Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RETREAT AT ANN WIGMORE NATURAL HEALTH INSTITUTE IN PUERTO RICO


* INTRODUCTION -
Sharing our experience at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute - 19 May to 24 May 2008





It was my daughter, Adeline who suggested that we attend the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute retreat during my trip to visit her in Boulder, Colorado in May 2008. She had heard about the benefits of the AWNHI's programme from her tenant who had done the course earlier. I had never heard of this institute nor had any inkling about its programme but since it was on health and it would be an all-expense treat from Adeline, I jumped at her suggestion. So on Saturday 18 May 2008, we took a flight from Denver to San Juan, Puerto Rico to begin an insightful and informative retreat at the AWNHI.

The Institute is situated in the scenic coastal village of Aguada, Puerto Rico. It was founded in 1990 and carries on the work of the late Dr. Ann Wigmore, a pioneer in the use of wheatgrass juice and living foods for detoxifying and healing the body, mind, and spirit. Dr Ann Wigmore had poor health including cancer and gangrene and she experimented and used weeds and wheatgrass juicing to heal herself. Over the course of the next 35 years, she promoted natural healing.



This is one of the buildings of the Institute. On the first floor is located the lounge where some of our indoor lessons were held and some of the accommodation for participants. The kitchen, dining room as well as separate dormitories for males and females are on the ground floor.


These buildings face the sea and are the living quarters for some of the staff such as the two Directors of AWNHI -Leola and Lalita - as well as the students' kitchen where some of our lessons were conducted. Massage and foot reflexology therapies as well as individualised Feldenkrais sessions are also held in one of the buildings.



The beautiful and scenic coastal beach is within walking distance from the premises of the Institute. Many participants take time to swim in the calm waters whenever there were breaks during our programme.



Adeline is seen here admiring and enjoying the view of the sea. We also practised "conscious walking" using poles along the beach.



* THE RAW LIVING FOOD LIFESTYLE

Adeline is seen here eating her breakfast - made up of blended papaya - which she enjoyed. The other bowl which in addition to papaya has blended flaxseed.



Energy Soup, the green mixture in the bowl above, is the cornerstone of the Living Foods Lifestyle® at AWNHI. It is a blended mixture of greens, sprouts, vegetables, Rejuvelac, and dulse. Energy soup is a complete meal, containing every nutrient in a balanced form that the body needs. We had Energy Soup for almost every meal during the retreat. In the beginning, I found it quite difficult to eat (or drink?) it but later found it more palatable.
Another key component of the Living Foods Lifestyle® is freshly juiced wheatgrass. Wheatgrass juice is an effective healer because it contains chlorophyll, all minerals known to man, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. Wheatgrass is extremely rich in protein, and contains 17 amino acids, the building blocks of protein. More information and pictures of the wheatgrass plant and juice are posted in a section below.
Rejuvelac™ is a drink (its colour is like home-made barley drink) that is made easily available to participants. It is made from cultured wheatberries or other grains, and is one of the most important elements in the Living Foods Lifestyle®. Because it contains a high level of enzymes, it aids in digestion. Rejuvelac™ replaces the missing enzymes that cooked foods have taken out. It contains friendly bacteria that is necessary for a healthy colon, which helps to remove toxins. It also is filled with vitamins B, C, and E, as well as enzymes.

This was one of the more palatable salads that we had - tomatoes, greens, sprouts etc - all raw, fresh and uncooked. According to the LF Lifestyle, Living foods go beyond Raw. Besides having them in salad form, vegetables, fruits, seeds are mostly blended, cultured or sprouted to ensure optimal assimilation by our bodies. In these forms, the food are living as they contain abundant nutrients and enzymes which give our bodies the materials and energy for good and vibrant health.





Many participants liked this blended mixture.




The big bowl of Energy Soup is placed on the kitchen counter during meal time so that participants can dish out the portion that they like to eat. Please also note that Adeline's hand in this picture has the yellow identification wrist tag that every registered particpant has to wear during the programme.


