Category Archives: Holistic Health

My Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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When faced with ovarian cysts and the possibility of cancer, I sprung into action and tightened up my “food game.”  Mind you, no one advised me to do this.  However, I consider diet to be an important aspect of my health and well-being.  (Is it me, or does it seem like diet is always the LAST thing to be addressed in the wake of a health issue in our society?)  Personally, I am 14 years into my holistic health journey, and it was one of the FIRST things that crossed my mind when my recent health drama unfolded.  I decided to be proactive with my food choices to ensure that my body was in the best possible condition to deal with whatever was going on inside of me.  A little inflammation in the body can indicate a healing response, and that’s okay.  But too much inflammation could indicate, or contribute to, a chronic problem, and lead to disease.  That said, here are some anti-inflammatory foods (in no particular order) that I have been consuming with conviction:

1.  Green Tea:  Heralded as one of the world’s healthiest beverages, it has been used medicinally for thousands of years.  This flavonoid-packed drink is often touted for its anti-aging, brain-boosting, and cancer-fighting capabilities.  I’ll drink to that!

2.  Garlic:  Hhhhhhhow do you like your gaaaaaaarlic, dahhhhhhhling???  I like mine sauteed with veggies; pressed and added to salads; sliced and eaten raw with hummus and crackers.  It’s a pungent, yet powerful, healing food.

3.  Ginger:  In addition to being an “upset tummy tamer,” this spicy root increases circulation.  When I order a “Green Giant” juice at my local Whole Foods Market, I add this to it.  Cheers!

4.  Turmeric:  Used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb, this member of the ginger family is what makes curries yellow.  I have been adding fresh turmeric to my green juices, such as the “Abundance” at Pomegranate Cafe.  And although I feel that fresh is best, I sprinkle the powder on my cooked kale and quinoa.

5.  Kale:  It’s the alpha and omega of dark, leafy greens, in my opinion.  I enjoy mine in salads, blended into smoothies, cooked with quinoa, and I love it in chip form.  All hail kale!

6.  Spinach:  One of my other go-to greens, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals.  I use it in my green smoothies, as a base for many salad recipes, and enjoy it sauteed with garlic.  Mmm!

7.  Other Cruciferous Vegetables:  These vitamin, mineral, and fiber-rich foods can help fight cancer as well.  In addition to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts are my personal faves.  They’re great in salads, and as side dishes.  Yes, please, and thank you!

8.  Almonds:  Rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, I snack on these during the day.  Furthermore, I use almond milk in my smoothies, pour it on cereal, and drink it straight.  Aaaaah!

9.  Pineapple:  This tropical treat is loaded with vitamin C and bromelain.  For me, it’s a staple smoothie ingredient.  However, recently, I’ve been topping homemade pizzas with it.  Pssst…try it!

10.  Berries:  Gotta love these antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory gems!  I use them to make smoothies, and eat them by themselves.  When I mix them with a little So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Yogurt, it helps to curb my desire for more decadent desserts.  Yum!

While my anti-inflammatory food consumption did not eliminate my cysts (I wish!), I do believe that it has boosted my immune system, nourished my body from the inside out, and helped tremendously with my healing process.

What are your favorite anti-inflammatory foods?

 

 

 

My Surgery Saga

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  This year, I have been busy working, traveling, and taking care of my family, which is great.  However, over the past 2 months, I’ve had to deal with some medical issues as well.  Now that I’m on the other side of the situation, I have LOTS to share.  This is the first of a series of posts in which I will talk about my experience.  I sincerely hope that it helps others.

THE DISCOVERY:

On March 18th, just hours after I successfully completed a commercial shoot, discomfort on the right side of my pelvic area turned into drama overnight.  I was writhing in bed in EXCRUCIATING pain.  Attributing it to something “female-related,” I took some anti-inflammatory homeopathic drops (the only thing that I could find in my house) to relieve the pain, then drifted off to sleep.  The next morning, I felt better; but my husband (who was out of town on business at the time) insisted that I see a doctor.

