Based on the proliferation of information out there today,  you’d think that the idea of holistic health was a novel, new age concept, particularly for black women. It’s not.

The reality is there are countless black women who have been engaged in sacred spaces of holistic modalities for centuries.

My mother Gina is one of them. She has been living a holistic lifestyle since before I was born. My childhood was filled with practices that were good for the mind-body-spirit. Yoga; a big yellow juicer that seemed to weigh like 50 pounds; being forced to drink raw juice filled with beets, carrots, kale, and the like; sun tea that was so good I couldn’t wait for summers to drink it; and, trays of alfalfa sprouts she grew on a continuous basis that we’d eat on damn near everything.


I never remember having a sweet thing in the house which is why, as a young girl, when I could get my hands on a one dollar bill, I would spend every cent of it on fruity penny candy from the nearby gas station. Remember, Tooties? Once in a while I’ll still go hard on those things! But I digress…My whole foods loving, health conscious mother cooked every day. Fresh and clean food, lean cuts of meat, and nothing fried. EVER.

I recently sat down with my mom to discuss her decidedly holistic approach to life. Read on for a glimpse of these transformative holistic health practices and why they are still worth exploring:


Health Retreats: My siblings and I went to Hippocrates Health Institute with her back in the 1980’s. Located in the Coldwater, Michigan area, the Institute offered weekend, 1 week, 2 week, 1 month and 3 month programs. The program was about eating raw uncooked food, through sprouting, soaking, fermenting, juicing and smoothies.

The people that came to the Institute were from all over the world. Everyone had a different “why” for attending

which included stressed out career people, parents who wanted to learn the program, and those with health and/or weight issues and those that had been identified as terminal.

Spiritual Grounding:Upon her return from the Institute, my mother reported she was bursting with energy, enthusiasm and joy about how she felt physically and how the program had enhanced her spiritual walk through more time to read the word, pray and meditate, not to mention the support of a group of people trying to be the best version of themselves.

Photo: Masterfile

Fasting and Nature: Ten plus years later (in early 90’s) she attended a 10 day retreat in Arizona. This retreat consisted of fasting, cleansing, supplementation, hiking, prayer, meditation and classes. What stood out most was while she was fasting during the four days of water and green juices “only” she could climb the mountains for up to an hour without being out of breath.

The other benefit of fasting was clarity and brain fog lifting.

Another great thing about the retreat was fasting from outside influences such as television, radio, newspapers and working with a group of people that supported each other in reaching health goals.

Photo: Twitter/ @ahylton26

Support & Sisterhood: Gina’s next experience was in 2011 after losing both her parents. We lost my grandmother unexpectedly in May and my grandfather to cancer six months later.  A week after my grandfather died, my mother decided to go to the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico. She had entertained the thought over the years and felt that now, more than ever, Puerto Rico was calling her. During the seven day retreat, with the ocean within a stones throw away,

my mother would get up in the wee hours of the morning to meet the other seven women attending, for an hour of yoga.

Followed by a raw food breakfast, cooking demonstrations, lectures, reflection, long walks on the beach, dance classes, massages, and more. The group support is what everyone looked forward to because they all had challenges and through that support it helped them identify some of the reasons for their roadblocks in areas where they had been stuck.

Gina Vincent, Mother of Black Women About Business Founder, Demarra Gardner

As we wrap up our interview my mother wants to impart this final thought,

A retreat is a great way to recharge, enhance creativity, support you in identifying and building your strengths, connect you with a team, and challenge you to bring out the best version of yourself.

With that in mind, consider joining me on my next retreat! Sign up for the inaugural “Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business” retreat this August in beautiful northern Michigan.

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Demarra Gardner