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3 Wellness Gurus Share Their Wellness Secrets

Abby Bielagus | July 3, 2020 | Style & Beauty Feature Features

Boston's wellness experts share their secrets for staying sane and healthy, especially in these trying times.

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Christina Dea

The owner of Back Bay Acupuncture believes that to mend the body, you need to soothe the mind.

This past November, Christina Dea had a revelation. She realized that to be successful at meditation, she would have to think about it like she thought about brushing her teeth: a thing you do no matter what. Nowadays it feels more important than ever, and as soon as her alarm goes off around 7:30AM, she immediately sets two 10-minute timers, one for stretching and one for meditating, and repeats the same process before going to bed at night. “Once it becomes a habit, you incorporate it into your life,” says Dea. After she’s quieted her mind, she’ll either take a CorePower Yoga class or go for a walk around Fresh Pond. Breakfast is typically eggs, sometimes with roasted sweet potatoes or salad. She often skips lunch but keeps her energy up by snacking throughout the day on oatmeal, fruit and dark chocolate. She carves out time in her day to read from a Boston Public Library book. Although she occasionally eats fish, Dea’s dinner usually consists of beans, grains and vegetables. Once a week, she volunteers with her community learning center, helping people draft résumés and look for jobs. “I really wanted to do something that would be of use and be a part of something larger,” she says.

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“I usually use herbs for women’s health issues, anxiety, stress and insomnia.” Nam Bac Hong, 75 Harrison St.

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“I sometimes go to yoga class in the morning or walk around the pond.” CorePower Yoga, 399 Boylston St., corepoweryoga.com

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“I’m mostly vegetarian... I love the cauliflower-feta fritters with pomegranate from Smitten Kitchen.” smittenkitchen.com

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Renvil Doman

The owner of Reps Fitness Studio helps his clients build more than muscles.

All it took was a friendly stranger at a gym telling Renvil Doman he would make an excellent trainer, and the wheels were put in motion for the civil engineer and former college athlete to change careers and dramatically alter his life. He quickly became one of the most sought-after trainers at a high-end gym and, soon afterward, the owner of three fitness studios in the city. In between managing the business, teaching spin classes and meeting with clients, some who have been with him for close to 15 years, Doman still finds the time to maintain his own physique. He counts a good night of eight hours of sleep as the key to feeling healthy and is in bed by 10 and up at 6. The first thing he does when he wakes up is drink water—never coffee—and throughout the day will consume no fewer than 16 cups. Breakfast is oatmeal with almond or coconut milk, typically followed by two mangoes. To strengthen his immune system, he’ll drink orange juice or echinacea tea. Lunch is always something he’s made at home, which is usually heavy on the carbs and void of meat to adhere to his pescatarian diet. Some days he refills with pasta and beans, other days a vegetable soup; he always mixes it up to keep things interesting. And to recharge, there is always an afternoon nap. After work, Doman stops by Whole Foods to get ingredients for a fresh and tasty dinner, which could be a fish dish or a stir-fry. And to unwind before bed, he watches the Golf Channel or reads articles about the fitness industry. Doman hardly ever takes a day off, but he always makes sure to fit time for himself into his busy schedule. “I used to get so caught up in helping other people with their own well-being that I put myself on the back burner and it really began to wear on me. I schedule time to work out now.”

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“Golf is a great sport and easy to watch. It’s very time-consuming, so I’m not one to just go to the course, but I do when I get the chance.”

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“I’m from Jamaica, so I love mangoes.” Whole Foods Market, 348 Harrison Ave.

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“I’ll have my echinacea tea, and then I’ll eat my food.”

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Brenna Matthews

The yoga teacher and doula's practice gives her the tools to impactfully show up in the world.

