Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Santa Fe Ancient healing in modern times

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom.

img_8900
Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

img_7485
A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

img_8188-1
Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

img_8178-1
Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

img_7522-1

Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.

Greenbrier Wellness

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

Source: Greenbrier Wellness

Greenbrier Wellness

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

 

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Greenbrier Resort Woman’s Wellness Weekend

Greenbrier Resort Women’s Wellness Weekend
I was thrilled to host a women’s wellness weekend at America’s Resort, the gorgeous and historic mineral springs resort, the Greenbrier. I cut my teeth as a spa enthusiast at this resort some two decades ago. Over time, my respect and admiration for a tradition of wellness dating back 236 years has continued to grow! While some may argue which spa is considered the beginning of destination spa travel in America, not many can argue that this resort not only was a part of the American spa tradition, but it basically invented many of the things we consider hospitality in this country.

Having been greeted by Mr. Frank Mosley so many times, his hospitality never gets old. Working at the resort for the past 58 years, he is 86 years young and the personification of West Virginia warmth and hospitality. Entering the lobby, the explosion of color matches the summer blooms outside. At check in I was greeted exactly the same way I have been so many visits before–iced tea, lemonade, or champagne.

This weekend was remarkably different from many past visits. This time I have a mission and a schedule. While some may eschew the idea of a scheduled vacation, perhaps they have never taken a wellness vacation. It is a beautiful combination when you can take a break from everyday life to learn new ways of living better. Since this resort has such a storied past of health care, hospitality, and wellness, I was excited to deepen my knowledge of living well thoughtfully presented by the Greenbrier.

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts. Since the Greenbrier has had a serious concierge executive medical program since 1948, this wellness program has a medically-based foundation. I will be combining evidence-based medical services with state-of-the-art diagnostics, and weaving in my choices of subspecialty providers, seriously luxurious spa treatments, and an endless list of fitness activities and world-class cuisine. Oh yeah, did I mention that Greenbrier tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras will be playing Andy Roddick Saturday night while I’m here? The amount of activities and services available at this resort is mind-boggling, so I am happy to keep their expertly prepared, individual schedule to glean as much goodness from one weekend as possible. It’s also fun to share this experience with a group of like-minded ladies with the same goals.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska
Dr. Michael Kluska, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

After checking in at the Greenbrier Clinic and receiving my printed schedule, I begin my day with a consultation with Dr. Michael S. Kluska. My first appointment has me both nervous and excited. I scheduled a specialist visit with Dr. Kluska, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with a passion for skin care. I had been considering getting my first Botox injection for years. I finally decided it was time, and took the opportunity to do it with an extremely well-trained board-certified plastic surgeon…(see results here). The Greenbrier Clinic offers a multi-specialty approach to treating the whole patient within a single resort visit. Patients can schedule in-depth visits with many specialties including internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, nutrition, as well as a multitude of other diagnostic and preventive health treatments and procedures. Nearly every specialty is housed within the clinic wing attached to the resort. The convenience of walking over to appointments all within the resort is amazing. It is entirely possible to see an internist, a cardiologist, get a colonoscopy, have a radiologist review images including imaging from their own CT- scanner and mammography, or even have surgery over a weekend. Thankfully, I am in good health and my wellness visits on this weekend include time with my internal medicine doctor, a nutritionist, some blood work, and a plasitic surgeon. I could not help but think about how easy it would be to bring my husband here for a year’s worth of medical visits and testing, and have him not miss a single day of work, which is always his excuse for not taking better care of himself. I will be bringing him back another time!


I also had some time to enjoy the resort on my own. I chose to have lunch courtside near the golf shop. This is a favorite tour stop for PGA players and fans of the the PGA tour. I also had time for a little retail therapy in the pro shop. Who am I kidding…I was stalking Lee Trevino. I just missed him by five minutes! Jack Nicklaus was also in town this weekend as they are designing a new golf course….(more on celebrity stalking later :))And, knowing I would be seeing the pro emeritus Pete Sampras play Andy Roddick Saturday night, I was very tuned in to people-watching at the tennis courts during my lunch. Guests can schedule private golf and tennis lessons with tour professionals.

During my clinic phone consultation prior to my visit, I scheduled my doctor’s appointments as well as one of my favorite spa treatments at the Greenbrier. It is really hard to pick just one, so I usually don’t, but I have new doors to open this weekend, including a vault door in the bunker, and I need to experience some other aspects of this massive 40,000 acre property. If you have never been, the Greenbrier signature treatment, featuring a Scotch spray, is a bucket list spa item for any true spa junkie. I also strongly recommend having a facial at the Greenbrier. The staffing in the spa is second to none. Many of the therapists and estheticians have been here over twenty years! Some have even worked here for 30. Talk about expertise–you would be hard-pressed to find a more tenured staff in the entire country.

