Q&A: Monique McCrystal of Replenish: The Spa Co-op

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Mar 26, 2021

Monique McCrystal sits on the tile floor of the Wexner Center for the Arts galleries with her hands in prayer pose, underneath a round abstract painting in black and gray by Torkwase Dyson

“Replenish is built from the heart work of a mother and two sisters,” explains Deja Redman, cofounder of Replenish: The Spa Co-op. “We believe that the truest mirror is within the healthy relationship we cultivate with self, family, community and then out and into the world, and in that order.”

“Restorative care is a revolution,” Redman adds. “As mothers it is all in the DNA for us. Observing the origin of our lineage, listening to the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. From emotional care, herbal beauty remedies to self care rituals.”

Located in a vintage building and adjacent carriage house on South Washington Street, Replenish is dedicated to sharing practices that support and strengthen both individuals who participate and the communities in which they exist. Services range from traditional spa offerings such as massage and aesthetics to yoga and meditation sessions. 

Replenish entered a partnership with the Wexner Center for the Arts about four years ago, to bring the co-op’s meditation practice inside the center’s galleries for the weekly program On Pause. Since then, the Replenish team has also worked with the Wex’s Learning & Public Practice Department to provide meditation sessions for staff and to develop YogARTS, a monthly yoga session for families with young children. The current series of On Pause videos continues through May 5 and a new YogARTS will debut on Facebook this Saturday, April 3 at 9:30 AM. 

If you've tuned in for YogARTS recently, you know that Redman counts herself among this group. She recently gave birth to a daughter, Sula. While she's on mom duty, Monique McCrystal, a family friend and business partner in the yoga practice as well as a familiar presence from Replenish's Wex programs, spoke with us about the co-op and its partnership with the center.

Tell us about Replenish.

Replenish is a family owned business, and it’s funny—a lot of people think I am a member of that family, and I am by love. Replenish was cofounded by Chanelle and Deja Redman, who are sisters, and their mother Wauvette. Wauvette is a massage therapist, Deja is an aesthetician, and Chanelle is a yoga teacher, all by trade. And three of them together have this really rich family lineage of women who were leaders and caregivers for their communities, their families, for their extended families—that’s the lineage they come from. And so, with Replenish, they co-created this idea really born from that lineage: How do continue to show up and care powerfully for community without leaving ourselves last? How can we shift the narrative of restorative community care and also serve ourselves?

Replenish has been in business for 11 years, which is crazy to think. It’s located in an old historic building and it feels very much fells like home when you come into the space. And then, within the Replenish mission we have our Yoga Carriage. I’m in that business with Chanelle and Deja, and our yoga mission is all about yoga for everyday life, and life study courses to deepen and experience in your everyday meditation and yoga.

How long have you been working with Replenish, and how did you get looped in?

Oh, this is such a good story. Chanelle and I went to Ohio State together many moons ago—I’m talking late ‘90s—and we were always connected, and I looked up to her as a big sister because I was always inspired by her, and Deja I knew through proximity as Chanelle’s younger sister. 

My background professionally is in social work and sociology, so many moons ago I was working in that field and I had grant funding, and I really wanted the younger folks I was working with to have an opportunity to do yoga and meditation. I knew Chanelle and Deja had this spa with their mom and they also taught yoga, so we connected for the program in that way, and it was so transformative and powerful, just the connection we had with the program and the work, that we planted the seed then—at some point, we’re going to do this all together, and we don’t know what that’s going to look like. So, fast forward five years later, I left my job, did a whole career shift and became a partner in the business. I cofounded the Yoga Carriage along with the two of them and it’s been such an incredible journey since then. It’ll be five years in April. 

What a great background to bring to yoga practice.

Yeah, I think so. I tell people frequently that my work and my days may look very different, but ultimately I’m still working to get to the same destination, I’m just taking a different mode of transportation to get there.

How has the business been affected by the pandemic?

I can remember this time last year, and Chanelle and Deja and I were talking about how our bodies can remember this time last year—just the uncertainty and confusion and everything that we were experiencing at this time of, what do we do? So we actually made the decision to close both the Yoga Carriage and the Spa House before we were mandated to close. Things felt really uncertain and we pride ourselves on being what the community identifies as a safe space, and we don’t believe there’s a period on the end of “safe”—that’s something that’s always evolving. So when we started having the conversations about what we’re going to do here, we just had to pause. We had to figure out what it means for us to be well and for our own families to be well, so we made that decision to temporarily close our doors. Then the mandates came after that and we thought, OK, we were on to something by listening to our intuition. 

We initially thought about shifting everything to an online platform and we started digging into what that would take and building out a schedule, and things were just changing so rapidly that we decided to pause with that, too… We reopened the Spa House a couple of weeks after the mandates lifted, but we have not reopened our physical yoga space yet. We’ve been renovating. We believe that the business talks to us as much as we talk to it, and the yoga space has held a lot of energy over the years for transitions and challenges, and we have families who come to us who are in the middle of tragedy and death and birth and all kinds of circumstances we hold space for, and we’d like our space to breathe for a moment—that’s what it was asking for. And then we started to think, let’s replace the floors, let’s get some new paint up and new fixtures and breathe life into this space, and give gratitude to the space for all it’s done for us, for the community over the years, while recreating what it looks like to have a safe space.

