Health & Wellness Industry Goes with the Flow in 2020
By Lauren Bernazza
The health and wellness industry has had to practice what we preach in 2020, going with the flow and breathing into the discomfort. Like many small businesses caught by surprise with the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had to rethink how we offer services to our clients. Many of us in this industry are creatives, intuitives, and doers used to thinking outside the box—and we’ve used those traits to ensure that our community still has access to the support and services we provide.
Raise your hand if your local yoga studio has started offering classes on-line and outside at local parks. How about curbside pick-up of your favorite supplements or private therapy sessions over video chat? Virtual and distanced support for our clients is something that we all had to get on board with. When the service you provide is an essential tool in the self-care toolbox of your community, you know you’ve got to evolve and expand—and that’s just what we’ve done.
Wellness professionals have long shouted the benefits of exercise and connection for mental health so we knew that the pivot to providing virtual support and services was not optional. Being stuck at home with nowhere to go, shortages on food and supplies, and isolation from family and friends are surefire paths to depression and anxiety. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, John Ratey, M.D., says that “exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function and has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health. It is simply one of the best treatments we have for psychiatric problems.” Virtual fitness classes served up a dose of endorphins while support groups built entire on-line communities. Live virtual classes offer both exercise and interaction, a needed combination at all times and especially now.
As a birth and postpartum doula, I support families through pregnancy, labor, and well into the postpartum period. My main connection with families happens through in-person support and physical touch, all while in close quarters. When Covid-19 hit, I shifted gears mid-stride and figured it out as I went, along with my trusting clients. I knew we stumbled across something that was working half way between recipe building with a postpartum client over FaceTime and showing a dad how to apply counter pressure to his wife’s hips during a contraction over Zoom. I even set up a meal train for a new family using Uber gift cards since their loved ones couldn’t travel to take care of them in early postpartum. Offering the intimate and personalized level of support to families virtually was easier than I anticipated and I’m happy to incorporate it into my offerings moving forward.
The point is, innovation happened because of the shutdowns and restrictions. You can get into gyms and yoga studios today; most started opening to in-person classes in June. You stick to your socially distanced squares taped on the floor while the instructor leads both live and virtual students. Hospitals are slowly starting to allow doulas back in to provide labor support to families. We suit up in PPE and show up ready to support. It’s not what it used to be, but true growth happens in the midst of the hard times. My doula business has now expanded to offer virtual support to families outside of my community. I’m teaching yoga in the park. Studios and gyms are able to reach more people through multiple platforms. My hope is that the health and wellness industry will retain this new level of accessibility even after all restrictions are lifted.
Lauren Bernazza is a Birth and Postpartum Doula with Doulas of ATL. She is also a RYT200 (Registered Yoga Teacher) with a focus on prenatal yoga. Lauren resides in Roswell with her husband and two sets of twins (yes, two sets!).