Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Santa Fe Ancient healing in modern times

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom.

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Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

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A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

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Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

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Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

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Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.

Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

I decided to call in the big guns for some healing therapy. I had my favorite massage therapist, and Reiki Master, Josh Hazelwood, from the Homestead Resort, make a house call. Sounds like a perfect way to relax, right?

I promise this is hilarious…give me a minute.

I want to share a day in the life of this spa blogger. It’s been three months since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t traveled, but I haven’t written for months due to some pretty depressing stuff going on in my life. I’ve had some family issues, that I would rather not relive at the moment. I think most of you can understand that type of lingering, heavy stress. I also recently lost my closest friend to cancer. It was a very long and difficult year watching not one, but two friends lose their lives to cancer. Last week I was just absolutely devastated. I could not even find peace in my mediation practice.

Fast forward to today. I have two friends painting the entire interior and trim in my home. Yeah, even the ceilings. The dry wall guys were here for a couple of days at the first of the week. This project will likely take a month to complete. My entire house, spare one room, is covered in plastic. And now, I have a fine, white film of dry wall dust covering everything. Not a single scrap of anything Christmas is found in the house. Christmas is just three days away. So yeah, it’s just a mess. I have been a hot mess. It has been a struggle. Any one of these things is stressful. The three combined has me at my emotional limit.

I decided to call in the big guns for some healing therapy. I had my favorite massage therapist, and Reiki Master, Josh Hazelwood, from the Homestead Resort, make a house call. Sounds like a perfect way to relax, right?

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Master massage and Reiki Therapist, Josh Hazlewood from the Homestead Resort makes a house call for me.

My therapist visited my neighbor Kathy’s house first. She lives up the street. He was a little turned around and was on her doorstep, massage table in hand, asking for Erin Wolfe. Thankfully, Kathy has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, so naturally she could direct him to my house just at the end of the cul-de-sac. His wrong house call will only add to my “amazing” reputation in my neighborhood.

I introduced Josh to my two friends and painters, Dexter and Tim. And with his typical fabulous humor, Dexter quietly says to me under his breath…”Oh great, we now have three queens up in this house.” At that point I had to remind Dexter that there is in fact only one queen in this crib and it isn’t him! #Drama

Josh and I head downstairs to my guest room, the only room in the house not completely destroyed. He and I went over my mental and physical state for a few minutes before the treatment. Since Josh and I have known each other for twenty-plus years, we can quickly cut through the typical update on my mental health and overall lack of wellness at this point. He suggests we do a combination of therapies including Reiki, massage, as well as some other energy work for my grief. Wonderful. I am so thankful to have my long-time friend here to help me. I plan on keeping an open mind. We chat about treatments, some trips I have planned for my blog, when the subject of Donald Trump comes up. Josh follows me and was tickled about my response to the 2016 election on my Facebook feed (total shock, peppered with swear words). At that point, I said we should probably burn some sage to clear out some negativity, especially since we invoked Donald Trump’s name. What an epic turn this took. Stay with me…

Josh’s massage style can be what a mutual friend calls “woo woo.” Of course he is classically trained and he takes his craft to another level by adding a spiritual aspect to it.  He smudges some sage around me, himself, and in the guest room. He puts the sage out and opens some windows. He leaves the room, and I get comfortable on his table and tuck myself in under his mint green sheets. Outside I have three men finishing the mulching of beds in my yard. I kind of forgot about them.  Yes, mulch in December. Don’t ask, It’s a long story. I know it doesn’t make any sense. You cannot make up what follows next.

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A treatment full of promise!

Josh begins the treatment with some incantations, chanting, and heavy breathing. You need to imagine him invoking spirits. He calls some spirits to come into our presence. He mentioned St. Germain, and I swear I tried to not giggle. At this point I’m thinking about my painters upstairs. Can they hear this?Dexter worked in restaurants, and that is were we met many years ago, so the fact that Josh is calling on a spirit, a name of a distilled spirit, to help me, is beyond ironic.

Josh is now doing a combination of G-Breathing which I swear sounds just like a combination of Darth Vader heavy breathing and making sounds like a digeridoo…yeah that Australian instrument…kind of freaky. This is now mixed with a chant of my name, and he spells each letter out “E-R-I-N.” He owns this spiritual part of the treatment, and his voice is loud, guttural chanting, like Buddhist monks. We have no music on during this treatment, so I’m just rolling with it and trying to focus on my breath and not giggle. Josh asks me to breathe with him. Ok, I will give it a try. I’m pretty weirded out, but least I’m not weepy, so I will try anything to feel better. We do chanted prayers at my meditation center, so I tell myself this is probably not that different.
So Josh teaches me the G-Breath technique…breathe in through the mouth, out through the mouth, then in through the mouth, out through the nose. Then, inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose, then nose, mouth, then mouth, mouth again. We repeat this breathing pattern first at a regular pace, then at a slower pace, then again at a faster pace. I know I sound like Darth Vader now, too. Oh boy, I can just imagine Dexter’s reaction if he can hear any of this. He would die laughing.
The two of us are doing this heavy breathing thing. I’m lying on the table. Josh is standing at the head of the table. I hear something else. What is that? I hear this noise in the mulch, and at first I think its a wild animal or maybe my cat. Then it dawns on me that my super-devout, Christian landscapers can hear us and see it all!!! Just a few feet from me is a landscaper digging in my garden bed right outside of the open, drapery-free window!! So when Josh is doing his myofascial release of my glutes, he exclaims, “Girl! Your butt is so tight!!!” Not once, but several times. He is in awe of the tightness of my butt muscles. My landscapers are not only hearing this, they had to see him fully extend my leg and then push my leg forward towards my shoulder. This is not a good look on anyone. He is now rotating my leg in a figure eight for what feels like infinity. Really? I just keep thinking, how am I going to explain to the landscaper? Josh now has one hand under the sheet, under my lower back, and one hand on top of the sheet, not far from my lady bits in an effort to open my chakras??? Josh continues with occasional guttural sounds while opening my different chakras. He tells me he is going to stop at my heart chakra as that is what is needed for me today, due to my grief. I am just imagining the landscapers thinking I am under some kind of surgical sheet having some weird new age treatment that may appear sexual to an untrained person. Oh man…did I mention that I already have an “awesome reputation” in my neighborhood??? This is a small town. My landscaper also works with other friends and neighbors.

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Five windows in this guest room…all open, and all without drapes!

Since Josh and I had done about an hour of the Reiki and other metaphysical techniques, we were at a point were it was mostly massage and more appropriate to have a little chat. Josh is now sitting on the end of the massage table facing me, I’m face up and he has my left leg is in what I can only explain as a wresting move, like a figure four, while I attempt to explain why I have a “tight a**.”

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My new trainer, Nicole, that kicked my butt, literally.

Josh finishes up the treatment with some rhythmic chopping on my back, backside, and legs. He throws in a little reflexology for my feet. Again, it is silent in the room, so you can hear hollow sounds on my body like a drum, AND people rooting around in my backyard. Josh varies his sound therapy at this time. This time, he is creating loud vibrations with his voice.  I would liken it to a singing bowl treatment.  He tells me it will bring about peace in most clients. I would guess that it is very effective, if you are not on display to three men covered in mulch witnessing this outside!

