Body Check

Vitamin Pee

Urine is a natural remedy, so raise a glass! That's what alternative therapist Martin Lara wants everyone to do. In his Uropathy: The Most Powerful Holistic Therapy, pee's the ultimate cure-all.

Gagging aside, it's not so unconventional: former Indian prime minister Morarji Desai guzzled ounces each morning, observing an ancient Hindu practice. Lara learned about it 11 years ago, when the self-taught therapist— he's never studied traditional medicine— became disenchanted with science's inability to cure his ailments. Since then he's lectured to thousands.

Not any pee will do— it must be your own, which Lara says is a nontoxic biofeedback stimulator that boosts immunity by activating the lymphatic system, thus restoring the body to an internally balanced state of health.

Dosages range from a few drops of Lara's "Ultimate Universal Remedy"— an elixir of water, urine, and white rum— to several ounces for serious conditions like cancer, dysentery, or Alzheimer's.

Of course, not everyone is ready for this leap of faith. On his Web site (www.erols.com/martinlara) Lara argues against obsessing over taste and smell: "Urine is a sample of what is flowing through your veins and repulsive urine should be a motivation to improve the internal conditions, rather than an excuse for not using uropathy." — Ernie Glam

Lara's self-published Uropathy: The Most Powerful Holistic Therapy is available at East West Books, 78 Fifth Avenue, 243-5994.


Slather Up

Say the word "spa" and you might conjure up images of being slathered with exotic muds and fragrant potions, having your muscles squeezed into submission by some buff hunk of a massage therapist, and luxuriously sweating out the city's grime in fragrant steam baths. But keep going— underneath all those images of bliss, is there not just a teensy bit of apprehension, especially if you've never actually been to a spa? Do you really want to be naked and muddy in a big room full of perfect strangers? Don't the tile-and-glass caverns you've seen in magazines look just a little— well, cold?

Fear not: Dawn Burrowes of Body Essentials Day Spa and Ayurvedic Center has the antidote for spa anxiety, tucked away on unlikely-but-convenient West 36th Street. The waiting area evokes your favorite aunt's cozy upstairs den— complete with beanbag chairs and real cookies (not those fat-free aberrations), and the treatment rooms and shower are completely private. Elizabeth Arden's Red Door it ain't, but I like it better. Add certified Ayurvedic practitioners (Ayurveda is the 5000-year-old traditional health and medicinal practice of India, pretty much the granddaddy of holistic health sciences) offering consultations, guidance, and treatment, and you've got Body Essentials. After years as an aesthetician at Manhattan's famed Peninsula Spa, Burrowes, who is Caribbean American, also wanted to create a place where the skin-care needs of women of color (often different from those of Caucasians) would be addressed. In hiring an aesthetician from Tibet and applying her own expertise, she's done just that. Body Essentials offers various package deals encompassing massage, an assortment of facials, scrubs, and body wraps, Ayurvedic services, and even detoxification therapy, all also available à la carte. An hour under the magic hands of massage therapist Eagle was the epitome of bliss, and after an intriguing, in-depth Ayurvedic consultation with Dr. Patel, who generated a detailed dietary plan and prescribed herbs for what ails me, I'm hooked.

— Holly Mcwhorter

Body Essentials Day Spa and Ayurvedic Center, 11 West 36th Street, fourth floor, 465-2220


Fusion Stretch

"Up dog! Down dog!" Canine commands, right? No, terms for two of the many positions included in a new cross-training technique, Yogilates. A hybrid of hatha yoga and the Joseph Pilates technique, Jonathan Urla's blend has quickly gained a reputation as an ultimate mind/body/spirit exercise. Originally geared toward dancers aiming to improve performance and prevent injury, classes now cater to ballerinas and clumsy pedestrians alike. Enthusiasts boast tremendous improvements in posture, muscle tone, flexibility, and mental alertness.

Creator Urla— with his chiseled, statuesque physique, soothing voice, and attentive, instructive manner— provides persuasive evidence. "The beauty of these classes is that students of all levels will benefit. Combining the two methods allows beginning students to progress much faster and to accomplish goals more fully than when using one method alone." He mixes hatha yoga with Pilates because he finds the practice of Pilates alone too restrictive and overly pedantic. The addition of yoga reduces rigidity and helps to connect movements with breath. Conversely, Pilates helps to attain the strength and alignment that yoga neglects.

A typical class begins with simple exercises that deepen and lengthen the breath. Floor exercises revolve around the concept of a "pelvic clock," which helps to relax clenched muscles and strengthen inner abdominals.

Linking subtle movements to specific breathing techniques assists in reducing stress, gaining control, improving flexibility, and increasing full body awareness. Urla insists, "After establishing strength in the abdomen and pelvis, overall body strength and perfect alignment will come naturally." I'm still working on the dog commands.

