A Season of Wellness


By Emily J Weitz


The Urban Zen Summer Wellness series kicked off last weekend with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman discussing the healing powers of yoga. Urban Zen, an organization founded by Donna Karan, has a mission that includes Preserving Cultures, Empowering Children, and Wellness. It is the third of these initiatives that will be the focus of the current series.

Urban Zen Wellness takes a holistic view, incorporating five basic healing modalities into the concept of integrative therapy. Urban Zen Integrative Therapists (UZIT) draw from the wisdom of yoga, essential oils, nutrition, reiki and contemplative care to assist people in times of trouble and to empower them in everyday life. The program works with Southampton Hospital and has also sent several groups of UZIT therapists to work in hospitals in Haiti.

This summer, Urban Zen is sponsoring a lecture series devoted to getting this wisdom out to the community, free of charge.

“This lecture series helps to communicate to the consumer that Urban Zen is more than a retail store,” says Kevin Salyers, vice president of retail with the Urban Zen Foundation. “It shows what Urban Zen is as a foundation.”

The Urban Zen store, nestled at the foot of Sag Harbor on Bay Street, is filled with gorgeous clothes, jewelry, and furniture. But the idea is that the retail supports a much bigger cause.

“We’re connecting the dots between philanthropy and commerce,” says Salyers. “As retailers, we are all looking for unique ways to connect to our customers, and this location gives us a platform. This series is designed to get people into the shop, to let them know that by shopping at Urban Zen, you’re supporting programs like this.”

This Saturday, July 21, Jared Koch, founder of www.cleanplates.com, will lead a 2-hour discussion on eating healthy while dining out. Koch, who studied pre-med at the University of Michigan before choosing a path devoted more specifically to nutrition and integrative wellness, will share his five precepts for eating healthier.

“Eating healthier does not have to be challenging,” says Koch. “In fact, it can be an easy, pleasurable, and sacrifice-free adventure.”

After the conversation, Koch already suggested some of the healthiest Clean Plate establishments in town for those who have worked up an appetite. Two of his recommendations? Estia’s and South Fork Kitchen.

On Saturday, July 28, another of Urban Zen’s healing modalities will be discussed. Pamela Miles is a Reiki Master who has been practicing this method of hands-on healing for 25 years.

“Reiki doesn’t address symptoms or conditions directly,” says Miles. “Rather, it balances your symptoms and engages your body’s own self-healing so you are better able to address whatever stresses come into your life.”

Miles has practiced Reiki on people at every level of health and at all ages, from brand-new babies to people undergoing open-heart surgery. She encourages people to seek out the medical assistance they need, and offers Reiki as a way to balance the side effects and enhance the benefits.

“No matter what medical assistance you are receiving,” says Miles, “you can safely use Reiki at the same time.”

On Saturday, August 4, Lauren Zander will lead a discussion on life coaching, a career that she has in many ways pioneered. Zander is the co-founder and chairperson of the Handel Group, a corporate consulting and private coaching company that guides some of the most high-powered people and organizations through their most vulnerable times. Zander is in her fifth year teaching a popular class called “Designing Your Life” at MIT and is beginning a course at Stanford School of Business this year.

In her blog for the Huffington Post, Zander has written on subjects ranging from lying to pursuing your dreams to confronting your dark side. She believes that it is through first confronting and then inspiring that people can move forward.

On Saturday, August 11, Brad Thompson will lead a conversation on Essential Oils and their practical application in every day life. He plans to give a brief history of the oils and to talk about some of the uses today.

“There are two schools of aromatherapy in the United States,” says Thompson, “and we’ll discuss the differences. The first is the English and the second is the French. The English school tends to dilute everything, to use chemical extractions, and to rub or inhale. The French school uses all pathways by including ingestion, direct application, and inhalation of the oils.”

After he explains the ancient history of essential oils and how they came to be a part of American culture, he will get people smelling the oils.

“I’ll just see what oils pop out in my mind and then have the individual smell that,” says Thompson. “If they like it, then they’ll use it.”

As we move further into August, the series will continue with Dr. Frank Lipman (August 18), whose Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City has helped people move towards integrative wellness for 20 years. Lipman believes in sustainable wellness as opposed to quick fixes, and combines western medicine with healing modalities like acupuncture, nutrition, herbs and bodywork.

On August 25, Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, who is on the nutrition faculty at Kripalu Center, will discuss her practice of working to prevent illness and restore health through personalized nutrition therapy and culinary guidance.

On September 1, Ragan Finalborgo, Wellness Coordinator at Southampton Hospital, will discuss the services currently available, including healing practices administered by Urban Zen Integrative Therapists, through the Wellness Institute at the Hospital.

All discussions are on Saturdays from 11 to 1 at Urban Zen in Sag Harbor, and they are all offered to the community free of charge.