WHY WE HAVE TO GET REAL ABOUT DIVERSITY IN THE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

On the brink of opening a brand new studio in Harlem, SHAKTIBARRE co-founder Corinne Wainer confronts the status quo, and shares 5 ways to get real about diversity in the wellness industry right now …

When I read that 77% of yogis are white, and that in New York roughly 44% make over $75,000 a year, I was astonished. Also, like I had been de-naïved. Seven years ago I founded a yoga and literacy non-profit for 7th-12th grade girls called YoGirls Program, but I had not assumed that the lack of access to wellness education my young students experienced would follow them into adulthood.

I started YoGirls Program because I knew the shameful feeling of being excluded from this often elitist world. Though I’m not a cultural minority, I didn’t grow up with money, and wellness education is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. And there was the one time I was told not to come back to a barre class because my shoulder injury, which necessitated modified moves, would make their sequencing “look bad.” Given this minor “image” infraction, you can imagine what other exclusionary practices exist.

Soon, I began to realize that theses issues needed to be tackled in the wider world. At first, I pitched articles to wellness editors along the lines of: “Hey, I see you have many articles written about elitism in the wellness industry but none that really discuss how to solve the problem … can I write about that?” My “idea” became SHAKTIBARRE, the yoga-barre studio and community space I opened with my partner in 2016.

Our mission was to actually DO SOMETHING about the aforementioned wellness injustices. So we implemented a sliding-scale pricing model, offer classes that emphasize body, cultural, and spiritual inclusivity, and dedicate 10% of net profits to YoGirls Program. As my friend Robyn from The Babe Collective says, it’s been about building a biz without becoming a superficial a**hole! This is all the more imperative because the yoga industry is 82% women. Change starts with us.

In an industry that profits from your self-doubt, any wellness initiative that supports you liking yourself is a healthy rebellion—but amazingly, we’ve gotten explicit push back for this, and been told we should just “stick to exercise and stop caring so much.” Or haven’t been invited to things where our mission wouldn’t be popular with those who are after more glitter-worthy press.

Because good intentions are one thing—making real change at a grassroots level requires GRIT. It’s not enough to hope our overall vibe and messaging would magically erase a deeply ingrained and capitalist-motivated lack of diversity in the wellness industry.

So if you too desire to create tangible change—in wellness or any industry where there is a lack of integrity and action—then read on for 5 ways we turned feel-goods into do-goods, and let the SHAKTIBARRE story be your guide …

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1. When we took a survey. So far we’ve had over 10,000 students and achieved a 4.9/5-star rating. Exciting. But we couldn’t help asking: “what’s up with that missing 0.1?” So we created a survey asking direct questions on everything from mat quality to cultural equality, promising to implement response-based changes within six weeks. We discovered that real empowerment comes from dynamic conversations, and thousands of our members were more than happy to share their honest insights when asked. The learning: In an industry where “exchange” has become the creepy synonym for “money,” make direct inquiries and practice active listening.

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2. When we said “no” to big opportunities that would compromise our integrity. We’ve been asked countless times to partner with corporate brands and been offered 6-12 million dollar investment deals; and it was a memorable magazine moment that taught us early on the power of staying true to our SHAKTIBARRE selves. An incredible article was written about us, but the title used a pic of a supermodel as click bait. The feedback from some new students was that they’d been afraid to visit because they felt nothing like the famous woman portrayed in the piece.

From that moment on, we’ve refused to film or do interviews with anyone unless they use inclusive pictures and dialogue. We also decided to fundraise for our second location instead of taking on investors who may prioritize financial gain over our community efforts. The learning: Always emphasize your mission over money and fame. And be honest: if your mission is money and fame, reevaluate your mission.

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3. When we got totally transparent online. Originally, we thought SHAKTIBARRE was just going to have local impact, but we realized our responsibility on-site and online. We take time each week to individually reply to reviews and Instagram comments, and pay extra special attention to tense conversations. For example, a woman recently challenged our fundraising campaign in response to a post we wrote with Alexandra Roxo, arguing that we’re “a for-profit company who can just go to the bank.”

