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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jovanka Ciares

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jovanka Ciares.

Hi Jovanka, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born and raised in a small town in Puerto Rico called Canóvanas. I had an ordinary childhood surrounded by extraordinary women who loved books and were curious about the world around them. As a young adult, I moved to NYC where I finished a Master’s Degree in Business & Music. I worked as a music publishing executive, climbing the corporate ladder and become a young VP and one of the few women of color in executive positions. While my career was expanding, my body was falling apart. I looked seemingly healthy, young and fit but I struggled internally and mostly alone with several chronic health issues: ulcers, IBS, endometriosis and fibroids (large, mostly benign tumors in the uterus). Sadly, Western Medicine had no ‘cure’ or long-term solutions for my health troubles so I decided to look elsewhere. So I embarked in a 15-year journey towards healing, learning, studying, practicing and experiencing healing of the body, mind and soul. I learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Western Herbalism. I explored almost every detox in the market, traveled to retreats, read over 50 books on nutrition and the power of plants to help the body restore balance.

What I learned and incorporated not only helped my body healed, it because of my new love, my passion. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with Corporate America as I felt like I wasn’t making a difference or contributing in a significant way to society. I wanted to create a profitable business that had a positive social impact. So I went back to school, learned nutrition from the best of scientists and college professors, learned about the ancient practice of Ayurveda, started working with herbs (botanicals), wrote several self-published books and started teaching, mostly to communities of color, what I was learning and practicing. Eventually, I left my sexy-sounding Corporate job and became an herbalist, nutrition educator and advocate. For the last eight years, I have been offering live workshops, lectures, speaking engagements, individualized sessions and Wellness Coaching to people in the USA and around the world. My health issues, while chronic, were a blessing for two main reasons: one, none of them were life-threatening and two, that ‘health smackdown’ allowed me to lead the life and career I always dreamed of.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
As a black, Latinx woman from a small island colonized by the country she now calls home, the journey has been far from easy. And if you include the added layer of being a female entrepreneur of color working in a highly homogeneous Wellness industry, the journey has been full of ups and downs. From a personal healing journey’s point of view, the lack of knowledge from allopathic doctors (those trained in Western medicine) about what’s good for the human body was shocking. My argument has always been: if you asked a mechanic what is the best oil or products for your new fancy luxury vehicle and he had no clue, you would run out of there, calling him a fool. Yet, we accept as standard fare that the average doctor does not know what is the best “fuel” or foods for the most amazing machine known to man: the human body. How is this possible? Why aren’t we all collectively outraged about this and demand a systemic change?

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My specialty and love is helping people reclaim the knowledge of plant medicine (herbal medicine or botany) originally passed on from ancestor to ancestor and used for our benefit in the hopes that they, by incorporating these practices, can also reclaim their natural state of wellness. This doesn’t only mean using herbal medicine or supplementation, it is also about making small changes in diet and lifestyles that embrace the senses, pleasure and reward, allowing people to educate themselves while feeling better with every bite and every lifestyle choice.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
If I were to give you three basic pieces of advice that may sound common sensical and even simplistic (but too many of us don’t take advantage of), they would be: 1 Eat the rainbow: each day ensure you have each of the colors of the rainbow in your meals 2 Drink more water: remember, we are roughly 70% water, not 70% coffee, or soda, or whatever else is on that bottle you purchased today 3 Breath: this is mostly to help us manage stress, which is the 21st century, it has become a silent yet dangerous condition that can lead to an array of health issues: from anxiety and depression to a reduced immune response. Practice the 4-5-7 breathing technique by Dr. Andrew Weill (breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 5, breathe out for a count of 7)

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All photos taken by Jovanka Ciares

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