The Mind Body Spirit issue
January 29, 2009
"A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world."
Life is a minefield for the seeker of good health. In every direction there are forces conspiring to knock you from the path: stress, junk food, the welcoming arms of an easy chair. Getting—and more importantly staying—fit can feel like an insurmountable chore.
But health, as they say, is a journey, not a destination. Contained in that well-worn phrase is a valuable kernel of wisdom. You can't view your health as a job to be tackled or a task to be completed; the work of your body and mind is never done (until it is, but that's a topic for another issue). That may sound daunting, but it's all in how you view it.
Think back to a time in your life when you felt really, fundamentally good in every respect (yes, in your mind, body and spirit). The thoughts you're likely conjuring up aren't of grueling workouts or restrictive diets, but rather a general, pervasive sense of calm, happiness, confidence. Working on your body—on your temple, to borrow another cliché that is nonetheless endowed with insight—is not a zero sum game. As you gain in one area, you strengthen others. Well-being builds on itself.
And, of course, you're not alone in the journey. Especially on Maui, where the breathtaking beauty of nature serves as constant inspiration, there are myriad sources of assistance for those looking to nourish themselves both inside and out.
In the following pages we've highlighted a few of these health helpers. Of course each individual's tastes and tendencies will be different and our sampling is far from exhaustive. Not every diet or treatment will work for everyone. Our goal is merely to give you a place to start, and to remind you that no matter how much the world may conspire against you, you've got allies on the path to physical, mental and spiritual wellness.
Here's to your health.
Acupunture offers more than skin-deep relief
By Jacob Shafer
The thought of flaming needles didn't exactly put me in a state of deep relaxation. But that's the interesting thing about acupuncture—for me at least it was as much about realigning my perspective as my body.
Which is not to say my body didn't need some work. Ever since my son started daycare he's been bringing home a series of mutant viruses along with the finger paintings. I'm generally a one-illness-a-year guy, but lately aches and sniffles have been a disturbingly perpetual condition.
Naïve as I may be to many aspects of alternative medicine, I've always been intrigued by the concept. Acupuncture especially is something I've wanted to try for years, but, truth be told, have avoided out of fear.
Fear of what? You already guessed it: needles. In Western medicine, needles are always associated with necessary-but-unpleasant things like immunizations and anesthesia. They numb us to pain or inoculate us against disease and so we grit our teeth and look away. But they aren't fun.
Wipe those associations away. Acupuncture needles are nothing like the big intimidating surgical deals. They're small, almost cute, even when they've been set on fire. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
You've probably never seen Iao Acupuncture unless you've gone there for a treatment. Tucked away at the end of North Church Street in Wailuku in a small residential nook, it's one of those places where you're sure you've gotten lost until you reach the entrance, then you instantly know you're in the right spot.
A red-painted wooden archway leads into a small, tranquil, landscaped yard replete with rocks and the requisite babbling water fixture. After removing my slippers and entering the small office, I was immediately greeted and offered some water.
A short wait later, I found myself seated across from owner and acupuncturist Christine Asuncion, whose impressive resume includes a Masters degree from the Pacific College of Oriental medicine, experience in fields ranging from sports medicine to rehabilitative therapy and apprenticeships under some of the world's most renowned practitioners. With a straightforward but friendly bedside manner, Christine ran through the basics of what she does, explaining the benefits of acupuncture and the difference between Japanese style, which is mostly what she practices, and other styles like Chinese or Korean (variations mainly center on how and where exactly the needles are placed).
Of course I was glad to learn I was in capable hands, and the information Christine provided was both easy to understand and informative. But I couldn't shake that silly, nagging question: will it hurt?
The answer is: no, not really. Though Christine says different people have different reactions—ranging from tingling to warmth to slight throbbing to nothing at all—the most intense sensation I felt would best be described as mild discomfort, but the good kind. You know what I mean—the type of pain that's not only bearable but oddly, undeniably pleasant.
