Most people will know of Body Stress Release (BSR) practitioner, Melissa Appel (Joubert). But how many of you know that she sings “Stairway to Heaven”? It’s a fitting song for her because she believes in – among other things – that (1) True healing comes when we release the things that no longer serve us; and (2) Life’s richest rewards (you may say “heaven”) arrive when we invest in ourselves and our family. We were lucky enough to sit down with Melissa recently and we’re so happy to be able to share this conversation with you.

Seven years ago, you moved from your home in Johannesburg to White River. Why did you choose White River and what makes you stay?

The short answer is Uplands School. My husband, Andre, had played at Uplands as part of a Masters hockey tournament and loved the feel of the school. We had small kids and were looking for a more “whole” way of living. It helps that Andre is a pilot and he was working at SAA at the time so it was easy for him to get from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport too. As for why we stay, there is such an amazing sense of community here… in times of need, people just step up. I also love my work and my client base and – like so many of us living here – we love being close to the bush.

Did you grow up in a spiritual household?

It was spiritual, yes. I would describe it as an alternatively spiritual household. My parents were open to us kids exploring the spiritual realm for ourselves. I really appreciate that looking back. And as I got older, this meant that I became less fearful and more intrigued. There has always been a sense of a higher power in my life.

Complete the sentence:

If I was the mayor of White River for a day, I would…

Fix our water crisis! It is a fundamental right to have access to clean water.

If I could meet any person, it would be…

Roger Federer. He’s such a gentleman of sport and a true talent. I’ve never seen him lose his cool.

If I was an animal, I would be…

A leopard. They are strong, powerful, confident, beautiful, and silent.

My healthiest habit is…

I swim 1,6km twice every week. I love how calm I feel when I’m in the water and become present with my thoughts, often thinking about my intentions and my focus with real clarity. With each stroke I drive forward.

Our lives often have an important turning point. So far, what would you say yours has been?

I suppose it sounds cliché, but it was when I went on a blind date and met my husband. I was about to turn 37 and had given up hope of finding love and how lucky I’ve been. Why do I think I met someone so late? My dad taught me to stand on my own feet. To be capable. To be confident. So I suppose my standards were high (laughs).

What colour would you say you are, and why?

Red. It’s energetic, passionate, strong, brave, creative, warm, secure and it gives me confidence. When I’m unsure, I wear red.

You are a certified Body Stress Release practitioner? How would describe BSR to someone who knows nothing about it?

Unresolved physical, emotional, and chemical stress to the body can be become “locked” into the muscles as tension or tightness and this builds up in the body like layers of an onion interrupting the normal communication lines.

BSR is a technique that is gentle and encourages the muscles to release this tension in its layers thus restoring normal communication lines and relieving symptoms. This creates more space – more capacity for life and, hopefully, makes us feel more like ourselves.

What has been BSR’s most significant gift to you?

It has allowed me to tap into my gift for healing that I have had since I was young and it is so fulfilling to walk the road to health with my clients. Watching them find themselves again is extremely rewarding.

Would you say you’ve always been a healer?

Yes I’ve always loved to work with my hands and my family used to queue for back or foot rubs from me when I was young.

Why do you think BSR works so effectively for so many people?

For me BSR is more than just a technique. It is teaching adult clients to trust their bodies again… to trust the body’s inherent ability to heal itself and find its way back to balance. I also love teaching kids about their bodies so that they can recognise when it’s out of balance or not serving them. Many clients are exhausted after a BSR session. If you think about it, it takes a lot of energy to keep the muscles unnaturally tight. Conversely, it takes a lot of energy to release that tightness. There’s often an emotional release too: Emotion is locked into muscle memory and so there can be tears and shaking, and often memories come up for people too.

When you’re feeling out of alignment, what do you do to support your mindset and your spirit?

I know I’m out of alignment when my left shoulder blade starts talking to me and when I start getting ratty with the people around me (laughs). I try to get in touch with nature more. I get BSR or reflexology (and the new physio in town, Lindsay Harris, has also helped immensely as has biokineticist, Andy Parker). And I journal for myself. The journaling helps me to unpack, process and speak my mind without feeling judged.

What specific places in South Africa nourish your soul the most?

My family’s home in the bush and walking on the beach in Plettenberg Bay, absorbing all those positive ions from the ocean.

Is there something about yourself that you are willing to share that most people don’t know?

I play classical and folk guitar and I sing well, although I’m very out of practice. I love playing American Pie and Stairway to Heaven. Another thing many people don’t know is that I graduated Cum Laude in radiography. I was supposed to study physiotherapy, but things didn’t work out that way. I’m glad they didn’t because I’ve found my calling.

What has surprised you the most about the fifth decade of life? Is there a lesson that stands out?

It feels the same as the third and fourth (laughs). I feel really invested in living a real life with a focus on being true to myself when it comes to people, health and where I want to be in the world. If we value and invest in ourselves and our families, the reward is unlimited and extremely rewarding. Appreciate what’s under your nose because you can’t go back and fetch time.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about this phase of your life?

I’m learning to expect the unexpected. Nothing is given. That means that change can knock on the door at any time. Embrace it because often it’s already “written”, and we shouldn’t try to control the perfect outcome.

What’s one health thing that you’re still working on and why?

Not snacking on salty chips! They are my “go to” and I love them but they’re not good for my asthma and not great for my 50-year-old self. I’ll still indulge once in a while (everything in moderation, right), but I’m letting the habit go 🙂

Is there a question you have for Melissa that we’ve missed? Email it to

If you’re interested in finding out more about Body Stress Release or making a booking, contact Melissa on Whatsapp: 082 337 3893.