Western Pa. wellness centers embrace unconventional direction
Melissa Migliaro said she almost had an out-of-body experience when she first saw it, this earthy patch of rustic calm amid the commercial sprawl of suburban Peters.
Diminutive statues of St. Francis and Buddha watch over a pond strewn with lily pads, beside a two-story, wood-paneled building that evokes a scaled-down mountain lodge.
Inside, Migliaro imagined turning the 3,900-square-foot space — the former Changing Seasons center — into a holistic health hub. She envisioned cooking and yoga classes, spiritual talks and a vibrant community gathering spot.
“I thought: ‘How can I not do this? Think of all the people who could be affected,' ” said Migliaro, 33, of Mt. Lebanon, who quit her outreach job in a chiropractic office and established the Metamorphosis wellness center last summer near McMurray Road. “I'm really teaching people that it's more than one thing that makes you well.”
A year in, she estimates 200 people a month attend culinary, fitness, financial and related classes at Metamorphosis, most hosted by a couple dozen vendors and independent business partners.
As Migliaro refines her business plan, industry observers say the one-stop approach joins a growing number of for-profit community centers nationwide that stress natural, preventive philosophies for physical and emotional health.
Several have taken root across the Pittsburgh area in the past few years.
“Somebody's got to get people thinking outside the box, and not about just the normal pain management, to get through the day. Life should be about much more than that,” said Edwin Amrhein, 33, of Portersville, a co-owner of Evolve Wellness Center in Zelienople. Open about two years, the facility counts around 100 clients a week for chiropractic services, yoga, belly dancing and other events.
“There's nothing crazy going on here. This is all tried and true,” Amrhein said. “We're not going out on any crazy limbs of alternative medicine and trying to claim things we can't claim.”
Such unconventional wellness centers are picking up speed as many Americans worry over the expense of more traditional health care and try to avoid illnesses before they start, said Mary Jo Kreitzer, a nursing professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
“Eighty percent of how healthy people are has nothing to do with doctors, hospitals and drugs — what we think of as the health care system. It has to do with lifestyle choices and behaviors that people have,” said Kreitzer, who runs the school's Center for Spirituality and Healing.
“How people exercise, what they eat, how much they sleep is very tied to their health care outcomes.”
She said a key challenge for wellness centers is to develop sustainable financial models for the longer term. While few statistics illustrate the precise growth in the sector, industry data show that firms providing some manner of wellness services should increase to 10,406 nationwide by 2016, said Brandan Hardie, executive director at the National Wellness Institute in Stevens Point, Wis.
That would reflect a nearly 10 percent increase over several years.
The Nuin Center in Highland Park, which opened 19 years ago, focuses on helping people through personal transitions, manager Heather Kropf said.
“It's quiet. It's peaceful. It feels like a little oasis in the city,” she said. “It's a little different, maybe, from other wellness centers.”
One of the newest centers in Western Pennsylvania, Avani Institute in McMurray, opened about nine months ago with workshops ranging from nutrition to meditation and stress therapy.
“I have an idea about what direction it's going to go. But as people come through the door, they'll decide the direction it really is going to go. It's what the need is in the community,” said director and founder Karen Shanahan, 63, of Upper St. Clair.
For Luise Caster, 52, of Bethel Park, the yoga classes at Metamorphosis are restorative.
“I'm at the point in my life where my kids are grown, and I'm saying, ‘Hey — what can I do for myself?' ” Caster said, who lost 20 pounds after working with a holistic health coach. “I always leave there feeling somewhat rejuvenated.”
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Job growth in Upper St. Clair area prompts need for housing
- High school dance marathons raise money to help children
- Businesses in McKees Rocks struggle amid $39M revamp of West Carson
- Paralympic club steps up its adaptive workouts for rowers
- North Allegheny teen eager to serve
- Mt. Lebanon awaits formal letter nixing extended deer season