With health care increasingly expensive and in the near future perhaps even hard to find, it is not surprising to see an abundance of books, blogs, articles, centers and coaches offering wellness advice, tips, services and products, including this one. Wellness, once seen as mostly a do-it-yourself enterprise with grandma handing out the directions, has become more complex with specialists to help us develop our breathing, diet, exercise, inner calm, and the right balance of hormones, enzymes, minerals, and every property our body needs to function and support us. Plus so much more.
Is wellness more than just the absence of disease? Is there a sharp line dividing disease from wellness, or is there a grey area between them. A zone where you are neither ill nor really well. At least not at your optimum.
In my forties, I gave some, but very little, thought to this question. I ate a fairly good diet most of the time, drank lots of coffee, some wine, did yoga, took a walk on the beach many mornings, and worked way too hard. Then I made a life-altering decision to sell my home, buy a boat and go sailing alone at least as far as New Zealand. Thus came my awakening to my own role in preserving and enhancing my level of wellness…in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, alone on a small (31-foot) boat.
As I had prepared the boat (but not myself) for the undertaking, I had assembled a substantial first aid kit and requested help from a cousin (an anesthesiologist) to assist with a few hard-to-buy items. She met me for lunch with a gift of codeine enhanced Tylenol and a tube of Neosporin. I was actually looking for injectable pain medication, suturing materials, scalpel and forceps. I knew that I would have to solve any problems that arose on my own, perhaps thousands of miles from assistance. Eventually, all was ready on board, and I was off for the first transoceanic solo crossing of my life.
After the first few days out of Acapulco, I spent the next two weeks in excruciating pain from (diagnosed) sciatica, thinking each day it would get better. Finally, I could not stand up, sit down or lie down without pain. Crawling to the foredeck to manage sails pushed me beyond my limits, but there was no one else to do it. And so I went, often in tears and sometimes screaming in pain.
I knew that I had at least three more weeks of this before I would make landfall in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands. Going back where I had come from, by this time, was out of the question. I analyzed every conceivable contributing factor in my physical environment and every possible source of relief, without a solution. Then one day, a voice in my head…or maybe I even said out loud, “Nerve! You just don’t have enough nerve for this! Who do you think you are?” Sciatic nerve! And the cause was fear—a fear that I had failed to acknowledge. What sane person wouldn’t be afraid? I had a mental image of those rod-tight muscles reaching out desperately trying to hold on to the dock as I departed.
Without knowing why, during all the months of preparation to begin this voyage, I had been reciting in my mind the list of my skills and experience. Over and over. I never questioned why I kept doing this. It became clear in the middle of the ocean that it was my inner response to fears I wouldn’t face.
That day, I took charge of my body and acknowledged its messages. I relentlessly massaged the steel-cable-like long muscles running on either side of my spine. Hour after hour, I worked them against hard corners of the boat, small balls and hard limes. The following day my back was in frequent spasms twisting my entire body into bizarre forms, but I kept going all that day between the spasms with the same massage. I looked the fear in the eye, acknowledged it, accepted it, welcomed it (it would help keep me safe for the next eight years around the world), and I dealt with the results of it.
The second morning brought a gorgeous sunrise; I watched pain-free from the cockpit. That pain has never returned. Over the following years of my journey and since, I learned a great deal about caring for my own wellness. Of course, there were many times I went to see a proper healthcare practitioner or doctor, but I did my best to make their job easier by doing all I could to maintain this marvelous gift of life I was given. I believe that we are what we eat, what we think and believe, and what we do. Wellness is about making thoughtful decisions in all of those areas.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on wellness in the comment box below. How do you describe the state of wellness, and what is your primary technique for maintaining yours?
Pat Henry inspires people to make gentle, healing movements that take them from limiting, painful joints to joyful flexibility. Her upbeat coaching style and effective program bring out energy, optimism, and freedom clients thought were just a memory. Her message and encouragement come from a deep conviction that “if you can dream it, you can do it.”
Pat’s life is a model of following your dreams…having sailed alone around the world on a small boat, authoring a book recounting her voyage, launching her women’s sailing school, and developing Organic Stretching®, the revolutionary movement program that has brought relief to countless clients as they allowed their own bodies to guide them to wholeness.
Guest post by Richard Beswick-Arthur
Richard joined my twice-weekly Organic Stretching® classes in December 2011 and has been a regular member ever since along with practicing the work at home each day. In this post, he shares with us how the program has changed the way his body responds to the strenuous work he demands of it.
Hard physical work is something to which I am not unaccustomed. I owned 160 acres of land in Alberta together with farm-type buildings. The introduction of some farm animals meant cutting and hauling hay, feeding it daily throughout the winter months (7-8 of those in Northern Alberta!), mucking-out by hand, as well as maintaining the buildings themselves.
Today, some 30 years later, I still have occasion to work hard on maintenance projects during our Mexican “winter” months. However well it is planned, painting concrete surfaces, caulking cracks, and stopping steel from rusting all seem to happen in a rush, and it is vital to complete this work prior to the rainy season of June-October.
This year, I caulked my upper deck. It is tiled, but the grout between the tiles had cracked and allowed water to pass between the tiles. This was a slow job, hunched down, taping both sides of 1320 lineal feet of grout, and then smoothing-in caulking to form the new seal. I worked hard, without a break, at least 2-1/2 hours early most mornings. After that, both the caulking and I did not do well in the heat. Crouching for that long in one position, made 2-1/2 hours seem endless.
My lower back has always been a problem. Chiropractors et al have been unable to help me long-term, and it was not until I went to Organic Stretching® that my back improved to the point that I now normally live pain-free. Well, I felt some pain after 2-1/2 hours of crouching, and to get the job done was going to take many days, or even weeks! Imagine my surprise when, 1/2 hour after completing the first day’s work, the pain had disappeared. This was the case every day! I was not even stiff from working in that crunched position throughout the entire project.
