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Get into position: yoga, massage therapy find enormous market across stress-littered urban landscape.

When dinner party conversations center on war and the day job is dropping knots on one's shoulder and neck like a handful of pebbles, finding ways to unwind can become more than just a weekend pastime, and a matter of simple survival.

Although Mexico has a reputation internationally for a laid-back tropical lifestyle, anyone living in Mexico City has experienced a tightening of the neck that is a sure sign of stress and tension and an indication that one needs to chill out.

Countless medical reports have examined the debilitating effects of stress, both in terms of physical and mental health. Poor performance, intraoffice shouting matches and unfulfilled potential are the sad calling cards of overstressed white-collar workers.

So how does one arrest that stress monster? Some turn to exercise, others turn to professional counseling and the weaker-willed turn to more destructive devices-temporary peace through a handful of pills or the twisted journey to the bottom of a tequila bottle.

For one Cuernavaca-based couple, yoga and massage are two easy thoroughfares to a more healthy and fruitful life.

CLEAN UP YOUR ACT

Peddling their product to major corporations and individuals, Julianne Chadwick and Alfonso Fors insist on taking a customized approach to each person's needs. Balancing massage, breathing techniques (which often fall under traditional yoga movements associated with the Hatha school) and dance therapy, the couple breaks down points of tension and helps their clients achieve a natural state of well-being.

"Our aim is to help improve our clients' capacity to face the challenges of daily life," said Chadwick, who calls herself a movement therapist. Chadwick mixes creative dance with yoga to help her clients break through their problems, which range from physical disabilities to mild depression.

Beyond the exercise benefits achieved through the more strenuous yoga movements and touted by such superstars as Madonna, the practice, which can be traced back more than 3,500 years, often concentrates on simple breathing and meditation to achieve calm.

These wide-ranging benefits are being tapped by an ever-growing base of yogis, and millions are doing the sun salute every day. Yes, many of the exercises have new-age names, but reluctant participants, who entered into the practice with preconceptions of it being the sport of hippies, have become converts.

"It's like martial arts without the violence," said Chris Johns, an actuary for a Swiss insurance company who finds relief in it after a day of crunching numbers.

Ashtanga, which is marked by difficult isometric moves that resemble pushups, and power yoga are favorites of some of the more active practitioners, but the fast-and-furious nature of the stretches is simply too strenuous for some. However, the beauty of yoga is that each individual can match the exercise to their own ability, and the meditative and relaxing aspects are not unique to any particular movement or school.

Chadwick was recently commissioned to instruct children in the Yucatan, and she said it has become common in her native United Kingdom to teach yoga to children as a way to get them more focused and calm.

However, yoga's core base remains adult and female, and it is particularly favored by executives and other hard-driven individuals as a way to disconnect from the trivial--or, as some practitioners would say, to connect with what is important.

Eleanor Broad, a Cambridge-educated British woman currently residing in Mexico City, credited her yoga classes--three times a week for two months--for an enormous jump in score on her entry exam for business school.

"I can't explain what it did to me," she said. "I felt really calm. It sounds very corny but I would arrive at the library after my morning yoga class positive."

SAYONARA PINCHED NERVES

While yoga remains more popular with women than men as a form of relaxation, the massage bed is universal in its appeal.

Fors, an accomplished, Miami-educated massage therapist, attends to his regular clients in Mexico City and Cuernavaca with a medical perspective on breaking down knots of stress and tension.

"You get to know the body, to know where the problems are--like a doctor," said Fors, who shared the story of finding four pinched nerves in the back of a first-time client. "I was feeling every vertebra. He knew at that moment that I was solving a puzzle."

A good massage once or twice a week can wipe away a workweek spent in front of the computer, and most of Fors' clients work at a computer.

"This goes beyond internal stress and can involve the physical problems of spending 40 hours a week in an office, at a desk, in an unnatural position," said Fors. "The body is not meant to work that way."

His complex massage therapy technique combines shiatsu, reflexology and contemporary massage in an effort to release the client from their physical maladies, a release that can come in a tangible form such as the shedding of a tear or a runny nose. Fors said his head massage is demanded by hard-drinking clients to cure the occasional hangover.

"If you are not well, how can you do anything? The well-being of a person is the most important thing in this life," Fors said. "Clients of mine have found out that all they were missing was a simple thing, one mineral. I don't know how many drugs and pills and valiums they took to feel better when all they needed was the proper juice or a massage."

Quetza Vida, the well-being management group operated by Chadwick and Fors, does most of its business in Mexico City and Cuernavaca and can be contacted through its website, quetzavida@hotmail.com.

Matthew Brayman is the editor of BUSINESS MEXICO.
COPYRIGHT 2003 American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico A.C.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Brayman, Matthew
Publication:Business Mexico
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:942
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