January 25, 2012 | 11:55 AMIt's hard to imagine a more complex mechanism than the human body. Medical science can tell us a great deal about how to keep that mechanism functioning normally–what to eat, when to do physical exercise, the importance of stimulating the mind–but it's always amazing how much of why our bodies are the way they are is simply a mystery to the guys in white lab coats.
For that reason, we offer the following stories of alternative health and wellness with some caution. Alternative laser therapies, coconut oil, sports medicine and kombucha may help what ails you, or they may not. We explore them here in the knowledge that a holistic view of health–an active and growing mind, body and spirit–is the best way to go about living.
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How Coconut Will Sustain You, Inside And Out
By Jen Russo
Coconut has long been the giving tree of ancient Polynesia, but it also thrived around the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, prevalent in early Indonesia, Malaysia and India as well. Today in the West we know it as a superfood. But in the old days the coconut provided strong fibers, cups, bowls, utensils, musical instruments, hula implements, tools, weapons and material for housing. It was also prized for its healing qualities and for the way it sustained our bodies inside and out.
Coconut meat comes in its own storage container, and delivers 7.2 grams of fiber in just one cup of freshly grated meat. Milk made from the meat is similar to mother's milk in pH and is also high in laurie acid. Coconut water, found in the green coconut, is similar in pH to your own body composition, comes out of the shell sterile and is full of digestible minerals. It's also alkalizing and contains electrolytes. You can purchase it packaged, and it's used as a sports drink. It can even be injected as fluids and glucose into the body during medical emergencies.
Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil may be even more amazing. Almost 50 percent laurie acid, this oil can be anointed to hair and skin with potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It also moisturizes the body. The oil and milk are made up of short and medium chain fatty acids, and the body absorbs it easily, meaning it's not stored like animal fats made of long chain triglycerides.
At the Choice Health Bar in Lahaina, owners Kathryn Dahm and Emily Kunz say they crack open tons of fresh coconuts everyday to harvest the fresh coconut water and meat their customers love in their foods. They also have coconut kefir, and use coconut milk in smoothies. You can find fresh coconuts at the Maui Swap Meet on Saturdays and sometimes independent vendors on the beach offer them as a healthy treat.
But one of the most astonishing coconut properties is its ability to flush toxins from the body. A new treatment at Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea features the healing and detoxifying nature of coconut in a two and a half hour treatment called the Royal Niu (coconut in Hawaiian) that falls under the coconut bliss category.
First, dry brushing the skin with a coconut husk and a coconut scrub will stimulate lymphatic drainage. At first it felt kind of scratchy, but the rhythmic motion of the flicking fiber quickly became relaxing. Exfoliation sheds dead skin cells and promotes cell and collagen renewal, increases blood flow to the skin and lessens the appearance of cellulite. After the scrub you are wrapped in a coconut butter body cocoon while your scalp and feet are massaged.
Once your lymphatic drainage gets stimulated, the detox is on. I immediately felt thirsty and was glad for a short break, and then it was time to soak in coconut milk. The bath is full of iron, calcium, phosphorous and amino acids–and is served with a tasty snack of coconut candy and coconut water. The skin absorbs these glorious minerals and smells incredible.
After a 25-minute soak and snack, it's time for more coconut therapy. Smooth coconut shells and husks will be the implements of massage with pure locally sourced coconut oil on the skin. These tools create a stimulating massage that relaxes the body and muscle tissue.
I was concerned the round tools would be too soft and would not go deep enough, but the firm shells proved me wrong. The massage and pressure made my muscles feel supple and my skin soft and smooth. Coconut oil can reverse signs of aging, relieve inflammation and heal sun-damaged skin. I had to drink tons of water for the rest of the day to keep up with the detox, but felt incredible. You can really feel the toxins flushing, but it's not overwhelming.
"Grand Wailea is actually built on the land of an ancient village named Niukauila," Stephanie Handley, assistant spa director at Spa Grande, told me. "Which roughly translates to 'important ceremonies consecrating the altar of the coconut.' We wanted to pay tribute to the history of the area and probably the most useful tree in the world. Strong, resilient and flexible, the coconut tree can provide our most basic need for life, including water.
