What You Need to Know About These WELL v2 Concepts

Building a healthier world isn’t just about improving environmental conditions. It’s also about advancing wellness by improving the buildings in which people spend much of their time. Recognizing this, a team of passionate wellness advocates at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched the WELL Building Standard in October 2014.

IWBI Logo

This program incorporates scientific and medical research on behavioral factors, health outcomes, and environmental health in the design and construction of buildings to promote human health and wellness. Nearly 4,500 projects in 63 countries have applied WELL building components since the program’s inception.

Expanding upon the WELL Building Standard, IWBI officially launched the WELL v2 on September 15, 2020. The pilot version of the program has been market tested across more than 3,300 projects since 2018. It features several enhancements and additional features designed to improve health and wellness of those occupying WELL-certified buildings. In the post-COVID-19 era, this is even more vital.

Below are features incorporated across four concepts in WELL-certified buildings:

1. Air

Understanding that humans spend, on average, 90 percent of their time indoors, the IWBI incorporates several design components into the WELL v2 to ensure excellent indoor air quality. These features work in conjunction to help eliminate indoor air pollutants that contribute to adverse health consequences, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, headaches, and eye irritation.

The WELL v2 air quality concept encompasses 14 different features, each of which have multiple components, that contribute to a pollutant-free indoor environment. For example, all spaces must meet fundamental air quality thresholds for particulate matter, organic gases, inorganic gases, and radon.

Buildings must have adequate ventilation and air filtration systems and be developed with pollution management solutions in mind to reduce construction-related pollutants. Building tenants can also play a role in ensuring optimal indoor air quality by not smoking indoors and frequently opening windows when outdoor air quality is at acceptable levels.

2. Water

While drinking water quality has improved drastically over the past 100 years, there are still additives that can increase risk factors for various diseases. Chlorine and chloramine, for instance, are often added to water sources to destroy pathogenic organisms but can help create disinfectant byproducts that increase risk for cancer when individuals are exposed at elevated levels.

The WELL v2 water concept makes use of features and design elements that improve drinking water quality and enhance distribution throughout the building to avoid potential water damage and adverse environmental conditions.

All water in WELL v2 buildings must meet sediment and microorganism thresholds as confirmed through on-site testing. This means any water used for human consumption must have a turbidity equal to or less than 1.0 NTU with 0 CFU/100 mL total coliforms.

Drinking water must also be within acceptable parameters for dissolved metal, organic pollutants, disinfectant byproducts, herbicide and pesticides, and fertilizer. Finally, building owners must employ a management program to control Legionella bacteria exposure and implement a water conservation system, among other actions.

3. Light

High levels of light exposure have been shown to have positive health effects, while reduced exposure to sunlight has been associated with depression. A 2006 study published by The Center for Health Design states, “By controlling the body’s circadian system, light impacts outcomes in healthcare settings by reducing depression among patients, decreasing length of stay in hospitals, improving sleep and circadian rhythm, lessening agitation among dementia patients, easing pain, and improving adjustment to night-shift work among staff.” The study also highlights the impact of windows and access to daylight on employee satisfaction in the workplace.

With that in mind, the WELL v2 standard seeks to develop spaces with lighting environments that contribute to improved sleep patterns, positively impact mood, and reduce disruption to circadian rhythms. This can be achieved by meeting illuminance recommendations in one of four lighting reference guidelines and utilizing electric lighting to meet light levels of at least 240 EML between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., among other actions. Building tenants should also be able to customize lighting based on their individual requirements.

4. Movement

Physical activity is another critical focus in WELL v2 building design. Physical inactivity is a major global health concern among adults. It contributes to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, among others. The WELL v2 movement concept strives to promote active living and physical activity by discouraging sedentary behaviors via programs and policies as well as design strategies.

Features supporting this effort include the implementation of ergonomic workstation furnishings and workspaces strategically designed to promote movement. Desktop computer-based workstations, for instance, should include height-adjustable stands and mounted, adjustable arms.

Physical activity outside of the workspace should also be promoted for a building to earn additional credentials. This includes the encouragement of active commuting such as walking or cycling and providing exterior site amenities. Education is also a crucial component of the movement concept as all occupants of the building should be informed of the importance of physical activity.

**Disclaimer:

International WELL Building Institute, IWBI, the WELL Building Standard, WELL v2, WELL Certified, WELL AP, WELL Portfolio, WELL Portfolio Score, The WELL Conference, We Are WELL, the WELL Community Standard, WELL Health-Safety Rating, WELL Health-Safety Rated, WELL Workforce, WELL and others, and their related logos are trademarks or certification marks of International WELL Building Institute pbc in the United States and other countries.

Plant Spirit Medicine: Healing via a Spiritual Relationship with Plants

Plants have likely been used as a healing agent by humans for as long as we have existed. This notion is supported by the remains of medicinal plants like ephedra and cannabis, believed to be in excess of 60,000 years old, discovered in archaeological excavations. Shamanism, which is still practiced in some parts of the world but was more prevalent among earlier cultures, employed plants to heal all sorts of ailments. Even with advances in modern medicine, many people in many cultures still use plants like lavender and echinacea to alleviate stress and anxiety and boost their immune system.

These plants, among others, have natural healing properties and can be used in teas, essential oil diffusers, or ingested in tablet or capsule form. The practice of plant spirit medicine, however, takes the healing properties of plants a step further. This practice centers on a greater spiritual relationship with plants to complement their holistic healing benefits.

Spiritual Relationship with Plants

Plant spirit medicine is an alternative, holistic healing technique that was popularized by writers and practitioners such as Eliot Cowan. Cowan is versed in the tradition of healing practiced by the indigenous Huichol people of Mexico, and is the author of Plant Spirit Medicine: A Journey into the Healing Wisdom of Plants (1996). In the book, he explores the use of ancient herbal healing practices used by Huichol shaman Don Guadalupe Gonzales Rios, among other healers.

For Cowan, the key difference between plant spirit medicine and plant medicine is in its application. Plant medicine generally refers to the chemistry of plants that have the capability to alter the human body’s biochemistry. In essence, they are viewed as non-living beings and regarded solely for their chemical properties. Conversely, plant spirit medicine looks at plants as intelligent living beings that can facilitate healing through spiritual relationships.

Developing These Relationships

small plants

In order to receive desired results from plant spirit medicine, both the healer and the person to whom the treatment is being applied need to be in tune with the plant as a highly aware being deserving of respect. To that end, the healer must ask the plant for permission to use it for his or her intended purpose. According to Cowan, this common respectful exchange has become limited to human-to-human interaction in the modern world. Ancient wisdom, he contends, suggests it should also be applied to other elements of the earth.

“All the aspects of nature, certainly including plants, are spiritual beings who are aware, have intelligence and feelings,” he said during a 2017 interview. “If you’re asking them for something and receiving something from them, you’re blessed to give something back to stay on good terms. It’s a matter of good manners.”

Cowan, who has also taught the practice of plant spirit medicine, would often spend time with students developing and nurturing relationships with plants to understand their respective healing capabilities and medicinal qualities. Many plant species have existed longer than human beings, and approaching them with interest and respect might allow individuals to glean valuable information for healing and other applications.

How It’s Applied to Healing

Rather than being applied to treat specific illnesses or symptoms, plant spirit medicine targets and seeks to correct underlying imbalances in an individual. Practitioners treat patients based on the notion that their symptoms are messengers for these imbalances and, upon determining the source of this imbalance, call upon the spirit of the plants for their healing properties. Plant spirit medicine, then, doesn’t diagnose or treat symptoms, but alleviation of symptoms is often a byproduct of its application to restore imbalances.

The process of applying plant spirit medicine begins with an in-depth intake procedure through which the practitioner gathers information about the patient’s health and personal history. During this judgement-free procedure, which can take upwards of two hours, the practitioner seeks to obtain all relevant information that might be in part contributing to the underlying imbalance. Upon selecting the plant the healer feels is appropriate for their patient, they call upon its healing presence and press the plant with their hands onto the body of the patient.

Plants with Natural Healing Properties

Beyond the spiritual element, many plants have natural healing properties and can be used to complement a health and wellness routine. Plants like gingko, turmeric, and flax seed have all undergone extensive research and have been proven to be safe and effective in controlling various health risks.

Studies have shown that gingko, for example, may improve overall brain health and reduce the rate of cognitive decline for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It has also been suggested as beneficial for bone and eye health as well as depression and anxiety. Flax seed, meanwhile, may help regulate blood pressure, prevent colon cancer, and reduce obesity. Other plants proven to have health benefits include tea tree (used as oil), grapeseed, chamomile, kava, and ashwagandha.

Here Are 5 Valuable Tips to Help You Achieve Your Goals

Developing personal life goals, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, can be an effective technique to inspire motivation to achieve the things you want in life. These goals might focus on personal growth, emotional intimacy, and mental wellbeing, or involve outward desires such as social standing, wealth, and career. Not only is goal setting an effective way to get what you want out of life, it can also promote happiness, clarify behaviors, and provide a sense of purpose or long-term direction.

Regardless of your goals, it’s important to establish a plan and consider factors that can help you achieve them—or impair your progress. Doing so will help you keep yourself accountable and direct your actions and behaviors to ensure they are aligned with your goals. Below are six tips and strategies to help you achieve any goal you set:

Make SMART Goals

SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timed) is a mnemonic that can be used to develop clear and achievable goals with precise timelines. For instance, rather than simply aspiring to work in the banking industry, you might instead set a goal of becoming a financial analyst for a major firm within five years.

As this example suggests, it’s important to define your goals as specifically as possible. The more details you consider when setting goals, the better chance you have to achieve them. Goals should also be measurable, so you have a way to gauge progress and see how far you’ve come. While it’s OK to dream big, goals should also be realistic and attainable. More ambitious goals should, at the very least, have attainable sub-goals to keep you motivated. These sub-goals should be relevant to your overall life aspirations and carry deadlines to help you avoid procrastination and stay focused on the task at hand.

Think about Pathways to Success

career path

After clearly and concisely setting a goal, think about all the avenues you can take to achieve it. Take some time to brainstorm all the different pathways you can imagine, and even ask others for suggestions. Carefully consider these pathways, even those that might seem outlandish or inaccessible. This might involve thinking about different schools to attend or certifications you can obtain in pursuit of a specific career goal. Maybe your goal will require moving to a new city or quitting your current job. In pondering these pathways, try to identify any resources that might make progress easier and the goal more attainable.

