Welcome to Week 3 of the 31 Days of Wellness! I “Woke Up With Intention” this morning listening to the 4 minute meditation on the Breethe App. I must say it did keep my usual worries from waking up with me, and definitely set a positive tone for the day. We’ve got lots in store this week, from Tai Chi to Spiderbands to Salt therapy, but let’s get started with a nutritional wellness favorite…
Day 15: KOMBUCHA. Though incredibly good for you, Kombucha is an acquired taste. Lots of people love its tart pungent flavor, but it took me a while. Kombucha is hardly a new wellness trend, but one, like so many I’m finding this month, that has been around for ages… literally. Thought to have originated over 2000 years ago in China, Kombucha has a rich cultural history of health benefits said to include the prevention of cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. Kombucha has caught on in the last few years as the favorite brew of the wellness set for all its digestive benefits as well.
Kombucha is made from sweetened tea that is naturally fermented by a symbiotic combination of healthy bacteria and yeast. That’s what gives it the vinegary flavor and carbonated fizz. Kombucha is a powerful antioxidant and one of its greatest health benefits is the ability to detox the system. Naturally fermented, Kombucha is rich in probiotics. We all hear the term “gut-health” these days, and probiotics provide your digestive tract with healthy bacteria that help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and support your immune system, as they absorb nutrients and fight infection.
As Kombucha has gained in popularity, so have the varieties of brands and flavors available in health food store and delis alike. Besides the refreshing home brew I swigged down in Mexico (above), my favorite Kombucha is Health-Ade. Sure glad I found one I liked, because I’d hate to be missing out on such a powerful wellness brew!
BREATHE SALT ROOMS
Day 16: DRY SALT THERAPY. Dry Salt Therapy is a natural and holistic treatment recognized primarily for its detox benefits to respiratory system. The negatively charged ions in salt are said improve our health and mood, and are great for the skin as well. We’ve all felt its calming effects after a day at the beach. Now those salty health benefits are at spa near you.
I first discovered salt therapy last summer at the Saks Wellery where Breathe Salt Rooms had set up shop. I’d been experiencing some respiratory issues from allergies and was curious to see if this would help. There I sat barefoot in a clear cabin for 10 minutes, the floor covered in pink Himalayan Salt, deeply inhaling the salty air being piped into the space. Salt is naturally an anti-inflammatory, and inhaling its particles opens up the lungs to promote better breathing, sounder sleep, and overall wellness. I will say I felt better afterwards and much less wheezy.
This evening I ventured down to Breathe Salt Rooms at the Oasis Day Spa where more extensive treatments are offered, and other wellness practices are incorporated as well. There in a larger lounge-like space are 25-minute sessions, as well Salty Yoga, Salty Healing and Salt & Sound Bath — the latter which I sampled. Combining sound therapy with the salt therapy, this hour-long workshop utilized theta wave frequency music, bowl vibration, and tuning pipe work to encourage relaxation and meditation. I’ve found that state in other wellness practices I’ve sampled this month, and personally prefer mine without the salt added. I do however recommend that 10 minute quickie in the salt booth.
Day 17: SPIDERBANDS. I haven’t featured any workout classes other than yoga so far this month, as I’ve wanted the 31 Days of Wellness to concentrate on all the healing and restorative trends that have become so popular. Obviously fitness is a huge part that, and though not the focus this year (see 31 Days of Fitness 2017), there is a new class and studio I’ve been wanting to try called Spiderbands
Spiderbands is a workout unlike I’ve any I’ve done before. It’s centered around suspension and aerial concepts, and utilizes a unique trapeze-like apparatus of a bar attached to two sturdy bungee bands hung from the ceiling. The floor is a wall-to-wall gymnastics mat. This fast-paced cardio class features compound training moves that engage multiple muscle groups as you go airborne, leveraging gravity and your own body weight with the aid of the spring loaded bands. The result is a full body, kick-ass workout that’s a total blast. Didn’t someone say happiness is a big wellness trend? Well, here’s a 45-minute dose of heart-pumping fun! I took the Signature Spiderbands class that works with the only the Spiderbands, but there are also other classes like Spider Jumpstrike and SpiderZone that incorporate kickboxing, mini-tramps, and Bosu balls into the workout.
The space is itself is worth highlighting as well. Like many of the new boutique fitness studios – Rumble, Shadowbox, and Switch Playground for example — the art direction is a big part of the workout and brand experience. Spacious and beautifully designed, the visual appeal of Spiderbands is right on trend with a graphic black and white concept that is carried throughout the space — from the equipment, to the studio, to the locker rooms, and of course, the prerequisite swag in the lobby. From a business standpoint, the boutique fitness landscape has gotten very competitive, and it looks like there has been a significant investment made in the production values to ensure Spiderbands attracts and keeps our fitness attention.
Day 18: INFRARED SAUNA CHROMOTHERAPY. Well who knew I was going to get a double dose of wellness at the aptly named Higher Dose on Day 19! I had scheduled the Infrared Sauna, unbeknownst that integrated into the session is color or “chromotherapy”. We featured FAR Infrared heat therapy on Day 6 at Shape House, wrapped up inside sleeping bag like sauna blankets. At Higher Dose, you are in a traditional sauna with Infrared heat and the added bonus of changing colored light therapy as you sweat away the hour.
