March 30, 2010
Oh my God. It is SO HOT IN HERE! When will it be over? Why did I come? I could be outside running instead of sweltering in here. Iâ€™m in a Bikram Yoga East Side class with Yoga teacher Viraj Santini. He wears nothing but a pair of swimming briefs, and even though heâ€™s not doing the postures with us, his body glistens with perspiration.
â€œYANK YOUR TOE HARD! Press your knee down. Come on yoginis and yogis. PUSH! PUSH! PULL! Donâ€™t let your thumbs go!â€Â The room is over 100 degrees and sweat drips from my face onto my yoga mat like a leaky faucet. Â I sneak another peak at the clock.Â Time is not moving. Stop looking, I tell myself. Viraj bends over a male student and barks,Â â€Get your two fingers around your toes. Stop dropping your head. Push your knees down. DONâ€™T BE SO LAZY! Push!Â PUSH! Why arenâ€™t you breathing?â€
â€œI have sweat in my eyes,â€ the man replies.
â€œYou come up with the lamest excuses!â€ says Viraj, and then snaps his fingers.
â€œSit up!â€Â We spin around, sit up while exhaling two loud sighs and repeat the posture. â€œSqueeze your toes tight,â€ he yells.Â â€œYou want benefits? Sometimes youâ€™ve got to struggle to make progress. You think itâ€™s going to come to you on a gold platter?
Viraj Santini has been teaching yoga for 14 years, and was New York Cityâ€™s first male Bikram yoga teacher.Â Heâ€™s very tough, and you canâ€™t get away with anything â€“ you canâ€™t pretend to be giving it your all because heâ€™ll call you on it quicker than you can say asana. â€œSTRETCH! BREATHE! COME ON! YOUâ€™RE LAZY!â€ He never stops talking and admonishing us just like a drill sergeant, yet he rarely does it without making us laugh.Â He was, after all, a stand-up comic and without his humor, Iâ€™d never be able to take the heat of this inferno.Â When he barks at us, itâ€™s only because heâ€™s trying to get us to do it perfectly, not an unusual request.
His wisecracking starts from the first breathing exercise in the series, the one in which we inhale raising our elbows, then exhale through an open mouth, making an audible â€œhaaaahâ€ sound before bringing our elbows back down and inhaling again.Â Â â€œOpen your mouth wide like youâ€™re having a wisdom tooth taken out,â€ he says.
When we do Awkward Pose where you have to squat down on your heels, he calls out, â€œCOME ON, BALANCE THOSE LAPTOPS!â€Â He looks around the room, finds someone scowling and says, â€œYou look like youâ€™re constipated. Smile.â€Â When we get to Triangle Pose, in which we raise our arms straight out like a warrior. â€œSpread â€˜em out hard — you shouldnâ€™t have any cottage cheese hanging from your triceps,â€ he quips.
Itâ€™s hard to laugh when youâ€™re going through contortions in a room hotter than a broiling oven, but how can you not guffaw in the middle of a back bend when he says, â€œSqueeze your butt as though youâ€™re trying to crack open a Brazil nut.â€ When we finally get to Spinal Twist, he yells, â€œCome on! Push! Press the heel of your hand. It should feel like a near-death experience.â€
He picks out a student, bends down and tells the student to push against his hand.Â â€œTwist. Use that tricep!â€Â He pushes until finally the student twists a good three inches further. â€œSee?â€ Viraj grins, â€œI should charge you for that. I just gave you a nice adjustment. A chiropractor would charge $75.00.â€
Itâ€™s so hot in here I feel as though Iâ€™m going to faint, and am relieved when we finally reach the last breathing exercise: two rounds of exhaling 50 breaths very quickly.Â â€œSqueeze your abs. Bend into that liver and pancreas.â€Â Viraj looks at a student. â€œDid you have a deprived childhood? Didnâ€™t you learn how to blow out a birthday candle?Â Squeeze! Squeeze!â€Â He counts down at the end of the second set:Â â€œFour! Three! Two! One!Â And finally, he tells us to lay downÂ in Savasana.
In every other yoga class Iâ€™ve taken, Iâ€™ve always looked forward toÂ the relaxation where you just lie comatose and breathe. But not here.Â Iâ€™m overheated, my clothes are dripping wet, and even though heâ€™s just turned off the heat, the room is still a furnace.Â I squirm.Â I canâ€™t get comfortable.
â€œClose your eyes,â€ he says. â€œTake a deep breath through the nose. Feel the nectar.â€Â Nectar? What is he talking about? I am dying to get out of here and run into the shower. Nectar? A smoothie! Thatâ€™s what I want â€“ RIGHT NOW!
He looks right at me. â€œDo I have to tell you how to relax? Let go! Itâ€™s a choice to hold onto negative energy.â€
I lie there. I hate this class because itâ€™s so hard and pushes me beyond my comfort zone, but I remind myself, I got through it one more time. My muscles are so warm that I can stretch deeper than ever. I detest the postures because theyâ€™re so tough, but since Iâ€™ve been coming here, I havenâ€™t had another hamstring injury. So, maybe Viraj is right.Â Maybe I am holding onto negative energy, after all.Â I close my eyes and smile, visualizing a banana strawberry smoothie.