We created a whole newsletter on it and asked for input from our community, ultimately opening our Quickbooks and telling the whole world exactly what we make, why, and how, all in the name of transparency. We even invited her to tea! The learning: Every criticism is a chance to unveil a deeper truth for both parties.

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4. When we empowered our OWN community. We have about 30 people on our team at any given time, and in order to help them bring their gifts to the world, we extend our services inward. This means we’ve raised salaries twice before paying ourselves more, provided free coaching when asked, generated promo codes and worked out various continuing education opportunities (marketing seminars, teacher trainings, and attending outside classes, benefits, and performances together). The learning: When your team gets to experience your mission first hand, your foundation becomes rock solid, and your impact will be true.

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5. When we became socially … awkward or awesome (you decide). We are a trendy, boutique fitness spot that also promises to create large-scale sociopsychological shifts in the way women experience wellness. That is why we sometimes post (with permission, of course) really provocative shares from teachers and students about racism, sexual assault, vaginal health, chronic illness, family dysfunction, learning disabilities … you name it. That is why we create SHAKTIPOPS (SHAKTIBARRE classes with a theme) that take deeper looks at how wellness is more specifically experienced by people of color (there’s a class coming up on December 3rd!), queer populations, Latina heritage, Judaism, morbid obesity … again you name it.

These subjects can be super triggering, and are NOT necessarily gonna get us all the likes on Instagram. But we see it as our responsibility as role models to go there. The learning: With every second you have in the limelight, say something consciously disruptive to exclusive wellness industry statistics. Want to get ridiculous right now? Post our crowdfunding link on your Instagram and start a conversation about real change through wellness.

 

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The biggest challenge you’ll face with our 5 tips? That you’ll have to let go of being accepted and step into being accountable. The greatest reward will be a loyal, lasting, and long-term impact on an industry ripe with opportunities for equal-opportunity empowerment.

As I build more and more studios over the next 5 years (where do YOU wanna see one?!),  more and more adult women will get inspired to become activists, and more young girls will have a fully-funded after school program. Meanwhile, my co-founder Shauny Lamba will continue expanding our Shakti Teacher Trainings all over the globe which is where this dream gets even more real because every year the YoGirls design a service project where they visit a city in need and learn alongside their local peers! And this all starts in our SHAKTIBARRE empowerment hub home-bases …

We entirely believe in you to make this shift and hey sister, we’re in this together. Come visit us in Brooklyn this Thursday at our benefit party (and next Spring in Harlem, which you can learn more about here) and share your stories of becoming actionable in the name of women’s wellness.

SPRING EQUINOX 2017: A TOTAL GUIDE

On March 20th, it’s time to rev our engines for the Astrological New Year! Spring Equinox 2017 is a super potent moment for taking courageous action, say Numi Astro babes Sandra Sitron, Danielle Paige, Jennifer Racioppi, and Bess Matassa. 

 

**Celebrate the astrological New Year, Numi style, with our Equinox Astro Séance on March 21st at Shaktibarre!  Tickets available HERE.

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Sandra Sitron, a.k.a. Strong Eye Astrology
I am alive. I am here. I am ready.

What do you think the first cry you made as a baby sounded like? Imagine the howl you made. That cry stated simply, “I am alive. I am here. I am ready.” You were a fine elocutionist. Can you make that same sound now?

At 0 degrees of Aries, Spring Equinox 2017 is like that baby’s first cry. This is your time to reaffirm your spark of life and take action. Look back at your New Year’s Resolutions from just after the Winter Solstice—now is the time to implement these resolutions in a new way. Do it!

:: Equinox Aspects :: 
*Chiron, Venus, and Mercury stellium: 2017-2020 will be massive collective healing years as Chiron loops past the zero degree Aries point. Notice how you protect your ego and where old wounds are triggered. You came here to be free, so don’t keep yourself trapped in an outdated pattern of self-protection.

