Throughout my life, my bold Lebanese grandmother would always insist that I have a za’atar (transl. dried thyme) sandwich every morning to boost my memory and brain capacity; the tip of the iceberg of what I would later understand as a wellness belief.
What we all sometimes forget is that wellness is deeply tied with culture, and many of our common wellness beliefs today are a result of both cultural practices and attitudes.
A za’atar sandwich is only one bullet point in my grandmother’s exhaustive list of wellness practices. There was also honey water for whenever I felt slightly ill, and the more serious practice of “Ruqyah,” an Islamic tradition of using prayer to clean out negative energy.
The reality is that our modern wellness routines predate us by centuries, and religion, belief, and culture have played active roles in shaping what’s now become your Tuesday hot yoga class. Whether its Ubuntu from South Africa, laughter yoga from India, Tai chi from China, or sage cleaning from Native America, routines to balance and heal energy have been crystalizing for years, eventually turning into the core of wellness today.
Cultural attitudes towards wellness have also shifted, as more open conversations surrounding mental health transcended the use of the aforementioned practices from solely physical healing to also mental healing.
However, the attitudinal evolution of wellness has also entailed that social factors, like race, identity, sexuality etc., play an active part in one’s wellness experience.
The day to day experience for Black communities is significantly different to that of more privileged White communities, and wellness professionals are gradually catering to that difference. However, the accessibility to tailored resources, and even more general ones, for POC communities is still severely lacking, and you cannot talk about modern day wellness without acknowledging the racial inequality that’s come to exist within it.
From this point forward, when thinking about culture and wellness, it’s important to include the influence of identity on wellness experience. Cultural attitudes towards wellness go beyond global or traditional practices, and are far more encompassing than we think. They’re an amalgamation of history, practice, and more recently experience, tied with racial climate and our changing world.
Here are some diverse wellness practitioners and brands we're following:
Joy Harden Bradford, founder of Therapy for Black Girls, a tailored therapy service
more info on Black-owned wellness brands: https://www.self.com/story/black-owned-wellness-brands
Sheikha Intisar Al-Sabah and Sheikha Fatima Al-Sabah, founders of Prismologie, a beauty brand that creates products based on color therapy
more info on Arab-owned wellness brands: https://www.savoirflair.com/beauty/506796/arab-owned-beauty-brands
Jun Lee founder of EIR, a skincare line that uses herbal healing
more info on Asian-owned wellness brands: https://veggiekinsblog.com/2019/05/24/asian-woman-owned/ :