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.

Salt Caves: A History of Halotherapy and Its Restorative Health Benefits

If you pay attention to health and wellness trends, you may have been hearing more and more about salt caves in recent years. However, salt caves aren’t just a passing fad—salt therapy has been recognized for centuries for its healing and restorative power. 

The History of Salt Caves

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, recommended salt inhalation for optimal health—perhaps because salt is a natural antiseptic and antifungal agent. It can kill some types of bacteria and fungi, which is why it has been used to preserve food for thousands of years.

Salt caves have a particularly long history in Eastern Europe. Medieval monks there noticed that the patients they treated tended to heal faster when they recuperated in natural salt caverns.

In the 1800s, Polish doctor Dr. Felix Bochkowsky published a book on the healing power of salt after observing that salt miners had better health than coal miners and even the general population, though they toiled underground doing backbreaking labor.

During the mid-20th century, Soviet scientists conducted studies of salt therapy (by then called halotherapy) for respiratory diseases, and by the 1960s, salt chambers were being constructed at state-run hospitals and sanitoriums. Later, hotels and spas in Eastern Europe embraced halotherapy as a restorative treatment. Today, salt caves are being rediscovered by a new generation of people interested in wellness and relaxation.

What Is a Salt Cave?  

Salt caves can provide a range of health benefits, and luckily, you don’t need to travel far to reap them. Manmade salt caves offer the same benefits as natural ones—and perhaps more, since the environment can be controlled and only purified salt can be used. Constructed salt caves are becoming regular features at spas and wellness resorts.

A manmade salt cave reproduces the environment of a naturally occurring salt mine. The room is lined with crystal salt rocks and equipped with comfortable reclining chairs or similar furniture to relax in, with a rock lamp giving off a dim, peaceful glow. The floor may be covered in salt. Outside the cave, there is a machine that grinds salt into microparticles that disperse through the air in the cave, which is kept at a comfortable 70 degrees or so, at low humidity levels.

salt mine meditation

Himalayan salt is often used because it is believed to release negative electrons (ions) into the air; these ions are important in the body for fluid exchanges. Other research, not specific to Himalayan salt or salt caves, has found that negative ions in general can help regulate sleep patterns, reduce depression, and boost immune system function.

The following are just a few of the reasons you might consider a therapeutic salt cave treatment. Major health benefits include: 

Relief from Mild Illnesses

While a salt cave is not a replacement for medical treatment, it can relieve some symptoms of illness. For instance, salt caves can offer temporary relief from unpleasant symptoms and discomfort associated with a range of mild respiratory conditions, including allergies, colds, asthma, and more.

It is the pulverized, vaporized salt in the air that provides relief from these symptoms—when pharmaceutical grade salt is inhaled, it interacts with the epithelial cells that line the nasal and sinus passageways. This can have a therapeutic effect on mucus membranes, reducing swelling and inflammation.

Skin Improvement

Dry salt therapy doesn’t merely offer relief from respiratory symptoms. It can also help treat conditions affecting the skin. Specifically, it can help people struggling with such conditions as rosacea, psoriasis, acne, and eczema, to name a few.

Relaxation

Stress isn’t merely unpleasant. Prolonged stress can lead to insomnia, depression, poor performance at work, and cardiovascular problems. Because heart disease is among the leading killers of adults in the developed world, you need to make sure you’re taking steps to reduce stress in your life.

This is another reason you may want to try a salt cave treatment. Sitting in a salt cave and breathing deeply is a relaxing, meditative experience. People often report feeling refreshed and rejuvenated afterwards.

How It Works

Studies have indicated that salt caves can offer many of these benefits in clearly measurable ways. For example, one recent study of children with asthma found that those who underwent salt cave therapy twice a week for seven weeks experienced greater improvement in their symptoms than children who did not. In addition, another study revealed that salt cave therapy can trigger anti-inflammatory effects in people struggling with chronic bronchial conditions. As salt caves become more widespread, future studies may confirm their usefulness to an even greater degree.

If you do try salt therapy, it’s important to keep in mind that salt can dry out the body. That’s why many experts recommend drinking plenty of fluids after spending time in a salt cave.

The best way to learn about the benefits of salt caves is to try them yourself—and because this treatment is becoming increasingly popular, odds are good you can find a salt cave relatively close to home. Give it a try—you’ll be happy you did!

Things to Do Near Minnewaska Lodge: What You Need to Know

Minnewaska Lodge is a boutique resort located just 1.5 hours north of New York City. However, despite its proximity to one of the most bustling metropolises in the world, it’s actually a secluded spot in a gorgeous natural setting. City-dwellers can easily get back in touch with nature and escape their busy urban setting for a little while.

Additionally, there is plenty to do in the surrounding areas. The following are just some of the experiences and activities you might enjoy during a stay at Minnewaska Lodge.

Hiking and Rock Climbing

As the name implies, Minnewaska Lodge is located in the same area as the Minnewaska Preserve, which offers some of the most remarkable hiking trails in New York. Trails range in difficulty from easy to expert, offering something for hikers of all experience levels.

