At Hudson Wellness Collective, Health As Human Right
Sarah Falkner, Masha Schmidt, Caroline Ruderman; Photo credit Nicholas Kahn
There’s nothing clinical about walking into the Hudson Wellness Collective, a center for healing arts that opened on Hudson’s bustling Warren Street last fall. Strings of tiny white lights and a paper lamp cast a warm glow over the lobby’s hardwood floors; flickering candles line the windowsill. Across the room is an antique desk stuffed with elderberry syrup, nettles, lemon verbena, and other tonics from the Good Fight Herb Company. Nearby, a bird’s nest rests beneath a glass dome. Depending on the day, the thick shag carpet and pillows scattered across the floor might be occupied by a workshop on pediatric wellness or a Black Friday free store offering up clothes and toys, or cleared away for a twice-weekly mat pilates class.
Notable as the Collective’s attention to aesthetics is, its sense of social purpose is what makes it truly unique. Massage therapist Sarah Falkner and acupuncturist Masha Schmidt founded the center because they wanted to make healing arts accessible to everyone, regardless of budget or schedule. “We want wellness to be not just a luxury,” Falkner says, “but a human right.”
Photo credit Nicholas Kahn
To that end, the independent practitioners teamed up with reiki healer Caroline Ruderman, herbalist Lauren Giambrone, and pilates teacher Cheryl Symister-Masterson to offer wellness services at affordable rates and sliding scale fees. Appointments are available seven days a week. The collective also offers programs like a collaborative healing arts clinic each Monday from 3 to 7 pm. Clients file in for acupuncture, massage therapy, and reiki treatments at just $35 a pop — or $30 a session for two back-to-back appointments. “You don’t need to have to be fixed to seek care,” Schmidt says. “We all need care, and we all need to be touched.”
This expansive approach to health makes the Collective an excellent fit for Hudson’s progressive population. Like-minded businesses abound on Warren Street — including Bodhi, a holistic spa which recently moved to the same block. “Businesses are very special here,” Falkner notes. “There are so many creative and talented people.”
All treatments at the Collective are tailored to individual mind-body needs. Practitioners take into account not only workaday problems like anxiety, back injuries, and carpel-tunnel syndrome, but also sensory preferences. One client might prefer to listen to classical music during a heated stone massage, while another would opt for Tibetan singing bowls recorded in an echo chamber; a reiki patient seeking tranquility can opt for the woodsy blend of vetiver and oak essential oils over a delicate rose scent.
“There’s a capacity for ambient environments to be part and parcel of the healing process,” Falkner says. Her own background as an artist and writer — her debut novel, Animal Sanctuary, won the Starcheone Books Prize for Innovative Fiction in 2010 — helps explain her unique approach to wellness.
“When I was in college as an art student,” she says, “someone gave me a gift certificate for a massage, and it changed my life. I hadn’t been very healthy before that — I had asthma, pains, ulcers.” Falkner began studying herbs as a hobby; in 1998, she returned to school at New York City’s Swedish Institute to get a degree in massage therapy. Her work has operated at the intersection of healing and art ever since.
Take, for example, the shrines sold at the Collective’s in-store apothecary — small wood boxes that contain a candle, scented oil, and a gris-gris bag (a voodoo charm meant to ward off evil and bring good luck). The shrines evolved out of Falkner’s recent performance art project, Rewilderment. “There’s a ritual component to wellness and self-care,” Falkner explains, that ties directly to performance art.
Going forward, the Collective plans to offer workshops and classes that will help people establish restorative rituals in their own lives. Schmidt, a Ukranian-born writer and mother of two who moved to Hudson last February, says that rituals like mindfulness meditation classes and yoga groups “help people come together in a way that is practical and useful and affordable, without having to sign onto any dogma.”
Other plans for the coming year include reading groups, nutritionist consultations, and a listening party that will combine acupuncture, aromatherapy, and live music. With that kind of diverse, community-oriented programming, health hopefuls looking to get a fresh start in 2013 may find that wellness is well within reach. —Sarah Todd
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