What does it mean to be healthy? Western medicine seems to define a state of health as being free of disease, without necessarily dictating that we work hard to thrive. Everyone knows that exercise is good and Whoppers are bad, but a growing number of Americans are responding to our cancer/obesity/heart disease epidemics with all-encompassing lifestyle changes. "Holistic" is the big buzz word among health practitioners who draw from natural sources, knowledge from the Orient, and new ideas about body chemistry and energy to help people feel, look, and be "well."
Whether you suffer from headaches, depression, heartburn, arthritis, or a bad back, modern medicine has a pill for you. Rather than solely treating symptoms, the holistic approach seeks to find the cause of your ailment, eliminating it at the root. Sofia Raykhilin, a local massage therapist, sees the body as a circle – when there's a break, things can't flow properly and problems compound. The side effects of medications often cause new ailments requiring more pills, a situation that rarely builds toward optimal health.
In western medicine, one pill is often the treatment for a variety of ailments, such as ibuprofen's ability to relieve countless pain types all over the body. In holistic medicine, everything is individualized. From massage therapists to herbalists, a person's symptoms, needs, and desires are taken into account in creating a treatment plan specific to the person and situation.
Being totally "well" takes a commitment that can be difficult to make in a culture of billboard-sized burgers and $12 cases of PBR, but Charleston is home to a growing holistic movement dedicated to helping people be healthy. At most, the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional are all taken into account, recognizing that a person's health is as dependent on relaxation as eating right. Incidentally, proper nutrition and exercise stimulate the mind, while loving relationships and positive outlooks help heal the body. If you feel healthy, energy and beauty will occur naturally.
From massage to detoxification, hypnotherapy to acupuncture, we set out into Charleston's vast holistic offerings to experience firsthand what glowing, vivacious people are doing to feel so darn good. The businesses we've included are just a handful of what's out there, and we hope this brief primer will get you off the couch and on the way to radiance.
Skin Therapy Center
5 Daniel St.
I work as hard as almost anybody else," states Dr. Zeyi Chen with confidence. He began his studies in China, serving as chairman and chief dermatologist at Shanghai Medical University, then traveled to Paris and London before settling in Charleston after a stint as an MUSC visiting professor in 1981. After 44 years studying the skin, he's certain that alternative treatments for acne and wrinkles are the most effective remedies.
The Skin Therapy Center doesn't give prescriptions or perform surgery. "I just use natural ways like facial peels and microdermabrasion to improve acne, scars, and wrinkles," says Chen. "People look 300 percent better." Accutane, clinical dermatology's surefire weapon against acne, takes four months to see results and can be very toxic to the liver. Chen claims that with his treatment, utilizing devices that suction excess oils from the skin and stimulate new skin growth, "you see the result next week."
Chen's cozy, wood-and bamboo-walled clinic also offers acupuncture, herbal treatments, and electrolysis hair removal. Emphasizing that the body is a "bioenergetic system," Chen treats depression, neck and back pain, and headaches with a goal of helping people decrease and withdraw from medications with side effects, like sleeping pills. "I truly believe the alternative way to health is more effective, natural and safe, and often less expensive," states Chen. "When you take care of yourself, life's burdens can be better managed, and everything can be better."
You're Getting Very Sleepy...
Life Transformations Hypnotherapy
1180 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
There's no swinging pocket watches or "kiss the next girl you see" in therapeutic hypnotism, but there is manipulation of the subconscious. Karen Hoad, a local therapist, has treated anger, addiction, depression, and migraines through nothing more than the influence of her words on the subliminal mind.
The success of hypnotism in curing "bodily" addiction (think nicotine and alcohol) strongly supports the mind/body connection central to holistic healing. To speak to the subconscious, Hoad relaxes the patient right to the threshold of sleep. "Then it's like talking to a seven-year-old, and the subconscious mind can change a metaphor into a behavior," she explains. Children and the subconscious both respond well to positive commands, "go play outside" rather than "don't jump on the furniture."
"One thing everybody gets out of coming here is they learn to relax," says Hoad. In our low-grade depressed society, any de-stressing is healthy. "Unlike conventional therapists, we don't have to take you back to a bad time in your life and make you relive it and work it through," explains Hoad. "We can clear that timeline."
