Many paths to the whole, well body available on Martha’s Vineyard

Primo Lombardi says we are choking ourselves internally. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Pogo, the comic strip savant, observed 50 years ago that, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

After speaking with a battalion of health care and wellness professionals across the Island who are busily devoted to making us healthier, it occurred to me that I am my own worst wellness enemy. I suspect I am not alone.

Of course, I desire the flexibility I had 20 years ago and euphorically recall leaping over low fences with a single bound, but I am lazy so I tell myself to believe that those days are history.

Not so, Island wellness caretakers say. There are a dizzying array of modalities available, many based on Eastern holistic practices that have worked for centuries and allow adherents to remain…well…healthy.

Here are observations from a a range of wellness professionals on the actions we can take to improve our health, and their thoughts on the challenges and successes inherent in their calling

Primo Lombardi, operator of the Martha’s Vineyard Yoga Center (508-693-7350) in Oak Bluffs, was drawn to the practice because of the shift in his own life that the practice provided.

“We offer classes and private consults. There are seven other teachers working in a variety of styles. I teach that yoga is good for you. If you are in proper alignment and do the exercises, it is therapeutic for the entire person… We are choking ourselves internally, see people come in with rounded shoulders, using 30 per cent of their breathing capacity. We connect people with their breath to open up bone and muscle systems. The work reminds people of what they are doing in their entire life.

“The (yoga) practice as done as much off the mat as on the mat. Our job is to help people help themselves. I liken it to a guard rail. We are great support, but they take the steps. We remind them to tone down that inner critic. This therapy is a ‘work in,’ not just a work out.

“It is a wonderful feeling to watch some one shift, transform. I learn as much from my clients as from anything else.”

Sherry Sidoti teaches FLY yoga classes and trains yoga teachers in Yoga Haven (774-238-0176), the studio she shares with her husband, Robert.

“One of the challenges is you may not understand what you’re really signing up for. You may want to exercise, to feel better. The life you’re living is resonating well for you. Holistic practice works on the premise that mind, body and spirit are interconnected. Traditional western medicine modalities sometimes treats the physical as a separate aspect. I work people through holistic modalities in yoga, involving body, mind. I would say some challenges result from stuff buried deep in us that may be coming out.

“This practice is different from other modalities in that we are exercising, we are not having a conversation. But through exercises and meditation, we are finding what we need to see in our lives and to free ourselves. What ends up happening is practitioners examine their lives. I think we are made tired by being in our own heads all the time. It is exhausting and imperils wellness in other aspects of our lives, including our relationships, for example.

“Yoga finds us where we are. The process can be challenging, leading to self-examination and change.”

Jen Rankow Klein is a licensed massage therapist working from the Integrated Healthcare (508-696-1863) offices in Vineyard Haven and in home visits.

“I offer various modalities of bodywork, including reiki, some neuro-musculature treatment. The work goes deeper than relaxing massage. It’s sometimes challenging to get clients to do regular body work as part of a wellness regimen. Most insurers don’t cover this kind of work so affordability can be an issue and I respect that.

“But it’s hard to see someone come in with an issue that would benefit from regular sessions. The list of health benefits go on and on, including opening client’s eyes to the preventative value, perhaps that they don’t need to take meds all the time.

“Every body receives massage differently and process the activity differently. Success to me is to see people’s skin color and tone improve,for them to feel healthier,with more energy as their whole body is stimulated, recharged. I enjoy seeing people get off the table with a new light in their eyes, watching that transformation is pretty neat.”

Heather Neal is co-owner and trainer at B-Strong (508-693-5997), a fitness center on Kennebec Ave. in Oak Bluffs offering personal training services and a gym for members.

“B-strong works for anyone willing to work hard. Our clients range from teenagers to people in their 90s. We’re seeing a lot of people in their mid-40s who are starting to feel that the things that have worked in past aren’t working now and they need guidance.

“Our challenge is to get people to absorb what we’re teaching so they can do the work on their own. In some cases, such as working on good diet habits at home. We see a lot of bio-mechanical issues -. knee, hip and back issues so we have to be on top of that. A lot of people see that when they change (diet and exercise) patterns, they do better, they don’t need as much medicines.

“Success occurs on a variety of levels. For one person it can be doing those few extras repetitions or lifting more weight than they thought they could lift. Sometimes it’s the ability to pick up a grandchild or go to an event they couldn’t manage before.”