Napa fit: Mind, body, and spirit

Napa fit: Mind, body, and spirit


The lighting in Pilates Napa Valley is subdued. Outside sunshine blends with the overhead lights, creating a gentle ambiance. And it’s quiet; there is no bass-laden music blasting. Almost empty this mid-morning, just two people are inside. Instructor Nancy Good is teaching newcomer Wendy Biale yoga to relieve chronic back pain. This is Biale’s second class.

“I definitely felt better after my first class,” said Biale, as Good leads her through a series of low-impact stretching exercises. “It’s all a matter of stretching, learning how to control your body and improve muscle control,” Good added.

From yoga to Pilates to spiritual healing, Pilates Napa Valley offers up a wealth of ways for everyone to take better care of their minds, bodies, and spirits.

The scene is 180 degrees opposite and many degrees hotter in an Intense Hot Pilates class at Napa Hot Yoga. The lights are dimmed and the air is sticky because the temperature in the room is 95 degrees. Dance music blares and a digital strobe light splashes spots of color around the room, just like disco balls back in the 1970s. Participants are working up a sweat. This is hot yoga at full throttle.

Classic yoga is a low-intensity workout with mild stretching at room temperature. Hot yoga and hot Pilates are conducted at temperatures ranging from 92 degrees to 105 degrees, hence the title “Hot.” Both are adored by some and controversial to others.

The controversy revolves around questions that ask just what, and what types of extra health benefits are generated in a hot environment? Numerous studies show the health benefits of yoga at normal room temperature. Hot yoga proponents say a high-intensity workout at hot temperatures forces your heart to beat faster so you burn more calories and get a better cardiovascular workout.

Zachary McCloskey sees and feels the merits in hot yoga. He has practiced hot yoga for years and said the heat makes all the difference.

“It helps with balance and stability,” he said. And it contributes to a positive atmosphere. “There is a great sense of community here.”

“You end up spending a very spiritual moment in there for an hour and a half,” said Jonny Karpuk, who is also fan. He enjoys yoga’s philosophical teachings. The moral, ethical and societal guidelines entwined in yoga. “It’s very meditative.”

Once you start practicing hot yoga, said Napa Hot Yoga owner and instructor Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt, “it all adds up. The benefits include flexibility, moving, and meditation. Once you start practicing you see body tone and mind and body come into sync.”

For a gentler, no-impact approach to healing and restoring physical and mental health, there is Reiki (pronounced: RAY’ kee). It is an ancient Japanese method of holistic healing that uses touch to channel energy to balance the body and mind. Advocates say it activates the body’s own natural healing process.

Napa Reiki Master and Sound Healing therapist Darleen Gardner is a certified practitioner and owner of Sound Healing Therapy.

“This is all about balancing your body. It is very, very gentle,” said Gardner as she worked on her patient, Allesandra Tolomei, in her small Napa studio.

Gardner also uses pitchforks in her practice, for their precise sounds. She said vibrations at specific wavelengths increase nitric oxide in areas of the body where there is pain. This is beneficial. Nitric oxide expands blood vessels and increases blood flow. It decreases plaque growth and blood clotting. Gardner said circulation increases in the areas where the pitchforks are placed, and radiates outward, which helps ease pain.

“Reiki is not a laser beam; it will go where it is needed,” Gardner said.

Reiki, Gardner said, also helps balance your body. “Some people have sudden releases where they start to cry or have uncontrollable laughter. But mostly people go into a deep sleep.”

“It’s good for emotional well-being,” added Tolomei during her treatment. “It’s very relaxing, restorative. It helps emotionally. It helps center me.”


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