Wellbeing has a firm foothold in the West End

Collaboration inspires connection with self, others and nature for holistic wellness

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Edinburgh’s West End was abuzz last weekend as people noshed on whole foods at Roots, meditated on the emotional walls in their lives at Calm on Canning, sorted out their spines with White Tree Chiro, flipped through tomes on mindset at The Next Chapter, marveled at the energy of crystals at The Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, and sampled the benefits of aromatherapy, yoga, and pilates at various locations.

While “Well Being in the West End” was conceived as an interactive showcase of the neighbourhood’s wares and services to support holistic health, it proved much more: A community of like-minded people.

“The West End is a vibrant community. It feels like a village within the big city,” says Katy Lomas, founder of yoga studio Calm on Canning. “It’s a combination of nurturing and nourishing people locally — and affordably. We wanted to help people prioritise themselves because it can be a frenetic time after Christmas. We want to open up the whole world of wellbeing to them. It’s not just one thing. We (local businesses) work together quite a bit.”

Collaboration displaces competition among these ventures.

“One of our main values is wellbeing, and we’ve become a hub for like-minded businesses in the area,” says Roots Deli & Salad Bar owner Cat Spence-Ishaq, adding that the other guiding values are sustainability and community. “This guides every decision we make: how we recruit, how we engage with neighbors, everything. If it doesn’t fit into our values, we don’t do it.”

This purpose-driven approach was a common theme among the businesses participating in “Well Being in the West End.”

A few steps away from Roots, The Next Chapter opened just days before the neighbourhood event to debut its novel approach to wellbeing: It’s a book shop-fronted centre for therapeutic counselling and life coaching.

“We’ve got a social mission about improving mental wellbeing in Edinburgh,” says founder Fiona Armstrong, who is one of six certified counsellors working at the modernised period townhouse. ”Looking after emotional and psychological health is no different than looking after your physical health.”

The book shop is full of titles on mindset, mindfulness for stress management, loss and bereavement, and relationships, and titles geared to students, parents and children are offered. It’s a welcoming space with a cosy corner nook for reading, comfortable chairs and friendly faces; the shop is attended by trained therapists.

“We’re available for general conversation, questions, and concerns,” Armstrong says. “I think sometimes counselling hides behind closed doors and I wanted to be open about it. It’s a way of making what we do more approachable. It’s demystifying it a bit.”

The New Chapter’s approach is working, Armstrong says, and it shows there is demand for such resources in the capitol.

“There’s a lot of buzzwords going around: ‘Self-care’ is the trendy thing to talk about at the moment,” says Laura Swan, a wellness consultant and advocate for DoTerra essential oils. “And I do think people are being a lot more open to talk about both physical and mental wellbeing and it not being a subject that is talked about behind closed doors, if at all. Now we’re more at the forefront of that — in Scotland anyway. It’s like we’re coming up to a tipping point. We’re not just there quite yet. People are wanting to talk more openly about wellbeing (and) what it means to be well.”

Stress management and dementia were among the topics that concerned some of the attendees of Swan’s talk on how essential oils from plants can promote holistic health. Whether the plant essences are applied topically, taken orally or steamed into the air, they have real effects on our bodies and moods. Attendees learned that regular use of home cleaning fluids can disrupt hormones, while clary sage promotes healthy hormone production.

“For me it’s all about mental wellth. It’s an abundance. How do we make deposits into the ‘Bank of Wellbeing’ so we aren’t depleted? So if we’re up (at a) high (point), how do we maintain that level rather than what do we do when we get down here?

“You buffer,” she says, by investing in your self. “It’s having something in the reserves.”

This holistic care approach was echoed at various taster sessions throughout the weekend.

“We’ve had talks on nutrition, anxiety and everything, and everyone’s been saying the same thing — it’s all aligned,” says Lomas. “At the nutrition talk, Gillian (McCollum) said, ‘We think of nutrition as the food we put into our bodies, but actually, nutrition is about what we absorb. What do we soak in? Not just from food — from the community, the people we spend time with, the things we engage with, the programmes we watch, the things we read.

“We’re absorbing all of this. It’s feeding us. So we have to be careful what we’re feeding ourselves. It’s all nourishment in a way, so we have to manage it and make sure we’re making the right decisions about what we take in,” Lomas says.

Mind-body-spirit mecca The Arthur Conan Doyle Centre showcased physical and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Yoga and Tai Chi classes were complemented by the energy healing of Reiki and crystal meditation, plus intuitive communications through psychic consultations and tea leaf readings.

“Spirituality has a holistic approach here,” says Eleanore Ducamp of the not-for-profit Doyle Centre, which offers a great span of activities from chess school, writing courses, and baby massage to open circles that involve meditation, healing and increasing one’s intuition. ”People are apprehensive sometimes to express their beliefs about spirituality, but here people are free to do so without judgment. It’s a free space for everyone to be happy and to express their spirituality.”

An exhibition of wellness practitioners who work at the Doyle Centre took place during “Well Being on the West End,” and featured nutrition consultant Dr. Gregorio Torchia PhD of NutriPanda, healer and medium Joan Frew, Reiki master Gillian Reid, and yoga teacher and coach, Maggie McGeever, among others.

“This is about helping people be proactive about their health. We can’t control everything, but there are things we can do to feel better,” McGeever says. “It’s about ​empowering people from all walks of life to take responsibility and a compassionate approach to themselves. There can be mental cruelty in how we talk to ourselves. We need to be more kind.”

The wellness practitioners of the West End provided lots of tools to do just that: movement through yoga, pilates, and Tai Chi; energy healing through meditation, crystals and Reiki; natural food and plant life for nutrition and aromatherapy, and more.

“Excellent,” “amazing” and “fantastic” were the reviews of attendees as they bounced between venues throughout the weekend. The feel-good vibes extended beyond the weekend event: Half of the proceeds from ticket sales (£1,400) were donated to Edinburgh charities The Joshua Nolan Foundation to prevent suicide and The Rock Trust, dedicated to ending homelessness.

The weekend’s event highlighted that well being can be improved by taking a holistic approach — mind, body and spirit — and that connecting with ourselves and others are powerful ways to feel better.

“We need to get access to that inner voice,” says Lomas. “And we can’t do it in normal life — there’s no space. So we have to cultivate a time where we can come back to our essence, our inner self, our truth source. All these practices are amazing for doing that.”

TAKE-AWAYS

  • Need to ground yourself? Try yoga: “You’re guaranteed to feel better at the end — emotionally and physically,” says Lomas of Calm on Canning Street. “Energized. Inspired. You just look at the world fresh. Shake off the stagnant energy. It gives you a moment of pause. It’s essential in our busy lives.”
  • Create the space for healthy transitions. Changes are externally driven adjustments that can happen quick and transitions are internal and take time, says Julie Gutgsell, who offers life coaching at The Next Chapter. It’s tough to keep up because the wisdom of ancient times — such as consulting village elders or participating in rituals that marked important transitions and afforded the time to be mindful and reflect on changes — are gone. Today we have to logistically plan everything.
  • “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates knew nature provides all we need for health and wellbeing, yet nutrition is barely part of training for medical doctors. Instead the emphasis is treating the symptom, not the cause. As NutriPanda’s Gregorio Torchia, PhD, says, “We’ve been trained at university to give the pill, but with diet we treat the cause.” Nutrition was a large focus of the weekend as nutrition coaches and shop Jan de Vries took part. Seek a free consultation or conversation.

Photos by Liza Horan

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