Canyon Ranch, Lenox, Massachusetts
Leave the real world behind
by Pilgrim Behn
It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the real world careening off the rails, loud with traffic and hassles, and you feel trapped. But know this: there’s a quiet room up in the Berkshire Mountains where 10 to 15 people are about to be handed the antidote. They are in the first deep inhalations of an hour of very good yoga. Their teacher is Blaise, a benevolent (and hunky) professional fitness instructor, who knows that his job, in addition to expertly guiding the class through postures, is to keep the real world barred at the door. This is one small slice of the pleasure at Canyon Ranch, the venerable health and wellness resort in Lenox, Ma.
There are more than 12,000 “spas” currently operating in the U.S. They come in as many styles and personalities as the needs of their patrons. Canyon Ranch distinguishes itself by being grounded and balanced. It has as much to offer the Type-A stress-junkie who needs to learn to unwind as it has for the out-of-shape blubber butt who wants to get fit. It is equally comfortable for singles or couples, for parent/child combos, girlfriends on a getaway, retirees, and the young and buff who want a challenge. Its emphasis on sports — particularly outdoor sports — and the vast self-contained “campus,” make it more like camp for anyone over age 14 who can afford the time and cost of getting off the merry-go-round for a long weekend, week, or maybe more.
In addition to a lot of yoga, there are more than 50 classes each day under the roof of the 120,000-square-foot complex to keep everyone entertained:stretching, belly dancing, Tai Chi, cycling, tennis strokes, basketball and all manner of aerobics. For the outdoor sports buff there are well-organized and expertly guided hikes in rolling pastures, deep forests and up and over mountains; canoe trips, kayaking, bicycle treks and, in the winter, skiing, snow-shoes and cross country.
The first Canyon Ranch spa opened in Tucson, AZ, in 1979, the brainchild of a self-proclaimed former stressed-out fatty, Mel Zuckerman, who, having had a life-changing experience at a spa, opted to make a career of healthy living, and to share it with the world. Today there are several outposts of Canyon Ranch: on the cruise ship QM2, at the Venetian in Las Vegas and at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida. There are also three Canyon Ranch Living properties under construction in Miami Beach, Chicago and Bethesda, Maryland.
Each guest can design his or her own day from a list of more than 40 fitness class options — including lectures and workshops — that run through the day. No reservations are required for the classes, almost all of them complimentary. There are other special services that come with a fee, including most of the specialized medical services, body treatments and beauty offerings. However, almost all the packages come with an allowance for some of the services, making it easy for a visit to include some massage or to get a complete medical health evaluation from the doctors on premises. What’s fun is using the allowance to explore alternative treatments like acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, polarity, or some of the trends in self-awareness, like having a genomics consultation, handwriting analysis or having your Tarot cards read.
The rooms are spacious, well-decorated and on a par with the quality of a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. The dining room and café offer interesting and extensive menus that strive to make healthy and nutritious food compelling. The salad bar at lunch and dinner is particularly good, the daily soup special is a must, and the homemade sorbets and ice creams are a treat (and there always are chocolate chip cookies).
A Canyon Ranch experience works best if you go with a known goal, whether it is to unwind for a few days, work out like an insaniac and lose a few pounds or try to combine a little of both. While it is largely an adult environment, families with teenage children would benefit from trying it out as a healthy family holiday. But no matter how you do it, it’s worth it, even if you can only keep the real world at bay for a little while.
For more information visit www.canyonranch.com or call (800) 742-9000
Coming Soon … Canyon Ranch Bethesda
Earmarked for completion in 2008, Canyon Ranch Living Center in Bethesda will give busy metro area residents a chance to continue their health and wellness regimes close to home. The 90,000-square-foot on-site health and wellness center will include fitness amenities in addition to diet and nutrition consultation and access to the community’s medical team. The property will also include 434 condo residences and a 157-room Canyon Ranch Hotel.