Ok, I can laugh at the randomness of the universe at this point, until we took another turn! No, It gets worse!!! Deciding to do another round of sage smudging for extra measure, Josh sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem as it is connected to an alarm service. I need to leap from the table, but I am just draped in a sheet wearing only my birthday suit.  Alarm blaring, he leaves for me to get dressed. I throw on some shorts and tank top…IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW!
Can I remember the code to the alarm? Hell no! I have spa brain!!! I’m trying to turn it off before the fire department gets called. Too late! My neighbor, Lorraine, is walking over with her phone to check on me. “Erin, It’s Audiotronics, there is a fire in your basement.” “No, no, I’m fine I was just burning some sage for a massage.” I am mortified. “Thank you!” I then called 911 on myself (second time this year) and inform them that we are ok, and not on fire. At that point I hear the fire truck and a moment later I see it, a large, bright, yellow, ladder truck. Now I have the siren in my house going off, and a super loud, huge, fire truck with an awesome siren, alerting all the other neighbors. Oh JEEZ! I still haven’t cleared the code. Now I’m outside in my shorts and tank top, explaining to the firemen, springing out of the fire truck to save me, that it was a false alarm. Thankfully, they were kind and understanding. Wow, I am so beyond embarrassed at this point. Can you visualize my #spahairdontcare, smudged face make up, flimsy outfit, dazed and confused look, standing in my barefeet outside on my freezing cold brick entryway? Nuts! Then my neighbor next door, Kathy #2, quickly pulls up in her SUV. “Erin are you ok, the alarm service called me.” “Um, yeah…I’m fine. It was a false alarm.” She is looking at me, then looking at the ladder truck, totally puzzled. I then have to confess my sage/massage thing to a lady that already thinks I’m totally high-maintenance. Now, I am certain there is no doubt in her mind of my diva ways.  Two painters and a massage therapist standing behind me in the house, three men in the yard, four men on the ladder truck…no, I’m definitely not high maintenance.  It’s just me getting a smoking massage. She will be giving me a hard time about this for a while.

I still can’t find the code to my alarm system. It’s so loud! I’m digging for my key fob, missing in action, of course. The painters are loving this more than you can imagine. My phone is ringing. Total chaos. It’s my husband. He is telling me our house is on fire. “No baby, its ok. It’s like what happens when I cook bacon. We’re good. Just trying to get a little massage over here.” Oh man, who is going to call or show up next???

I take a moment to just find my bearings and try to clear the alarm code. I decide to go out to the garage to get a bottle of water from refrigerator and the garage door is open. Right outside the garage are all three of my landscapers taking a break. I can only describe the look on their face, seeing me like this today, my disheveled hair, smudged makeup, summer attire, my three-man crew, and now the fire department…as an open mouth stare and total awe. I just can’t even. I have to see these guys every Wednesday. I just said false alarm, took my water, and hit the automatic garage door button to close the door. I’m out.

My painters and Josh are sad for me. They know how stressed I have been and now my momentary bliss has been squashed. They suggest a cocktail. It’s only 2:30. My massage therapist agrees. “You need water and a shot.” Dexter, Josh, and I have a shot of bourbon neat, from a now, “no longer able to be a Christmas gift” bottle of fancy bourbon that was on my counter. None of us typically drink bourbon. Drinking it without ice or a mixer is also not typical, but then again, what is typical about this day?

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Laugh or just cry? Josh, Dexter, and I chose cocktails. Yes, that is spackle on my kitchen wall.

My helpers, now paid, leave in very good cheer. My next door neighbor, Kathy #2, text me to follow up and make certain that I am ok. I give her the update on my holiday travel plans and remind her that she can use our secret Santa stash and and hot tub while I am away. She usually hides her kids’ large Christmas gifts in my lower, back porch until Christmas morning. She then texted me back, …”No need for the secret Santa stash…haven’t had that since college…but I might take you up on the hot tub.” OMG!!! What does she think I’m offering her??? I reaffirmed that I was burning SAGE!!! WTH???

I can’t wait to hear about this from my other neighbors. I live in a small town. I am certain this story will morph and evolve. It’s always smart to get your version out first.  I can’t even make this stuff up.

I know a much more epic version of this will make its rounds. Let me know if you hear a better version. I am certain we can all use a good laugh in 2017.

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IT WAS SAGE!!!

Epic.Spa.Day.

I paid for this day in many ways.  Happy to be writing again, thank you Josh! Extra special thank you to the Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department and all of my neighbors on the security system phone chain.  One does not need to be a spa junkie to appreciate a good laugh. Please share. I know 2016 has been a hard year for many. This is my life.

My First Botox Injection: The single most important thing you must know!

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My first botox injection recorded live
I might be a little late to this party, but I have finally arrived. It seems that I may be one of my last girlfriends in my age group that has taken the plunge into the cosmetic injectable  market. What took me so long? Well, I am Buddhist, so I tend to look at my intentions before I act on them. Since I truly believe happiness comes from within, why would I consider this medical intervention for appearance?  I should clear up right away that my desire to keep myself looking younger does not include doing anything drastic. And by that, I mean with a scalpel. I am absolutely not against plastic surgery for aesthetics. I would just prefer to burn that bridge at a much later date. I had to meditate on why I really wanted to take the plunge, so let me share those reasons with you, and the single most important thing you need to know about these injections.

As many facials as I have had and will continue to have, let me just tell you this:  I am lazy when it comes to my own skin care routine. I am still going to fall asleep with my eye makeup on. I refuse to wear any kind of thick night cream. I have tried many, but none of them work from inside the jar. One needs to be compliant for these types of products to work. I know myself, and at 47,  I am not going to spend a tremendous amount of time at the end of my day doing multiple steps of a skin care regimen before I go to sleep. If it hasn’t happened by now, its not going to happen. I did attempt Nerium for a month and I was totally non-compliant because I didn’t like the new bedtime routine and it smelled like rotten bananas. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I also keep it simple with my daily skin care regimen. I do the basics; wash, tone, moisturize. A few times a week I will do exfoliation and treatments masks while I soak in a tub. I also travel extensively, and I am not willing to lug around tons of products. A quart sized baggie can only hold so much and I am adamant about not checking luggage.

Why didn’t someone tell me Botox was for lazy divas?

Friends have asked, why would I inject a “poison” into my face? It seems drastic to a few, others probably wondered why I hadn’t already. Safety and efficacy are key in my decision making process. Botox has been on the market for over 10 years, and I believe we know it is a safe and effective product for correcting and preventing wrinkles. It is FDA-approved for this application and has been thoroughly studied before and during its time on the market (for non-biased medical information, always read the prescriptions package insert!). There are no wrinkle creams on the market that will work as well as Botox for muscles of movement.

I was also a marketing major in college, and appearances do matter. As a Buddhist, I playfully try on many different versions of self minute-by-minute. I am very in tune with my connection to my body and my mind, and they are not mutually exclusive. Feeling good about myself can impact my attitude as well as affect how others perceive me.

What started to weigh on my mind was something a friend pointed out. She pointed to a long vertical line between my eyebrows. Ever since it was brought to my attention that I had a noticeable wrinkle, I could never not notice it anymore. Thanks, I think.

But it did get me thinking to back when I first switched from glasses to contacts.  One day I was walking down the hallway at a university medical center. A nurse stopped me and asked why I was so angry.  Thing is, I wasn’t!  I was having trouble reading hospital signs in the corridor. At that moment, I decided to get my vision checked. I did need glasses.  But, I also needed to make my number as a rep. Appearing to scowl is not good for sales.  I did think glasses made me appear smarter to the medical community I called on, so that was a bonus. Fast-forward a few more years and I was going to have a new sales manager that was ten years younger than me. In an effort to appear young and energetic at work, I switched to contacts. Maybe it helped with my manager, maybe not, but I certainly liked all the complements I received and I enjoyed the benefit of wearing non-prescription sunglasses. My point is, I’m not really attached to my appearance to the point that I can’t change it, I just continue to try on new shells, as I continue to grow. So where do you draw the line? To me, the first line was using hair color when the gray started to appear. Is it that big of a stretch from hair color to Botox? I used to think so, but then again, I have continued to change and grow as a person, and my idea of what is acceptable has also changed. So why shouldn’t my body match my mind? I do know one thing, I don’t want the “deep 11” on my face. Having two deep lines between the eyebrows does make one appear to be angry, even when they are not. When I discussed this with my doctor, you can imagine the horror when he pointed out that not only did I have two lines now, but at the  rate I was changing, I could actually end up with three lines. It turns out I made it to the party just in time!