Backward Planning

When charting pathways for ultimate goal attainment, it’s common to think about sub-goals chronologically. For example, in order to become a doctor you might first need to complete your undergraduate degree, following which you’ll need to apply to medical schools, earn your MD, complete a medical internship and residency, and so on. While this is an effective approach for many people, others might benefit from backward planning, also known as backward design.

This process involves writing down your specific goal and the date by which you want to achieve it. Then, think about the necessary milestone you have to accomplish before attaining your ultimate goal and work backwards from there, setting dates for each sub-goal. This technique prompts you to adopt an entirely different approach to tackling your goal, and it might even help you think of things you ignored during the pathway generation process.

Tell Others Your Goals

Telling others about your goals can be difficult, but it’s an important consideration for accountability. Whether it’s friends or family, those who know your goals can hold you accountable and motivate you during times when you find yourself faltering. Moreover, your friends and family can also lend advice and provide resources that might help you on your journey.

It can be particularly helpful to tell your goals to someone who is successful and whose opinion you value. This notion was validated through a 2019 study at The Ohio State University.

“If you don’t care about the opinion of whom you tell, it doesn’t affect your desire to persist — which is really what goal commitment is all about,” notes Howard Klein, lead author of the study. “You want to be dedicated and unwilling to give up on your goal, which is more likely when you share that goal with someone you look up to.”

Evaluate and Reflect

Take time to evaluate progress and reflect upon your accomplishments on the path toward your ultimate goal. This can help set a firm foundation for success and keep you steadfast in pursuit of that goal. It will also help validate the work you’ve put in throughout your journey.

Goal evaluation and reflection should be performed at regular intervals, whether it’s once per week, month, or quarter, in a quiet place free from distraction. Doing so in nature can have added benefits. During these sessions, look back and ahead as you contemplate your successes and the obstacles you need to overcome. Write all relevant thoughts and information down so you can evaluate how far you’ve come during the next session.

Spotlight on Delos’ Residential Wellness Technology Platform

Purchasing a home signifies an important milestone of adulthood and is typically the most important investment and expenditure that people will make during their lifetime. In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on mental health and—understanding that individuals spend a considerable amount of time in their homes—it makes sense that these dwellings should be designed in a way that promotes mental well-being.

Delos is one of several companies that is working to change the landscape of the residential real estate sector by incorporating various tech-based wellness elements into the built environment. In fact, the wellness real estate sector represented a $134 billion industry in 2017 and is projected to be worth nearly $200 billion by 2022. The following is a breakdown of how Delos is contributing to this growth by providing sustainable living solutions designed to improve physical and mental health:

DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence Platform

An outgrowth of its WELL Building Standard, which values and incorporates features designed to enhance health and wellness, Delos launched a first-of-its-kind residential wellness technology platform in September 2018. The DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence platform leverages advanced technology to mitigate various indoor environmental concerns and alleviate feelings of stress and exhaustion experienced in the home. Delos spent seven years researching and developing the proprietary system, which emphasizes four main components: water purification, air filtration, comfort-focused technologies, and circadian lighting. Elements in these categories interact with each other through the company’s cloud-based algorithms in order to restore the body’s natural rhythm.

“Despite most of human history spent outside, we now spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors, and yet rarely focus on the impact the indoor environment can have on our health and well-being,” explained Delos founder and CEO Paul Scialla. “Through extensive scientific research and real-world testing, we discovered that we can mitigate environmental triggers within our homes to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.”

DARWIN’s Water Filtration System

The quality of the tap water in homes can vary depending on various factors and, oftentimes, it doesn’t meet the US EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level goals. DARWIN’s water filtration system ensures high-quality and better-tasting tap water by removing impurities. Its air purification system further enhances the built environment by filtering contaminants, expelling odors, and removing any harmful pathogens and chemicals.

Lighting has a major impact on circadian rhythms, and the DARWIN circadian lighting system aims to replicate natural light patterns to increase energy and productivity and improve sleep, among other aspects of one’s life. Conversely, extensive exposure to artificial light can have a negative impact on one’s digestion, hormone release, and sleep-wake cycle. Lastly, the DARWIN enhanced sleep system mitigates blue light exposure and light pollution while promoting deep, re-energizing sleep through a transitional lighting ambiance.

living-room

The Well Living Lab

Prior to the launch of the DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence platform, Delos collaborated with the Mayo Clinic to establish the Well Living Lab. The project, announced in 2014, was initiated to study how the built environment affects health, performance, sleep, comfort, stress, and resiliency. It has been supported by experts in behavioral science, building science, and health sciences.

Based in Rochester, Minnesota, the Well Living Lab continues to strive for advancements in residential wellness by conducting various studies. Recent published studies include topics such as “Impact of Air Quality on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome: A Review” and “Conducting Human-Centered Building Science at the Well Living Lab.” As part of its strategic objectives for 2020-21, it intends to expand collaborative efforts with the Mayo Clinic and conduct further translational studies in order to enhance human health.

