Levo Oculos Meos In Montes (I lift my eyes to the mountains)

There is something about the endless expanse of these ancient, blue mountains that captures those who visit the Appalachians. It’s the timeless sense of peace, as we overlook a rolling sea of green, that feels reassuring and it’s the majestic peaks and nurturing valleys that make us realize how small we are.

Being in nature feels good. The fresh air, the closeness to the earth and the vastness of nature can ease our stress and anxiety. We have known it for centuries. In fact, the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) has found that simply spending time in a nature can promote general well-being and reduce the risk of stress-related illnesses.

The sights and sounds of the forest, the sunlight filtering through the trees and the crisp, clean air gives us comfort and allows the space we need to think clearly.

Mountain air is also filled with beneficial secondary metabolites called terpenes that are released from the wide variety of plants. Inhaling pine tree terpenes can ease feelings of stress and support the respiratory system, and along with the wide variety of other plants and the compounds they produce, work together to support overall wellness. 

Mountain air gives your lungs the chance to breathe in oxygen that is free of gasses and other pollutants, with the fresh air allowing easier breathing for people with asthma and other chronic illnesses.

A trip to the mountains is an escape. An escape not only from the hustle and bustle of city life, but also an escape from our daily struggles. The mountains show that there are bigger things in life.

Simply spending time outdoors can help you disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. You’d be surprised by just how easy it is to rid yourself of the stress of the day when you take a walk through the mountains.

History & Benefits of Himalayan Salt

“Himalayan Salt” comes from the Punjab region of Pakistan near the base of the Himalayan Mountain Range, where the natural barrier created by the mountains seal the salt crystals off from the contamination of civilization.

After Alexander the Great’s horses discovered the ancient salt deposits as they were traveling through the region, people have used the natural salt to find relief from a variety of ailments from high blood pressure, to obesity and diabetes.

Himalayan salt contains over 84 trace minerals that cause its distinctive pinkish hue, including those believed to aid in good health and vitality. To this day, Himalayan salt is used in cooking, as a form of therapy in heated salt lamps and in salt stone massages which speak to its natural healing abilities.

Some Benefits of Himalayan Salt

  1. Promotes healthy blood sugar
  2. Helps lower blood pressure
  3. Supports a healthy respiratory system and sinuses
  4. Boosts bone health and prevents muscle cramps
  5. Improves circulation
  6. Relieves anxiety
  7. Lightly exfoliates the skin and is highly relaxing
  8. Emits negative ions when heated, delivering a variety of health benefits—from higher mental alertness to protection against germs in the air

During the massage, therapists use warmed Himalayan salt stones to apply pressure, using Swedish massage techniques. Over the course of the treatment, the minerals are absorbed through the skin leaving you with a profound sense of well-being.

Himalayan Salt Stone Massage is part of our new Valentine’s Day package available through February at Shoji.

Balancing Mind, Body and Spirit Wellness

Make your New Year’s resolution a habit you want to keep.

Often, lofty goals and unrealistic expectations stifle progress when we want to see results. Start small – take time for yourself and put your mind at ease by celebrating the small wins.

So, let’s make 2020 the year we take control of our well-being!

In light of recent scientific studies providing evidence of the mind-body connection; taking charge of our mental health should be an integral part of anyone’s 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Maintaining a positive mindset has been proven to lead to improvements in your physical health as well.

“Where the mind goes, the body will follow.”

It’s not hard to see how this is true. Our outlook on life and the world around us will define how we act – how we act will define how we feel and so on. When we have self-destructive negative thoughts and negative internal conflict, it can result in an unhealthy lifestyle. Conversely, when we have a positive mindset, it can help create a healthy lifestyle for us.

A good first step toward maintaining mental health is recognizing the importance of taking time for yourself. Whether that means a quiet walk, a soothing motorcycle ride or embracing nature with a peaceful soak in the woods; the goal is to be in the moment.

