Health Spas for Fitness and Fun

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Kripalu yoga retreat. Keeping fit has become an American pastime, and has given birth to a multimillion-dollar industry, with facilities that range from corner YMCA's to posh five-star luxury resorts.

More folks are spending vacations at health spas for fitness and fun, caring for their most important friends . . . themselves!

Regular readers know that MOTHER tries to present many
different life choices within these pages. That’s why it’s
possible to see an article on butchering pork in the same
issue as a selection of meatless sandwich recipes! And, in
keeping with this philosophy, we’ve rounded up some
information on what’s been called “The Vacation of the
80’s” . . . and plan to explore with you the excitement,
the hard work, and the fun associated with
spending some time at a fitness resort.

Keeping fit has become an American pastime, and has given
birth to a multimillion-dollar industry, with facilities
that range from corner YMCA’s to posh five-star luxury
resorts. Now we realize that a lot of folks don’t have the
time, the money, or even the inclination to visit
such places (and after all, a few hours spent chopping wood
can benefit the body while it fills the woodbin!). However,
if you’re in the market for a vacation spot that offers
pleasant accommodations, good food, and sports and
recreational facilities . . . a health resort is hard to
beat. To top it all off, you may just lose a few pounds,
shrink a few inches, gain a better understanding of how
best to care for your body, and — perhaps most
important of all — develop a new, improved set of
fitness habits.

But, you may well want to know, what can one expect when
visiting a spa for a weeklong program? In most cases,
you’ll get an initial physical examination by a staff
doctor and a consultation with a nutritionist. You can also
anticipate following a dietary regimen consisting of 500 to
1,000 calories per day, or a fasting program of fruit juice
or mineral water. All such resorts feature group exercise
classes, and allow time for individual workouts on
machines, weights, and stationary bicycles. Swimming pools
are practically mandatory, as are saunas and whirlpools.
Most spas start each day with a brisk walk, hike, or jog .
. . and further exercise is encouraged (often tennis, golf,
or horseback riding). Various beauty services are usually
offered, too . . . such as facials, massages, herbal wraps,
and makeup and hair consultations.

Originally the word “spa” meant a mineral spring, or a
resort having a mineral spring on its premises. Today the
term encompasses any commercial establishment with exercise
rooms, saunas, and whirlpools. The list that follows is
separated into three categories: true “spas” built around
hot mineral springs . . . health “farms” that emphasize
fasting, vegetarianism, and a wholistic lifestyle . . . and
the luxurious reports that specialize in pampering souls
while reshaping bodies. Most of these places have seasonal
rates, and — if the spa experience fits your
lifestyle and budget — this may be the best time of
year to go. (All rates quoted are based on 1982 brochures.)

“OF THE WATERS AND THEIR POWERS . . .”

Desert Hot Springs Spa. About 1000 B.C. (give or take a few
decades), a huge tremor shook the earth . . . created the
San Andreas Fault in California . . . and released the hot
mineral water that gushes from below the Desert Hot Springs
Spa near Palm Springs, California. Located 1,200 feet above
the surrounding arid expanse of sand, with views of Mt. San
Jacinto, this spa boasts of being the only resort in the
world to offer the combination of hot mineral waters
and a dry, desert climate. The therapeutic liquid
bubbles from the earth at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit
and is odorless, crystal clear, and delicious.

A chiropractor and nutritionist are on staff for
consultation . . . and special package deals are available,
one of which offers six days and five nights for $173 per
person, double occupancy. (For more information, write to
Desert Hot Springs Spa, Dept. TMEN, Desert Hot Springs, California.)

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. There are actually
two Fairmont spas, one located between Anaconda
and Butte, Montana . . . the other nestled in the Canadian
Rockies between Golden and Cranbrook, British Columbia.
Both feature golf, swimming, angling, hot mineral pools . .
. and wintertime diversions such as skiing, ice-fishing,
and snowmobiling.