Monique McCrystal seen from the waist up, sitting next to an installation work by artist Baseera Khan

McCrystal seated beside Baseera Khan's Column 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 2019 (partial view). Pink Panther foamular, plywood, resin dye, custom handmade silk rugs made in Kashmir, India. Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York.

How did you connect with the Wex?

I’ve always been a fan of the Wexner Center for the Arts as an alumni of Ohio State. Just as a contemporary art space, I’ve always really admired the work the Wex does. [Director of Art & Resilience] Tracie McCambridge approached us for a program she already had the title for, On Pause, and she was really interested in finding new ways to activate the art in the space. So that was almost four years ago now… time is crazy. 

We connected and learned more about what her intention was and went through the gallery space, and from there Deja and I created a curriculum to go along. So in that, we research the artists, try to get to know them as well as we can, learn more about what they brought into their work, what inspired them, where they’re from, and their life stories, because it helps us to be able to translate and communicate the inspiration for the art better to the audience. 

We started out with in-person sessions on Wednesdays. We landed on a midday, mid-week pause—just finding space just to check in and do something creative. So we held that space until we got to a point where everything shut down and we started to pivot, but within On Pause there’s also been other programs we’ve connected with, like YogARTs and other things [like sessions with staff]. I think it’s incredible to see all the layers to the institution and we feel like we’ve been really embraced there. I think the Wex is really incredible at finding creative ways to fuse the work that we do and the work and offerings that are already happening there.

"...We research the artists, try to get to know them as well as we can, learn more about what they brought into their work, what inspired them, where they’re from, and their life stories, because it helps us to be able to translate and communicate the inspiration for the art better to the audience."

How do you feel being in the galleries impacts your practice? Are there any artists that you’ve felt a strong connection to?

Yeah, yeah, there definitely are. I think I was extremely nervous the first time we went into galleries. One of the reasons I love the current exhibition, Climate Changing, is that it asks all these powerful questions that many of us process when we walk into a gallery space: What makes a gallery a gallery? Who are museums for? What do they protect? Who do they keep in, or out? What are the rules of engagement? I remember [my first visit] feeling very much like my first day of school and I didn’t know my way around the building. 

We shifted when the pandemic started to offering virtual classes for On Pause, but we were doing them individually from our homes. That was interesting… because we were in everyday life, which is what we talk about often—how do you lean into everyday life? Well, you’re here, you have to carry the inspiration of this art piece, and your dog is going to bark in the background. It just is what it is, and that’s OK, and I think that helped us really to dive into another layer of the offering: that it’s not about perfection, it’s about practice. If you wait to get to that perfectly quiet moment on a mountaintop when there’s no one else around to do a meditation practice or look for inspiration, that’s great, but you’ll be waiting for a long time. And then what happens when you come back to your everyday life and there are dogs barking, or kids that need you, or a phone that’s ringing, or helicopters flying over your building and all these different variables that we have no control over—how do you still find space to practice in the midst of that? That’s where it really counts. 

So we were doing some work with [Learning & Public Practice Director] Dionne Custer-Edwards, who is amazing and took excellent care of us, and she was actually the one to [ask], we’re still in this time of COVID, we still have to be safe, how do you all feel about coming back into the galleries with the work and us filming you there? And we were like, OK, let’s figure this out. So that’s where we are now with our weekly offerings, going into the gallery to record them, and it’s beautiful to be able to be there in relation to the artwork, but also for those who are viewing the work who don’t feel comfortable coming into the galleries to still have a way to be able to connect with the work and see it. 

As far as a favorite artist, we did quite a bit of work with Mickalene Thomas and their work when it was in the galleries two years ago. And I think for me, as a woman, as a Black woman, to see reflections of women I can identify with larger than life on these walls and taking up so much space was inspiring. It inspired me to bring more of myself into the practice in a different way. That was really incredible. I think it transformed the way we practice, the way we brought On Pause to an audience. There was just so much intentionality and thought work that went into it. 

With Climate Changing, I walked in to view it and Deja and I were together, and I said, “This is amazing and I feel overwhelmed.” And when I paused for a second with the purpose of the works in this particular exhibition, I was like, yeah, I do feel overwhelmed, because this feels like life right now. Life is overwhelming and there are not these singular social issues in the world, which there never were, but now we see even more that those social issues don’t live in silos. The interface of issues concerning race and gender and access and gentrification, and the way it all shows up in the gallery space right now, I thought, this is transformative. This is our now, and if we don’t use this opportunity to truly rethink institutions and rethink care and rethink community, then we’re losing out on something really sacred right now—of being able to redefine and reimagine what our world looks like, so the whole body of work in the galleries right now is so inspiring. Today we recorded with Torkwase Dyson’’s work. Her pieces are just breathtaking. They take up so much space so beautifully. I walked through for the first time and said, “I feel like I’m on another planet, like I’m somewhere else.” And it’s incredible how art can take you somewhere else, can transform a space from, OK I’m in the galleries for the Wexner Center for the Arts to, I’m on some magical planet that Torkwase created and I love it here.

Top of page: McCrystal seated in front of Torkwase Dyson's Above and Below (Bird and Lava), 2021. Wood, graphite. 96 x 9 1/2 in., diameter. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery, New York.

Photos: Sylke Krell

Back to blog home