Botox Brow Lift

Happy surprise, I did not know I was also going to get the benefit of a brow lift! I was aware that surgical brow lifts can have the effect of a face lift. I didn’t realize that an added benefit would be a dramatic lift of my brow. My doctor and I discussed my desire to not appear waxy, which is generally a look achieved by overuse of these injections and fillers. Let’s get this clear right now. If you go to the right specialist, you will not end up looking  “surprised” or have that frozen-face look that some people end up having. I had a successful two-site course of Botox because I chose a doctor that not only does these injections daily, but has additional training as a FAOS plastic surgeon. This select group of physicians have undergone extensive aesthetic training far beyond their chosen fellowships. These surgeons are peer-reviewed to meet the highest standards in the industry. I knew that if I picked the right doctor, he would be able to help me sift through all the options available to me. There are countless products and procedures on the market to reverse the signs of aging. I need someone who is up on absolutely every surgical and non-surgical option available to me. When I pick the right, well-trained specialist, I don’t have to do all the homework of researching new products, treatments, and procedures. This is their profession and passion.  A surgeon like the one I researched will do all the heavy lifting for me. So my advice is this:  Spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for the right doctor, not the right product. They want the best outcomes for their patients and their reputations are at stake. It just takes one trip to a website like http://www.NewBeauty.com to research all the latest aesthetic products and procedures, and you will find the same comments over and over again…I wish I had not gone to this dentist for my botox, I wish I had not used a Groupon, now my eyebrows are crooked for 3 months or longer…Every nightmare post reveals the same thing…I went to someone who was NOT a specialist and the results were not great.

Two site Botox

This is a long-term relationship and one that should be researched thoroughly. Botox needs to be injected every three months on average. At some point, I might opt for additional therapies and I want a physician that can grow with me as a patient for many years to come. The right physician will listen to your concerns and take the time to explain to you what the risks vs. rewards are. FAACS and FACOS surgeons have first hand experiences, and time in practice to master the art of beauty. This is what they do! So skip the Google search on the product and start stalking these doctors online. With technology, we can usually see examples of their work, read patient reviews, and check on their biographies to see exactly how qualified they are and in what subspecialty. Medicine is complex, and many doctors are super subspecialized. My husband is a orthopedic surgeon and only performs hip and knee replacement.  If you are going for cosmetic changes to your body, you better know what the doctor’s subspecialty is. As a former medical sales rep and wife of a surgeon, I have a certain amount of medical information and access that is not available to everyone. I thought it would be helpful to share my physician search process with you.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BOTOX IS WHO IS MOST QUALIFIED TO INJECT YOUR FACE AND CHANGE YOUR APPEARANCE.

 

It is my opinion that since these injections are cosmetic and not covered by insurance for treatment of wrinkles, that I get the best injector. Ever had a bad haircut?  Think about what a bad injection could do to your self-esteem. Even the “fancy surgeon” I picked offers very competitive pricing due to the self-pay nature of these products. I checked!

I began my search locally, and moved out from there. I didn’t want someone who took a weekend workshop to be able to change the appearance of my face, when I could have someone who finished medical school, internship, general surgery residency, plastic surgery residency, and a cosmetic fellowship, which involves a much higher level of training, than other people who are technically able to provide this service. If the cost is the same, why would I not go to a plastic surgeon?  Truth is, since I don’t really want to do any surgery for a while, a dermatologist might have been a great choice as well, but in the semi-rural city where I live, dermatologists are few and far-between. I have not found a local one that I liked and could actually get in to see. It would be nearly impossible to have great access to a dermatologist locally, and I would end up with a physician’s assistant giving me my injections.

I was looking for a plastic surgeon that matched my expectations of training and accessibility. I had two options I considered locally, one was close to retirement, and the other was booked out a few months. Skill and access are important to me.

My checklist for finding a qualified plastic surgeon:

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I also want accessibility. Can I get in? Will I see the doctor or a physician’s assistant. Depending on what I need, that may or may not be important. For Botox, I want a doctor that truly understands the esthetics of this product as they use it and fillers daily in their practice almost like an artist uses paint.

Allow me to introduce you to my doctor, Dr. Michael Kluska.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska
Dr. Michael S. Kluska, board certified plastic surgeon and fellow and board member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (FAACS)

Dr. Kluska is a Board certified plastic surgeon and he specializes in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Director of the Greenbrier Center for Cosmetic Surgery and MedSpa, he has been in practice for more than 15 years. He is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. He did his general surgery internship and residency at Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital (This is key!!! This is a hard residency to be admitted to and the residents here work with some of the best plastic surgeons in the world).He also did his fellowship (subspecialization) at Ohio University, Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital.

I also checked the Botox website to see if Dr. Kluska was listed. This was due to my experiences as a biotech sales rep. Some doctors will buy illegally reimported drugs, that cannot be tracked for safety, to lower their costs and increase their profits. Some of these may be counterfeit. I am not going to anyone not on the Botox site as the company would not have a record of sales with that physician. I would view an omission  as a huge red flag. I also want to see the Botox  vial at the time of the injection to insure the writing is in English and has a hologram of the logo. Of course Dr. Kluska is on the website, no corners are cut at The Greenbrier Clinic.

Accessibility:  How does a house call to your room at the Greenbrier sound? Due to the nature of concierge medicine, access is one of the biggest patient advantages. Physicians who limit their patients to a smaller population do this to provide more in-depth care. I know that my physician will be able to see me when I am available to see him, not the other way around! Also, I do not have to stay over night at the Greenbrier to visit Dr. Kluska at the Greenbrier Clinic. If I do stay at a guest of the hotel, I can then decide if I would like to walk over to the Clinic or have him visit my guest room. If privacy is important to you, it does not get any more clandestine than this. If in the future I decide to have a surgical procedure, I can fully recover at the hotel in one of the special medical suites and he will round on me in my suite. How sweet is that? Patients of the Greenbrier Clinic receive special room rates. Call for a quote 877.269.8118

Do you know someone that could use this information? Please consider tagging or sharing this post.

If you would like to see the entire consult please take a peek, it is just 20 minutes.

This is a sponsored post. I contacted the Greenbrier Clinic when I researched Dr. Kluska and extended the offer to work with him and share my experience. All opinions are my own. If you are considering cosmetic procedures it is always important to discuss your personal health and medical history with your family doctor before beginning new medical treatments. I am not a doctor. I am a spa blogger. This is my life.

 

http://www.enlightenedspareview.com/google66dfc194e4d2cd5c.html.

Greenbrier Wellness

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

Source: Greenbrier Wellness

Greenbrier Wellness

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

 

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Greenbrier Resort Woman’s Wellness Weekend

Greenbrier Resort Women’s Wellness Weekend
I was thrilled to host a women’s wellness weekend at America’s Resort, the gorgeous and historic mineral springs resort, the Greenbrier. I cut my teeth as a spa enthusiast at this resort some two decades ago. Over time, my respect and admiration for a tradition of wellness dating back 236 years has continued to grow! While some may argue which spa is considered the beginning of destination spa travel in America, not many can argue that this resort not only was a part of the American spa tradition, but it basically invented many of the things we consider hospitality in this country.

Having been greeted by Mr. Frank Mosley so many times, his hospitality never gets old. Working at the resort for the past 58 years, he is 86 years young and the personification of West Virginia warmth and hospitality. Entering the lobby, the explosion of color matches the summer blooms outside. At check in I was greeted exactly the same way I have been so many visits before–iced tea, lemonade, or champagne.

This weekend was remarkably different from many past visits. This time I have a mission and a schedule. While some may eschew the idea of a scheduled vacation, perhaps they have never taken a wellness vacation. It is a beautiful combination when you can take a break from everyday life to learn new ways of living better. Since this resort has such a storied past of health care, hospitality, and wellness, I was excited to deepen my knowledge of living well thoughtfully presented by the Greenbrier.