For those seeking weight loss, hypnotism can be a powerful tool. Hoad is a certified nutritionist, and creates eating plans that combine with the positive redirection of the subconscious to change lifestyles. Chips and salsa after work or midnight ice cream often become subconscious behaviors, like putting the key in the ignition. When the mind is trained to make these conscious decisions, people can regain control of their bad habits.
She emphasizes that arm wrestling with the brain won't work. "I don't have a syringe I can stick in your arm and say you're going to feel wonderful." For hypnosis to work, you have to want to make a change. "People come away feeling really positive about themselves."
Snap, Crackle, Pop
Wellness First Chiropractic Care
742 St. Andrews Blvd
If the brain is Zeus, the spine is Hermes, delivering every message and command throughout the body. Shielding our column of nerves are pliable tissue and vertebrae, often somewhat warped in modern times due to the unnatural nature of the body positions we hold for our jobs. "Stressful situations can cause a situation where the vertebrae rotate or shift out of position and lock up," explains Wellness First chiropractor Brian Bord. To be well, our communication channel must be free.
As the largest "holistic-like" practice in the country, chiropractics has long been dismissed by medical doctors as ineffective and even dangerous. Most people wait until they feel pain to go to the chiropractor, but Bord would like to see it become as common as a visit to the dentist, with regular maintenance to ensure health. "In its classical sense, chiropractics was never meant to be a treatment for pain, diabetes, or anything," he says. "It's intended to allow the body to work to its full potential by removing roadblocks that stand in the way of proper communication."
Bord compares the spine to an electrical wire. When it's pinched, the signal changes, compounding as inflammation squeezes an already jam-packed area that can alter nerve signals to other areas of the body. "It's amazing what we learn to live with," he says, citing the small problems, like a clunk in an automobile that goes ignored, eventually compounding into a breakdown due to inattention. Ailments from deafness to diabetes have been cured in the past by a procedure as simple as popping vertebrae back into place.
Wellness First offers both chiropractics and massage, a combination that increases the health benefits of each and leaves patients feeling pretty good. Bord hopes that the preventative approach they espouse will catch on, leading folks to care for their backs so they don't end up hunched over at 70. Chiropractics is never a guaranteed cure, but it doesn't hurt to help the brain spread its word.
Opening Up To Ourselves
At Holy Cow Yoga Center
In the 1940s, biochemist Ida Rolf suffered injuries that her doctors couldn't help alleviate. After studying yoga and chiropractic work, she realized that the thin skin, or film, around our muscles might play a larger role in health than had been previously acknowledged. Our system of connective tissue, or fascia, is literally an integrated unit throughout our entire body, and without it we'd be a sack of skin filled with organs, muscles, and bones.
Jeremiah Evers learned the techniques of rolfing in a three-part, 800-hour program in Boulder, Colo. Rolfing is a ten-part program to realign the body in gravity, literally enabling people to open up, breath deeper, and improve posture. "We see the body as a sweater," explains Evers. "If there's pull on one area, the whole sweater gets pulled to that strain zone, pulling the back muscles and vertebrae out of line." Through massage and manipulation of the fascia, life long patterns of tension and holding can be eased out.
Stresses from emotional trauma to physical injuries can influence the way we hold our bodies until they become our subconscious postures. A depressed person may develop a concave chest and tense shoulders. The physical implications of correcting these responses we're stuck in is often enough to change mental behavior, allowing people to relate to their environment more positively.
Although yoga can help hold the changes and support our flow of energy, rolfing is a one-on-one activity. The first session involves opening up the diaphragm, shoulder girdle, and pelvic region, moving on to the feet in the second and then on up the body. The progression builds on itself, ultimately leaving people with "increased body awareness, and a freedom of lightness and fluidity," says Evers.
HEART & SOUL
The Anti-Gym Personal Trainer
Stephen Clipp, Body Architects
73 Spring St., Suite A (relocating in March to Meeting St.)
Stephen Clipp dedicates his life to changing yours, and he won't accept "not possible" as an answer. "A lot of doctors tell old ladies 'You're going to get arthritis, it's normal because you're 65, and that's it," he says. His training techniques have allowed elderly, arthritic women to pick up their grandchildren, open jars, and strengthen their backs.
