Achieve the ultimate state of relaxation and wellness with these 10 tips for the new year.
By Connie K. Ho
It’s the beginning of 2015—a blank slate with so many opportunities for self-improvement. For those who aren’t sleeping well or feel anxious every time the phone buzzes, make a change in the next few weeks. As you plan out your year, move away from being overwhelmed to living a life that’s more harmonious.
Whether you’re a big believer in New Year’s resolutions or detest making them, challenge yourself to try these 10 ways to de-stress without even leaving Laguna.
Relax at the Spa
For those feeling tired and weary, it might be time for some pampering: Get a body scrub, manicure or pedicure to feel rejuvenated. Spa Montage Laguna Beach, which offers facials, massages and many other treatments with the added benefit of seaside views. Spa-goers who partake in a 60-minute treatment receive access to the oceanfront lap pool, fitness center, sauna, steam room and whirlpool to de-stress further. “Relaxation can come in a variety of different options, depending on what a person is dealing with in their daily life,” says Spa Montage Laguna Beach Director Michael Conte.
Spa Montage Laguna Beach also has a no-cellphone policy. “We’re so overstimulated with our iPhones and our iPads and our computers, and we are overloaded with information these days—it’s really important to have people unplug and take some ‘me’ time,” Michael says. “It’s a very needed thing for people’s mental wellness to just have silence; it’s not an easy thing to do.”
Another way to find peace is by turning off your device and spending time in nature. Visit Laguna Coast Wilderness Park for approximately 7,000 acres of open space in the hills surrounding the city. Hikes range from the beginner-level West Ridge Trail to the 9-mile advanced Emerald Canyon Road. The fresh air, greenery and coastal views will rejuvenate your body and mind. “Go hiking in the mountains, go for a walk on the beach, enjoy this beautiful, incredible piece of heaven on earth that we call our home,” says Dr. Gary Arthur, founder of Health in Balance, a Laguna-based wellness clinic. “Exercise creates endorphins, endorphins create a sense of pleasure; the more endorphins that you release, the more pleasure that you feel, the more relaxed you are [and] the more fulfilled you are.”
Downward-facing dog. Happy baby. Tree. These are just a few of the poses found in a typical yoga class. There are a variety of styles from hot to restorative and, if you’re intent on honing your balancing skills, there’s even a version offered atop a paddleboard. Many yoga classes incorporate elements of meditation, breath work and deep relaxation. The postures are designed to squeeze and compress certain organs, releasing toxins from the blood stream, skin and lungs.
People of all fitness levels can try the movements and adapt it to their comfort level. “Whether you have injuries or are super stressed, it’s accessible,” says Marna Bright, a yoga teacher and director of Bikram Yoga Laguna Beach. “People carry all of that stress around—work, life; you’re at everyone’s fingertips. With yoga, you take an hour away from your phone and take care of yourself. You move through the postures and clear your mind of everything that’s going on.”
Laughter is said to be the best medicine. If you’re in pursuit of a good giggle, look into attending a local comedy show or a humorous play. Laguna Playhouse will present Neil Simon’s Tony Award-winning comedy “The Odd Couple,” about mismatched roommates Felix and Oscar, from March 4-29. Or, to encourage some chuckling on a regular basis, the Laughter Yoga Institute hosts the Laguna Laughter Club seven days a week on the beach. During this time, attendees partake in laughter exercises that can have them waddling around like a penguin or talking gibberish.
“If you laugh every once in a while, but laugh virtually nonstop for 15 to 20 minutes, it’s exhilarating and really changes the whole life system,” says Jeffrey Briar, director of the Laughter Yoga Institute in Laguna. “This is laughter that opens your mind, opens your heart.”
Listen to Music
Sing along to a melody, tap your toes to the beat or dance the night away. Whether it’s a rock anthem or a classical concerto, music has a way of soothing listeners. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy some calming tunes in town. Laguna Concert Band performs a range of genres throughout the year, and the Laguna Beach Music Festival runs Feb. 12-15 at Laguna Playhouse. “Whether you’re listening to music or you’re playing music, that’s actually a mind-body kind of impact. It helps us relax, helps us focus the mind, and helps to cut down on stress hormones,” says David Kilgore, a clinical professor of family medicine at UC Irvine and director of the integrative medicine residency program at the UC Irvine Health Family Health Center.