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts. Since the Greenbrier has had a serious concierge executive medical program since 1948, this wellness program has a medically-based foundation. I will be combining evidence-based medical services with state-of-the-art diagnostics, and weaving in my choices of subspecialty providers, seriously luxurious spa treatments, and an endless list of fitness activities and world-class cuisine. Oh yeah, did I mention that Greenbrier tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras will be playing Andy Roddick Saturday night while I’m here? The amount of activities and services available at this resort is mind-boggling, so I am happy to keep their expertly prepared, individual schedule to glean as much goodness from one weekend as possible. It’s also fun to share this experience with a group of like-minded ladies with the same goals.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska
Dr. Michael Kluska, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

After checking in at the Greenbrier Clinic and receiving my printed schedule, I begin my day with a consultation with Dr. Michael S. Kluska. My first appointment has me both nervous and excited. I scheduled a specialist visit with Dr. Kluska, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with a passion for skin care. I had been considering getting my first Botox injection for years. I finally decided it was time, and took the opportunity to do it with an extremely well-trained board-certified plastic surgeon…(see results here). The Greenbrier Clinic offers a multi-specialty approach to treating the whole patient within a single resort visit. Patients can schedule in-depth visits with many specialties including internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, nutrition, as well as a multitude of other diagnostic and preventive health treatments and procedures. Nearly every specialty is housed within the clinic wing attached to the resort. The convenience of walking over to appointments all within the resort is amazing. It is entirely possible to see an internist, a cardiologist, get a colonoscopy, have a radiologist review images including imaging from their own CT- scanner and mammography, or even have surgery over a weekend. Thankfully, I am in good health and my wellness visits on this weekend include time with my internal medicine doctor, a nutritionist, some blood work, and a plasitic surgeon. I could not help but think about how easy it would be to bring my husband here for a year’s worth of medical visits and testing, and have him not miss a single day of work, which is always his excuse for not taking better care of himself. I will be bringing him back another time!


I also had some time to enjoy the resort on my own. I chose to have lunch courtside near the golf shop. This is a favorite tour stop for PGA players and fans of the the PGA tour. I also had time for a little retail therapy in the pro shop. Who am I kidding…I was stalking Lee Trevino. I just missed him by five minutes! Jack Nicklaus was also in town this weekend as they are designing a new golf course….(more on celebrity stalking later :))And, knowing I would be seeing the pro emeritus Pete Sampras play Andy Roddick Saturday night, I was very tuned in to people-watching at the tennis courts during my lunch. Guests can schedule private golf and tennis lessons with tour professionals.

During my clinic phone consultation prior to my visit, I scheduled my doctor’s appointments as well as one of my favorite spa treatments at the Greenbrier. It is really hard to pick just one, so I usually don’t, but I have new doors to open this weekend, including a vault door in the bunker, and I need to experience some other aspects of this massive 40,000 acre property. If you have never been, the Greenbrier signature treatment, featuring a Scotch spray, is a bucket list spa item for any true spa junkie. I also strongly recommend having a facial at the Greenbrier. The staffing in the spa is second to none. Many of the therapists and estheticians have been here over twenty years! Some have even worked here for 30. Talk about expertise–you would be hard-pressed to find a more tenured staff in the entire country.

IMG_4486
Enjoying some quiet time in the relaxation room before my spa treatment

Friday evening is here and it is time to meet my newest friends and fellow participants for an anti-aging reception. Staff from the Clinic, medical vendors, and participants gather to meet and share excitement for the weekend. Many ladies were traveling with their husbands, but broke away to have a little lady time and kick off the program. Two of my friends and blog followers took me up on the opportunity to revisit wellness for the weekend and we had dinner at Forum after our reception. We could also not help ourselves…we had healthy dinners on our own, but the lure of the casino was too strong for us to pass up. Dancing counts as cardio, right?


Saturday morning we were greeted with a beautiful and healthy buffet in the Clinic conference room. We were instructed to fast after 10pm Friday night. Prior to breakfast, we had our blood drawn and tested. Individually, our test results are reviewed with us during our complete medical history and physical with our internist. We each had hour-long appointments with our doctors to go over our medical history and come up with a treatment plan for the next twelve months. My internist was Dr. Kelly Redden. I was impressed with her thorough exam. A few things really stood out as different for me during this exam. First, I was meeting with an actual doctor and not a mid-level provider at the exact time of my appointment! Second, remember what it was like when you would get an exam, then meet with the doctor in their office afterwards, once you are dressed, to get the results? I vaguely do.  Another eye opener was the ability of the Greenbrier Clinic to pull up all of my current medications from two different pharmacies. The accuracy of my prescriptions were not left to my sometimes short attention span. I actually brought mine in a ziplock bag, but they were able to retrieve all of my prescription data, even for a bottle of medicated shampoo I had filled and forgotten about. And finally, I was given a spa robe for medical appointment and assigned a locker. No giant paper napkin patient gowns here! It made me feel more human. I love this level of detail.


We enjoyed more fellowship while some awaited physician appointments, others, time at the spa or activities on property. Our schedules were set up with blocks of open time as well as scheduled group activities. We could use our open blocks for discovering any activities at the Greenbrier, or just spending some quiet downtime. It is up to the patient to decide.

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Mid-morning, just outside the spa, the wellness ladies took a private fitness class designed specifically for us by a personal trainer. It was a different workout than what I generally do, but I love trying new activities, so I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and gardens of the resort.

At lunchtime, we convened in the bunker kitchen for a wellness cooking class. Here, we learned about a variety of superfoods, cooking techniques, and portions to enhance our healthy, active lifestyle. I am always inspired by eating really great, well-prepared whole foods, and the Greenbrier has been a culinary leader in the hospitality industry since the resort opened.

After lunch, we returned to our personal blocks. I went for my signature spa treatment, others saw various physicians and received personalized care or had activities scheduled. At 3:30, I went over my lab results from the morning with Dr. Redden and had my in-depth medical history and physical.

Dr. Kelly Redden Reviews my results
Dr. Redden reviews my lab test and makes a treatment plan for me for the next twelve months.
Tennis Match at The Greenbrier
Saturday night, I watched the tennis match between Andy Roddick and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Pete Sampras. I was able to catch Pete for an autograph !

Sunday morning, we started the day with a wellness walk and meditation. It was beautiful to walk through the gardens, grounds, and golf course with our personal trainer. I took the opportunity to snap lots of pictures on this scenic stride. Joanna, another participant and I took this selfie with Andy Roddick having coffee in the background on our way to meet up with our trainer. You really never know who you will bump into around here. Once we met up with Josh, we walked at a brisk enough pace to burn calories and get the heart rate up, but we also made time to stop and smell the flowers. Josh Beverage, our trainer,  made sure to point out interesting facts about the grounds and various events and activities available on the property. On completion, a couple of us did have breakfast together in the main dining room. I am a huge fan of room service at the resort, and generally opt for breakfast in bed, so it was nice to see the gorgeous main dining room in the daylight. We decided to stick to our healthy eating plan and ordered a spa breakfast from the menu instead of the decadent Sunday brunch. I was able to keep my convictions due to my wellness walk.


Our final group activity was a meeting with Connie Gottshall in the clinic. She is the nutritionist for the Greenbrier Clinic. She reinforced the information we received at our cooking class, and gave us helpful strategies to make better food choices. She actually had sample meal plans to follow as a guide and definitely inspired us all to take a closer look at food labels, not just for ingredients, and hidden sugars, but also portions. I think her talk just reinforced to me why I prefer to eat whole foods rather than prepared foods. I was definitely more motivated to cook at home more often after this class, and with the skills Iearned in the cooking class, I had everything I needed to prepare better food choices back home.

Greenbrier Nutritionist
Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Connie Gottshall shows us how much sugar is in one can of Coke.

