by Helene Ravlich.

It’s safe to say that for many of us, new year’s resolutions have most definitely fallen by the wayside by now.

Mainly because choosing a single day to make a total life change just isn’t logical, with smaller, more achievable goals more likely to keep us on track.

And now that indulgent holidays are well out of our systems, it is a good time to focus on wellness, and perhaps a new practice to adopt that you’ll enjoy enough to stick with as the year rolls on.

Contrast therapy

Right now, contrast therapy is the modality on everyone lips, but in fact the practice has been around for centuries. The Finnish were among the first to actively use hot and cold contrast therapy as part of their bathing ritual. After spending time in a hot sauna, bathers would leave the cabin, sweating profusely and take a 'roll in the snow'. Now there are infrared saunas and ice baths to take advantage of if you don’t happen to be midway through a Scandinavian winter, with contrast therapy rooms offered at local wellness destinations Hana and Sala.

Nikki Ralston, yoga educator and hormetic tech specialist, calls it “the perfect fusion of Infrared sauna and cold plunge, a modern spin on the age-old Nordic fire and ice ritual, igniting heat-shock and cold-shock proteins in your body.” 

She says that this combo works wonders for your body and mind, “triggering the release of noradrenaline and dopamine during the cold, leading to a natural mood lift. Plus, the hot-to-cold transition sparks thermogenesis in your brown fat stores, aiding in the metabolism of stubborn fat, reduces inflammation and aids recovery.” Individually, these treatments offer a list of remarkable benefits, and together, they’re a powerhouse, supercharging your wellbeing for a longer, healthier life.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda, an ancient medical system from India, has a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. According to ayurveda, each person has a unique body-mind constitution (dosha) which determines the diet and lifestyle principles that suit the individual to facilitate good health. Sarita Solvig Blankenburg, owner of Ayurveda New Zealand, says that an ayurvedic routine is “easy to follow and includes simple things like tongue scraping and self-body massage with a dosha-specific oil in the morning, drinking warm water with fresh ginger throughout the day and having your main meal at lunch time.”

As someone that has attended one of Sarita’s Ayurvedic Retreats at Parohe on Kawau Island, I have to say I was amazed at how easy it was to incorporate a few ayurvedic practices in my life – my tongue scraper goes with me everywhere.

Tai Chi

A group of people practising tai chi in a park can be a beautiful thing. In general, they’re focused and relaxed and their movements appear synched and slow. But don’t let the ease of its pace fool you — tai chi is bona fide exercise, and it can improve your coordination, balance, mobility and strength, as well as your mind’s ability to remain present, among other wellness perks.

With its origin in martial arts, tai chi is one of the most effective tools available for improving balance as we age, and a recent American study showed that those who regularly practised tai chi reported less stress and anxiety and better quality of life. As people move in tai chi, they are asked to relax, breathe naturally and focus their attention. This is similar to some types of meditation, with the added movement ensuring your body as well as mind gets a boost.

Pilates

Known around greater Ponsonby for her commitment to fitness and her enviable wardrobe, local personal trainer Kirsty Gregg is a huge fan of Pilates for keeping strong and mobile at any age.

“Every new year I see people with a fantastic new-found enthusiasm for exercising and reaching some perhaps long-awaited health goals,” she says, “and one of the more effective and accessible ways to do this is through Pilates.”
Achievable for all ages and all fitness levels, Pilates offers an “unthreatening and inclusive approach to exercise,” says Kirsty, “and whether it's mat or reformer-based, the benefits are huge, including increased energy, improved posture, better cognitive function, improved balance and a boosted immunity.”

Developing functional movement, strength and mobility throughout the whole body, Pilates is a “low impact exercise that essentially helps you move and breathe better, in order to create a more balanced life. What's not to love about that!”

Kara Sweney is the owner of Grey Lynn studio Yoga Ground, and a yoga teacher herself. She loves the practice for the fact that it truly enhances overall wellbeing.

“It has so many benefits for mind and body, including building strength, increasing mobility and flexibility, helping to manage stress and anxiety,” she says. “It is also very accessible – you don’t need any equipment, just your body. You can join classes at studios or gyms – which are a lovely way to connect with others and enjoy group energy but you don’t need to rely on others to show up like you do with activities like tennis and team sports.” You can practise it anywhere from your bedroom to the boardroom or the beach and you can even do breathing exercises to help you stay calm whilst in traffic or the queue at the supermarket.

“People can be nervous to try something new and worry that they won’t be ‘good enough’ or flexible enough,” adds the passionate teacher, “but at Yoga Ground we remind our students that there is no such thing as ‘being bad at yoga’. We were all beginners at everything once, and once you learn yoga, you have it forever.”

Acupuncture

Having a regular acupuncture appointment is for many a nonnegotiable. The perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life, the goal of acupuncture is the same now as it was thousands of years ago when it was first developed in China: to restore balance to the body.

The practice is based on how energy, or qì, flows through the body along a series of channels called meridians. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each meridian is related to a specific organ, and placing needles at certain points along these meridians can effect certain changes in the body to restore homeostasis. It can help muscles to release in a way that reduces tension on joints and bones,
and the needles may also tweak nervous system regulation to result in a relaxation response.

We love The Health Clinic in Grey Lynn, where Stephen Parsons treats patients with a variety of Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities to address all manner of concerns. An intuitive and compassionate practitioner, Stephen takes a bespoke approach to each and every person who passes through his doors, calling on an array of treatments to adjust and maintain your qì in a dynamic and healthy state.

Feng Shui

Looking to bring wellness into your home? Consider feng shui, a practice based on the idea that our homes are a mirror of what's happening inside us. The purpose of feng shui is to get your environment in alignment with who you are and where you want to go – to harmonise your energy with your home's energy. It includes carefully considering what you bring in and how you arrange your rooms, as everything has energy, even inanimate objects, and feng shui helps guide that energy to flow freely through your home.

Our editor, Martin, recommends his friend feng shui master Rosalyn Dexter’s books ‘Good Vibes’ and ‘Chinese Whispers’ as a great place to start.

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