Be Well Ambassadors Lauren Allensmith and Itai Halevi

As our Wellness Community grows there are certain people who stand out as positive examples on how to embody leading a health concious life. These people demostrate on a consistant basis the importance of self care and awareness both on a personal level and in the community. Share their experience with those around them, sharing ways to enrich life from a balanced perpective. We have asked Lauren and Itai to be Be Well - a living testimonial... advocates not only for the Be Well Community, but for living a healthy full life!

Our Fitness Story

Like most people, we coasted through our twenties and thirties by cashing in on our bodies' built-in resiliency. My wife Lauren's job as a financial analyst had her routinely put in 12 hour days sitting - at a desk, in a car, or on a plane. At the time I was a graphic designer and I would spend days on end hunched over in my chair, nose to the computer screen. After hours, as musicians, we would stay out all night playing music or seeing bands. We ate whatever was cheap and near. Sleep? Optional. We would repeat the process, never appreciating our bodies' almost magical ability to heal and bear up against this onslaught.

Of course, it was not sustainable. We could see and feel the effects, increasingly, in many ways: sore backs, shortness of breath, an active avoidance of lifting heavy things. But the physical effects paled in comparison to the mental impacts. We developed a limited toolbox to deal with upsets, anxieties, and disruptions to our routines. As we aged and our bodies stiffened, so did our minds and souls.

We kew that we needed to change our ways of living but it took the influence of our friends to show us the possibilities. I started practicing Yoga in 2000 when a friend noticed my shallow  breathing and constant tension. Lauren was invited by a friend to join her to see a personal trainer, to support each other while getting shape. Working out, from the get go, was tied into our relationships with the people around us. Here are some of the things we learned and the principles we’ve embraced over the years: 

Play Time                                                                                                                                           We have been together for 25 years, and are now raising two teenage boys. The responsibilities of parenting, work, and home ownership put the typical strains on our relationship by limiting the time we had to play together. We tried arranging “date nights” but they felt too contrived and confining. Fitness and yoga classes, however, give us a chance to play together in new ways. While we take care of ourselves, we also get to see each other express new strengths and new vulnerabilities. It’s a chance to laugh, grunt, sweat, and chant loud OM's together. Most precious to us are the talks we have on the way home, when our minds are cleared and we feel so optimistic and hopeful and close.

Be Sharp, Stay Sharp
The brain needs the chemicals released from strenuous exercise in order to keep growing and stay alert, especially as one ages. Books like "Spark" and "Younger Next Year" detail the new science behind these claims and they served as motivation for us to jump into Sarah and Kim’s classes. More so than the sheer physicality of the workouts, we are fascinated by their mental aspects - physical exhaustion turned out to be a catalyst for our most creative endeavors. We have a choice in what type of older person we want to be: sharp and curious or flat and timid.

Let It Go
Taking care of our bodies through fitness and yoga provide us with tools to help us navigate the stresses and anxieties that are a normal part of life. We rely on the breathing techniques or the mantras in yoga and meditation to acknowledge a negative emotion or thought and move past it. The gentler practices help us to live in the moment. But they also give us the confidence that we already possess whatever is necessary to take care of business with peacefulness and balance. The fitness classes contribute by deepening our energy reserves and offering yet another emotional outlet. A strong and flexible body is the foundation for a balanced inner life.


Let It Flow
Perhaps the most important effect that taking care of ourselves has had is on our ability to engage with the world. We aren't super-people. We are susceptible, like anybody, to falling into ruts or periods of pessimism. When life is heavy, when our bodies literally feel too heavy to bear, we fall into a state of trying to conserve our personal energy. We may choose not to go out to experience new things or meet new people. Our worlds get smaller. When we nurture the body so that it no longer feels like a burden to be lugged around, we begin to direct our energies outward. We have more to give and it flows naturally. Now, as an English teacher at UMass Boston, I can bring more creativity and energy into my classroom to better serve my students. Lauren has more energy to cultivate friendships and volunteer in community activities. We are better partners, parents, and friends. We relish the opportunities to engage instead of isolate.


We definitely had to make some choices (sometimes grudgingly, at first!) to get to this point in our journey. But as we considered the aspirations we had individually, for our family, and for our community, it became clear that committing to care for ourselves, in all dimensions, was the necessary first step.