I went to see my OB-GYN, who takes an integrative approach to medicine at her wellness center for women.  A pelvic exam and urine test didn’t reveal anything, so she sent me to a nearby lab for an ultrasound.  The result?  OVARIAN CYSTS!  So, she sent me back to the same lab for an MRI.  The MRI revealed large, abnormal, complex masses on each ovary with solid components that were not easily identifiable.  Although the MRI Tech thought that they were dermoid cysts, the Head of Radiology was concerned that the solid components might be malignant.  Due to the need to rule out cancer, I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist (GYN-ONC) for a second opinion.

DUE DILIGENCE:

GYN-ONC #1 –  I went to a prominent cancer center and met with a nice, young doctor for a second opinion.  His take?  He  doubted that I had “old lady ovarian cancer.”  However, since there was a concern that the masses might be malignant, he recommended going in laparoscopically, removing both of my ovaries for biopsy, including tubes and lymph nodes, and he could take out my uterus, if I wanted him to.  WHAAAT?!?!  I was shocked, scared, and very upset to hear this.  It sounded sooooo extreme to me.  Do we have to cut down the whole tree?  Can we just take a leaf???  He explained that ovaries can’t be biopsied like other parts of the body, and that this approach would help to ensure that no cancer cells would be spread, if there were any.  Needless to say, I left the appointment feeling completely overwhelmed.

The next day, when I reviewed the details of this appointment with my OB-GYN, I expressed my concern and desire to get another opinion from someone more seasoned.  She agreed, and referred me to GYN-ONC #2, who she knew and respected.  After a couple of attempts, I managed to schedule a consultation with him (details below).

OB-GYN #2 – While waiting for my appointment with GYN-ONC #2, my husband’s Integrative Specialist referred me to another holistic OB-GYN for her perspective on my situation.  Like my OB-GYN, she lamented that she could not perform the laparoscopic procedure, due to the concern about cancer, and that I needed to work with an oncologist.  Although she doubted that I had cancer, she advised me that if anything malignant was found, “everything goes.”  *GULP*  Before I left her office, and without any prompting, she also referred me to GYN-ONC #2 for a second oncology opinion.  I felt reassured that I was doing the right thing, and confident that I was getting closer to finding the right person to help me.

GYN-ONC #2 – After 2 solid referrals, plus a glowing review from a friend, I was eager to meet with this doctor.  He reviewed my case, highlighted the positive aspects of my situation, gave us statistical information to help put things into perspective, listed in detail all of the possibilities of what the masses could be, expressed doubt that I had cancer, and proposed a more conservative, “organ preserving” approach to my surgery.  He recommended removing the right ovary and tube, having them biopsied, and using that as a benchmark to determine what to do with my left ovary.  And he suggested that my husband and I provide him with a “surgical algorithm,” which would help him to honor our wishes, based on his and the Pathologist’s findings during my procedure.  In my opinion, it was a more holistically-friendly, staged, respectful approach.

NATUROPATH – My OB-GYN has a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) on her staff.  I decided to consult with this ND about my options for hormone balancing, in case I ended up having a full hysterectomy.  She recommended some natural healing remedies that would help me before, during, and after surgery.  However, she felt that a specific hormone-balancing protocol was premature at this point.  Instead, she advised that we wait to see what my surgical outcome would be, then allow at least four weeks for the drugs to get out of my system and my body to find its “new normal.”  This made sense to me, and gave me peace of mind.

HERBALIST – After meeting with the ND, I rounded-out my holistic consultations with a visit to my herbalist.  LOVE HER!  The purpose of this appointment was to purchase some herbs and supplements to help me recover from surgery.  She provided me with some custom-blended concoctions to heal my body, which I will discuss in another post.  I stored most of these items at home for use when I returned, since I was not permitted to take them in the hospital.

