Practise The Wellness You Teach


People are expecting more from their spa experience and in order for spas to deliver, therapists and business owners need to embody the industry they are in. Founder of the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy (ASWA) Angela Derks explains the importance of living and breathing the principles of wellness before one can authentically communicate the wellness message within the spa experience.

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Having cutting edge technology and equipment, launching groundbreaking new treatments, stocking sought after products and having the best staff on deck to up-sell all of the above is imperative for success. But all of that will be futile in the long run if your business does not embody the core principles of the industry we are in – the principles of wellness.

For over 25 years I have lead wellness programs and initiatives within award-winning companies across the globe. I have observed leaders, managers, employees and customers who were usually engaged and creative become disengaged, demotivated, and on the brink of burnout.

I have seen thousands of people, in over 40 countries, and across various cultures, who were either underwhelmed, or overwhelmed with their lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is something that many of us can relate to.

If therapists or receptionists are overworked, tired and stressed, it will have an adverse effect on the spa’s ability to deliver a consistent quality experience. If they consistently feel uninspired and leave the workplace at the end of a long day feeling unfulfilled, they are not going to be bringing their A-game the next day. The domino effect of this can be harmful to your business long term.

If the key people in your business are in the “survive” rather than the “thrive” mode then how do you expect your customers to thrive at their personal best?

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Every time a guest walks into your business, there is an energy exchange. The attitude of the person greeting them can dictate the direction of their entire visit. If your key people are existing in a world of underwhelm, or overwhelm, this will rub off on the people that come through your doors and will influence your guests’ experiences.

It’s one thing to espouse generic words of wisdom, encouraging customers to live healthier lives by drinking more water, sleeping more, or taking time out for themselves, but wellness goes so much deeper than this.

There are many definitions of wellness and it means something different to each person, so much so that the concept of wellness has become completely convoluted.

Even before we begin our wellness journey, we can end up utterly overwhelmed and confused by the often conflicting information we read about how to achieve a true state of wellness. What an irony that wellness information can detract from our wellness rather than add to it!


The World Health Organisation defines wellness as “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life … a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

To me, wellness is about being at my best. That means having consistent energy, mental clarity and inner calm, to do the things that are important to me. Wellness is all encompassing – all areas of your life must be working in harmony so you can thrive at your personal best, enabling you to:

  • Balance work and life
  • Feel calmer
  • Breathe easier
  • Move more
  • Be mindful
  • Sleep better
  • Eat right, and …
  • Stress less

Wellness is more than a concept, it is a daily practice. Over and above nourishing ourselves with good food and maintaining mobility with daily movement, we must prioritise our sleep, practise switching off our minds, and slow the pace of our lives down regularly so our bodies can rest and repair.

These are all decisions we make daily that shape our bodies, our minds and our hearts.


Although each of these principles of wellness may appear separate, each is interrelated with the other. They are all connected and one cannot be at its optimum without the other.

When you experience a lack in one area of wellness it immediately impacts negatively on another area.

To enjoy a day of optimum wellness, start your day with a clear intention, followed by a nutritious breakfast to increase your odds of being active the next few hours.

This helps you to eat well throughout the rest of the day. Eating foods that have the highest amounts of nutrients, combined with absorbing the least amounts of toxins internally and trans-dermally, allows the cells of your body to focus on functioning at their best and work collaboratively with each other, as they were intended, rather than focusing all their attention on cleaning AND functioning.

Adding some activity, some effective breathing and a sprinkling of mindfulness, builds stress resilience, better communication in relationships and a much better night’s sleep. This sound night of sleep provides a great foundation to eat, move, breathe, and be mindful tomorrow as you flow through your day.

New research shows that working on multiple elements at the same time increases your odds of success, compared to initiating a new diet, exercise, stress resilience or mindfulness program in isolation. It is more effective if you work on all the areas simultaneously.


You can significantly enhance the guest experience by being able to confidently and authentically discuss the wellness tools and techniques that your guests’ value, but before you can do this you need live and breathe them yourself. The road to lasting, positive change starts with you.

If you and your employees are thriving, your clients will thrive and so will your business. Remember, it all starts with you.

Once you start living and breathing these principles of wellness in your life and in your work environment, you will be acting as a role model of wellness to your spa guests and colleagues.

Ongoing education is key if we are to stay at the forefront of our industry. If you stop learning and growing you will be left behind.

The spa industry accepts this when it comes to successful retailing programs, as it’s easy to see the return on investment. If staff possess product knowledge and believe in a product they are likely to sell more of it.

Spa owners, managers and staff invest time into developing the knowledge of product ingredients, features, benefits and usage, combined with therapists feeling, smelling and using the products on themselves, allowing them to share that knowledge to benefit their guest’s needs.


Wellness knowledge, although less tangible, is no different.

One of the biggest roadblocks I have seen within many organisations has been the ability and willingness to allocate resources to continuing education. Whether you are a therapist or a business owner wanting to cultivate a wellness culture, finding the time and money to invest into education can be challenging.

Investing in your people, both financially and with time and effort, makes good business sense.

People are the biggest asset an organisation has and unlocking the potential within them will surely boost the business’s performance. People want to feel valued at work. They want to feel as though their health, happiness and vitality matter. Businesses that authentically value the wellness of their team members have a definite edge in recruiting and retaining top talent.

I urge you take a moment to reflect. Take a look at your life as a whole – which areas do you feel have the biggest gap between where you are now and where you want to be?

Start small, and start to implement daily wellness practices into your life one by one, starting with the areas that need the most attention (more “you time”, cleaner eating, mindfulness practice etc).

If you’re a business owner, present this task to your staff and encourage them to do the same. It might even open up dialogue which could uncover some underlying issues, fears or concerns. If so, use this as a chance to connect with your employees and find out how you can help them to become healthier, happier and calmer in both their personal life and in the workplace.


Angela Derks

The spa industry has always been a leader in the fields of health and beauty, introducing innovative concepts from other cultures and imparting valuable knowledge onto clients.

Now it’s time for the spa industry to truly nurture and embody the essence of the booming wellness industry and to lead the way in educating staff and clients to attain and sustain wellness in their lives and workplaces.

At ASWA, we believe that wellness should be within everyone’s reach. I found it challenging as a spa manager to effectively provide my therapists with the wellness skills that our guests are demanding and that’s why I have created the Academy, which delivers programs for both personal and workplace wellness, designed to empower you to make better decisions and make active choices that serve you and your clients.


By Spa + Clinic Guest

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