Rachel Koenigson wears scarfs year-round and she also wears many hats—at least the occupational type. She is a personal trainer, acupuncturist, massage therapist, and even a teacher of massage. Rachel will be leading a workshop for Jerusalem Village on February 15th with her colleague Saray. They will share their unique (and much needed!) passions at the Winter Wellness Workshop and instruct us on how to stay healthy and happy during the hard winter months. I sat down with Rachel over some herbal infusions (cause she talks the talk and also walks the walk) for an interview and to get to know her better. This is what I found.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: I made aliyah 12 years ago from New Jersey. After making aliyah, I studied in Israel at Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports and then Reidman College for alternative medicine. Now, I’m living in Jerusalem and practicing in Baka.
Q: Do you like Jerusalem?
A: I love it. I came here first for a job then I took courses through Wingate. Of course there’s more work for my field in Tel Aviv, but my clientele are here and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. There’s a deep energy here that can tire you out, but for me, Jerusalem is the modern orthodox Israel. Actually, for me, Israel equals Jerusalem.
Q: How did you connect with Jerusalem Village?
A: I was at their “Spices” workshop and I thought that what I do could be applied to a similar structure for a workshop. So I proposed the idea to Lisa (the founder and director of Jerusalem Village)!
Q: That’s pretty cool how you used your skills and passions, and with some creativity, made it into an event for the Jerusalem community! What do you expect the Winter Wellness Workshop will be like?
A: Everyone will be split into 2 groups, one with me and one with Saray, and then we will switch. She also studied at Reidman with me, which is where we met. She is a teacher and she works privately and through Kupat Cholim, Maccabi I believe.
I will be leading the workshop on wellness from the Chinese medicine perspective. To heal things like stiff necks, a cold, flu… I will offer nutrition advice of foods to add in the winter, such as herbs and essential oils, and we will talk about how each type of herb and oil can help with winter ailments. Each participant will make their own essential oil that they’ll take home after the workshop.
Saray will teach how to massage certain acupuncture points when you’re sick. You’ll put the oil on these places and apply pressure to those points. All of the massage techniques we teach, you will be able to practice at home, but for the sake of this workshop, we will pair up to practice.
Q: That sounds very much needed right about now. In the mean time, what are some of your top tips for the winter?
A: First, I’d say go to sleep by 10:30pm. It’s not necessarily about how much you sleep, but rather when you go to bed. Although you should definitely get more than 6 hours of sleep. The Chinese go to bed and wake up with the sun. It makes your immune system work much better, which kicks into gear by 10 or 11pm, while your liver cleans your blood between the hours of 1am-3am. It’s important to be resting then.
Second, eat cooked foods. This isn’t the time to be eating raw. Make hot soups and stews during the winter.
Third is to drink tea when you are sick. A mix of ginger, honey, lemon, and even some spearmint will be great for sickness.
A fourth would be to line your socks with some cinnamon essential oil if you tend to have cold feet. This will help with blood circulation.
To decrease symptoms of sickness, you can use acupuncture or massage—apply pressure between the thumb and the forefinger for headaches. This will decrease your symptoms.
Normally, too much sodium isn’t recommended, but in the winter, you can eat salty foods. Salt actually nourishes organs, which will keep your immune system strong.
Keep your neck and upper back warm to protect against the cold wind. The wind goes right through your skin and muscles, causing different ailments. That’s why I always wear a scarf, even in the summer.
If you are interested in more tips and tricks for the winter, don’t miss Jerusalem Village’s Winter Wellness Workshop on February 15th! If you, like Rachel and Saray, have an idea stemming from your passion that you would like to share with the Jerusalem community, tell us about it and we can work together to actualize your idea in a JV workshop. To follow JV’s events, like us on Facebook.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Like her on Facebook and follow her column on JNS.org.