Besides blended papaya, the participants also liked blended flax seed...

* THE HALLMARK OF AWNHI - its warm, approachable and loving staff and the friendly and family-like atmosphere


Tiang is seen here with Leola who is one of the two Directors of the AWNHI. Leola is a very warm, personal and loving lady who at 80 years is still in very good health as demonstrated by her physical agility, her expressive and powerful voice during her interesting lessons and her inspiring leadership to the staff and students. It is no wonder that she was personally invited by the late Dr Ann Wigmore to help run the AWNHI in the 1990s.



Tiang is posing with another long-time staff, Maria, of the Institute. Maria helps in the kitchen and conducted a few of our "prayer/blessing" ritual before our meals. She can sing and shake very well.



Lalita in white on the extreme right is the other Director of AWNHI. She is just as friendly, warm and knowledgeable on the topics she conducted such as on Enemas and Implants (E's and I's), Energy Soup, Preparation of Rejuvelac and Elimination, Digestion and Enzymes. Her skin complexion is radiant which makes her a very good walking advertisement of the LF Lifstyle. Like Leola, she speaks very fondly of their mentor, the late Dr Ann Wigmore.
The gentleman on the left was John, the Guest Speaker who specially came in from the mainland to teach us the use of Extra strider walking poles during our walking classes. He does not look his age which is 73 years - again reinforcing the value of going raw to maintain one's youthful looks and health.



Elisabeth is another friendly and helpful staff member who made Adeline and me feel so welcomed at the Institute on our first day there. She is from Vancouver, Canada and she sat in during some of our classes to observe so that she can eventually teach some of these classes. Thank you Elisabeth for making our stay so memorable.


Elisabeth also has radiant and flawless complexion - another testimony of the benefits of going raw. She showed us considerable understanding when Adeline and I confided in her that it would be difficult for us to follow the rather demanding living food lifestyle once we left the course.



* SOME FUN PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES AT THE RETREAT


Adeline and Tiang on the Rebounder or trampoline. While we jumped, danced, twisted and shook ("gelek" - Malay word for shaking" ) to music on the rebounder, we were also told by Louise, one of the instructors, that rebounding is a cellular exercise. In fact, according to her, it is good for cancer patients - if these patients rebound for just 3 minutes, the white blood count can triple. This is a really insightful discovery!



Another picture of our funtime on the rebounders...


Every morning we had SOMA exercise sessions - which is a series of relaxing and energising exercises - conducted to guitar music and singing by Kaelash, a qualified and experienced practitioner of the Feldenkrais method.
I had two personal therapy sessions with Kaelash for my frozen shoulder - during which he helped me with movements to help improve the pain in my right shoulder. What was most helpful was a personalised CD that he recorded of the movements that I could do when I return home. Thank you Kaelash for the CD on Viniyoga Therapy - Feldenkrais method. At least I can enjoy listening to your soothing singing and guitar music even at home in Singapore.



The participants also had Dance sessions conducted by another staff, Sandra who made dancing seem so easy and fun... Here we see Jon, a participant from New York behind Adeline.



More enthusiastic participants enjoying the rigorous and fast-beat dance movements. MaryAnn, Annagisell and Amarylis were among the regulars at the dance sessions



More creative dance movements. Here you see a 5 year old girl with her father who also attended the retreat - a great feat for some one so young to be able to take the living food lifestyle. The slim looking lady with her right hand over her head is a graduate of AWNHI who is an accomplished Yoga as well as Living Food lifestyle practitioner. She is Mercedes' sister - Mercedes is our course mate.



