Learning to self-heal in Florence

Learning to self-heal in Florence

How the adventure of opening a wellness space in Florence brought serenity to one expat.

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Thu 02 Nov 2023 11:31 AM

I was originally drawn to Florence for its Renaissance roots. It’s a city that feels untouched, yet you know there are unique possibilities lurking under the surface if you look in the right places. I was in a very low and lost place in my life when I stumbled upon Florence three years ago, but somehow my soul knew that this city contained a blank canvas for me to self-heal and be whoever I wanted to be.

Ranah in her Movement IQ studio, Florence

Right before Covid, I was based in New York City and working for one of the most prolific and exclusive gyms in America, where I had just launched my own fitness method—Movement IQTM (MIQ)—as a small group format. At the time, the method was simply about mastering the foundation of movement in a dialled-in way, in a way that valued knowledge and quality over quantity. Having grown up in Los Angeles and New York, both full of fluff and definitely full of fitness, my gut knew this back-to-basics approach that relied on slowing down would have gotten lost in the push culture of NYC. A month after I launched my first MIQ class, Covid broke out and the NYC gym I was working for closed. Some might see this occurrence as bad luck, but in retrospect, I see it as a re-direction of grand proportion, one that I could have never orchestrated on my own. 

Fast-forward through whirlwind-creating experiences around the globe, love, confusion, health scares, an ongoing pandemic, but most importantly a strong feeling about Florence and the shining light it seemed to offer, I eventually decided to white knuckle myself onto the brave road. I decided to open up a gym in a country that wasn’t my own, with a language I couldn’t speak at the time, in the middle of a global pandemic. I didn’t know how it would pan out, but I knew it felt right to try.

The Movement IQTM method is an intelligent approach to strength training characterized by four key elements: breathe, posture, abdominal centering, and proprioception (or movement awareness). Each class takes you on a journey where you learn to master traditional strength exercises from the ground up. In this process, you are able to build a strong and deeply present connection with your body. With Florence as its canvas, the entire MIQ experience would blossom into the purest embodiment of my gifts and the messages I wanted to share with the world. Compared to other international cities, Florence (and Italian culture in general) is extremely virgin when it comes to the fitness and wellness industries. My studio became a safe incubator for me to pour my energy and heart into and see what would land. Although I had a mixed bag of ages and fitness levels walk through the door every day, there was one key common denominator: each person was showing up for themselves with extreme openness. This energetic quality became extremely fertile ground for MIQ’s evolution. 

While building out the MIQ studio, I was simultaneously navigating the bureaucratic nightmares of opening a business in Italy, alone, and stripped away from everything I knew. Florence became a three-year journey of intense self-reflection, filled with anxiety, deep sadness, recovery and growth alongside seemingly unshakeable fear and doubt. I got to know myself in a profound way, particularly the parts of me I had been long running away from. 

Autoguarigione (self-healing) was always meant to be the theme of my time in Florence. As I learned to self-heal, I started tapping into an infinite well of bravery and life force that was always within me. I no longer needed to white knuckle my strength. I just needed to be me. 

As Movement IQ evolved, other elements of the MIQ experience started taking center stage. I naturally began focusing more on my performance, my words, and the interplay of movement and music. As a former music industry professional, my deep passion for electronic music became extremely useful curating meaningful MIQ experiences. This tie to music started becoming noticed outside of the studio and music-to-movement integration is precisely where the next chapter of MIQ will focus. 

Thank you to every client that has walked through the MIQ doors and thank you, Florence, for falling into my lap at a time when I needed you the most.

My biggest takeaways for anyone looking to open up a wellness space in Florence

Ranah in piazza Santo Spirito, Florence

1. Know your “why” (or at least let yourself be open to uncovering it). Allow it to unfold and evolve as you do. 

2. Have fun. Italian bureaucracy can be incredibly frustrating, inefficient and unclear, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Laugh about it and move on. Come back to the forward-propelling energy of your why and check each bureaucratic box off one at a time.

3. Don’t forget to be yourself in the process of building out your business. People are coming for your energy just as much as they are coming for your expertise. You shine brightest when you focus on the unique gifts you have to offer. 

4. If you choose to be brave and in alignment with yourself, Florence can help you be whoever you want to be.

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