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By Carla Torres | January 4, 2016 | People
Once branded as solely a beach and party town, the Magic City is embracing alternative, spiritual, and holistic practices for a new way of life. Here, Ocean Drive reveals the leading healers....
As onsite medical director for the Carillon Miami Beach, Dr. Karen Koffler, MD, is marrying spa and relaxation with functional medicine to create anything but your typical doctor’s office.
As one of the first class of physicians trained by Dr. Andrew Weil (the foremost authority in integrative medicine), Karen Koffler went from being a “regular” and die-hard conventional medicine doctor working the ICU to creating holistic and integrative medicine centers for Northwestern Healthcare in Chicago, Canyon Ranch, and now the spa at Carillon Miami Beach.
Now more than ever there’s a crossover between spa and medicine coming together into wellness. What do you think has caused this?
We’re right at the cusp of that because spa has always been a pampering experience and one towards relaxation, which has enormous health benefits but has been relegated more towards something separate from being deeply therapeutic. Medicine is seen as something colder and not fun. What’s your approach to changing that? The lens that I use is called functional medicine, and that’s the interplay of genes, lifestyle, and environment. The dance of those three things is what creates your health and well-being, so we tease those things apart and we find a person’s legacy from when they were in their mother’s womb, because so much of that is our Achilles’ heel, and then tailor strategies to help reduce that.
With such a broad team of specialists and offerings, how do you decide what every patient needs?
A classic [example] is food. Many of us don’t have a healthy, joyful relationship with food, but food is information. It may be that you need Chinese medicine, and acupuncture is going to be more effective to get rid of your problems than antibiotics. Or maybe you need energy healing and someone who can help you normalize energetic flow throughout the body, because disease manifests through disruptive energy.
Do you ever use conventional medicine (i.e., drugs)?
If you walk in here with blood pressure off the charts, you will receive medication to get that under control, but you’re also going to learn stress management and go through the spa, through the herbal experience, because the alternating hot and cold treatments will lower your blood pressure. You’re going to get massages, because we’re going to teach your tissues how to relax. But you will get medication, because I don’t need you to have a stroke as I’m waiting for some of these other strategies to have an effect. It’s a brilliant marriage between traditional therapies that tend to take a little longer to work and conventional medicine, which can be like a bazooka.
You come from conventional medicine. What caused your change?
Someone taught me guided imagery in high school. I was a swimmer, so before events I used to go in the bathroom and imagine my race from start to finish, and on the days I could do that clearly I did my best times. That’s when I learned that the mind influences the body. But I was a die-hard intensive care conventional medicine doctor. And one day, I came down to see a patient of mine who’d just had a heart attack and his breakfast tray was bacon, eggs, toast, and butter. I took away his tray and said this isn’t happening on my watch.
What is the future of medicine?
I think what we do here is the future of healthcare. It’s what people want. They don’t want to go to the doctor or be hospitalized. They want a partner and to play a role and understand what they can do. It doesn’t mean they’re always going to follow it, but we’re here for when they don’t. We’ve got to change the way people understand medicine and healthcare. 6801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-514-7000
Over the years, Miami has garnered quite the “club kid” reputation. And no wonder—there aren’t many other places where you can lie out on the beach in the middle of winter and drink cocktails until sunset and then keep the party going till sunrise, with some of the most beautiful and famous people in the world. But to say the Magic City is all Champagne sparklers, yacht fêtes, and hangovers would be only one side of the coin: the yin without the yang.
On the other, you have an emerging scene of holistic wellness that people are swearing by—one crystal, downward dog, salt cave, sound bowl, or cryochamber at a time. For starters, Carillon Miami Beach—the country’s largest luxury spa and wellness facility (clocking in at 70,000 square feet and complete with an igloo, crystal steam room, herbal laconium, and in-house doctor)—is leading that charge. “I’m not your typical doctor,” says Karen Koffler, Carillon Miami Beach’s medical director, under whose watch a team of acupuncturists, energy healers, nutritionists, physical therapists, and feng shui practitioners are running one of the world’s top alternative and comprehensive wellness, integrative medicine, and spa programs. “I don’t dress like one. I don’t act like one.”