How the Indoor Environment Impacts Well-Being

Air pollution is one of the five most common causes of mortality worldwide and contributes to cardiovascular disease, respiratory system cancer, and diabetes, among other physical ailments. Unfiltered water can contain harmful contaminants such as mercury, bacteria, and parasites. Ingesting these contaminants can bring about several short-term digestive symptoms, while long-term exposure can lead to developmental and chronic kidney diseases. DARWIN’s light, sound, and thermal comfort features contribute to improved sleep quality. The CDC considers sleep deprivation to be a public health concern that can have adverse effects such as slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating, and decreased problem-solving skills.

Partners

In addition to its partnership with Mayo Clinic, Delos has worked with a host of other medical partners, scientists, and architects. They include the Cleveland Clinic, Columbia University Medical Center physicians, and various wellness thought leaders. Moreover, it has taken the resulting DARWIN platform and expanded its global presence through partnerships with builders, installers, and premier dealers worldwide. Delos was a title sponsor of KB Home’s “Home of the Future,” which was showcased at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. Moreover, DARWIN is now part of the standard offering in new home builds by Australian developers Simonds Homes and Lateral Estate. Other partners include Fairfield Homes, Location Ventures, and Shea Homes.

This Is What You Should Know about Psychedelic Wellness

Cannabis, which contains the compound cannabidiol (CBD), has been recently legalized for recreational purposes in many countries, including Canada and Uruguay, but has been decriminalized for quite some time in many other countries. The lax laws around cannabis in recent years have given way to the use of CBD, in particular, as a healing agent for stress and anxiety or chronic pain. Moreover, its use is becoming increasingly prevalent in spas and other wellness facilities.

Other wellness centers around the world have even gone a step further. Some, in fact, promote the use of psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms (“magic mushrooms”), ayahuasca, and ketamine. While ketamine is used at several US-based practices, psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca are used at retreat destinations in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Netherlands, among other countries.

Emerging Trend

Magic mushrooms and other psychedelics are often synonymous with multi-day music festivals or full moon parties, but they are becoming more and more popular as a component of all-inclusive wellness retreats thanks to their perceived abilities to boost creativity and promote spiritual growth. This is because psychedelics can help individuals access deep emotions by altering the brain’s serotonin receptors.

In the past, those looking to experience the aforementioned effect might have ventured on a self-guided retreat into the Amazon or other inspiring scenes of nature. While this might work for some, others prefer to take mind-altering drugs in a safe, controlled environment, which can help explain the rise in popularity of psychedelic spas and wellness retreats. The growth of these retreats can also be attributed as somewhat of a revolt against pharmaceuticals. Jessica Grotfeldt, who co-founded Sol Medicine retreats in Mexico, notes that psilocybin and other plant-based medicines promote communication in areas of the brain, whereas synthetic medicine tends to cloud feelings and emotions.

Popular Retreats

Sol Medicine is just one of the several psychedelic wellness retreat companies that have attracted a wide range of visitors from around the world. The company, which intends to implement a sliding pay scale to make psychedelic healing more accessible, in addition to offering women-only retreats, is joined by others such as Synthesis in the Netherlands and Atman Retreats and MycoMeditations, both in Jamaica.

Synthesis offers three-day retreats where guests stay at private apartments surrounded by soothing gardens and access to a sauna and a private yoga space. Each guest’s spiritual journey includes private one-on-one coaching, educational workshops, and meditation and breathwork supported by qualified professionals. The retreat attracts wealthy professionals ranging from doctors and investment bankers to CEOs.

MycoMeditations, meanwhile, offers a week-long retreat near Treasure Beach in Jamaica that can range from $4,147 to $10,528 depending on the services and amenities requested. Guests start with a 3-gram dose of magic mushrooms in the form of a capsule and receive increased dosages at the subsequent two sessions. Many people seek out these retreats to alleviate mental health ailments.

“About 90 percent of the guests on our retreats are dealing with some form of depression or anxiety, sometimes alcohol addiction to varying levels,” notes MycoMeditations CEO Justin Townsend. “These are people who have spent years trying . . . conventional mental health options such as talk therapy and/or medication.”

Featured in Netflix Series

Psychedelic wellness retreats aren’t just fringe experiences. Speaking to its status as an emerging trend, psychedelic wellness was the subject of an episode of the Netflix series The Goop Lab, which showcases actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop and its staff members. In the episode, staff members traveled to Jamaica to explore the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes.

Participating staff members drank a tea infused with 3 grams of magic mushrooms and were guided on their respective journeys by psilocybin experts and therapists. The effects of the tea are documented in the episode, with many employees breaking down in tears and others sharing feelings with the on-site therapists. Elise Loehnen, chief content officer at Goop, experienced uncontrollable laughter, but later reflected on how the experience helped her feel more connected to her co-workers.

Research on Magic Mushrooms and Other Psychedelics

The use of psilocybin and other psychedelics has been studied exhaustively by medical experts and, while it’s still a relatively controversial practice, there have been some studies that have highlighted its benefits. A 2016 study by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, for instance, looked at people who had had bad experiences or suffered side effects from taking psilocybin mushrooms. While 10 percent of respondents noted they felt the drug put themselves and others in danger, many still saw the experience as “worthwhile” and “meaningful.”

That survey is far from Johns Hopkins only work in the area of psychedelics. The school recently launched the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research to study psilocybin and LSD, among other substances. This follows the Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, which was the first of its kind when it opened in 2019.