I hark back to 30 years ago, when I would be stiff and sore for days after exertion. Admittedly the work was tougher and went on longer, but I was only in my 30s and my body should have been capable of handling hard days without complaint. But it was not so, I believe, because I did not “exercise,” I only “exerted.” If the techniques of Organic Stretching® had been available to me 30 years ago, I believe I would have had the flexibility that I have today, and would not have suffered. For me, this proves that Organic Stretching® can benefit all age groups.
My recent experiences show that improving flexibility through Organic Stretching® is highly beneficial for not only real-time exertion, but particularly for improved, almost instant, recovery-time after that exertion.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t sharing something I was passionate about…at 10 it was my library of favorite books. I made pockets in the front of each and cards to track the checking out and return, as the neighborhood kids came by my impromptu lending space on the front patio of our home.
As a high-school senior, I tutored Shakespeare and algebra and a few years later bonehead English, to a returning soldier. He went on to earn a PhD and spent his life in high levels of academia. My small part in his journey was thrilling.
It seemed throughout my life that my passions just had to be shared with others. They sort of bubbled over in an unstoppable way. My first official teaching job began as a temporary replacement for an ailing professor of Interior Design in the Art Department at San Jose State. That role evolved into program director and full-time, tenure track Associate Professor in what became a program of Interior Architecture.
I discovered a fantastic way to change the way I eat and stop gaining and losing quantities of weight every year. I wrote articles and began teaching a class in nutrition for friends. After completing a solo circumnavigation of the world, I opened a women’s sailing school in Puerto Vallarta. I even shared ideas standing in line at the bank, if the situation seemed right!
What makes some people just love to share what they have learned? It could be ego, but often that has nothing to do with it. It certainly is not for financial gain! Many cite the creative stimulation of finding new ways to draw out discovery on the part of the student or client. Others talk about the need to be continually learning in order to teach. All of these strike a chord with me.
This commentary by Anna Ariadne on the site THINQon linked with my feelings about teaching very well:
I find I love the improvisational elements of teaching. I find it very creative. I teach mostly small, discussion-based seminars, and I get a great pleasure out of weaving together different questions and ideas and watching as interesting patterns emerge in different students’ answers. It is like creating, or facilitating the creation of, a tapestry out of different voices–different colored verbal threads–each day. Before I went to college I thought I wanted to be an actress, but I hated the tedium of rehearsals. Teaching is like performing a play without any rehearsals. You have a very rough script, but you don’t really know what the final performance will be like because you aren’t (and don’t want to be) in full control of what emerges.
It has been six years since I began teaching Organic Stretching®, then called the Wallace Method, the revolutionary on-the-table therapy developed by Heather Wallace in the late 1980s. After training with Heather, I found I wanted to teach my clients how to make their own healing movements rather than move their bodies for them.
Creating a methodology for this communication and watching the results has been my joyful work ever since. It is not a process of imposing will (mine or theirs) over body, but rather to find the means…words, demonstration, inspiration, permission, suggestion, question…to unlock the barriers we all build into the ways we move and experience our physical bodies. It is not about teaching their minds, but rather about leading them to become observers and students of the deep knowing within their own bodies. About becoming connected totally with their physical beings.
From time-to-time, I make a small video as students are preparing to return to their homes in Canada or the US. These videos, as well as the comments from other students sharing their personal breakthroughs, are the gifts I get from doing what I do. What reward could be greater than this?
Teacher Training Workshop…June 24 – 28…Are you teaching or coaching a full schedule and find your body tired and burned-out by the weekend? Would you like to help others while helping yourself, too? Achieve greater fitness and a sustainable income as a certified Organic Stretching® instructor. This program may be the opportunity you are looking for.
Organic Stretching® offers the ideal complement for a well-rounded practice or studio line-up with a gentle, alternative movement system for people with limited flexibility or painful joints. Help your clients build a personal program that is uniquely theirs, suited to their bodies where they are today, so they can manage their own pain, increase their flexibility, improve their ability to avoid injury, and reconnect to their own bodies’ power and wisdom for healing. Details and registration follow in the link below.
Your first step toward certification.
In 2011, I shot my video Organic Stretching®: Principles and Movements at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens using some of my favorite areas to blend the organic movements in a perfect organic setting. The ambiance and the footage were exquisite.
March 23 and 24, the Gardens are presenting a Yoga Retreat for the public to enjoy that same experience that I had two years ago. Several local studios will set up outdoor studio spaces around the garden to offer their special variety of yoga…Hatha, Kundalini, Vinyasa, and Organic Stretching®. The studios participating include Shanti Studio, Yoga Vallarta, Casa La Ventana, and Pat Henry Studio.
The program opens at 11:00am on Saturday and closes on Sunday at 5:00pm with 45-minute classes scheduled at 12:30, 2:00, and 3:15, leaving time to explore and relax in the gardens. Take a dip in the river, stroll in the tree fern grove, savor the wild flowers, explore the Orchid Conservatory, and have lunch at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant. There is always a new discovery waiting for you no matter how often you visit.
They offer several packages: a one-day pass for 450 pesos or both days for 750 pesos. If you want to be really pampered, there is a third option which includes staying overnight at the Casa La Ventana in Boca with breakfast and morning yoga included. All of the packages include entrance to the Gardens, 3 classes or 6 (2-day pass), a garden tour, a coffee, juice, or water, and 5% off prices in the restaurant, store or nursery.
MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS TODAY TO BE SURE YOU HAVE A SPACE!