Hop on the rug with us - and get to know how massage therapist Khadija Tudor lives life well.
On Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood – made famous by the likes of Spike Lee movies and Biggie Smalls’ rhymes – stands a green door that beckons you in. The aroma of incense, flowers and sage fills the air, as gentle music plays within the four walls of the space you enter. And every corner of the store is housed with plants that add their goodness to the mix that is Life Wellness Center.
Khadija Tudor and her husband Ade opened the center seven years ago. For Tudor, it was intended to be a space that would embody her desire to do more with her days than just work a typical 9-to-5 job. “I think I've always been called to do something more,” she says. “I just wasn't always sure what that more was. So for years, my jobs were just jobs. Even if they were possibilities to become careers, in my mind, I was just there. And that's not a very comfortable way to walk around in life.”
What did make Tudor – a native of Flatbush who moved to Bed-Stuy when she was 19 – feel comfortable were massages, holistic healing, and other such things of beauty. “I wanted everyone to be able to have access to these things,” she says. At first, she thought she’d share them through becoming a yoga practitioner. But as the mother of a blended family with eight children, she wasn’t sure how she’d quite do that. Her partner, Ade, is himself a massage therapist and acupuncturist, having discovered his love for healing and wellness at a young age from his grandmother. But it never occurred to Tudor that she would follow in his footsteps and take on the same profession.
From tea to anatomy
“I was influenced by a friend who was in school, and went to meet her one day for tea. She was like, ‘Give me a minute, I just have to finish studying for this test,’ and the more I listened to what they were saying, the more I felt, ‘I want to do this.’ So I just got up, went down the hall to admissions and applied, and a week later I got in and was in the school.”
That school was the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. Tudor was thrown in the deep end of having to study subjects that covered body science and anatomy, and at first, she struggled. “For the first couple of quarters, I suffered from anxiety, and failing, and knowing the work intuitively and understanding it almost by muscle memory but not being able to test correctly.” But the challenges proved to be great lessons. “I would fail a class and take it again and then go, ‘Oh, that’s what you were talking about!’ It benefitted me to not run away from the failures,” she adds.
She used the lessons from the institute – both the practical and the metaphorical – to set up and run the business, and indeed her life. Tudor embraces any failures that happen, and uses them as opportunities to learn more. “We've leaned heavily into what we preach,” she says. “We really practice it now because this is what keeps us grounded.”
From the initial challenges of setting up a wellness business to the day-to-day running of it, Tudor shares that she still has the same fear to overcome. “Straight fear of taking the chance and doing what it is that I know I want to do,” she says. Initially, she and Ade worked out of a room at a doctor’s office, and then out of their apartment, and then the bathroom of an old mansion, before finally taking over the spot on Tompkins Avenue. “I convinced Ade to pour his savings into the business and we just started building it,” she says. “We did it on faith, because that really is what keeps you going. Like, you have to believe in the mission and the vision of what it is that you began with, and that was to help our community. And that's what we do.”
Keepin’ it moving
Life Wellness Center is a space for the community to go to find solace and feel calm and centered to face the chaos of life. “It’s a powerful thing to see what you imagined grow even bigger than what you possibly imagined,” says Tudor. As for how she herself stays calm and centered, Tudor credits a practice of daily movement. “We leave quite early and walk to Prospect Park. Being physically active helps me keep at bay that nervous energy that comes from not knowing what’s going to happen.”
Whether it’s running, walking or just being conscious of her breathing, Tudor reminds herself to be constantly inspired by the fact that she has life. “It allows me to move through things that are happening,” she says. She allows for movement of her thoughts, too. “There are some things that I don’t allow my attention to stay on because they’re toxic, and so they cannot exist in my realm.”
This practice is something she picked up from her mother. “There are so many people I’ve learned from, but my mother is a classic example of being gentle and resilient at the same time. She has every reason to lash out at the world because of all the terrible things that happened to her but she just exists in a way that says, even when things are bad, I am still going to figure out a way to be present. And sometimes through that presence you realize that people care about you and so you can allow that to heal you.” It’s this gift of healing that Tudor strives to offer to all who pass through the green door of her wellness center.
Images by @shotbykenan