By Carol Cain, on February 5, 2016

Kicking off a year of wellness in 2016

The start of the new year can feel exhausting to some, from months of endless celebrations to the pressures of reinventing oneself in some way and the sheer need to recover from holiday travel.

One of my solutions has been to go away, sans the husband or the kids, to places that are conducive to meditation, silent reflection, and focus, without the stress of the crowds at the local gym.

Though the goal of overall wellness is a constant for me, making an extra-focused effort is always a nice way to kick off the new year. And one of my new favorite retreats for this is Canyon Ranch spa and resort.

The resort has several locations—the closest to me is in the Berkshires of Massachusetts—but their main resort is in Tuscan, Arizona, and is a popular site due to the climate and views.

For me, getting to the Berkshires was an easy train ride from NYC. I enjoyed the lovely views riding along the Hudson River, followed by the comfortable shuttle ride to the resort, an amenity offered at all of Canyon Ranch’s sites.

Viewfinder Tip: Check the Canyon Ranch website for weekend offers that appeal to specific niches and interests, as well as specials that cater to couples or those traveling in groups.

Your schedule, no pressure

I will admit that I was a bit nervous about visiting a wellness resort. I expected a lot of fit people and really intense instructors. I am an active person, but have been out of shape for a while, and though I don’t mind working out, I tend to get turned off by classes that feel more like a session in how to humiliate oneself than anything meant to make one feel good.

Because of this, I took it easy on the first day and did things that were more geared to being alone than in a group. I got a spa treatment and even participated in therapy and meditation sessions—which is so unlike me, but I figured, why not? It was a nice experience.

I also spent time swimming laps in the large pool, took a West African drum class, hiked through the vast and beautiful grounds, and nestled by the massive fireplace with a book.

I enjoyed my walks outside during sunset

Getting out of my comfort zone

There are many sessions, whether fitness or therapy, that encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. I wasn’t sure at first, but it was why I was there, after all. Thus, with a bit of trepidation, I participated in a yoga class. The moment I entered the room, I was greeted with smiles from fellow guests. The instructor was a tall, beautiful woman with a peaceful demeanor and a calm voice. She was also strong and flexible and never pushed us beyond our abilities, though the more I watched her, the more I knew I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

This class encouraged me to take part in others and I spent the next few days trying different things and working out. I didn’t love all the classes, but what’s great about the resort is that you are given a wide range of daily activities to choose from. You can sit them out or participate in all of them. It’s really all about you and what you want.


A hefty list of daily activities to keep you busy

The food

I was a bit nervous about the food. Because this was a wellness resort, I expected things to be bland and dry and uninteresting.

Though you won’t ever find salt on the table, and you have to specifically ask for condiments such as ketchup or mayo, I realized that I didn’t really need any of it. The portions were small—or maybe that’s the size they are supposed to be—calories and fat were listed for everything, and there were many different options for a variety of special dietary needs. They even had dessert and good coffee! 

Dinner options were creative and delicious farm-to-table fare. (Thank goodness, because had the food not been good, it would have been a deal breaker for me.)

However, it also served as a good reminder that seeking wellness doesn’t mean I have to compromise on eating well or enjoying food. There is no alcohol, but you learn to appreciate that after a day or two.

Though I really enjoyed visiting the resort on my own, I realized that it would be a lot more fun with my husband or a girlfriend. It would have certainly helped me get past my insecurities a lot sooner. By the time I became really motivated, it was time to leave, which means next time I’ll need opt for a longer stay than a weekend.

It’s a worthy investment in yourself, your health, and your overall well-being. I left the resort energized, focused, and even a little lighter on my feet. But next time, I might just bring my honey along for company.

Where are your favorite places to reflect, refocus, and find Zen?