Photo by Alexis Ahrling

The Winter-Spring Wellness Bucket List

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The year’s end brings chills to the air, changes to the landscape and snow to the high country. A new year has arrived. It’s a perfect moment to reflect on the tasks completed and those still yet to accomplish.

Two years of COVID-19 has ruined old routines. Face-to-face familiarities are distant memories. Social distancing, isolation and too much Zoom time have altered us all.

It’s a moment to open our bodies and minds to new thoughts, philosophies and behaviors. It’s time for self-improvement, and a chance to focus on wellness for the body and soul.

Boulder County offers a wide range of options to heal, enhance and rejuvenate body and soul. Here are a few of our favorites to explore this winter and spring.

Let’s Get Fit

Nothing says “wellness” like a good sweat. While Boulder offers a vast array of gyms, yoga studios and outdoor fitness options, those seeking something more may want to consider CrossFit.

Athletes in the know say CrossFit offers more than just a good burn. It presents the chance to join a fitness community. Plus, CrossFit routines rarely repeat. That makes it harder to hit a workout rut.

“People can get bored going to a regular gym, because they often just stick to the same training pattern,” said CrossFit trainer Kaytee Sigler. “Your CrossFit community encourages you to do better. And the variety of workouts are always fun and challenging.”

Photo courtesy of Kaytee Sigler

CrossFit involves new movements, varied cardio work and a range of weight-training that changes with each class.

“I find that when I do CrossFit, I never plateau,” Sigler said. “The variety encourages you to do better. And the workouts are fun.”

The communal vibe of CrossFit also gives individuals the drive to improve their overall lifestyles, she added.

“When you make a conscious choice to work out and strengthen your body, it also helps get the rest of your life in place,” Sigler said. “You’ll sleep better and you’ll surround yourself with a supportive and likeminded community … You will also make better food choices that nourish your body and fuel your workouts.”

Fees run about $150 a month, depending on which gym you join to try CrossFit.

See Instagram@kayteesiglerfitness for further details or contact Sigler at kaytee.sigler@yahoo.com

Hug It Out

Few things are as vital to mental and physical health as touch. After nearly two years of physical distance, masks and the overall bummer of COVID, who doesn’t need a good cuddle?

Yes, there are professional huggers, who are there to give stressed-out humans a shoulder to relax on. While the job might sound semi-salacious, there is nothing sexual about professional hugging.

“I make sure this is about platonic touching. My sessions are intimate but not sexy,” said professional cuddler Kassandra Brown. “Few people have experienced anything like it.”

Aside from no sexual touching, the hour-long sessions are wide open. Clients can be held or they can hold the hugger. Brown said newcomers are nervous about the process. But that weirdness fades and, before long, the client and cuddler are engaged in shoulder massages, eyebrow touching and spooning.

Cuddling is more important than ever because platonic touching is rare in Western societies, Brown said.

Touch deprivation is connected to anxiety, depression, aggression, stress, violence and poor job performance. A cuddle can help.

“This work is more than just hanging out and cuddling,” Brown said. “It is a quiet revolution of taking a society that is lonely and scared and teaching it the skills of touching and connecting.”

An hour-long cuddle session runs between $80 to $130. Brown offers a sliding scale and says she won’t turn anyone away.

“Humans are wired for connection,” she said. “Physical touch is one powerful way we can feel connection with other human beings. It’s very easy for us to forget we are animals and that we need to be touched.”

See Cuddlist.com, or use https://cuddlist.com/kassandra/ for more details.

Meditation Time

Life today is very frantic as we dash from one task to the next and spend endless hours on social media while missing the quiet wonder of the world.

Our monkey brains never get a break.

That’s why meditation, especially the ancient art of transcendental meditation, is needed now more than ever.

The Beatles tried it when they met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. If the mental exercise was good enough for John, Paul, George and Ringo, it’s probably good enough for you.

Transcendental meditation is more than closing your eyes and repeating a mantra. It’s a disciplined practice that takes time to understand and perform. Hundreds of clinical studies have proven the benefits of transcendental meditation. One study determined that it helped reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke by 48 percent.

Photo courtesy of Maharishi Foundation USA

Best yet, the practice involves only two 20-minute sessions per day.

Phil and his wife Gail Lynch have practiced and taught transcendental meditation since the 1970s. They offer regular classes on the matter at the Boulder Transcendental Meditation Program.

“Human consciousness is an ocean,” Lynch said. “The surface of the ocean is the everyday world. The waves crash and swell. That’s our daily life. But at a deeper level, the ocean is very quiet and stable.”

He said meditation allows the brain to access that quiet zone.

“If we just live at the surface level, we will miss all that calm,” he said. “Every culture from all around the world speaks of inner peace, inner happiness. If you take the time to develop the inner part of your nature, it will grow in your life.”

He said the practice, which he shares during a four-day session, allows practitioners to experience the quiet part of nature that is in all of us.

Hundreds of studies conducted over the past 50 years prove that meditation works to reduce stress, PTSD, anxiety, sleep issues and a range of everyday worries.

“You don’t do it for a 20-minute escape,” Lynch said. “You do it for the change in brain functioning and physiology. You do it because it will enrich your life.”

See TM.org for further details or email Lynch at plynch@TM.org.

A Little Needle Will Do You Good

Talk about old school! Acupuncture has been practiced for over 5,000 years. The preventative healing treatment often raises eyebrows among those who fear needles, but in truth, a little prick can really do the trick for anyone suffering from stress, insomnia, pain and a range of illnesses.

“Acupuncture is all about preventative medicine,” said Rachel Muich, who works at Amaluna Wellness in Boulder. “It’s meant to keep you from being sick. It’s a way to keep your body balanced and to keep imbalance from coming up.”