Putting brush to canvas can be a meditative experience. According to the American Art Therapy Association, finding a creative outlet like drawing, painting or sculpting helps individuals reduce stress and improve their mental state. The process of making art can help a person channel their emotions and become more aware of their feelings. And, in the end, they may gain a beautiful piece to display in their home or give as a gift. So, doodle in your free time or find your inner Picasso by taking a class through the many art organizations in town. Classes in mediums ranging from pottery to jewelry making, painting, drawing and glass blowing are offered throughout the year at the Sawdust Art Festival grounds, and Laguna Outreach for Community Arts offers hands-on workshops and retreats—some focused on the ocean, marine animals or garden plants as inspiration.
A perfect pairing with chocolate is wine—a drink that comes with its own set of health benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research has shown that those who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol may be less likely to develop heart disease. Try a sip at Laguna Canyon Winery, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. “We have music playing in our tasting room. … People drop in after a hard day of work, unwind, sip some wine—it’s certainly very relaxing,” says Marlowe J. Huber, who is a brand owner and winemaker at Laguna Canyon Winery with his brother Darren N. Huber.
Even though wine tasting is a great way to relax, it’s important to practice moderation when drinking. The NIH advises that women should limit themselves to one drink (approximately one 4-ounce glass of wine) per day while men should have no more than two drinks per day.
Indulge in Chocolate
For a quick pick-me-up, look to dark chocolate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chocolate has heart health benefits since cocoa beans are rich in a type of nutrient called flavanols; these are believed to help lower blood pressure, enhance blood flow and improve clotting ability. Flavanols also boast antioxidants, which help protect the body’s cells and tissues from free radicals. Choose dark over milk chocolate—the former is less processed, meaning it retains more toxin-fighting flavanols. A 1.5-ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of magnesium and 34 percent of the RDA of copper, the Cleveland Clinic reports. To get your chocolate fix, head over to The Chocolate Soldier for an assortment of handmade truffles or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for chocolate-dipped fruits like apples and bananas. Of course, chocolate mixed with other sugary ingredients like caramel or marshmallows come with the associated fat and calories, so choose wisely and enjoy in moderation.
An array of scents, from lavender to rose, citrus and sandalwood, are used in aromatherapy to relax and uplift. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, essential oils—valued for their therapeutic properties for nearly 6,000 years by the ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians and other cultures—are used by spas and even some hospitals as an alternative treatment that seems to ease pain, stress, anxiety and depression. Some scientists believe lavender works like sedative medications by stimulating brain cell activity in the amygdala, while others propose that essential oil molecules interact with hormones or enzymes in the body to produce their relaxing effects. To improve your mood throughout the day, consider wearing a lotion or perfume that contains essential oils, or request a soothing scent next time you get a massage. These oils can be found at several local shops, including Whole Foods Market and The Chakra Shack.
From novels to short stories and even comics, books can open a whole new world. The immersive experience of finding a quiet place and reading is said to lower an individual’s heart rate and relax muscle tension. According to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing, reading can provide relief from the overwhelming details of everyday life. Books help people become immersed in different worlds—and, as a result, step outside of their own stressful environment for a while. Find texts that provide enjoyment, not anxiety. Pick up that next installment of your favorite fiction series or pore over a magazine focused on your favorite hobby rather than skimming the news. So, head over to the local library or Laguna Beach Books and peruse the shelves for something that piques your interest.
Work it Out
The new year is a great time to jump-start your fitness routine. From Pilates and barre classes to spinning and strength training, there are myriad activities around town that will pique your interest. Here are several local studios with exercise classes to get your sweat on.
Bodybar: A boutique fitness studio that offers Pilates, weights, cardio and barre classes (949-497-8333; bodybarlaguna.com)
Code Green Fitness: A private studio that offers one-on-one personal fitness training (949-697-2364; codegreenfitness.com)
Fusion Pilates: Group Pilates circuit and spin classes (714-404-8824; fusionpilateslaguna.com)
Laguna Health Club: A longtime local fitness center that includes weights and elliptical machines (949-494-9314; lagunahealthclub.com)
POPCycle 2.0: A cycle cardio fitness studio that incorporates resistance bands, music and spinning in classes (949-494-0044; popcycle2k.com)
Treva Fitness: An open-air, ocean- view fitness studio that includes small group classes like indoor cycling, cardio dance and Quick-Fit by Treva (949-715-0350; trevafitnesslaguna.com)
The Well: A private training studio with concierge-level service for clients (949-715-0311; thewellfit.com)