Getting back to those needles: in addition to being diminutive and non-threatening, they're placed carefully just under the surface of your skin. Subtlety. That word sums up not only the needle placement but the whole experience.
OK, now what about the fire? Yes, I was wondering the same thing myself. The technique, called moxibustion, involves placing a small amount of the herb mugwort (also called moxa) either on the end of the needle or directly on the body and igniting it. Trust me, it's way less scary than it sounds and doesn't hurt at all. The effect is a gradual but noticeable warming of the area around the needle, which intensifies the sensation but never approaches the feeling of being burned. I'll admit that when, at my request, Christine held up a mirror to show me the row of smoldering needles in my abdomen my Westernized brain had a fleeting moment of panic. But the treatment feels too good to fight it.
After the moxa had been snuffed out and the needles removed I transitioned to a 20-minute date with an electronic massager that looks kind of like a very inviting MRI machine, if you can picture such a thing. Your feet go in instead of your head and the tube slides up to your shoulders. Heat is radiated from above while rollers move down your back and legs. When it comes to massage, my official stance is that there's no substitute for the human touch. While I still think that's true, this wasn't one of those vibrating gizmos you get your mom for Mother's Day. The rollers had clearly been programmed to hit key points with precision and firm but not overpowering pressure. The heat, meanwhile, aided relaxation. I closed my eyes and the time flew by.
Overall, my initial trepidation aside, the experience was extremely worthwhile. I walked out into the wet Wailuku afternoon with an overall sense of well-being; things looked a little clearer, my step was a little lighter. It was the kind of feeling that's difficult to pinpoint (hey, unintentional acupuncture pun) but impossible to ignore. And I haven't had a head cold since.
Plus, now I can tell anyone who questions my manliness that I was once stuck full of flaming needles and not only did I live to tell the tale, I enjoyed it. MTW
Mineral purveyor Green Lotus really rocks
By Jessica Armstrong
I like Buddha statues, essential oil and Indian artwork as much as the next girl. I've had many opportunities to search the New Age shelves for enlightenment in shops around my quietly eccentric hometown. But I admit I've never really felt like I was completely "getting it." The spiritual, metaphysical stuff, I mean.
That began to change when I discovered Sylvia Wedmedyk's Green Lotus, a hidden gem of a store that's much more than meets the eye.
Inside its unassuming Wailuku storefront, a few pieces of Eastern artwork hang from the walls. There are also the typical figurines, incense, candleholders, a selection of bohemian clothes and a small collection of books and music.
The focus of Green Lotus, however, and Wedmedyk's lifelong passion, is crystals and minerals. Thousands of pieces from her collection of unique and rare specimens spill neatly onto meticulously organized shelves around the room.
"People have told me my store is unique on Maui," says the soft-spoken Wedmedyk, as she and her assistant Mary Rose Noel walk me through the store, pressing crystals into my hands and explaining which ones are used for relaxation or gaining inspiration, which ones heal toothaches and which are for breast cancer.
"A lot of times people have an inclination or a healing from a particular stone," Wedmedvk explains. She says people will often intuitively choose a crystal that has an effect they are in need of, without knowing particularly what it is. It's obvious that Wedmedyk knows much more than her fair share about these things.
"The stones speak to you," says Noel. A beginner to crystal healing, she circles the room, showing me one favored stone and then another, describing all the different vibrations she picks up from them.
What I didn't know about crystals when I waltzed into the store was, for starters, how many different kinds there are and how many ways they can potentially heal, protect, inspire and generally help people. I knew nothing about chakras, which apparently are closely liked with crystal healing.
The six-sided crystal of common quartz, for instance, is a transmitter of electrical energy (often used in watches), and in the same way it can be a transmitter of healing energy. The popular amethyst, which seems to be all over the store, has a calming effect and imparts peace and tranquility. Wedmedyk said the purple crystal is particularly helpful for recovering alcoholics.
"But don't keep it in the bedroom," she cautions. "It's not a sexual stone; it's too soothing."
