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founder of Mana Living ahead of the opening of her new wellbeing studio in North Shields All images Sarah Jean
Health and beauty
March 2024
Reading time 3 Minutes

Living North meet the founder of Mana Living ahead of the opening of her new wellbeing studio in North Shields

Vera Powles grew up in Portugal and moved to the UK in 2011 having received a scholarship to study for a masters in Molecular Medicine, which sparked her interest in DNA repair. 'That was an area that wasn't really that expanded in Portugal,' she says. 'I thought this was an amazing opportunity to study something different.'

At that time Vera was working on a project in melanoma treatment and stumbled across a lot of research on how our lifestyle actually affects how our DNA expresses itself. ‘Bearing in mind at that time we knew that diet was important, as well as exercise, but the importance of factors such as sleep wasn’t talked about as much,’ she explains. ‘Today, people know that all aspects of our health are very important. I thought that was really fascinating and I wanted to share that so I stayed within the scientific realm after studying, but I also wanted to share what I’d learned so I got a certification with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to make sure I could gain the health coaching skills I needed to apply my knowledge in a way that was much easier to digest. That’s when Mana Living was born.’

Vera’s personal development in health, and what she’d learned, inspired her to learn more about holistic health and she founded Mana Living in 2018, backed by her scientific knowledge. She describes her business as ‘a 360-degree approach to wellbeing’. Vera developed a Six Pillars of Wellness framework which includes diet, exercise, sleep, stress, emotions and spirituality.

‘Everything we do should fall within some of those pillars,’ she explains. ‘We do in-person events, but we also have an online platform [Live Beautifully], which has just celebrated its first anniversary, and is a paid membership which includes content on all of those six pillars.’ The pillars remain the basis of Vera’s coaching programmes and (with the addition of habit and behaviour change) are the focus of her book Live Well – a 30-day programme to change your lifestyle and build habits that last. ‘I feel like it’s become a true reflection of my own lifestyle,’ she adds.

In 2021, Vera became a Women’s Sharing Circles Leader to support women of all ages and backgrounds in their emotional health and healing, and then became a vinyasa yoga teacher. ‘Yoga is something I’ve been doing for the last 15 years and I wanted to be able to share that with my clients as well,’ she says. Mana Living’s yoga classes include Body & Soul Flow at Karma Collective every Saturday, which focuses on building strength and increasing flexibility, and Sunday Slow Flow & Sound on the last Sunday of each month at Full Circle Brew Co, aimed at helping you release physical tension and calm the mind.

Read More: How to Embrace Change in Your Life

Vera describes Live Beautifully as ‘a one-stop-shop for everything you need for your wellbeing’. Available on any device, with new videos added weekly, Live Beautifully offers plant-based recipes, digital yoga classes, meditations, sound baths and pranayama (breathing techniques) which clients can access at any time. Ever adapting, last year Vera added her husband’s services into the membership plan. ‘He’s a physics teacher, sound therapist and breathwork teacher and if there’s ever something that I feel is beneficial and I have experimented with and my health benefits from, I will try as much as I can to add it in as a service for my clients,’ she adds.

‘When we started it a year ago, there weren’t any platforms that included the same scope of wellbeing services that we included in ours,’ says Vera. ‘There is so much information out there but I feel like a lot of our clients were spending so much time looking on YouTube and they were using that in the same way as when I sit with my husband and we look for a film to watch – before we know it an hour has gone and we end up not watching anything. In a similar way, a lot of people I’ve spoken to have had a compilation of incredible recipes that they never find time to actually cook. I thought we should take away all that time wasted and with one log-in you get all your meditations, exercises, plant-based meal-prep plans, sound baths and breathwork coaching. I just wanted to make it easy and convenient for people to feel well,’ she says.

With no entrepreneurial background, Vera says setting up Mana Living has been ‘quite a ride’. ‘When I started I wasn’t even aware of the support you can get,’ she admits. ‘For example, from the council or even your bank. There are so many funded courses nowadays that you can get into. When I started I felt like I needed to be really disciplined and really understand what I needed to learn and just look for that myself – and learn quickly from my mistakes!’ 

Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is ‘don’t give up’ and ‘ask for help’. ‘I feel like for so long I didn’t know how to ask for help, but talking to someone who has a certain area of expertise makes you realise that your advocates, and the people that’ll help with your business, will come from a variety of places. People will support you, and even better, they might have a solution for you.

‘It’s not easy to find the support, but once you do you realise there’s quite a lot of expertise in the area. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about building Mana Living is how many people I’ve met. I studied in Edinburgh so when I moved to Newcastle I didn’t know anyone. Now if I go out for a coffee, I’ll see at least five people I know, whether that’s other business owners or clients. I certainly found lots of support from other business owners too. No one really gatekeeps anything, so if they find something they think is helpful for you they’ll share it. We’ve just developed a balancing room spray and we were contacting businesses who have similar products for advice – everyone is just so supportive. 

‘There’re always going to be difficult days when you’re running a business but it really is our clients and those we’ve met – our community – that keeps me going every day. They are just the most incredible people. They’re very friendly but such advocates for our business as well. They really believe in it and they’re happy to share the changes it’s made to their lives and what they’ve learned.’

Sustainability is key to Mana Living’s offering. ‘It’s probably one of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of physical products, and with what we do have we always try to make sure we can develop those locally,’ Vera says. ‘For example, with our new room spray, we developed that with Diya Wellness, who is from the North East. When we do an event, we try to keep single-use waste to a minimum. We focus a lot on plant-based nutrition and we try to keep our events and classes as local to the North East as possible.’ 

Vera puts a good work-life balance down to sustainability too. ‘Everything you do needs to be sustainable and you have to be able to maintain it,’ she says. ‘It’s better for your own consistency if you try to have a routine that’s really adaptable to your work-life and family-life as opposed to, for example, trying to do a one-hour routine each morning if you have morning meetings. I try to be as realistic as I can. You can only keep something going in the long-run if you make it really approachable, simple and sustainable. It’s also about knowing that every day is going to be a little bit different, so if you can’t give 100 percent on a certain day, there’s more to come.’

In 2024 Mana Living will open its first wellbeing studio in a new development in North Shields. ‘I’m really excited for it,’ Vera admits. ‘My hopes are that it becomes the main hub for all things wellness and wellbeing in the North East and we will be able to create a space that’s not been seen here yet, and be able to help even more people than we already are.’

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