The Anaconda- Pintlar Wilderness area — with its
campgrounds, hiking trails, and wildlife — is near
the U.S. Fairmont. Although the resort emphasizes family
fun and entertainment more than fitness and weight loss,
the naturally heated hot springs (ranging from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to
112 degrees Fahrenheit) do attract folks seeking the water’s reputed
benefits. The double-occupancy daily rate for a motel-like
room is $48. (Details are available from Fairmont Hot
Springs Resort, Dept. TMEN, Anaconda, Montana.)

Hot Springs Lodge, Pool, and Athletic Club. Situated near
the more famous resorts of Aspen and Vail, Hot Springs
credits itself with the largest naturally warmed, open-air
mineral water pool in the world. The two-block-long facility
is heated by the flowing Yampah Hot Springs and then cooled
to a comfortable swimming temperature by mountain spring
water. (However, a nearby thermal pool is maintained at a
muscle-pleasing 104 degrees Fahrenheit.) The atmosphere is informal, and
the emphasis is on exercise rather than diet (this is not a
club for folks whose express purpose is to lose weight).
Double-occupancy room rates average $40 per day, while an
additional $9.50 is charged for use of the athletic club.
(Contact Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, Dept. TMEN, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.)

Safety Harbor Spa. Initially founded to provide access to
the famed Espiritu Santo Springs and their reputed
restorative powers, this luxury resort hotel and tennis
club complex has since expanded to offer much more. Located
on Old Tampa Bay between Tampa and Clearwater, Florida,
Safety Harbor features an indoor therapy pool (with
swirling waters maintained at 98 degrees Fahrenheit), mineral baths, a
whirlpool, “his and her” solariums, yoga instruction, and
the services of a variety of medical experts . . . as well
as the usual tennis, golf, and water sports. The resort is
open only from December to May, and double-occupancy rates
average $108 per person per day. (You can find out more
from Safety Harbor Spa, Dept. TMEN, Safety Harbor, Florida.)

San Carlos Inn. When Ponce de Léon traveled from
Spain to the New World in search of the Fountain of Youth,
he may well have been responding to tales about the warm
mineral springs located behind the San Carlos Inn in Fort
Myers, Florida. It’s said that the waters come from deep
within the earth — a full quarter-mile down —
and about a million gallons of the warm
(90.26 degrees Fahrenheit), bubbly, mineral-rich liquid spew forth each
day. The springs have been judged to be some of the finest
in the world, rivaling those of the more famous mineral
spas in Baden-Baden in Germany and Aixles-Bains in France.

Additional features include freshwater swimming, fishing,
canoeing, golf, bicycling, and exercise facilities. The inn
itself is fairly modest, and the off season
double-occupancy room rate (from May 1 to December 15) is a
reasonable $32 per night. (Write or call San Carlos Inn,
Dept. TMEN, Fort Myers, Florida.)

“THEY THAT BE WHOLE NEED NOT A PHYSICIAN . . .” 

The Ashram. This austere, no-frills resort, located 45
minutes north of Los Angeles, reputedly packs a powerful
punch . . . from all reports, it takes real
stamina to last out one’s stay! Eight guests are
selected each week (through extensive telephone
interviews), and those who are permitted to come are
subjected to grueling physical workouts, especially hiking
in the mountains surrounding the retreat. The diet is
primarily raw, always vegetarian fare . . .
consisting of fruits, vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts, and
berries. Guests lose weight . . . but — more notably
— they lose inches, and they work muscles that they
often never knew existed! The weekly rate is $1,100 per
person. (The Ashram’s address is Dept. TMEN, Calabasas, California.)

Hippocrates World Health Organization. Folks come to the
Hippocrates Institute in Boston, Massachusetts in order to
learn a new lifestyle . . . a process which involves
attending daily classes and participating in a two-week
“learn by doing” program. Ann Wigmore is the founder and
president of the institute, whose exercise program
emphasizes flexibility, proper posture, and deep breathing
. . . and whose diet regimen relies heavily on
chlorophyll-rich greens and wheatgrass.

