
On Finding A Sustainable Self-Care Ritual
A healthy lifestyle movement for her is about finding positive, health-promoting habits and sustainable changes that fit into a person’s life and priorities. She constantly educates and inspires people to make these changes through her platform, Copper + Cloves.
“Self-care has moved beyond treating yourself with massages towards honouring your own needs and priorities more” according to Sarah. “One of the really under-recognised parts of self-care is prioritising health appointments which we often put off or prioritise other plans over, but they are so important, if not the funnest or sexiest thing to do!” But over everything else, Sarah believes in the power of positive thinking and spending time and energy on envisioning the future. “My vision is that people will feel inspired to cook more, to make ethical food choices and learn to love to be active in their daily lives.”
Swetha Devaraj, Co-Founder, SweatyNinjas
Swetha Devaraj is one of the 21 master instructors of Animal Flow across the globe and is also the only woman master instructor from India. Wellness for her is about being able to access one’s mind and body to its full potential, irrespective of age. Her practice revolves around the belief that everything we put into our system has an effect on our physical and mental wellbeing and encourages everyone to be mindful of even the smallest nutrient that goes into our system.
On Movement As Self-Care
For Swetha, being active is a lifestyle and not an option. “It’s like breathing,” she says. She finds it incredibly important to engage in different forms of movement for your physical and mental health. She discovered Animal Flow after a grave injury that left her feeling helpless. “Not only did Animal Flow help me out with my flexibility and mobility, but it also opened my mind towards other forms of movement training and their benefits for the body and mind. It really helped me with working on creativity and skills that I was never able to achieve before.”
Speaking about self-care in the coming years, Swetha hopes to see people connect more with their roots and the rich culture we have grown up with. Like morning sun exposure, fasting, eating clean foods without any processed or refined items, connecting more with nature. “Focusing on one’s wellbeing and what one needs is a very special journey and that journey itself becomes self-care.”
Kripa Jalan, Founder, Burgers To Beasts
A specialist in sports nutrition, Kripa Jalan started her health journey focusing on eating less and moving more. She spent years fixated with the number on the scale; prioritising being skinny over everything else – her relationships, hobbies, and mental wellbeing. A serious eating disorder forced her into taking control of her thoughts and actions. Fast forward to now, she has learnt that size is not a reflection of health. Health for Kripa is now a complete state of physical, mental, social, existential, and emotional wellbeing.
On Good Nutrition As Good Self-Care
“I’m strongly of the opinion that food is medicine and far more potent a tool than anything in a pill bottle.” In her practice and work, Kripa emphasises that healthy eating is a great way to prevent, manage and to an extent, even reverse several modern diseases. Quality food can also have a positive impact on our mood and energy levels. “I started prioritising eating mindfully when I realised restrictive diets don’t work. There had to be an easier way to incorporate nourishment into my everyday habits than meticulously counting calories and having a comprehensive list of food rules.”
One of the things the last 2 years taught us was that not everything is in our control – like a global pandemic. But, there are factors and elements that we CAN control in healthy and productive ways. “For the most part, these include our actions, effort, and mindset. We can show up for those things, own them, and take an active part in shaping them.”
She hopes that as a community, we start to divert our focus primarily on the things that we can control – this will help us feel calmer and more capable of carrying on. “This could be saying no to plans you don’t want to go to, going for a walk outside, getting adequate sunlight, eating well because it helps you feel better, or simply creating boundaries with people that you struggle with.”