If I could stress anything to you about this wellness weekend, it would be that it was still a vacation. I just learned to live better, armed with new knowledge and motivation to continue to make these educated decisions about food choices, what my body needs. Dr. Redden suggested I add vitamin B-12 daily, Calcium 1200 mg daily, and vitamin D3 1000 mg. She also prescribed exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. In six months she will recheck my HDL cholesterol. This won’t be a problem for me, as I live 90 minutes away, and plan on visiting every three months to get my Botox injections. How cool is it that the doctor would come and give me my Botox injections in my room, if that is what I want? This is what concierge medicine is all about–old-fashioned service, like a housecall to my suite! I have an iPhone app to refill my prescriptions, and they will work with my local physician if needed for additional issues as they arise.

Travel Tips

Private medical suites are available with competitive pricing. If you are planning medical testing or procedures, let the Clinic staff help you book your room. Medical suites have two refrigerators for ice packs and medical supplies. Ample space is available for your family to stay with you. The doctors make rounds in the hotel. Recovering from surgery here is best-in-class.

The Clinic executive medical program caters to people that keep tight schedules and they respect your privacy and time.

Book your spa appointments in advance to insure the optimum therapist and treatment time for your schedule. Add on a 25 -minute mineral soak to any spa service you book. It is a must!

Fitness classes are always new and exciting. Try a new class before your spa appointment. Guided meditation is available most mornings in the spa. Keep your eyes peeled in the gym, lots of celebrities visit and have homes in the area.

Get outside! The grounds at this resort are magnificent. Your normal walk, run, or bike ride will be inspiring. Comfortable walking shoes will take you far at this property.

Try a new sport. Equipment and staffing is always top notch. Falconry or whitewater rafting, anybody?

Book a tour at the beginning of your stay. Historical tours provide a wealth of information about the resort as well as American history.

EAT! This resort has a culinary apprentice program that takes classically-trained chefs three years to complete, much like a masters program.  There is a specific farm-to-table restaurant, but much of the food is grown right on property and always has been.
If you are going to have a cheat day, this is the place to do it. They employ one person who just makes housemade ice cream for eight hours a day, every day. This is a serious foodie paradise. Check calendars for specialty chef’s tables and memorable holiday meals.
This resort is dieter-friendly, with spa menu choices on most dining menus. Staff are happy to cater to your special food preferences. Mom can have an egg white omelet while the kids get treated to chocolate chip pancakes, so everybody is happy.

The Greenbrier is set in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia. It is easily accessible by half of the country for a family road trip. Air and train service will also take you door-to-door from New York City or Washington D.C.

One visit will not be enough to see and do everything–plan ahead to make the most of your vacation.

I was an invited guest of The Greenbrier Clinic. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, South Carolina

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer.

The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.
The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer. In the back of my mind, I did think I would have to weigh in, so I booked some of my treatments prior to my first day in my program. I know this is sneaky, but I also knew that if I started my program with the spa treatments I would be totally relaxed from my drive to Hilton Head Island. I also knew I could pump my therapists for any information I thought I might need during my stay. Very sneaky. Or brilliant–you decide.

The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.
The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.

I would be participating in a one of the two programs they offer. They have a Lose Well program designed to get people kickstarted on weight-loss, and a second program called Live Well, which is more for people that are interested in a tune up to get back on track. I participated in the Live Well program. Since this was not my first visit to a wellness retreat, I had an idea of what it would be like, but each resort has their own spin on this. I was happy to find the Hilton Head Health plan encourages healthy weight loss by teaching the fundamentals of lifelong success by reframing the diet issue into more of a way of life, so that dieting essentially is over. Time is devoted to teaching skills to integrate these new lifestyle choices, and classes on planning scenarios to make weight loss successful long-term. One of their main tenets is that small changes over time can lead to big results. They also stress the importance of not trying so hard to be perfect when it comes to dieting. It is how we manage the missteps that truly have the greatest impact on long-term success. I thought this was a very useful perspective as so many times we can feel like a failure if we don’t follow a diet perfectly, then end up giving up. Not just me? Apparently, it’s a common issue and this program is all about real-life scenarios and how to manage wellness for the long term.

Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.
Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.

I mostly did the Lose Well program, and the medical checks like weighing-in and blood tests were optional, so no scale for me! So maybe I didn’t need to book the slimming ritual before the weigh-in that never happened, but the benefits of this body treatment definitely enhanced my weight loss while I was there.

Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.
Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.

My first spa treatment was the Wild Comfrey Glycol Peel Facial Detox. Indigo spa designed this treatment to meet the needs of participants going through the process of weight loss which can at times trigger skin reactions like temporary acne breakouts, oily skin, or inflammation. I knew I was due for a good peel, and this one suited my needs. This particular treatment removes the top twenty layers of skin without any redness. Melissa, my esthetician, used a combination of organic products and traditional facial techniques of steaming, cleaning, extracting, application of a mask and moisturizing to customize my treatment to my skin care needs. I found her facial to be relaxing, yet it yielded the results I was looking for. I received a deep clean due to the exfoliation, extractions and a peel, but the application of acids to reduce a breakout I was experiencing was very beneficial. I was completely relaxed by my facial and I hadn’t even checked in yet! I had a longer drive than I anticipated due to road construction and some holiday traffic. I could really relax for back-to-back treatments, as the staff had called the front desk to alert them of my arrival and ordered my supper. I had dinner waiting for me after my treatments, so no worries about finding food or getting settled for my first evening.

Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!
Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!

My next service was the Naturally Slimming Ritual with Kristy. Kristy and I bonded immediately. I was extremely relaxed after my facial and ready to ask for some insider tips from Kristy now that I was settled in. She has been a therapist at Indigo spa since it opened. My treatment with Kristy is exactly what many people are looking for when they buy those “crazy wrap things” from home parties, except much more luxurious, and, I think, beneficial. Kristy applied organic products that helped brighten my skin via exfoliation, and reduced my water retention by using lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Slimming spa products really do work best, in my opinion, when combining specially-designed products with the massages. Once Kristy finished applying the organic scrub that contained plant enzymes, salt, aloe, and coffee berries, I was neatly wrapped in a special sheet to retain the heat of my body, as well as the heat of the massage table, to let those products absorb while she moved on to the next step. Normally, a relaxing facial massage with collagen would be the next step of the treatment, but since I had just had a facial we adjusted my treatment to include an in-depth scalp massage instead. My head and neck felt great now. All that driving stress was behind me. Her ability to adjust the treatment for me went so smoothly, I would have thought that the scalp massage was just part of the treatment plan. While I was face up and getting a serious scalp massage, I had time to pump her for information. She mentioned that stretching prior to exercise classes would be beneficial as well as massage appointments if I were experiencing too much stress or strain from all the exercise. She assured me availability of treatments, which put my mind as ease. Massage therapists always advise drinking water post therapy appointments, but that was never truer than in this case. Since she did an extensive lymphatic drainage massage, designed to removing excess water from my body, drinking enough water insures that my body does not try to hold on to the water already in my system. As we remove the excess water from the body, we are also removing toxins and helping our metabolism work better. Drinking plenty of water makes us feel fuller at meals, as well. There is a reason they gave me a giant water bottle at check-in, along with a backpack. I would be hydrating more than normal due to all the exercise but also as a tool for weight loss. I can assure you my water was definitely moving out after this treatment. There is no doubt that I lost more than water weight while at Hilton Head Health.

4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable result!
4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable
result!

By my third day in the program, I was not really in pain from all the exercise, but I was definitely ready for another healthy evening in the spa. One extremely cool thing about Indigo spa is its hours. They open up late at 2pm and stay open until 9 pm. On Saturdays they are open from 10am till 9pm! There is no need to cut classes or skip daytime activities to get your spa time in. It is actually designed to fully support the program and not compete with it. So, instead of going back to your cottage in the evening and zoning out, you can continue your in-depth program with treatments that address what is happening to your body. For locals and other visitors to Hilton Head Island, this means you can put in a full day at the beach, golf course, or tennis facilities (such as the internationally-renowned Van Der Meer tennis academy), then get a spa treatment in the evening. Brilliant!

Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.
Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.

Lisa was my massage therapist for my final treatment, the Indigo Blue Eucalyptus Ritual. I booked this treatment along with the other two treatments after speaking with the spa manager, Kelly, prior to my visit. I wanted to make sure that I got the true essence of the Indigo spa and I did not want to miss anything really special or unique. Kelly was a great help in narrowing my choices based on my needs and desires. She swore by this treatment, and now I know why. It is designed to relieve fatigue, low mood, stiff muscles, and aches, and to support a healthy immune and digestive system. I had timed this treatment just right based on my participation in the program. Organic products from the Naturopathica product line were used. Eucalyptus oil opened up my sinuses at the beginning of the treatment allowing me to breathe deeply and really relax. A combination of ginger and mint massage lotions were used on my body. The eucalyptus did not overpower the entire treatment. As the treatment began, it kind of reminded me of when my mom would rub Vicks vapor rub on my chest when I was little, and really, is there anything more soothing than that touch? Lisa was such a skilled and nurturing therapist, I was able to really breathe in deeply and my body was really relaxed and receptive to the deep tissue massage she provided as the treatment progressed. I did not want to leave the table after 80 minutes. Lisa had a great knack of knowing where I was sore without my specific direction, I would have to call her intuitive. She is fabulous.

I will admit, I did make some big changes to the amount of exercise that I normally do while at H3. It wasn’t that I could not do the exercises, or that I hate exercise, it was more of a tune-up for me, and a revitalization of my desire to be healthy and active. It was also a time to try new types of exercise like water yoga, and stand up paddle boarding. I also was able to ride my bike to the beach in the evenings and one Saturday afternoon, so I wasn’t totally spent from all the classes. I think we all get in ruts from time to time. There is a natural ebb and flow with lots of things in life, and eating right and exercising gets the back seat when we get busy or when other pressing things come up. My visit to H3 gave me time to focus on my health, learn new skills for making meals easier, healthier but still satisfying my tastebuds and typical cravings. My time post-spa in the relaxation room gave me a quiet place to really think and process all the new information I was taking in. I enjoyed journalling my thoughts and ideas, and thinking about ways to integrate these new habits once I got home. This wellness vacation was definitely a mental and physical way for me to hit the reset button.

Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.
Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.

The therapists in the spa were very skilled professionals. They were also personable and fun, very much like my time at Hilton Head Health. The people that work at H3 are required to go through the program as part of their training for new hires. Because of the H3 commitment to a healthy, happy well-informed staff, any staff member is able to answer questions that guests have, and can relate with them about all the things they’ve learned, and the nerves we might have about taking this journey. My advice to future participants would be to start your program off with some time in the spa for three reasons:  They can answer any questions you might have and make you feel more at ease. It is a easy way to de-stress from travel and get mentally prepared for the visit. The treatments also enhance the weight loss program due to their specific design. Many participants travel great distances to take this wellness journey. Some guests stay at H3 for at least a week, many stay for two weeks or a month to make the this new perspective on living well a habit that can last a lifetime. Indigo spa is just one of the many pieces of this well-designed weight loss retreat to empower guests to get the most out of their visit. This attention to the spa design is exactly the type of attention to detail they teach guests, to maintain a healthy lifestyle going forward.

My spa tips:
Start your week off at with spa treatments to de-stress from travel.
Bring your spa bag. Make sure you include a pen and journal to capture your thoughts.
Drink plenty of water before and after your treatments.
Plan to visit the spa more than once during your stay, to fortify your body and mind.
If you are staying for an extended period of time, book a series of treatments to complement your program.
The spa recommends alternating a trim treatment with hot stone treatments as trim treatment works better in a series. I agree.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

Chicken Cordon Bleu from Hilton Head Health

Chicken Cordon Blue

Courtesy of the Hilton Head Helath H3 Healthy Kitchen

Hilton Head Health Chicken Cordon Blue.
Hilton Head Health Chicken Cordon Blue.
  • 4 each  Chicken breast, cleaned and pounded flat (4 ounces each)
  • 4 each Swiss cheese slices (reduced fat, pre sliced)
  • 2 ounces Canadian Bacon
  • 4 cups Spinach, cleaned (stems removed)
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 T.   Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • 1 cup Egg Beaters (or egg whites)
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 1/8 tsp. Pepper
  • Prepare breading bowls; one bowl with panko crumbs, onion powder, and parsley and the other bowl with egg beaters. Set aside until ready.

Heat large skillet with non stick cooking spray.

Saute spinach with salt and pepper and cook until wilted.

Lay chicken breast out flat on cutting board.

Place Swiss cheese, then the 1/2 ounce slice of Canadian bacon, and then 2 tablespoons of sautéed spinach on the top of the chicken breast.

Roll breast up tightly. I used a wooden skewer to help me hold it together.

Dip rolled breast in egg beaters and then coat in panko crumb mixture.

Set on parchment covered baking sheet, or use a cooking spray to prevent chicken from sticking to the pan, and continue with remaining breasts.

Bake in oven 375 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Let set for for another 5 minutes on baking sheet or pan and allow breast to carry over cook to 165 degrees F.

Chef Carrie Adams and I really hit it off. It must be our shared passion for cooking.
Chef Carrie Adams and I really hit it off. It must be our shared passion for cooking.

Chef Carrie worked with me in the “Easy Freezy” cooking class at Hilton Head Health. She recommended a few tips. She uses a thermometer to check the temperature and also allows for carry over cooking that happens after the meat is removed from the oven. Taking this additional cooking into consideration keeps us from over cooking this chicken dish. We also made a batch that could be frozen for up to six months. For freezing, freeze all the pieces throughly on a baking sheet (once cooled) in the freezer. Then tightly wrap each serving with plastic wrap and label each portion individually with “Cordon Bleu” and todays date. Wrapping already frozen portions insures better freezer storage and quick, easy future dinners on evenings that you might not feel like cooking.

Serves 4

Serving size 1 chicken breast

250 Calories 10 gms of Fat

I'm back home and still cooking! I made these with prosciutto ham in place of Canadian bacon.
I’m back home and still cooking! I made these with prosciutto ham in place of Canadian bacon. Ready for the freezer!

Hilton Head Health Results

A fitness vacation could be exactly what you are looking for to revamp your eating habits and reenergize a sluggish or non-existent workout routine. One visit and you will understand how easy what it takes to be successful.

Hilton Head HealthJust show up and change your life. It really is that easy. We are constantly being told that we are an obese nation. Many of us have an idea of what it means to live a healthy, active lifestyle, but few of us know exactly where to begin. We are constantly bombarded with new studies, new diets, new exercise programs–and few of us know exactly how to get things going, let alone get the to changes stick. If overwhelmed by all the obstacles, what to do? Well, a few of us know exactly what to do. You see this was not my first visit to a wellness spa. Once you’ve made the choice of lasting changes, a fitness vacation could be exactly what you are looking for to revamp your eating habits and reenergize a sluggish or non-existent workout routine. One visit and you will understand how easy what it takes to be successful.

Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.
Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.

The Hilton Head Health vacation I took did reenergize my sluggish workouts, and did inspire me to not only eat right, but in the right portions. By vacationing in an environment that is completely focused on my well being, surrounded by like-minded guests and staff, one will definitely be successful while at the resort, but also be given the tools to continue on this daily journey of mindful living when returning home.

Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.
Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.