The Hippocrates philosophy maintains that the body is
always capable of healing itself . . . given proper (raw
food) nourishment, a positive mental attitude, and adequate
exercise. The institute also offers a ten-week
comprehensive wholistic training program. The two-week rate
is $1,300, while children aged 3 to 16 and the second
person in a couple can stay for half price. The rates are
20% lower from November through March, too. (Contact
Hippocrates World Health Organization, Dept. TMEN, Boston, Massachusetts.)

Kripalu Holistic Health Center. See information on the center at the end of this article.

Little Switzerland Wholistic Health Center and Mountain
Health Retreat. Situated in the beautiful and rugged
mountains of western Colorado, Little Switzerland’s
philosophy rests in rediscovering the ancient laws of
Mother Nature that govern body, mind, and consciousness.
Founded by Drs. Paul and Marie Farber, the center offers
wholistic health-care seminars … and provides polarity
balancing, acupuncture, hot mineral baths, massage,
hydrotherapy, biofeedback, and more.

A week-long analysis and treatment program may cost $200 to
$500 (depending upon individual needs), and accommodations
are arranged for clients at nearby motels — with
mineral spa facilities — for about $35 a day per
person. (To find out more about this organization, write to
the Wholistic World Healing Foundation, Dept. TMEN, Ouray, Colorado.)

New Age Health Farm of Neversink. This rural retreat in
upstate New York has combined the characteristics of a
“classic” European health spa with a New Age awareness of
the interconnection of mind, body, and spirit. The farm
specializes in fasting (water or fruit juice) and weight
loss, using the wholistic approach, and activities are
planned to nourish the spirit and the mind as well as the
body. Staff members also offer beauty consultations and
treatments, using natural products. Weekly Double-occupancy
rates begin at $234 per person. (Contact New Age Health
Farm, Dept. TMEN, Neversink, New York.)

Pawling Health Manor. The folks at Pawling have been
promoting the wholistic approach to health for over 20
years, and not only can they help their guests lose weight
and tone up, but they also have an effective “stop smoking”
program. (Warning: Smoking is never permitted.)
Daily workshops in nutrition, vegetarianism, fasting, and
food preparation are offered . . . as are “relaxacise”
classes, the use of a fully equipped gymnasium, and
nutritious meals. The atmosphere is informal, and weekly
rates start at $330 per person. (Details are available from
Pawling Health Manor, Dept. TMEN, Hyde Park, New
York.)

Shangri-La Natural Health Resort.This Shangri-La
views good health as the essential pathway to happiness.
The program is totally natural, focusing on yoga and
fasting (or, if eating at all, the use of wholesome organic
foods). No canned or frozen products are ever served, and
“the vegetarian cuisine reigns supreme”. Double-occupancy
rates for May through December, 1982 average $38 per person
per day . . . and the resort offers a 10% discount to
guests who stay three months or longer. (Contact Shangri-La
Natural Health Resort, Dept. TMEN, Bonita Springs, Florida.)

“WHERE MONEY IS NO OBJECT . . .”

Canyon Ranch Spa. Situated on 28 acres in the foothills of
Tucson, Arizona’s majestic Santa Catalina Mountains, the
Canyon Ranch Spa boasts 360 sunny days each year, and
offers a 28,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building
for non-sun worshipers. Three gyms host 15 exercise classes
a day, and racquetball, weight training, hiking, swimming,
jogging, golf, and horseback riding are offered, as well.
Mealtime portions are determined by one’s need to lose,
maintain, or gain weight . . . and all recipes are
available for the residents to take home. Double-occupancy
rates — which include three meals plus full
use of all facilities — average $120 per person per
day. (You can learn more by getting in touch with the
Canyon Ranch Spa, Dept. TMEN, Tucson, Arizona.)

