Spa/Wellness: People: A Tale of Two Kinds of Spa: Tough and Gentle
A Tale of Two Kinds of Spa: Tough and Gentle
Last year I did something that I never expected to do: I signed up for a brutal boot camp. I had always marveled at people who went to the notoriously demanding Ashram but never wanted to go myself. But then last year, I decided to take the challenge at the Ranch at Live Oak. To say it is an experience that is not for sissies is an understatement. You are restricted to 1,200 calories a day with no caffeine, no sugar, no meat, no dairy and no alcohol and required (not requested) to exercise for up to eight hours a day. I detoxed. I scaled new physical heights. I had epiphanies and great moments of bonding but—along with a number of the fabulous women on that trip that I bonded with—I also decided that this kind of forced march was not something that I wanted to repeat every year. We loved starting off the new year with a week of wellness and friendship in January, however, so we decided to take a kinder, gentler approach this year. (And a smaller number did decide to return to the Ranch.)
So a few weeks ago, instead of heading to spartan cabins in Malibu, we took over a glorious hacienda in Mexico, where we were guaranteed gorgeous weather and sumptuous rooms. A nutritionist worked with the kitchen to create a healthy, spa menu of 1,500 calories (or so) with no sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine or alcohol but we did have chicken and fish. There was also plenty of exercise, but everything, including sticking to the menu, was a choice. Rather than being denied food or commanded to exercise, we decided to take control over our own wellness. We were fourteen in all, and almost everyone chose to get up for the six a.m. yoga, which was held in a grand 18th century room with columns carved from lava stone. Candles and a roaring fire cast the only light as we stretched and greeted the day. After a light breakfast we set off on glorious hikes. Some took us through ranch country, passing grazing cattle, others through fields of wildflowers or up ridges for spectacular views.
One day we ended at the hacienda’s organic farm to see where all of the vegetables for our meals were grown. Another day, the finale was a visit to the cheese farm where we sampled asagio, goat cheese and smoked provolone. We hiked to waterfalls and a bamboo forest and some days covered a dozen miles, many uphill. In the afternoons we had the option of fitness, pilates and yoga classes or to sit by the pool, horseback ride or play tennis. Some people chose to be very active; others to relax. Everyone had a massage each day. I am sure that I lost less weight than I did at the Ranch and gained less muscle, but I also felt much less stress. In fact, I felt more rested and relaxed than I have in ages.
I learned at the Ranch that I could be pushed beyond what I imagined were my limits of starvation and endurance, and that was a valuable lesson. But it was pretty miserable all the time. This year I learned that you don’t have to suffer to detox and that there is something wonderful about being in a gorgeous, pampering place and choosing yourself to eat well, to cut out chemicals and sugar and see how great it makes you feel. And when you choose yourself to get up for yoga or to skip dessert, not because you are forced to, then it becomes easier to incorporate those behaviors into your own lifestyle.
Which is not to say that I will never do the tough love style of spa again. I have many friends who find it effective when they need to lose many pounds or need a butt-kick to be disciplined. But this year rather than spending six days surviving misery, I got to spend six days feeling exceedingly happy in an environment that was nurturing and exquisitely beautiful. As one of the women said, “I am not a spa person, but this is something I can see doing every January, and I know it will make me choose to be healthier for the rest of the year.” So call me a sissy, but I am already planning our one for next year, and it will definitely be of the kinder and gentler variety—and most likely in a stunning beach location.
To be put on the list for details for our next Indagare Spa Week, contact Brooke Pearson by emailing: email@example.com.
Read Melissa’s Just Back From the Ranch at Live Oak.
Read about Indagare’s Insider Trips.