TSN: Just breathe: Journeys for body and soul

This story was such a joy to write. There are some really nice pictures on the website.


By TARA NURIN • For the Courier-Post • July 11, 2010

When the stress of life gets to be overwhelming, taking a break with a massage, a yoga class or a morning at a day spa can be just the charge needed to re-energize and keep moving.

But sometimes it can feel impossible to jump-start a weary mind or a dreary soul, and for those instances, a vacation to a spiritual retreat can provide hope for an electrical overhaul of the spirit.

At these American retreats, the principles of holistic healing guide practices formulated around the missions of boosting nutrition, fitness, relationships, sense of spirit and peace of mind.

The intended result? A complete and lasting transformation of a life.

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

The largest retreat center for holistic living in North America is this nonprofit educational center in the Berkshires. More than 750 programs are offered annually on a wooded lakefront campus that houses guests in simple private and shared rooms and dormitories that aren’t equipped with phones or TVs.

Based on a yoga worldview, which the marketing department describes in part as “a reference to the state of body-mind-spirit harmony sought through various disciplines,” the retreat bundles several thematic packages that incorporate myriad styles of the 5,000-year-old Indian practice.

While dated immersion packages range from Zen and the Art of Harmonica to for-credit Ayurveda trainings for professionals and to healthy living programs that focus on conscientious eating, detoxing and weight loss, the center encourages those who want to customize their experience to purchase a flexible “Retreat and Renewal” package.

Participants in this program enjoy the opportunity to schedule their days at their leisure. These guests can choose to spend their time taking unlimited classes, embarking on guided outdoor activities, moving their bodies in yoga or dance, or just relaxing in the sauna, whirlpool, fitness room or on the private beach.

Every activity, whether passive or active, is designed to “help people achieve more happiness, balance, health and overall thriving in their everyday lives,” says spokeswoman Cathy H. Husid-Shamir.


Rates vary based on type of room and are all-inclusive, with the exception of additional body work.

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Every year, 23,000 clients seek out personal transformation through any of the Hudson Valley, New York’s nonprofit educational center’s 350 workshops and programs. These numbers, plus its 500 world-renowned instructors, such as Maya Angelou and Al Gore, help establish founders’ claims that this “summer camp for adults” is the nation’s pre-eminent facility of its kind.

“Whether you choose to take a break with a Rest & Rejuvenation Retreat, hone a skill or develop a passion, or explore something completely new, you will find just the workshop, training or retreat you need to be inspired,” says CEO Skip Backus.

Scheduled amateur and professional training courses are offered throughout the summer according to six themes: body, mind, spirit; health and healing; creativity and play; relationships and family; leadership and community; and sustainable living. This means that attendees can sign up for a multiday intensive course on designing a meaningful career path, then return for a field trip into nature in search of healing medicine, wild roots and “mythic lessons and universal truths.”

Beyond the workshops, there’s a teen camp, a fledgling women’s institute and personal Rest & Rejuvenation Retreats.

The R&R retreats allow clients to fill their own days and nights with exclusive classes like “Spiritual Humor,” open classes like Tai Chi, plus films, concerts and readings.

Participants in the R&R retreats also can take advantage of the library; tennis and basketball courts; hiking trails; a lake and a garden; as well as the Wellness Center, where for an additional fee they can make an appointment for one of 45 different services, including shamanic healing and tarot reading.

Omega prides itself on its commitment to the environment. Facilities operators purchase all electricity through wind and solar power co-ops and last year opened the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, which reclaims and cleans all gray water produced on site and serves as the hub for environmental education.

Guests can stay off premise, or in a basic shared or private cabin, or pitch a tent and camp. The dining hall serves three buffet vegetarian meals per day whose ingredients are locally and organically sourced.

Kismet Inn

This yoga-spa retreat is less of a camp and more of a bed and breakfast, given its location in a Queen Anne mansion just off the main streets of Bath, Maine. Each of the five rooms comes with a private bathroom equipped with a pebble floor to massage the feet and a ritualistic deep Japanese tub or Turkish hammam for soaking.

For breakfast, guests arise to the scent of an all-natural and slowly home-cooked organic breakfast sourced from local farmers’ markets. Breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner are taken on the porch, which overlooks a graceful fountain sculpture set amid a flower bed.

But no mere B&B is this. At the spa, guests can undergo reflexology or Reiki work, which, as Kismet’s website explains, “is the ancient practice of bringing balance and health to the self, or other beings, by channeling spiritually guided life-force energy through the hands” of a trained practitioner.

Clients also can book yoga and yogi meditation weekends or participate in ongoing classes that each focus on divergent healing aspects like breathing or ancient Tibetan movements that affect the chakras, or energy centers, of the body.

Rooms start at $200 per night and all-inclusive yoga retreats average $850 per person or $995 per couple.

Copperhood Retreat & Spa

Located by a stream in the Catskills, this intimate nature retreat allows for copious amounts of outdoor recreation and relaxation, from skiing to horseback riding to strolling the facility’s privately owned, 40-acre island. But while staff encourages guests to bathe in the healing powers of Mother Nature, they also provide ample opportunity for focused indoor shape-ups. There’s a Vichy shower, a Scotch hose and a hydrotherapy tub, not to mention fun fitness classes like belly dancing, African dancing and fencing.