IMG_4486
Enjoying some quiet time in the relaxation room before my spa treatment

Friday evening is here and it is time to meet my newest friends and fellow participants for an anti-aging reception. Staff from the Clinic, medical vendors, and participants gather to meet and share excitement for the weekend. Many ladies were traveling with their husbands, but broke away to have a little lady time and kick off the program. Two of my friends and blog followers took me up on the opportunity to revisit wellness for the weekend and we had dinner at Forum after our reception. We could also not help ourselves…we had healthy dinners on our own, but the lure of the casino was too strong for us to pass up. Dancing counts as cardio, right?


Saturday morning we were greeted with a beautiful and healthy buffet in the Clinic conference room. We were instructed to fast after 10pm Friday night. Prior to breakfast, we had our blood drawn and tested. Individually, our test results are reviewed with us during our complete medical history and physical with our internist. We each had hour-long appointments with our doctors to go over our medical history and come up with a treatment plan for the next twelve months. My internist was Dr. Kelly Redden. I was impressed with her thorough exam. A few things really stood out as different for me during this exam. First, I was meeting with an actual doctor and not a mid-level provider at the exact time of my appointment! Second, remember what it was like when you would get an exam, then meet with the doctor in their office afterwards, once you are dressed, to get the results? I vaguely do.  Another eye opener was the ability of the Greenbrier Clinic to pull up all of my current medications from two different pharmacies. The accuracy of my prescriptions were not left to my sometimes short attention span. I actually brought mine in a ziplock bag, but they were able to retrieve all of my prescription data, even for a bottle of medicated shampoo I had filled and forgotten about. And finally, I was given a spa robe for medical appointment and assigned a locker. No giant paper napkin patient gowns here! It made me feel more human. I love this level of detail.


We enjoyed more fellowship while some awaited physician appointments, others, time at the spa or activities on property. Our schedules were set up with blocks of open time as well as scheduled group activities. We could use our open blocks for discovering any activities at the Greenbrier, or just spending some quiet downtime. It is up to the patient to decide.

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Mid-morning, just outside the spa, the wellness ladies took a private fitness class designed specifically for us by a personal trainer. It was a different workout than what I generally do, but I love trying new activities, so I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and gardens of the resort.

At lunchtime, we convened in the bunker kitchen for a wellness cooking class. Here, we learned about a variety of superfoods, cooking techniques, and portions to enhance our healthy, active lifestyle. I am always inspired by eating really great, well-prepared whole foods, and the Greenbrier has been a culinary leader in the hospitality industry since the resort opened.

After lunch, we returned to our personal blocks. I went for my signature spa treatment, others saw various physicians and received personalized care or had activities scheduled. At 3:30, I went over my lab results from the morning with Dr. Redden and had my in-depth medical history and physical.

Dr. Kelly Redden Reviews my results
Dr. Redden reviews my lab test and makes a treatment plan for me for the next twelve months.
Tennis Match at The Greenbrier
Saturday night, I watched the tennis match between Andy Roddick and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Pete Sampras. I was able to catch Pete for an autograph !

Sunday morning, we started the day with a wellness walk and meditation. It was beautiful to walk through the gardens, grounds, and golf course with our personal trainer. I took the opportunity to snap lots of pictures on this scenic stride. Joanna, another participant and I took this selfie with Andy Roddick having coffee in the background on our way to meet up with our trainer. You really never know who you will bump into around here. Once we met up with Josh, we walked at a brisk enough pace to burn calories and get the heart rate up, but we also made time to stop and smell the flowers. Josh Beverage, our trainer,  made sure to point out interesting facts about the grounds and various events and activities available on the property. On completion, a couple of us did have breakfast together in the main dining room. I am a huge fan of room service at the resort, and generally opt for breakfast in bed, so it was nice to see the gorgeous main dining room in the daylight. We decided to stick to our healthy eating plan and ordered a spa breakfast from the menu instead of the decadent Sunday brunch. I was able to keep my convictions due to my wellness walk.


Our final group activity was a meeting with Connie Gottshall in the clinic. She is the nutritionist for the Greenbrier Clinic. She reinforced the information we received at our cooking class, and gave us helpful strategies to make better food choices. She actually had sample meal plans to follow as a guide and definitely inspired us all to take a closer look at food labels, not just for ingredients, and hidden sugars, but also portions. I think her talk just reinforced to me why I prefer to eat whole foods rather than prepared foods. I was definitely more motivated to cook at home more often after this class, and with the skills Iearned in the cooking class, I had everything I needed to prepare better food choices back home.

Greenbrier Nutritionist
Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Connie Gottshall shows us how much sugar is in one can of Coke.

If I could stress anything to you about this wellness weekend, it would be that it was still a vacation. I just learned to live better, armed with new knowledge and motivation to continue to make these educated decisions about food choices, what my body needs. Dr. Redden suggested I add vitamin B-12 daily, Calcium 1200 mg daily, and vitamin D3 1000 mg. She also prescribed exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. In six months she will recheck my HDL cholesterol. This won’t be a problem for me, as I live 90 minutes away, and plan on visiting every three months to get my Botox injections. How cool is it that the doctor would come and give me my Botox injections in my room, if that is what I want? This is what concierge medicine is all about–old-fashioned service, like a housecall to my suite! I have an iPhone app to refill my prescriptions, and they will work with my local physician if needed for additional issues as they arise.