The spa actually features eight different treatments that include and incorporate coconut from the manicure and pedicure to the couples treatments and cocoons. The benefits of consuming coconut and the lessons from ancient times are testament to the modern applications of coconut, a nut we have yet to fully crack.
The best part is that they grow right here on Maui.
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Orthohealing Offers Joint And Ligament Pain Relief
By Jen Russo
My diagnosis of arthritis kinda came as a blow this year, a testament to older age. What's worse, when I asked my general practitioner for alternatives to over-the-counter pain meds, or specific foods that I could avoid that might alleviate pain, he had nothing.
While arthritis is a bummer, it's not the end of the world. I learned recently at the Orthohealing Center in Wailuku that modern technology does have some tricks for pain sufferers where ligaments, joints and orthopedic medicine are concerned. The main drawback is that big pharmaceuticals don't stand to make money, and insurance companies have yet to get on board.
One easy entry point into an alternative therapy are Intelliskin products. Designed by Dr. Tim Brown, an Association of Surfing Professionals Tour chiropractor, they work on your posture while you are active, like running, working out at the gym, surfing or even just sitting in front of the computer. These products help you better support your frame. Intelliskin is made from a lycra-like material with stiffened supporting panels along the back.
"It produces an extension postural correction of the shoulders, elevating and extending them, placing the shoulder joint in an optimal position for lifting and rotating, and to maintain the correction one pulls down on the bottom of the back of the shirt to reset the tension when needed," says Orthohealing's Dr. Charles Soma. "It feels supportive and compresses your torso, is worn underneath a looser more absorbent shirt for modesty or appearance and is completely washable, no special care required."
Soma says he wears his surfing, working out and some-times just under his clothes. The men's versions come in tank, crew and v-neck, and women's options are v-neck and a sports bra.
I tried the women's bra out and thought it would be perfect for working out. It fits snugly and makes your shoulders want to go back and pull your back straight. I actually felt more pops and cracks in my back with the constant adjustment as I sat in front of the computer. The downside is that it's warm, but for a sports bra it's super-supportive, and if it can help me avoid injury and pain with better posture, then I'm all for it.
Common injuries like tennis elbow, heel pain, hamstring tears, tendinitis, and arthritis can also be helped by Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP). Here your blood is drawn, processed and then reinjected into you in the problem area, creating a slew of biochemical reactions that heal the injury.
It costs about $750 for one injection and $950 for up to three sites. While pricey, this can be less than the cost of a typical outpatient surgical operation, and it takes less recovery time.
"People have heard of alternative treatments in the sports media, like when Hines Ward of the Steelers had PRP before a Super Bowl outstanding performance a few years back, and they want to get better faster, too," says Soma. "Every company says they support wellness initiatives but none have yet embraced PRP. For example, without what is termed 'unbiased clinical study' to support it, despite the innumerable testimonials of patients and physicians alike, patients must pay out of pocket for the entire charge, except the office visit charge, which is covered in all cases by insurance."
Soma says the changes in the medical payment system threaten to destroy private practice of medicine in America, especially solo specialty practices like his. By providing cutting edge treatment to people more efficiently than traditional systems at the larger groups, he hopes "to stay relevant in the future care of people on Maui who are interested in an accurate orthopedic diagnosis, effective non surgical or non invasive care delivered by someone with experience, physical skill and capability to provide excellent outcomes from surgical treatment, and the judgment to tell which is indicated."
One of the cutting edge non-surgical products the practice offers is advanced omega 3 and antioxidant supplements. "By chemically loading your body with anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids," Soma says you can reduce joint inflammation and subsequently reduce risk of heart attack, strokes, blood clots, and wear and tear on organs.
The supplement the Orthohealing clinic offers is called Moxxor. Derived from New Zealand, it's 75 times stronger than fish oil–with fewer indigestion side effects. Also available at his clinic is Protandim, a powerful antioxidant, and a medical food product made to be used throughout your life to prolong and improve performance and wellness of the body. It's comprised of tumeric, green tea, milk thistle, Bacopa extract and Ashwagandha root. Gluten-, dairy- and gelatin-free, it's easy to swallow.
