As we exit the festive season, thoughts turn slowly to New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you are thinking about balancing out those over-indulgent days by trying to lose weight and tone up in time for spring? Perhaps you’re thinking about how to stabilise your wallet between your impending tax bill and your regular expenses? However, let me suggest that there are other, possibly more important factors to consider than your waistline, such as how to balance your wellbeing?
What do I mean by this? The cold weather and long nights can often give us the blues. The modern fast-paced, tech-driven era we live in is said to be the loneliest ever. And the diet most of us have had over the festive period can promote a more sluggish digestion and feelings of guilt. I mean looking after yourself in a gentle and nurturing way which is truly sustainable – unlike so many of those gym memberships we find ourselves signing up to at this time of year.
So why and how should you do this? At the invite of Effie Love, acupuncturist, yoga teacher, massage therapist and owner of About Balance – one of Brighton’s most varied and cost-effective well-being centres – I go along to meet her and find out more.
The moment I enter, I feel the stress and strain strangely start to melt away. It might be partly to do with the fact it smells so great. A mixture of oil diffusers, incense and sage hang in the air, but to be honest, there is just a calming vibe to the place. Someone is sitting in the window with a cup of tea reading, and soothing music drifts up from the front counter. The receptionist is laughing with members of a yoga class which has just finished, giving me a feeling that I’d be more than just a name on a list here. I would be part of a community.
Effie breezes in, apologising for being late and starts saying ‘hi’ to all the people floating around the shop. Clearly, she is very hands-on and welcoming. She offers me a glass of cucumber water, before showing me around the yoga studio – pointing out all the products in the shop and the long line of posters across the desk’s front, which promote workshops of all shapes and sizes, before taking me downstairs. Here I am shown three treatment rooms, each used for a wide variety of therapies. About Balance has plenty of these to offer, including craniosacral, reiki, kinesiology, osteopathy, psychotherapy, reflexology and massage therapy. “Yes of course people want to lose weight in the New Year, but it’s not about that here,” Effie explains. “It’s about creating a place which supports and allows you to make time and space for yourself. Which we so often forget or feel unable to do. Sometimes a gentle yoga class can make you feel more invigorated than a run, or a warm soothing float can give you the space to release tension in ways nothing else could. It’s about support, motivation and going at your own pace, rather than competing or comparing with other people. It’s being realistic about where you are coming from and aiming to get to and being kind to yourself. Balancing the right amount of exercise with the right amount of nurture… Preferably in a way which doesn’t break the bank after one of the most expensive times of the year.”
Next are the floatation tank rooms, aptly named ‘Pod’ and ‘Cabin’, with Pod simulating being back in the womb and Cabin sporting stars on the ceiling while offering enough room for two. Here I am left to test drive my first ever float, which turns out to be both weird and wonderful. Imagine being totally weightless, feeling like you are floating through space, warm and comfortable. It was hard to fully relax at first. Although I’m not sure what I was being nervous about. After a while I got the hang of it and almost drift off, when the session comes to an end and I’m bundled up in a soft white robe and whisked off to sample a little of what they have on offer in the form of deep tissue massage.
About Balance has a lot to offer, but one of the main pulls for me is the price. It is all about fair trade and low cost for both those who work there and the consumer. Effie tells me she firmly believes health and wellbeing should be accessible to everyone, but realised one day she wouldn’t be able to afford her own therapies and therefore knew many others wouldn’t be able to either. So, she decided to do something about that, and About Balance was born. It works by charging the therapists less rent and not deducting from their income, enabling them to offer lower prices to the customers, who in turn can afford to buy a Karma Card subscription. Essentially this is a discount card, but one which also helps sustain the business costs.
As Effie puts it: “It is about the community as a whole. Yes, I run the place, but it is the clients, the teachers and the therapists who build it and make it what it is. Without them there wouldn’t be an About Balance. “We know it can be hard to drag yourself off the sofa or not head straight home or to a pub after work, especially when it is dark and cold outside. So, we try to make it as easy and cost-effective as possible. We have half price floats on a Monday, Karma cards for as little as £9.99 a month and a very special ‘New Year’s Resolution Package’ available to kick start your 2020, which we hope will inspire people to balance their wellbeing and help them to feel nurtured, supported and eager to try something new.”
As I step out into the cold and rainy evening, I feel surprisingly warm. Not just from the welcome I received, the invigorating float or the massage, but from a feeling that I have taken a tentative first step towards something which will continue. Something softer and more supportive than the hardcore January resolutions I usually feel obliged to participate in? Yes… But this is a choice which will perhaps be even more impactful. After all life is all about balance.
About Balance is at 20-22 Gloucester Place, Brighton BN1 4AA