*Moon conjunct Saturn and square the Sun: The creative challenge with this aspect is to confront self-doubt and criticism. Make friends with your Inner Critic this year and create a new relationship. Talk back to that voice in your head. Love up on it. Show it a new way.

*Jupiter opposite Uranus and Square Pluto: While Uranus and Pluto are revisiting their angry conversation from 2012-2015 about breaking down the patriarchy, Jupiter enters the mix to work some diplomatic magic. How can you work this magic in your life? Reach creative compromises by first understanding and empathizing with your own needs, and then seeking to understand and empathize with someone else’s needs.

Want more wisdom? Book a reading with Sandra here or follow her on Instagram.

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Danielle Paige
Thrive on the new!

It’s been a long winter of soul searching, deep transformation, and healing, especially with February’s Eclipses AND the current Venus Retrograde. However, as with all seasons and cycles, we ebb and we flow. Nothing stays the same, and you are now entering a new wave of energy and a time of rebirth.

Spring Equinox 2017 marks a time of equal day and night, and with this energy you are brought back into alignment and balance. Take some time to honor where you’ve been, where you currently are, and where you’re going. You’re emerging from the darkness of your shadows into the lightness of your being.

Aries is the leader, the first one out of the gate. This sign’s direct, raw, warrior energy is concerned with the needs of the “self” and thrives on anything new. Aries is here to show the rest of us how to be courageous and go after what we want. This theme of the NEW will be especially potent after Venus goes direct on April 15th. 

**Danielle’s Equinox Energy Tip: Create a ritual for yourself to honor your light. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and how your consciousness is expanding at a rapid rate. Remember, you may not be exactly where you want to be but you’re a lot closer than you think. Life is a journey and you are well on your way, babe. Happy Equinox blessings to you!

Find out more about Danielle’s soul healing services and sign up for her free Moon newsletters here.

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Jennifer Racioppi 
Witness the crazy without becoming the crazy

Occurring at the time of the waning quarter moon (when the moon in Capricorn squares the sun in Aries), Spring Equinox 2017 asks us to access our feminine warrior, own our shadow, and surrender what’s not working.

As the first sign of the zodiac, Aries incites action, and encourages new beginnings and fresh starts. Yet this Equinox’s Sun makes aspects to Venus, and to electrifying revolutionaries Uranus and Eris, signaling that this seasonal transition also asks us to integrate endings. 

If things feel heated, take a step back and become the observer. We are learning how to witness the crazy without becoming the crazy. Remember that this too shall pass. Yet, it’s essential to dig deep to understand (and integrate) the lessons coming through at this cosmic moment of change. Commit to your long term vision and plan!

For more Moon wisdom or to book a coaching session with from Jennifer visit Jenniferracioppi.com

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Bess Matassa of Mojave Rising 
Sink your teeth into sweetness  

Ready to start your engines & strike a match? By all means, stoke those flames, speed racers. But instead of the usual Aries MMA battles and boxing matches, let this Equinox be a chance to refine your relationship to heat, and to rediscover the innocence inside of action-oriented instincts.

Think of Spring Equinox 2017 as a dark chocolate fondue pot, complete with succulent strawberries. Can your ego aggression become a clean, tender willingness to sink your teeth into life? Heat up your pot, say yes, start now … but let your efforts in the world be oh so sweet, as you taste it all as if for the very first time.

Equinox mantra: I fiercely sink my teeth into sweetness.
Theme song: Return to Innocence
Style: Victorian botanist meets 90s minimalism. Bare skin, plant-based prints, clean lines, combat boots, and a little bit of lace.
Flavors: The simple, farm-fed nourishment of spreadable goat’s milk cheese and vanilla ice cream, herbaceous salads, and warming ratatouille. Single-note flower essences that are equal parts freshly vigorous and delicately blooming like violet and lilac.

Want more juicy cosmic insights and sensory explorations? Arrange an astrology reading or private event with Mojave Rising here or follow them on Instagram

**Make sure to join Mojave Rising & The Numinous for a super special Spring Equinox Astro Séance on March 21st at Shaktibarre in Brooklyn, NY. Reserve your spot here!