* WHEATGRASS JUICE

Wheatgrass when juiced, is an effective healer, according to Ann Wigmore's book, "Rebuild Your Health", because it creates an unfavourable environment for bacterial growth. "The main ingredient, 'crude' chlorophyll, is non-toxic ... and contains mineral and proteinous compounds. Wheatgrass also contains all minerals that are now known to man: sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sulphur, cobalt and zinc... Wheatgrass juice is similar to human blood... the only difference between chlorophyll and haemoglobin is that chlorophyll contains magnesium while the hemoglobin molecule contains iron as its central nucleus..." (pages 49 and 51 of book).

However, in the same book, we are reminded that people (like me) think that they can eat as they please and then try to make up for it by drinking wheatgrass juice. So we are told that wheatgrass juice should not be seen as the "magic bullet"; instead wheatgrass juice when used in connection with living foods provides optimal health.

At the Retreat, we juice the wheatgrass and drink about 1 to 3 ozs every morning at least half and hour before breakfast.



Here Amarylis, one of the first participants I met, gives the thumbs up for the wheatgrass juice.


This is the juicer machine that we used and according to one article, Dr Ann Wigmore invented the machine. It is similar to the sugarcane juicer, although slightly smaller, that is used by sugarcane stallholders in Singapore.



A container of wheatgrass that is generously made available to the participants.



The ususal morning queue to juice our own wheatgrass... Here we see Lisa, Mercedes, Sophie (from Paris) and Yuriji (from Ukraine?) in the queue.




Now it is Tiang's turn... I enjoyed drinking the wheatgrass juice - it is very sweet and tasty although the smell is rather "green".


Sophie, another participant from Paris. is seen here juicing the wheatgrass.






* A CLASS ON HARVESTING


Leola demonstrating how to harvest sunflower and buckwheat plants...



This is how you cut the stems from the roots...



It was the participants' turn to have a go at it... Here Yuriji showed that he learnt fast...




See how the sunflowers were so clean and fresh after being harvested. We also harvested the buckwheat plant during this session.







Many hands make light work... the students helping to harvest the sunflower and buckwheat plants - greens that would go into our Energy soup later.



Taking time to capture some shots in between work.




Smile you are on candid camera... although we looked funny with our caps which we had to put on whenever we were handling food.



It's Tiang's turn to pose for the camera wearing the "silly" cap - that my grand daughter, Caitlyn would call it - a term she learnt from watching the Barny video show.


* MORE CLASSES DURING THE NATURAL HEALTH RETREAT AT AWNHI



Kaelash, a qualified and experienced practitioner on the Feldenkrais method, sharing with participants some theory on the Feldenkrais Method of Exercise. Every morning he conducted the Soma exercises which we found very effective and soothing to start the day's programme. Kaelash also conducted some other sessions such as on Water and Coconuts.



Leola conducted several sessions such as the Welcoming Introduction, Self Evaluation, Counselling as well as the practical sessions on Harvesting. She is one of the two Directors of the Institute and is a very committed, experienced and warm lady who at 80 years is an excellent motivator and passionate lecturer. She walks the talk.



A class conducted in the lounge - the participants were very relaxed and informal. In fact, after one or two days, the participants knew each other and felt very at home with each other, although we were from different countries.



Louise is another lecturer who conducted an interesting session on Skin brushing and rebounding. Among the many benefits of dry skin brushing are promotion of blood circulation, elimination of toxins, strengthening of the immune and lymphatic system, toning the muscles and removal of dull layers of skin. Louise is also a very good reflexologist. Adeline and I enjoyed the reflexology therapy sessions we had with her.





We remember Lalita for her expertise on Enema, colon therapy as well as the substantial lessons on Living Food, Blending and Juicing, Rejuvenac, Energy Soup, and Digestion and Elimination. As the other Director of the Ann Wigmore Institute, she is another pillar and worthy successor of the late Dr Ann Wigmore.



The ingredients that go into the making of Energy Soup - that is the mainstay of the Living Food Lifestyle.



* SAUCES AND DRESSINGS
A practical session where some participants demonstrated their creativity and talents in coming out with tasty sauces and dressings...

