The idea of using henna – traditionally meant for cultural celebrations and rites of passage- as a method to self-heal sounds intriguing, yet the concept still appears to be foreign to so many. But this is precisely what Saira Hussain – Henna Therapist, Healer, Holistic Health Practitioner, and Self-Worth Advocate – does for a living. Through the years of cultivating her craft and adorning hundreds of women with intricate henna artistry, she’s witnessed first-hand the profound effects henna can do for the body and mind, creating an entirely new healing experience in the process. Saira is determined, inspired to share her wisdom with others and, above all, educate on the deeply holistic, intertwined relationship between science and art.
As I sit down to discuss Saira’s journey and the birth of her company, Breath of Henna, I notice a few things. For one, she is reminiscent of an old soul, someone who approaches life with an acute self-awareness that most of us would yearn for in this life. As she speaks, you instantly feel this magnetic force to her, like you’ve been friends this whole time. Perhaps it’s her choice of words – the poetry that flows out of her mouth- that pulls you in, inviting you to get vulnerable and sit deeper into the conversation.
“We haven’t looked at henna holistically,” she says. Indeed, most of us don’t perceive henna to bear such healing powers, but perhaps that is due to a lack of education, as Saira points out. She describes the multi-faceted experience one can have if we shift our perspective and begin to view henna as a form of therapeutic healing – starting with the actual henna powder. “The henna plant has cooling properties”. Now, imagine combining this with water, lemon juice, essential oils, and physical touch. The result? “A beautiful sensory experience.”
On Saira’s Beginnings with Henna
Saira has been applying henna since she was 16. “At first, henna was work for me” she says—a source of income that soared her career to new heights, particularly in the wedding industry.
According to South Asian culture, henna is prominently used throughout major celebratory events, like weddings. In fact, many pre-wedding events gather around henna – it is that significant. But the craze for henna coupled with Saira’s in-demand skillset left her feeling disconnected from her identity. She describes this period when she felt henna was viewed as a commodity, “a temporary treat”. People were “known to henna but weren’t open to the growth and understanding of [it].”
During this time, she began to think of how to spark change within herself and regain her self-worth yet still offer this service to others. So, she extended her skills into various communities and connected with other like-minded individuals – this was the driving force behind her company’s creation, the foundation of which Breath of Henna sits on.
Today, henna has become an educational system for Saira, “an extended branch of [her] culture”. She has built close-knit relationships with the women she surrounds herself with, turning her clients into cherished friends and ultimately creating “this beautiful community of sisterhood.”
On Overcoming Adversity Through Art
Using henna, Saira illustrates a visual story; your story.
“We’re constantly going through adversity, but some of us choose to ignore it,” she says. “When we hear adversity knocking, we have to learn to open the door and face it with compassion and confidence.”
For some, this is easier said than done.
Past trauma and pain can linger. Without making self-care, or more specifically, self-love, a priority, it’s nearly impossible to heal from old wounds, as is the case for so many women who deliver love but never ask for it in return. “We’re constantly pouring into others that we have forgotten how to love”.
To overcome adversity, internal work is needed. This means, Saira isn’t afraid to ask her clients the intimate questions:
“What does self-love mean to you?”
“What can love do for you?”
“If you had love, what would it look like?”
This is part of the healing journey. With the answers in mind, Saira begins to adorn the body with bespoke patterns and designs – or as I like to call it: love. It’s equal parts visual and emotional, allowing the art to guide you to a place where you’re free to become your most authentic self.
On Breath of Henna’s Bespoke Experience
The name Breath of Henna (BOH) aptly fuses Saira’s heritage with the evocative experience art can create. In essence, the company is a true reflection of who she is and her background. But what differentiates Saira and BOH from other artists is the bespoke experience she curates for each of her clients.
This is not a “choose your template” type of session; it’s a holistic healing treatment.
It starts with a personal consultation to better understand your journey before the design process takes place. Saira uses unique floral arrangements, patterns, and quotes to adorn the body with love and ignite self-awareness- invariably leading you to a newfound appreciation and gratitude for the self that may have been lost or pushed aside due to past trauma.
Women from all walks of life come to see Saira. Throughout our conversation, she reflects on her previous clients: those who have been physically abused and bear the scars of their past. So, she adorns these marks with detailed art and messages of strength and resilience. Or the women who are pregnant and wish to have their bellies blessed for the life they carry and are about to bring into the world. Even women in the midst of chemotherapy visit Saira, where she transforms their scalps into ornate masterpieces, crowns filled with hope and courage.
Suffice to say – BOH is aligned to focus on supporting your wellness, your story, and your path to self-love.
On Future Plans
If there were one phrase to describe Saira’s philosophy and her end-goals, it would be: “Empowered women empower women” – my words, not hers.
As we discuss the future of BOH, Saira can’t help but muse about all that she has planned, like teaching other women (future healers) holistic henna therapy both locally and back in her homeland. Alongside, opening a healing center in Toronto – forming a sacred space – for personal growth, self-reflection, and acceptance.
All in due time.
Saira Hussain is a Henna Therapist, Healer, Holistic Health Practitioner, and Self-Worth Advocate. She is also the founder of Breath of Henna and The Love Letter Community. For a complete listing of her services, click here.