Jeffrey Siegel holds a Master degree from Harvard University in Mind, Brain & Education and a Masters in Applied Buddhist Studies from Hong Kong University. He founded JES Wellness to explore the exciting intersection between learning, physical movement, health and fitness.
JES Wellness moves beyond sets, reps and weights to a truly holistic paradigm of health. By seeing the body, mind, spirit and environment as an integrated system, JES Wellness works on physical conditioning, behavioral habits, and mental clarity as part of integrated life training. Their approach combines individual lifestyle assessment with one-on-one personal training, health coaching and mindfulness practices. Together they help people develop sustainable self-care practices that cultivate health, wholeness and happiness.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the process of discovering the intersection between learning and development in regards to physical movement and fitness?
Jeffrey: In simplest terms: to be human is to be a body. We all are literally some body, moving through space interacting with other bodies in beautifully complex and magical ways. When we talk about shared humanity, nothing is more basic than our physicality. So let us begin there.
Just think, no matter who you are or where you were born, we all learned to crawl, fall, and walk. An amazing amount of our brains are dedicated to controlling and organizing movement. So how can we talk about brains and learning without talking about bodies? How can we talk about personal development without talking about bodies?
Just as space is to time, bodies are to minds. They are inextricably linked and fundamental to everything we do. Yet, culturally the two have become very disconnected. Although we cannot live without our bodies, many of us never learn to live with our bodies, at least not well. We either ignore them until they breakdown, or we put-up with crappy mind-body relationships assuming that’s just the way it is. We dislike the way our bodies look. We don’t trust the way they feel. We can’t get them to do the things we want. Ultimately, our experience as embodied beings becomes one of frustration, complacency, dysfunction or neglect. I believing honoring the intertwined nature of the body-mind is the path to reclaiming health and deepening capacities that make us human.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some of most common issues you see your clients facing?
Jeffrey: On the surface, many people’s issues are similar: poor food choices, insufficient exercise, too much stress, dysfunctional movement patterns, not enough rest and so forth. Maybe their metabolism is out of whack with hormonal and blood sugar problems. Maybe they are unhappy with their eating habits. Maybe they have tried exercise in the past but never stuck with it. At the end of the day, some part of their life isn’t working as well as they’d like it to.
On a deeper level, the main issue I see is really about disconnection. We are all suffering from Descartes’s dualistic legacy; our heads are very disconnected from bodies and our individual health is very disconnected from the wellbeing of our friends, environment and society as a whole. Ultimately, all the work I do can be boiled down to integration. First, we must reunite the mind and the body. Then we must reconcile the parts of us that want to change with the parts that don’t. When our heads and hearts are in alignment, we can build new habits without resistance. We can change our experience of the world without having to remember to be different. It’s really a beautiful thing.
BusinessInterviews.com: How has your education and experience with Buddhist philosophies influenced your approach to fitness and health?
Jeffrey: When I first conceptualized JES Wellness, I told my brother about the idea of integrating spiritual wisdom with physical fitness for a wrap-around approach to wellbeing. He looked at me very clearly and said, “So it’s like Buddhist personal training.” I laughed to myself because I never thought about it in those terms, but it’s true that Buddhism and Eastern contemplative philosophies have definitely influenced my approach to health and life.
So much of health coaching is about upgrading habits, and the first step of forming new habits is becoming aware of our current choices and behaviors. This requires waking up to our largely unconscious decisions as we autopilot through our day. Eastern traditions of mindfulness and mediation are really helpful at brining awareness to our habitual patterns. Practicing mindfulness can help us see that life is actually a complex interaction of body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness. These various phenomena are always shifting, always changing, in a never-ending web of cause and effect. This is why it’s funny to talk about personal transformation as if it’s something we must deliberately seek. We are always transforming. The question is whether we are consciously directing this transformation or letting the currents of life take the reigns.
Many people come to fitness or personal development looking for transformation but get too caught up in the end result. They attempt perfection the first time they try something, and are frustrated and despondent that their expectations are not met. This is where infusing impermanence into the work I do helps people be okay with the beautiful struggle we all face. Accepting that each day our bodies are different, and each moment holds new experience to learn from, we can adopt a mindset of wonder and thanks. For instance, I’ve probably done thousands of push-ups and I still learn new things each time. As soon as I assume I know all there is to know about a push-up, I have lost an invaluable teacher. This is about appreciating the journey as much as it is celebrating the outcome.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your “Crunch ‘N Brunch”, a Sunday morning outdoor boot camp followed by a wholesome home cooked meal?
Jeffrey: Let me ask you, have you ever hit the gym and then met up with friends to eat some unhealthy fried food and alcohol? I have. And I’ve seen plenty of others put in good time and energy into their bodies only to negate most of those benefits with unhealthy dietary habits. Working out and then dining with friends on nutritionally wholesome food seemed like a logical next step to close the gap between what people know they should do and actually doing it. This is about designing a lifestyle that is set up for success. I want people to make sure people don’t have to rely purely on willpower, because in the fight between willpower and the environment, the environment usually wins. Therefore it’s vital that people have the “how” of success: the skills, strategies, resources, and tools to overcome the obstacles they face. Crunch ‘N Brunch is one of those tools to add to the wellness toolkit.
On a more personal level, Sunday mornings would always be a bit tense between my girlfriend and me. I love starting my day with movement and she loves starting her day with brunch. Eventually we decided to combine our passions and Crunch ‘N Brunch was born. I decided to lead an outdoor bootcamp in the park, and she facilitated a wholesome and nutritious brunch that everyone could help cook. It was the winning combination. Honestly, I’m surprised there aren’t more food-fitness fusions.
BusinessInterviews.com: Are you starting to see a shift where people are realizing that a more holistic approach to health is more powerful than focusing on a specific ailment in isolation?
Jeffrey: Definitely! I think we’ve reached a point in our society where better living through chemistry has run up against it’s own limitations. Drugs are extremely useful to treat acute disease, but as we are now facing an epidemic of chronic dysfunction, it’s clear there’s more to living healthy than pharmaceutical interventions. Lifestyle must be seen as preventative medicine. People must believe that good health is a life-long process achieved through proper nurturing of mind, body and spirit. Healthcare must be preceded by self-care, in which healthy habits, a personalized diet, movement, rewarding relationships and savoring life’s joys are indispensible parts of every day.
I think the rise in holistic and integrative approaches has been paralleled by the rise in ecological awareness, the focus on social and emotional education, and the scientific validation of mind-body health practices. Everything from the local, organic food movement, to the importance of educating the whole child, to the effects of meditation on the brain has opened mainstream society to more favorable views of complementary health practices. The result is that people have become more aware that any approach that cuts off or focuses on one lifestyle factor is partial at best.
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