A tray of colourful ingredients such as zucchini, yellow squash, sundried tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, curry powder and cumin powder.

A second tray had ginger, oregano, celanto, parsley, celery, scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, dulce flakes, whole leaf dulce, etc. --- some of the items are foreign to me but not so for those from US, Puerto Rico and Europe...



Lisa assisted by Amarylis volunteered to show off their creative recipe... while Kaelash, our instructor looked on.




Adeline volunteered to record the ingredients used by the volunteer chefs on the white board while Kaelash facilitated the session.



Martha also volunteered to create another sauce while Jennifer and Adeline recorded the ingredients used.



The two sisters, Maryann and Jennifer, in serious discussion on the concoction for their special dressing. Their mother in the red blouse was adjusting her camera to get a good shot while Adeline was waiting for the outcome of the sisters' decision.



* GROWING WHEATGRASS

One of the most interesting and practical lessons we had was on growing wheatgrass. Our instructor was Belkis, a young enthusiastic lady who is really an expert on planting and growing greens, composting etc.


Belkis speaking with much conviction and passion...



Yuriji and wife Titiana who attended the retreat for health reasons.




Sowing the wheatgrass seeds - it's fun...





The two Mummys posing for a picture. The other mummy is Jennifer and Maryann's mother.




These three pretty ladies are great chefs in their own right - they are (from back) Lisa from New York, Annagiselle and Amarylis, both from Puerto Rico but working as chefs in Miami.




Adeline with the trays of wheatgrass behind her.

* GROWING YOUR OWN WHEATGRASS AT HOME


1. Where to get the Earth - Either make your own compost or buy bags of organic potting soil from garden nursery or florist .
2. Seeds - use hard red winter wheat, use unhulled (with shell) seeds. Try to get organic seeds.
3. For one standard size (14 x18) cafetaria tray, use about three quarter cup dry measure of seed.
METHOD
1. All seeds must be soaked first in a widemouth jar for not more than 6 hours. After soak time, pour off the water and keep the jar angled for drainage. Allow the seeds to sprout for 12 to 24 hours. Do not rinse the seeds during this period.
2. Spread soil about 1 inch deep on the cafetaria tray. Put the sprouted seeds on top of the soil and very lightly spread them so that they are even.
3. Water the tray with about 3 cups of water. Cover the tray with another tray so that the moisture and heat are kept in and light is kept out. Keep the tray covered for 3 days. After 3 days, remove the cover.
4. When you remove the cover, give the young greens a good watering. Water until the water fills the edge of the tray. Water thoroughly for the first 2 days. Afterwards, water about everyday but always check to see if and how much they need.
5. Place the young greens in sunlight as the more light the better for the wheatgrass.
6. After you place them in the light, check every day to see if they need water. Wheatgrass are usually ready in 4 to 5 days after you set them in sunlight. The wheatgrass should be about 5 to 8 inches tall.
7. If your greens flop, they need more water. If you see mould, try using less water.
8. Harvest the wheatgrass by cutting as closely as possible to the Earth. Usually this lower part of the wheatgrass is where many nutrients are concentrated. Wheatgrass must be juiced in a wheatgrass juice. Harvested greens will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. It is best to use them fresh.
(Extracted from page 58 and 59 of Dr Ann Wigmore's Rebuild your Health)


A pose with Belkis in the greenhouse where many different varieties of vegetables were grown.
* THERAPIES
Body massage, foot reflexology, Viniyoga and Colonics are the therapies offered at the Retreat at additional charge. The therapists and professionals who conducted these sessions are all well trained and experts in their fields. All of us would be familiar with the first three therapies mentioned above. However for Colonics, it was the first time I had heard of it and Adeline and I had two pleasant sessions each during our stay.
What is a Colonic?
A colonic is a continuous enema given by a professional colonic therapist that takes from 40 minutes to an hour. The huge colonic machine is set up so that all one has to do is to relax with soothing and relaxing music in the background. The colonic machine fills and releases automatically so that there is no need for the client to get up to go to the toilet during the session. Under the expert hands of the therapist who gently massages the abdomen and the colon at the beginning and during the session, one has a wonderful feeling after the thorough cleaning of the colon. We really enjoyed the colonic sessions!
(Adapted from page 70 of "Rebuild your health")