Jessica Guarnaschelli

Yogilates 72nd Street Studios, 131 West 72nd Street, 996-7088, Saturday 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Synergy Health Club, 1438 Third Avenue, 996-7088, Wednesday at 7 a.m., $15 per class; World Gym, 1926 Broadway, 874-0942, Saturday at 4 p.m.


Floor Barre

Patrick Swayze, Tommy Tune, and Lar Lubovitch are just a few of the illustrious bodies anatomy guru Zena Rommett has molded and healed over the past 40 years. Considered a modest but magical force in dance rehabilitation, Rommett has aided dancers, figure skaters, and other athletes from all over the world. Eager to return to dance after stress fractures and other chronic injuries, I sought out the legendary healer. Unable to fit her classes into my work schedule, I began by using her video.

Analogous to a ballet barre, a Rommett class follows a logical progression, focusing on one muscle group at a time. All exercises are executed without the pressure of gravity, while lying or sitting on the floor. The class demands control and awareness of alignment. In the video, Rommett outlines the movements clearly and correctly. But it doesn't re-create the rigor of a live class.

At STEPS, instructor Lonne Moretton showers his students with corrections. He asks if I have taken the Rommett floor-barre before and places me in the middle of the room so I'm under his constant surveillance. He resets each student and monitors our every transition. Although the class is anaerobic, I was fatigued after 20 minutes and drenched after 60. Subtle adjustments to the spine and torso allow for an immediate and delightful payoff. Post floor-barre, Moretton gives standing combinations during which I discover a newfound awareness, freedom, and placement. Despite initial shakes and cramps, I find the antigravity approach, within the class setting, most effective in conditioning weak muscles and making a smooth segue back to the real thing— dancing upright. — J.G.

Zena Rommett Floor-Barre Technique® classes: Abizaid Arts of Soho, 107 Grand Street, 941-8480, Monday through Thursday at 10 a.m. with Rommett herself; STEPS, 2121 Broadway at 74th Street, 874-2410, Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.; Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 10 a.m.; Sunday at 11 a.m.; Ballet Arts, 130 West 56th Street, 582-3350, Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m.; Dance Space, 622 Broadway near Houston Street, 777-8067, Monday though Friday at noon, Sunday at 2 p.m.

Video Classes: The first, 51-minute video, produced in 1991, captures Zena giving a Floor-Barre class, demonstrated by dancer Melinda Jackson. Video II, 71 minutes long, consists of an introduction by Broadway showman Tommy Tune, Floor-Barre, and center work. Both videos are great for maintaining strength or returning from an injury. $53 each including tax and shipping, or as a set for $83. Send check or money order payable to Zena Rommett Dance Association, Ltd., 44 Downing Street, New York, NY 10014. 633-0352.


Fitting In Fitness

"Urban Circuit" is a cross between boot camp and the Mad Hatter's tea party. Its novel design gives you your heart's desire: aerobic, strength training, agility, balance, and flexibility exercises with personal trainers, for 12 bucks. And here's how convenient it is: you can show up any time it's open and literally jump right in.

After warming up, I entered the crimson-lit workout room, where muscles were pulsing to the raucous vocals of Martha Wash. My trainer, Rachel Maki, explained the drill. There are 12 stations in the circuit. You spend one minute at each. Then, whooooie! A whistle blows and you sprint on to the next station. Trainers stay with you station-to-station if you want, or let you do your own thing.

"No 'girl' push-ups," Rachel scolded, when I attempted to use my knees for support. Whooooie! Onward to squats, shoulder press, jump rope and other specialized stops. During the 15 minutes it took to complete one circuit, every muscle group in my body had been worked. Most people go around at least twice. Exercise procrastinators, take note— this low-cost, flexible workout leaves you with no excuses. — Mary Chaffee

Revolution Studio, 104 West 14th Street, 206-8785. Studio open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Urban Circuit": Wednesday and Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Feed Your Face

Carol Young, a gourmet cook and an energetic redhead "of a certain age," has whipped up a line of skin-care products with ingredients that make my mouth water: almond, avocado, oatmeal, cocoa butter. We're sitting, appropriately enough, in her dining room. My face is dry and the wrinkles are starting to fight the zits for turf. Aaargh! Carol, on the other hand, is absolutely glowing and wrinkle-free— the best advertisement for her products.

Allergies? Age? Hormones? Sex? It seems as if everything affects the skin. Our consultation starts with a detailed questionnaire covering lifestyle and health. Thus armed, Carol looks at my skin and teaches me how to make it all better. I walk away with moisturizer, cleanser, and beauty mask, for a total of $55.50. Note to those who have sensitive skin (and who doesn't?): these products are additive-free, and very, very hypoallergenic. This means almost everything must be kept refrigerated— a minor inconvenience.

