New Year, New You: Pauline Koinis brings ayurveda home

LIME ROCK - Pauline Koinis hadn’t been feeling well for a while. As a single mother of three children, she was working full time at a demanding fundraising job. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Finally, she ended up at the emergency room in Sharon Hospital.

"The doctor sat me down and told me, ‘I give you six months,’" she said. "I said, ‘What do you mean, six months?’ and he said, ‘If you don’t change your lifestyle, you will be dead in six months.’" The doctor went on to explain that her immune system was attacking her body. He blamed stress.

Koinis took that warning to heart. In the same month, she quit her job, moved to Lime Rock, and enrolled in massage therapy school. She had been a personal trainer in Boston, "before it was ever heard of," and after finishing massage school, she went on to learn yoga as well. She has run her business, Total Body Wellness, mostly on word of mouth for the last 10 years out of her Lime Rock home, offering massage, reflexology, yoga instruction, personal training and exercise consultation.

Though she loves her work and has done well, she is facing more competition and has decided to expand her services.

"There are so many therapists in such a small area," she said. "That’s why I’m diversifying." Having recently returned from an educational trip to India, Koinis now has ayurvedic treatments in her repertoire.

"I’ve always been pretty holistic in my practice," Koinis said. She said her experience with her illness 10 years ago led her to explore nonwestern treatment options. She found a program in ayurvedic certification offered by the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy. It consisted of a year of classroom study followed by a four-and-a-half-week visit to India for hands-on experience.

"It’s the oldest form of medicine. It’s 5,000 years old," Koinis said. "That’s what drew me to it, that they’re still practicing it, down to leeches. They still use leeches to draw blood."

It sounds unpleasant, but Koinis has the photos to back up her story. She explained that leeches are used to draw blood from a patient, usually in an infected area. The leeches are then given turmeric, which causes them to expel the blood they took from the patient. The ayurvedic practitioner can then examine the blood to see what the problem may be.

Koinis didn’t mention any plans to start using leeches, however. She is sticking to less radical treatments that rely mainly on hot oils.

"They don’t use ice for anything," she said. "They don’t even put ice in their drinks. They don’t believe in ice! It’s all steam and heat, hot oils." She said oils are added to rice, cooked, wrapped in cheese cloth and rubbed over an affected area. She said it is a particularly effective treatment for swelling and can be used on any part of the body.

Another ayurvedic treatment involves building a reservoir of flour dough on the client’s body and then filling it with hot oil. The oil rests on the body for a while, then is removed and replaced with fresh oil.

Koinis practiced these treatments in an Indian charitable hospital for three weeks. She saw a number of patients, especially children.

"I would fill up the pockets of my lab coat with candy," she said. "It was like the Pied Piper."

Koinis said her time in India was the most valuable part of her study.

"Working with patients, I learned more in those three weeks than I did in the year of books here," she said. She said that 80 percent of her study in India was practical experience with ayurvedic techniques.

Since she returned in November, Koinis has been combining ayurvedic treatments with massage.

"If you have a specific ailment, I’ll work with you on that," she said. The treatment consists of 40 minutes of application of hot oils, followed by 20 minutes of massage on the affected area. She said she has seen "unbelievable" results.

"I’ve been working with a woman with a degenerative cervical spine," she said. "She’s getting relief. She can turn her head now."

Koinis said that ayurvedic treatments are most effective when applied for several days in a row, but that results can be seen even with weekly treatments. One treatment she now offers is called shirodhara.

"Hot oil drips on the third eye," she said. "It’s very good for mental illness, anxiety, someone with a type A personality and kids with ADD."

Koinis offers deep tissue, Swedish and sports massage as well as reflexology. An hour of any of these treatments costs $75; Koinis will travel to a client’s home for an additional fee. The standard ayurvedic treatments also cost $75 an hour. Shirodhara costs a bit more, $80 for an hour, because the oil is expensive.

Koinis said her practice offers clients a very different service than the average spa.

"People who come in for massage in general are looking for relief other than the Western pill," she said. "I get to know your body really well. It’s good to have someone checking your body. I’ve found cancer on people."


To schedule an appointment with Koinis, call Total Body Wellness at 860-435-2503.

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