Here at Shoji we strive to offer the space and setting to allow people to truly connect with themselves. It’s in this spirit that we are happy to announce our new spa package, KASHIKA (visualization). This package combines the mental and physical aspects of maintaining well-being by starting you off with a fresh cold pressed juice to help purify the body while you soak in your private salt hot tub immersed in the Blue Ridge Mountains; followed by a 60 minute Zen massage and your choice of massage enhancements*, you will complete your spa day with a second organic fresh cold pressed juice for the ultimate revitalization. 

Whatever your New Year’s Resolution is; this year it’s time to put YOU First.

*Warm Oil Scalp Massage or Jade Stone Facial

Furoshiki: The Art of Japanese Fabric Wrapping

According to research from Hallmark, Americans spend approximately $3.2 billion a year on wrapping paper. Nearly all of which is in a landfill by Jan 1st.

There is an alternative.

For those looking for an eco-friendly way to give gifts this holiday season, the simple and elegant art of Furoshiki may be the answer. Literally meaning “bath spread,” the art of Furoshiki was used as early as 710 in Japan and was popular in bathhouses by 1336 as a way to carry bathers’ clothes.

Originally reserved for the wealthy and powerful to distinguish their belongings from one another, it quickly became popular among the public as a way to transport merchandise, carry tools, take as a travel bag, etc. Although furoshiki faded after the invention of luggage, handbags, wrapping paper and other modern technologies that took the place of furoshiki’s historical function; it has gained popularity again as a fashion item.

Today, a furoshiki can be used to wrap gifts, bottles, books, groceries or just about anything. Both eco-friendly and versatile this ancient art fits nicely in a modern context and is ideal for anyone that wants to add a personal touch to a gift. And beyond its usefulness as a gift wrap the furoshiki fabric can be a gift in and of itself.

Take the time to enjoy 1200 years of history through the Japanese Furoshiki wrapping:

https://wellnessmama.com/318001/furoshiki-wrap/

Q&A With Our Shoji Spa Supervisor

  1.  Are you an early bird or night owl?

I used to be a night owl all the way but this year I made it my goal to become an early bird. Now I love it and feel so much more productive and ready for the day when I get an early start. 

2.  Who has influenced you the most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I would have to say my biggest influencer when it comes to how I work would be my first boss Jessie who I met when I worked at the Asheville airport. I was very nervous on my first day and throughout my entire time there she taught and constantly reminded me that it was ok to approach my job with a fun attitude even if it was serious. This has continued to help me see the light in things and be able to approach stressful projects with a better mind set.

 3.  One thing that’s surprised you about working at Shoji?

The one thing that constantly surprises me about working at Shoji is how I find myself looking forward to coming to work. We have such a great team of employees and great relaxing environment we get to be in everyday.

 4.  What is one thing that you are trying to make a habit?

I used to be an avid reader. As I got busier with work and school that hasn’t been something I have kept up with much. I would definitely love to make reading a habit again and I hope I will one day.     

 5.  If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? 

If I could choose any superpower I would choose to be able to speak every language in the world fluently. I am already bi lingual and I love being able to switch back and forth between English and Romainian. It would also make traveling all the more exciting and easy.

 6.  What is your favorite TV show?

My favorite TV show would have to be The Office. That’s a show that I’ve always got playing in the background and never fails to make me laugh.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple

Even though they are thousands of miles away and separated by oceans, the climate and mountains of Kyoto are not so different from the Blue Ridge Mountains we call home. 

 

The temple Otagi Nenbutsi-Ji nestled in the mountains of Kyoto much like Shoji, is well over a thousand years old. Guarded by its collection of 1200 rakan statues depicting the disciples of the Buddha; this peaceful and meditative retreat in the cultural center of Japan was not always so tranquil. 

 

The original temple built in the Higashiyama area in 770 completely washed away in a flood. It was reestablished in the early years of the Heian period (794-1192), only to fall into dilapidated condition again until the only structures left were the main hall, the Jizo hall and the temple gate. 

 

In an effort to preserve what was left, the temple’s remaining structures were reassembled in their current location in 1922 and for a third time the temple was destroyed. It was not until 1955 that the temple’s fortunes changed when Kocho Nishimura was appointed the new head priest. Not only a priest but an accomplished sculptor, he began the long process of renovating the temple.  