“I always say it’s complementary, not alternative,” affirms Deahni Kipnis, owner of the intimately elegant wellness center VigorMe in Sunny Isles, where a handful of simple noninvasive therapies (such as electro lymphatic drainage) make profound changes. “There is not one study that says using an antidepressant will heal you faster than not using it, so why prescribe them?”
Mind, body, and spirit healer Erica Korman fuses her 15-plus years of psychotherapy experience with her newfound spiritual awakening to usher in a new wave of nonphysical and holistic healing.
Besides having a master’s degree from New York University and undergoing two years of post-master’s advanced training in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy at NYU’s Psychoanalytic Institute, New York transplant Erica Korman is certified in holistic health and nutrition, helping clients achieve their best selves.
What’s your method or approach?
I learned the old-school formal analytical way of analyzing past traumas, and that definitely has its place in society and is very helpful, but doing that years on end doesn’t bring about positive change and healing. That is why I founded the 3H Method—healed, healthy, happy— combining my expertise in the field of psychotherapy (healed), being a certified holistic life coach (healthy), and the spiritual intuitive part (happy). It’s the trinity of mind, body, and spirit, and a simple but effective approach to treating the whole individual.
What is the difference between intuitive versus regular life coaching?
It’s about really being in touch with a person’s energy and being able to connect and tune into their emotions and thoughts in a way that I am able to feel their pain and help them heal.
How can people tune into their own energy?
Meditation. Slowing it all down. Turning off devices and tuning into what makes them happy and feel good. Having boundaries. Saying no to things. Following your true passion. That’s how you get into the flow. Listen to your inner GPS, and you’ll get all the answers.
Describe your spiritual awakening.
When I trace back, it was happening my whole life, but my perspective and the way I see the world started to change when I got to Miami and was able to slow it all down from my fast-paced NYC life. I got deep into meditation and began reading all of the amazing spiritual teachers’ work and attending many retreats and workshops in the US. This has led me to find my peace and happiness, and I now help others do the same.
What’s your latest project?
My radio show, Healing With Erica, started in December on spirituality talk-radio Internet station newsforthesoul.com. It’s 60 minutes worth of different topics, and guests can call in for some real live coaching.
What’s next that you’re most excited about?
I’m starting monthly spiritual and happiness workshops at the Grand Beach Hotel this month. They’ll focus on different tactics to heal, find your own spirituality, and become your happiest self.
Do you have a happy place?
The beach. Miami is my happy place. The access and energy here is amazing. And all the wonderful people who’ve helped me on this journey.
What are your thoughts on Miami’s spiritual evolution?
I think Miami and the world are starting to awaken and realize there is a different way to live. People are searching for meaning and happiness in their life, and my role is to make them see it all differently. ericakorman.com or Instagram @ericakorman
Rather than pop pills to quell anxiety, try the audiovisual sensory experience dubbed Harmonial, through which frequencies sent to the left and right side of the brain serve to balance the mind and reduce negative thinking, all the while increasing logic and creativity, in just 12 psychedelic sessions. “Only 14 people in the US have this technology.” VigorMe’s other technology includes electro magnetic field therapy, meant to increase micro-circulation in the body by 70 percent. (The company behind the technology, BEMER, has partnered with NASA to create the world’s first micro-circulation- enhanced spacesuit.)
Miamians can routinely enjoy these best-kept secret, world-class therapies. For example, Vigor Me’s salt cave (cloaked by 20,000 pounds of Himalayan salt bricks) is not only used to alleviate health problems associated with asthma, allergies, sinusitis, bronchitis, and a host of other respiratory ailments, it also serves as a conference room for corporate groups looking to brainstorm.
1960s- and ’70s-era holistic counterculture is back; only this time around it’s bolstered by science and medicine, with an awareness that is really the result of age-old concepts. From astrology to metaphysics to yoga and Eastern medicine now being embraced in Western civilization— and, more than ever, by Miami—we are in the Age of Aquarius.
Of course you don’t have to sit in a cave or lie under a light to reap the benefits of the movement taking over Miami. Stocked with more than 150 types of crystals and incense from all corners of the world—as well as $10,000 pyramids used for meditation—9th Chakra on Alton Road has been a spiritual haven for locals, tourists, and spiritually inclined celebs such as Madonna, Bill Murray, and Gloria Estefan since 1980.