Each aspect of my health was addressed; mind, body and spirit. Let’s start with the confusing diet information. We hear low-carb, no carb, paleo, no dairy, vegan, gluten-free, detox, blood-type, South Beach…I could go on for hours. Hilton Head Health has been mastering this sea of trendy information for forty years, so they have the answer to this question, “Which diet?” I could not have been happier to hear it simplified in a way I could truly understand. It is a combination of calories in and calories out, but everyone wants to know exactly how much? Well the real answer is another question:  What are you willing to give up in order to live the life you would like to be living? Professional athletes train hard at a high level, and if you ask a person that has dedicated themselves to achieving success in athletics, they will tell you training, practice, coaching, and desire. Truth is we know what we need to do, eat less and exercise more, but finding the exact way to make it livable is the key. The actual answer is to stop dieting all together. Finding a way to build healthy habits into my life and my surroundings is setting myself up for success.  It might be small steps at first, but the consistency of pushing on, even thorough setbacks, is what makes people stop yo-yo dieting and maintain a healthy weight for life.

Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master's Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.
Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

I received coaching from some of the best thought-leaders in the weight loss industry. The combination of information that is useful along with daily activities that reinforced those new thoughts, were powerful. A perfect example hit me like a bolt of lightning while I was in the Live Well Portion Control class led by Bob Wright. Through his experience, keen insight, and great communication skills, he was able to help me understand how to read nutrition labels and understand what a portion actually looks like. He basically ruined my love for Mike and Ikes.  He spoke to us about how food is super-sized now. The movie theater-size box of candies that I love is basically all sugar (duh!).  He let me know that it would take walking to the movies 4.5 miles to and from, for a total walk of 9 miles, to burn the calories in that candy box! That was a real eye-opener for me. Bob urges you to ask yourself whether it is worth it.  He pointed out ways to win this battle. He did not say I could never eat my favoirite candy again. It really comes down to how much, how often, and what am I willing to do to get to my fitness goals. If going cold turkey on candy (or cocktails, ahem) is not one, then we need to look at the portion, frequency, remaking a recipe lighter and then look at the other side of the equation, exercising more. Can you actually walk to the movies to enjoy this candy? Apparently that box of Mike and Ikes has five days worth of our daily sugar allowance. Can I actually go five days and have a cheat day or is there another way to work with this want. He gave me some excellent strategies.

The exercise that was available was varied enough to please anyone at any fitness level. All classes could be modified to meet your fitness level, and multiple choices of classes were available at each class time. The structured days begin with a walk, led by an staff member, all of whom have advanced degrees along with fitness certifications. Taking a walk though the palm trees and large live oak trees thoughout the extensive pathways at the ShipYard Plantation was beautiful. I also chose to bike while I was there, as the private beach was less than two miles away. I chose to take some classes that I was not familiar with, like pool yoga. I was able to get a deep stretch and I found it much less challenging yoga on land, as I am a beginner. I also took a beach yoga class early one beautiful morning on Hilton Head Beach. Stand up paddleboarding is a new love of mine, and I took a guided trip out into a protected cove and worked on my form. All of these classes had me engaged and excited to be exercising.This comittment to great staff is why I believe Hilton Head Health wins top awards for wellness retreats.

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As a foodie, I was excited to take the cooking classes offered each day. I took a class called “Easy Freezy.” At first the idea of frozen food did not excite me, but I am more pumped about this class and what it can do for me at home than just about anything else. I love to cook, but I don’t love to plan. I would really just rather eat what suits me or my schedule on any given day. Well, apparently, I am not alone in this thinking. Chef Carrie spent time with me hands-on in a gorgeous kitchen practicing exactly the kind of skills I need to be successful. We learned which foods freeze well, how to prepare the proper portion, and label, mark, and store food.  So, if I am too tired to cook or short on time, I can just go to my freezer and pull out something I love and quickly reheat it. No more last-minute pizza calls for me! I learned how to make awesome, healthy pizzas that will be ready to heat and eat quickly.  I sharpened my knife-handling skills and learned shortcuts to save time. We also made pesto encrusted salmon, and chicken cordon blue. It was another light bulb moment for me. I cook anyway, why not just make a batch and freeze future meals? I guess I knew this all along, but actually showing me how to pick successful recipes that freeze well, measure and weigh real portions, and how to store and lable them really just made it easy for me to comprehend. By practicing these recipes in class, I know I can do it at home now, too. Another unexpected bonus:  I will no longer waste a giant bunch of herbs or not know what to do with my CSA, as I will be using them all at once when doing my meal prep day! Delicious food, less waste in my kitchen, and a smaller waist to boot.  I found this class very enlightening!

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With all the educational classes and fitness classes, there was still time to find a balance and enjoyment while on this program. Participants are encouraged to have some rocking chair time, spa treatments (I had three treatments in four days), and even take in some of the local sights. I enjoyed my morning meditation with Lisette Cifaldi. Lisette is a nutritional coach, licensed councilor, and a food addiction specialist. I began one morning with her leading a guided meditation and then attended a class she taught on finding motivation through spirituality. It was very interesting to me because no matter what religion you may practice, or none at all, she pointed out our need to be connected as a society. Her lecture crossed over into why people sometimes overeat to fill a void. I loved her talk about deepening our spiritual practices, and how that plays into our eating habits. Even if one is a hard core atheist, there is still a spiritual need, and she pointed out ways to feed it whether it was time in nature, volunteering, or philanthropy. All of which reminds us that there is something bigger than self and that this positive mindset feeds us spirituality.  As a meditation practitioner, the attention to the mindful aspect of eating was powerful to me.

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Each meal I ate in the True dining room just cemented all of the things I was learning in my classes. The meals were beautifully prepared in the right portions, and delicious. Sharing a meal at a table with others in the same program allowed for interesting conversations and insights into how all these wellness concepts work together in our lives. Creating a sensible environment at home begins with sensible meal planning, a meal prep time, and serving on right-sized dishes. The portioned meals with lots of flavor, but still low in salt, were easy to enjoy. I was never hungry and always satisfied with the selection of choices from the menu. Snacking was also addressed and a self-serve snack station helped me visualize exactly what I should stock at home, but also what a real portion looks like.

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My abbreviated trip to Hilton Head Health, just four days, yielded some impressive results! Sunday, my final morning, I was ready to put on some “real clothes” for my drive home. My roommate and fellow blogger Michelle Rogers @MRHealthyLiving and I wore comfy exercise clothes day and night for the duration of the vacation. I had to sprint to her room to show her what I thought was shocking, my “real shorts.”  You see, Michelle and I had attended all the classes, activities, and meals together through the week as bloggers, and when I showed her how baggy my shorts were we were both stunned! I really did not think I would see such noticeable results in a such a short time. “Wow”, is all I can say. Hilton Head Health reinforces the idea of a no scale (ok, maybe one in the kitchen for portions), no diet, healthy, active lifestyle.  Most guests take this wellness journey in two weeks to a month. Many choose a roommate to reduce costs, so sharing a cottage with Michelle was very much like a regular guest experience. Traveling and taking this journey alone is definitely not a problem, though. Guests were of all ages, marital status, and nationalities that participate in this program.  I was really surprised how many guests were return visitors at first, but again, once you figure out how easy it is to take a fitness vacation and see results, I am sure I will be back as well.  With this new information, I am totally motivated and know exactly what, where, when, and how I will be making better choices for the rest of my life. It was truly a transformational week for me.

Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!
Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!
No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.
No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I am fortunate to live in a gorgeous part of Virginia. While I travel regularly, I would be remiss not to take advatage of some of the wellness activities that are just outside my door. I met my river guide, James, at Explore Park, mile marker 115 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park is just a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Roanoke, Va.  Explore Park is a jumping off point for many outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, boating and now stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) thanks to the folks at Roanoke Mountain Adventure. It’s worth taking a look at the calendar of events at Explore Park– there are museum exhibits, live exhibits showcasing historic Virginia themes, and now one of the hottest outdoor activities, stand-up paddleboarding.