Travel Tips

Private medical suites are available with competitive pricing. If you are planning medical testing or procedures, let the Clinic staff help you book your room. Medical suites have two refrigerators for ice packs and medical supplies. Ample space is available for your family to stay with you. The doctors make rounds in the hotel. Recovering from surgery here is best-in-class.

The Clinic executive medical program caters to people that keep tight schedules and they respect your privacy and time.

Book your spa appointments in advance to insure the optimum therapist and treatment time for your schedule. Add on a 25 -minute mineral soak to any spa service you book. It is a must!

Fitness classes are always new and exciting. Try a new class before your spa appointment. Guided meditation is available most mornings in the spa. Keep your eyes peeled in the gym, lots of celebrities visit and have homes in the area.

Get outside! The grounds at this resort are magnificent. Your normal walk, run, or bike ride will be inspiring. Comfortable walking shoes will take you far at this property.

Try a new sport. Equipment and staffing is always top notch. Falconry or whitewater rafting, anybody?

Book a tour at the beginning of your stay. Historical tours provide a wealth of information about the resort as well as American history.

EAT! This resort has a culinary apprentice program that takes classically-trained chefs three years to complete, much like a masters program.  There is a specific farm-to-table restaurant, but much of the food is grown right on property and always has been.
If you are going to have a cheat day, this is the place to do it. They employ one person who just makes housemade ice cream for eight hours a day, every day. This is a serious foodie paradise. Check calendars for specialty chef’s tables and memorable holiday meals.
This resort is dieter-friendly, with spa menu choices on most dining menus. Staff are happy to cater to your special food preferences. Mom can have an egg white omelet while the kids get treated to chocolate chip pancakes, so everybody is happy.

The Greenbrier is set in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia. It is easily accessible by half of the country for a family road trip. Air and train service will also take you door-to-door from New York City or Washington D.C.

One visit will not be enough to see and do everything–plan ahead to make the most of your vacation.

I was an invited guest of The Greenbrier Clinic. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

Chef Fabien Beaufour visits Primland

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final platted product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

The stars always shine brighter at Primland 

I was honored with a seat at Primland’s chef’s table this weekend. As a regular guest at this unique, ultra-luxurious 12,000 acre resort, I have dined with many of the great chefs that have called this kitchen home over the past several years. But, this was a very special chef’s table. Chef Fabien Beaufour is the executive chef at the sister resort, Domaine des Etangs in Massignac, France. He was invited to showcase his formidable skills for a select few members of the Primland Resort. True to the nature of this exclusive membership, seats at this table were not available to the general public.

Domaine des Etangs, an 11th-century castle within the pristine, remote Charente Limousine region of France. Formerly, a retreat for the Primat family, the castle has been thoroughly transformed to exceed the standards of the most discerning travelers while remaining true to the vision of the property, as a natural preserve. It is this harmony between old and new, that is the foundation of the property, and it is carried out through every detail in an effort to bring about balance and wellness for its guests. I had the pleasure to meet with Chef Beaufour in the spa the day after this amazing meal. A spa lover himself, Chef Beaufour shared with me his belief that most great spas also have incredible food. He believes that mind and body must be nourished properly to achieve balance in life. His goal is to create an optimal state of wellbeing for the guest. He does this by managing the entire process from farm to table. Organic food grown on property is respectfully managed in a way that does not harm the land while keeping an eye on the long-term health of this pristine 2,400 acre preserve. It is this deep respect for balance that guides him in planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preparation of his dishes.

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final plated product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

IMG_1011
Lobster cappucino and cauliflower bavaroise paired with
2012 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
IMG_1020
River trout, braised artichoke with coconut paired with
2014 Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rielsling Spatlese trocken
IMG_1023
Foie gras parfait, tangerine and toast, on the menu at Domaine des Etangs
2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie
IMG_1032
Smoked carrots, tabbouleh with ginger
1983 Ch. Cantemerle
IMG_1036
Roasted lobster with butternut and lemon verbena sabayon
2011 PaulPernot Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Folatieres
IMG_1047
Venison saddle, pears and black trumpet mushroom
2010 Mullineux Schist Syrah (en magnum)
IMG_1051
Classic Grand Marnier souffle paired with
Grand Marnier

 

Guests of Domaine des Etangs are invited to explore the gardens, pick produce that is pleasing to them, and bring it in to Chef Beaufour to prepare for them. It is this connection with nature that also feeds the soul and achieves the desired state of wellbeing and balance.

 

 

IMG_0452
I look forward to my visit to Domaine des Etangs later this year. To learn more about my time at Primland you might enjoy these posts: Inspired Mountain Magic   Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling    How to make a gingerbread treehouse

 

I was a guest of Primland for this special dinner. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

 

 

Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, South Carolina

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer.

The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.
The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer. In the back of my mind, I did think I would have to weigh in, so I booked some of my treatments prior to my first day in my program. I know this is sneaky, but I also knew that if I started my program with the spa treatments I would be totally relaxed from my drive to Hilton Head Island. I also knew I could pump my therapists for any information I thought I might need during my stay. Very sneaky. Or brilliant–you decide.