As the progeny of spiritual author and guru Wayne Dyer, Ft. Lauderdale native Serena Dyer is making sure his spirit lives on forever.
At 35 million copies, Your Erroneous Zones is one of the most sold and read books of all time. It was also author, spiritual mentor, motivational speaker, and father of eight Wayne Dyer’s first of numerous sacred tomes. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree as daughter Serena Dyer became an author herself, telling her story of what it was like to grow up in a spiritual family in Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You, and keeping the legacy of her father alive.
Your father officiated your wedding, which must have been a very special moment for you. Had you always imagined him doing that?
It was kind of a given. He officiated Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding and my sister and her husband’s, so I felt like there was no one else to marry me besides him. My dad and I are extremely close; we talk every single day. I use present tense [when I talk about him], which may seem kind of weird and crazy, but in my mind, I don’t think that he died. Logically I know that he did and is no longer here, but I still believe and feel him so presently that using past tense doesn’t seem right.
What was the most important lesson he ever taught you?
It’s the reason why my book is titled Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You, which basically means you came here with a purpose, you came here with music to play. Don’t allow yourself to play somebody else’s music. Don’t allow yourself to get to the end of your life and think, I’ve lived a lie, I wish I would’ve done this. Do it now. Play your music now.
What would you say your own music is?
Right now it’s being a mother. I have Sailor and I’m [four months] pregnant again. One of the big conversations my dad and I had many times before he passed away was how important it is for me to become a mother and how much I looked forward to that. The other side is about storytelling. Sharing real stories that are uplifting, positive, that inspire, that make you think.
How many times have you read Your Erroneous Zones?
I’ve never read it. I always said I wouldn’t start reading my dad’s books until after he was gone. Now all of a sudden I want to devour his books. If your dad was Bon Jovi—and I’m not comparing my dad to Bon Jovi—but if your dad was Bon Jovi, you probably wouldn’t have his CDs in your car. I talked to him every day, I went to his lectures all the time; any new idea he was interested in he would send me the book on, or when he was writing, he would talk about his ideas with me, the new things he was discovering.
Do you think you will ever write another book or continue your father’s work?
Now that I’ve realized that people like reading my stories and there’s an audience for that, I think I’ll write another book.
It’s no wonder our resident boldfacers are famous for their health, wellness, and fitness. Miamian supermodel Elle Macpherson, aka “The Body,” keeps a balanced pH with her very own Super Elixir, a specialized alkalizing greens supplement containing vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to assist wellness and vitality. Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has a thing for cryotherapy, a sub-zero temperature system aimed at pain relief and accelerated recovery, at DBC Fitness Facility in the Design District.
Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union, keeps her radiance not with prescriptions or skin procedures but with all-vegetable and green juices every other day. Miami-based JugoFresh, only three years old and born out of founder Matthew Sherman’s (a former holistic life and nutrition coach) own journey to feel good and lose 150 pounds, is now up to its 11th location (with two more in the works).
Speaking of food, the nation’s largest and first all-plant-based food festival, SEED, will celebrate its third year in 2016. Gluten-free and vegan options are no longer just a fad. Rather than “diet,” people now use the word “detox.” Buying and eating local have become quotidian. Even enzyme therapy is “a thing,” thanks to Aventura-based sports medicine doctor Matthew Cooper, nicknamed “The Enzyme Doctor,” who found that through plant-based capsules you can replenish biological molecules and cure chemical and nutritional deficiencies resulting in pain.
Boca Raton’s Barb Schmidt spreads her spiritual teachings all over the world with her best-selling book, The Practice, international lectures, and, most recently, her TED Talk.
It’s hard to think that a former McDonald’s franchisee would be a leading spiritual teacher, yet that’s exactly what international speaker, philanthropist, best-selling author, and founder of nonprofit Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life Barb Schmidt has accomplished in 30 years of practice and training with inspirational leaders from Deepak Chopra to Marianne Williamson.
What was your TED Talk experience like?
They asked me, “Is there a way that you can do it without really mentioning the word ‘meditation’ or using some of those words that are so, so overly used?” I’m all about trying to demystify that word, “meditation.” It was probably one of the highlights of my life!
