Through 'Dips For Donations,' Local Yogis Take Polar Plunging To A New Level

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: Benefits , Health , People , Community events , Addiction

Local yoga instructors Talia Arone and Stephanie Briody take a dip at Forest Beach in Chatham on Feb. 25 as part of their ongoing effort to raise funds for Yogis Unite for Recovery Build, a June wellness workshop for teens. Kat Szmit Photo

HARWICH – The average temperature since January has hovered somewhere around the freezing mark for much of Cape Cod, but that hasn't stopped two intrepid area yoga instructors from plunging into the waters off local beaches each day. But they're not just diving in for the fun of it. Each dip is done in support of Yogis Unite for Recovery Build, coming this June to Monomoy Regional High School.

Yoga instructor Stephanie Briody explained that Recovery Build is a teen program started by the non-profit Behavioral Health Innovators of Hyannis last April for teens struggling with challenges including substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.

“It's a safe, sober, fun space,” said Briody.

The Recovery Build Alternative Peer Group (APG) offers area teens the opportunity to attend counseling, work with peer recovery coaches, take part in exercise classes and weekend camping trips as well as sober concerts, or just enjoy a safe space to hang out with friends.

So what does that have to do with Briody and fellow Yogi Talia Arone jumping into the chilly waves all winter long? Quite a bit, actually. Both Arone and Briody have been plunging almost daily to raise funds toward Yogis Unite for Recovery Build, a workshop, all-level yoga class and wellness marketplace event slated for June 8 at Monomoy Regional High School.

“What we do at Recovery Build is introduce wellness activities that can sub in for behaviors that aren't going to serve you in the long run,” Briody said. “Through Yogis Unite we combine as many of the students and studios as we can to show up at Monomoy High for an all-levels yoga class, wellness marketplace, music, and an opportunity to talk and communicate about these types of issues with each other, with teens.”

Briody said that many teens across the Cape don't feel they have a safe space where they can open up about substance abuse or mental health issues, which is why Recovery Build and the Yogis Unite event are so important.

“This is an event to really charge up the Cape, to say 'We can do this,'” said Briody. “We don't have to accept what is happening. We can turn the tide.”

Arone got involved after participating in the Jan. 1 Polar Plunge at Red River Beach in Harwich, held in support of the Cape Wellness Collaborative in conjunction with the Harwich Elementary School PTO.

“Everyone was jumping in. I just got hooked,” Arone said. “I woke up the next day and I was like, 'Whatever that feeling was, I have to go see if I feel that again.' And I did, and I kept going.”

A savvy social media user, Arone began posting photos of her daily dips online and was pleasantly surprised by the response of followers.

“I started doing that and the attention I was getting was really funny,” she said. “People started showing up at the beach.”

Then Arone decided to research the health benefits of jumping into the water each day.

“It was helping me react to stress differently. You're resetting how your body reacts to stress. You're resetting all your systems – nervous, respiratory, endocrine,” she said. “The calmness I was getting from it was interesting. I like the routine of it. It's kind of ritualistic.”

Arone said a part of her motivation was not knowing what to expect each morning, especially regarding the weather, and choosing to dive in anyway.

“Some days it's incredibly warm. Some days it's really scary. There's a metaphor in there for me,” said Arone. “We're pretty powerful people. We can do things like this. You're not going to die. The ocean's not going to gobble you up, and you're going to walk away feeling really strong. That's why I do it.”

Since that fateful Jan. 1 plunge, Arone has jumped into the water every day since, with the exception of a few days when illness prevented any plunging. She was stunned when people plunged for her when she wasn't able to make it to the beach.

“It's kind of like this collaborative community piece to it is really beautiful. We're doing this crazy, strong, beautiful thing together,” Arone said.

When someone suggested she make her daily dips into a fundraiser, the idea intrigued her. She'd met Briody at a yoga teacher training and from her learned about Recovery Build.

“I love the fact that all these yogis are coming together which I think is important for the kids,” Arone said. “It's important for the kids to have something.”

Every time Arone dives in, she receives donations to benefit Recovery Build, which makes each dip that much more worthwhile for her. She even convinced fellow yogis from studios in Barnstable and Dennisport to plunge with her, ultimately getting Briody to hop in, too.

“Talia started this dip and I followed,” said Briody. “I'm a big water person. It does remind me of recovery in terms of the commitment. This is Day 23 for me (Feb. 25), and to commit to something like that for 23 straight days is huge. The vitality I feel jumping in the water, that's the vitality I feel with yoga.”

Briody hopes their daily dips inspire others to get involved with Yogis Unite, which they can do by creating a page at FirstGiving (www.firstgiving.com/event/bhinnov/Yogis-Unite-for-Recovery-Build) and raising a minimum donation of $50.

“It's not about one or two people paying a lot of money for a program,” said Briody. “It's more to get the community support. It's about everybody in the community because everybody knows somebody who is struggling.”

Arone said the event aims to instill in teens and other participants the awareness that wellness-based activities such as yoga, meditation, and even polar plunges, go a long way to improving one's well being.

“We activate a strong sensation within ourselves,” she said. “You are kind of utilizing a part of yourself that doesn't always get utilized. It's a very courageous, exciting, strong feeling. I think it's important for kids, for people to remember that it's there. You can find it. When you do, you want more of that. It's the consistency of these actions that creates change. Committing to these things really does create change.”

For more information about Behavioral Health Innovators, Inc., visit www.bhinnov.org/. To learn more about Recovery Build, visit www.bhinnov.org/work.html.