Health and Wellness as a Lifestyle Choice

Holistic Wellness Professionals Share Their Insights and Personal Experiences

Health and wellness is personal. As a fitness trainer for 20 years, every one of my clients work with me because they believe getting fit will help them feel better and stay well. While exercise is certainly part of the picture, it is just one of several components that help us to live well.

Clients have asked me how I manage to stay healthy. Over the years, through experimentation and an open mind, I have discovered what works for me. Exercise, sleep, relaxation, massage, reflexology, fascia release, meditation, acupuncture, energy work, and regular fun are all part of my prescription for keeping my mind, body and spirit in balance. I don’t focus on the “expense” of the treatment but  look upon my expenditure as an investment for my future health.

During my journey I have been treated by many amazing holistic practitioners. When several years ago a chiropractor friend invited me to a meeting of wellness professionals in northern Virginia I dreamed of bringing together the practitioners I used on the Hill in a similar gathering. Last year my dream became a reality. Jaime Bohl, owner of Lavender Retreat, and I invited about 30 health and wellness professionals who live and/or work on Capitol Hill to meet and exchange ideas. I named the group “Hill Healers.”

Last month we gathered again at Lavender Retreat and discussed health and wellness as a lifestyle. Among those who attended were massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, healing touch practitioner, a past life regression practitioner, acupuncturists, a yoga therapist, yoga instructors, a physician who practices alternative medicine and aesthetics, a professional organizer, a yoga studio owner and a nutritional cook. The issue for discussion was how do we handle making health and wellness a lifestyle for ourselves and our clients?

“Schedules are tight in DC and people are busy – we all get that. But at the end of the day your job is not going to repay you for time you did not spend on yourself. It isn’t going to prevent you from getting ill. Your job is not going to be what carries you through this very long life. Only a commitment to your well-being will do that. If you have time to brush your teeth, you have time to factor in yourself every day. It needs to be that compulsory!” said Pam Fierst, owner of M Street Yoga Studio in Southwest.

How to Make the Shift

“Practice makes perfect,” said Jaime Bohl. “In order to create wellness as a lifestyle you have to continue to use the services on a regular basis.” She said when she gets an ache or feels ill she tests the waters. “When I have sore throat or a cold I use acupuncture and discuss with the acupuncturist how to fix it. She has a solution. When I had a sty I used acupuncture and it went away. When I have an ache I get a massage.” Jaime said she believes when she gets regular treatments she is building up her "health savings bank."

Emily Brown, massage therapist and director of movement education at Freed Bodyworks agrees. “Investing in wellness services is a personal commitment to your continued well-being. All have a cumulative benefit, so the more frequently you attend to your body’s need for movement, touch and healing, the better and more balanced you will be.”

Dr. Wanda Dyson, director of Change for Life Wellness and Aesthetics who is a conventionally trained MD who practices medicine from an alternative point of view said it’s important to realize our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance is not static. “We have to continually bring ourselves back into balance.” She said our immune system must operate optimally to stay well. “Anything can throw us off – travel, lack of sleep, a big event, eating too much, exercising too much. Our bodies are always changing.  We are continuously interacting with our environment.”

Making Wellness a Priority

When Allison Bower, acupuncturist at Lavender Retreat, treats clients she talks about the decisions they make and the way those decisions fit positively or negatively into their lives. Those decisions include what they eat, how they love, how much they rest, how active they are and if they know how to silence their mind to connect back to themselves. “I might talk about how their headaches could be related to stress and maybe their insomnia. To say that the focus should be on avoiding disease or correcting an imbalance may be missing the point. Instead I focus on the behaviors that keep us happy, healthy and enjoying life.”

Christine Brahmi Romero, yoga therapist and instructor, reminds her private clients who may feel discouraged because they have not been compliant with their ‘homework’ that there are many ways they have, in fact, been using their practices, which encourages their commitment to continue. Over time, practice becomes as much a part of daily life as breathing, not something they have to "go and do" It shifts their focus of thought. “Focusing on the mindfulness used in the practice of yoga serves us in daily life, when burdens and challenges can upset us.”

Acute pain and desperation can be extreme motivators for someone seeking alternative care. About half of Renata Maniaci’s clients seek her healing touch services at Freed Bodyworks because conventional medicine didn’t work. Often those clients turn into regulars. “Clients see the value because they are not getting sick or having major events. Healing touch is keeping them healthier in the long run.”

Eliminating Obstacles

Being a Hill Healer isn’t just about body and energy work. Jill Lawrence, professional organizer and owner of Jill-of-all-Trades Organizing Services, takes a holistic approach to her work. “I look at how the ‘stuff’ effects the environment and how that impinges on the safety, health and happiness of clients. In some ways I feel like I’m doing acupuncture in a space.” She listens and watches her clients in relation to the space. She notices barriers and stuck places, and places where relaxation and joy is evident. “I help to shift clogged energy to encourage a more healthy flow.” After organizing many clients’ own energy shifts – they ran a marathon, recovered from cancer, lost weight, broke up with a negative partner and even got their dream job.

The cost of treatmets can be perceived as an obstacle. When Henry Jenkins, chiropractor and owner of Paradigm Chiropractic speaks to patients he compares their investment in chiropractic care to a short term investment that pays long term dividends. “The cost of missing work, trips, headaches, not being able to lift children out of the bathtub are all things that can be corrected with this investment.” After treatment, once clients realize that their once debilitating episodes are only minor bumps in their lives and they feel the difference, regular treatments become a priority.

Frances Lutz, acupuncturist at Lavender Retreat sums up the tone of the evening. “Good health isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. To truly live life, you need to maintain a certain quality – a state of being that allows you the freedom to fulfill your goals and dreams. Your most precious treasure is your body. Be grateful and worship it in a way that allows you to be balanced and complete.”

Pattie Cinelli, a holistic health and fitness consultant, has been writing her column for more than 20 years. She is a personal trainer to clients in their homes, teaches yoga, Pilates, meditation and stress relief techniques. Email her with column ideas or fitness questions at: