Meghan Hays develops an individual health and wellness plan for each of her clients.
Meghan Hays, owner and instructor at Meghan Hays Ayurveda, Pilates, and Reiki, grew up in Lafayette in a role-reversed household. Her stay-at-home dad did everything from cooking to carpooling, while her mom worked as a lawyer. “My mom’s legal career inspired me, and, after college, I was accepted to Tulane Law School,” Hays says. “That’s how I ended up in New Orleans in 2014.” So it was a turn of events for Hays when she decided to make a career out of fitness.
Hays’ parents inspired her from an early age to be healthy and fit, but it wasn’t until she was a first-year college student at the University of Virginia in 2000 that she became certified in group exercise. “I taught everything under the sun, from kick-boxing to aqua aerobics, throughout college and law school, and I eventually became a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine,” she says. “After law school and passing the Bar exam, I realized I was completely uninterested in a law career (oops!). I had an epiphany one day, while walking my dog. I realized there was no reason I couldn’t make a career out of fitness, and, at that time, I was extremely interested in Pilates, or mind-body movement.”
Hays began a two-year journey to become a fully certified Stott Pilates instructor, and she bought a house in Uptown where she started a successful fitness business. What is now Meghan Hays Ayurveda, Pilates, and Reiki has been a work in progress ever since.
“I’ve evolved from working on the physical body through group fitness and personal training to working on the subtle/energetic body through yoga, Reiki and Ayurveda,” she says. “Ayurveda is the newest in the line of offerings for me, and I’ll be working on a 3,100-hour track to become an Ayurvedic doctor over the next two to three years. Currently, I’ve completed a 600-hour course to become an Ayurvedic health counselor. I assist people in improving their lives and health through diet and lifestyle modifications, based on the ancient and practical science of Ayurveda (often called the ‘sister science’ or ‘healing side’ of yoga). I’m in the middle of a 700-hour course to become a clinical Ayurvedic specialist; this next level will give me the ability to work very specifically with clients on their disease-management through herbal medicine, as well as diet and lifestyle practices.”
During an initial consultation in Ayurveda, clients learn about their inherent tendencies and about why their digestion, body and mind tend to go out of balance in certain ways. For example, Hays might help a client discover why he or she always get sicks in the spring or fall, or why certain foods, exercises or even scents present digestive or other challenges. “From an Ayurvedic perspective, all disease begins in the digestive tract,” she says. “So working on what and how we eat is of utmost importance. In addition, we would work on every part of your day by bringing in exercise, aromatherapy, sounds, spices, colors and self-care practices, which support your unique constitution.”
As for her own fitness and wellness routine, Hays aligns her daily rhythms with the sun. She wakes up around sunrise (earlier in the summer and later in the winter) to prepare for her day, followed by a walk with her dog; some yoga and/or Pilates; a little MELT Method (soft, foam rolling); meditating and Reiki (energy clearing); showering and applying specific oils to her body; eating a supportive breakfast; and getting ready for teaching clients. Lunch is her largest meal of the day. In the evening, she starts to wind down as the sun sets with some restorative yoga or light meditation; a warm bath; and a light, early dinner.
ON STAYING MOTIVATED
“When I start off with exercise, meditation, some time outside and a healthy breakfast, I make healthier choices at lunch,” Hays says. “I tend to avoid overeating; I stop when I’m 70 percent full. Sleep is truly the basis of our health. So even though I say that my morning routine is the foundation of a healthy day for me, it’s really about getting enough sleep the night before so that I get up early enough to do my routine. I stay motivated by remembering how I feel when I’m balanced and healthy; I want that feeling all the time!”
“I’m an omnivore, and I try to stick to balancing foods for my Ayurvedic constitution,” Hays says. “I usually eat oatmeal with flax, hemp and chia seeds, or avocado with coriander and lime on sprouted grain toast, for breakfast. Lunch is the largest meal of the day for me, so I’ll have some form of beans [or chicken or tofu], greens and grains cooked with ghee, coriander, fennel, cumin and turmeric. Dinner is just a smaller version of lunch. I love pasta, but I try to limit [it] to a once-a-week indulgence. I also love wine, but it lowers my inhibitions about eating too much in the evenings and interrupts my sleep, so I definitely work on limiting my consumption!”
“I have to say that the most success I see from my clients is when they keep coming back,” Hays says. “Some of my Pilates clients have been coming to see me twice and three times a week for eight years! I think this is a true measure of success: consistency. These clients have succeeded in incorporating regular fitness into their daily lives — for almost a decade! These are the clients who have the fewest injuries, age the most gracefully and manage stress the best. I’m so in awe of their commitment; they inspire me to remain consistent in my resolve to be well and healthy too.”
“In order to be truly well, healthy and disease-free, we must be consistent about our diet, exercise and daily self-care practices,” Hays says. “Health is truly reflected in what we do 80 percent, or most, of the time. This mentality allows for some wiggle room, but reminds us that consistency is key. I see people jump into diet and exercise routines too vigorously and either become injured or burnt out—it’s just not sustainable. We have to find what works for us and keep doing it with patience and self-kindness. Ayurveda says that not everything is right for everyone, but something is right for someone; I help clients find what is right for them.”