An array of high-tech and homemade devices make up Clipp's "gym," all designed with an emphasis on properly working out without causing undue or dangerous stress on the joints. He has rubber band straps bolted to the ground to simulate squats with a barbell.
Clipp's "Hannibal Lecter" style neck-harnesses are perhaps some of the most absurd-looking but effective pieces of equipment lining the walls. "Strengthening the neck is a theme of this place," says Clipp, explaining that neck problems are often the cause of chronic migraines. "If you have a migraine one time and you can take a pill, that's great, but if even the partial cause of your headache is mechanical, as in muscles being strained due to the orientation of the bone, then you're going to be taking that pill for the rest of your life," says Clipp. "You've got to cure the 'Captain Caveman' posture."
As an acupuncturist and massage therapist with a four-year masters degree in Chinese medicine, Clipp's regimen also includes nutrition and relaxing symptom-based treatments. While there's no guaranteed quick fix for any health problem, Clipp's one-on-one, all-encompassing training techniques are guaranteed to make people healthier and stronger. "I'm interested in quantifiable stuff," says Clipp. "Your program is based on what you bring in here and what you'd like to be."
Body Architect clients can expect "pain relief, reduced fat, functional strength, stress relief, and wellness." Every treatment, even for smoking cessation and depression, involves physical training that will get your blood flowing. "People have to start moving first. I can be the greatest acupuncturist in the world and totally relax you and take your pain away, but it's just coming back if you don't strengthen yourself."
Reading the Body's Menu
Empowered Body Massage and Wellness Center
310 Broad St., Suite 8
Bill Baurley trademarked the term "Empowered Body Therapy" as a style of care encompassing massage, Reiki, and healing energy that relaxes his patients to their core. He determines "biofeedback" by testing muscles in the hand and arm for "energy spikes" to help decide where a person needs attention. His practice offers traditional, focused massage for pain and specific needs, but for those seeking a whole-body healing energy, the "EBT" is a tapas of calming techniques.
According to Baurley, testing the body's needs returns a "vast menu" of possibilities. Sessions include peaceful music, gentle massage, lymphatic drainage, and "reconnective healing." Using Reiki, he works things like "lung meridians," or energetic pathways, looking for blocks in energy flow. If there's blockage, focusing on a color or sound often helps to free it up.
Much of Baurley's terminology seems far out, but with 17 years of energy work under his belt, he's an expert in the fields he practices. He reserves the EBT style of care for clients whose minds are open to the concept that pain in one place may stem from somewhere else in the body. "It's like being a private detective, finding new ways to get these releases, whether it's physically, mentally, emotionally, or energetically," he says. "When we combine all of these techniques, the magic happens." If nothing else, it's as relaxing an hour as you'll ever have, and you're guaranteed to leave feeling healthy and empowered.
FEET & HANDS
Sofia's Therapeutic Massage
678-B St. Andrews Blvd.
Massage therapist Sofia Raykhlin is known for her heavy hands. "This is not relaxation massage," she says. "This is therapeutic." Her practice includes reflexology, utilizing the interconnectedness of muscles throughout the body to find the source of pain. Most of her clients come for treatment of a specific pain, and she's an expert in helping alleviate joint problems and ailments like carpal tunnel and aches in the knees and feet.
The boisterous Raykhlin began her massage training at age 17, prior to attending medical school in her home country of Ukraine. She emphasizes the importance of taking care of all the body's muscles. "Some people think it's a waste to spend money on their feet and hands, but we are abusing our feet and hands since we were born," she says. "They need proper care also."
Bernice, a patient of Raykhlin's, was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a debilitating condition that left her immobile and, according to her doctors, "only going to get worse." "I have nerve damage in my legs due to chemotherapy," she says. "Originally my feet and ankles were frozen, and I couldn't rotate my feet or walk without toppling over." After a year of working weekly with Raykhlin, she is able to dance with her husband, drive a car, and live a normal life. "My oncologist is thrilled," she says. "I have to say medical massage is fantastic."
Run Like an Antelope
The Extra Mile
336 King St.
If knee pain is your excuse for not getting your cardio, try out a "motion-controlled shoe." Now offered by nearly every major running shoe brand, these shoes are a lower-cost alternative to orthopedic insoles.
