A Journey From Shock Illness To Wellness: Why Must Women Start Investing In Physical Health Soon

Women, there is magic in sports and pursuing any form of fitness. You see parts of you that you wouldn’t have known existed.

Devayani Vijayan
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wellness and women
I absolutely and completely believe in the adage that You Only Live Once (YOLO). And sometimes it takes a crisis or multiple crises to create a pivot in one’s life.

I have been active throughout school and college, captained every team possible from the age of 5 onwards and have never said no to exploring any opportunity that came my way.

So, somewhere in early 2010, when I had just finished 18 months of living in Italy and was struck down by an undiagnosed ">disease, it was a very rude awakening. I couldn’t sleep for over 8 months, my skin ruptured and tore apart and life, as I knew it, dramatically changed. Once I was finally diagnosed, I had multiple rounds of ever-growing dosage of steroids, till I collapsed one night, not entirely sure about waking up the next day. Thankfully I did and decided that there had to be alternate ways of healing myself of my autoimmune condition and hence started my journey of discovery. I explored the science of gut health and chronic inflammation, the ability of the body to self-heal, and I did get better with a lot of support from my healthcare team.

Little known to me was the fact that autoimmune conditions go into remission, but never really disappear. A few years down the line, I checked in for a simple laparoscopic procedure, and the next thing I know, I was in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, with a lung collapse and clot in my lungs. I got out of that dramatic situation, and then was declared to have septicaemia, with only a few days to live! Suffice to say, I might have seen the white light up close a few times! Even a simple paper cut took months to heal – my body was attacking me from the inside and no one really seemed to know how to fix it, let alone identify the causes for the same. I’d have debilitating migraines, inexplicable brain fog, and such extreme tiredness that couldn’t be explained at all.

Wellness and women

I should say though, that none of this stopped me from chasing adventures, like moving countries, exploring adrenalin highs, and making new homes, but what it did was make me want to do all this, pain and discomfort free. Good health is something you have to greedily fight for.

Your body is an amazing piece of work, we take it for granted, till we get to the stage where we absolutely cannot.


Why wait till that happens? Listen to your body and take care of it, so that your health span = lifespan. Live long, but infinitely better!

I have always had a keen interest in fitness, whether it be yoga, spin, pilates, boxing, or CrossFit; I have experimented with multiple genres. With every low that I have dealt with in life, exercise or movement has been my drug of choice. I’ve been thrown off a bike off a mountain, snapped my ACL (ligament in the knee) in that instant, and spent the rest of my holiday and a good part of the year with a broken knee essentially.

I chose to learn boxing in that time, only using my arms and core for a good 9 months, but I didn’t stop exercising. During the pandemic, I’d walk for hours on a loop, because that gave me a much-needed release from the stress of that period. Growing up, in my co-ed school, I would play cricket and ball games with the boys and be quite grateful that we weren’t boxed in because of gender. That changed as we grew older, and I cannot honestly remember women playing sports as eagerly as men during my graduation days.

There is magic in sport and pursuing any form of fitness. You see parts of you that you wouldn’t have known existed. Attitude gets cemented, resilience becomes part of your being, and the belief in self is a revelation. The consistency, discipline and mental strength that physical endeavours instil, shape your reaction to the many unexpected situations that you may face in life.

In the realm of one of my favourite sports, tennis, I have had the immense good fortune of interacting with the legends Serena Williams and Rafa Nadal. Working with Rafa and his extended team in building a tennis academy was a lesson in humility and grit. As someone said about him, “it is the relentless ability to play every point like nothing else matters except that point,” it is that resilience and attitude that envelopes the young players in his academy and motivates everyone around him to bring their best to the table.

Sport is a male-dominated field. Even today, the pay gap between men and women is huge. You have trailblazers like Serena Williams fighting back after a dramatic childbirth, but the spotlight on women’s bodies and the physiological impact on the sport is so limited. In this milieu, with my life experiences and having worked closely with such greats, I would hope for more women to get fitness and movement into their lives. The sense of competition only makes you younger, every achievement builds self-confidence, and gaining strength and agility helps you cope with stress better!


We have the greats to inspire us, but the changes we make can start small. Discipline beats motivation, and every small step taken to get movement or exercise adds up to life being a healthier and more fulfilling one. This has been an intrinsic part of my growth in the field of wellness – I have even trained with FC Barcelona, on understanding how elite athletes fuel themselves for optimum performance.

In every situation, unexpected or otherwise, that I have been thrown into – I have never questioned my ability to get over it. A large part of this confidence comes from the self-worth that physical fitness instils. Women, you HAVE to do this for yourselves and the ecosystem you manage, which cannot survive without you!

Devayani Vijayan is a certified wellness practitioner. Views expressed by the author are their own.

Suggested Reading: Hormonal Health and Wellness: Why We Can’t Let Women Walk Alone In This Journey


wellness and women