Photos Courtesy Rosewood
A cynic’s journey to inner peace at luxury property’s recently-launched wellness program.
Last February feels like a lifetime ago. In the last sparkling pre-Covid weeks I set out on an adventure to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. Oblivious to how good I had it then, I brought along with me a familiar bitter numbness, recognizable as symptoms of a Northeastern winter. My goal was to indulge in the Rosewood Mayakoba’s wellness program, launched in late 2019, that features three main tracks: Adventure, Fitness & Nutrition, Inner Balance and, for couples, a Growing Together option. Although the paths each have standardized objectives, they can be customized to fit guests’ specific needs and desires. Based on my negative state of mind, I opted to embark on the inner balance journey. The cold-hearted, East coast cynic in me has always been inclined to shrug off the ‘wellness’ phenomena as little more than punchy jargon so, if nothing else, the experience would be a good way to confront my reservations, I thought.
Upon arrival to Mayakoba‘s lush jungle property, I was immediately reminded that sometimes we need to get away to return to our best selves. After check in, a boat shuttled me through the hotel’s network of canals to my Wellness Suite– one of eight constructed in tandem with the program’s commencement. There, I was serenaded by a mariachi band and greeted by my “wellbeing butler.” A warm welcome indeed. Inside the two-level suite I relished in the small details of the wholly immersive accommodations. A note mentioning that “every element of your experience in-room has been thoughtfully considered to maximize relaxation and inspire renewal,” rang true as I toured the space. Luxurious touch points included a serve-yourself fruit and granola bar, alkaline water dispenser, microfiber skin care pillow cases, a circadian lamp replicating moonlight and shower-activated aromatherapy pods.
After settling in, I consulted with the hotel’s resident shaman, Fernanda, to establish my personalized schedule for the days ahead. Her positive energy was palpable as she explained her healing methods and therapies rooted in ancient Mayan traditions. In an initial assessment, Fernanda identified a heaviness in my lower back that I had previously addressed with a chiropractor. After some conversation and further analysis, it became clear that I still carried the emotional burden of losing a friend to cancer in the eighth grade. Maybe it was the beauty of the serene mangrove we overlooked, the perfectly green palms fluttering overhead or the overwhelming feeling of being seen and heard – whatever it was – I cried. A lot. There would be no tedious chiseling of the ice around my frigid heart, Fernanda’s wisdom was a blowtorch and I was melting fast. Before our one hour consultation was up, she had read my energy, loosely mapped out the human condition and broken up my pent up angst. This was the real deal.
Back at the room, the mini-surprises kept coming. Further investigation revealed an outdoor shower among Birds of Paradise and palms, a rock-filled fountain for morning reflexology sessions and a salt water therapy soaking pool overlooking the turquoise lagoon. At turn down a small colorful dragonfly figurine accompanied by a note was placed on my pillow. It read: “In Mexico we view the alebrijes craft as both guardians and healers. We hope this alebrije, both hand carved and hand painted in the state of Oaxaca looks over you while you sleep this evening.” Credit to my new insect friend, I slept long and hard that night.
That first meeting with Fernanda set the tone for my program, which touts in its description: “a one of a kind experience that will break patterns of fear and emotional dependence to experience maximum freedom.” Fernanda and I spoke about the conscious and the unconscious mind and how humans are socialized through words, making it hard to fall out of deeply ingrained behavioral patterns and belief systems that hinder personal growth. In order to change we need to teach ourselves new positive language to live by, she told me. I further pondered these thoughts during a massage at the five star Sense spa. For that experience, I was invited to Rosewood’s Kuxtal Sensory Garden to choose which of its 13 native botanicals resonated with me. My masseuse then plucked their fresh leaves to concoct a custom oil blend for my ensuing treatment. Soft ringing chimes turned out to be a complementary soundtrack to my aloe, lavender and rose potion.
In my time away from Fernanda, I took advantage of Rosewood’s amenities, most notably a personal bike that allowed me to traverse the sprawling resort campus and admire its endless flora and fauna. I enjoyed one-way trips to oceanfront cabanas, taking up the offers of friendly staff to drive me and my bike home after lazing away on the beach. It didn’t take long to discover that the property’s personnel is on a tireless mission to help guests reach peak vacation-mode. This proved especially salient at a lantern-lit dinner in the hotel’s resident garden, La Ceiba, where I sat among 30 fellow guests for a multiple course, family style dinner. Several of my fellow travelers explained that they return to the hotel year after year bolstered by the ancient wisdom that ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ Fair point.
Day three was a private trip to a cenote (aka cave filled with water) where in Mayan tradition, the crystal blue waters are said to be sacred and restorative wells of health and eternal youth. Fernanda gave me a ritualistic water blessing and in doing so, stirred up energy from my grandmother who had recently passed away. More tears. More clarity. And a not-so casual phone call home to tell my family that Nonna Rosa wants us all to be at peace with our lives.
For our last outing together, Fernanda invited me to a sweat session in the Rosewood’s Temazcal, a domed structure resembling a massive pizza oven that holds the steam from fire-roasted stones. I will spare you the personal details of the negative thoughts and ideas I purged, and just tell you it was hot and emotional. The skeptic in me had finally gone quiet. By this point, I was practically floating around the resort, tipping my proverbial hat to passersby and whistling en route to the tropical Riviera coast on my morning bike ride.
I walked away from Fernanda and Rosewood’s wellness experience with true rejuvenation, much deeper and more profound than buzzwords thrown around by marketers could ever convey. Like anything else, there is a right and a wrong way to approach the complexity of health and self-care, I realized. My exposure up to that point consisted of cheesy, product-pushing commercials and the like, but Fernanda reminded me that wellness is whatever you want it to be. She told me a story about one of her ancestors advising her that every once in awhile you need to “clean your mirror,” and wipe away life’s distractions to see yourself clearly. This sage advice has served me well over the past year as our world became upended by the pandemic.
As cliche as it is, searching for answers from the outside is fruitless– your own truth can be gleaned only from within. When I articulated this to Fernanda during one of our visits, she clapped with excitement. “You get it now,” she exclaimed, wearing her bright smile I had come to cherish. Hearing is one thing, believing is another.
Follow @rwmayakoba or visit www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/mayakoba-riviera-maya for more information and up to date Covid-19 safety protocols.
A word on Mayakoba: Developed along the Riviera Maya in the late 90s, the 620-acre gated property houses four luxury resorts, a main square, miles of beach, a Greg Norman 18-hole golf course, and acres of preserved lagoon. The enclave was thoughtfully built and integrated into the natural landscape, striking a careful balance of cohabitation between visitors and existing ecosystems. The mangroves on the property boast eight miles of waterway– explaining the community’s tagline “the Venice of the Carribean.” Visitors may see spider monkeys, white herons, crocodiles, iguanas and coatis as well as countless bird species– many of which have made their permanent homes on the land. Land developers are proud to report the sustainability of the landscape: 49 species have grown to 327, including migratory birds. The land is about 35 minutes from Cancun’s International Airport in the city of Playa del Carmen.