The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.
The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.

I would be participating in a one of the two programs they offer. They have a Lose Well program designed to get people kickstarted on weight-loss, and a second program called Live Well, which is more for people that are interested in a tune up to get back on track. I participated in the Live Well program. Since this was not my first visit to a wellness retreat, I had an idea of what it would be like, but each resort has their own spin on this. I was happy to find the Hilton Head Health plan encourages healthy weight loss by teaching the fundamentals of lifelong success by reframing the diet issue into more of a way of life, so that dieting essentially is over. Time is devoted to teaching skills to integrate these new lifestyle choices, and classes on planning scenarios to make weight loss successful long-term. One of their main tenets is that small changes over time can lead to big results. They also stress the importance of not trying so hard to be perfect when it comes to dieting. It is how we manage the missteps that truly have the greatest impact on long-term success. I thought this was a very useful perspective as so many times we can feel like a failure if we don’t follow a diet perfectly, then end up giving up. Not just me? Apparently, it’s a common issue and this program is all about real-life scenarios and how to manage wellness for the long term.

Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.
Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.

I mostly did the Lose Well program, and the medical checks like weighing-in and blood tests were optional, so no scale for me! So maybe I didn’t need to book the slimming ritual before the weigh-in that never happened, but the benefits of this body treatment definitely enhanced my weight loss while I was there.

Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.
Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.

My first spa treatment was the Wild Comfrey Glycol Peel Facial Detox. Indigo spa designed this treatment to meet the needs of participants going through the process of weight loss which can at times trigger skin reactions like temporary acne breakouts, oily skin, or inflammation. I knew I was due for a good peel, and this one suited my needs. This particular treatment removes the top twenty layers of skin without any redness. Melissa, my esthetician, used a combination of organic products and traditional facial techniques of steaming, cleaning, extracting, application of a mask and moisturizing to customize my treatment to my skin care needs. I found her facial to be relaxing, yet it yielded the results I was looking for. I received a deep clean due to the exfoliation, extractions and a peel, but the application of acids to reduce a breakout I was experiencing was very beneficial. I was completely relaxed by my facial and I hadn’t even checked in yet! I had a longer drive than I anticipated due to road construction and some holiday traffic. I could really relax for back-to-back treatments, as the staff had called the front desk to alert them of my arrival and ordered my supper. I had dinner waiting for me after my treatments, so no worries about finding food or getting settled for my first evening.

Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!
Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!

My next service was the Naturally Slimming Ritual with Kristy. Kristy and I bonded immediately. I was extremely relaxed after my facial and ready to ask for some insider tips from Kristy now that I was settled in. She has been a therapist at Indigo spa since it opened. My treatment with Kristy is exactly what many people are looking for when they buy those “crazy wrap things” from home parties, except much more luxurious, and, I think, beneficial. Kristy applied organic products that helped brighten my skin via exfoliation, and reduced my water retention by using lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Slimming spa products really do work best, in my opinion, when combining specially-designed products with the massages. Once Kristy finished applying the organic scrub that contained plant enzymes, salt, aloe, and coffee berries, I was neatly wrapped in a special sheet to retain the heat of my body, as well as the heat of the massage table, to let those products absorb while she moved on to the next step. Normally, a relaxing facial massage with collagen would be the next step of the treatment, but since I had just had a facial we adjusted my treatment to include an in-depth scalp massage instead. My head and neck felt great now. All that driving stress was behind me. Her ability to adjust the treatment for me went so smoothly, I would have thought that the scalp massage was just part of the treatment plan. While I was face up and getting a serious scalp massage, I had time to pump her for information. She mentioned that stretching prior to exercise classes would be beneficial as well as massage appointments if I were experiencing too much stress or strain from all the exercise. She assured me availability of treatments, which put my mind as ease. Massage therapists always advise drinking water post therapy appointments, but that was never truer than in this case. Since she did an extensive lymphatic drainage massage, designed to removing excess water from my body, drinking enough water insures that my body does not try to hold on to the water already in my system. As we remove the excess water from the body, we are also removing toxins and helping our metabolism work better. Drinking plenty of water makes us feel fuller at meals, as well. There is a reason they gave me a giant water bottle at check-in, along with a backpack. I would be hydrating more than normal due to all the exercise but also as a tool for weight loss. I can assure you my water was definitely moving out after this treatment. There is no doubt that I lost more than water weight while at Hilton Head Health.

4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable result!
4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable
result!

By my third day in the program, I was not really in pain from all the exercise, but I was definitely ready for another healthy evening in the spa. One extremely cool thing about Indigo spa is its hours. They open up late at 2pm and stay open until 9 pm. On Saturdays they are open from 10am till 9pm! There is no need to cut classes or skip daytime activities to get your spa time in. It is actually designed to fully support the program and not compete with it. So, instead of going back to your cottage in the evening and zoning out, you can continue your in-depth program with treatments that address what is happening to your body. For locals and other visitors to Hilton Head Island, this means you can put in a full day at the beach, golf course, or tennis facilities (such as the internationally-renowned Van Der Meer tennis academy), then get a spa treatment in the evening. Brilliant!

Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.
Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.

Lisa was my massage therapist for my final treatment, the Indigo Blue Eucalyptus Ritual. I booked this treatment along with the other two treatments after speaking with the spa manager, Kelly, prior to my visit. I wanted to make sure that I got the true essence of the Indigo spa and I did not want to miss anything really special or unique. Kelly was a great help in narrowing my choices based on my needs and desires. She swore by this treatment, and now I know why. It is designed to relieve fatigue, low mood, stiff muscles, and aches, and to support a healthy immune and digestive system. I had timed this treatment just right based on my participation in the program. Organic products from the Naturopathica product line were used. Eucalyptus oil opened up my sinuses at the beginning of the treatment allowing me to breathe deeply and really relax. A combination of ginger and mint massage lotions were used on my body. The eucalyptus did not overpower the entire treatment. As the treatment began, it kind of reminded me of when my mom would rub Vicks vapor rub on my chest when I was little, and really, is there anything more soothing than that touch? Lisa was such a skilled and nurturing therapist, I was able to really breathe in deeply and my body was really relaxed and receptive to the deep tissue massage she provided as the treatment progressed. I did not want to leave the table after 80 minutes. Lisa had a great knack of knowing where I was sore without my specific direction, I would have to call her intuitive. She is fabulous.

I will admit, I did make some big changes to the amount of exercise that I normally do while at H3. It wasn’t that I could not do the exercises, or that I hate exercise, it was more of a tune-up for me, and a revitalization of my desire to be healthy and active. It was also a time to try new types of exercise like water yoga, and stand up paddle boarding. I also was able to ride my bike to the beach in the evenings and one Saturday afternoon, so I wasn’t totally spent from all the classes. I think we all get in ruts from time to time. There is a natural ebb and flow with lots of things in life, and eating right and exercising gets the back seat when we get busy or when other pressing things come up. My visit to H3 gave me time to focus on my health, learn new skills for making meals easier, healthier but still satisfying my tastebuds and typical cravings. My time post-spa in the relaxation room gave me a quiet place to really think and process all the new information I was taking in. I enjoyed journalling my thoughts and ideas, and thinking about ways to integrate these new habits once I got home. This wellness vacation was definitely a mental and physical way for me to hit the reset button.

Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.
Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.

The therapists in the spa were very skilled professionals. They were also personable and fun, very much like my time at Hilton Head Health. The people that work at H3 are required to go through the program as part of their training for new hires. Because of the H3 commitment to a healthy, happy well-informed staff, any staff member is able to answer questions that guests have, and can relate with them about all the things they’ve learned, and the nerves we might have about taking this journey. My advice to future participants would be to start your program off with some time in the spa for three reasons:  They can answer any questions you might have and make you feel more at ease. It is a easy way to de-stress from travel and get mentally prepared for the visit. The treatments also enhance the weight loss program due to their specific design. Many participants travel great distances to take this wellness journey. Some guests stay at H3 for at least a week, many stay for two weeks or a month to make the this new perspective on living well a habit that can last a lifetime. Indigo spa is just one of the many pieces of this well-designed weight loss retreat to empower guests to get the most out of their visit. This attention to the spa design is exactly the type of attention to detail they teach guests, to maintain a healthy lifestyle going forward.

My spa tips:
Start your week off at with spa treatments to de-stress from travel.
Bring your spa bag. Make sure you include a pen and journal to capture your thoughts.
Drink plenty of water before and after your treatments.
Plan to visit the spa more than once during your stay, to fortify your body and mind.
If you are staying for an extended period of time, book a series of treatments to complement your program.
The spa recommends alternating a trim treatment with hot stone treatments as trim treatment works better in a series. I agree.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling at Primland

Experience the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland.

New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland
New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

Nothing like some fresh mountain air, a little exercise, and some new Frette sheets to soothe my soul. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek prior to the grand opening of the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland. Of course, since I consider this to be my second home, I have been watching the progress of the build out over the past year or so. Even having done a walk-through about a month earlier, I was not prepared for how spectacular these new cottages would turn out. Having walked though all four of the multi-unit buildings, I knew exactly which unit I would be booking for my future visits.  I just didn’t know the name or room numbers yet. Well, allow me to share with you the awesomeness that is Oriole 70 & 71.

Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple
Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
View of the Dan River Gorge
View of the Dan River Gorge. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Porch for two with a spectacular view
Porch for two with a spectacular view Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Each of the buildings were designed with group stays in mind. The idea was for families, golf and hunting groups, wedding parties, or corporate retreats to have a place where they could open up adjoining rooms if they like and share an entire floor or building, or group of buildings, if needed. When the staff helped me carry in my luggage, they told me they thought these rooms were even more spectacular than the main lodge. Having stayed in every suite in the lodge, all three tree houses, all of the fairway cottages, and most of the mountain homes on the property, I thought, “I am the perfect person to be the judge of that!”