"Pain medication has been the American answer to pain for one hundred years or more, since aspirin gained widespread use," says Soma. "Opiates are responsible for a large number of catastrophic family and legal situations in Maui, and in our practice we try to lower the need for these drugs by using adjuvant medications like neurontin, lyrica, and cymbalta, which are widely advertised in popular media as a pain relieving treatment for conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic regional pain syndrome."
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Getting Fit In The Fresh Upcountry Air
By Jen Russo
Driving out to Haiku to workout, I paused to look at the old to-go coffee cups and empty Pop Tart wrappers in my car. Though I strive for a healthy lifestyle, bad habits creep back in like roaches.
I'm heading to Upcountry Fitness to work out and figure out more healthy fitness habits that I can incorporate into my schedule. An hour later I'm doing an airlifted back-bend, balancing over the feet of my union yoga instructor, Brian Shoen.
"It's the customers that drive what we do here," says Meaghan Spitler, partner and manager at Upcountry Fitness. "The classes on our schedule are customized to what they are requesting."
The gym's union yoga, a branch of partner yoga developed by Jeff Von Schmauder, is also unique. The yoga has applications similar to acroyoga developed with a very Maui feel–the names of the arm holds and poses are all in Hawaiian.
Shoen started my most recent class with serene advice: "Embrace your wobble," he said. "Depend on your partner to be there for you."
You don't have to bring a partner in class to participate, and bodies of any size and ability are welcome. I love this yoga practice because I never know what will happen next. The adrenaline really kicks in when you're balancing on someone's feet while doing an aerial asana. You may even forget that you're getting fit. In between switching from the makai (foundation person in the pose) to the mauka (the person floating on top), my muscle groups were worked like never before. The class energizes and stretches hard to access muscle groups.
According to Spitler, the gym added on the classroom in July, 2010. Last year they also added the keiki fit zone, which includes a four-story kid maze jungle gym. This has become extremely popular, giving moms a chance to work out, and now the gym has made it available for nonmembers to bring their kids and play. The gym is also building a new and improved classroom that should be done by March.
Isaak Tyrrell, general manager and partner, designed the gym's Fuzion Fit course, which features cross training on machines in a class environment. There are two stations of cardio and two stations of strength training. These have taken off and become so popular the concept has branched off into several classes that just focus on certain parts of the body. With 18 Fusion Fit options through the week, this is one of the most popular offerings in the classroom environment.
The gym has recently hosted a group of water sports athletes who love the gym's world-class training and Upcountry feel. Advanced machines like the Power Plates provide accelerated training techniques because they work so many muscle fibers at one time. Power plate machine training is also recommended for osteoporosis, menopause, fibromyalgia and injury rehabilitation. All members who wish to use the Power Plates become certified by a trainer.
The gym uses the natural cool air of Haiku for cooling, and it has a fresh approach to their floor plan: the cardio machines greet you at the front door where the air flows in. The gym also has weight training free-motion machines operated with pulleys, a free form room, a weight room with dumbells and a small rock-climbing wall.
"We wanted to create an environment open to everyone," Spitler says. "You don't have to be an athlete. We are not exclusive. We want levels of access for all different people."
Their new website Upcountryfitness.com outlines all of their services including massages in their zen den.
Of course, working out in a gym may not be for everyone. Running outdoors is a great way to get fit, and it relies solely on your feet. For extra motivation Valley Isle Road Runner (virr.com) offers a social run schedule. Their upcoming Valentine's Day "For the Love of Maui" 5K can be a fun way to get fit. They also list other opportunities to race like the Run and Walk with the Whales on Feb. 4.
Makawao Yoga offers Yoga 101 workshops for free on the second Saturday of the month. They also offer a $20 for 10 days package for kama'aina.
Paia Yoga also offers the same deal. Their lululemon community class (free) Sundays at 5pm is also a great intro to yoga, as is the spectacular final Friday community yoga class at Hotel Wailea.
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Kombucha: The Drink That Keeps On Living
by Jen Russo
Kombucha is an unusual drink. The look, the taste – basically, everything about it is odd. But it's also supposed to be incredibly healthy. Not sure what to think, I took a casual poll of the office.
"I tried 'the booger drink' from these hard core hippies," Art Director Scrappers told me. "They pulled a bowl out from under the kitchen sink with a giant mushroom on top. Why did I try it? I was peer-pressured into it."