March 26, 2010
Iâ€™m pretty healthy, and very rarely get colds or whatever variety of flu is making the rounds (I credit my supplements, probiotics, and yoga for my strong immune system). Those of you who read my blog posts and articles have probably heard me complain more than once about chronically tight shoulders, but last week, I had a health scare that resulted in a full-blown panic attack. The left side of my face, the back of my head, and areas on my arms went suddenly cold and numb. Convinced I was having a stroke, I wound up having a battery of tests that included an MRI, testing for MS, and multiple other x-rays and terrifying exams.
I spent my teens, and all of my 20s and 30s as a semi-professional athlete, competing in the grueling equestrian sport of three-day eventing, and have landed on my head more than once while on jumping courses (though never intentionally). Added to that, I was heavily involved in martial arts for over a decade, and all I could think of was that all of the bumps, lumps, strains, and bruises were finally catching up with me.
Turns out that those tight shoulders and neck muscles were at the root of the whole thingâ€”and barely detectable spasms in the muscles around my neck were the cause of the numbness and other problems. Besides strict orders to rest and a prescription for muscle relaxers (which I still havenâ€™t taken), I was also assigned physical therapy sessions. My therapist assigned me a series of homework stretches to add to my yoga routine, and things are slowly improving. The whole experience has also made me deeply appreciative of my health insuranceâ€”Iâ€™m hopeful that the new health care bill will make it easier for others to get the superb care that Iâ€™ve received this past week. Itâ€™s no fun being scared out of your wits, and unable to pay for a doctor to relieve those fears.
March 23, 2010
We just received word about a few more Canyon Ranch promotions and wanted to be sure to share them with you.
First of all, in an effort to entice more solo travelers who are really looking to take care of themselves, CR has offered their Celebrate You! rates for select months in 2010:
* At Canyon Ranch- Tucson from May 15-31st, solo guests can enjoy single accommodations at the lower double occupancy rate (up to 20% savings). Mention “Celebrate You” when you reserve your stay.
* At Canyon Ranch-Lenox through the month of April and the month of June, solo travelers can also enjoy single accommodations at the lower double occupancy rate. Again, mention “Celebrate You.”
Beat the Stress, Find the Joy: Insights, Ideas and Strategies
I just love the title of this retreat. We’re all stressed, but I think what we really need to do is find the joy. At this retreat at the Tucson outpost, guests will explore such areas as positive relationships, creative arts, cooking, connecting with nature, mindfulness, meaningful sexuality, and more. The retreat takes place from May 30, 2010-June 6, 2010. Visit CanyonRanch.com for more information or call (800) 742-9000
This retreat at the Lenox property will enlist the help of the outdoors to create and celebrate one’s spiritual life. Guests will walk the labyrinth, paddle the river, and join the spiritual program director and other sports professionals to enhance their spiritual experience.
Who else is in need of a little life boost??
March 16, 2010
Iâ€™d planned to cross-country ski and horseback ride in the snow at the C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort in Granby, Colorado. Instead, I was lying on a gurney in the emergency clinic at the Granby Medical Center, suffering from an acute case of altitude sickness and dehydration, attached to both an oxygen tank and an I.V.Â I watched as the fluid went drip drip drip at snailâ€™s pace down the clear tubing. The pain hammered non-stop through my temples, my forehead, between my eyes, and even the back of my neck.
â€œWhatâ€™s the pain level, ten being highest, one being lowest?â€ the nurse asked as she took my blood pressure.
â€œEight and one-half to nine.â€ It wasnâ€™t just the pounding headache. I felt weak, nauseous, dehydrated, had been vomiting non-stop since last night, and I had chills.
â€œWould you like a blanket?â€
She left and returned within seconds to tuck a heated blanket around me.
â€œWe want you to be comfortable,â€ she smiled. A smiling nurse? This was so different than the surly E.R. nurses in New York City who frowned if you asked for a blanket and seemed to resent the fact that youâ€™d been injured in an accident and needed help.Â Right now, I felt sicker than ever in my life, but the nurse was so caring and attentive that I almost felt I was in a resort rather than in an E.R. at an oxygen-challenging 8,000 feet above sea level. â€œThe doctor will be here in a moment,â€ she said gently.
I closed my eyes and thought about everything I was missing.Â Right now, it was 2 pm and I was supposed to be having a horseback riding lesson followed by a massage, then back to my spacious cabin with a roaring fire, maybe eating an apple from the daily-replenished fruit basket, looking out at the Rockies. Instead, I was in a small sterile cubicleÂ with pale blue curtain walls, staring at neon lights, and the only thing being replenished was my IV bag.