"The whole concept is people who have a weak arch and their ankle rolls, called pronation, put pressure on their shin causing knee pain," explains the Extra Mile's Ryan Thompson. "Motion-control shoes keep that ankle from rolling in and allows you to turn in the natural state." Thompson claims that only 1 in 20 customers suffering knee pain don't find it alleviated by the shoes.
IT'S WHAT'S INSIDE
Viriditas Rejuvenation Center
360 Concord St., Suite 101
The word Viriditas means "the greening," an appropriate title for a business dedicated to the health of the internal environment. Director Marti Chitwood hopes that the cleansing her clients receive will ripple into their external surroundings, creating "hope for a dirty world."
Detoxificiation has gained wide-scale recognition in recent years as heavy metals like mercury contaminate our waters and build up in our bodies as we consume fish.
Chitwood hopes that her business will help people fight back in the war on toxicity. She offers hair, urine, and blood tests for toxin levels, and several methods of ridding the body of these. Detoxification is often regarded as a process of getting off alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, but the prevalence of so many chemicals in our environment makes it beneficial for anyone.
Specialized saunas at Viriditas emit infrared rays, penetrating the skin to reach warm tissue two inches within the body to mobilize toxins into our waste streams. Combined with chlorine-free ionized water that balances the body's pH levels, cleans tissues, and improves digestion, a highly toxic person can quickly be on their way to better health.
As a clinical nutritionist, Chitwood develops nutritional programs to eliminate the dangerous additives and unnatural fats that are found in a "normal" American diet. Antioxidants are crucial in boosting the immune system, while healthy protein will actively pull toxins from the body.
Viriditas specializes in 10-day detox programs, utilizing saunas, ionized water, and diet changes. "People love it because 10 days is doable for anybody," says Chitwood.
Chitwood believes that businesses like Viriditas will become more common as people continue to turn to natural medicine. "The science of tomorrow is truly a nutritional science," she says. "I've had to literally start my education over several times. Almost every chronic disease has a great deal to do with imbalanced nutrient status."
You Are What You Digest
Center for Well Being
1830 Belgrade Road
"We help you poop," exclaims Sharon Fincke, coproprieter of the Center for Well Being. As Charleston's only place to get a colonic, they've been cleaning people out from the bottom end for years.
Sharon's partner, Joan, talks about a nutritionist friend who feels she can take care of the body completely through nutrition. "You can fill the finest running automobile with premium gas," says Joan, "but with a banana in the tailpipe it won't start."
Before the 1970s, colonics were common practice in hospitals, but they began to fall off with the rise of the laxatives. A pill rather than a plastic tube up your, er, tailpipe? Yes, please. Unfortunately, the pills just aren't as effective for clearing out all the goop that clogs our colon, and with our bad diets and cancer in that area an increasing risk, getting an occasional hosing will keep your engine purring.
Colonics not only help free the bowels, but act as a detoxification for all the nasties sticking themselves to our excretory muscle. "I refer to colonics as water aerobics," says Sharon. "If the colon is flaccid it just doesn't work well, and nutrients aren't being absorbed."
The Center's colonics are just one offering of many in helping people be well. Upon opening in 1991, they were the first stand-alone massage therapy in Charleston. Now they've got a sauna, massage parlor, retreat offerings, and a "Piece of Heaven" package that includes a massage at your home and warm dinner left behind when they go.
"We try to provide people with a vehicle to facilitate their healing," says Joan. "This is grassroots healthcare!" echoes Sharon. "We're just here to help people."
What Goes In...
Books, Herbs, and Spices
63 Spring St.
There's no need to cross any bridges for all your nutritional needs in downtown Charleston. The nook occupied by Books, Herbs, and Spices across from the Karpales Manuscript Museum on Spring Street is a health-nuts haven of bulk herbs, supplements, and natural beauty aids.
Tom Williams, a certified herbalist and nutritionist, offers nutritional counseling in-house, setting clients up with holistic, alternative treatment programs for everything from high blood pressure to diabetes. "Our programs are simple but effective," says Williams. "We've helped alleviate high cholesterol and skin and prostate problems."
If you're looking to formulate a healthy diet, a nutritionist is a great consultant to ensure you meet all your bodies demands. Foods that Williams says to avoid? "Fried foods and sugar."