Why demystify “meditation”?
I saw it on the cover of Time magazine in 2015, so people assume that it’s become mainstream, but it has not. The biggest and most common question [I get] is, “Can you tell me what meditation is, and how could I actually practice it?” It’s simply about learning about the thoughts you’re thinking and learning how to make your mind your own best friend.
Do you think being a McDonald’s franchisee set you up for your spiritual path?
Even though I was successful—I had all kinds of money; I owned six McDonald’s restaurants, and I had won every McDonald’s award they had—I was dying inside. Now I live my life from the inside out. I have the external greatness. I’m doing this massive work that the juxtaposition of going from owning McDonald’s restaurants to this vegetarian spiritual teacher really set me up for.
How exactly do people let go?
It’s a practice. The reflection exercise at the end of my book allows you to scan your day like a movie, for instance, and look at the good, bad, and indifferent. Having this deep connection to my source, God, love, light, whatever people think to call it—I call it my beloved.
“People don’t want to go to the conventional doctor,” says Koffler. They do, however, want exclusivity and beach club memberships. Which is why Carillon has extended a limited 200 memberships to locals wanting to get their spa, beach, and wellness on year round—for $10,000. For those living the fit life 24/7, Carillon’s 40 classes a day (ranging from yoga and Pilates to rock climbing and kinesis) are a dream come true.
And let’s not forget about yoga, guiding Miami even deeper in its Zen evolution. Just ask Ken Von Roenn III, owner of Skanda Yoga Studio and creator of the practice of Skanda (an alignment-based power yoga consisting of over 500 poses and 60-plus sequences that uses the energy of the ancient 13-moon calendar systems, said to increase harmony or magic in one’s life). “I got a feel for all different yoga communities around the country and decided to come to Miami because there was a large potential here,” says Von Roenn. With his students now taking Skanda to Colorado and beyond, don’t be surprised if it becomes the next yoga breakthrough, as long as you remember it was created in the 305. We even have famous yogis. Exhibit A: Miami Life Center founder and globe trotter Kino McGregor, who has 300,000 subscribers to her YouTube Channel and 900,000 fans on Instagram, all eager to see where in the world her next handstand will be.
Miami’s oldest spiritual shop, 9th Chakra, celebrates 25 years of promoting unorthodox knowledge and transcends into a new age of conscious awareness.
Before Lincoln Road became a tourist beehive complete with a movie theater, Shake Shack, and Lululemon, there was 9th Chakra, the Magic’s City first one-stop spiritual shop. Two and a half decades (and four moves) later, founder Brenda Rosario continues pushing the business of spirituality into divine territory.
What was the spiritual movement in Miami 25 years ago compared to how it is now?
There were maybe a couple of shops, and everyone was into Wicca, especially young people. People from Argentina would come and ask us for things in metaphysics we’d never seen, and now we’re starting to see them. People didn’t realize that they are energy before matter, and that’s changing now. What we’re trying to do is raise the vibrational frequency of each and every person.
What caused that shift?
1995 and ’96 were big years for [the world]. That’s when certain portals of consciousness started to open (and have been opening since). There’s also been a lot of Buddhism in the past six years and people wanting to know about mantras and Eastern religions. And before that, Madonna and the Kabbalah; we used to get a lot of people coming in and saying, “I want that red string that Madonna wears,” and then we’d explain what it was.
Why did you open 9th Chakra?
What was the intention? There weren’t that many places that were into metaphysics. Me and my partner were into crystals— [author] Conny Méndez was the first book I ever read, at 10—and one day my partner had a dream, and she said, “I saw us in a store with two arches doing this type of work.” So we went looking for a place and found 817 Lincoln Road, which had two arches. The realtor had to show us the place with a lighter because the power was out.
You’ve had four stores since, all on Lincoln. Why Lincoln Road?
Our guides told us we had to open there, and everyone said, “Don’t open on Lincoln Road, you’re crazy,” but we had to. Our first sale—a stick of incense—was 10 cents. We had homeless people sleeping in our front door, but little by little, people kept coming in until celebs like Ricky Martin, the Estefans, and Bill Murray, who were filming or performing on Lincoln Road, would come in, play with crystals, listen to music, and throw themselves on the floor. And because of them, others started finding out about the store.
