Wellness in Color is a new series highlighting prominent wellness practitioners of color who are doing healing work in their communities. Featuring conversations led by Latham Thomas, a Well+Good Council member and the founder of Mama Glow, these stories shine a spotlight on energy workers, nutrition experts, sexuality doulas, and other wellness luminaries. Here, integrative skin therapist and healing practitioner Shayla Boger discusses her calling—and the surprisingly early age at which she began healing rifts within her own family.
Latham Thomas: Can you share a bit about who you are and the work that you do?
Shayla Boger: I’m an aesthetician and I also practice energy healing. I feel like my job as a healer started when I was a baby. My dad’s parents were white, and they were racist. They actually tried to keep my parents apart. When I was 13 months old, my dad showed up at their house with me, and told them that he was married to my mom, who is black and Creole. That was a shock to them. But it was ultimately really beautiful, because I feel like my essence is based in love, and my grandparents felt that. They dropped all the judgments and the things that were holding them back from a deeper connection. They ended up having a gorgeous relationship. So that’s a really big thing that started early on for me—being that healing presence of love for my family.
LT: What inspired you to launch into the work that you do? And when did you realize that you were meant to serve as a practitioner?
SB: It started with my own long, beautiful healing journey. I started to feel this shift in myself. Then I really learned to start observing. I noticed that a lot of people were struggling and needed support. Once I felt deep in my own healing, I felt that I was able to offer people healing services. Humanity was an inspiration. Seeing what’s going on in the world has been the biggest inspiration. And it’s a daily inspiration to see my clients step into a deeper place of love within themselves.
LT: You mentioned your own healing journey. Could you talk about that a bit more?
Yes. I went through some really hard times—sexual abuse, racial profiling. For a long time, I was just walking through the world. I went to school, got the corporate job, did all the traditional things. Then I was home with my kids for a while, and all of a sudden I started feeling anxiety, having panic attacks, and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It was a big halt in my life. I started working with an amazing therapist who helped extract a lot of this that was already within me, but I hadn’t known how to get it out.
I took a journey of working with my therapist, getting energy healing, getting regular massage, and nourishing myself with delicious, healthy foods from the earth. Having really loving connections and relationships also helped heal me. And now, I no longer put myself in positions to get anxious. That’s part of wisdom—to ask ourselves why we continue to put ourselves in relationships and situations that causes anxiety.
LT: Can you walk through some of the ways that you work with clients and support their well-being?
SB: I do energy healing with a really gentle, hands-on healing touch. And I work with people on lifestyle: What are their sleep habits? How are they taking care of themselves? What type of quality are they experiencing during the day? Ultimately, self-care is not what we do; it’s how we are in what we do. I really try to support people and teach them how to do things through my own gentle ways.
And then, I work with skin care, too. Skin care is just a beautiful way for men and women to deepen in that connection with themselves. It involves gentle touch and paying attention to what’s going on with your body—because our face expresses so much of that, I think.
LT: What about the practices that you engage in for your own self-care?
SB: I discern when something is right or wrong for me by sitting with it. When I’m making decisions, I don’t wing it. I guess you can say I give myself space to connect, and then I make choices. I take baths a lot. Nature is a big part of who I am. I feel most connected when I am in nature. My relationships are important to me. I have a lot of women that I’m very soulfully connected to. I have a gorgeous relationship with my husband and my children. I eat nourishing food. Sleep, exercise—specifically, exercising in a way that actually feels good to my body. That’s been a big shift for me because I did a triathlon when my baby was three months old! Now I’m not about pounding my body around and instead, I try to understand what I really need.
LT: Can you share what your wellness mantra is?
SB:I know that we are all love. Regardless of who you are, what you’re doing, what you’ve done—we’re born, and we are that love. And so my wellness mantra is to just keep returning to the love that we are. Each choice we make is going to bring us closer to that or further away from that. Be all the love that you are, in your expression and your choices. To me, wellness is love. Wellness is connection. And it’s seeing outside of ourselves and connecting with other people. I know that we can get to that place in a deeper way.
“Be all the love that you are, in your expression and your choices.” —Shayla Boger
LT: What are some of those ways you find connection?
SB: I find connection through conversation. I find connection through being outside in nature. I find connection with looking into deeply into people’s eyes. I find connection in my work. I find connection in touch. I find connection and observing.
LT: Are there any ancestral practices that inform your work?
SB: Yes. My great-great grandparents, Lawrence and Martha Crossley, came up from New Orleans to Palm Springs. He worked as a right-hand man for a wealthy cattle rancher; she was at home and she cooked meals and nourished their community. He built communities for black people and Mexicans who were living in shacks—boxes, basically. He figured out how to build these communities for people to live in a way that was empowering for them, so they had a home and they could do work. He was also connected to the Agua Caliente tribe. They let him sit on their councils—and as a black man, back then, that was a really big deal. Martha cooked lots of nourishing meals for the tribe. They were healers. They passed away in the ’60s, but I feel so strongly connected to that.
LT: To close, can you share a piece of advice that an elder has shared with you?
SB: One piece of advice that I got was to foster the divine in every person you meet. Another is to give yourself the space to be a sensitive person in this world; being sensitive is something to be proud of.
What—or whom—should Latham write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.