Michelle Cottle has always been health-conscious. As a professional dancer, she spent much of her young life focusing on being physically fit. But when a car accident left her with a hip injury that ended her career at age 22, she turned to two different holistic therapies (after years of more conventional treatments) to help her heal, and she got more than she bargained for. Cottle found that Pilates, and especially Gyrotonic Exercise (a movement technique that Cottle describes as “Pilates in 3D” because it consists of circular movements as opposed to linear Pilates movements), helped heal not just her body, but also her spirit and mind in a way that dancing hadn’t done for her before. “Gyrotonic integrates the body, mind and spirit by incorporating breathing and imagery while strengthening the body, soothing the nervous system, relieving stress and promoting an overall sense of well-being,” says Cottle, who now teaches Pilates and Gyrotonic Exercise at her fitness studio, Reflexion, in Bedford Hills. Cottle’s life-altering accident has taught her a valuable lesson: Staying on top of your health doesn’t just mean keeping your body fit (although it is vital to get regular health screenings); it means taking charge of your whole well-being.
Countless studies confirm that there is an inseparable connection between mind and body. One Harvard study showed that more than 60 percent of doctor visits are due to stress-related issues. In other words, your thoughts and stress can actually make you sick. Specifically, stress has been shown to weaken immune function and create inflammation in your body, which can lead to all kinds of problems, such as colds, gastric reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and cancer. “To achieve true health, you must go beyond the physical and look at all aspects of your life—your environment, your relationships, your spirituality, your emotional health and how you handle stress,” says Michael Finkelstein, M.D., a board-certified internist and reiki practitioner who is the founder and medical director of Sun Raven, a holistic healing center in Bedford. Sound overwhelming? That’s why we break it down for you here by highlighting key areas that are integral to overall well-being.