What You Need to Know about Martial Arts and Personal Growth

Martial arts encompass a variety of different disciplines, including Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), karate, and mixed martial arts, among others. While they have obvious physical benefits, they are also highly regarded for their mental benefits and contributions to overall personal growth.

Beyond teaching various self-defense movements, martial arts integrate moral teachings that help build character and promote mental well-being. The following are six benefits of martial arts regarding personal growth:

1. Learning to Embrace and Overcome Fear and Failure

Failure is often viewed in a negative light in other realms of society. Losing an athletic competition or not getting that new job can be perceived as taking a step back when in reality these present opportunities for personal growth. Overcoming obstacles builds character and resiliency, and this is one of the main tenets of martial arts. In fact, failure is a key element of martial arts, especially during the early stages of training. Because it is a pursuit that involves exceptional coordination and precise movements, inexperienced martial artists will likely undergo considerable challenges. Rather than shying away from these problems, martial arts prompt individuals to embrace—and overcome—the fear of failure.

“The life of a fighter is tough,” notes Muay Thai champion Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn. “However, overcoming the difficulty makes it better. I considered giving up so many times, but I could not when I thought about my family. Muay Thai has made me who I am today and has given me happiness. It taught me to be a good person.”

2. Cultivating Morality

The last comment from Yudthagarngamtorn isn’t specific to his journey in martial arts. The majority of martial arts have accompanying philosophies that emphasize morality and promote characteristics such as humility, loyalty, trust, and righteousness. In China, martial morality is a significant aspect of martial arts, and those who don’t display an appropriate level of morality are often deemed unworthy of being taught by skilled martial arts masters. Those who are worthy of undergoing serious training must set aside feelings of pride, act on wisdom as opposed to emotions, and respect not only their teachers and fellow students but everyone in society. Self-respect is also important. These qualities are all ingrained in the teachings of martial arts.

3. Improving Self-Discipline

martial arts

Martial arts aren’t easy. They can be both physically and mentally demanding but contribute to developing a strong work ethic and sense of self-discipline. Expanding upon the notion of overcoming fear and failure, martial arts encourages individuals to take on challenges they would otherwise avoid while in a supportive environment. Martial arts training is very disciplined, and most styles employ a colored belt rank system that allows martial artists to set and work toward achieving goals. This disciplined approach can affect other areas of one’s life and help control behavior, desires, and negative impulses.

4. Enhancing Focus and Patience

A first-degree black belt represents the highest level of achievement in the various forms of martial arts. Obtaining this belt requires dedication and commitment. According to a study conducted between 1998 and 2014, it takes 10 years, on average, to achieve a first-degree black belt. In some instances, a first-degree black belt isn’t indicative of someone knowing the entire curriculum nor is it enough to become an instructor. Therefore, those who reach this level and beyond must not only be committed to their goal but also showcase extraordinary focus and patience. Exercising patience in martial arts training can also lend itself to other situations.

5. Increasing Confidence

Demonstrating patience and overcoming the various obstacles associated with martial arts goes a long way toward increasing self-confidence. While training often involves sparring or working with a partner, martial arts emphasize individual improvement as opposed to competition. So, in a sense, the martial artist is competing against themselves and continually striving for self-improvement and personal development. While it takes time to achieve certain accolades, noticing a gradual improvement in one’s abilities can boost self-confidence. Moreover, being able to handle physical confrontation in a controlled environment can make other challenging but non-physical tasks seem relatively mundane and easily achievable.

6. Allowing for Continuous Self-Improvement

Martial arts training is a lifelong pursuit. Even those who obtain a black belt in a particular discipline often still need to improve or master techniques to feel worthy of that distinction. Also, there are several different disciplines that one can study and train in, so there is almost always something new to learn. BJJ, for instance, involves intricate offensive and defensive grappling holds that take years to master. Others, like judo and Muay Thai, are no different concerning how long they take to master. Learning these disciplines at a slow and deliberate pace while making small improvements daily can help individuals apply the same self-improvement philosophy to other aspects of life.

Everything You Should Know about Sound Baths

Meditation is an effective way to relieve stress and achieve inner harmony. There are several styles of meditation; some include sitting silently and reflecting, while others incorporate movement or focus on the five senses. These styles can be guided or unguided. Guided meditation refers to sessions led by a teacher or practitioner, and unguided involves silent meditation, often in isolation. Among the popular emerging kinds of guided meditation is sound baths.

An Immersive Group-Meditative Practice

A sound bath is a meditative practice that occurs in a group setting and led by sound therapists who utilize sound-producing instruments or tools to create an immersive and calming experience. Many sound therapists use traditional crystal or gemstone bowls, chimes, and gongs to create sound vibrations and others incorporate didgeridoos, although they aren’t as common.

The goal of a sound bath session is to shift one’s focus away from their thoughts via repetitive notes at various frequencies, and incorporating singing bowls made from crystals or gems is thought by practitioners to aid in the restorative process. California crystal therapist Susan Paul uses bowls made of black tourmaline crystal, which is believed to absorb negative energy and project positive energy. The frequencies produced by these bowls and instruments create a calming effect and can alleviate symptoms of pain, stress, and anxiety in some cases.

