IT CAN HAPPEN ON A SKI SLOPE, your supple legs effortlessly absorbing one shock after another, hips swaying easily, the mountainside flying past you in blissful moments that feel beyond time. It can happen on the crest of an uphill climb, quads pumping like pistons powered by breaths so deep they seem to drive the bike pedals all by themselves before you exhale into shouts of joy as you realize that you've stayed ahead of the stronger riders in the pack. It can happen in the charged silence shared by the united crew of your river raft after deftly paddling through the violence of thunderous whitewater. And it can happen as you slump exhausted back to earth after a transcendent outdoor experience, the energy coursing through a body that feels in sync with itself and everything around it. This is the Whole Athlete, a human being whose immaterial dimensionsmind, emotions, spirithave been developed in such close concert with the physical self that you can't even imagine them as separate anymore. Instinctively, you already understand this principlenothing provides that sense of life's interconnectedness more than the natural world. But only recently have spas, gyms, and fitness experts begun to develop integrated strategies to help you achieve this state of grace, by supplementing your usual cardio and strength workouts with disciplines such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, Pilates, massageany practice that works not only your body but all facets of your being.
The statistics tell it all: The market for healthy, environmentally friendly products and servicesfrom organic produce to acupunctureis now a staggering $227 billion. Men made up nearly 30 percent of the 45 million spa-goers last year. Yoga practitioners in the U.S. have swelled to 15 million. Colorado's Shambhala Mountain Center meditation retreat expects to have 15,000 visitors this year, up from 1,400 five years ago.
Even a bodybuilding stronghold like Gold's Gym teaches the downward dog to many of its three million members worldwide. Pro sports stars and weekend warriors alike have finally realized that something is sorely lacking in the traditional American's good-ol'-boy approach to getting in shape: Run and pump weights until you drop, then do some more.
"You can't just train one part of yourselfyou have to train all of them," says James Loehr, a sports psychologist who has helped athletes from Monica Seles to Eric Lindros excel. "All these thingsyoga, mental training, martial artsrespect the fact that we are not a one-dimensional species. They all better integrate the body, tuning it to the way it actually works."