Those who want to have a more thrilling experience might consider tackling some of the nearby rock-climbing routes. The nearby Shawangunk Ridge is a popular destination for some of the country’s most experienced rock climbers. Luckily, if you don’t have much experience in this sport but you’ve always wanted to give it a try, various local businesses offer guided lessons.

Shopping and Dining

Minnewaska Lodge is just a few minutes away from the town of New Paltz. As home to the State University of New York at New Paltz, the town caters to the student population (as well as the numerous tourists who visit the region throughout the year) with a range of shopping and dining options. 

Dining

Also, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which has trained many well-known chefs, is just across the river in Poughkeepsie. You may want to head over there for a meal if you have the time. Even if you can’t set aside a few hours to make the trip to Poughkeepsie, you’ll be happy to discover that the CIA’s influence is clearly embodied in the quality of restaurants you’ll find near Minnewaska Lodge. Quite simply, many people who train at the CIA stay in the area, using what they’ve learned to serve the region.

Noteworthy Landmarks

Minnewaska Lodge offers an ideal getaway because it’s small and secluded enough to contrast distinctly with the hustle and bustle of NYC. That said, while you’re in the area, you may consider visiting the nearby Mohonk Mountain House as well.

This popular hotel may not appeal to someone who is trying to get away from busy city living. However, it’s still worth visiting due to its role in pop culture. Scenes from the recent Amazon TV series Upload were filmed there, for one. 

Additionally, Mohonk attracts many celebrities, including Stephen King. He and his family have been visiting the spot regularly for decades. Although the famous horror author has never confirmed or denied the tale, local legend has it that Mohonk Mountain House was one of the inspirations for the haunted Overlook Hotel in King’s novel The Shining.

It’s also worth noting that the grounds of the Mohonk Mountain House property are home to a tower that overlooks the ridge, offering an iconic visual to those approaching the region. According to rumor, that image inspired Bob Dylan to pen his classic tune “All Along the Watchtower.” The fact that he has spent much of his life living and traveling in the region supports this claim. 

Access to Other Famous New York Spots

You may also want to visit Minnewaska Lodge if you’re trying to visit several of the famous landmarks and regions in New York State. This is due to the lodge’s perfectly central location relative to various destinations.

For instance, not too far south from Minnewaska Lodge, you’ll find the United States Military Academy at West Point. During various times of the year, you can tour the historic grounds or dine at one of the campus’ acclaimed restaurants.

Travel north of Minnewaska Lodge, and it won’t take you long to reach the Catskills, where you can hike, sample the local cuisine, or take in breathtaking views at spots like Kaaterskill Falls. On your way up, you could also stop by Kingston, the first capital of New York, or venture past Kingston and visit Albany, the current capital. The point is, if you’re trying to see as much of New York as you can but you need a central location to rest your head after a day of touring the state, Minnewaska Lodge is ideal.

Incredibly-Easy Ways You Can Reconnect with Nature

Connecting with nature is one of the best steps that you can take to improve your overall well-being. Research consistently shows that being out in nature yields various physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. It’s worthwhile to consider taking a wellness vacation in a setting that provides you with easy access to nature, and you’ll get the most out of it if you spend an extended period of time in an area where nature is abundant.

Although taking a nature-oriented wellness vacation is a good idea, you might not have the freedom to do so. If this is the case, then try the tips in this blog post in the meantime. They can help you reconnect with nature right now.

Bring nature to you.

You likely already know that relaxing in natural settings can allow you to get in touch with nature. Even spending your break in a local park is enough to you get started. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that you can enjoy nature when you have no option but to be indoors. For instance, decorating your home or office with a few plants can be a first step. Research indicates that office greenery can have a positive impact on productivity. Adding a few plants to your workspace might help you get more done.

nature shells

You could also try starting a collection of seashells, pinecones, or other natural items and display them at your desk or your favorite rooms at home. If you choose something normally found in your local park, woods, beach, or other environments, then this might also prompt you to visit those areas when you have the chance to go outdoors. 

Adopt the right hobbies.

Numerous hobbies can give you an opportunity to not only get in touch with nature, but to also maintain a connection. Gardening is one option. Depending on the plants within your garden, this activity can also serve a practical purpose: yielding food that you can use in your meals. Photography is another pastime to consider. Natural settings often provide ideal subjects for photos. If photography doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps you could take up painting or drawing instead, which can give you a reason to spend more time in nature. Hiking and off-trail biking or running are also hobbies that require venturing into the outdoors. They’ll help you stay healthy as well.

Attract wildlife to your backyard.

Among the benefits of reconnecting with nature is reminding you that the world is filled with extraordinary living creatures. You might be able to draw some of the local wildlife to you when you don’t have the opportunity to seek them out in their natural habitats. For example, you could plant a bird-feeder in your backyard. This will attract various remarkable guests.

Take other tasks to the park.