The orange stones, like fiery carnelian, are the sexual ones. Soft pink rose quartz is the love stone; it kicks negative emotional energy to the proverbial curb.
"My boyfriend left me, he was falling in love with another woman," says Wedmedyk, explaining her first personal experience with crystal healing. "I wore a rose quartz heart pendant around my neck and I could feel the pain in my heart draining into it."
Rare crystals—like Wedmedyk's Lemurian stones that supposedly have writing from an ancient society and moldavite crystals from falling meteors—are among the more powerful pieces in the Green Lotus collection. But everyday agates and turquoise have a place in the store as well. The place is like a little crystal museum, where all the artwork is for sale.
"They're all my little babies," Wedmedyk says.
I left Green Lotus a lot less skeptical about the power of crystals and minerals. I mean, if I can sleep better, heal faster or become more intuitive or wise just by being in contact with a crystal, why wouldn't I? After all, stones have been around since, well, the Stone Age. MTW
Everything you always wanted to know about vegetarians but were afraid to ask
By Kate Bradshaw
It's not like we scorn bathing or believe that goji berries are infused with the essence of the Holy Spirit. Most of us don't, anyway.
Yet vegetarians and vegans are often pigeonholed.
Granted, we are marginal. But we're not extreme. My choosing to pour soymilk into my coffee does not signify a desire to dismantle civilization as we know it (we're doing a good job of that as it is).
It's easy to see why there's a stigma attached to people who choose not to consume animal products, given the number of individuals who follow this lifestyle out of 1) a pseudo-spiritual longing for so-called oneness, wholeness or whatever happens to be the hippest state of being (or non-being, I guess) at the moment; or 2) the need for a soapbox atop which to stand.
Those people are the ones that stay veg for a few weeks before rationalizing their consumption of a burger while stoned.
Contrary to these stereotypes, most vegetarians and vegans have very rational reasons for adhering to a plant-based diet.
Recent years have turned up research that points to veganism (avoidance of anything that comes from an animal, from steaks to caviar to cream) as a means of improving a number of health conditions, namely Type II diabetes, a condition that's on the rise both in Hawaii and nationwide.
Hawaii has thousands of vegetarians and vegans. Laurelee Blanchard, president of the Maui chapter of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, says that the organization has over 2,000 members. This, according to the VSH Web site, makes the group one of the largest vegetarian societies in the nation.
Membership does not consist solely of moon howlers and Seventh Day Adventists (not that there's anything wrong with that…).
"We're all-encompassing and we've got a wide umbrella," Blanchard says. "We welcome everybody."
People give up animal products for a wide variety of reasons: health, ethical and moral considerations, spiritual beliefs, environmental concerns and as a means of weight control (though restricting one's diet in this way will probably not make you rail-thin. If it does, you're doing it wrong).
VSH members reflect this diversity, Blanchard says.
The group doesn't have regular meetings, but instead hosts lectures and presentations by speakers brought in from across the globe. They offer (but don't force) information about vegetarianism at the talks.
VSH's monthly lectures reflect the diversity of the vegetarian community on Maui. Blanchard says the speakers truly run the gamut: esteemed dietitians, athletes, environmental activists, spiritual leaders and even comedians bring their angles on vegetarianism to the podium.
"Every speaker has a different approach," says Blanchard, which reflects the herbivore community as a whole.
Yet omnivores are not uncommon in VSH lecture audiences.
Blanchard says that speakers often take an informal poll at the beginning of each event to see how many non-vegetarians are in attendance, and there are usually at least a few.
"We really like getting people who aren't vegetarian or vegan because you're not preaching to the choir," she says.
Blanchard says lectures featuring health professionals like cardiologists and medical doctors have the biggest turnout.
Yet when author, comedian and Bizarro comic strip creator Dan Piraro spoke at VSH's January edition, Blanchard says he drew around 100 people.
