By Kristine Snow Millard
Ocean. Beaches. Walking trails and bike paths. Salt-tinged fresh air. Yoga studios and spas for that special massage. Cape Cod offers residents and visitors alike ample opportunity to take in the area’s natural beauty or find their comfort and enter indoors, all with the same result – a chance to participate in holistic living practices that nourish the mind, the body and the spirit.
It’s all about self-care, and the chance to experience the treasures of Cape Cod in a variety of ways that will make you feel balanced, yet invigorated, relaxed and fulfilled.
Moving the body – and taking advantage of all opportunities for movement the Cape offers – is a key to good health and vitality. And you don’t have to be an athlete, says physical therapist Lauren Wedam of Cape Cod Healthcare.
“We need to move in order to minimize risk for health decline,” she says. “Our systems – heart and lungs, joints and tissue – all depend on it for maximum performance. We know, by and large, that most ailments people have can be addressed with exercise.”
Wedam, who practices in Chatham, likens taking care of the body to taking care of a car. If it sits in the driveway for months on end, without being used, it won’t run as well.
“Our bodies are machines,” she says. And just as we want to avoid a “check engine” light on our automobile, the same philosophy of maintenance applies to our bodies, she says.
So what options does the Cape offer for such vital self- care? The possibilities are vast, and address the whole person, the effects of sedentary lifestyles, and the stressors that often accompany a busy work and family life.
Yoga is one popular option with dozens of variations and opportunities.
Jessica Riley-Norton owns Evoke Yoga in Hyannis, a studio that offers classes ranging from intense, heated vinyasa classes, to yin and restorative yoga opportunities. The studio offers up to five classes a day, and Riley-Norton says practitioners can simply drop in for a class ($20 per class), or purchase a 10-class ($150) or 20-class ($250) pass. The studio also offers a $99 per month automatic payment option, which allows participants unlimited classes.
“Yoga benefits the practitioner by coming away from all the distractions we experience through our routines,” Riley-Norton says. “We reset, come into ourselves, and tap into our inner joy.”
The practice allows individuals to “evolve as people,” she says. “We let all this other stuff that doesn’t really matter go.”
The result, she says, is that practitioners begin to love themselves, “so we can love others.”
Riley-Norton says the studio also offers a variety of specialized workshops. An example includes a yin class, in which participants hold postures while a teacher circulates throughout the room and conducts Thai massage on each person. Another workshop has included music and chanting, “a time for the community to come together.”
Evoke Yoga also caters to the practitioner who enjoys reading transformational books. The studio hosts a book group every couple of months.
“It’s free, we all come together and enjoy each other’s company,” Riley-Norton says.
While practitioners can gather indoors at Evoke, they can also practice yoga on the beach. Nancy Curran runs Yoga on the Beach in Mashpee every summer. Being on the beach “really leads to a beautiful practice,” Curran says. “We can be more focused, and practice what real life is like when distractions come up.”
Feeling Fabulous Thanks to the Beach
A day at the beach – it’s a phrase that is synonymous with easy, fun and happy. And that’s because, both physically and psychologically, a day at the beach feels really fabulous. Why is this? We cast about on the web and came across a lot of reasons that made good sense. Here are just a few:
1. STRESS RELIEF
As soon as you exit your vehicle and step out into the sun, you feel the calming effects wash over you like water. Both the sun and the waves combined work to completely relax your body, release you from your aches, and free you from daily stresses. Not only is serotonin almost immediately released when you arrive on the beach (serotonin is a key hormone for relaxation and happiness), but also the sound and visuals of the beach and ocean are soothing and peaceful.
2. BETTER SLEEP
The beach helps relieve three key factors that inhibit sleep: high stress and anxiety levels, lack of physical fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. The sun and lowered stress levels help regulate a person’s hormones, making it far easier later that night to get a peaceful and deep sleep.
3. VITAMIN D
One of the most essential vitamins in our diets is vitamin D; however, very little of it is actually absorbed through the consumption of foods. Spending just 10 minutes outside in the sun can actually allow a person to absorb their daily dose of vitamin D directly through the skin.
4. FIGHT INFECTIONS
You may have experienced it previously – that painful sting when an open wound is exposed to salt water. Fortunately, that pain is a sign that your wound is actually being cleansed by the water. Salt water has antibacterial and antifungal properties making it excellent for external infections. The iodine in ocean water acts as an immune system booster.
The beach offers so many possibilities. You can head out into the water and surf or swim, do water aerobics or paddle a boat. You can take barefoot walks on the sand, which utilize more muscles than walking on normal pavement does.
6. BEAUTY TREATMENT
Exfoliate – the sand does a wondrous job exfoliating feet, hands and body; detoxify – once the warm sun opens up our pores, the salt water is then able to go in and pull out the toxins; antibacterial – the iodine and salt in the water work to completely destroy bacteria and fungi on your skin that cause breakouts.
7. BREATHE EASIER
Individuals with asthma, COPD, or breathing difficulties will find that it’s far easier to breathe when on the beach than almost anywhere else. This is because not only are the chest muscles surrounding the lungs relaxed when a person steps onto the beach, but also the air itself is actually charged with negative ions that work to increase oxygen absorption in the lungs.
8. CONNECT WITH YOURSELF
The vastness of the ocean, expansive horizon and beauty of the surroundings make you appreciate nature. Additionally, it’s when we’re so surrounded by nature and beauty that we can feel at peace and release ourselves from the daily stresses and troubles in the modernized world.
Practitioners of beach yoga may experience a beautiful distraction, like a seal going by, “or a tractor might drive by us,” Curran says. The challenge is, “How do we stay in our center?”
“There’s something that calms people out in nature,” Curran says.
And there is unquestionably no shortage of opportunities to enjoy nature on the Cape. While yoga may appeal to some, others might take advantage of walking clubs many communities offer. Others may choose to mount a bicycle and explore Cape Cod’s many miles of bike paths.
One resource for bicyclists is CapeCodBikeGuide.com, an online resource of bike paths throughout the region. It includes information on both paved and off-road bike paths, provides directions to parking areas for each path, and is also a resource of bike shops throughout the Cape
Bicycling is accessible and beneficial, says Wedam.
“We know from research that people who are active, stay active, and generally tend to do better,” she says.
Other activities available to Cape residents and visitors include dance classes, water aerobics and tai chi, she suggests.
Taking care of your body can also include some pampering. The Cape has a broad range of spas serving residents and visitors. Provincetown’s Carpe Diem Guesthouse and Namaste Spa boasts an Asian courtyard with outdoor sunbathing space, as well as a Moroccan-style steam room. Owner Paul Graves says the spa is one of the few on the Cape that offers ayurvedic work, in addition to traditional massage, skin scrubs and polishes.
The spa’s most unique offering may be its Moroccan Hammam and Gommage treatment. It begins with a full body wash using a crushed olive-based soap, followed by a kessa glove exfoliation and then a Moroccan lava clay application. The treatment is offered for single individuals, but also to couples who may want to celebrate a special occasion or simply spend time luxuriating together.
During the summer, the spa has 11 therapists on staff, while six stay on year-round, Graves says. The experience treats the whole person, Graves says, and is intended to provide a “holistic experience” appealing to “mind, body and energy.”