Finding time to go to the park might be easier than you think when you consider that a visit there can involve engaging in more than one task. For instance, depending on the nature of your job, you might have the freedom to work in a park. Or perhaps you like to read or browse the Internet on a daily basis. This is also something that you can do there. You can listen to the natural sounds around you while you read or take a few moments to appreciate your surroundings between book chapters or pieces of content.

Like everyone else, you also need to eat every day. This is another basic activity that you can do in a park. If you regularly eat with family members or friends, then you can turn meals into picnics. Moreover, some people feel comfortable exercising in the park. You can run, perform yoga, or lift weights if you bring them yourself. If you’re nervous about the idea of working out in front of others, then try looking for a less-occupied area or see if you can go to the park at times of the day or week when there are fewer people there.

Pay Attention to your surroundings.

Even if you live in a crowded city, pieces of nature are all around you. You simply need to remember to look for and pay attention to them. For example, try not to just walk by every tree that you see. Take time to admire a few. Don’t tune out the sound of birds chirping; listen to them mindfully instead. When you feel a breeze on your face, enjoy the sensation.

Alternatives are helpful, but not always full substitutes.

None of these tips are necessarily complete substitutes for getting in touch with nature through an extended trip. That’s still a worthwhile opportunity. However, the aforementioned ideas can help when taking a nature-oriented wellness vacation isn’t an option.

What to Consider When Planning Your Wellness Vacation

A wellness vacation offers many benefits for both your mental and physical health. That said, like any vacation, the whole trip will be more relaxing and worry-free if you plan properly beforehand.

The following are some key factors you should keep in mind when planning your wellness vacation.

Location

As the name implies, a wellness vacation should be a trip that helps you relax and improve your health by getting away from life’s stresses. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right location.

hiking nature

It’s a good idea to consider a location that allows you to spend time in nature. Research consistently shows that spending time in the woods or another natural environment can significantly boost a person’s overall well-being by reducing blood pressure, decreasing production of the stress hormone cortisol, improving sleep, and even improving short-term memory. Nature is the ultimate stress reliever, so consider planning your vacation somewhere you can spend lots of time outside.

More specifically, you may want to choose a location where you can go forest bathing. This meditative Japanese practice is now popular in the West; it refers to the act of “bathing” in nature by walking through a forest and taking time to fully absorb your surroundings with all your senses. Luckily, the US has no shortage of majestic, forested wilderness areas and parks. From the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York, the Ozarks in the southern Midwest, and the Rockies and Sierra Nevada in the West, there is a forest not far away, waiting to offer healing and rejuvenation.

Lodging

Proximity to nature is an important quality in any spot you choose for a wellness vacation. That said, unless you’re comfortable camping in the woods for days on end, you’ll likely want to spend your nights at a hotel or resort.

Don’t choose your accommodations randomly. Look for an option that complements its rejuvenating setting—perhaps with wonderful views and easy access to a natural area. The last thing you want to do is have to commute from your hotel while on your vacation.

Look for hotels and resorts that offer other wellness-focused amenities, too. Saunas, cold plunge pools, massage therapy, spa treatments, and yoga—most quality resorts will offer these and/or similar amenities to help you relax.

Activities

What do you want to do all day during your vacation? Sleep in, then sleep some more? Forest bathe? Attend a wine tasting seminar, then get a massage? All of these are possible. You’re the expert on what you find the most relaxing, so be sure to look for a destination that allows you to spend time doing what you want.

It’s also a good idea to consider who your travel companions will be. You may jump at the chance to vacation alone—after all, a solo trip is a chance to spend your time the way you want, without having to compromise, and to engage in quiet reflection and meditation. Other people find it relaxing to vacation with their significant other or friends. Making new memories and reconnecting with each other, without having to worry about work, chores, kids, and other stresses, can be deeply relaxing.

Intentions

“Boosting wellness” is a fairly vague goal. To take full advantage of a wellness vacation, try defining a more specific intention.

Some people take wellness vacations with the goal of introducing themselves to habits or activities (like yoga) that will form the basis of a healthy lifestyle they intend to continue after the vacation is over. Others take wellness vacations to step back, take stock of their life, and consider a change.

Take the time to determine what you want to achieve with your wellness vacation. Just make sure the intention you finally set aligns with your genuine goals. For instance, it’s fine if your goal is simply “getting away from it all for a mental reboot.” By considering why you want to take a wellness vacation, you’ll find it easier to determine where you want to go and what you should spend most of your time doing while you’re there.

Logistics

Don’t forget to account for how you’ll reach your destination. You don’t want to counteract the wellness-boosting benefits of your trip by choosing a spot that you can’t reach without some stressful traveling.

In addition, with the world still in the grips of COVID-19, be sure to consider how the pandemic will affect travel, whether local businesses at your destination will be open, and the safety risks involved. Check the CDC’s website on travel considerations and coronavirus. Keep in mind also that the State Department advises Americans not to travel internationally right now. So if you simply must get away right now, pick a domestic destination. You may also want to plan for a trip later in the year, when it may be safer to travel.