Travel for yoga, meditation, and other forms of mind-body relaxation went mainstream during the 1960s, becoming part of our popular culture. Who can forget when the Beatles traveled to India in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—or when the 1969 Woodstock music festival kicked off with Sanskrit chanting?
Of course, long before the Fab Four escaped to India for a retreat, cultures from Native Americans to the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans sought out hot springs for relaxation and therapy. Centuries later, entrepreneurs in Europe and the U.S. built health resorts to entice wellness-seekers, and a new generation of health vacation emerged in the 1950s when resorts including California’s Golden Door Spa began offering weight loss and fitness programs.
Spas and retreat centers offer a menu “of re-inspiration that keeps mature minds and bodies nimble and open,” says David Seybert, who serves as the qigong and meditation instructor for the Ananda Center at Laurelwood near Portland. “And specific practices like yoga and qigong help with posture alignment and breathing, both important factors in overall well-being as we age.”
The International Spa Association estimated there were more than 21,260 spas in the U.S. in 2016—and the Pacific Northwest offers plenty of places to jump-start or rejuvenate a practice of relaxation and mindfulness. Here are a few of them:
Carson Hot Springs Resort, located in the Columbia River Gorge, still takes advantage of the area’s mineral waters with soaks in the original cast iron tubs installed in the 1923 bathhouse. Resort owners say the water’s mineral composition can reduce pain, stress, and the impacts of digestive disorders. A Carson Springs soak is typically followed by a relaxing linen wrap in a darkened room. Guests can also have a massage or take a sauna. Rustic resort accommodations are available for an overnight hot springs experience. Spa services and accommodations can be booked online at carsonhotspringresort.com or by calling 509-427-8296.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, built on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1880s, offers three outdoor mineral pools of varying temperature and depth. The mineralized water, a combination of rain and snow melt, has long been purported to cure a variety of illnesses. Poolside massages after a relaxing soak are available. The seasonal resort (open March through October) has cabins, RV sites, and a restaurant making it a destination hot springs vacation that can be combined with a walk in the Sol Duc Valley and exploring Olympic National Park. Reservations can be made at olympicnationalparks.com or 888-896-3818.
Ananda Center at Laurelwood, located 26 miles west of Portland, is a non-denominational spiritual community based on yogic principles. The center offers personal retreats allowing guests to take part in a daily schedule of meditation and yoga classes, plus workshops devoted to learning qigong, meditation, or movement awareness. Vegetarian meals are communal, taken with guests and staff, and accommodations are simple and comfortable. A description of workshops and retreats as well as registration can be found at anandalaurelwood.org or by calling 503-746-6229.
Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island in Greenbank sits on a 10-acre site that includes four accommodation rooms, vegetarian breakfasts, a sauna, and meditative walking trails. The lodge offers group retreats and workshops as well as a daily schedule of group yoga classes for guests and the community. The lodge’s website describes upcoming workshops with registration links or you can call them for additional information. yogalodge.com or 360-222-3749.
For a do-it-yourself experience, Wellspring Retreat and Spa at the base of Mt. Rainier has massages, hot tubs, a sauna, a meditation trail, and the Woodland Labyrinth set at the end of a magical stroll through the woods. Accommodations range from small log cabins to a fully equipped lodge and even a treehouse in a peaceful setting near Ashford. Lodging and spa reservations can be made on their website, wellspringspa.com
For a full-on destination escape with the added bonus of winter sunshine, head south to Red Mountain Resort near St. George, Utah. The resort, named to Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of the world’s best destination spas, uses the area’s scenic red rock location for many of its activities. One fall day, guests could choose three different types of yoga classes, tai chi in nearby Snow Canyon, qigong, or a lecture on body alignment—or they could opt for a full-day hike in nearby Zion Park, a desert nature walk, bike riding, learning to paddleboard, or a leisurely day of facial and massage pampering in the spa. Get details at redmountainresort.com or 877-246-4453.
Our acceptance of spirituality and wellness has turned what could have been a passing fad from our early years into more options for a robust and active life in our later years. And there is no better time than these dark and rainy winter days to stretch our minds and relax our bodies.
Ann Randall is an independent traveler and writer who loves venturing to out-of-the-way locales from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. A former educator, she now observes international elections and does NGO volunteer work in India. Her articles have appeared in online and print publications and she maintains two blogs, PeregrineWoman.com and ExploreKitsap.com.
Wellness On a Budget
A multi-day retreat/spa stay can help you learn to integrate a relaxation practice into your daily routine, and there are ways to do it less expensively. Look for offseason, discount, or seasonal rates. Utah’s Red Mountain Resort offers package deals during its summer low season. Ananda at Laurelwood offers its First Timers’ Weekend Yoga and Meditation Retreat at a discounted price. And Carson Hot Springs extends a senior (over 62) discount as well as a mid-week discount for its hotel and mineral soaks.
Or try a staycation retreat. Most health clubs and community recreation centers offer some type of mind/body integration class such as yoga or tai chi. Private yoga studios schedule a full range of classes. If you’re Medicare age, consider plans that offer a Silver Sneaker card, which many local health clubs will let you use to take classes. Or download a meditation app to your smartphone or tablet. Three highly rated apps that will talk you through a meditation session are the Mindfulness App, Headspace, and Calm.