 

Teaching visitors how to sculpt in the Japanese tradition, priest Kocho Nishimura and guests created the 1200 “rakan” statues that fill the temple’s grounds. Peaceful and moss covered these statues spill down the mountain, filling the area with their serene presence. 

 

If you are interested in Japanese folklore, its traditions and history, or are looking for a place to retreat to when exploring Japan then the temple Otagi Nenbutsi-Ji is the perfect destination. 

 

A Therapy As Old As Time

Contrast therapy (i.e. hot and cold therapy) has been used as a healing tool for thousands of years and is one of the oldest natural treatment modalities. In essence, this therapy involves alternating between hot and cold temperatures, typically in water like a shower or tub.

The heat allows blood vessels to open up (vasodilation), increasing blood flow to our extremities and causing connective tissue to become more flexible. This promotes a reduction in joint stiffness, pain and muscle spasms. Conversely, cold therapy (vasoconstriction) causes a reduction in blood volume to our extremities and increases blood flow in the core of the body. This cycle of tightening and relaxing effectively acts as a “pump” in the lymphatic system moving stagnant lymph around the body and strengthening the core of our immune system.

The lymphatic system’s main function is to cleanse the body and protect against disease but can easily become stagnant when it is overwhelmed with toxins. This can lead to not only impaired immunity but also fluid retention, chronic pain and swollen glands. Stagnant lymph may also be the root cause of swollen ankles and eyes, arthritis, upper respiratory infections and other chronic illnesses.

Here at Shoji, our guests enjoy the benefits of contrast hydrotherapy with the use of our 180°+ wet cedar sauna and cold showers as a part of our amenities pass or in combination with salt hydrotherapy tub, our private spa pass.

As with any treatment, you should always consult your primary care physician to discuss risk and/or benefits before incorporating contrast therapy into your health regimen.

Q&A w/ Shoji Masseuse: Lucas Stevenson

Meet Lucas Stevenson!

He is one of our world-class massage therapists, offering us another look behind the scenes. We’re excited to share with you his thoughts on his craft, favorite relaxation techniques, and all things Shoji!

Where are you from?

Northeast Kansas

What brought you to Asheville?

Business – I began working a small company here in Asheville back in 2008.

When or why did you decide to get into massage therapy?

Back in 2005. I chose to go into massage therapy as a gateway into Alternative Health, and it became my primary practice.

What do you love most about massage therapy?

I love that people nearly always leave happier and healthier than when they came in, and I love using my knowledge of the human body to accomplish that.

What do you love most about working at Shoji?

Great atmosphere, great staff, great visitors! We get to work with relaxed people and make them even more relaxed.

Can you share with us a time when you helped someone with massage?

My favorite experience was with a young woman, a really talented musician who had severe arm and hand nerve issues. Her mom brought her in a couple of times each week for specific work. It was a group effort – her Physical Therapist, her mother, myself, and most especially her determination and hard work – but she is playing professionally and is now also a conductor. That makes me smile every time I think of it.

What kind of music or sounds do you like to play during massage therapy?

Anything relaxing that helps myself and the client get into the zone. Singing bowls, chanting, New Age music, nature sounds, etc.

Favorite Japanese food?

Sashimi – all of it!!

Q&A – Massage Therapist, Kaleigh Goodford

Meet Kaleigh! 🙂

Kaleigh Goodford is a world-class masseuse who, like the rest of our talented team, make the Shoji Spa experience possible.

We recently had a chance to ask her some questions. Enjoy!

Q:   Where are you from?

A: Upstate New York & Western Pennsylvania

Q:   What brought you to Asheville?

A: Pursuing a massage career (to start my massage career)

Q: When or why did you decide to do massage therapy?

A: I didn’t… it found me.

Q: What do you love most about massage therapy?

A: Being in the Body and connected to our senses. It’s great for anxiety & overthinking.

Q: What do you love most about working at Shoji?

A: Relaxed atmosphere, the clinic is beautiful, it’s a really special place, and the flexibility – I can practice massage the way I want. To really help people.

Q: Can you share a story of how you helped someone with massage therapy?