Custom Cabinets and Art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite
Custom cabinets and commisioned art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suites include a kitchen
The larger suites include a kitchen. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Original art works hint to the Oriole theme of this suite.
Original art works hint to the bird theme of this suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The same attention to detail in the architecture, quality of the furnishings, and oh baby!…new bath tubs had me a little twitterpated. One of my favorite daily activities, a long soak, was over the top.  When I am on vacation, my soaks can be pretty epic, pruney toes, long reads, maybe some vino therapy, and Primland has the best bathtubs, I swear! I could probably do an entire post just on which of the tubs I like best and why.  This is not a cookie cutter resort with five hundred rooms with the same tub in each of them. Oh, no…this is a place for fans of Architectural Digest to come and read the latest issue while soaking in one of many different dreamy bathrooms. I can tell you as a super soaker, without a doubt, this tub and view is my new favorite on the entire property!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My room is connected to my friend’s room next door. He is an excellent neighbor, friend, and Primland enthusiast himself. I will give you a little tour of our suites, but then I have to tell you about our trip out to the reservoir. We have the entire upstairs of Oriole Cottage among us. One suite has a huge porch with lots of seating, enough for all of us to have a party, and the second smaller suite has a much more private porch meant for just two. Each suite has all of the modern amenities that are expected at a five-star property, but the gorgeous mountain view and meticulously-curated custom art work takes this space to another level. Giant Baby and I are in the smaller suite. I called it the romance side 🙂

IMG_0203

We enjoyed birding and paddling
We enjoyed birding and paddling
Funyacks on Dan River
Funyacks on Dan River

I have been wanting to try the funyaks ever since they first added the activity, but something always seemed to get in the way. First it was winter, then we needed to golf or hike or something. I have done nearly every activity on property, but still need to learn fly fishing, tree climbing, disc golf and horseback riding. It just happens that Summer, our funyak guide, is also an equestrian guide, so I might get talked into one more activity. Getting to the reservoir is no small task. Four-wheeling in the Suburban with Summer on some of the very remote dirt roads was an adventure in itself. Once at the reservoir, we needed to get our gear on and take a short hike through a rhododendron thicket. For those that have not spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, these are gorgeous evergreen flowering bushes that grow very tall. Summer gives us some basic instructions as we have all canoed or kayaked before, and just like that, we are out on the water. Funyaks are inflatable kayaks that are open on the top like a canoe. So there was no need for lessons on how to roll over under water or anything scary like that. As a matter of fact, the reservoir was very calm. The Dan River flows into it, but we will be staying in the calm open spaces just to enjoy an easy paddle, check out some wildlife, and enjoy the afternoon. That said, other guests have wanted to explore further up stream and really challenge themselves, and get a workout. We are not like those guests. We came to float, and as luck would have it, we were able to watch a beautiful bald eagle catch its own lunch. At one point, we just hung out under some trees and did some bird watching. Summer shared with us that some guests like to just float and take a nap. I like how those people think! On my next trip to the reservoir, I think I will have them pack us a picnic lunch. Stand up paddle board have just been added, so I will have another activity to add to my bucket list. Yup, I learned some new stuff, paddled a bit, and exercised my mind and body. This is what I call wellness!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce

Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce
Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce

A recipe from the kitchens of Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Courtesy of Executive Chef Gunnar Thompson

I had the pleasure of learning to cook seafood with Chef Gunnar Thompson at a wellness cooking class this spring at Primland. He was kind enough to share his recipe with me knowing I would share.

Shrimp and Grits with Low Country sauce and Stoneground Grits

Serves 6

Low Country Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup mixed bell peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 3 tbl ham, diced
  • 1 cloved garlic, minced
  • 3 tbl butter
  • 2tbl tomato paste
  • 3/4 tbl Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup cream

Stoneground Grits:

  • 1 cup Course stoneground grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 36 large to medium shrimp, peeled, and devained
  • 2 tbl canola oil

Bring water and milk to a boil in a heavy pot to start the grits. Add grits and stir, reduce heat to very low immediately. Cook, stirring often, until grits are soft and all liquid has been absorbed. Add butter, cheese and season with salt. Set in a warm place. Prepare the low country sauce as the grits are cooking.

Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add butter, ham and vegetables. Cook until softened about five minutes. Add tomato paste and Cajun seasoning, cook for one minute. Add shrimp stock and cream. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt.

Heat a very large skillet over medium high heat. Add Canola oil. Season shrimp with salt. Place shrimp in pan. Cook shrimp for one minute and flip over. Add low country sauce and simmer until shrimp is from, pink, and cooked.

Place grits in each bowl and top with six shrimp and spoon sauce over.

My class notes; Buy the best large stoneground grits you can find. It will make all the difference in this recipe. Also buy shrimp with the shells and make your own stock as he directed in our wellness cooking class.

Busy Is A Sickness

This is a huge health concern! When I was fitted for my custom dental trays to deal with teeth grinding, filled my 1st script for migraine medicine and made my way into a shrinks to talk about stress, a light finally went off! I came to terms with this busyness business nearly nine years ago when I found my meditation practice. It is an ongoing process to continue this mindfulness. Thank you for the reminder and also spreading the word. This is a huge health concern. I no longer identify myself as busy “the medical sales rep,” or “the stressed out step mom.” I don’t take any slack for “sitting and doing nothing” either!!! I did a 180…nine years later my life looks like this http://www.enlightenedspareview.com…and I could not be happier.

