Health & Fitness

By Amy McBean

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Ever taken a Day of Beauty? Remembering them from a friend who took them frequently, I took a cue from him, to dream up a Weekday Wellness Morning. Spas are all well and good, but with a small scheduling effort, a Pilates workout, a quick consult with holistic experts, and cupping treatment can make for a stimulating start to a weekday. See if the suggestions below stir up any thoughts on planning one yourself.

First stop – Some classical moves

Joseph H. Pilates. I’d first heard about him in awe. Balanchine had trained with him. Ballerinas and Bebe Neuwirth swore by his work. The way my movement professor described it, Pilates was practically mythical. I’ve long experienced some of the training myself, but somewhere along the way, it lost its mystique for me.

Until now. Sidestepping roadwork and a Kate Spade film crew, I was glad I gave myself extra time getting to the low 80s on Lexington Avenue. I was about to experience it with and meet someone who teaches it the classical way – Handed down to her from her teacher, who trained under Joseph H. Pilates. Not “inspired by” or some kind of “fusion” of Pilates, but the real deal.

I was starting to feel the magic again.

I was invited for a one-on-one with Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates, an instructor highly sought for private instruction by the likes of Claire Danes and Molly Sims. Also a physical therapist and peri-natal specialist, Ungaro is also grooming the next generation of Pilates teachers: “Joe taught Romana. Romana taught Alycea. Now Alycea will teach you,” their website says. According to classicalpilates.net, Ungaro is one of only 1,400 1st- and 2nd-generation instructors worldwide who’ve trained under Joseph and his wife, Clara Pilates.

And not to dismiss the effectiveness of all workouts that borrow from Pilates, but it was interesting to hear the name may be too liberally borrowed. Ungaro is certain “there’s more of everything else [in the workout market] than there is of classical Pilates . . . The label is routinely used by those with limited or alternative training in Pilates,” she said. “When the Pilates trademark was canceled back in 2000, it meant anyone could use the name.”

Ungaro was 100%-New-York focus. I quickly fell under her spell with trust and concentration, maybe because she had just the right amount of cheer to lure me into a temporary joy of going through the tortures. From the Reformer to the Cadillac to the Wunda Chair – we flew through her calm yet precise explanations and corrections, in a dynamic order of exercises that left me both exhausted and a sucker for more of the real thing.

So for a first weekday-wellness-morning stop, I suggest scheduling a first-thing-in-the-morning class or private instruction of old school Pilates in their Upper East Side studio. You’ll find them at 1226 Lexington Avenue, just above the Lexington Candy Luncheonette.

You can find an array of private and group offerings at any of their three locations in Tribeca, Soho and Upper East Side, Single class rates range from $30 to $50 each, and private sessions start at $110. For more info, call (212) 625-0777, email [email protected], stop by, or go to http://realpilatesnyc.com/.

Next stop – Ask a holistic expert

A 15 minutes’ walk south to Lexington and East 68th is plenty of time to self-gripe about any sun protection I’ve neglected to wear. It just so happens the destination I have in mind is Metro Integrative Pharmacy where you can pop in and speak with a number of different specialists – a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, classical homeopath, herbalist, or esthetician – for advice on sun protection and any other beauty or wellness question you may have.

Two delightful estheticians Caroline Nuytten and Nancy Panneer welcomed me and offered recommendations for skin care during the summer months and the latest products on their shelves.

Overzealous over ingredients and packaging (someone recently called me “Al Gore”) these days, I went straight for the kill. Which brands have reputations of being responsible in that way? Skin care brands with eco-conscious plusses they pointed out include: Dr. Hauschka (have their own garden and are a B Corporation), Goldfaden MD (packaging made with recyclable materials), Intelligent Nutrients (USDA Certified Organic and made with renewable energy), Kahina (certified organic and fair trade), and Trilogy (carbon neutral status certified and non-GMO).

On the what’s-new end for summer, are new sun-care lotions, Panneer shared. Some have multiple new protections to, for example, safely tan, filter out the bad rays, and help to repair sun damage. You can find all of that in one bottle. Esthederm, she said, for instance, has an extensive line of these new formulas. She showed me different potions to even out pigmentation during sun exposure, and which day and anti-wrinkle creams are best for summer.

Also new in skin care for cellular care and restoration, Nuytten said, are face oils: MyChelle, Aroma Active, Trilogy (these three range from $15 to $55) and Goldfaden (around $130) are among the brands they carry, with oils like grape seed, baobab, and Kalahari, and claims of “omega rich,” “nourishing, replenishing and balancing,” and “promoting accelerated cell turnover.”

So to feel a bit spoiled by having a holistic specialist at your side demystifying the products on the pharmacy shelves, come armed with questions for Nuytten, Panneer and their colleagues at 931 Lexington Avenue. Or call (212) 794-7200 or go to https://www.metrointegrative.com for more information about their store and services.

Last stop – Relief on the table

They may have to be coaxed into acupuncture treatments, but my Pilates-worn muscles have never said no to a cupping session and healing herbal soaks. To top off a wellness morning, I’d schedule a stop with Anna Hajosi at her holistic practice in the historic New York City Center building.

The circular red marks some people get after cupping, Hajosi will tell you, are the “expression of internal stagnation and congestion” brought to the skin’s surface. My back’s walked away with tons of the circles so I must do plenty of that kind of expressing. The more stresses and tensions you carry, the more likely any marks will be darker, her site says. Each session is individualized and holistic, so Hajosi may recommend any combination of needles and cupping based on what you communicate about how you’re feeling that day.

She also hand mixes herbal remedies in the Chinese Medicine traditions. Some herbal poultices and soaks she’s given me to try are: Trauma Liniment, with healing herbs such as Da Huang (rhubarb rood and rhizome) – meant to cool, reduce inflammation and pain, and increase blood flow – is intended for new injuries. And Tendon Lotion – with herbs like Cao Wu (prepared wild aconite) meant to warm the area and promote circulation – is for older injuries. I have mixed drops of the herbal liquid with grape seed skin care oil to massage any injured areas, and apply three times a day as her brochure recommends. The solutions are now staples of my holistic first-aid kit.

Hajosi accepts out-of-network insurance, depending on your plan coverage. Initial sessions are $200, then $150 thereafter. And herbal mixes are $25 each. Call (646) 648-1340 for more information or to set up an appointment, and find her practice affiliated with the Manhattan Physio Group at 130 West 56th Street on the 3rd floor and via http://www.annahajosi.com/.

And okay just two more quick stops – A bowl of goodness and arguably the nicest hand wash on the island

Once outside City Center if you have time to linger on one of my favorite Midtown blocks, there are two more hospitable stops to recommend.

One of the city’s best souvlaki menus can be found at Souvlaki GR at 162 West 56th Street on the way to Seventh Avenue – now with windows wide open and embracing the summer days. Peruse this Greek taverna’s daily specials and maybe try something your grandma might approve of – Mine would say you can’t go wrong with avgolemono soup (made with egg, lemon, and chicken) at any time of day.

If you have a few minutes more, find Sabon on the Sixth Avenue side at 1371 6th Avenue for a soothing fountain hand wash. Their cleansing potions and sea salt will wash away the streets, subway, and any remaining stresses you may have.

To check out Souvlaki GR online, find their downtown location, or stalk their food truck, go to https://www.souvlakigr.com/. To find a Sabon store – and you’ll see one of their locations is also a few blocks north of Real Pilates on Lexington Avenue – go to http://www.sabonnyc.com/.

These are just a few suggestions for a weekday wellness morning. If you do take one, you’ll reboot the rest of your day – and week.

Originally published July 2017

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