Dr. Jeffrey Lipke came into the room. He was somewhere in his thirties, movie-star good-looking, and with a smile that could melt a glacier. There were other patients in the E.R., including a teen whoâ€™d been injured in a snowboarding accident; still, Dr.Lipke seemed to have all the time in the world for me.Â I explained that the day before, Iâ€™d flown early in the morning from NYC to Denver, spent the day doing an easy hike in Boulder, then returned to Denver for a huge meal paired with different wines.
â€œYou should avoid alcohol and coffee at altitude,â€ he said. â€œAnd you need to drink plenty of fluids, six to eight glasses a day and more. When you exercise, you need to take frequent sips of water or sports drinks to keep your fluid level up. Iâ€™m going to give you another IV bag, and then release you with oxygen.â€Â The nurse wheeled in a tank.
The only people Iâ€™d ever seen wheeling oxygen tanks usually had a fatal disease â€“ not me! Walking around in public with an oxygen tank? Me? The athlete? How humiliating!
â€œDo you have any other questions?â€ Iâ€™d never met a doctor who asked if I had questions.Â Too bad he couldnâ€™t be cloned.
Five hours later, I returned to my hotel, where the woman from the oxygen company arrived to set up a plug-in oxygen apparatus in my room. When I told her how ridiculous I felt, she said itâ€™s not at all unusual, and she brings oxygen to about five patients a day.â€ Knowing I wasnâ€™t the only one made me feel better.
â€œDo you want a backpack?â€ she asked.
â€œIn case you want to do something outside. Yesterday I gave a 13-year-old boy a backpack so he could go snowmobiling.”
â€œYou mean, I have to use oxygen tomorrow?â€
â€œYouâ€™ll need it at least for the next four days.â€
FOUR DAYS?Â Not me! Iâ€™ll wake up normal.
But in the morning, my head still pounded, my stomach was too queasy to eat, and I could barely climb down a flight of stairs. My friend Hilary, who is from Maine, and is an expert skier, had altitude sickness once in the Rockies, and for six days was curled up in fetal position sucking on ice-cubes. Uh-uh. Not me. I kept drinking water, but nothing changed.Â I knew the only way my symptoms would disappear would be to get back to sea level.Â I threw down the oxygen tube, re-booked my return flight, and headed for Denver.Â At the airport, my head was throbbing and my stomach was no better.Â An hour into the flight, I took a short nap, and when I awoke, the headache and nausea were finally gone.
I plan to go back to Colorado, but next time, Iâ€™m going to mainline water, drink no alcohol or caffeine, and take it easy my first day. Letâ€™s face it â€“ anyone can get altitude sickness and if youâ€™ve had it once, you can still get it again.Â So even though the E.R. doctor at the Granby Medical Center is a hunk, Iâ€™d rather spend my time playing outdoors, not lying prone on a gurney.
â€”Margie Goldsmith, Spa Adventure Columnist
March 10, 2010
Attention all dog lovers. If youâ€™re thinking about a trip to Europe this year, care about animal welfare, and want to take part in something really great that helps the lives of dogs, check out this great new trip being offered by Inside/Out. Their 2010 Greece Humanitourism Volunteer Adventure is built around helping Greeceâ€™s homeless street dogs. Besides helping to ease the suffering of animals that have been abandoned, neglected, abused, or starved, participants will assist with shelter improvements and help to educate local residents about sterilization and feeding programs. And no, you donâ€™t have to be a vet student to make a real difference.
After the voluntourism portion of the trip, participants will have the opportunity to take part in a number of eco-tourism adventures including sea kayaking, hiking, and river rafting. Click here to see the itinerary.
March 9, 2010
Winter may be winding down in many parts of the country, but we’re looking at around two more months of snow and blustery weather up here in the mountains. My never-ending quest to stay warm has had me experimenting with strategies to keep my toes toasty, especially for those long daily walks I just can’t seem to do without.
My newest favorite thing is a line of ski and snowboard performance socks from Under Armour. I adore the Women’s ColdGear Toro Snowboard Sock and ColdGear Palma Ski Sock, which are vented, odor and wetness resistant, seamless â€” and come in fun patterns, like the chocolate and raspberry patterned knee-high pair I’m wearing right now. I just found out that Under Armour also has a line of short, running-style socks, too, and I’m planning on stocking up for spring and summer â€” seasons that I’m told will arrive eventually, even here. It’s healthy to be an optimist.
March 1, 2010
Red Mountain Spa, an HL&S favorite, recently shared with us their news, offering guests (through the end of April), the Signature Room package starting at $189/night. (Based on double occupancy, per person rates.) The Signature Package includes:
Daily Guided Hikes
Three Meals daily
Unlimited Fitness Classes
Healthy Life Classes
Use of Resort’s Amenities
You can also book the A la Carte package starting at $149/night, which includes breakfast.. but why skip out on all of the amazing activities and cuisine Red Mountain is known for?
Book fast spa goers.. Click here for more information.