* SAYING FAREWELL

Friday 23 May, it was time for the three of us - Jennifer, Adeline and Tiang to say goodbye to the Institute as we had signed up for only the one week programme. We were in for a surprise as Leola presented each of us with a gift, serenaded us with a beautiful song as well as hugged us warmly and lovingly. What a pleasant end to an interesting health retreat!

Jennifer and Tiang listening intently to Leola's loving message.


A fond hug from Leola for Tiang




Adeline's turn to be serenaded...




and then a warm hug. We really appreciate your personal touch and thoughtfulness in making the effort to wake up early to send us off on Saturday morning. You are such a loving, kind and warm person who has touched many lives including ours.


* SOME LEARNING POINTS FROM THE RETREAT

1. For the first time I heard and learnt that there is such a lifestyle called raw LIVING Foods Lifestyle which is not just a diet. In fact it is more demanding than just taking an organic and/or a vegetarian diet, Singaporean style. Although Adeline and I knew that for practical and cultural reasons, we would not be able to practise the raw living food lifestyle after the retreat, we did learn and benefit from the sessions and activities. For example I lost 3 kilos (which I have since put back some) and my blood glucose level was 6 and below (normal) even without medication during the 5 days of the retreat. Many of the other participants also lost weight and gained other health benefits. I believe that nothing is ever wasted from an educational experience!
2. We learnt about the benefits of wheatgrass juice, water, coconuts, Energy Soup, Rejuvelac and other healthy food combinations. Although Adeline and I will not be 100% raw, we will be able to practise some of these e.g. growing wheatgrass and trying making Rejuvelac at home.
3. Chew! chew! chew! - this was emphasised by Leola during the retreat and it is something practical that we can try to put into practice although it is quite an effort (for me) to chew a mouthful of food including water - 50 to 100 times before swallowing. Why do we need to chew our food? By chewing our food thoroughly in the mouth before gulping it down, it mixes with the saliva which contains high amounts of amylase (enzyme) that aids digestion. Life cannot exist without enzymes as enzymes convert food into chemical structures that can pass through the digestive tract cell membranes into the blood stream.
4. One of the most important lessons that I have learnt is the importance of colon health which is one of the aspects necessary for one's well-being. According to our course notes in the file that every participant is given, "without a program of internal colon cleansing, the damage to the body multiplies, and goes beyond affecting the digestion, and assimilation of the nutrients. Faeces that remain in the system begin decaying, releasing toxins and poisonous gases that seep out into your blood and poison all your organs and tissues. Your blood stream itself gets polluted, which prevents it from removing the cells' wastes. So your whole system is poisoned by toxins... thus the faster the contents of the colon are evacuated, the less time there is for transformation of toxic or carcingoenic substances."
At the retreat we were taught how to do enemas and we also went for colonic sessions. The enema and colonic irrigation cleanse the colon by using the mechanical effect of water.
Of course colon care is not the only aspect of Total health. At AWNHI, the lifestyle which is emphasised is a new way of eating that is, uncooked, organically grown food containing a high level of enzymes, easy-to-digest nourishment, with good health habits.
While Adeline and I are not able and not ready to embrace the raw living food culture, we will be more conscious of what we eat - we will try to eat for nourishment as opposed to eating for taste (which the majority of us are guilty of ). For example we will eat more salads, vegetables, fruits and try to cut down intake of meat and seafood. (I can visualise Adeline's critical expression at reading this! )
We were quite horrified to learn that meat and fish stay 3 to 4 hours in our stomach while shell fish which are full of cholestrol take 8 hours for total digestion.
