“We need to start shifting the culture about selfcare and mental health.”

Darian Hall and Elisa Shankle launched Brooklyn-based wellness studio HealHaus in May 2018, with a mission to make a truly inclusive healing space for all genders and ethnicities. Their philosophy is that “healing of the mind, body, and soul is more than just a trend”—it is a lifestyle. HealHaus distinguishes itself from other wellness practices with diverse offerings, which include womb wellness moon yoga, breathwork for grief, and psychic abilities workshops.

We caught up with Darian Hall to discuss the inspiration behind HealHaus and how the conversation around selfcare is evolving.

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How would you describe HealHaus?

The intention is for the space to be accessible and inviting for women and men, and have various healing modalities under one roof. When you come into HealHaus, the first thing you walk into is the café, so it feels familiar, allowing people to come in, have a drink, and maybe work. The music we play is pop music, not “zen music,” so it feels familiar. Even the design of the space is warm and inviting. It’s not like spaces that have white walls and grey pillows—those feel cold.

We have daily yoga and meditation classes. We also have workshops where we cover a range of topics, including helping people deal with grief and helping people who suffer from drug abuse. There are also two rooms downstairs dedicated to special services which cover acupuncture and massages, and we’re about to incorporate psychotherapy as well. There are a diverse range of practitioners in one space, which is new. It’s really a one-stop shop for all these different healing modalities.

What inspired HealHaus?

Just to give you some background, I met my father for the first time at 36, which was last summer. It ended up being a huge, transformational thing. I wasn’t expecting it to happen then, but it ended up being an amazing experience. I shared that story and journey of meeting him through social media, and through that post, all these conversations started happening from my close male friends. Because I opened up my vulnerable side, it allowed them to be able to do the same thing, and I can see they wanted to.

Then it got me thinking. Some of these close friends I’ve known for 15-plus years, but I didn’t know about some of their personal and intimate stories, just like they didn’t know about mine until I openly shared it. Why, as men, are we so closed up? Is it because there isn’t a space to open up, or is it because of what masculinity stands for?

So I thought to create a space that is accessible and inviting, not only for women but also for men. From my research there isn’t anything out there that looks out for men’s selfcare and healing—most of the spaces are geared towards women. Men will go to a gym and work out but what are they doing for their mental and spiritual side?

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Do you think the term “wellness” has expanded over recent years to deal with tougher life topics?

Yes. A lot of the time when people talk about wellness, it’s presented in a pretty package, but sometimes selfcare and wellness is tough.

We recently had a workshop for women who have gone through sexual trauma, women who have trouble with intimacy because of what they have been through. That’s a tough topic, and sometimes it’s really hard to tackle those things. At HealHaus, we question how we work through the harder topics, not just the easy ones. It’s a true healing space, that’s why we call it HealHaus.

The workshops sound intriguing. What do they entail?

We have a full range of workshops because our intention is to give practitioners the space to really promote what they specialize in. For example, we recently had a breathwork workshop that focused on grief and mourning. It was a sold-out workshop of 25 people who were dealing with the loss of a loved one. A lot of the time, people feel they cannot express the things that they’re going through outwardly, so we wanted to create a place where they can get it out. It turned out to be a very powerful workshop that helped people who had never dealt with their emotions after losing a loved one.

Last week we had a tarot card reading and astrology workshop, which is a lighter one.

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How are you leveraging HealHaus on social media?

Instagram and Facebook are our main drivers to get our story out there. Before we launched the space, we were already building our story on social media. We use images that are colorful, we want people to feel represented, we wanted to be inclusive of men and women. Now we post the everyday at HealHaus on Instagram Stories, showing the classes we have, people at the café. Social media has been a tremendous driver for us, and in less than a couple of months we gained thousands of followers. We’re essentially building a community just through social media.

Why do you think the conversation around wellness is so prominent today?

I think people have come to realize the way we have been doing things aren’t right. I can speak from a male perspective. A lot of the time guys, especially straight guys, tend to suppress their feelings, and I think they’re realizing it’s literally killing them. When you’re going through anxiety or depression, you’re apparently not allowed to talk about it, because quote, unquote, you’re meant to “man up.” And it’s bs, it really is.

I think we need to start shifting the culture about selfcare and mental health, and really start talking about these things. We need to stop pretending that everything is good all the time because it’s not. The sooner this happens, the better off we will be. It was well overdue.

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What are your plans for HealHaus?

The plan is to open in other cities. We have a shortlist of other cities, including LA, DC and Atlanta. We’re also building a corporate wellness package where we essentially take some of our practitioners to offices. But first we really want to focus on building the HealHaus community and start destigmatizing this idea of selfcare and therapy.

As New Yorkers, we have so much going on and a lot of the time we forget to check in with ourselves. That what HealHaus is about—having people checking in on themselves and making sure they’re good. That’s what we want our legacy to be.