Sound baths range in price from around $30 to $65 for group sessions and can be held in various settings. Sound therapist and meditation teacher Sara Auster has held sessions in hotel ballrooms, and jazz musician Adrian DiMatteo led one in a New York neighborhood in 2019 for Instagram leaders as part of its corporate bonding efforts. Moreover, musicians Sigur Ros and Erykah Badu are proponents of the practice.

Regardless of the setting, sessions typically involve large open spaces in which participants are prompted to position themselves comfortably while lying on a yoga matt or sitting on a cushion. Pillows can also be used. Some instructors ask individuals to lay down in yoga poses such as savasana, which involves lying flat on one’s back.

Unique Sessions

While all instructors or sound therapists work toward the goal of helping participants reach a meditative state, the process isn’t always the same and each person’s experience is unique. This is especially true under different instructors. Some incorporate their own combination of instruments and sounds, while others alter lighting to create different environments. Auster often conducts sound bath sessions on a rooftop at her sound bath center, Scent and Sound, in Brooklyn, New York.

Easier than Traditional Meditation

wind chime sound bath

One of the most appealing aspects of a sound bath is that it is generally easier than other meditation forms that necessitate discipline. For instance, silent meditation can be difficult for beginners because clearing the mind of one’s own thoughts, repressed fears, and internal contradictions can be challenging. In contrast, a sound bath only requires the participant to show up, find a comfortable position, and listen to the sound waves.

“For those who find the idea of meditation daunting, sound baths are a great way to experience the benefits,” states sound bath practitioner and yoga teacher Puranshant Kaur. “They are accessible and inclusive for all. As the practitioner plays the instruments, [participants] will become submerged in sound and begin to feel the frequencies and vibrations washing over [them].”

Historical Uses of Sound Healing

While sound bath sessions are a contemporary practice, the idea of using sound to heal is an ancient tradition that has been utilized by different cultures in prayer or religious ceremonies. In De Anima, Aristotle wrote about how flute music can have purifying effects on the soul, while the ancient Greeks implemented sound vibration to assist with digestion, induce sleep, and treat mental-health issues. Other examples include Tibetans’ use of singing bowls in meditation and aboriginal tribes in Australia playing the didgeridoo to remedy illnesses.

In the 19th century, study results emerged that provided evidence of sound’s ability to support the parasympathetic nervous system and lower blood pressure, among other health benefits. More recently, music has been applied as a form of therapy for people with dementia and schizophrenia.

Use in Modern Medical Settings

Sound baths have become popular enough in recent years to the draw the attention of health facilities. For example, Auster has led sessions for a Harlem Hospital outpatient psychiatric-rehabilitation program, and DiMatteo has participated with the Music That Heals program, through which he offered sound baths at NYU Langone and Coney Island Hospital, among other health centers. The Canadian nonprofit Music Can Heal has also hosted sessions at Toronto General Hospital. Moreover, California sound-healing practitioner Diane Mandle has also provided sound-healing services in an oncology unit at San Diego’s Sharp Memorial Hospital and the Vista Detention Center.

6 Things You Need to Do and See While Staying at Minnewaska Lodge

https://www.minnewaskalodge.com/

Minnewaska Lodge is an Upstate New York holistic vacation resort that is only 90 minutes from New York City but offers a tranquil and relaxed environment with world-class hospitality. The lodge offers 26 rooms, some with private balconies and others boasting cathedral ceilings, as well as several amenities.

However, its most attractive aspects are the wealth of outdoor recreation activities available to visitors and its proximity to historic Hudson Valley towns. The following are six things guests should do during their stay at Minnewaska Lodge.

1. Climb the Shawangunk Mountains

The Shawangunk Mountain range is an extension of the Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively. Commonly referred to as “the Gunks,” the Shawangunk Mountains encompass 761 miles of trails and is one of the most popular climbing areas in the US. Minnewaska Lodge is conveniently located along the base of the mountain range, allowing guests to gaze upon its natural beauty from their balconies or watch the sun illuminate its cliff face from the Great Room.

Those who are more adventurous can set out to scale the Gunks, which offers climbs of varying degrees of difficulty. Fortunately, for beginners, it boasts some of the best easy-to-moderate climbs in the country. Some of the most popular cliffs to climb include the Trapps, the Nears, Peterskill, and Millbrook, the latter of which is better suited for advanced climbers. September and October generally offer the best conditions for climbing.

2. Explore Minnewaska State Park Preserve

The Minnewaska State Park Preserve encompasses 25,000 acres of natural and preserved land surrounding Minnewaska Lodge. The park offers an abundance of outdoor recreation activities, including swimming, scuba diving, and rock climbing. A 50-mile trail system is perfect for hiking and biking in the spring in summer, while visitors can cross-country ski in the winter. Those looking for an overnight experience, meanwhile, can set up a tent at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground.

Regarding natural attractions, the park features dense hardwood forests, streams that open into valleys, crystal clear lakes, and several waterfalls. It also houses the Minnewaska Bird Conservation Area (BCA), which consists of forest-dwelling birds such as the black-throated blue warbler, the Canada warbler, the Northern flicker, and the scarlet tanager. Also, the BCA features two peregrine falcons.

