"Unblock my chi" and other Zen-ny come-ons

Anyone here ever been to exhale mind body spa? The one in Chicago is like a little oasis of luxury in the middle of a cold, chaotic downtown, all calm music and peaceful lighting and aromatic oils and Buddhas and gongs. Just sitting in the waiting area, sipping herbal Fire tea and warming up with a heated personal neck pillow, feels like an $85 treatment in and of itself.  The benevolent Gods smiled upon me by reaching out to exhale’s PR director and whispering to her, “You really should invite Leslie in for a yoga class.” The next thing you know, Stacy and I are emailing each other, hammering out details for me to spend a few hours at the oozing-with-tranquility exhale spa.

Being my eternally space-y self, I showed up for the wrong class - I wanted Level 1 / 2 yoga but wound up in Core Fusion a more extreme class that combines cardio with core conditioning, Pilates, and yoga. Sounds good, but I wasn’t going to chance hurting my neck for a few long, lean muscles (although the promised  sense of peace and relaxation sounds like the best thing since Just Salad.) So I left, and may I just take a minute to pat myself on the back? Because a year ago, pre- disk bulge, I would’ve toughed it out, proving to myself and all the other women in class that I was just as strong and tough as they were. Now, it’s all about staying healthy and way, way less about competition or calorie burn.

I returned yesterday and took an excellent yoga class. It was JUST what I needed – not too fast or slow, lots of Sun Salutations and a few gentle twists, plenty of deep breathing. (Next time, I'll work on pretzelling myself into Madonna's quiet time position.) After that, I met with Cynthia Fitzgerald, exhale Chicago’s lead acupuncturist, to get poked. In a good way, I mean. We spoke for a while about my health history, she looked at my tongue and took my pulse (red around the edges and wiry, respectively) and told me I have something called liver chi stagnation, which sounds like a heavy metal rock band but really just means I’m chronically stressed. Cynthia certainly hit that nail on the head. I lay down and she started gently inserting needles in my feet, calves, arms, head and ears. I think she was treating my frazzled nerves, but I had also asked her if acupuncture can be used to boost body image. I mean, you hear stories about people in China undergoing brain surgery without anesthesia and only a few smartly placed needles, so why couldn’t it give someone a hit of body confidence?

She said in theory, acupuncture could help a woman feel better about her body by boosting her beliefs about her overall health and promoting positive, calming emotions – a sense of being centered and content. Count this yogi in!

After a few tuning fork vibrations, Cynthia placed a heat lamp over my tootsies to keep the chills away and let me relax for about 20 minutes. I didn’t drift off, but focused, per her suggestion, on the kind of health and strength I desire. I imagined sunny, oxygenated blood rushing through from my hands, up my arms to my chest and down to my feet. I reveled in the serene massage music playing in my room. I said a prayer of thanks for my family. And I congratulated myself on wisely finding a profession that allows me to indulge in things like acupuncture and yoga and heated neck pillows for a living. Good Leslie.

Now that I’ve talked up this beautifully Zen-ny experience, here’s a fabulous opportunity for you. For the month of April, exhale is offering 20-minute mini acupuncture sessions for $20! The express therapy includes a consultation, acupuncture, and take-home ear seeds (I have some on right now – my husband thought it was dirt…romantic!...but they’re actually strategically placed little metal dots that stimulate my relaxation response) and is perfect for anyone who’s strapped for cash or has never tried acupuncture and wants a little taste. If you live in NY, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, or LA, I encourage you to check it out! I know we’re all busy and crazed and have relatively empty pockets, but try to treat yourself – if not this, than find another special something…a lipstick, a magazine, a sportsbra…that will make you feel happy and beautiful. You all deserve it.

Enjoy your weekends! I’ll be massaging my ear seeds and preparing for a trip to New York for a Monday Today Show segment…more to come on that!

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