There was also a big turnout when Dr. Terry Shintani came and spoke about quick ways to lose 10 pounds last January.
The Optimum Living Alliance prepares vegan food for the events, showing the general public that vegan food doesn't consist of twigs and leaves.
Contrary to what many might think, being vegetarian, and even vegan, on an island where Spam and fish reign is pretty easy.
There are thousands of vegan recipes online, and most ingredients are easy to find.
Plus, Maui has tons of restaurant options. Places like Fresh Mint in Paia offer all-vegan fare, and many more restaurants offer veggie options. Blanchard names Wailuku's A Saigon Cafe, Moana Cafe in Paia and Polli's in Makawao (which offers vegan ground-round as a meat substitute in any dish) as among the best bets on-island.
Other safe bets include Tiki Lounge (they cook all of their veggie items on a separate grill) and Wok Star in Kihei and Kahuna Kabob in Lahaina.
The fact that such establishments are acknowledging the existence of people who adhere to a meat-free diet is a good sign for a number of reasons.
First, it means that we can dine out with omnivore friends without worrying about our only option being spaghetti or iceberg lettuce.
Second, it signifies a growing tolerance for—if not acceptance of—this lifestyle.
Plus, while we don't maintain the illusion that we'll change everyone's dietary habits, those that are curious about going veggie can experiment painlessly.
Most vegetarians and vegans are very passionate about the beliefs that drove them to adopt this lifestyle, but to be exclusive or irrational will not further the cause. Instead, being divisive serves to worsen the stigma we're trying to shake off.
Many of us avoid animal products out of compassion and tolerance, so to criticize those who don't adhere to our principles would be sheer hypocrisy. MTW
A safe escape
Exotic spa treatments transport and rejuvenate
By Jen Russo
This is the era of the modern spa treatment. It helps of course that Maui is a tourist destination and home to a seemingly countless array of spas. The Valley Isle is also known for its open culture of healing.
Most resorts—which are catering more and more to locals in the face of the visitor downturn—have either recently built new spas or have expanded existing facilities. Maui also has quite a few small independent spas, which offer unique, lesser-known therapies.
In recent years, spa treatments have gained cultural traction, to the point where they've attained "trendy" status. But spas, of course, are not new. The therapeutic spa was an integral part of ancient cultures from Rome to China. Humans have known for thousands of years that heat, massage, baths and skin and other treatments have vital, transformative curing effects.
Where the Western spa experience is more clinical, the Eastern spa ritual is earthier. I was drawn to Mandara Spa at the Wailea Marriot Resort and Spa. The massage menu here is rich with cultural treatments: Lomi Lomi, Thai, Shiatsu, Reiki, Indian Ayurveda and Balinese massage, to name a few. After scanning exotic therapies like coconut rub and milk ritual wrap, frangipani and body nourish wrap, I decided on a traditional Javanese Lulur. This body therapy has its roots in 17th century cleansing rituals for brides in Java, Indonesia. While my bridal moment has come and gone, I was hoping this treatment could relieve stress, tame a few knots in my neck and leave my skin exfoliated and recharged. Ingredients like turmeric, red rice, fenugreek, jasmin, and ylang ylang are combined into a paste that is rubbed on your body, leaving your skin smooth, refreshed and invigorated.
The Balinese style of massage that followed really removed tension from my muscles. I'm sure the almost impossibly tranquil spa setting helped.
"The main feature that defines a Balinese massage is the use of the fingers and thumbs, which are used to apply deep circling and stroking pressures, working into the muscles," explains principal therapist Amanda Pasiuk. "Unlike Shiatsu or Thai massage, the pressure is not static, but sensitively moves into the body and trigger points to relieve muscle tension."
Mandara has a lot of options that cater to the resident Mauian who's on a budget but looking to spluge. On Tuesdays they offer a two-for-one kama'aina special where two people can get treatments for the price of one.