3. Fish Along the Hudson River

fishing

The 315-mile Hudson River presents angling opportunities throughout New York State and even in New York City, but the most serene and peaceful areas for fishing are found upstate, specifically near Minnewaska Lodge. Beyond the tranquility of upstate fishing areas, the Hudson River stands out for its variety of fish. The river is home to more than 220 species, including bluefish, largemouth bass, trout, perch, and catfish.

4. Hike in the Mohonk Preserve

Another popular area near the Minnewaska Lodge is the Mohonk Preserve. While the preserve offers rock-climbing and horseback riding opportunities, it is perhaps best known for its renowned hiking trail system that was named “Best of the Hudson Valley” by Hudson Valley Magazine. It includes more than 70 miles of trails and several loops for those looking to embark on a single-day hike. Popular loops include the Millbrook Ridge Loops, the Foothills Loop, and the Undercliff-Overcliff Loop. The latter once served to transport goods and people to mountain resorts.

5. Traverse the Shawangunk Wine Trail

Wine connoisseurs and collectors will particularly enjoy the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which begins 60 miles north of New York City and extends through Ulster and Orange Counties along the Hudson River and the Shawangunk Mountain range. The 80-mile trail encompasses 15 small-to-medium sized wineries, such as Angry Orchard, Baldwin Vineyards, and Brimstone Hill Vineyard. Meanwhile, Brotherhood, founded in 1839, is America’s oldest winery.

The trail boasts incredible scenery and a diverse range of Hudson River Region wines such as Vinifera, French-American, and fruit. Wineries often host annual tastings and other events, such as lobster festivals and jazz concerts.

6. Visit Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery

Conveniently located within a short drive from Minnewaska Lodge, Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery is the sole whiskey distillery in New York State. The business was founded by Brian Lee and Ralph Erenzo, who converted an old mill granary at Tuthilltown Gristmill into a micro-distillery. They produced their first batches of vodka in 2005 from scraps collected at a nearby apple slicing plant. The company continues to distill vodka from apples and also produces the award-winning Hudson Whiskey brand.

Guests can stop by the Visitor Center to sample the whiskey and vodka as well as other handmade spirits such as gins and liqueurs. Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery also offers tours where visitors can see how each batch of spirits is produced and visit the property’s orchards and farms.

Amazing Outdoor Experiences Near Minnewaska Lodge

Luckily, even people stuck in the concrete jungle of New York City can easily escape to nature, thanks to nearby getaways like Minnewaska Lodge, a short drive away in the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains. 

https://www.minnewaskalodge.com/

Surrounded by 25,000 acres of wilderness, Minnewaska Lodge offers gorgeous views of the woods and mountains. Additionally, the resort provides guests with immediate access to a wide range of outdoor activity opportunities. The following are just some of the ways Minnewaska Lodge guests can enjoy the outdoors:

Hiking and Rock Climbing

The Shawangunk Mountains offer some of New York’s best hiking. Affectionately nicknamed “the Gunks,” these mountains are home to broadleaf forests of oak, chestnut, and hemlock trees, interspersed with crystal-clear lakes, streams, and bogs. Rock climbing is a major attraction here due to the many rock cliffs and formations that dot the area.

Additionally, the Shawangunks are an excellent destination for hikers of virtually all experience levels. There are plenty of trails that are ideal for those just trying hiking for the first time, as well as trails that will certainly prove challenging enough to keep seasoned hikers interested. You can even hike 71 miles to New Jersey via the Shawangunk Ridge Trail, which winds through Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Within the preserve itself are 50 miles of footpaths for hiking and biking.

Those who’d prefer a more strenuous mountain climbing experience can find one in the nearby Trapps, the largest and most popular rock cliff in the Gunks—not to mention one of the more famous destinations among climbers in the Eastern US. Even those who don’t have experience rock climbing can try it out, thanks to multiple nearby businesses and guides that offer rock climbing instruction for beginners.

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

An arduous hike or rock-climbing experience may appeal to some, but others might want a more leisurely way to enjoy nature. Luckily, the Minnewaska Lodge is also just a few minutes away from the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

The Rail Trail follows the route taken by the now-defunct Wallkill Valley Railroad for some 23 miles. Traveling the entire route will take hikers through several small towns and quaint historic districts, including Gardiner, New Paltz, and Rosendale. The trail ends in Kingston, New York’s first state capital. Trees and the Wallkill River border both sides of the Rail Trail for much of its length, but hikers can step off the trail and explore the many towns through which it passes. The trail crosses several historic trestles and truss bridges along its way.

Best of all, the Rail Trail is relatively flat, making it ideal for nature walks, runs, leisurely bike rides, and even horseback riding. It’s also a popular cross-country skiing route in the winter.

Skydiving

Skydiving

Anyone daring enough to give skydiving a try will be happy to know that Minnewaska Lodge is also fairly close to Skydive the Ranch, which is also the closest skydiving drop zone to New York City. Skydiving from this drop zone naturally provides guests with incredible views on their way down. In addition, the company caters to both experienced skydivers and beginners alike.

Autumn and Winter Fun

The warmer months are by no means the only time of year when Minnewaska Lodge offers guests easy access to fun outdoor activities. Fall offers ample opportunities for leaf peeping. One way to view the multi-colored foliage is to drive the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway. This 88-mile loop begins in Kerhonkson and ends in New Paltz, ascending into the mountains and offering views of the beautiful countryside in between. Viewpoints along the way allow drivers to pull off the road and take photos.

