By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Toko Kyudojo @ New York Shambhala Center 118 West 22nd Street 613-0939
Rather than sitting quietly in lotus position to attain inner peace, try meditating samurai style. Every Monday night a pristine room at New York Shambhala Center is converted into an archery range, enabling members of Toko Kyudojo to practice kyudo, a Japanese archery technique that transforms the bow from a weapon of war into a tool of enlightenment.
An atmosphere of reverent concentration envelops the space while participants take turns executing the "seven coordinations," a precise and flowing set of movements that climaxes with the arrow's release, although a true shot is one where the arrow is said to exist in the target before its release.
Laura Trippi, who has practiced Buddhist meditation for 20 years, thinks kyudo's combination of physical and mental is especially potent, particularly when she discharges a piercing yelp along with the arrow. "Kyudo is about opening the heart," she says. "It feels like a balloon filling and ripening before release. You feel a tremendous energy and a certain aggression. Afterwards I feel clearheaded and relaxed."
You don't have to be a warrior to survive in New York City, but it might help. Beginners must first attend a "seven coordinations" workshop. Ann Farmer
Touch And Go
N.Y. Backrubs & Bodyworks 255 West 23rd Street 989-9917. Open Monday through Friday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday noon to 9 p.m. Walk-in back or foot massage from $13.95; reflexology and full body massage by appointment.
In this world of woe, something's always hurting. But who has the time, or plastic, to be pampered as we deserve? N.Y. Backrubs & Bodyworks is changing all that. You can shamble in with no appointment, get a back rub, a foot rub, or both, and leave with a new attitude. NYBB manages to feel restful without pretending to be other than what it is a Chelsea storefront. Classical musical plays softly. There's a couple of chairs for seated massage. During the foot rub, you lie back in a special massaging lounge chair . . . try not to fall asleep. Choose a 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-minute rub, or go for the "combo" (my personal fave), a 20-minute backrub plus a 10-minute footrub. Treat your hardworking hands to a paraffin dip and massage. Heaven! NYBB is the brainchild of licensed massage therapist Christina Patalano, who's added six therapists since she opened the place last July. Do her customers love it? Are you kidding? "Feels great! Felt horrible before . . . too much sitting . . . my shoulder . . ." mumbled a young woman, leaving with a huge smile on her face. My sentiments exactly. Mary Chaffee
Mustard with Relish
Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath $8.50 per eight-ounce cylinder at Whole Foods, 117 Prince Street, 982-1000. The entire product line can be ordered toll-free from Natural Therapeutics Centre: 800-856-2862, www.drsingha.com
Like adding interesting stuff to your bathwater? Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath ("Soothing . . . Purifying . . . Relaxing") may be just the ticket. He's combined powdered mustard seed with essential oils of wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary, and thyme. Two ounces dissolve nicely in a tub of hot water; for a footbath, it's one tablespoon to a feet-sized bowl. Notice a pleasant tingle as you lower your fatigued, insomniac, or overworked bod into the pleasant-smelling waters. Recommended time of immersion is 20 minutes. About halfway there, you'll realize you're feeling both relaxed and clear. Sinuses will open, too. Follow your soak with an icy shower if you dare. Coward that I am, mine was tepid. Still, a friend said I looked "radiant" afterward. Dr. Shyam Singha, a London-based holistic practitioner, has also written The Secrets of Natural Health, a quirky, encyclopedic book about treating diseases with exercise, psychological techniques, Ayurveda, and everyday foods. Based on what he's done with mustard, this is one book I'm looking forward to devouring. M.C.
Body Over Mind
Kathy Yates 989-8668 http://www.feldenkrais.com
If you spend your days hunched over a computer, force yourself through repetitive and stressful exercises at the gym, and wonder why your body aches, forget "no pain, no gain." Make an appointment for a Feldenkrais session.
"What I'm after is to restore each person to their own human dignity," said Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli scientist who created the method by applying his engineering knowledge to the human body. Pupils (never "patients") perform subtle movements, reprogramming their bodies to function with maximum efficiency, minimum stress, a bit like fine-tuning a computer.
My stiff hip joints were the focus of a private session of "functional integration" with Feldenkrais practitioner Kathy Yates. As I lay on a padded table, she gently manipulated my joints. It was difficult not to assist her, but gradually I let go of the control freak within, allowing gravity to take over. Afterwards my hip joints felt much freer.
The group classes, called "aware-ness through movement," identify "unhelpful" choices, proposing less stressful alternatives. The movements are so imperceptible, they almost seem pointless. But the evidence speaks for itself. Cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis patients have experienced wonderful results with Feldenkrais, and so can you. Jill Black
Walking On Air
Angel Feet Reflexology 77 Perry Street 924-3576
"New York is a walking city, so we have to take good care of our feet," stresses Barbara Morrison of the Angel Feet reflexology parlor. After months of treading concrete sidewalks, mine need to to be restored to their natural glory. I try wearing a pair of shiatsu acupressure insoles in my shoes for a week. This product claims to "make up for lack of exercise" by stimulating pressure points. Early man walked through forests without shoes, procuring a natural massage, but New Yorkers can hardly roam barefoot through Central Park. At first I enjoy the insoles' tingly sensation; the little bumps and magnets feel like pebbly sand, but soon my feet are just painful and itchy! Time for a visit to Angel Feet.
This small haven in the West Village has been soothing painful soles for more than four years. In a cozy room, reflexologists speak in hushed voices. Angel figurines adorn the walls and tranquil music plays. For one hour Kim McLeveighn rubs, kneads, and strokes my feet; it's heavenly. I may abuse my feet daily, but at least I can reward them with a little love. J.B.
Don't let postnatal depression turn you into a blubbering mess. Serve up your baby's placenta for dinner! Chock full of minerals and nutrients, particularly B6 (a depression-fighting vitamin), your baby's placenta is a healthy and delicious way to combat motherhood blues. Most popular seasoned and baked or fried with shallots and garlic, the placenta can also be flambéed, or even pureed with spices and spread over focaccia. (Some connoisseurs claim it's best enjoyed dehydrated, crushed, and made into soup, or simply sprinkled over your favorite meal for added zest.)
Fashionable in the 1970s among hippie "earth mothers," cooked placenta has garnered more attention since it was featured on a popular British cooking program last year. While shy mothers admit to quietly enjoying their placenta privately, it's believed that the trend of "placenta parties" will pick up again, allowing family and friends to share in the experience. What better way to get in touch with your inner child? For more information and yummy recipes, check out www.training.netgates.co.uk/mothers35/placpg2.htm. Karen Mahabir
1 3-lb. placenta (no more than 3 days old)
1 green or red pepper (green will add color)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1 tsp. bay leaves
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. white pepper
1 clove garlic (roasted and minced)
1. Chop the onion and the pepper and crush the saltines into crumbs.
2. Combine the placenta, onion, pepper, saltines, bay leaves, white and black pepper, garlic and tomato sauce.
3. Place in a loaf pan, cover, then bake for one and a half hours, occasionally pouring off excess liquid.