5. Dry skin brushing was one of the practical skills that we learnt under Louise and which we can easily carry out. We also learnt that it is good to do some jumping on the trampolene, do body massage and foot reflexology as these therapies increase circulation, improve digestion, reduce fatigue and increase energy as well as relaxes the body and mind, among other benefits. Of course the exercise habit was emphasised by Kaelash and John at the retreat. This should include Basic Bounce, Stretch, Arm Rotation, Simulated Walk and Upper Torso twist.
6. As mentioned earlier, Adeline and I (as well as Jennifer) only attended the first week programme. In the second week, the participants learnt more advanced skills such as sprouting, planting, composting and dehydrating as well as recipes and menu planning. However, there is always an opportunity for us to return to take the second week's programme, something which Jennifer plans to do. For me, I am very glad that I bought the DVD on Dr Ann Wigmore's Living Foods Lifestyle from the Wiggie's shop at the Institute. Although it is a two and half hour video, I enjoyed watching it and I am very surprised that the recipes (using only raw uncooked living food) featuring pizzas, sushi, and salads can be so apetising and delicious looking.
7. Would I recommend the Retreat to others? Yes it is a great educational and enlightening experience and even though Adeline and I are regretably unable and not ready to embrace the demanding and rigorous raw living foods lifestyle, we have the awareness and some knowledge of the natural health programme at AWNHI which provides a regime of body purification, nutrition and rejuvenation through the use of fresh raw fruits, vegetables, juices, nuts, sprouted sees, grains and of course, the signature wheatgrass. I would certainly alert people and friends who suffer from cancers and other illnesses to consider trying out the raw living food lifestyle at the AWNHI where, I understand many past and present participants have either been cured or their condition improved of their ailments. I know for myself that if I am struck with an unfortunate disease such as cancer later in my life, I will be ready to embrace the raw living foods lifestyle and will attend another stint at the AWNHI.
8. Finally I would like to thank all the staff at AWNHI especially Leola, Lalita, Kaelash, Louise, John, Maryann, Marie, Belkis and all the kitchen and support staff for making our short stay a memorable and pleasant one. You are all doing admirable and worthy work and we salute your tireless commitment and discipline.
Our appreciation also goes to our fellow participants from all over the US, Puerto Rico, Paris and Ukraine - Lisa, Amarylis, Annagiselle, Maryann, Jennifer and mother, Martha, Mercedes, Yuriji and wife, Titiana, Scott, Jon and Sophie - for your encouraging and supportive friendship. We were a great company and as John, the guest speaker who taught us how to use the striderwalker/poles for our early morning walks commended us as "an enthusiastic group who learns fast".
9. I spent many evenings and nights in Boulder, Boston and in Singapore doing this blog for several reasons:
- to keep a record of my experiences and learnings at the retreat as my memory is deteriorating over the years
- to share my experiences and insights with my family and friends who may be interested in what Adeline and I went through at the retreat
- to publicise the good work being carried out by a team of committed and dedicated people at AWNHI
10. Please note that any factual errors in this blog are entirely mine. I do welcome feedback and comments, especially mistakes, that you may have noticed. My apologies also if I have omitted mention of names of people whom I should have included.
With Metta
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Tiang

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2 comments:

vishnuprasath said...

The special feature of this institute is its multidisciplinary approach in patient care, research and training programmes and also in the promotive, preventive and curative aspects of clinical services in the area of Mental Health and human behavioral science.

Chelsea Scott said...

Hi,

I know you've been to the Ann Wigmore Institute but I was wondering how it compares to her Hippocrates Institute. Before I attend living light culinary institute if like to go to one of those first. Or what are your recommendations? What do you suggest I do? Also what courses would you recommend I take at luging light?

Thanking you in advance,
Chelsea