Winter is a magical time in the Shawangunks. Minnewaska Lodge is only a short drive south of some of New York’s popular downhill ski mountains, including Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, less than 90 minutes away. Closer to the lodge, both Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Mohonk Preserve are prime destinations for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Water Activities

Because Minnewaska Lodge is close to the Wallkill River and several smaller lakes and streams, guests can also find plenty of water-based activities to try out in the area.

Options include kayaking, boating, tubing, fishing, and more. In addition, anyone willing to ask locals about their favorite swimming holes will learn that during summer, many enjoy cliff jumping into the deep pool at Split Rock Hole, just outside of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Within the park, there are designated swimming areas on Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting.

Anyone planning a stay at Minnewaska Lodge has a range of outdoor activities to choose from. While the lodge is a perfect place for rest, relaxation, and pampering, its proximity to a range of outdoor experiences makes it an ideal destination for those looking to spend time in nature. Best of all, the lodge and the Shawangunks are so close to New York City that getting there is a snap.

What You Need to Know about Alpine Climbing

Most people know that taking up some type of exercise benefits their health, but many struggle to find an activity they genuinely enjoy. After all, the gym isn’t for everyone. 

For example, maybe you prefer to exercise outdoors—and maybe you’re looking for something more challenging and exhilarating than hiking. If so, consider alpine climbing.

Alpine climbing has a long history. While people have been climbing mountains out of necessity for ages, Italian poet Petrarch’s summit of Mount Ventoux in 1336 AD marked a new era. Petrarch climbed the Italian peak for pleasure, and out of a spirit of adventure. For these reasons, his achievement is sometimes seen as the birth of alpine climbing, even though Ventoux is not part of the Alps and it’s not a particularly difficult climb.

Modern alpine climbing looks much different now, of course. Here’s a basic introduction to get you started with this thrilling sport.

What is Alpine Climbing?

It’s important to understand that alpine climbing isn’t the same as hiking, mountain climbing, or even mountaineering, though people sometimes use these terms interchangeably.  

Alpine climbing involves navigating the area of a mountain above the treeline. Some experts also specify that alpine climbing needs to involve some degree of “pitched” climbing. That means at some point, you should be ascending ice or rock walls (or both, depending on the environment), which may require special equipment like crampons, ice picks and axes, ropes, and harnesses. Alpine climbing also traditionally requires traveling a relatively long distance while carrying your equipment.

climbing

Benefits of Alpine Climbing

You can probably imagine that a form of exercise as vigorous as alpine climbing will offer a range of benefits to those who take it up. Naturally, the exertion alpine climbing requires will build muscle and improve cardiovascular health.

Alpine climbing also involves spending a significant amount of time outdoors. That alone is beneficial in several key ways. Research shows that spending more time outdoors helps to guard against stress, improves cognitive function and creativity, boosts energy levels, and may even reduce chronic pain, among other benefits.

Alpine climbing is also the kind of challenging pursuit that can test your perseverance, mental stamina, and fitness. It’s an all-encompassing pursuit that pits you against nature—when you’re strapped to a harness on a rock face or navigating a glacier, you aren’t thinking of anything else except how to go forward. Many climbers love this feeling of pushing themselves to their absolute physical and mental limits; some even describe it as addicting! Climbers also enjoy the intense feeling of accomplishment when they ascend a rock wall or summit a peak. In addition, they’re treated to amazing views they few people ever get to see.

In sum, alpine climbing can come with big risks, but it offers big rewards.  

Getting Started

Alpine climbing can be dangerous, and for that reason, it requires training and practice. Even experienced climbers often hire guides on climbing trips. A reputable guide will not take you on a climb if he or she feels you’re not ready.

So what should you do if you want to get started? If you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll want to start spending more time outside on long hikes and then backpacking trips in the mountains. Always go with someone more experienced than you—never go alone. Groups are best. Get used to navigating obstacles like boulders, streams, surfaces covered by rocks, and patches of ice.

When you feel confident in your fitness and endurance levels, you might try summiting an “easy” mountain with the help of a guide. Mount Rainier in Washington State is often used by beginners trying to get experience navigating ice and glaciers with ropes and other climbing equipment. At 14,411, the mountain will also help you get acquainted with the challenges of high elevation climbing. Mount Hood in Oregon also offers good practice for beginning alpine climbers.

Resources for Beginners

Many organizations offer essential mountaineering courses you can take to get started with alpine climbing. Check with the American Mountain Guides Association, the American Alpine Institute, and The Mountaineers. For example, the American Alpine Institute offers classes such as Introduction to Mountaineering, Glacier Skills and Crevasse Rescue, Introduction to Alpine Ice Climbing, and several others. Some of the classes include a climbing trip. 

In the meantime, it’s also a good idea to build up your strength through the kinds of exercises that are ideal for anyone interested in alpine climbing. Many climbers also spend a lot of time at their local rock-climbing gym. You should do the same. Along with helping you build muscle and learn to navigate vertical rock walls, working out at a rock climbing gym can help you meet other climbers, both beginners and experienced guides. Alpine climbing demands a lot of inner focus and individual strength, but it’s also a sport with a real community surrounding it. Joining this community can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of becoming a climber.