How Melissa Wood-Tepperberg’s Meditation Practice Inspired Her Business
The MWH founder on her biggest business lessons and the key to finding your passion.
Melissa Wood-Tepperberg starts her mornings at 5 a.m., but she’s not a morning person. “I became one because I had kids and didn’t have a choice,” she laughs over Zoom, clad in an oversized blazer, smile and skin beaming. “Then I just realized that I was a better mother, a better businesswoman, and a better wife when I woke up and took care of myself first.” To Wood-Tepperberg, this means moving her body, even if just a few minutes, and always, always meditating. “I would not be able to manage my life and all that's on my plate if I didn't meditate — I know that for a fact,” she says.
Wood-Tepperberg, founder of Melissa Wood Health (or MWH, as her loyal followers refer to it), also credits meditation as the catalyst that inspired to start her fitness and lifestyle business — a business that’s just as much about the slow, gentle pilates and yoga-based workouts she’s known for, as it is about her, Melissa, as a person. She never set out to build a brand, but after a a shift in her personal fitness journey moved her away from high-intensity, “torturous” workouts to gentle movement that she looked forward to doing each day, she realized she had to share her discovery with the world. “I started seeing results beyond anything I had ever experienced before in my life,” she says. “And the best part — it was for a fraction of the time [of my previous routine]. I was moving 15 minutes, 20 minutes a day consistently. It was an aha moment.”
Her philosophy struck a nerve. Wood-Tepperberg now has over a million followers on Instagram and recently gave a guest lecture at Harvard Business School on building a successful personal brand. MWH, her fitness app and business, is expanding, too — new workouts, new meditations, and a slew of brand-new instructors, hand-selected by Wood-Tepperberg herself. All of them embody her wellness philosophy of accessibility and attainability — that there is no “one size fits all” approach to health and fitness, and that coming back to the yoga mat each day, even if just for a few minutes, is enough to make all the difference.
Ahead, Wood-Tepperberg shares her biggest business lessons, how to start a meditation practice, and the key to finding your passion.
Tell me about the early days of Melissa Wood Health.
Before getting pregnant, I was working out sometimes two hours a day. After giving birth to my son, I learned the power of time, and that was when I knew that I had to tap into a greater source within. It really stemmed from cultivating a practice that I continuously came back to — to me, that was meditating every day. And then, the more that I meditated, I really started to move in this way that felt good, instead of this way that I thought I needed to move in order to see results. And with that connection right there, I was like, ‘I have to share this.’
I had under 10,000 followers on Instagram at that time, and Stories had just really became a thing. That was really where it started — just showing little clips of myself doing workouts, and then my audience started to grow.
It’s clear that meditation has had a profound impact in your life and career. How has it changed your perspective?
Meditation is really the thing that helped me see things differently. It really helped me to become more gentle and loving towards myself. I think we're so hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We look in the mirror. We think about all the things that we want to fix. It's torturous, so looking in the mirror and giving yourself love and letting love lead the way — it's such a beautiful thing.
Any tips for meditation beginners?
Take one foot in front of the other and to just start with a couple minutes a day. Start small. You could do one of MWH’s breathwork practices, or our five-minute series, where you can just sit and allow yourself to be guided while you're connecting to your breath. Avoid judgment on yourself. I think it's so easy to be like, ‘That was a bad one,’ or, ‘That was a good one.’ Try not to label it and just let it be. Some days, I go into transcendence, and I'm like, ‘My body's vibrating.’ And then other days, it literally almost feels like I didn't do anything, but I know I did. And I know I show up differently when I do it.
Your three biggest business lessons — go.
The biggest lesson for me has been to let go and to let other people come in and help me do the work. I care so much that I want to do everything. And as we've grown, I've really understood that it's important for me to delegate and allow my team to do all of the incredible things that they do so well, that are not my strength.
The second thing is, you are only as strong as your team. You need strong, supportive people in your life, not just around the business table, but the people that you sit around a dinner table with, the people that you let into your life. The energy that you allow here has the power to impact every single thing in your life.
The third one definitely comes from my husband, who taught me that time is money. You just have to get really clear with where you put your time and energy. I look at my schedule for the month in advance, and then I look at the week. And I really try to tweak things so that it makes sense from a prioritization standpoint, where I'm not just running myself into the ground because I am going a mile a minute.
I've been very fortunate to really marry my mentor, without ever really realizing that.
As the founder of a brand that literally bears your name, how to you set boundaries between your personal and professional life?
A lot of the time, during the week, I say no to most things because I know that if I burn the candle on both ends, I just won't be able to give. I also created MWH because I used to live that life of burnout, and I think society also makes us feel that that's normal. And I'm here to share that it's not and that it doesn't have to be that way.
So, maybe not taking that call at 9:30 p.m. that comes in. It's hard not to be available for every single person, but you have to be available for yourself first.
What’s your advice to anyone who may be struggling to find their passion or purpose?
I used to cry to Noah [my husband] every day, as he popped out of bed so happy and ready to take on the day, and I was sad and depressed and hated what I was doing. And he always just said to me, ‘Just stay the course. It's going to come.’ There's so much pressure around discovering what your purpose is. It feels heavy. What if you stopped trying to figure out your purpose, and you started to really take care of yourself, and you start to tap into your joy — into the things in your life that make you truly happy and that make you come to life?
It’s funny because wellness has always been it for me, but I wasn't ready to receive that. One weekend, I wrote everything I loved down in the notebook, and it was meditating in the morning, getting a custom salad from Chopt — I'm not kidding you, this was my list — roller blading, going to a yoga class. And I'm like, ‘Oh my goodness, I love taking care of myself. That's what makes me feel my best.’ It clicked. It comes back to the time with yourself, getting really clear on — who are you? What do you love? What makes you happy? Let that lead the way.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.