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Wellness for Mind and Body, With an Architectural Soul, at Kalyana Centre

It's open house today for the Ardmore well-being center.

In the shadow of the hustle and bustle of Suburban Square and the traffic of Lancaster Avenue is a place where you can clear your head, catch your breath and relieve stress. 

It’s not a new coffee joint or strip-mall spa. Instead, tucked away at 124 Sibley Avenue—just off Church Road in Ardmore—is the , which is holding an open house today from 2 to 7 p.m. (Click here for the day's itinerary.)

With the feel of a New Orleans courtyard, it is hidden behind wrought iron fencing and a variety of shade trees and ivy. From the street, it is displaced from the nearby car lot and condos, but once inside the gates you are transported to an eclectic and whimsical place, with a purpose.

About two years ago, Dr. Joanna Carmichael had a vision for a center that brought together practitioners and healers for holistic and alternative medicine. Originally, she was simply looking for office space for herself, but she wanted something less corporate and less, well, clinical. This former home of Main Line architect Walter Durham was exactly what she was looking for.

The century-old property consists of two buildings: one is now the Wellness Center and the other is a yoga studio. Certain parts of Durham’s home comprise a hodge-podge of random cabinets and doors that fit together with pristine antiquity. The slate patio in front of the house and in the back of the yoga studio feature alcoves, statues and sculptures. This inviting environment was an ideal match for Carmichael.

“Heart attacks are urgent. Emails and faxes are not urgent.”—Joanna Carmichael

The Kalyana Centre promotes holistic and alternative medicine as well as yoga, and has individualized programs to help with personal balance and well-being. But this is not a vestige of the 1980s New Age movement. Carmichael cringes at the term.

“What’s new age is really old age—it was always a phrase that cracked me up,” she laughed. “Because what they are talking about isn’t new, it’s ancient.”

Previously, Carmichael worked for various drug companies running clinical trials, and was able to first-hand see the myriad side effects on patients. One thing she noticed was a strong connection between mind and medicine; 40 percent of people left the studies because they were doing well, even though they were getting a placebo.

One Pill Makes You…

Carmichael says the FDA recognized a mind-body connection because of studies like this. She also noticed that people were receptive because of the personal care they were receiving while on the trials. A regular doctor’s visit may only last 15 minutes, while the visits she made with clinical trial patients lasted an hour or more.

As she began to grow disheartened with what she perceived as corruption in pharmacology, Carmichael began to branch out to alternative measures such as Ayurveda, metaphysics, and divinity. There is a time and place for Western medicine, she feels, but she posits that the programs and philosophies of the Kalyana Centre and other wellness centers like it will help prevent further health complications.

“Alternative medicine should really be a first line of defense—what people should try first,” she said, referring to a nutritional approach with exercise and meditation. Instead, “people are using it as a last resort because the drug industry promotes a quick fix philosophy.” The emerging popularity of alternative medicine is taking place because many people are finding this “quick fix” isn’t working, Carmichael said.

Motivation From Within

Her center teaches about creating a balance of everything in one’s life to promote better health, and well-being (not necessarily the same thing). The center is a collaborative of practitioners that work together to develop programs individualized to what a patient is seeking. Common treatments address anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress management, and weight management.

A first-time patient would receive a consultation (about $50) so that Carmichael and her staff can see where an individual is physically, spiritually and emotionally. Anxiety about work or relationships, for example, may lead to overeating, smoking or drinking, thus causing dietary and mental health issues.

“Motivation isn’t lasting, it’s exhausting,” Carmichael explained. “If you are inspired from within it comes easier. When the choices are coming from you, not depravation, you are more likely to stick with it. When you feel deprived, it makes you want it even more. Ayurveda is about perfect health, finding a balance, not losing pounds.”

The philosophy is healing the person, not the problem. Taking a pill and getting back to work is not the answer, Carmichael believes.

Open House Friday

Today (Friday, Nov. 11), the Kalyana Centre will be hosting an open house. The public can take a peak at this unique architectural gem, but mainly it is to show what the center can offer. Visitors can meet with the staff practitioners, get mini-massages and check out yoga and meditation demonstrations. There will also be healthy bites from Brulee Bakery.

Carmichael says individuals who are interested in beginning a program with the Kalyana Centre have to bring desire, intention, and a willingness to do things differently.

“Heart attacks are urgent,” she said. “Emails and faxes are not urgent. We have to see what is more important in life. No one died wishing they spent more time in the office or wish they sent more emails. Small lifestyle changes like diet or even when you go bed can make all the difference.”

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