THE DILEMMA:

As you can imagine, this has been a challenging time for me.  I have been blessed with good health my entire life.  I had one surgery, a tonsillectomy, when I was in college.  Since changing my diet and lifestyle, 14 years ago, I have enjoyed even better health and well-being than I had previously.  All of a sudden, within a 2-month time frame, I went from a commercial shoot to a cancer scare?!?!  And did I mention that my maternal grandmother had ovarian cancer…?  On one hand, I realized that her story did not have to become my story.  However, our close relationship and the reality of her demise had me freaking out.  Furthermore, I feel uncomfortable in hospitals, I’m a total germaphobe, and the whole idea of surgery, drugs, losing my “lady bits,” being catapulted into early menopause, and the like, seemed to go against my holistic habits.  I’m just sayin’…

THE DECISION:

My husband and I decided to work with GYN-ONC #2.  His experience, surgical approach, detailed analysis of my situation, compassion, and positive focus won us over.  He was, literally, an answer to my prayers.  So, we scheduled my surgery for May 7th (due to work and family commitments), drafted our “surgical algorithm,” and prayed persistently for the best possible outcome.  Although I made peace with having the procedure, not knowing the outcome in advance was scary, to say the least.  Still, I felt confident that I had found the right person for the job, who had my best interests at heart.

THE DETERMINATION:

My right ovary was taken over by a calcified fibroma, and was the same size as my uterus.  OUCH!  The left ovary had a dermoid cyst on it, which my doctor successfully removed.  EEEW!!  When I woke up in the surgery recovery area, my husband was brought to my bedside.  Here, he proudly informed me that I got the best of all possible scenarios:  No cancer, and I got to keep my left ovary and my uterus.  WHEW!!!

I am very grateful for my outcome, as it was an answer to the specific prayers of many.  After staying in the hospital overnight, I was discharged.   My healing process is going very well, and I look forward to sharing more related posts soon!

In the meantime, have a fun, safe, and healthy holiday weekend!

XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Hands

As a massage therapy student, I was taught that energy follows intention.  I have found this to be true during my time as a practicing massage therapist, and in my daily life.

During my last trip to St. Louis, I visited The Center For Mind, Body & Spirit, to explore different healing modalities.  The owner, Deborah Zorensky, booked it up; and Massage Therapist, Marty Wolins, hooked it up…

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There are sooooo many cool things here:  jewelry, candles, books, aromatherapy products, clothing items, and more!  I had to refrain from indulging in retail therapy, despite my love for aromatherapy, bath products, and candles…*sigh*

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My Energy Therapy session with Marty began with a detailed intake.   During this time, we discussed the areas of my body where I hold the most tension, which is customary before a massage session.  In addition, I informed her of every injury, illness, and ailment that I’ve ever had in my life.  Then things got interesting, when I revealed ALL of my thoughts (real time, as they popped into my mind), conflicts, fears, disappointments, hopes, and dreams, before and during my session.  Oh, yes I did!!!

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At this point, I felt totally exposed, even though I was fully clothed on the table.  Marty performed a series of “holds” and light massage, based on the information that I gave her; and the results were P-O-W-E-R-F-U-L.  I had several big releases: I felt the tension leave various areas of my body, I cried, fell asleep, and shared even more of my innermost thoughts, during  the time that I was with her.  What a cathartic experience!  I felt amazing afterwards, ready to take on my daily tasks and the challenges in my life.

If you’re in St. Louis, and are looking for an alternative to a regular massage or spa treatment, check out The Center For Mind, Body & Spirit.

Open your heart and mind, and let the healing begin!

 

 

 

 

The Herbalist

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Sooo…how does someone who chooses to live life off the beaten path navigate one of the most commercialized days of the year?

Well, I can’t speak for everyone; but I started my quest to “enhance the romance” early this year with a trip to The Herbalist.

Located just a few minutes away from U-Village in Seattle, I found this holistic slice of heaven…

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When you walk in, the aromatherapy welcomes you. The interior is clean, contemporary, bright, and organized. I could have set up a cot in the back and moved in…

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Oils, flower essences, and herbs…OH MY!!!

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They always have a “tea of the day” for customers to try. I tried the Aphrodi-Tea.  Delicious!

