Take a Break with Barbara: An Interview with our Founder on Wellness

Sized barbarawellness
04/27/18

We sat down with our founder, Barbara Close, for an honest conversation about her holistic approach to wellness, spa treatments, and her favorite ways to wind down. 

What does wellness mean to you?
For me, wellness means having the energy and the mental and physical ability to pursue my dreams. 50 years ago, we defined health as the absence of disease, but this wasn’t really correct, as you could technically be disease-free, without feeling mentally or emotionally well. Wellness to me is a holistic approach to my health, taking care of my body, mind and emotions so that I can sustain the energy, passion and joy I need to pursue what I really love.

What is your approach to wellness?
I approach wellness with a desire to have fun, a sense of humor and a deep sense of gratitude for my body. I think we need to enjoy life and understand that the body is very capable of self-regulating. Oftentimes, we should just get out of the way and let the body do what it needs to do. I tend to get a bit cynical when I read so much about don’t eat this and do eat that, don’t drink this and do drink that. Many people in the wellness industry love to embrace all kinds of diets and fanatical food regimens. Most of the time your body will tell you what it needs, but you need to listen to symptoms and recognize that they are messengers for change.

This is very different from Western Medicine which seeks to eradicate symptoms. Just look at the ads on daytime TV: got a headache- take Tylenol. Acid stomach- try Tums. At Naturopathica, we recommend changing up what you eat so that your gut stays happy and healthy, to try an exercise like yoga when you’re feeling the effects of stress on the body, or to meditate when you’re feeling anxious. Laughter is also very important to my personal wellness.

What are the most effective wellness rituals you do every day?
I do what I call “Senior Yoga” with my dachshunds every morning. They like to roll around on the mat on their backs and snort at me while I do “downward dog,” or stick their cold, wet noses in my face while I do the “child’s pose,” so it’s a bit of a comedy routine. Luckily, they get bored after 20 minutes and that’s when I do my mediation practice. I am a big believer that meditation is the foundation for wellness.

I also love a cup of tea. I get pleasure from the simplicity of putting the kettle on the stove, listening to the water start to gurgle, then adding in the herbs and watching them unfurl, smelling the aromatic essences and holding the warm cup of tea. The whole experience is so grounding, and it connects me back to my mother. We always had a cup of tea when I got home from school. Of course, her way was Lipton and a big dose of milk and sugar, but it was still good.

I have to get in the bathtub every day with a blend of aromatic oils. I love submerging myself in the water—it’s incredibly relaxing and warms me up before bed. It’s how I wash away the mental and physical stress of the day.

I also believe in exercising every day, but that can mean anything from taking a walk or going for a swim, riding my horse, or chasing squirrels with my dogs. As I get older, I’m less inclined to go to a gym. For me, if an exercise is boring I won’t do it.

What are your tools for when things feel out of balance?
I think feeling out of balance is pretty normal, but when anxiety or fear creeps in, it is a sign that it is time to reconnect with myself. This is when I will turn to meditation to help me process what I’m feeling. Usually after sitting quietly and focusing on my breath, I feel more relaxed and clearer on my next steps. When I start to feel completely de-energized, I go for long hikes as I find the fresh air, the light and the smells restorative. But sometimes, what I really need are moments of raucous laughter that help me stop taking everything so seriously. We do a lot of laughing at work and it keeps things real.

What is one wellness myth you’d like debunked?
I detest the concept of “balance.” I go bananas when I see spa or fitness advertisements that have pictures of people meditating in the forest. I just think it sets us up for something that is not attainable. I know my life does not work that way; we are all fighting stress. My motto is “That Which Adapts Thrives.” The more we can learn to stay fluid and adapt to stress, the stronger we will be. Herbs, by the way, are very good at helping us do that. Plants have been around on this planet a lot longer than humans and they have survived by being excellent adapters.

What do you think is the next frontier for wellness?
Mental health. We are now starting to recognize just how many people are suffering from depression or bipolar disorders, and it isn’t something anyone should be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something that we can try to treat with more than just allopathic medicine, we can look to naturopathic medicine or other complimentary health care to provide additional coping mechanisms. There has been a lot of research lately on how food can affect our mental health—how treating the gut well can have implications for our brain and emotional health.

How do spa treatments promote wellness?
I think the amazing thing about massage is that over the course of the hour you get out of your head, reconnect with your body and realize how much stress—both physical and emotional—you were carrying. It’s a viscerally holistic experience.

Each Naturopathica spa treatment begins with an aromatherapy inhalation to start the relaxation response. When you smell those aromatic molecules, it triggers the limbic system of the brain, which is like this giant railway station of memory and emotion. That’s why when you smell vanilla you might flashback to baking cookies with your mother or if you smell sandalwood it might remind you of a church. Aromatherapy gives you both that emotional connection to smell and invokes a natural relaxation response.

What is your favorite part/element of a Naturopathica spa treatment?
Certainly the aromatherapy, but I also like how our therapists apply the warm, herbal pillows and roll them down the back during the treatment. It feels amazing, like the stress gets rolled out of our body.

_____

BECAUSE LIVING WELL IS ALSO ABOUT ENJOYING LIFE...

A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That:
Coffee or tea? Matcha Latte (with Oat Milk-the best!)
Travel or staycation? Staying at home
Kindle or book? Book—I want to smell the spine
Savory or sweet? Savory—sometimes I think I need a salt lick
Dogs or cats? That’s tough! They’re both great. But dogs
Snow or sun? Sun

Favorite:
Spa Treatment: The Holistic Facial
Travel Destination: Anywhere in nature, but right now, it's Narrow River Road next to my home. It’s an estuary; you can walk along the water and looks at the birds, it’s really beautiful
TV Show: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown  
Book: The Hole Book- Peter Newell
Movie: Too many to pick just one!
Type of exercise: Horseback Riding
Artist: Rothko
Meal: Sunday Roast Chicken
Secret Talent: No, but I fantasize that I do. Like singing opera or something


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