Brenna Matthews gave birth to a baby girl, Thea, this past summer. “It was crazy. So much went really off the rails. I learned how the birth process is amazing, and it’s life, and you can’t plan for it. But you can plan for how you’re going to respond,” she says. The experience has influenced her work as a doula and how she approaches every day. “My pre-baby routine was enviable. Now, the baby is so little and needy of me,” she says. Depending on how Thea sleeps the night before, Matthews typically wakes up between 6:30 and 7AM and breastfeeds. After playtime comes outside time, which is either a walk around the neighborhood or a hike in the Blue Hills Reservation. During Thea’s nap, Matthews checks emails and tidies up but doesn’t have a ton of time for herself until her husband, Ian, finishes work and can help out. She uses her alone time for yoga, followed by pranayama and meditation. The entire family usually heads outside once more before cooking dinner and beginning the long nighttime ritual of bath time and reading, which is soothing not just for the baby but also for the parents. The couple spends some time together after Thea is asleep, and Matthews does yoga nidra, or deep relaxation, before going to bed. Although this routine can look very different when she has to teach classes, Matthews always tries to find time in the day for herself to practice and meditate. “We try to take time for ourselves,” she says, “but also have time together and engage in activities that are grounding for everybody.”

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“While we’re breastfeeding, I try to use that time first thing in the morning to be really present with her and also do a bit of deep breathing.”

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“When I was first introduced to yoga, the lifestyle was so different, and the pace of life was healing to me.”

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“The hiking and the walking, those are big for [my daughter]. Before and after social distancing, we’ll go together—my sister has two kids—to go see other moms and babies to not feel isolated.”

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Erin Baumgartner

The co-founder of Family Dinner delivers joy through farm-fresh food.

Like any good business plan, it began with a good idea and friends who were willing to be test subjects. “We started with this idea of delivering local farmers markets directly to people’s doorsteps with added technology to cut down on food waste,” says Erin Baumgartner, co-founder of Family Dinner. “We said to our friends, ‘Would it be cool if we brought you groceries every week?’” The somewhat disorganized process involved texting and PayPal with Baumgartner and her husband, co-founder Tim Fu, while they were both still working full-time jobs. Today, the business has a commercial kitchen in Somerville, an online ordering system and so many willing joiners that there is a waitlist. Although Baumgartner has since been able to leave her other job to run her company, she still works six days per week, though a recent move to a rural suburb has introduced a slower pace. Every morning, she enjoys a cup of Tandem Coffee from Portland, Maine, and watches the deer that regularly stroll right outside her door. Then she takes 15 minutes to read a book. Not a breakfast person, she might have a banana, but she always cooks her dog, Frank, one scrambled egg. Midday, she craves fat and salt and will satisfy that with some cheese before an actual meal, which is usually a creative take on leftovers. Afternoon snacks typically consist of KIND bars, Vermont beef jerky and other items that are easy to eat in her truck while she visits farms. A CrossFit fan, Baumgartner works out six days a week, occasionally at her old gym in Somerville, though she now has the luxury of a home gym. She loves to cook and host dinner parties, which is partly where the idea for her business came from. Dinner at her household continues to be an affair, even if it’s just herself and Fu. One of her other great joys is taking Frank for long walks in the woods around her house. Perhaps this is when the deer have a quiet moment watching her.

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“I think a lot of people think cooking is binary, like, ‘I can’t cook. You can cook, but I can’t.’ That’s not completely true. Of course you can.”

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“We’re trying to get away from the on-demand eating style because it’s an inconvenience for folks, it’s bad for the system, it’s bad for farmers, it’s bad from a food waste perspective.”

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“We had a ton of mushrooms the other day, so I made a mushroom broth and then cooked risotto, so that was pretty tasty. I made way too much risotto, so five days later, I fried them up into cakes with poached eggs on top.



Photography by: Subject portraits by Cheryl Richards | herbs photos by Alice Pasqual/Unsplash | Yoga photo by Cecilie Arcurs/iStock | califlower photo by Irene Kredenets/Unsplash | golf photo by Markus Spiske/Pexels | tea photo by Alice Pasqual/Unsplash | mango photo by Julie Aagaard/Pexels | baby photo by Alex Pasarelu/Unsplash | yoga photo by Jared Rice/Unsplash | outdoors photo by Holly Mandarich/Unsplash | table photo by Daria Shevtsova/Pexels | farm photo by Chanita Sykes/Pexels | risotto photo by Julien Pianetti/Unsplash