But it’s perhaps the internal self-help regimens that most set Copperhood apart. With its emphasis placed firmly on combining naturopathic principles from Europe and America with the therapies of Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine, staff members have created specific programs to target stress reduction, weight loss, increased fitness, diabetes, detoxification and addictions management.



By teaching clients how to eat to best nourish themselves — often with raw foods — clinicians and dietitians take them on journeys through fasting, organ cleansing, fitness rebuilding and Ayurvedic Pancha Karma programs, the last of which is individually designed and overseen by an Ayurvedic doctor to rid the deep tissues and mind of harmful toxins believed to block positive energy flow.

Clients can opt for a preset package or work closely with a staff member to tailor their stay, which can last from two to 21 days. Menus also can be custom designed; although fresh, healthy foods are served according to a schedule, dieticians are on hand to create alternative meals that help clients meet their personal health and fitness needs.

Overnight amenities are traditional but offer a range of sizes, from a private double-occupancy room to a grand three-room suite. Packages range from $2,450 to $7,000.

Canyon Ranch

One of the world’s best recognized spa resorts is Canyon Ranch in Tucson, which positions itself as a cure to whatever ails the body, mind or spirit. The Eastern-and Western-trained medical staff and procedures offered are renowned and include exercise physiologists who work one-on-one with clients to craft programs to meet their fitness goals and nutritionists who provide in-depth consultations. But beyond the body are the programs geared toward healing the spirit.

The Inspired Living Package pairs clients with practitioners who provide intensive soul-coaching and mind-body training sessions and meditation and relaxation techniques, custom fit to meet the client’s goals. The so-called “heart of Canyon Ranch” is the Life Enhancement Center, where weeklong retreats build a schedule around group activities like morning walks, Qi Gong, and classes on internal and external transformation, while allowing plenty of time for personal reflection and individual appointments.

“In addition to our growing spirituality program, we offer one of the widest arrays of “energy healing’ services anywhere, and have unusual diversity in our mind/body offerings from yoga, meditation and biofeedback to classes on relationships, mindfulness and personal growth,” says Sheryl Press, director of public relations.

“In addition to our growing spirituality program, we offer one of the widest arrays of “energy healing’ services anywhere, and have unusual diversity in our mind/body offerings from yoga, meditation and biofeedback to classes on relationships, mindfulness and personal growth,” says Sheryl Press, director of public relations.

Rooms on the lush Southwestern campus are classically elegant and have deluxe hotel amenities like a mini-fridge and wireless Internet, with the jewel being the Casa Grande, a 2,700-square-foot free-standing home suitable for up to six people. Nonpromotional rates begin at $5,140 for summer and $7,730 in the high season.

Cal-a-Vie Health Spa

With its cluster of 26 villas nestled into the hills north of San Diego, the appearance of this 200-acre French village is striking. A labyrinth, a 400-year-old chapel and an 18-hole Ted Robinson-style golf course further add to its exclusive and serene allure.

Upon arrival, each guest undergoes a wellness consultation that helps staff create a personalized daily schedule and prepare appropriate healthy foods full of whole grains and fresh produce. Cooking classes complement the dietary lessons.

With its 5:1 staff to guest ratio, the 25-year-old destination spa offers individuals the ability to customize their own all-inclusive stay, ranging from three to seven nights, based on a loose program outline, although preset multiday group workshops are available throughout the year. A typical stay is the seven-night “European Plan,” which comprises all meals, private lodging, 16 therapeutic treatments, fitness classes, nutrition lectures and a cooking demonstration, a fitness evaluation and a complimentary makeup lesson. Available mind, body, spirit classes include guided visualizations, Mandala Art, five Tai Chi classes and 15 different yoga classes.

Programs for individuals range from $3,995 to $8,195.

Sedona Soul Adventure

Soul searchers seeking the most personalized experience possible may want to consider booking a Personal Spiritual Retreat with this one-of-a-kind travel agency that custom designs trips to the alternative-healing Mecca of Sedona, Ariz. Thanks to its relationships with the area’s diverse lodging properties and more than 40 of the most senior spiritual guides, healers, intuitives, psychics, body and energy workers, Sedona Soul Adventures programs a journey that promises to meet its clients every need.

Before a client books a trip, he or she confers by telephone with an “Angel Guide,” who collects detailed information on the client’s goals and budget. The angel guide then books the client’s stay and schedules private appointments around the region for therapies like breath work, sound healing and energy work and can even arrange for clients to participate in sacred native American ceremonies.

“Not only has Sedona been rated the most beautiful place in the nation by travel writers, it’s a sacred site where vortexes, or power spots, bring people’s emotional energies into alignment with the heartbeat of the planet,” says Tom Margrave, who co-founded the agency in 2002.

Rates start at approximately $1,500 for a three-to-five-day stay, based on number of sessions and quality of accommodations.


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