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I called Roanoke Mountain Adventures, a local SUP outfitter, and booked a private lesson to learn the techniques needed to enjoy this sport. Like all water sports, it is important to enjoy SUP with a friend for safety. James Revercomb, the owner and a guide is my SUP friend today. Group classes fill up quickly, and with the peak heat of the summer, I did not want to postpone my opportunity to get in on this perfect summertime activity. I love being on the water and out in nature, so I thought this sport would be right up my alley.

James and I got to know each other on land, and then he unloaded the equipment we would be using. Since I am familar with canoeing and kayaking, we were able to make quick time going over the fundamentals, and move quickly to the equipment that is new to me, the paddleboard and the oar. The board we are using today is an inflatable 10 foot 8 inch paddleboard with a fairly wide width of 32 inches. The bottom of the board has three hard fins like a surf board. It is very lightweight and can actually be deflated, rolled up, and put in a small car, like the convertible that I drove today.  These boards are well made and can hold up to the day-to-day stress of multiple rentals and novice paddlers. He stocks boards in different widths and heights, and most boards can hold up to 250 lbs without a problem. Although the board is inflatable, it is extremely strudy and had no real give once fully inflated. This is also the same board he uses for the very popular Stand-up Paddle Yoga classes that he hosts.

Stand-up Paddle board and Oar
Stand-up Paddle board and Oar

One of the first things I noticed is that the paddle is adjustable to the person’s height. It also has a bend. It is bright yellow on the bottom. The yellow paddle helped me identify how deep my strokes were, which is key for good paddling technique. James went over the techniques needed to get in without falling off, on my knees and steady myself. We also went over several different strokes needed for this wide calm portion of the Roanoke River that we would be paddling on. We focused on paddling straight, which can be done by paddling on one side with the proper technique. Turning and stopping were also on the list.

Easy access to launch my paddlboard
Easy access to launch my paddlboard

Once on the water, I steadied myself at first on my knees, but I was standing up within a minute. Now, standing upright on the water, we went through the same strokes that we had done on the land. James made certain I felt safe and comfortable with all the strokes before heading out into the open river. He had given me the option of a fanny pack type of life vest or a traditional one. I was so glad I had chosen to go with the waist-belt life vest, as I had no trouble manuvering my paddle or body as I think I would have with a traditional life vest. I had all the right gear for this activity.

Stand up Paddle board lesson on the Roanoke River
Stand up Paddle board lesson on the Roanoke River

We spent the most of the morning paddling. He set up an inflatable buoy for a practice point, and I worked on my turns. As an experienced guide and lover of nature, he pointed out a gorgeous blue heron to me, and several other birds including a osprey carrying a small fish. We did have a small boat pass by, but the wake was no problem for the wide paddleboard.  By that point, I had already mastered one-side paddling. He mentioned that he has gear for fishing off of the paddleboard. He also said some people like to lie down for a nap. Hmmm, maybe I will get my husband out here!

What to know before you go:  Call ahead and make appointments for peak times, especially holidays and weekends. He has a few launching places to choose from. I chose the Explore Park for its natural beauty and convenience to downtown. James recommends wearing moisture-wicking clothing, or even a bathing suit. Water shoes are not needed. I wore flip flops and left them on the shore. He will have a dry bag for your phone or anything else you think you might need. He can host groups of up to a dozen people, which would reduce the cost per person. They also rent kayaks, tubes, and bikes. He might have just talked me into a mountain biking lesson.

I loved SUP.   I plan on going back for a kayak lesson as well.  Check his calendar for SUP yoga classes as well.

What are you waiting for?

I was not given any special treatment other than being a paying guest of Roanoke Mountain Adventures. This is my life.

Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling at Primland

Experience the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland.

New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland
New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

Nothing like some fresh mountain air, a little exercise, and some new Frette sheets to soothe my soul. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek prior to the grand opening of the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland. Of course, since I consider this to be my second home, I have been watching the progress of the build out over the past year or so. Even having done a walk-through about a month earlier, I was not prepared for how spectacular these new cottages would turn out. Having walked though all four of the multi-unit buildings, I knew exactly which unit I would be booking for my future visits.  I just didn’t know the name or room numbers yet. Well, allow me to share with you the awesomeness that is Oriole 70 & 71.

Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple
Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
View of the Dan River Gorge
View of the Dan River Gorge. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Porch for two with a spectacular view
Porch for two with a spectacular view Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Each of the buildings were designed with group stays in mind. The idea was for families, golf and hunting groups, wedding parties, or corporate retreats to have a place where they could open up adjoining rooms if they like and share an entire floor or building, or group of buildings, if needed. When the staff helped me carry in my luggage, they told me they thought these rooms were even more spectacular than the main lodge. Having stayed in every suite in the lodge, all three tree houses, all of the fairway cottages, and most of the mountain homes on the property, I thought, “I am the perfect person to be the judge of that!”

Custom Cabinets and Art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite
Custom cabinets and commisioned art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suites include a kitchen
The larger suites include a kitchen. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Original art works hint to the Oriole theme of this suite.
Original art works hint to the bird theme of this suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The same attention to detail in the architecture, quality of the furnishings, and oh baby!…new bath tubs had me a little twitterpated. One of my favorite daily activities, a long soak, was over the top.  When I am on vacation, my soaks can be pretty epic, pruney toes, long reads, maybe some vino therapy, and Primland has the best bathtubs, I swear! I could probably do an entire post just on which of the tubs I like best and why.  This is not a cookie cutter resort with five hundred rooms with the same tub in each of them. Oh, no…this is a place for fans of Architectural Digest to come and read the latest issue while soaking in one of many different dreamy bathrooms. I can tell you as a super soaker, without a doubt, this tub and view is my new favorite on the entire property!

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My room is connected to my friend’s room next door. He is an excellent neighbor, friend, and Primland enthusiast himself. I will give you a little tour of our suites, but then I have to tell you about our trip out to the reservoir. We have the entire upstairs of Oriole Cottage among us. One suite has a huge porch with lots of seating, enough for all of us to have a party, and the second smaller suite has a much more private porch meant for just two. Each suite has all of the modern amenities that are expected at a five-star property, but the gorgeous mountain view and meticulously-curated custom art work takes this space to another level. Giant Baby and I are in the smaller suite. I called it the romance side 🙂

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We enjoyed birding and paddling
We enjoyed birding and paddling
Funyacks on Dan River
Funyacks on Dan River

I have been wanting to try the funyaks ever since they first added the activity, but something always seemed to get in the way. First it was winter, then we needed to golf or hike or something. I have done nearly every activity on property, but still need to learn fly fishing, tree climbing, disc golf and horseback riding. It just happens that Summer, our funyak guide, is also an equestrian guide, so I might get talked into one more activity. Getting to the reservoir is no small task. Four-wheeling in the Suburban with Summer on some of the very remote dirt roads was an adventure in itself. Once at the reservoir, we needed to get our gear on and take a short hike through a rhododendron thicket. For those that have not spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, these are gorgeous evergreen flowering bushes that grow very tall. Summer gives us some basic instructions as we have all canoed or kayaked before, and just like that, we are out on the water. Funyaks are inflatable kayaks that are open on the top like a canoe. So there was no need for lessons on how to roll over under water or anything scary like that. As a matter of fact, the reservoir was very calm. The Dan River flows into it, but we will be staying in the calm open spaces just to enjoy an easy paddle, check out some wildlife, and enjoy the afternoon. That said, other guests have wanted to explore further up stream and really challenge themselves, and get a workout. We are not like those guests. We came to float, and as luck would have it, we were able to watch a beautiful bald eagle catch its own lunch. At one point, we just hung out under some trees and did some bird watching. Summer shared with us that some guests like to just float and take a nap. I like how those people think! On my next trip to the reservoir, I think I will have them pack us a picnic lunch. Stand up paddle board have just been added, so I will have another activity to add to my bucket list. Yup, I learned some new stuff, paddled a bit, and exercised my mind and body. This is what I call wellness!

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