, Newburyport, MA

January 10, 2014

The mind-body connection

New workshop for teen girls promotes healthy living

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — As a pediatrician, Dr. Tammy Bottner sees a lot of adolescents come through her door complaining of ailments like anxiety, headaches, abdominal pain and fatigue.

A lot of times, those symptoms can be traced back to one thing: stress.

Bottner thinks the solution for many of these problems lies not in medication but in a combination of nutrition, exercise and relaxation techniques.

In their new wellness workshop designed especially for teenage girls, Bottner and personal trainer Paulette Dunn aim to emphasize the connection between the mind and the body.

“It’s really about learning some things that will help each girl destress,” said Bottner, co-founder of Riverside Pediatrics in Newburyport. “It’s about getting to a calmer, happier place.”

Between the challenges of school and work and the prevalence of social media in society today, teenagers are often “tuned out” to the world around them and to what their bodies are trying to tell them, Dunn said.

“They don’t get that mind-body thing because they’re tuned out,” she said. “They need to unplug.”

The workshop, called Mind-Body-Health, is aimed at helping young women become stronger, happier, healthier and less stressed by focusing on both mental and physical health.

Starting Jan. 23 and running twice a week for four weeks, the after-school classes will all start with five minutes of quiet reflection and deep breathing, to help participants “leave their day and stress behind,” Bottner said.

Each week will have a different focus, with the first sessions delving into the mind-body connection and featuring yoga led by Newburyport instructor Ann Biese.

The second week will focus on nutrition, with advice from Newburyport naturopathic doctor Alia Elias. Dunn, who trains clients at All Natural Fitness in Salisbury, will lead the girls in strength and cardio exercises.

In the third week, the emphasis will be placed on exercise, and Betsy Katz, an instructor from The Dance Place in Newburyport, will lead the physical activity.

The final week will teach participants how to put all the components together, with a goal of keeping things fun and spontaneous so that the girls will be motivated to continue to practice what they’ve learned.

Bottner and Dunn, who both live in Newburyport, devised the workshop as part of their final project in a positive psychology course they have been taking for the past year from the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in western Massachusetts.

Both are parents of teenagers, so they know all too well the challenges they can face.

“We see and experience firsthand how difficult it is for them to be an adolescent,” Dunn said.

They decided to cater this workshop specifically to teenage girls to give them “a place where they can focus on themselves,” Bottner said.

“I thought that girls might be less self-conscious if boys weren’t included,” she said. “I would love each of the girls to take one topic and embrace it and make it her own and use it in her life to feel better in mind and body.”

If this venture is successful, the pair said they will consider holding either coed or boys-only classes in the future.

The classes will be held at Anna Jaques Hospital and are open to all girls ages 13-18. No exercise experience is necessary, and participants need to bring only water and a yoga mat or towel.

The eight classes cost $50, but scholarships are available for those who are unable to pay for the workshop.

“We don’t want finances to be a reason for someone to not take the class,” Bottner said.

If you go

What: Mind-Body-Health, a wellness workshop for teenage girls ages 13-18

When: Starts Tuesday, Jan. 21. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m. for four weeks.

Where: Higgins Conference Room, Anna Jaques Hospital, 25 Highland Ave., Newburyport

How much: $50 for all eight classes. Scholarships available.

More information: To sign up, email