Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rejuvenating Retreats

I’ve visited Breitenbush Hot Springs during every season: the excitement of spring, when the river is at its highest; the conviviality of summer, when towels damp from soakers hang from the lodge’s banisters like prayer flags; the vibrancy of fall, as the first frost arrives and the air carries a pungent spicy aroma. But it’s quiet winter I love most, when snow covers the ground and snug cabins await deep in the woods.

Any time in winter is worth a visit, but Breitenbush is especially popular during the end of the year. That’s when the center hosts a 12-day celebration observing the winter solstice and holidays, culminating with an adults-only retreat on New Year’s Eve.

Some guests opt to stay for the entire stretch, but most choose one event and come for a multiday escape featuring daily well-being programs — including yoga, crystal divination, and meditation — as well as hearty vegetarian meals, massage, and refreshing soaks in the site’s seven hot springs.

Bethany McCraw, 51, has been visiting the nondenominational retreat center since the ’80s and has attended both events at one time or another. “Winter Solstice was pretty special because it was all about bringing in the light, and there was a nice guided meditation before dinner,” she says.

New Year’s Eve is a more lively affair, but there are no champagne corks popping at this alcohol-free destination. Instead, guests enjoy a feast of international dishes followed by live music and dancing. A midnight peace vigil offers an opportunity for introspection. “New Year’s was my favorite,” recalls McCraw. “The closing of the old and looking forward to the new. I love the sense of hope it brings.”

Margaret Duperly, who has lived and worked at Breitenbush for more than 20 years, explains that, while the event is fun, it’s more than an amusing soiree. “There’s a thoughtful part to exploring our humanity together,” she says.

The Winter Holidays celebration is filled with seasonal workshops and memorable meals, but Santa never stops by and there is no special emphasis on the 24th or 25th. It’s also a popular event for parents with young children. “Christmas at Breitenbush is a chance for people to come away from the materialism of the mainstream and return to simplicity, nature, and relationships, and sharing together,” says Duperly. (For more on Breitenbush, read “Retreat to Simplicity: Restorative Spas“.)

Solstice and holiday retreats
Where: Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Ore.
Individuals and families looking to celebrate the holiday season in a less materialistic fashion
Cost: $162–$256/person

Inner Awakenings

In 2009, Carmen Nadler, 36, was searching online for a place to recover from a health issue and decompress from the stress of new motherhood.

YouTube led her to videos featuring the soft-spoken, kind-eyed guru Acharya Shree Yogeesh. A longtime spiritual leader and activist, Acharya Shree has founded spiritual retreat centers in the United States, Europe, and India. He also opened a secondary school in Haryana, India.

After watching all of Acharya Shree’s videos, Nadler packed up her family and drove from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Siddhayatan — a ranch in Windom, Texas, that Acharya Shree converted into a spiritual retreat center.

Siddhayatan offers no massages or other spa-type wellness services. The digs — located on 260 Internet-free acres of stunning rolling hills, grass fields, and pockets of forest — aren’t fancy, but the private and shared rooms are clean and affordable.

The center has no religious affiliation and welcomes people of all faiths; it also adheres to principles of nonviolence, transformation, compassion, and healthy living.

Retreats focus on a range of topics: meditation, juice fasting, or posttraumatic stress disorder. But Siddhayatan’s monthly Stress Relief Retreat is one of its most popular options.

Acharya Shree leads the three-day escape, which features a blend of guided mantra chanting, small-group workshops (three to 10 participants), homemade vegetarian meals, and tea times.

During classes, students share their stories, develop concentration techniques, and do Purnam yoga, a detoxifying practice that involves 84 breathing combinations.

“During workshops, you get a lot of time with Acharya Shree,” Nadler explains. “He really listens to you — he validates; he shares good wisdom. I’ve felt empowered and inspired by him.”

For many visitors, Siddhayatan becomes like a second home. Since her first visit, Nadler has visited more than 10 times. “It’s not about stress now. I go because I enjoy it and think people need to take time out in their lives and retreat from society and the busyness of work,” she says.

“After a retreat, I feel like a bunch of weight has been lifted off my shoulders. In fact, I feel it the minute I get there.”

What: Stress-relief retreat
Siddhayatan Spiritual Retreat Center, Windom, Texas
Those seeking a no-frills place to unwind and engage with their inner wisdom
Cost: $450–$590/person

Deepening Connections

Here’s the thing about the Playa Viva couples’ yoga retreat: Your partner must be willing to go with you. When I asked my husband if he’d consider it, he raised his eyebrows. “I’m as flexible as a dry stick,” he said. Not a decisive no, but a far cry from an enthusiastic yes.