As we discussed previously, FAR Infrared heat therapy is distinctive in that it penetrates the body and warms from the inside out, as opposed to the other way around. These targeted rays stimulate the body’s thermoregulatory response to induce a deep, detoxifying sweat. The benefits of sweating are numerous for relaxation, rejuvenation, weight loss, overall health and well-being. Chromotherapy adds a whole list of other healing benefits, so it is said, for the body, mind and soul.
Color therapy has been practiced throughout the world for centuries, utilized by healers in ancient Indian, Egyptian and Chinese culture. Sunlight is made up of a spectrum of seven different colors. The theory is each color possesses a specific vibration, and each vibration is related to a different physical manifestation. Color therapy works on various energy points to help balance your body, each color targeting a different symptom. For example, red is an energizer shown increase the pulse rate, enhance libido, and support circulatory functions. Blue is the opposite. It promotes relaxation and calm that result in tranquilizing qualities of great benefit to the nervous system.
As I circled though the different colors of the spectrum during my sweat session, I can’t honestly say I noticed that much of a physiological difference from one color to the next, other than to say that the cool colors, like purple and blue, were much more relaxing than the warm colors of red and yellow. The overall color effect, however, combined with the slick and modern design of the sauna, and suite in which it is located at the 11 Howard hotel, was extremely chill. With my Spotify jam pumping, Harmless Harvest coconut water in the mini-fridge, and aromatic Ren natural beauty products in the shower afterwards — the whole experience left me feeling fab. The only drag was having to get dressed and jump back in the subway to head home. What a nice amenity for the hotel to have. Maybe I should have booked a room.
JULIUS ERVING AND MOSHE FELDENKRAIS
Day 19: FELDENKRAIS METHOD. For me, Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, Rolfing, and Reiki all fall into this category of therapeutic wellness practices I’ve heard about for years but have never really known what they are. Turns out they all fall into a category of alternative healing called “Somatics”, which means “the body as perceived from within”. In a recent article in the The New York Times: Trying the Feldenkrais Method for Chronic Pain, Jane Brody explains, “The Feldenkrais method is one of several increasingly popular movement techniques, similar to the Alexander technique, that attempt to better integrate the connections between mind and body. By becoming aware of how one’s body interacts with its surroundings and learning how to behave in less stressful ways, it becomes possible to relinquish habitual movement patterns that cause or contribute to chronic pain.”
Google linked the two practices as well, and in my search for Alexander Technique, 5 Lines Feldenkrais came up. I gave them a call. Senior practitioner Joshua Wolk, explained the two were different practices with some shared history, and that Feldenkrais picked up where Alexander left off. Intrigued by my 31 Days of Wellness adventure, and passionate about the method, he generously offered a one-on-one Feldenkrais session on the house. With the various back issues I’ve had over the last few months, I was intrigued to experience the Feldenkrais method, both for this story and as someone who might benefit from it.
Though the Feldenkrais method is centered on that mind-body connection, it’s different than what you might think. It’s neuro-muscular reprogramming. Feldenkrais trains the body to override those deeply ingrained patterns of movement embedded in our nervous system by subtly redirecting them with simple adjustments that are physiologically effective and physically more comfortable. In an hour of hands-on body work, Dr. Polk used gentle massage and palpitation, along with mobility work, to discover and release those muscular blockages affecting how I move and how I feel… i.e. pain and stiffness. Areas worked were not those where I was necessarily experiencing pain, but those areas that might be creating it.
Walking out of the office after the treatment I felt great… taller in fact, and like I was walking more on the balls of my feet, walking on air. Feldenkrais is recognized for its postural benefits, along with improved flexibilty, coordination, and pain relief. Like all of these treatments however, Wolk confirmed you do have to keep going to get permanent results. At the $250/session he charges, that’s an expensive path to healing. In The New York Times piece, Jane Brody went to Feldenkrais Method where they offer a group class called Awareness Through Movement, that averages $15 to $25. No, you don’t get the customized bodywork of an individual session, but you do get the overall relaxation and healing benefits this method does provide, and the price is right!
Day 20: COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS. Day 20 was such a unique and special one it gets its own post. Click to Read…
Day 21: RESTORATIVE YOGA. Restorative yoga is one of the best kept secrets in the wellness world. It’s kind of too good to be true. You walk into the yoga studio where the mats have been laid out for you with blankets, pillows and bolsters, like a big yoga nap room. The instructor walks around making sure everyone is comfortable – adjusting your pillows and blankets, massaging your face, perhaps giving a little aromatherapy too. There are no downward dogs or warriors in this class. Your only responsibility is to lie there, relax, rest, and breathe. For many of us this is as challenging, if not more so, than a HIIT or spin class — myself very much included. We’d rather go than stop. This is why restorative yoga exists. Says Dana Slamp, whose class I took this evening, “We need to learn how to rest and we need to practice.”
Restorative yoga integrates elements from a number of the different wellness practices I have done so far. There is breathwork, there is meditation, and interestingly, some of the “Soma” I discussed on Day 19 in regard to the Feldenkrais Method. Restorative yoga is about making that mind-body connection to healing. A relaxed body creates a relaxed mind, and in turn a relaxed mind creates a relaxed body.
Every single wellness practice that exists, in one form or another, is designed to be healing. Our bodies can’t heal without rest, and that’s what rest-orative yoga does. Wrapping up with restorative yoga on a Sunday night was the perfect ending to Week 3 of the 31 Days of Wellness and way to recharge for… Week 4 of the 31 DAYS OF WELLNESS