Associate Editor Anu Yagi also tried the drink, and recalled days in Haiku with raw food chefs feeding her this mysterious health elixir as if it were ambrosia. As for the rest of the staff, it was, "No way, Jose, we're not trying that stuff."
My first trip into bootch territory occurred in 1994. I was in college and working as a PA. My boss brewed it in the photography studio and swore that it had great health potential. I didn't care much about health in my 20's but I was certainly game to try the odd looking drink. Honestly, I didn't think much of it – it wasn't tasty, but also not terrible.
Now its popularity seems to have spiked. I see bottled kombucha in health food stores island wide. There's the Maui Kombucha Cafe in Haiku, limited availability at Choice and Maui Booch on the Westside.
So what makes this elixir so popular?
First of all, the "mushroom" is not really a mushroom. It's a Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), growing on a mixture of tea and sugar. The fermentation process process takes around three weeks and can be made with either black or green tea.
Fermented beverages and foods with live cultures, like kefir, pickled and cultured veggies that are not pasteurized are known for their health properties. These foods boost the immune system by increasing antibodies, the flora in in living cultured foods aid digestion (probiotics), they have antioxidants, enzymes, lactic acid, amino acids and are alkalizing to the body.
Bryan Willard knows all about kombucha. He's the guy behind Maui Booch. Willard bottles his own kombucha and adds his own special blends of organic fresh juices. "You wouldn't believe my biggest challenge is finding bottles!"he told me.
But he does, and the resulting beverage is delicious and in demand. Willard brews 50 gallons at a time and makes deliveries and sells at the Launiopoko Farmers Markets on Saturdays, 8am to 12pm.
I asked Willard how he got into making Kombucha.
"By trying just about every vitamin and supplement there is," he says. "And there's one thing I have been consuming for a few years that has kept up my energy levels, kept my skin clear, and at the same time, I haven't been sick in years! I highly believe in Kombucha's healing properties. I mostly use a green tea base for my Kombucha, which already, is full of anti-oxidants. Add live cultures to it, and you have a powerful elixir that not only tastes extremely good, but is packed full of vitamin B's, pro-biotics and amino acids."
Drinking Kombucha and other cultured foods can help your digestive tract restart itself after taking antibiotics, alcohol, commercial meats that have antibiotics, processed foods and chlorinated water – all of which can destroy your healthy intestinal flora.
After drinking my Maui Booch everyday for a few days, I found the flavors and effects were growing on me. But I also became curious about the murky swirl of stuff in the bottle. Was I growing a new culture?
"On the bottom of each bottle are live cultures and fruit extracts," Willard told me. But new cultures won't grow unless I leave it out of the fridge.
To prevent mold from contaminating the SCOBY (culture), Willard says that, "you must have VERY sanitary conditions and the right temperature, in which I control! I have never had any mold issues."
You can get Maui Kombucha at the Maui Kombucha Raw Cafe (bring your own jug), or Maui Booch by calling Bryan Willard at 760-458-1120.
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Alternative Laser Therapies Are Becoming More Prominent On Maui
By Amanda Thomas
Laser therapies have been gaining recognition in the medical field steadily and are now becoming increasingly popular on Maui. The most common therapies are laser hair removal and facial rejuvenation. Anti-aging and Sweat Ablation laser therapies are becoming more prominent as well.
Laser hair removal provides patients with permanent hair reduction. That means 75 to 95 percent of the hairs never surface again, once patients complete all appointments. Most areas of the body where patients desire laser hair removal need between eight to 10 treatments.
Significant developments have been made in recent years in laser technology and now all skin types can be serviced here on Maui. But while all skin colors can be serviced, only hair that is brown or black will respond positively to treatment. Laser treatment can't, as yet, remove blond, gray and red hairs.
Preparation for the procedures is relatively simple. Doctors ask clients to shave the desired removal site prior to the appointment. The most common area for laser hair removal on Maui is the bikini line, but nearly any area of the body can be treated.
In fact, spas on the island are seeing more men come in for laser hair removal on their backs and chests. The pain factor for laser hair removal is relatively low and the cost can be quite affordable, when the procedures are bought in packages.