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: CRYSTAL LIPGLOSS + A LINK TO OUR VIRTUAL RITUAL

Crystal lipgloss is a thing. Plus a link to our virtual Full Moon ritual, a facial for the soul, and a shout out to Shaktibarre…

Attempting to pout in my new Ruby crystal lipgloss by Gemmed

:: MONDAY ::
A box of goodies from Goddess Provisions, INCLUDING a lipgloss by Gemmed named “Ruby” containing actual crystal dust (Labradorite, Moonstone, Opal, Pyrite and Sunstone). I mean. Goddess Provisions is a subscription service where you receive a box of 4-6 high vibe items—snacks, tinctures, crystals etc—by mail each month, all 100% vegan and cruelty free, and all in aid of inspiring your spiritual practice. And there’s lipgloss. #magicmonday. Find out more at Goddessprovisions.com

:: TUESDAY ::
Not really a lot going on in the Mystical stakes. Except for quite a few phone calls and emails back-to-back about moving stuff forward that’s felt stalled for MONTHS. Thank you, Saturn direct.

:: WEDNESDAY ::
Hosted my virtual Full Moon ritual with Alexandra Roxo! For starters we had almost 300 people sign up, which blew us both away and was a reminder of how excited people are to come together to share their Moon manifestations. FULL Moons are a time to celebrate what’s coming to fruition in our lives, and for me, the Aquarian vibes of this Moon have been very much reflected in all kinds of collaborative efforts beginning to take shape. So y’know, watch this space!

Another fave take-away from our ritual? A new daily practice of smudging down my technology. For real. If you think about it, our computers and phones are interacting with energy from hundreds, if not thousands of people every day. I first tried it out when I found myself going down a really low-vibe comparison hole on Instagram. Giving my iPhone a quick sage wash spiraled me right back UP the Unicorn horn—you might wanna give it a try! You can listen to the recording here.

We’ll be hosting our virtual rituals monthly. Look out for details!

:: THURSDAY ::
A beautiful, nurturing facial with Melanie Herring. Describing her practice as “skin therapy, soul deep,” Melanie sees the skin as a doorway to the inner realms of healing, and incorporates intuitive energetic work while simultaneously nourishing the body’s largest organ of detoxification…the skin. “It’s sacred work that honors the vulnerable nature of being seen,” she told me.

Facials are not something I regularly indulge in (see my use of the word “indulge”!), but as I relaxed into a semi trance state on Melanie’s table I was reminded—yet again—that regular self-care is actually one of the cornerstones of a truly balanced life. Also, how did the simple act of being held and cared for by another human being become a “luxury”? Today reminded me it’s a necessity. Discover more about Melanie and her work at Melanieherring.com

:: FRIDAY ::
Excited for the opening of Shaktibarre tonight, a new yoga+barre+activism+sustainable wellness space in Williamsburg. I met founder Corinne Wainer at a Lululemon event back in May, and was blown away by her vision and her sheer balls! The woman is committed to finding ways to make yoga and other wellness practices available to all, and so the studio will offer sliding scale pricing as well as host regular free community events. Hell to the yes. (And future Shakti-Numi collaborations to follow, no doubt!) Find out more and book a class at Shaktibarre.com

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: BLESSINGS, BOUNDARIES, AND HIGH VIBE JULY 4 BOOZING

Plus a moment of swap-shop glory and a meeting with the mind behind Shaktibarre…Numinous founder Ruby Warrington shares her Mystical Week

:: MONDAY ::
Still buzzing from yesterday’s beautiful Blessing Way ceremony for my dear Victoria Keen. We gathered, we ritualled (yes I’m making this a word), we created an altar, we shared memories and we set intentions. My favorite part of ALL? When we took an actual bone-fide cauldron (purchased by our host at a Brooklyn junk yard) filled with fears and sage, out into the street to be burned away. As Victoria lit her fire, we stood around her in a circle of sisterhood, playing drums, shaking rattles, and singing. At the height of the Williamsburg brunching-hour. YES we got a lot of stares, and YES it felt so right to be bringing this kind of s*it out from behind closed coven doors!

