Illustrations by Marta Antelo
For nearly a year, many of us have been spending a lot more time at home—time that we might have given to spin classes, gyms, yoga retreats, and, yes, wellness-centered vacations. The pandemic has led to spikes in sales of home exercise equipment, workout apps, and online classes, but there’s nothing like a visit to a resort to help one reset. With that in mind, we asked the wellness experts at a few top resorts to give us tips we can all use at home while we bide our time till the next spa day.
“During times of heightened stress, learning how to tend to your nervous system is an invaluable tool for your health and well-being,” says Christiana Schelfhout, a yogi and resident healing arts practitioner at Shou Sugi Ban House, a Japanese-inspired wellness retreat in the Hamptons town of Water Mill, on Long Island.
“Meditating, even for a short time, can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the ‘rest and digest’ state, when your body and mind are at ease and can focus on healing and restoration.” Initiating a meditation practice can be intimidating, but Schelfhout encourages newbies to start simply, with “one moment meditations.”
“Begin by closing your eyes or simply lowering the gaze,” she says. “Then draw a deep breath in through the nose and slowly exhale through pursed lips. Focus the mind on the sensation of the breath, observing things such as the temperature of the air, the way the chest rises, the feeling of the breath against the lips. After completing the exhale, squeeze the navel toward the spine and empty your lungs. Pause here, at the base of the exhale, for a second to complete the process.” She recommends doing this throughout the day to help regulate your mind and body. “It will also begin to train you to sit in meditation for longer stretches of time,” she notes, “should you desire to incorporate a more formal practice into your daily routine.” shousugibanhouse.com
People work better from home when they set up a separate workspace, and the same is true for fitness, according to Michael Rowlands, health and wellness manager at Philadelphia’s swank Fitler Club, a combination private club, 14-room boutique hotel, and state-of-the-art 25,000-square-foot gym for guests and members. “Create a designated workout space,” Rowlands says. “Whether it’s the corner of your living room or a full transformation of your basement, make it an area that motivates you.” Rowlands also recommends getting outside more, and he suggests partnering with a workout buddy for mutual encouragement and scheduled outings. “Changing up the scenery is a big motivator,” he says. “Run or walk a new route each day. Explore new areas.” No exercise equipment? No problem, says Rowlands, who shares his three favorite gear-free workouts.
“Bodyweight pulse squats” are an up-tempo twist on regular squats in which you don’t hold after lowering, but instead pump up and down, in one second pulses. For “eccentric push-ups,” start in a high plank position and slowly lower to the floor in three counts, then explosively push to the top, keeping your elbows slightly bent. For “bodyweight Bulgarian split squats,” face away from a sofa or chair, place one foot on the edge of the piece of furniture, and perform a squat with the other leg. Repeat, repeat, repeat. fitlerclub.com
Skipping restaurant meals and eating at home all the time can feel repetitive, but there’s a silver lining, according to dietitian, nutritionist, and personal trainer Joyce Mattox, who’s also a Pilates instructor at Sea Island, a luxury resort on the Georgia coast.
“Eating at home is healthier and less expensive,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to experiment with new foods and get creative.” Regardless of what you make, “avoid snacking all day,” Mattox says. “Typically, a combo of food groups every four hours works great.” She suggests keeping vegetables (such as carrots, bell peppers, and snap peas) “ready and attractive in the refrigerator, so when you feel hungry you are ready.” If you crave salty snacks, instead of reaching for potato chips, try dill pickles and high-fiber popcorn. “Keep the amounts small, so your blood won’t rush to your stomach to digest, resulting in sleepiness,” she says.
“Eating should make you feel energized.” Drinking enough water is also key. According to Mattox, half your weight in pounds equals the number of ounces of water you need daily. “In the evening, beautify a bottle or pitcher of water with citrus or herbs,” she says. “Then you will be ready to hydrate deliciously.” Finally, not all nutrition comes from food: “Enjoy at least 20 minutes outside every day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to uplift mood and enhance vitamin D.” seaisland.com
Many of us have been working from home, likely at the kitchen table (or on the couch) rather than at a proper desk. Dr. Cheri Wood, the wellness director at Hawaii’s Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and director of integrative health for the resort’s employees, stresses how important it is to have a workstation set up to promote good posture and prevent injury.
First step? A good chair. “Find a chair that provides lumbar-back support and make sure your feet can rest flat on the floor or are supported by a stable footrest,” Wood says. “Arms and shoulders should rest by your side and be perpendicular to the floor, with a 90-degree bend in your elbows when using the keyboard. Reaching for your keyboard will create back tension.” It’s also important to have your monitor at the right height: “A monitor that is too low or too high will add unnecessary strain to your upper back and neck.” How do you know the proper height? “Sit straight up in your chair, close your eyes, and gaze straight ahead.
When you open your eyes, your gaze should fall in the mid to upper part of your monitor screen.” Wood also recommends trying a standing desk, which may reduce shoulder and back pain. If you are spending much of your day staring at a screen and notice some eye strain, she suggests using blue light–blocking glasses or blue light–blocking apps such as F.lux. “One study conducted by the University of Houston found that participants wearing blue light–blocking glasses showed about a 58-percent increase in nighttime melatonin levels,” she says, “which helps improve sleep.” fourseasons.com/hualalai