Leisure

The Art of Ahhhh!

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By Myra McElhaney

Summer is the perfect time to recharge. The season of rebirth and renewal is wedged right between the winter doldrums and the end of the school year. Now would be a good time to eat, pray and love yourself around the world on sabbatical, or to at least catch up with what movies and books are at the top of this year”s list.

What”s that you say? No time to relax? You”re too busy? But wait! It”s a scientific fact that we can do more, faster and better when we take time to renew our spirits and revitalize our energy. Studies show that relaxation helps our bodies to reduce stress, decrease pain, prevent disease, lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, and even helps diabetics to regulate insulin.

But before you call the travel agent and peruse the glossy brochures for that exotic retreat, let”s look in your own backyard. Gwinnett has a host of nearby getaways and places to unwind without cashing in the kids” college fund. Besides you have to be back in time for car pool, or at least before soccer camp.

Here are nine splendid ways to recharge within a short drive of your own backyard.

1. Get a massage. Massage, which became popular here in the mid 19th century is said to be over 5,000 years old. It involves rubbing or kneading the muscles to reduce stress, improve circulation and release toxins from the muscles. With hundreds of variations such as Swedish, aromatherapy, and hot stone, you can choose a relaxing rub or an intense deep tissue treatment with enough pressure to make you wince and holler… but in a good way! Massages are available in many salons and spas around town including Spa Sydell (spasydell.com), the O Salon & Spa (www.osalonandspa.com),# and Natural Body Spa (www.naturalbody.com).

2. Become a Yogi. Yoga classes and studios abound in the Gwinnett area. Hatha, a classic approach with breathing exercises and postures helps with calming and de-stressing. If you like it hot, try Bikram which is done in a sauna-like room helps to burn calories and build stamina. Power yoga is an athletic style that attracts competitive types, while Restorative yoga is less work and more relaxation. If you want to incorporate more of the spirit, try Yin yoga, which is a quiet meditative practice. For basic yoga classes look no farther than the nearest gym or fitness club. For something more exotic, check out The Atlanta School of Tantra Yoga (www.atlantaschooloftantrayoga.com) or the Dharma Jewel Monastery. (www.dharmajewel.us.)

3. Lose yourself in an adventure or fantasy. That great escape is as close as your neighborhood library. Neuroscience researchers found that subjects reading about texture had activity in their sensory cortex, and others reading words that invoke smell activated the olfactory cortex. When you read it you feel it. Apparently our brains don”t make a strong distinction between reading about something and actually participating in it, so bring on the romance novels and whodunits! Download a bestseller, stop by your local bookstore or visit one of Gwinnett County Public Library”s fifteen locations. Then curl up with a cozy mystery and take your mind on vacation.

4. Find tranquility through hypnosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis is “a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus, concentration and inner absorption.”# Therapeutic hypnosis can be used to improve your health and well-being by helping you to change your behaviors and emotions. Dr. Charles Skillas is a local hypnotherapist with a list of credentials as long as your arm. “You are the energy that is in you,”# says Dr. Skillas, who explains that since hypnotherapy operates on the subconscious level it can help you to release tense energies at the deepest level. Hypnosis can include a post-hypnotic suggestion that allows you quickly drop into a calmer state anytime you need to relax. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is therapy done while you”re in a hypnotic state. This allows you to process the therapy on a deeper level and unearth the core issues that are at the root of your stress. If you just can”t shake your tension and it”s taking a toll on your health this could be helpful. Dr. Skillas can be contacted through www.drskillas.com

5. Cruise the islands! When the rich and famous want to relax they go to the islands. Maui, Fiji, San-Tropez. We have islands, too and can get back on the same day. Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford sits near a small group of islands on Georgia”s largest lake. With 38,000 acres of water, you can charter a sail boat or take a yacht excursion. Back on land, try the high ropes course, swing through the trees on the zip-line adventure or play eighteen holes of golf. See a full list of activities at www.lanierislands.com.

6. Go fishing! Largemouth bass, bream and catfish await you. As does simply sitting quietly and communing with nature while you try for the big one. Lake Ozora, Lake Chandler and Lake Miller are just a few of the lakes within the Gwinnett parks system. Visit www.gwinnettcounty.com for the Parks & Recreation Department”s list of park lakes and link to current Georgia Department of Natural Resources Fishing Regulations.

7. Take a hike. Get back to nature, enjoy the local flora and fauna and get some exercise. Try this multi-tasking form of relaxation on one of the many neighborhood hiking trails. At Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville you can walk around the lake. George Pierce Park in Suwanee has 2.6 miles of multi-purpose trail and a 1.2 mile soft surface trail or you can take the 4.5 mile hiking trail at Harbins Park in Dacula. For a full list of parks and hotline for trail conditions, visit www.gwinnettparks.com.

8. Get frisky! Rejuvenate your energy while recharging your relationship. According to WebMD getting intimate can lower your stress levels, reduce your risk of heart attack and prostate cancer, increase your immunity and self esteem, and improve sleep. Chateau Elan, a short drive north on I85 offers romantic escape packages You and your significant other can relax with a couples massage then share a bottle of bubbly while you enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the seven restaurants with fare ranging from Southern to Mediterranean, Classic French, Irish and healthy Spa Cuisine. After dinner slip into a candlelit bath in your room”s garden tub and see what the Rose Petal Turndown service is all about. Visit www.chateauelan.com to find a getaway package that”s right for you.

9. Pamper yourself! Take a day or half day to indulge your inner diva at a local day spa. Start with a facial to cleanse the pores or hydrate your skin, then have a body wrap to detox the body and firm that stubborn cellulite! Waxing, threading, or electrolysis can clean up your brows or address unwanted hair on other areas. Enhance your mani-pedi with a paraffin treatment or reflexology. Top it all off with an airbrush tan or new hair style. A spa day can be all about you or fun as a girl”s day out with your bestie. If you want to share the pleasure with your guy, check out the Gentleman”s Services at Spa Sydell in Norcross. (www.spasydell.com.) For a delicious treat Bluefern Spa & Salon in Suwanee has a yummy-sounding Chocolate & Rose Facial. (www.bluefernspa.com)