I should have started by telling him about the retreat’s beautiful location, tucked into the western Mexican coastline, surrounded by the music of a lush tropical forest. Every private casita has a view of the shoreline — front-row seats to sunsets over the Pacific. And then there’s the food: A farm-to-table kitchen turns out dark, leafy greens from the onsite garden, grilled fish from the ocean, heaps of jewel-toned fruit, and myriad salsas to go with the ubiquitous rice, beans, and hot-off-the-griddle corn tortillas. Eco-friendly Playa Viva is secluded, intimate, and deliciously romantic — the ideal setting to relax and reconnect with your partner.

Bay Area yogis Anjuli Mahendra and Alok Rocheleau have been leading yoga escapes at Playa Viva for five years, including this one designed exclusively for couples. During the six-day workshop, they lead participants in partner poses aimed at creating meaningful connection. In butterfly pose (baddha konasana), for example, couples sit back to back feeling each others’ breath rhythms, attempting to inhale and exhale as one.

Rocheleau also teaches massage techniques. “Learning to give and receive with your partner can be very empowering,” he says. “A lot of couples reach out to us because they are missing that intimate connection of touch.”

“Couples sometimes conflate intercourse and touch, an understandable conclusion, but one that is limiting,” explains Mahendra. “Couples really appreciate the oppor-tunity to share touch that is not sexual. This has been a theme and an overarching part of our work — teaching people how to be in contact as a spiritual experience that can support all levels of communication.”

Rocheleau and Mahendra also allocate time for group meditation as well as dyadic conversations in which one partner speaks while the other simply listens.

Nicole Shea, 35, attended last year’s retreat with her partner, Michael Shea, 48, and says the dyadic aspect was a challenge at first, but then it became a rich healing experience. “We quickly saw how speaking to one another about our personal experiences, needs, and desires within our relationship was enlightening,” Nicole recalls. “This served as a platform for us to have deeper conversations on our own later.”

Much of the workshop focuses on spending quality time together. This was a big takeaway for Nicole. “There were many unscheduled times during the retreat when we just got to hang out as a couple instead of always doing something,” she says. “This was invaluable because we don’t often get a lot of time together during the day to just be with one another.”

Playa Viva provides the opportunity to hear and touch each other as well as chill together with a good book and a fresh-basil margarita. There is plenty of free time to beachcomb, rock in a hammock, splash in the waves, or take part in organized activities such as permaculture hikes and a cacao ceremony. Nightly beach bonfires bring guests together for singing and storytelling under countless stars.

What: Couples yoga retreat
Where: Playa Viva, Mexico
For: Yogis of all levels looking for a place to get in touch with their partner
Cost: $1,650–$1,900/person includes lodging and three meals a day

This originally appeared as “Rest and Reflect” in the December 2017 print issue of Experience Life.

Excerpt from

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Eczema treatment before and after: Woman CURED her skin with THIS £1 bathing trick

ECZEMA is a common condition that causes red, dry skin. Symptoms are often eased with cream, but one sufferer treated hers with some unlikely bath salts.

Reporting from

Monday, December 11, 2017

PUMPING IRONY: Invisible Man

Waiting out a morning shower in a Virginia Beach coffee shop last week, I couldn’t help noticing how java huts everywhere look and feel the same: hip young baristas kibitzing with hip young caffeine hunters while a sprinkling of graybeards observe all that energy with a kind of wistfulness. One generation on the rise, another in decline.

I don’t mean to be maudlin here, but travel always makes me feel ancient and irrelevant. Beyond the borders of my neighborhood and outside my daily routine, I tend to struggle with the fact that everyone in charge of things seems to be about the age of my offspring. In transit, a geezer needs a little reassurance, but you get the sense that those who control your fate are hearing what you say, but not really listening.

My Lovely Wife and I were on the East Coast to witness our son’s graduation from Marine intelligence school. Three months ago, The Young Jarhead had downplayed the event (“It’s no big deal”) only to shift his thinking a few weeks later (“You’re coming, right?”), so we were poised to do our duty. The day before the ceremony, however, TYJ was incommunicado — ignoring texts and phone messages. “He’s probably on some maneuvers, or something,” I ventured.

We finally reached him in the early evening. “I’m at a social with my class,” he explained. Amid the background noise, we were able to secure the location and time of the ceremony — sort of. “It starts at 10, but you might want to be there an hour early,” he said.

“Why would we need to be there so early,” I asked.

“It’s a good idea to get there around 9,” he replied.

Around 9?”

“Yeah, 9-ish. Or 9.”

MLW vigorously suggested we heed our son’s instructions, as we were late to his earlier graduation ceremony last summer at the Defense Language Institute, so we set out in plenty of time the next morning only to be delayed by security measures enforced by a team of scowling Jarheads. We were 55 minutes early for the 10 a.m. ceremony, which of course started at 9.

