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Holistic for the holidays

Giving the gift of wellness

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The holidays are a stressful time, and this stress can take its toll on mind, body, and soul. We live in a world where we bombard our bodies with electrical signals, sit all day in uncomfortable positions, and go entire days without interacting with the earth's natural settings. Gift giving can only add to that anxiety. The whole process involves as much stressful guesswork as it is does kindhearted benevolence. This holiday season you should stop and consider giving yourself (or, sure, someone else) something of real value: the gift of wellness.

Alternative, holistic practices have become increasingly popular across the country. This development has been paralleled by an increasing awareness that health isn't merely about causes and symptoms, but encompasses a much broader spectrum and involves a balance between mind, body, and soul. Locally, businesses in Rochester cater precisely to this holistic approach, many of which are offering specials this holiday season. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few places to get started. If you have other favorite holistic places locally, be sure to tell us about them in the comments of the article, below.

One alternative health center is The Healing Haven (1501 East Ave., healinghavenmassage.com). Now in its seventh year of operation, the Healing Haven offers services including massage, energy healing, and aromatherapy. Owner and practitioner Michelle Cunningham has also helped bring two treatments to Rochester: the Ashiatsu and Tian Di massage techniques. Thought you knew about deep-tissue massage? Try having a skilled Ashiatsu practitioner walk on your back and use his/her feet and body weight to provide deep, penetrating massage. In Tian Di, practitioners use a combination of bamboo rods and cups to massage the muscles and draw toxins out of the skin. If you spend the holidays sleeping on your in-laws' lumpy pull out, these massage techniques are the perfect remedy to get you back in sync.

Travel a bit further down East Avenue and you'll find Energy on East (320 East Ave.,energyoneast320.weebly.com). Energy on East is a co-op that combines many different healing practices including massage, energy healing, yoga, and tarot readings. Owner Leslie Sladden seeks to bring together these various practices under one roof and create a place dedicated to providing good energy. You can get some reiki energy work done, attend a meditative drum circle, or take belly dancing lessons. Energy on East has some specials coming up this holiday season including gift certificates and half price discounts on healing services.

Looking for something a little more spiritual? Then head over to Psychic's Thyme (1460 Lyell Ave., psychicsthyme.com). Owned and operated by Charlene Hacker, the store is a unique hybrid between a retail store and a healing practice. "Nobody that works at Psychic's Thyme is simply a salesperson," Hacker says. "Everyone is either a healer or an intuitive and all of our staff are passionate about healing."

The store offers healing sessions, tarot and palm readings, as well as energy work, but specializes in the use of crystals. These crystals are intended to draw out negative energies and restore your sprit's aura to a cooler, more calm state. Psychic's Thyme offers gift certificates, layaway for the holidays, and deals on specialty healing products like reiki charged candles.

If you're looking for a more active way to relieve the stress of the holidays then stop by one of Rochester's hot-yoga studios, Bikram Yoga Rochester (1 Grove St. #101, Pittsford, bikramrochester.com). Owned by Aaron Fleishman, the studio adheres to the Bikram model developed by Yogi Bikram Choudhury during the early 70's, with the temperature set to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 40 percent. The ideology behind this hot-yoga approach is to keep your body limber while going through postures and to ensure that your body sweats out toxins. "Your body is like a piece of gold," Fleishman says. "You gotta heat it up if you want to make changes".

If you throw your back out putting up those Christmas lights or if you just need some basic wellness, relaxation, or help sleeping, then head over to Rochester Community Acupuncture (302 N. Goodman St., rochestercommunityacupuncture.com). The practice is part of a co-op that prides itself on affordability and uses a sliding-scale pay system to ensure you pay only what you can afford. The ideology being that by keeping costs low people will be encouraged to come back for regular sessions. As co-owner and practioner Angela Pauling says, "with acupuncture, consistency is key."

The acupuncture itself works by using thin, sterile needles to tap into the natural energy meridians in your body and in so doing correct any imbalances. However, there is no pain and Pauling assures acupuncture is "a really safe and effective way to get your body to do what it's supposed to do." Rochester Community Acupuncture offers gift certificates as well as a promotion, in which you get a free session for every 10 sessions. Also during the month of December, there is a special $10 flat rate for first responders (police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, etc.).

ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN MAGNUS CHAMPLIN

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