The Salt Cave and Spa of White Sulpher Springs is a holistic place of healing

 

The Salt Cave and Spa in Lewisberg, WV
The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

This was not my first visit to a salt cave, but definitely my very favorite. I might even say this could be my favorite day spa to date! The facility is extremely well thought out, clean and beautiful. My curiosity was at an all-time high when I first found out about this new spa. Photos on the website confirmed that I would be making a trip to White Sulpher Springs as soon as possible. The Salt Cave and Spa was just completed and opened to guests in July. It builds on the American tradition of wellness in Greenbrier County, with a focus on preventive and restorative health. The treatments offered at this unique and enchanting spa resonate with those of us who believe spa services are part of our integrated health care.

 

Offering a mix of alternative healing therapies and an impressive salt cave, this day spa is unique and gorgeous. Salt caves found in nature have been used for centuries to help with various breathing issues such as allergies, cystic fibrosis and the common cold. Interest has reawakened for halotherapy (salt therapy) as a modern healing modality due to the lack of side effects. Salt has a natural ability to reduce inflammation and boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Although the mechanism of action is not known, physicians and healers continue to prescribe the healing benefits of halotherapy. Personally, I love treatments that can be both soothing and restorative, particularly when received in such an inspiring natural environment. The cave itself is new, built with love and a passion for preventive health by the owners. The couple, both artists by trade, also live and farm on this one hundred acre property.

I enlisted an adventurous friend of mine, Denise, to daytrip with me to Lewisburg area in West Virgina. As a regular at the world renowned Greenbrier, I am very familiar with the scenic drive to the beautiful mountain town. After studying their treatment options and discussing Denise’s wishes for the day, I hatched my plot. We would leave at the crack of 9:30am. No need to get up super early for this road trip. I also “borrowed” my husband’s convertible for the day. I definitely think that helped give a cool vibe to our adventure. We enjoyed a warm, open air drive and arrived in downtown Lewisburg just in time for lunch. I suggested one of my favorite downtown restaurants from among the many excellent ones Lewisburg has to offer. Once we were properly fed and watered, we had some time to shop. We had to go to Yarid, an upscale shoe store downtown. Locals know that all the discounted stock from the  several other locations are sent to the downtown Lewisburg Yarid location. With full tummies and now a trunk full of discounted designer shoes and handbags, we were ready to embark on our spa portion of the day.

 

To say that this day spa is unique or special really does not do it justice. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Michelle and given a Mason jar of water that she had retrieved that morning from a natural mineral spring just down the road. This spa actually has sulfur water available for guests and treatments, but natual mineral water is better tasting for drinking.  This unusual greeting really set the tone for the day at the spa. The staff was eager to share their knowledge on the many healing therapies offered, and their own personal rituals for health.

IMG_6942
The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

I arranged the signature Edgar Cayce massage for both Denise and I. What makes an Edgar Cayce massage different from the popular Swedish massage is the philosophy, technique, and training involved. Edgar Cayce is known as the father of holistic healing. Michelle, our massage therapist, was trained at the famous Edgar Cayce holistic spa in Virginia Beach. Michelle uses a personal philosophy of being a channel for personal growth and wellness. She made her intentions clear on our arrival that restorative and healing therapeutic techniques would help soothe the mind and body. Her desire was to relax the body, and stimulate the nervous system, organs, and rotate our joints and limbs, in an effort to coordinate our mind and body for an overall feeling of wellness. So what does the Edgar Cayce massage looks like to the average non-new age trained client? The massage begins with special Edgar Cayce oil applied in long soothing strokes very much like a Swedish massage. During my 90 minutes on the table, Michelle would intermittently work on various body parts in a specific sequence as part of the Cayce method. She would pull and stretch our arm and leg joints alternately. Michelle also used Jin Sin Do techniques, which are a deep finger techniques applied to muscles and organs to as in acupressure. Done properly, this technique is known for inducing a trance-like state. She also took care to address my lymphatic system through massage. Her pressure was enough that the massage was therapeutic while still providing a relaxing experience. My experience was profound. I loved it!

While I was in with Michelle, Denise took advantage of an amethyst biomat and light therapy session. This heat treatment involved lying on a table on top of a special mat that has an amethyst core. Its infrared heat penetrates the body 6-8 times more deeply than a regular heating pad. The concept is to increase your core temperature and increase your negative ions, helping with cell turnover. The technology was developed for use in space. While reclined on a massage table with the biomat on top, Denise just reclined and let a second infrared light therapy shine down on her. This special infrared light was positioned above her . It also provided deep heat, but was not uncomfortably hot. Again, the treatment is intended to heat the body and speed up cell turnover for quicker healing. Denise enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful spa room.