Then there's facial rejuvenation, which uses lasers to heat up the pulmonary system and water under the selected area to trick the skin into using its natural wound repairing ability. This non-ablative process can improve redness, pore size, rosacea and reduce the size of lines, sun spots and wrinkles.
The highlight of non-ablative facial rejuvenation is that it does not damage the epi-dermal or dermal layers of the skin. Also, facial rejuvenation requires no anesthesia and no down time for the patient, making it known as the "lunch time face lift."
Facial rejuvenation sessions usually run between $100 and $400 per procedure. It takes five sessions to see considerable cumulative results and a client can have all the necessary sessions completed within two to four weeks.
One of the newest laser therapies to hit the island is Laser Sweat Ablation for Axillary Hyperhidrosis or, excessive underarm sweat. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia in just 30 minutes. This allows the patient to drive themselves home afterward.
The results have been described as "life changing" by recipients of the procedure, who can now wear any type of clothing they desire to social gatherings without the worry of odor, sweat stains or clothing discoloration.
While the costs of laser therapies can be on the higher side, it's good to remember that the results of any of these procedures are generally permanent. Clients can save hundreds of dollars by getting laser therapy rather than constantly spending money on products, creams or other non-permanent procedures like waxing.
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Dr. Gina Kim's New Book The Power To Heal Yourself Aims To Put Your 'Body-Mind-Spirit' In Balance
By Anu Yagi
The Power to Heal Yourself
By Dr. Gina Kim
112 pages; $20
Imagine it's your birthday and you've just unwrapped a hideous rainbow jumper, painstakingly hand-knit—especially for you—by an earnestly benevolent friend. The heartfelt card is signed "In Service with Love." Your first thoughts fly to where in your wardrobe you'll entomb this homely poly/cotton creature. But you reluctantly don it anyway—only to discover it's the best-fitting, most comfortable sweater you've ever had the pleasure of pulling over your head.
I thought of that analogy while reading The Power to Heal Yourself, a new self-help book by Maui's own Dr. Gina Kim. Straightforwardly penned, the book's a compendium of practical advice "to put your body-mind-spirit in balance."
Any evidently self-published work is scourged by stigma that aesthetic should somehow indicate merit—and The Power to Heal Yourself is particularly plagued. It has every hallmark of being adorably homemade, with large Times New Roman font and the like. Also cutely, the edition notice lists the book's first and second printings as September and October 2010. Fortunately for my critique, chapter seven (titled "Living Stress Free... Living Well") advises readers to "make an agreement with your loved ones... [to] quickly say 'I'm sorry, please don't take it personally.'" Ditto.
A Doctor of Chiropractic, Kim "quietly ministers her 'Cellular Regeneration' (CR) technique, a revolutionary natural healing modality she formulated in 1998," from her Vineyard Street office in Wailuku. Kim writes that while "the inspiration for the title came many years ago after reading one of my favorite books, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale... the idea behind this book had been incubating for many years." Kim says she was "guided to write this book, and then guided to donate all the proceeds to charities and scholarships, locally whenever possible," and that her "goal is to eventually donate a million dollars."
Divided into nine chapters and dozens of sections, the book focuses on reminding readers that "Nobody can do your life but you. How you take care of you is totally your business and your responsibility." But, Kim writes, "like many of us, I grew up thinking it was selfish to take care of myself before others... [but] even the airlines ask us to put our oxygen masks on first before assisting another." Her style is candid and unapologetic, as exampled in her section about how "another biggie in living stress-free is to be positive," and in an anecdote about a couple healed of their "stinky farts."
Many of Kim's recommendations are basic—"eat real food, not processed junk"; "drink plenty of filtered water"; "minimize your exposure to chemicals"; "sleep should be peaceful, quiet, dark and comfortable"; "a positive attitude must be cultivated"—but she writes about a slew of unconventional teachings, too.
For example, chapter two outlines "four balancing exercises"—the "Brain Fluid and Nervous System Balance," the "Z Technique," "Divine Genetic Blueprint," and "Relax and Soul Mode"—which Kim says she practices "every day, rain or shine." The former-most exercise includes touching your tailbone, pinching the bridge of your nose and "say[ing] or think[ing] 'to infinity.'" The latter-most exercise's first instruction is to "pant like a dog three times."