After three weeks, my skin feels softer, more like the skin of Carol's celebrity clients, or so I imagine. Try some, I urge a vegetarian friend— if you don't like the way it feels, you can always have it for breakfast. — M.C.

Carol Young Skin Care Products Ltd., 200 East 16 Street, 677-3915. Hours by appointment: $50 consultation fee waived with $50 purchase


You Are What You Eat

If taking home healthy but tasty food is your thing, East Mountain is your place. At its food and juice bar you can order a carrot and celery juice along with a plastic container to fill: choose from nutritious and delicious tofu spinach, veggie protein balls (the heath-nut version of a meatball), organic-tofu lasagna, and much more. The food bar also serves various types of wholesome soups (usually at least three types daily), and there are always two organic rice dishes. The place is spotless; the service is friendly and impeccable. Start your new health regimen and lose that paunch. — Christina Chu

East Mountain, 116 Second Avenue at 7th Street, 353-1452. Monday through Saturday from 11 to 11, Sunday from 11 to 9.


Home Work

Jae Gruenke wants to be a dancer, but she also wants to pay the rent. In the years since her graduation from Williams she's worked as a bartender, done marketing recruitment, and assisted in a sleep research laboratory, but what she likes best, besides the stage, is training people to be more comfortable in their bodies. If that means making them lift weights, so be it. But it may be enough to teach a series of exercises that keep all their joints in motion, all their muscles worked.

She appears at my door just after dawn, and plucks a small book from my shelf. Holding the book as if it were a trayful of glasses, imitating a cocktail waitress in a crowded bar, she shows me a spiraling figure-eight pattern that takes my shoulder, elbow, and wrist through their full range of motion. Then it's on to bends and stretches, on my feet, on my back, on my stomach. She finishes our hour by massaging the parts of me that hurt the most. It's all very subtle, and sometimes I wish I'd sweat more, but I know this: when we started working together, about a year ago, the tendons in my arms were perpetually achy and my knees hurt. Now I feel great.

Elizabeth Zimmer

Jae Gruenke, by appointment, 917-603-6944


Potato Pill

At 3:45 in the afternoon I start slowing down, making mistakes, getting sleepy. My hand strays toward the candy jar; some chocolate will be just the thing to wake me up and carry me through until dinner.

Well, no. According to Kathleen DesMaisons, a specialist in "addictive nutrition," as a sugar-sensitive person (a/k/a chocoholic) I should be reaching for a baked potato. Her Potatoes Not Prozac suggests keeping a detailed food diary to chart the way my nutritional habits are messing with my mind, and gives a raft of suggestions on how to change those habits (among them is to add "green things" and "brown things" other than chocolate to my diet— like potatoes with skin, oatmeal, brown rice, and lentils). The book is full of convincing scientific explanations, charts on how to kick caffeine and nicotine, and the usual complement of case histories with which I can identify, as well as a great bibliography and an index. Now, if only I had the time to actually follow her acute instructions . . . — E.Z.

Potatoes Not Prozac, by Kathleen DesMaisons (Simon & Schuster, 1988, 252 pp., $23)
image Buy this book


Diet, Diet, My Darling

Whether you pinch your tummy with calipers to gauge skin-fold thickness, submerge your carcass in a tub of water to measure volume, or spend hours with a calculator figuring out your body mass index, the news is almost always the same: you could stand to lose a few pounds. Instead of racing to the gym or the nearest OA meeting, why not bed down with a diet book and a bag of chips? The exhaustive Dieting for Dummies, in which the popular "For Dummies" format is lent to the world's oldest obsession, is a good basic handbook for diet novices, if such people exist.

Though the For Dummies conceit sometimes fits like a lumpy girdle (the cute icons that are actually helpful in the computer world fall flat when they highlight bulletins like: "Too much food is not the only cause of obesity; lack of exercise is also part of the formula"), at other times the tag line is apt. The book artfully debunks the latest fringe theories: nutty notions of food-combining, cabbage soup imbibing, etc.; and it isn't shy about skewering more respectable targets, including Dr. Atkins and The Zone.

Some of the book's life-affirming cant wouldn't pass muster with even the least cynical reader: "Give yourself credit for the physical attributes you do like, such as . . . a pretty belly button . . . " Still, Dieting for Dummies doesn't go all soft and mushy when you want it to: instead of telling you that swallowing spirulina capsules or tailoring your eating to your blood type will melt those pounds away, it insists on the same old veggie-heavy, high-exercise, low-calorie regimen even the dumbest dummiy suspected was the answer all along.

Lynn Yaeger

Dieting for Dummies, by Jane Kirby, R.D. (IDG Books Worldwide, 1998, 360 pp. $19.99)
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One of nine articles in our Mind/ Body/ Spirit Supplement.

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