"A visit to the spa will help remind you some of the reasons visitors keep returning to the island," says spa director Andrew Johnston. "Living here it is easy to become wrapped up in 'real life' and we forget that we live in a tropical paradise that most of the world can only dream of visiting in their lifetime. The entire spa experience allows you to treat yourself like ancient royalty, even if only for a moment."
Adds therapist Pasiuk: "A day in the spa allows you to reconnect with your body, mind and spirit. It promotes healing from within a sanctuary that provides a safe escape from the outside world." MTW
Make your own Lulur body treatment
If your'e strapped for cash and can't make it to a big spa for a fancy treatment you can try this at home. Don't worry, it's easy: you probably have many of these ingredients already, and if not everything can be found easily at the drugstore, supermarket or natural food store. Feel free to substitute your favorite essential oils and other components to suit your tastes.
Combine approximately 3 tablespoons of Mochiko rice flour in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon sandalwood essential oil, 3 drops jasmine oil and a splash of water to make a paste. Put two cups of plain yogurt in another bowl
How to use it:
1. Massage a body oil of your choice into your skin
2. Take the paste and rub over your body. Let it dry. Rub off body for exfoliation
4. Take the yogurt and rub over your body. Yogurt is a natural lactic acid that smoothes and moisturizes your skin
5. Rinse and soak in a bath. Add flowers or bath salts as desired
Maui trainer brings fitness home
By Jared Libby
When you think of personal trainers, you might picture some 'roided out Schwarzenegger wannabe screaming in your face to "pump it" or "push it," or an overly peppy, Diet Pepsi-swilling cheerleader type. And even if you do find a trainer you like working with, you still have to go to the gym, find parking, fight traffic and share sweat with a bunch of strangers.
A sportsmedicine.com poll asked 1,500 people what kept them from going to the gym. Forty-six percent said gyms where too crowded; 21 percent said they didn't know how to properly use the equipment; 19 percent said they thought they were the only ones not already in shape; 11 percent said the gyms were full of rude people who don't wipe off their machines. And 3 percent said they were simply afraid.
If you fall into any of these categories, you might want to consider a different approach. That approach might come courtesy of Catherine Maurice.
Maurice, the founder of Maurice In-Home Personal Training, literally brings the workout to you. Schedule a session with her and she'll be at your doorstep, equipment in tow, ready to motivate, educate and, if necessary, even kick a little butt.
Maurice started her career training in large corporate gyms but felt stifled. Expected to sell sessions more than get results for her clients, Maurice says she got fed up.
"They didn't care about their clients, just their sales figures," she says. "You had to shut them off at 50 minutes and move on the next person. It was so impersonal."
So Maurice set out three years ago to start her own business. She wanted to help people by making working out easier. She wanted to train people on their own terms, away from the gym and away from the stress, insecurity and fear.
"People feel more at ease in their own space. It's easier for them to express themselves and open up," says Maurice. "It's an opportunity to build a real relationship with clients."
Becca Wells of Kihei is one such client. Wells says while she has a gym membership, she finds it difficult to find guidance.
"It's kind of hard to ask a stranger for help if you're not sure how to do something," says Wells. "It's way more motivating [with Catherine]. I know she's going to be there and I get pumped up for it."
Wells is among a rapidly growing client base that Maurice thinks is simply ready for something new. Maurice said her work as a yoga and Pilates instructor helps her diversify her sessions. With a B.S. in Sports Medicine and years of study and training in nutrition, alternative healing and mind/body work, Maurice's knowledge base is both varied and vast.
You can tell by talking to Catherine that this is her life's work.
"I'm passionate about it and it makes me feel good," she says. "And it makes me really happy when I can get someone else to feel the same way."
There will always be giant fitness facilities—and that approach can work for some people—but it's nice knowing there are alternatives out there. Catherine Maurice has taken the best parts of a personal trainer—the one-on-one experience, accountability, motivation and guidance—and packaged them up for home delivery. Once she's at your door, there's no putting off your workout 'til tomorrow. And once you start feeling and looking better, you won't want to. MTW
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