Long ago, practitioners used animal bones on pressure points in the body to realign a person’s internal energy. Today, hair-thin needles are employed to influence the “flow of energy in the body,” Muich said.

Pain comes when the body’s energy flow is jammed. The jamming can come from injuries, trauma or the general stress of life.

Acupuncturists use needles to adjust the parasympathetic system, which centers on our rest and digest mechanisms. The technique tells the body to relax. That internal relaxation leads to healing.

Practitioners contend that acupuncture increases circulation, enhances healing and flushes toxins from the bloodstream. They say it also reduces muscle tension, produces endorphins and lowers stress and inflammation. It’s been used to treat PTSD, depression, digestive upset, sleep issues, headaches and menstrual irregularities.

It’s for everyone, really, with any imbalance, no matter the size or weight of it, Muich said.

Anyone seeking a new way to improve wellness and improve the body and soul should take a stab at acupuncture.

See https://amalunawellness.com for more information.

Hypnosis Is No Parlor Trick

We’ve all seen TV hypnotists turn ordinary people into zombies, who perform parlor ticks on command. But that’s comedy, not the healing work of hypnosis therapy.

Hypnosis is a technique used to access the human subconscious and to help relax and heal a worried mind.

“Hypnosis gives us access to the subconscious mind,” said Boulder hypnotherapist Kelly Bearer. “We use that state of mind for healing.”

In addition to her hypnotherapy practice, Bearer is a psychology professor at Naropa. She specializes in working with adults who suffer from addiction, past traumas, fear and relationship issues. Her hypnotherapy works to heal external issues, while also rewiring, updating and optimizing a person’s internal programming. The work leads to happier lives, and helps put an end to bad habits and unhealthy patterns, she said.

“If you are stuck in a bad habit and want to break free, this is for you,” she said.

Hypnosis is not about mind control. Her clients are aware of all the conversations that occur during a session.

“You control your own mind, and no one is going to make you cluck like a chicken,” she said. “That form of hypnosis is for entertainment, this is for healing.”

The hypnosis journey is for those struggling with anything from smoking, eating disorders, PTSD or a search for purpose in life.

“These things occur when there is a block in the subconscious,” Bearer said. “Hypnosis can help remove the block.”

Bearer said hypnosis is no magic wand, but she points out that research indicates that hypnosis may help lead to faster results compared to standard face-to-face counseling sessions. An hour session costs $160.

“This is all about freedom,” she said. “If you want to free yourself from what’s holding you back, this is a way to set your mind free.”

Visit Kellybearer.com for more details.

Tank Time

Before we came into this world, all of us enjoyed a good deal of float time in the womb.

The stresses of life might make some of us crave a return to a warm, safe, stress-free environment surrounded by liquid and peace.

Modern floatation tanks might be the closest thing we can get to the womb. Practitioners say the flotation experience delivers a state of deep relaxation. The process lets us meditate and frees the mind from constant overstimulation.

Courtesy photo

The process involves lying in a float tank filled with 1,000 pounds of body-temperature water and Epsom salt. The sensation is like floating on air inside a warm, music-filled or quiet and dark or lighted space.

Tierra Coxsey, owner of Radi8 Float Studio in Boulder, said the float process is often used for reducing inflammation, providing mental clarity and easing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The tank experience lets the body relax and put an end to all the outside stimuli that can make us crazy. The process is recommended for people who have chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia. It’s also a great way to recharge your internal battery and just relax.

Rates are $65 for an 80-minute float session. Coxsey also has group rates, and better deals for those who sign up for multiple sessions or for monthly memberships. She also gives back to the community by gifting 10 percent of the proceeds into a special float account for local firefighters.

“People need to invest time and energy into controlling their stress,” she said. “Floating achieves that quickly, and it gives you mental clarity in return for the deep relaxation you feel can be incredibly content within minutes of your private float.”

Radi8 can schedule up to three private sessions at once.

“It’s a relaxing and decompressing thing for people to do,” Coxsey said. “And it’s just a healthy way to get away.”

See: Radi8float.com for more details.

Some Special K, Please

If change is what you seek, it might be time to go psychedelic and explore the benefits of ketamine-assisted therapy. Treatments conducted under the assistance and supervision of trained psychotherapists and physicians can be life-changing.

Those familiar with the very legal therapy say ketamine brings people into an altered state of consciousness that can provide life-enhancing and deeply spiritual experiences.

“Most people who come in are at an impasse in their lives,” said Craig Salerno of Craig Salerno Counseling. “They feel stuck.”

Salerno, a licensed professional counselor (LPC), uses ketamine to help those who seek a new path or anyone who suffers from anything from PTSD to anxiety.

Ketamine is an alternative therapy frequently used in mental health care.

“Anxiety, fear and panic block people from deep therapy,” he said. “Ketamine tends to reduce those blocks so people can explore at a deeper level.”

Two-hour sessions, which involve an oral dose or intramuscular injection of ketamine, a comfortable couch and soothing music, range from $300 to $450.

There is nothing illegal here. Though ketamine can deliver a very heavy LSD-style experience, the drug requires a physician’s prescription and the therapy is conducted under medical supervision.

“The treatments can initiate new insights for people and lead them toward a spiritual experience. These experiences tend to help people find new and creative ways to change their lives,” Salerno said.

It’s common to leave a session feeling a huge sense of oneness with the universe. The sessions also deliver a new perspective for patients.

“Too often, we get stuck in a tunnel vision view of life,” Salerno said. “Ketamine sessions give you more awareness.”

Though the experience might conjure up images of The Summer of Love or a Grateful Dead show, Salerno said everything is done in a clinical manner.

“We have a medical provider overseeing the process,” he said. “We do everything very professionally. This is not just some kind of wild ride of LSD.”

For more details see: CraigSalernoCounseling.com

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