My second treatment was the Sacred Journey–part mental health session, part meditation. Cari, my therapist, is also a psychic medium! This was a spa treatment so unique, it deserves a separate post, check back for part 2 of this journey. Denise and I catch up after our second treatments for our final treatment, a visit to the salt cave. This salt cave is absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful, tall, arching ceiling with embedded lights that simulate stars, and stalactites coated with Himalayan salt, support the overall design and function of this healing cave. I was mentally transported to a place that took me out of my normal routine. What a beautiful therapy to book following other spa services.

 

Salt cave time is booked in 45 minute sessions. Additional therapies can be booked in the salt cave as well, including guided meditation and yoga classes. This salt cave is large enough to accomodate a group of friends, yet has an intimate feel due to the stunning lighting and design. Micron-sized crushed Himalayan white salt is forced through a special air handling system in the cave to create a microclimate. The salt was not noticeable on our skin or clothing, but did make our throats a little dry. Denise and I were happy to rest post treatment and spend some girl time together chatting as we had the cave to ourselves.

What to know, before you go:

Regular visits to the salt cave achieve better results, but a single 45-minute session has the same healing effect as a three-day visit to the beach! Have you ever noticed how acne clears up on a beach trip??? Yup, antibactierial qualities in the salty air and water is duplicated in this cave.

It is advised that you bring your own clean white socks to wear in the cave. Walking on the crushed salt also provides a nice reflexology massage to your feet. Denise and I both wore comfortable street clothes, but yoga clothes would be a great option for added comfort.

The staff is well trained to book multiple guests with different treatments to maximize a full day at the spa. Call ahead and they can help take the stress out of a group outing.

Time in the salt cave is not recommended for people experiencing infections accompanied by a fever, patients with active tuberculosis, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Children are welcome to visit the salt cave.

The cave is kept at a constant temperature and is truly a four-season spa. I would love to snuggle in at this cave in the winter, or escape the heat as we did on this trip in the summer. Fall is a perfect time to visit, with spectacular fall foliage and mountain views enjoyed en route.

 

 

No special consideration was given other than being a paying guest at this spa. This is my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Directions to a Different Spa Experience

Blue Heaven Spa

Boone, North Caroline

Street signs let you know you have entered a different state of mind.
Street signs let you know you have entered an enlightened area.

The philosophy of Ayurvedic treatments is that the mind, breath, intellect, and emotion are all connected with the body, and all need to be brought into a rhythm. This ideology pervades each treatment at the Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, North Carolina. It is important to reflect on ourself in this natural harmony. Once we are tuned into our own balance, we can then look to others and see that we are all connected as people. I found my connection to Heather, my therapist, very genuine. I could tell that she cared for me and my health. Heather is extremely well-trained in Ayurvedic treatments. Her life is also in alignment with these beliefs. During my consultation prior to my treatment, I got to know a little bit about Heather. She lives what she teaches, not only to other therapists, but to anyone she meets. I can tell she is living in harmony.

Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.
Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.

Katti Basit is a Ayurvedic lumbo-sacral rejuvenation. I booked this treatment to follow the Abyyanga massage that started my morning in the Blue Heaven Spa. The goal of this treatment is to ease any tension in the back. My therapist, Heather, positioned me on the table face down and placed some folded towels under my abdomen to flatten the surface of my lower back. Heather made several passes on my back massaging my muscles with long, smooth strokes. She then placed long, wide, cloth strips on my back. Heather then spooned a drizzle of hot oil over the strips in a slow, methodical fashion. It was important for me lay still so that the oil would stay in the dough reservoir she created for me. She continued to check on my comfort and that the temperature of the oil was at a suitable temperature for my comfort. Once positioned so that the dough dam could hold oil, the ring of dough was placed on my lower back. The dam was positioned in the small of my back and right above the sacrum. Several passes of oil were made within the dam in directional patterns. The dam was then filled with warm oil and hot oil to the desired temperature of myself and the therapist. Once the damn was full, I was instructed to lie still. I was again left in complete silence to contemplate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of the treatment, I was super relaxed. My lower back felt more mobile and less sore. I was also drenched in sesame oil from both my treatments. Heather gave me the most excellent tip on how to get oil out of your hair. If you apply the shampoo first and lather, before adding any water, you have the best chance of getting the oil out of your hair. She said I might need to do this twice. She also recommended that I relax for the rest of the afternoon, as the treatment continues after completion. I did have to shower and hit the road, but she was right on both accounts. All the oil was out of my hair with little effort due to her tip. And, I really did feel an overwhelming sense of peace as I travelled home.

On my next visit, I plan to book the Shila Abhyanga (it is like a hot stone massage) and the Shirodhara, one of my favorite Ayurvedic treatments. Shirodhara uses a continuous pouring of warm oil in a slow steady stream on the forehead that helps promote relaxation, and improves mental clarity and concentration. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Do you find it helpful to do healing treatments in a spa or do you prefer a clinical setting?

“Health and happiness is related to our connection to our mind and body” – H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Art of Living Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, NC

A beautiful video of the Art of Living retreat center in the highlands of North Carolina.

Have you ever visited an Ashram in India? What was your experience?