A: I once had a client with massive discomfort issues in her hip – replacement, bersitis, etc. She could only get around using a cane. After our massages, her pain would disappear, and she could walk without her cane.

Q: Favorite massage oils? Types of massage?

A: For massage oils: olive, safflower, Hinoki (anything w/ grip). My favorite types of massage are Thai, Swedish, & abdominal work.

Q: What kinds of music or sounds do you like to play during the massage?

A: Anything atmospheric, sounds of crystal bowls

Q: Do you have any favorite parts of Japanese culture?

A:   Anime (i.e. Sailor Moon), acupuncture, shiatsu (a type of bodywork), martial arts… I’ve practiced Judo, Kendo, & Jiu Jitsu. And Bushido (code of honor, ideals, and way of life for samurai)

Food-wise: unagi, sashimi / sushi, tomago gohan, & dango dumplings

10 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Day

Time is one of our most valuable resources, but as Steve Miller Band famously wrote, it keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. Whenever you have free time, rather than Netflix, try some of these fun ways to make the most out of your day!

1. Catch the Sunrise

Start off the day by waking up early to watch the sunrise! The countless ‘overlooks’ on the Blue Ridge Parkway are excellent destinations to take in the view of the morning sun emerging from behind the mountains. Getting up early to greet the sun can help you gain more energy and begin the day in a positive light.

2. Practice Meditation

Meditation is a great way to practice self-care during your free time. Sitting still with your eyes closed may seem unnecessary, but this brief repose rejuvenates your mind, body, and soul in a very beneficial way. Focus on your breathing, and try to clear your mind. Think of this like a mental reset button!

3. Get Crafty

Arts & crafts provide enjoyable opportunities to express yourself! Start a watercolor painting, take up pottery, or stylize your favorite clothing. Not only will you be refining your artistic skills and hand-eye-coordination, but you will have a creative outlet for your emotions and experiences. Pinterest is a great tool for finding inspiration for your next craft!

4. Plant a Garden

It’s not too late to start a garden! It is such a wonderful feeling to watch your little babies grow until healthy plants. Gardening connects us with Mother Earth, provides nourishment, and teaches us valuable life lessons. A healthy garden requires hard work, love, and patience, skills that carry into our everyday life. Also, when you grow your own food, you help the planet and your budget!  

5. Nurture Relationships

What good is time if you spend it all by yourself? When we connect with others, we’re able to reflect on ourselves and grow. Take a moment out of your day to reach out to a family member, nurture a friendship, or rekindle an old one. Visit, call, text, or if you really want to surprise someone, write and send them a letter!

6. Get Outdoors

Summer is the perfect time for going out and reconnecting with nature. Surround yourself with nature simply by going out for a walk in the park or a hike in the forest. There is no better way to take in the beautiful summer scenery than to be immersed in the great outdoors. Since daylight hours are longer in the summer, there is plenty of time to do a variety of exciting outdoor activities!

7. Discover New Methods of Healing

The rush of our daily schedules makes it easy to ignore the physical and emotional pressures put on us by life. Take time to relax by discovering new ways to relieve your body from stress or pain. You can spend the summer solstice getting rid of built-up tension with massage therapy or acupuncture. Here at Shoji, we offer a select number of massage options to put both your mind and body at ease.

8. Read a Book

When was the last time you read a book from start to finish? If it has been awhile, let’s change that! Reading is not just entertaining – it improves our vocabulary, lengthens our attention span, and expands our worldview. If you are on the go, pick up a book on tape! You may also have book clubs near you related to some of your favorite topics.

9. Host a Gathering

Invite friends and family to a gathering with a meal full of fresh ingredients from a local farmers market! You can quench your thirst by mixing up some herbal teas and flavored lemonades for everyone to enjoy. Pot lucks are also fun, when each of your guests brings an item to the gathering. Gatherings like these strengthen relationships and remind us of all of the positive things life has to offer.

 

10. Volunteer

Volunteering is a wonderful way to connect with and improve your community. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to your local city government or search on a volunteering opportunity database like VolunteerMatch. Not only does volunteering help your community, but it also improves your mood and sense of wellbeing.

What are some of your favorite ways to make the most out of your day?