So many goodies, so little time. *sigh*

They had a special display in the front of the store, specifically geared towards Valentine’s Day. And this, my friends, is where I went in for the kill…

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BAM!!!  Unrepentant Rose Soap, a box of the Aphrodi-Tea, the Sacred Union flower essence, and Rose Hydrosol came home with me. I could have acted a fool in there, but I managed to control myself.

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The owner, Tierney Salter, and her employees are so helpful and knowledgeable about their products. I will definitely return. Until then, I am glad that they take orders and ship.

If you’re in Seattle, check out The Herbalist. Or place an order and have them ship it to you. However you choose to do it, just do it!

Here’s to your holistic health, and have a great weekend!

World Breastfeeding Week 2013

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme is “Breastfeeding Support:  Close to Mothers,” with an emphasis on breastfeeding peer counseling.  As a mom, who nursed two children for a combined total of 4 years, I am so grateful for the support and encouragement that I received from holistic practitioners, mommy-friends, and family.  Here are 4 things that helped me to have a successful, long-term nursing relationship with my little ones:

1.  La Leche League International (LLLI):  I attended my local chapter meetings one month before my daughter’s birth, which helped tremendously.  I met other moms in the group, and learned what to expect postpartum.  These ladies stood by me when a conventional pediatrician called my little girl “failing to thrive,” and insisted that I supplement with formula (Who says that to a new mom?!?!).  They also referred me to our naturopathic pediatrician, who we LOVE.

2.  Lactation Consultant (LC):  After my daughter’s birth, a friend of mine from LLLI referred me to a lactation consultant.  The LC helped me to breastfeed successfully while dealing with sore nipples and thrush.  After home birthing my son, I paid my LC for a home visit to make sure that we got off to a great start.  In both cases, her wisdom was invaluable.

3.  Breastfeeding Support Group:  During my phone consultation, my LC invited me to join her breastfeeding support group.  The group met weekly to discuss nursing-related topics, and to help meet individual needs.  I also picked up some useful baby accessories from one of the mompreneurs. The information and camaraderie were just what I needed.

4.  Tools:  My Brest Friend, Bebe Au Lait’s Hooter Hider, and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breastpump were among my favorite items; and I would recommend them to any nursing mom without hesitation.

For more breastfeeding resources and information, check here and here.

 

 

 

Aria’s Birth Story

As a holistic health enthusiast, I wanted the most natural pregnancy and birthing experience possible.  After all, I considered this another leg of my health journey.  Although my pregnancy was confirmed by an OB/GYN, I quickly left her care to pursue my dream.  This led me to the Bethany Birthing Center in Phoenix, where I received all of my prenatal care and, ultimately, delivered my first child.

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Since I love water, swimming, and taking baths, a water birth seemed like an ideal way for me to experience natural childbirth.  Although I did interview a few home birth midwives toward the end of my pregnancy, I decided to stick with my original plan to go to Bethany.  My husband and I both felt more comfortable with this plan for our first child.  We figured that if things went well, then I could do a home birth the next time around.  My estimated due date (EDD) was July 18, 2006.  After a few days of pre-labor symptoms, things got really interesting on July 16th:

I missed church that day, due to cramps, contractions, low backache, and other “fun stuff.”  My symptoms worsened as the day progressed, so I tried to relax in an aromatherapy bath that afternoon.  At around 5:30pm, I felt a contraction radiate around my torso.  This was a major turning point (Hello, active labor! ).  My husband and I consulted with my doulas, then he called the birthing center to find out if/when we should come.  Meanwhile, Doula Michelle came to our house and labored with me in my room from 7:30pm – 8:30pm.  She really saved the day, since my other doula was too far away and had to meet us at the birthing center.  On our way to Bethany, Michelle labored with me in the back seat of my car with my husband driving and my mom riding in the front.  Longest. Hour. Ever.