And in the section about dealing with constipation—for which prune juice or digestive enzymes are (obviously) suggested, as well as detailed instructions for abdominal massage (yep, so you can massage the shit out of yourself)—Kim encourages the costive to release "negative emotion[s] you may be holding on to, such as... not wanting to let go of someone or something."
Though Kim often invokes the name of "God," she urges readers, "Do not get hung up on definitions. When you see the word 'God,' think of the God of your understanding."
Kim writes, "In 1992 the power of prayer came to life for me," and in chapter five advocates prayer, saying, "You could be praying with every thought. No pious formality needed." She goes on to include a few sample prayers like a "clearing your space prayer" to be used when arriving in "a new place like a hotel," a "cutting ties prayer" to sever "soul ties" with those who you've "been intimate with and are no longer with," a "prayer for cleansing new and used items" since "we usually do not know the people who owned them before us, how they may have used them, or their state of mind... [or] the state of mind of the person(s) who made them or the energy and intent of the company who sold them." There's even a prayer that says, "Where I've lost my shine, Lord, make me shiny again." Chapter six goes on to advocate positive affirmations, which appears to differ from prayer in that it avers as opposed to asks.
The book closes with chapters titled "Miscellaneous, Yet Meaningful," with sections on stretching ("wiggle, wiggle and wiggle"), "the evils of soda," and "cancer situations," as well as a collection of "Inspirational Words."
In all, The Power to Heal Yourself is a quick, endearing read; and one that was made with love. It may advocate some far-out ideas, but it's also more than chasing rainbows.
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Achieving Wellness Through Email
By Jen Russo
Finding yourself on a quest for self-improvement may not be a realistic solitary endeavor. You can get discouraged by setting goals that you never attain, or distractions that rob you of focus. Danielle Ryan is just the coach for busy people. Her wellness programs are tailored to a variety of schedules and they are also available over Skype and email.
I was instantly attracted to what Samana Wellness had to offer: five-day Cleansing & Yoga Mini-Retreats; 30-day Online Wellness Challenge (choose your own start date); Thrive: 90-day Whole Life Health Makeover; Whole Life Health Consultations (available anytime in person, by phone, or Skype); Customized Cleanse Guidance Program; Private Body-Mind-Spirit Yoga for individuals and groups; and a Full-service Customized Cleansing Program.
Despite the use of modern gadgets, Ryan stays focused. Skyped calls and other remote methods of communication start with deep breaths together. In our first meeting, she was quick to get me to identify an area of my life I was not fulfilling but desired to, in a very simple and direct way. We set a weekly goal with intention for action and I was off and running, with the promise of a follow-up email.
My goal was more concerned with mental rather than physical health. But that was just me. In fact, just making the decision to set a goal was cathartic.
"There is not one thing, that everyone needs," says Ryan. "Priorities change with each goal and things that happen. It's more about putting a system in place that makes you more balanced. The success rate is better when you decide what your goal is, not me."
This is because while most of us already know what we need to do, we end up trapped in self-defeating spirals of inaction.
"I feel gratified when clients see their situation from a different perspective that allows them to take a new approach," Ryan says. "I also love making the changes manageable, because small successes build momentum, and the changes get easily integrated into new ways of living, which create lasting change."
Her mini retreats address body, mind and soul through a Ayurvedic cleanse with kitchari, yoga, guided meditation, breathing practices and wellness tips. You meet as a group for three and a half hours in the morning, and bring your kitchari soup with you to consume for the rest of the day.
Ryan says she gets more and more visitors who want to do a retreat while on vacation, and the challenge for them is whether to continue with the soup or going out to dinner later in the evening. The next cleansing mini retreat starts on Feb. 27 and you can save 10 percent with early registration.
Ryan says her idea to do mini retreats formed when she saw how people want to break away from the daily grind, but can't escape to a full retreat due to family, work or financial restrictions.
"My passion for health has been longstanding most of my life," Ryan says. "Growing up in an area where many people were overweight and fast food was a daily ritual, I knew there had to be a better way. Slowly I discovered my own path to health, and the inspiration I received along the way propelled me to realize that this is the work I am meant to be doing. When I asked myself what I really wanted to do every day it was empower people to feel fulfilled in their lives. So I share the tools that have helped transform my life in hopes of planting seeds for positive change in others."
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