Mind Body Mecca
by Emily Kovach
As a small child growing up in Communist China, Yan Huo suffered myriad health problems, including asthma and anemia. The irony was that her father was a foot doctor trained in the healing practices of Chinese herbs, but her parents were forced by the government to reside and work in other provinces. It wasn’t until her family immigrated to the United States in 1982 that she lived with her parents, who immediately set to work on healing her.
Throughout her childhood in the U.S., Huo’s parents shared their knowledge with her.
“My dad loved my curiosity, and taught me a lot,” she remembers. In college, Huo pursued nursing, but was quickly disenchanted. “During internships, I saw people on lots of medicine and eating poorly, and couldn’t see myself getting into that… I didn’t believe that was medicine.”
She refocused her studies on art therapy in grad school at Hahnemann University Hospital. “I fell in love with how we can change our minds and increase motivations for positive action,” she says. After graduating, she worked with patients in addiction treatment and with refugees, witnessing the huge needs in these communities. Along the way, she observed how few therapy practices integrated the body and the mind. Ultimately, this motivated her to open Art of Wellness in 2009.
This holistic wellness center was first located at 7th and Bainbridge streets and offered acupuncture, yoga, massage and life coaching, as well as nutrition counseling, couples’ therapy and art therapy.
Huo also wanted to create a family inclusive facility, with the goal of normalizing treatment.
“I’ve helped so many people off their drugs, from Xanax to heroin, or helped them jumpstart their body with hormonal balance, improving sleep, helping with anxiety,” she says.
In the fall of 2015, Huo learned that a new landlord was raising her rent by $1,000 per month. She frantically began looking for a new space, and a new home in the Constitution Health Plaza on South Broad Street. While the move caused Huo to lose many of her previous clients, she said the response in South Philly has been great.
As Art of Wellness has gone through growing pains over the years, employee Emanuel Ramos stayed with the practice and helped them through transitions—Huo refers to Ramos as webmaster, wellness advocate and marketing manager, but also as their “chief visionary officer.” Clients, however, know him as the center’s go-to massage therapist, someone who has helped them through pains of their own. He’s developed a devoted following from taking the time to understand the underlying issues that are causing physical discomfort, and then working with his clients over time to help them get well again. Ramos looks at every pain in someone’s body as an individual problem to be solved.
Huo is a firm believer that a holistic approach to medicine needs to become more mainstream, and she’s creating educational materials to train more providers, especially in women’s health.
“I want to give them an extra set of tools for their practice,” she says.