We arrived at Bethany at about 9:30pm.  There, I went to the restroom, then was checked by a nurse.  I was 5 – 6 cm dialated.  After I requested the jacuzzi room, the tub was filled, my lavender candle was lit, and my music turned on.  I continued to labor in the jacuzzi:  I laid on my side, blew raspberries, brayed like a horse, cried out, squatted, wagged my tailbone, did cat/cow stretches, and breathed deeply.  At this point, my fingers were pruning and I wondered if I could make it through.  The baby’s heartbeat remained strong and steady, which was a relief.  Labor hurt but not as much as I thought it would.  Finally, Midwife Connie checked me and offered to push the remainder of my cervix out of the way so that I could deliver my baby.  I agreed and she did.   My birthing team instructed me to hold up my legs, sit on the edge of the jacuzzi seat, and push.  At first, I felt awkward, but I finally settled into a position and went for it.  I was offered the opportunity to get out of the tub, but I refused to leave the water.   It really took the edge off of my labor.  8 pushes and 40-50 minutes later, I felt the baby’s head, which motivated me to push her out.  This was a magical moment for all of us.  My daughter was born, I helped to lift her out of the water, and placed her on my stomach.  Afterwards, I settled into bed, breastfed and rested.  What an amazing experience!

Though I had some postpartum challenges, my daughter’s birth was textbook-perfect, which is why I wasn’t “scurred” to home birth my son, 22 months later.  I’m so grateful that I was able to labor in the comfort of my own home, make the 1-hour trip to the birthing center, and have a relatively smooth delivery after 8 hours of labor.  I remember the soft glow and smell of my lavender candle, the soothing sound of Deva Premal’s singing, the comfort of the warm water, and the support of my doulas, my husband, and my mom.  This provided me with the perfect “home away from home” experience.  The 5-month road to recovery was a long one.  But my daughter and I went on to overcome many obstacles, heal, and bond.  And I couldn’t be more proud of my “peanut.”

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Happy Birthday, Aria!

Clean Getaway

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When my husband goes away on business, I hold it down at home until he returns.  Recently, I took a few trips of my own, sans children, and the tables were turned.  So, what happens when it’s Mom’s turn to travel?  Like many busy mothers, I tend to be more in-tune with the day-to-day operations and details of our household, so I plan ahead.  Here are some things that I do to make a clean getaway:

1.  Stock up on food, so that Dad doesn’t have to shop with active kids after a busy work week…YIKES!

2.  Batch cook 2 – 3 meals like pasta, casseroles, soups, and stews that they can heat and eat.  And don’t forget the cookies!

3.  Prepare school lunches in advance by pre-bagging the non-perishables for each day.

4.  Use disposable dishes and cutlery temporarily.  There are eco-friendly options like World Centric.

5.  Clean the house and laundry, so that everyone has clothes to wear and I don’t return to a dirty home.

6.  Run errands to the gas station, bank, dry cleaner, and post office to help eliminate the need for extra stops in my absence.

7.  Leave gardening instructions to maintain the fruits (and veggies) of my labor.

8.  Pre-select outfits for the kids, and hang them accordingly in the closet, to take the guesswork out of getting dressed.

9.  Plan the kids’ activities and entertainment, such as play dates, sports, and dining out with Dad.

10. Choose low maintenance hairstyles for the kids: a fresh haircut for my son, and simple braids/twists/ponytails for my daughter.

These suggestions are based on my experience in preparing for my recent travels.  My husband always appreciates my efforts to make his time at home with our kids go smoothly while I’m gone.  Whether it’s business-related, a girlfriend getaway, or a family matter, it helps to have a plan in place for your next trip.  Feel free to share your favorite tips for a clean getaway in the comments section.

Bon Voyage!

 

Spring Into Action!

Do you need to drink more water?  I do.  But our tap water is gross; and our reverse osmosis water is stripped of everything: bad contaminants and healthy minerals.  And I would rather not buy bottled water since it’s not eco-friendly, the sources are questionable, and it leaves a plastic aftertaste in my mouth.  Ugh…

Harding Spring

Harding Spring

For a healthy way to quench your thirst, what you COULD do is find a natural spring near you.  Find A Spring is a resource dedicated to helping people locate springs worldwide, many of which have been tried and tested by others.  Spring water is cleaner than drinking water, mineral-rich, tastes great, and…wait for it…FREE!  So take your jug, bottles, canteens, and go get some of this cool, refreshing, deliciousness.  Your body with thank you, and beg for more.

