A board of wellness studio with a flower on it

Well, What Is This “Wellness” You Speak of?

A Weekend of Wellness on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula

That’s a lot of alliteration. Also, I did play up that title a little for effect. As a somewhat functional member of society, I have heard the term “Wellness” before, and possess at least a casual understanding of what it is and some of what it entails. But it’s a pretty all-encompassing concept that you could dig down into as far as you care to go. Some of the basic tenets that I’m aware of include physical and mental health and the potential links and crossover between the two.

So things like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness – which, to varying degrees, I have participated in throughout the years. Many aspects of these practices are readily available in Anytown, USA. Throw a rock from a populated pocket of the country and you can hit a yoga studio. Yet often, some of the newer or more progressive techniques, at least as far as our culture is concerned, can be harder to track down. Things like Yin or Aerial Yoga, Pranayama (Breathwork), and Cold Therapy are only typically found in larger towns or cities. They are almost never offered in small towns, rural communities, or places with immediate access to tranquility or an expanse of nature. Well, unless you’re shelling out thousands at a resort in the mountains somewhere. But aside from that, almost never.

A few months ago, I was invited to come up to the Long Beach Peninsula on the coast of Washington to whet my appetite for wellness. The Inspired Mind Matters Wellness Studio is working on site and with the actively remodeling Chautauqua Resort & Conference Center. Together, offering affordable services to the local community. However, they are also providing the opportunity for the rest of us to experience some of those less common classes while staying in a much more peaceful setting than what we might find within city limits.

And it’s not just the aforementioned Pranayama and Cold Therapy. The two-person team running the show offers a wide array of classes and services, including a more traditional course for all levels and abilities called Simply Yoga, as well as Vinyasa Flow, Kids & Family Classes, and Personal Development and Stress Management Coaching.

In the interest of full transparency, I know the owner/co-instructor of the studio, Michelle Svendsen, from her other business in town, North Jetty Brewing. Of course I do. But I also know that the work she’s doing with the new studio is her true passion. So I was happy to come up and sample the wares.

Upon arrival at the Chautauqua Resort, I was greeted by a welcoming committee of deer and provided a room with a view extending out to the sea. Later that afternoon I walked over to the studio for my first course, Yin Yoga & Meditation. You can look up all the whats and whys of each style, offering, or discipline for yourself. I’m here to provide a little insight into the experience. As such, I’ll tell you this – listening to introspective and inspiring passages from the Tao Te Ching while holding long, passive poses was a new one for me. Simultaneously stretching the deep connective tissue of my body as well as my mind, was unexpectedly moving. Especially, and speaking personally here, if both have been a little tight lately.

The next morning I took a long walk along the beach from my back door. Watching waves and snapping photos as I am wont to do. That afternoon I was looking forward to trying out some things that were completely new to me – getting into an aerial silk, (which I chose to more or less simply relax in) and a paired offering of Breathwork with Cold Therapy. Well, not so much looking forward to the Cold Therapy half of the equation, but she didn’t need to know that.

I do not wish to over-describe the Pranayama or Breathwork, as I feel it would assuredly be most impactful when experienced in real-time. But I can say that I learned to trust my body and some of its processes a little more. Pushing through perceived limits, capacities, and preconceptions before arriving at one of the truest natural highs I can recall encountering. So it’s got that going for it.

Then, unfortunately for me, she remembered the Cold Therapy. From a layperson’s understanding of sports medicine, I know is a very good thing for the body. Though the benefits go beyond the immediate need to get onto the playing field the next day. The water was reduced to the appropriate temperature, I was given instruction, and then climbed into a tub filled to the brim with, “Ummm, no thanks.”

The goal was to last three minutes, submerged to the chin. In one swift but smooth release of the knees, I plunged completely in. See that look on my face? That is the countenance of a man hard-questioning his life choices as his testicles ascend into his abdomen. But after employing a few very recently acquired techniques, I settled in and dare I say, cruised through the final two minutes and thirty seconds. Yet again, I won’t relay to you all of the ways that I was pleasantly humming both physically and emotionally at that moment and on into the next day. But I will reveal that I felt truly magnificent. And in a final act of wellness for the day, I headed down to North Jetty for a few rounds of beers. Of course I did. The next morning was reserved for another beach stroll and a drive home.

So what more did I learn about wellness from this trip? For starters, I definitely prefer that nature be involved. Also, it’s for everyone. Should be, anyway. Regardless of age, location, race, religion, or station. Many aspects of it can be easily integrated into my normal routine. And that if you pay your mind and body even a little more attention, and tend to those gardens in ways that perhaps you haven’t previously considered, you can feel and think far better than the effort it took to get you there. It’s easier than I thought to be rewarded by wellness.

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