Good health isn’t just physical — there’s also a spiritual and emotional component, says Little Bear Maestas. As a result of this belief and a series of visions he said he had while seriously ill, Maestas converted his personal training gymnasium into a spiritual wellness center supporting all aspects of individual and community health.
In the spring four years ago, Maestas opened a gym south of Taos to work one-on-one with people trying to improve their health. Having weighed over 300 pounds at one point in his life, he understands that not everyone feels comfortable going to a gym full of already fit people.
After improving his own health, many people asked him how he managed to cope, which inspired him to become certified as a personal trainer with multiple certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM ), including specializations in women’s health. , youth training, nutrition, personal training and exercise science.
For 24 years, he has participated in Sun Dance ceremonies, including six years as an animator. The Sun Dance is a ritual form of prayer and self-sacrifice. He was also involved in sweat lodges. Learning about his own Lakota and Crow ancestry inspired him to explore his own spiritual path. While dancing the sun many years ago, he said he had a vision that the time would come for him to help people.
Then, in May 2019, Maestas took a bad fall and developed extensive blood clotting along with other life-threatening conditions like kidney failure. He suffered from a rare condition called compartment syndrome, which is a painful and dangerous condition caused by a buildup of pressure from internal bleeding or swelling of the tissues. The pressure decreases blood flow and deprives the muscles and nerves of needed nourishment, producing severe pain and weakness in the affected area. For severe cases, emergency surgery is needed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Maestas has been told by his surgeons that many people with this disease lose their lives or lose limbs.
He spent much of the next two and a half months in and out of hospitals, where he said he had many spiritual dreams and began to realize that it was time to start sharing everything he has. lived through his years of dancing the sun and pouring water. for sweat lodges, as well as what he learned from his Lakota/Ogallala Medicine Men teachers. “In my visions, I saw my grandparents and my sister, who died 17 years ago. According to traditional beliefs, I knew that meant they were coming for me. I have two daughters that I have to stay alive and take care of, so I said I couldn’t go with them. After returning home, he consulted a healer in South Dakota, who helped Maestas understand that he had made a direct agreement with God and needed to share what he had learned to help others.
Maestas began the process of converting his gym into a spiritual and physical wellness center just before the pandemic hit. Since then, he has adapted to the new circumstances by offering COVID-safe ceremonies. Rather than in the sweat lodge, ceremonies take place inside its large interior space, where people can be more comfortable, masked, and more spaced out. In his experience, this new way of holding a ceremony is equally effective in bringing about the spiritual aspect of healing that is experienced in the sweat lodge. With so much loss over the past few years due to COVID and other circumstances, people are approaching Maestas for help in interpreting spiritual messages from recently deceased people.
In addition to the counseling, ceremonies, and personal training it now offers, Maestas is launching an after-school Teen Fit program that provides instruction to teens who then follow a self-guided exercise circuit.
Maestas invited others with expertise in healing or fitness and a commitment to community health to share space at the wellness center. “I’m just one person. I know I can’t do it alone. I need the help of others who have a vision to provide not only physical fitness, but other services that support the health of the whole person.
Health for the whole family
One person who shares his vision is coach Kristen Rivera. She has taught strength and conditioning classes at other locations in the community over the past few years. But, with those other spaces no longer viable due to the pandemic, she began hosting classes in her backyard. In anticipation of cooler weather, she went in search of a new interior space and met Maestas.
“I started offering strength and conditioning classes at the wellness center in July,” says Rivera. “I just received my kickboxing certification and I want to try to offer it in the evening. I also invited others to participate by offering Zumba and yoga, including yoga for kids. Future collaborations could bring classes in hip hop, flamenco, hula hoop, chair fitness for people with reduced mobility and several therapists at the center. “Our goal is to meet the needs of our community, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a need,” she says.
A Wellness Fair was offered this past weekend to give the community a chance to see what classes and services are available. The next Wellness Fair is scheduled for Saturday (February 26), with demonstrations and possible initial wellness assessments of weight, body fat and other metrics that will allow attendees to track their progress with physical training over time.
Rivera has seen how health programs can help improve people’s lives, especially if the programs are undertaken with a support group. “Being in a community where other like-minded people are really important and helps you stay on track and feel supported,” she observes. “Our goal is general well-being. With children, we emphasize the importance of nutrition: why food is important, as well as the social and emotional components. Some of the mothers who come say, “This is exactly what I need. ”
A daycare service is also offered during the programs. “I love that our programs are inclusive of moms, kids, and families as a whole. Having daycares and programs for kids removes a barrier to well-being and benefits kids. It’s a way to invest in our children and to support the whole family.
Rivera credits Maestas for creating the space and being so open to sharing the opportunity with other instructors. “It’s very generous of him. None of us can do this alone,” she says. “Together, we want to provide not just physical fitness, but also social and emotional support.”
As Rivera and Maestas have collaborated over the past few months, they have discovered that they share the same goal and mission. “Everyone who is drawn here and who stays here follows the same path and the same mission,” says Rivera. “I think the offering of these programs has a higher purpose and is bigger than us.”
Maestas points out that they are not professional athletes, they are moms and dads. “Rivera and I ask people what they want and need, about their dreams, and then we work on it together,” he says. “We help people take baby steps; like the alphabet, we start with A and progress to Z. We help people at every stage of their fitness and health.
For more information on timetables and fares, visit littlebearspiritualwellness.com or find the center on Facebook. The next Wellness Fair is currently scheduled for Saturday (February 26). A Zoom drumming circle is in the works, as well as an in-person outdoor circle, when the weather warms up.
If you would like to help support the center, including its efforts to provide scholarships for children, visit the website to make a contribution. There is still room for other like-minded instructors to offer new programs.
The Little Bear Spiritual Wellness Center is located at 1350 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Suite A.