Me filling one of my Eastar BPA-Free 1-gallon jugs at Harding Spring.

Me filling one of my Eastar BPA-Free 1-gallon jugs at Harding Spring.

Personally, I go to Harding Spring near Sedona, AZ.  When my family retreats to this area for some R & R, we make collecting spring water a group activity.  It’s fun for all of us, and we savor every drop.  We always meet locals there, who have been collecting spring water for years.  If we lived closer, I’d be there EVERY. SINGLE. DAY…TRUST!  In the meantime, I add fruit pieces, fresh-squeezed citrus, or other supplements to our reverse osmosis water; and I look forward to checking out other springs during my upcoming travels.

Another view of me collecting Harding Spring water.

Another view of me collecting Harding Spring water.

Stay hydrated, my friends!

Salt

Growing up, I suffered from seasonal allergies.  For years, I was MISERABLE.  By the time I graduated from college, my symptoms had mysteriously subsided.  What?!?  I have no idea how I managed that, but who am I to question a modern-day miracle?  These days, I am mildly irritated during allergy season.  However, my family’s allergies are much worse than mine.  So, what do we do?

The Salt Chalet Arizona is located in this building in Scottsdale.

The Salt Chalet Arizona is located in this building in Scottsdale.

For an alternative treatment that will have you (literally) breathing a sigh of relief, what you COULD do is try salt therapy.  Salt therapy (a.k.a. speleotherapy or halotherapy) helps to relieve allergies, respiratory issues, and skin conditions.  My husband shared his experience at Salt Chalet Arizona, where he went through a series of treatments to deal with an extreme case of eczema and allergy symptoms.  I’ve wanted to try this, and recently took the plunge.

Kickin' back in my zero gravity chair, ready to do some deep breathing...

Kickin’ back in my zero gravity chair, ready to do some deep breathing…

As with many natural therapies, it takes time to heal.  The more you do it, the more benefits you receive.  And who doesn’t want good benefits these days?  I have also found that it can take a couple of sessions to understand how to make the most of alternative treatments.  For example, during my first Salt Chalet experience, an elderly gentleman with COPD pointed out to me that I should breathe in the fine salt particles through my mouth (no filter), and breathe out through my nose.  I had been doing the opposite!  So, when I went to my second appointment, I applied this intel accordingly.  As a result, I had a more productive session.

The view from my zero gravity chair.

Nothing fancy to see here.  It’s all about the therapeutic benefits of the Dead Sea salt.  The comfortable chairs, light therapy, and relaxation music help to create a spa-like experience though.  And I’m always down with that!  For information about other salt room locations, check here and here.

Looking to “spice up” your allergy, respiratory, and skin protocol?  Just add salt.

 

 

 

Float On…

I love getting 90-minute therapeutic massages to relieve stress and muscle tension, and usually won’t settle for anything less in duration.  In fact, I already have a session scheduled during an upcoming trip to Sedona, and I can’t wait!  However, I also enjoy trying alternative therapies that promote health and well-being.

For a euphoric experience in a unique environment, what you COULD do is try flotation therapy.  Flotation therapy (or Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy) relieves pain, stress, and aids relaxation.  Earlier this year, when I was searching for an unconventional spa treatment for my birthday, my husband shared that one of his clients raved about True REST Float Spa.  So, I scheduled an appointment on my special day.  At first, I struggled to quiet my mind.  But once I settled into a comfortable position and focused exclusively on my breathing, I went into a deeper state of relaxation until I was out.  On my way out, I could feel my body release a LOT of tension in my lower back.  Hallelujah!  At the end of my 1-hour session, I emerged from my pod relaxed, refreshed, and HOOKED.  I can best summarize my first float as follows:

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1 REST pod + 1200lbs of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) + 200 gallons of skin temperature water + relaxation music + LED lights = a womb-like experience that helped me find my happy place.

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I returned a couple of weeks later, and brought a friend.  ‘Nuff said.

You can find more information about flotation and float center locations near you here.

If you don’t float, now you know.

 

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