Still, we managed to make it to our seats in the sparsely populated auditorium in time to miss the (unamplified) opening remarks and watch TYJ receive some accolades for finishing with the second-highest GPA in his class — a pleasant surprise, as he had never mentioned his academic progress during our sporadic phone calls.

Later that day, over dinner, he regaled us with tales of Marine escapades on and off campus, offered his views on Elon Musk and the future of travel (“In 50 years, we’ll have colonies on Mars!”), and debated his travel options, since he hadn’t bothered to book a flight yet.

“I can take you to the airport if it’s not too early,” I offered.

The next morning, we all rose at 6 a.m. to wolf down some free hotel breakfast and get him to Norfolk International in time for his 9:17 flight — a good eight hours before MLW and I were scheduled to head home. Yawn.

“We elders have learned a thing or two, including invisibility,” Roger Angell writes in his 2015 book, This Old Man. “When I mention the phenomenon to anyone around my age, I get back nods and smiles. Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to anymore. You’ve had your turn, Pops; now it’s ours.”

I’m not sure I’ve reached Angell’s sense of despair (he’s 93, after all) or his level of invisibility, but airline travel can certainly nudge me in that direction. Heading home that evening, we landed in Charlotte with about a half hour to catch our connecting flight to Minneapolis. Hustling through the concourse with as much speed as two sleep-deprived, creaky-kneed geezers can muster, we arrived at our gate 10 minutes prior to departure — to find the door closed.

“Excuse me,” I called to a young airline employee standing nearby. “We’re here early. Why is the door shut?”

“You’ll have to go to customer service,” he said.

“But we’re here before the departure time,” I argued.

“Customer service is at Gate B6,” he intoned blankly.

Two hours and perhaps a slightly excessive intake of adult beverages later, we were headed home. I collapsed into bed around 1 a.m.

TYJ and our 6-month-old grandson, Finn, stopped by for a visit that afternoon. The little guy was in good spirits, so I brought him over to sit on the couch with me and have a talk. “Grampa’s had a tough couple of days,” I confessed. “I think I’m getting too old.”

He just laughed.

Excerpt from

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dry skin warning: 10 conditions Britons ignore - and why that could be dangerous

DRY SKIN on the face is a problem often experienced during winter. However, along with eczema, psoriasis and acne it is one of ten skin conditions men and women are risking scarring by using make-up.

Reporting from

Sarah Kay Hoffman’s Daily Wellness Routine

I’d love to tell you that I have a typical day, but, alas, I do not have typical days. What I do have is a routine that incorporates everything I believe helps me live my best life.

It might sound crazy (and actually, it is), but my day begins around 4 a.m. (sometimes earlier), and because of the early rise, it also ends before 9 p.m. (sometimes earlier).

I believe in the power of waking up with passion, and then resting (seven to eight hours each night, minimum), so that I am able to enjoy and execute on those passions again each morning.

My days revolve around both the life I was given, and the life I choose, and the main components of these days are composed of: high-quality food, fitness, sleep, my husband and three children, and work.

Here is what a daily routine for me usually looks like:

4 A.M.

Wake up, drink water with lemon, brew a pot of coffee, and fire up the computer. I use the early morning to work on one thing, in peace and quiet. That one thing is either a blog post or other piece of content for or a client project. I drink my organic coffee with a lot of full-fat coconut milk and a little monk-fruit sugar. If I’m really hungry and/or have a hard workout at 6 a.m.., I will have a banana.

6 A.M.

Take supplements, grab more water, and get a workout in. We have spent the last year+ building a home gym in our garage, so it’s easy, stress-free, and convenient to hop outside for a workout. Each workout begins with a 15-minute walk, and then, depending on the day, either a workout of the day, cardio (running), or a strength-training-focused session.

7:10 A.M.

The workout is over. I read my daily Proverbs 31 verse, then I shower and get dressed for the day. I get my youngest (1½ years old) up from her crib, and we head downstairs for breakfast.

7:30 A.M.

I get the kids ready for the day, depending on what the day ahead is like. Somedays I do my 4-year-old’s hair; other days I make them breakfast (my husband usually does this). For breakfast, the kids typically eat any or all of the following: eggs, fruit, tortilla with or without nut butter, and a meat of some sort (chicken apple sausage, turkey, and/or an Organic Valley hot dog). Sometimes I make them grain-free muffins made with almond flour and coconut flour or a smoothie boosted with grassfed collagen or coconut oil and a lot of greens. I also prepare my own breakfast so that when the nanny arrives at 8 a.m. I can head to work with my food. I choose to not eat breakfast with the kids because I find it too stressful to shovel the food in with kids screaming. Breakfast is typically a ton of seasonal vegetables (currently, various squashes) with eggs and/or a meat and coconut oil and/or avocado.