The Greenbrier. A spa is just one of numerous
facilities available to guests at this gracious resort in
the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. The Greenbrier is
not specifically geared toward fitness and weight
loss, and there’s no diet regimen. But since it’s truly a
sports(wo)man’s paradise, anyone with a dash of
self-discipline should have no problem shedding a few
pounds while enjoying a luxurious vacation. In addition to
the renowned mineral baths, whirlpools, sauna, steam rooms,
and massage services, the Greenbrier offers three
18-hole golf courses, 20 tennis courts (including five
air-conditioned indoor ones), trap and skeet
ranges, and an eight-lane bowling center … plus
shuffleboard, horseshoes, bicycling, fishing, hiking,
jogging, and horseback riding. Guesthouse rates average
$110 per person per day, and a limited number of golf and
tennis cottages are available for $78 per person . . . all
the prices include breakfasts and dinners. (Write or call
the Greenbrier, Dept. TMEN, White Sulphur Springs, West
Virginia.)

Lido Spa. If you’re interested in getting suntanned as well
as slim, you might want to consider the Lido Spa, nestled
in the heart of Miami Beach, Florida. This facility
actually guarantees weight loss: A staff dietician
consults with each guest and plans an individually tailored
program. Included in the cost of accommodations are a
physical exam and daily massage . . . the use of golf,
tennis, and spa facilities . . . and all meals.
Double-occupancy daily rates in the fall season start at
$38 per person. (Contact the Lido Spa, Dept. TMEN, Miami Beach, Florida.)

The World of Palm-Aire. One of Florida’s — and the
nation’s — most luxurious health resorts, Palm-Aire
offers a seven-day “executive fitness” program for men and
a seven-day “renaissance spa” program for women. Other
options include a four-day plan designed for maximum weight
loss and cardiovascular fitness . . . and a four-day spa
and sports plan that combines exercise with the use of
Palm-Aires numerous recreational facilities: five 18-hole
golf courses, 37 tennis courts, four racquetball courts,
salt- and freshwater swimming pools, and a jogging course
with exercise stations positioned along it. The
double-occupancy daily rate for a seven-day package is
$311. (Write or call Palm-Aire, Dept. TMEN, Pompano Beach, Florida.)

The Phoenix. The problem with most health spa
vacations–according to the directors of the Phoenix–is that
the benefits accrued tend to disappear, since the
participants all too often resume their previous habits
after they leave. To prevent that, the Phoenix offers a
program (for women only) that emphasizes behavioral
re-education and provides practical guidelines that can be
applied at home.

The training takes place in an elegant setting amid the 26
wooded acres of a former estate in Houston, Texas. Mornings
are devoted to exercise, afternoons to beauty
“indulgences”, and evenings to lectures and discussions.
The all-inclusive cost per week is $2,175. (You can get
more information from the Phoenix, Dept. TMEN, Houston, Texas.)

Sea Pines Behavioral Institute. Sea Pines bills itself as
“a health education center specializing in health
maintenance, habit change, and weight control”. The thrust
of this spa’s program is, again, behavior modification.
Self-control, relaxation, and stress management techniques
are basic. All participants are entitled to follow-up
consultations for a full year after their stay, and
graduate “booster” sessions are held periodically to
reinforce the lifestyle changes encouraged by the resort’s
staff. The institute, located within the Sea Pines
Plantation on beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina,
provides ample recreational opportunities as well. An
all-inclusive 26-day residential program costs $3,500.
(Contact Sea Pines Behavioral Institute, Sea Pines Resort,
Dept. TMEN, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.)

Of course, the resorts mentioned here constitute only a
sampling of the fitness spas available in the U.S. Most
such enterprises will be happy to send you a brochure
describing their facilities.


One of MOTHER’s staffers recently attended a
stress-reduction/learn-to-relax weekend at the Kripalu
Center for Holistic Health in the Blue Mountains of
Pennsylvania. Here are some of her impressions.

KRIPALU: REJUVENATION THROUGH RELAXATION

“How many ways do you depend on your body for everything
you want in life?” This question — posed by the
Kripalu Center for Holistic Health in virtually all of its
literature — is really the cornerstone of the staffs
philosophy. And, of course, it does help one
realize how truly important good health, vitality, and a
sense of well-being are to the enjoyment of day-to-day
living.

