Most people who’ve chosen the path of self-actualization — where one attempts to reach their fullest potential in all areas of their life — have likely come across the moving words of breathwork coach, restorative writing teacher, and NYT bestselling author Alex Elle. For nearly a decade, she’s shared her healing journey through a collection of poetry books, prompt-led journals, and self-care workbooks. She offers in-person workshops, courses (she’s currently a teacher in residence at Civana Wellness Resort and Spa), and retreats for more hands-on learning. With nearly 1.5 million followers across social media, Elle is an open book. Followers watch her growth as she steps into each new phase of her life. From her first book, “Words From a Wanderer” — a compilation of poems and love notes to herself — to her latest, “How We Heal: Uncover Your Power and Set Yourself Free” ($18), the wife and mother of three offers readers the chance to see what it looks like to heal with intention.
In “How We Heal,” Elle guides readers through their healing journeys, weaving in personal anecdotes, journal prompts, and exercises throughout the book. In four sections — “Starting From Scratch,” “Befriending Your Fear,” “Reclaiming Your Power,” and “Healing Your Heart” — readers follow a roadmap to connect with their inner child. The road begins with understanding and choosing self-forgiveness, which Elle tells POPSUGAR “requires softness that I feel like a lot of us weren’t raised to tap into.”
Elle calls self-forgiveness a “radical act of self-love,” as it allows space for new beginnings and a new narrative to be written. “Self-forgiveness is a hard choice to make,” she says. “And when we give ourselves permission to do that, a softening happens over time. Deeper love happens within us, and then we’re able to really show up in the world in a way that is more intentional and grounded in choice.” With many Black women entering their soft life eras — choosing to prioritize their self-care and happiness while denouncing the “strong Black woman” archetype, as defined by TikTok — “How We Heal” takes the aesthetic out of social media and becomes a tangible guidebook on the empowering lifestyle.
The impact of having a community while you’re in healing is continuous throughout “How We Heal.” In addition to her own anecdotes, Elle includes the stories of 13 influential women widely known for being intentional about healing, including Glennon Doyle, Megan Rapinoe, Tabitha Brown, Nneka Julia, and Chriselle Lim. “Every woman in this book inspires me in some way, and I have gone to in some way for their wisdom and their emotional support,” Elle says. “I chose the 13 women in this book because each of their stories is so different, but the underlying message is the same.”
Elle especially praises Dr. Thema Bryant for her commitment to healing and empowerment by connecting the science of psychology and theology. “She centers her own truth and story in how she shows up either at the pulpit or in session with a client, and that is just glorious to me,” Elle says. “Because that is healing — when we can bear our souls and also be like, ‘Yeah, that hurt, and that may have been a hard place to be, but joy is possible.” Elle emphasizes this sentiment in the book’s tagline: “When we heal ourselves, we heal our lineage. Healing is an act of community care.”
Elle also highlights the benefits of getting in touch with our physical bodies for a holistic approach to healing with meditation, naps, various breathing techniques for mindfulness, and daily walks. “Walking for me is a self-soothing tool. It’s a place where I can quite literally feel like I’m holding myself,” Elle shares, comparing the activity to being cradled like a newborn. “I go on walks to process. I go on walks to explore. I go on walks to get lost. I go on walks to find myself, and like all of that serves me in this way where I don’t have to know where I’m going. And I can still get something deeply nourishing from this walk.” Yes, walking may feel daunting in winter. Still, Elle chooses to commit to her nourishment and finds the motivation because “choosing nourishment is healing.” She talks more about the benefits of walking in her podcast “This Morning Walk” in partnership with Libby DeLana.
“How We Heal” gives readers permission to fall in love with themselves, to connect with the inner child, and provide a not-so-straight path toward introspection. However, as Elle notes, “healing is a forever love,” so readers are encouraged to continue the journey, even when self-doubt or fear is in the way. For those moments, Elle has a simple mantra for when she’s performing her own breathwork: “That is my breath. I am alive. I’m not dead. I can breathe. Let’s breathe through this.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. “How We Heal: Uncover Your Power and Set Yourself Free” by Alex Elle is in bookstores now.
Image Source: Courtesy of Alex Elle