:: TUESDAY ::
A l’il psychic moment in my favorite clothing swap-shop the Buffalo Exchange (first introduced to me by Goddess Gala Darling). I’ve been taking my cast-offs there for the past two years or so and have racked up a serious amount of store credit, so I stop by whenever I’m in the area for some guilt-free retail therapy. Today, as I’m browsing the racks, this little voice goes; “some Isabel Marant shoes would be nice, right?” I’m like, “yeah, higher self, sure would!” And YEP, found these beauties (below)—boots not sandals, BUT, my size, UN-WORN, and FREE (cos of my store credit).

What a beautiful lesson in the all-abundant nature of our Universe! Namely: when we just listen to our intuition, everything we desire is right in front of us; when we give freely of ourselves (or our old clothes), not necessarily expecting financial pay-back, we will get it back 10-fold; and when we don’t attach to the details, is when we grant the cosmos permission to surprise us in all kinds of magical ways.

:: WEDNESDAY ::
A lesson in boundaries. My first reaction when a friend in need texts to say: “I may need somewhere to stay the next few nights, can I have your sofa?” is to reply with a straight up “no.” Some things are a non-negotiable, and my sacred morning alone time is one—as such, I usually only have family stay over in my home. Sorry-not-sorry, but I’m also a believer in strong boundaries as a marker of self-respect.

But THEN I’m like: woah, here I am preaching (check out my IG account etc.) about how we need to create a world that looks after our most vulnerable first, and how the current political climate change is giving me a new depth of compassion for the displaced people in the world…like my friend who’s being kicked out of her apartment! And the first time I’m asked to walk the talk, I stumble.

Humbled, I text her back—”shit, of course, mi sofa es tu sofa, ANY TIME.” By which time she’s found somewhere, and actually goes on to tell me how MY strong boundaries are a lesson for her in cultivating the same in her life. HOWEVER, it was a moment of pause for me in terms of what it means to be a good Now Age hippie global citizen. #bethechangeyouwanttosee

:: THURSDAY ::
A meeting with incredible, inspiring Corinne Wainer, founder of the new Shaktibarre studio that’s coming to Williamsburg in August. Reasons I love this woman No.1: She’s all about the shaktivism (spirituality + activism), and so her studio has sliding scale pricing to make classes + workshops accessible to ALL, with the underlying mission of uniting women in the fight against body fascism in the yoga community. No.2: She’s a total no-smalltalk zone. No time + no interest = no holding back. No.3: She guessed that my spirit animal is a black stallion (which he is, I write about how I met him here). So suffice to say, watch this space for some Shakti-Numi collabs coming your way later this year.

:: FRIDAY ::
Regular readers will know all about my path to raise my overall vibe with sobriety—which has meant totally re-framing my relationship with alcohol. Which basically means treating like it’s as powerful a mind-and-heart expander as, say Ayahuasca, and thus only imbibing with extreme reverence and caution. And then along comes a big fat trigger like JULY 4 WEEKEND.

And you know, I likely will have a couple of cocktails Sunday, since I booked tickets to this super high vibe event (flyer below)—high vibe as in, it’s outside, it starts at 2pm, it’s on the West side so there will be a sunset situation, and it’s alllll my favorite DJs so I can be guaranteed an afternoon of truly emotionally resonant tunes.

And here’s another reason to maybe raise a glass (but really, how about just one?) this weekend. It’s America’s birthday—and America could really use some truly intentional toasting rn, and some reminding that far from broken, she’s just going through a rough patch. As a Cancer country, I think this weekend’s reading from Strong Eye Astrology resonates for the good old US of A pretty darned hard:

Cancer :: Cancer Rising
Taking a horse over jumps. You are sitting in the driver’s seat. But where do you want to go? We can so easily get caught in an image of ourselves. But who do you want to be? This is a fresh start. Now is the time to visualize about who you are becoming. Get very, very specific in your intentions.

*NB: read the weekend forecast for your sign here!