“We can’t always change what’s happening around us, but we can change what happens within us.” - Andy Puddicombe
This morning I decided to wake up early and join a group of fellow colleagues and veterans in Los Corales, Bávaro for a series of relaxation techniques. Today, VCCA organized a Wellness Day in partnership with Spa Natural Center for its staff and patients to experience the different therapies offered to veterans through VCCA's treatment plans. In all honesty, I didn't know what to expect, and neither did I push to know more as I wanted this experience to be as spontaneous and natural as possible.
I reached the quiet sandy beach in Los Corales at 6:45 a.m. sharp and was greeted by well-known guru Flavio Acuña, Yoga Instructor Seive and Gong Therapist Clara. The sky was a pale blue, while the sun was brightly beaming towards us as we faced the waves unfolding a few meters from our feet. Yoga mats were nicely laid out on the sand, facing a big asian brass gong and a few white crystal singing bowls I had only ever seen in photos until then.
As all participants progressively arrived and took position on the mats, Seive guided us through a beginner's Hatha Yoga Flow showing us each pose with precision along the way. All-the-while, Clara accompanied our every movement with soft crystal chimes and harmonies which perfectly blended into the rhythm of the waves crashing on the shore. I had never practiced yoga on a beach, and although we had mats, I couldn't help noticing how the sand moved under the pressure and shape of my hands and feet. About 40 minutes later, as we ended our tonic practice into a well-deserved Shavasana Meditation, a much lower sound vibration started emanating and gradually intensifying its deep tone. At first I wondered what it was, only to realize a little later that Clara had switched from the crystal bowls to playing the Chinese gong. I very much enjoyed running the sand through my fingers and how the direct sunlight warmed my skin. The combination of sensations was very relaxing.
The group then took a few minutes break to hydrate and snack, before moving on to meet Luisa the Aqua Therapist, by a big curvy swimming pool niched in the middle of a vast green patio. After a short briefing, we stepped into the ambient water and were given pool noodles to place under our knees and neck, to be able to float on our backs and relax while meditating on a short mantra. It took a while for everyone to find their buoyancy point and relax, but eventually, all we could hear were the water, the birds, and the Celtic music playing in the background. I could also smell the calming aroma of incense, and every time I opened my eyes for a few seconds, I enjoyed the sight of the tall green palm trees surrounding the pool and contrasting with the deep blue 10 a.m. sky above us.
The aqua therapy was by far my favorite discovery of the day. About half way into the session, I decided to lose the pool noodles and swim to the center of the pool where there were less people. I went on a back plank, closed my eyes again and started realizing how only a small percentage of my chest and face were out of the water. The water rocked me to sleep and since my ears were underwater, I didn't even notice when the session came to an end. If it weren't for Luisa who came to engage me, I would've probably stayed there much longer. The best part is when she gently started manipulating my body in the water, while I was still floating on my back. She guided me into this smooth aquatic dance, rocking, loosening and stretching the different parts of my body. There was something very reassuring, awakening and transcending about this particular moment for me.
After the Aqua Therapy, we moved on to meet Andrea and Flavio who showed us their techniques in Chinese Medicine, more specifically Acupuncture, Cupping and Acupuncture with Moxibustion. We each had the opportunity to try one or several of these therapies and I personally chose the acupuncture. I felt very little in regards to the acupuncture needles penetrating my skin, yet as soon as they were placed in specific areas of my body, I could feel light waves of warmth and relaxation rippling around the puncture and through my body.
Flavio then demonstrated the different results obtainable with dry cupping, creating suction on the skin using a glass. Negative pressure was created in the cup by attaching a suction device to the cup after it was placed on the skin. And depending on the coloring of the skin after removing the cups, different diagnosis could be identified and treated.
In all, VCCA's wellness day was delightful and enlightening. It not only allowed us to learn about and experience highly beneficial therapies, but also foster the veterans' community through the common goal of improving our health and well-being. I was able to meet dedicated and compassionate therapists, see how some patients really struggle with letting go of their fears, but with the help of trusted professionals, are able to make considerable progress in a short amount of time. And most of all, I was personally able to hit the "pause button" on all my busy daily endeavors and actually live, breath and feel the present moment. In the end, these are the moments that matter, these are the moments that stay with us, and remind us that there are beautiful things to be grateful for and keep looking forward to.
Veterans Community Care Abroad
You Served. You Deserve.