8 A.M.  

Nanny arrives. I go to work. (Side note: I work at home, so this means I just head to my office area.)

8 A.M. – 12 P.M.

Work. While I work, I typically sip on water — plain or with lemon — and also kombucha or sometimes tea.


Lunch. I’m a creature of habit, so lunch is typically the same each day. It’s always leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or a huge salad with other vegetables, meat, and a fat. Oftentimes I’ll add things to the salad, depending on cravings and mood. These include things like: nori, nuts, rice, and coconut aminos. Sometimes I’ll also sprinkle L-glutamine over it all. I take various supplements with each meal, depending on the meal, like hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzymes. I never drink a ton with meals anymore, but instead drink liquids in between meals. Drinking too much liquid with meals interferes with digestion. As soon as the brain signals mealtime, the gastric juices begin production. We want as much of this as possible in order to break food down. I need all the extra help I can get, so I refrain from adding too many liquids into the mix.

NOON – 4 P.M.

Continue working, but throughout the day, I get up to stretch and move, and take big, deep breaths.

4 P.M.  

My nanny leaves, and I shut my computer. Most days I take the kids for a walk for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. I use that time to decompress from the day, talk to the kids (they are 1½ , 2½ , and 4 years old), and laugh at all the things their little minds think to tell me.

5 P.M.  

Dinner prep. Sometimes this is done around 3 to 4 p.m., if I’m making something in the oven. For example, many nights I’ll roast a whole chicken with root vegetables. On those days, it all goes in the oven around 3:30 p.m. so that we can eat around 5. Otherwise, if I’m making something simple, I’ll start a little before 5 p.m. so that we can eat by 5:15 or 5:30 p.m. (My kids won’t wait any longer.)

5:15 P.M.  

Just prior to dinner, we all take our “fishies.” This is what I call cod liver oil so the kids are excited and know what to expect. They love it, and look forward to it each night.

5:30 P.M.  

Eat dinner. Dinner is, again, fairly basic but always consistent. We do a ton of vegetables, various fish and meats, and then almost always a rice or rice-based noodle in addition for the kids and my husband mainly. Some nights I have the grain, and some nights not. It just depends how active I’ve been (or will be the following morning) and how I’m feeling overall.

6 P.M. – 7 P.M.  

The kids play while my husband and I clean up the kitchen and talk about our days.

7 P.M.  

The littlest goes to bed, and then many nights I do my 4-year-old’s hair while we talk and sometimes have dessert (the kids have a handful of nuts, a banana, nut butter and/or dairy-free chocolate chips). I almost always have nut butter — always has been and always will be one of my favorite “desserts.” Sometimes I have a high-quality chocolate. Rarely, but occasionally, I make a special dessert like nice cream, Paleo Cake, or my AIP Dessert Bread. The nice cream consists of frozen bananas (I buy bananas in huge bulk, wait for them to brown, then freeze for these occasions), and then extra dessert boosts like full-fat coconut milk, Nutiva’s Coconut Manna, 100 percent cacao powder, fresh mint, and sometimes another fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. To thicken it and make it feel even more like ice cream, I’ll add in grassfed gelatin, which is also a gut-healing/thriving boost. The Paleo Cake is always a version of my Rainbow Paleo Cake With Rainbow Frosting. We eat the whole thing in one dessert sitting!

7:30 – 8 P.M.  

We get the two oldest ready for bed. The routine is bathroom/change of diaper, pajamas on, and then one to two books.

8 P.M.  

I finish up any to-do lists for the next day or complete final tasks from the day. I finish my Bullet Journal notes from the day, and do my daily gratitude one-liner. I brush and floss, then take my one medication, LDN (low-dose naltrexone). I work with a doctor at the California Center for Functional Medicine, and this medication was carefully given as an alternative to the conventional approach for managing slow gut motility. It’s a medication that those with autoimmune conditions have found a ton of success with, and it has been wonderful for me. Then I jump into bed. From bed, I watch a show (right now, I’m watching “Will & Grace” and “This Is Us” — best show ever! — but I usually fall asleep in five minutes or less) or read from my daily devotional book.

I fall asleep, thankful, and excited to wake up and do it all over again at 4 a.m.

Excerpt from

Top five celeb diets to avoid in 2018, according to dieticians

The British Dietetic Association says: "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is".


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Eczema treatment: The THREE clothing fabrics that could irritate skin REVEALED

ECZEMA is a common skin condition, and flare-ups can be triggered by certain fabrics. Avoid clothing made from these three materials if you suffer.

Reporting from