Take a road trip across America, and chances are you’ll be able to find a yoga class or a green juice in every city on your itinerary. (Phew!) But when it comes to the more esoteric realms of holistic wellness—like breathwork circles, moon rituals, or crystal healing workshops—there aren’t many places where you’ll find a thriving woo-woo scene like the ones in New York City and Los Angeles.
That’s slowly changing, though, as a growing contingent of healers expand their practices outside of these two energetically charged epicenters. And while everyone’s reason for leaving is different, there’s one big, universal benefit to the diaspora: These high-vibe guides are resettling in areas where their practices are arguably needed more—for emotional and even political reasons.
“Healing isn’t selective, and I think it should be as accessible as being able to go to church on a Sunday morning.”
“I’m really happy this community is thriving in New York and Los Angeles, but there are so many people we’re missing,” says Brooklyn-based breathwork healer Emily Mikaelah, who has been feeling pulled to spend more time working outside of the city, in places like Asheville, NC and Austin, TX. The Helios + Solene founder was especially inspired to do so after holding a workshop in Miami, FL over the holidays for a packed—and ultra-eager—house. “Healing isn’t selective, and I think it should be as accessible as being able to go to church on a Sunday morning.”
She’s not alone. Jessica Mahler, a yogi, tarot reader, and reiki healer, recently made her way from Brooklyn to Washington DC; Kundalini yoga instructor Erin Kelley left the city to open her own studio, Alchemy Yoga, in Dover, DE; and Maha Rose herbalist and acupuncturist Ro Giuliano is soon decamping to the tiny mountain town of Nevada City, CA.
But is the heartland ready for holistic healing?
Here’s why the time is right for the woo-woo wellness bubble to expand—and what it means for healthy seekers from coast to coast.
The tech factor
To be clear, it’s not that holistic wellness practitioners don’t exist outside of NYC and LA—of course, there are energy healers, meditation guides, and intuitives in just about every city across America. (Yes, even the smallest and most conservative ones.)
But one thing that’s allowed coastal healers to attain mainstream cred is mass-marketing know-how—a natural side effect of living in cities where everyone’s obsessed with personal branding. “There aren’t necessarily more healers here; it’s just that healers have more access to the community because they’re so driven by networking and social media,” says Mikaelah.
“Ten years ago, you’d be laughed at for trying to make a living doing this in a place like Chicago.”
Neale Baldyga agrees with this assessment. As the masseuse and energy worker behind Urban Escape Healing—a Maha Rose-style collective in Chicago, IL—he’s seen many of his peers in the local community struggle to be seen, despite the fact that the city is generally very open to alternative healing.
“I feel like there are people doing cool things everywhere, but a lot of them don’t know how to be entrepreneurs—as healers, we aren’t taught to put ourselves out there and be business savvy,” he says. “I think that’s a major issue in this field.”
Yet he notes that this is changing due to social media. Platforms like Instagram and wellness booking apps are making it easier for practitioners to market themselves, while raising awareness about—and demand for—holistic healing among local audiences nationwide. “Ten years ago, you’d be laughed at for trying to make a living doing this in a place like Chicago,” he says. “Only in the last couple of years has the door opened.”
Stress: America’s national epidemic
Okay, so you can build a holistic wellness practice in a city where it’s not the norm and promote your heart chakra out—but will anyone come?
According to Chelsey Charbeneau, a healer might actually find herself more successful outside of the esoteric epicenters than within either’s city limits. Last year the yoga instructor moved from Los Angeles, where she ran her own mediation studio, to Dallas, TX and was quickly approached to help open Mastermind, the city’s first drop-in meditation center.
“The hunger for meditation is so much [greater] in Dallas than it was in California,” she proclaims. “[Our clients] are really curious and ask so many questions, whereas in LA, meditation is so readily available…people already know all about it.”
“Any time I’ve gone into a more residential suburb without the deep community we have in New York, it’s been really incredible how hungry people are for this knowledge.”
She chalks it up to the fact that everyone’s overstressed, overworked, and seeking a pocket of solace from the demands of job and family, regardless of their address, religion, or political affiliation. “I had a gentleman in his mid-50s come in wearing a suit—not who you’d expect to see in a meditation center,” she says. “He was like, ‘I just need some alone time.’”
Intuitive counselor and tarot reader Lindsay Mack has noticed the same starvation for healing among her out-of-state tarot clients. “Any time I’ve gone into a more residential suburb without the deep community we have in New York, it’s been really incredible how hungry people are for this knowledge,” she says. “They’re so dedicated, curious, and respectful.”
One size doesn’t fit all
What healers are finding, as they settle into new communities, is that what works for an urban clientele might not translate verbatim elsewhere.
“The challenge is to completely melt ego away and genuinely see what people need,” says Mack. “Are they hungry for deep talk? Community? Good food? Laughter? More support in terms of artistic expression? Should it be free, or is it donation-based? Or can I put something together that supports the work of other healers?”
When she opened Mastermind, Charbeneau took a different tactic than the meditation studios she’d visited in other major cities. “Here in the South, where it’s kind of a Bible Belt, we had to be very strategic about how we approached meditation,” she says. “I don’t think a spiritual approach would work here.”
“Here in the South, where it’s kind of a Bible Belt, we had to be very strategic about how we approached meditation.”
Instead, the studio joined forces with UT Dallas’ Center for Brain Health, emphasizing science-backed mindfulness practices rather than those with clear links to Buddhist tradition. “Coming from a research stance, everyone feels comfortable and safe,” she says. Even so, she notes there’s still some hesitation around the practice. For instance, one powerful executive signs up for classes under a pseudonym, as he feels it’d harm his business if anyone found out he meditates.
Negotiating these differences can be tricky, but Charbeneau says she wouldn’t trade her life in Dallas for anywhere else. “I know that the scene here is changing, and I feel like this is where I’m needed right now.”
As mind-body wellness continues to attract curiosity nationwide, Mack expects to see more healers entering as-yet-untapped zip codes, herself included. “I’m excited to see where everyone in the healing community gets intuitively drawn,” she says. “I just hope it’s not a ‘Man, now I have to [leave New York]’, but a ‘Man, now I get to.” Luckily, tarot cards and crystals make it easy to travel light.