As you might imagine, Kripalu — named after the late
Swami Shri Kripalvanandji, who was guru to the founder
— is more than a health resort. It’s a complete New
Age community situated on approximately 240 acres in the
central section of eastern Pennsylvania, northwest of
Reading. The Center for Holistic Health is only one portion
of the complex, and was created four years ago in response
to repeated requests for information — on diet,
exercise, and such — from guests attending programs
at the “parent” yoga retreat. The center’s initial staff of
three quickly blossomed into a contingent of 45 full-time
workers, including health-care professionals in the areas
of physical therapy, kinesiology, homeopathic medicine, and
clinical psychology. Monthlong, week-long, and weekend
programs are now conducted throughout the year . . .
dealing with subjects as diverse as skin care, crisis
counseling, raw juice fasting, and breaking the smoking
habit.

There are few steadfast “rules” at Kripalu. The health
center’s staffers feel that the best regimen for one
individual might not be as beneficial for another …
therefore, every guest is free to pick and choose from a
variety of activities and health services. Personal growth
is heavily emphasized, however, as is attunement to one’s
physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Guests are
encouraged not only to eat healthful foods and to take
plenty of exercise, but also to be reflective and to relax.
The focus is on preventive care — through diet,
stress reduction, yoga, and so forth — more than it
is on healing. And, although there are two physicians and
two physical therapists on staff, Kripalu doesn’t advertise
itself as a treatment center and makes no promises of quick
cures.

The center is typically booked several sessions in advance,
and facilities limit the number of workshop participants to
about 25. Furthermore, although a broad spectrum of people
participate in the programs, the guests tend to be in their
30’s or 40’s, middle class, more often female than male,
and — naturally — keenly interested in
achieving a more holistic lifestyle.

The peaceful rural setting provided by the surrounding Blue
Mountains offers great opportunities for strolling,
jogging, biking, and hiking. (Indeed, the Appalachian Trail
is well within walking distance of the compound.) A
three-acre lake on the property tempts guests with the
opportunity to canoe . . . and an Olympic-sized pool is open
for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter!
Guests may also make appointments to receive health
services from the professional staff. Among those offered
are hair analysis for trace minerals, polarity therapy,
reflexology (foot massage), yoga therapy, colonic
irrigation, facials, deep tissue massage, and psychological
counseling.

A typical day’s schedule begins at 5:00 a.m., when the
guests are gently awakened by the sound of a melodious
African instrument. Then, at 5:20, the body-work specialist
greets everyone out in the yard for stretching and warmup
exercises. Next comes a walk or a jog — depending on
each person’s preference — followed by an hour of
yoga. Breakfast, usually consisting of cooked whole grains
and homemade yogurt, is served at 7:30. (Unfortunately, the
health center raises little of its own food, but does
obtain organically grown produce from a local farmers’
market, make its own yogurt and soy food products, and grow
its own sprouts.)

After breakfast there are workshops until mid-morning . . .
then guests are free to keep their various health-care
appointments, relax in the sauna or hot tub, enjoy a nap,
or walk about the complex. Lunch — the main meal of
the day — usually consists of a large green salad,
whole grain bread, and a vegetarian casserole. Fresh fruit
and herbal teas are always available to the guests, as
well. More workshops and/or therapy sessions follow in the
afternoon, and a light supper of soup and salad is served
at 5:30 p.m. Between the evening meal and bedtime (at 9:00
p.m.), it’s often possible to meet with the retreat’s
founder, Yogi Desai, and listen as he talks, reads from a
favorite work, or fields questions.

There is — according to our staffer — a feeling
of peace surrounding the center, and it’s difficult
not to relax in the atmosphere of caring that
envelops the place. The Kripalu personnel are supportive of
each other and of their guests, who are treated
like close family friends.

Rates vary with the program being offered. Many weekend
workshops, for example, are priced as low as $70 . . .
while week-long programs cost from $300 to $400. The fees
cover modest accommodations, three meals a day, and use of
the sauna and hot tub. Health services such as massage can
be had for an extra fee. (You can learn more by writing or
calling the Kripalu Center for Holistic Health, Dept. TMEN,
Summit Station, Pennsylvania.)