What do you do to further your own journey in the field?
I never stop reading. I do a lot of meditation. And I write a lot. Whenever guides want to talk with me, they have me write.
What should be the first step for people who are just starting to get the spiritual itch?
You have to start with meditation. People get very excited about the chakras, but first you have to learn how to breathe. We don’t know how to breathe because we move too fast. So first you learn to breathe, then meditate, then any type of yoga, and then you can go into chakras.
What about picking a crystal?
Different crystals vibrate at different frequencies, so you don’t choose crystals; crystals choose you. I always say if you walk into a place that has crystals, just walk around. Don’t read anything of what it says, and the first one that attracts you, just hold it for a little bit, and if it gives you the sense of resonating with it, then read what it’s for. Intention plus frequency equals manifestation. 1621 Alton Road, Miami Beach, 305-538-0671
For a dose of the club life without actually going to a nightclub, Chris Paciello’s Anatomy at 1220 blends Miami nightlife with luxury fitness. Models, athletes, and DJs head here for a quick workout, steam, sauna, and then B-12 shot or IV bag from VitaSquad. Down in Pinecrest, the immersive Sensory Fitness will have you sweating in the dark (fret not, there’s a black light) and virtually in faraway places (like the cosmos or an Amazonian jungle) via 84-inch HDTVs. Or maybe you want to deprive yourself of all sensory stimulation to discover ultimate inner peace. Find it up in Boca Raton at Floatessence, where Dr. Emmanuel Kadmon’s one and only flotation therapy tank in South Florida takes you out of your body and into pure consciousness thanks to absolute darkness, silence, and 850 pounds of Epsom salt.
It’s beyond the physical, however, “like in the fascia,” says 1111 Vibes founder Andrew Clark, where the magic (and healing) really happens. According to Clark, “You are about 70 trillion cells humming in harmony with the universe,” which moves at 1,000 miles an hour, and your fascia (the biological fabric that holds us together) is the entryway for free-flowing energy to travel. At his vibration-healing studio, 1111 Vibes, Clark uses his collection of 50-plus gemstone-embedded sound bowls to tune your chakras to the frequency of the universe.
Bodhi Tree House in Wynwood offers sound bowl healing and crystalotherapy (with quartz codified from a temple in Hawaii), along with reiki workshops, Theta healing, and animal communication, while world-renowned holistic practitioner Janet Galipo uses quantum physics, applied kinesiology, and an intuition-based method dubbed Body Talk System to listen, talk to, and energetically heal the body at 2 Be Healthy in Buena Vista. If you’re pressed for time, 2 Be Healthy’s express treatments (from reflexology and Japanese acupuncture to Chinese herb physiotherapy) get you in, out, and balanced in just 20 minutes. On your way out, pop into neighboring Bagua Center for a quantum physics healing therapy, past-life regression, astral travel 101 workshop, sensual sacred yoga, or other form of daily programming.
Of course, a staple of the Miami Beach holistic movement is The Standard Miami Beach, where guests come not only for acupuncture, self-help classes, and a spa day, but also to sweat it out together in the co-ed Turkish-style hammam. Even The Palms has jumped aboard the wellness train and is offering quarterly one-day yoga and meditation retreats (the next one is January 10) with Green Monkey veteran Amy Dannheim and meditation guru Vanessa Scotto.
If you’re looking for a cosmic love connection, it might be as simple as rearranging your home to get everything you want out of life and relationships through a little help from feng shui expert Inessa Freylekhman, who before opening her Miami Beach practice, Feng Shui From The Heart, was harmonizing the sets of Hollywood films. Or perhaps you’ll get all your questions answered via former marketing guru-turned-astrologer and intuitive advisor Alison Lessard, who taps into the Akashic Records to access the “matrix of consciousness” and secrets to your soul.
The bottom line is if “old” Miami—the Miami depicted circa 1980s in Billy Corben’s Cocaine Cowboys—is our city’s yin (or the “shady” side of the coin, according to Chinese philosophy), the opposite yet complementary force, the yang—the “sunny side”—is new Miami. And the time for spiritual awakening is now.
photography by shane Mccauley. shot on location at the carillon MiaMi Beach