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RI Archives: Wellness

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Rural Intelligence


A Trip To Serenity With A Moroccanoil Treatment

By Lisa Green

Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez all use Moroccanoil products, but I didn’t know that when I saw the Moroccanoil exfoliation treatment offered by Lotus Salon & Spa in Pittsfield, Mass. Maybe it’s because I’m itching to go to Morocco, but the name of the product, I admit, reeled me in.

Moroccanoil is the beauty industry sensation that began with the original hair treatment. Its main ingredient is argan oil, which is made from the kernels of argan tree fruit that grows almost exclusively in Morocco. (The company is actually headquartered in Israel.) Argan oil contains a high content of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, and is used to hydrate and moisturize hair and skin. The Moroccanoil line has been extended to include body care products, and the breadth of the line is impressive; almost an entire wall at Lotus is devoted to the pretty (mostly) blue packages.

But back to my appointment with the Moroccanoil Body Buff exfoliating body smoother, which promised to polish away dead skin cells, leaving my skin feeling soft and renewed.

“It’s not just therapy for your skin,” says licensed massage therapist Shaunna Magner, explaining that the body treatments are recommended on a seasonal basis, optimally after a winter of dry skin challenges or following perhaps too much sun in the summer. Many women come in after they’ve had a baby or a hospital stay. Think of it like shedding an old skin. “You feel like you’ve literally got that experience behind you and now not just your skin but your whole self feels revitalized.”

I’d had no baby or hospital stay, but I had just finished putting out the weekly Rural Intelligence issue and felt justified in treating myself to an hour of renewal. So that’s how I found my way to one of the tranquil spa rooms and in the capable hands of Magner. 

If you’ve ever tried sugar or salt scrubs, you know they can be, well, a bit rough. “Sugar and salt molecular structures are square, and can tear your skin,” says Magner. “But the Fleur D’Oranger Body Buff uses orange peels whose molecular structures are round, so they are kinder to your skin and are more easily absorbed.” (Clients can also opt for the Fleur de Rose, infused with round-structured rose petals, which is even gentler than the Fleur d’Oranger, but not as effective if you need a fair amount of sloughing, says Magner.)

I’m not a huge fan of massages (too much pressure to relax), but this was different (better). The Body Buff, which has a faint and lovely orange blossom scent, is first massaged into the back, arms, legs and chest. I always love having my back gently scratched, and that’s what the application felt like: just enough pressure and grain to energize the skin. Warm towels come next, to wipe off the scrub, and then another rubdown follows, this time with the Intense Hydrating Treatment. At the end of the session, Magner gave me a report on the condition of my elbows, knees and feet, but there was no pressure to buy any products.

I wish I could say I emerged from the treatment looking like Jennifer Lopez. Alas, Moroccanoil isn’t that powerful. But it did smooth out my “problem spots,” as well as leave me with a desire to return after I put the next issue to bed.

Lotus, which is a Moroccanoil-approved partner salon (the company inspected the property and has provided trainings for the stylists and technicians), also offers a Moroccanoil Ultimate Experience, which includes a full massage. All of the spa services include a complimentary infra-red sauna treatment.

Moroccanoil Exfoliation Treatment, $105
Moroccanoil Ultimate Experience, $145

Lotus Salon & Spa
740 Williams St., Pittsfield, MA
(413) 344-4429

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/05/16 at 12:44 PM • Permalink

Cranwell Turns The Spa Experience Into A (Quiet) Party

It takes some creativity to bring a new twist to the spa experience, but Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox has mixed things up a bit, just at the time when we need it most. Couples nights, a Paint and Sip Party and happy hours at the salon vary the format and add some playful options to appeal to just about anyone looking for a way to pretend winter doesn’t exist.

Cranwell has long been one of the most welcoming spa facilities to local residents, and these one-off events are designed to make it as easy for nearby residents as it is for resort guests to enjoy the world-class spa. The Ladies Night Out evenings, launched last year, proved popular enough to continue this season, and help to extend the welcome mat to those of us who who are lucky enough not to have to travel far to unwind.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable,” says Christine Mariconti, Cranwell’s spa director, pointing out that there are very few mirrors in the spa in order to encourage people to focus inwardly (the no cell-phone policy helps, too). “There’s no pressure to be anything but yourself.”

And if that means being a little less serious about the spa experience, or sharing it with your someone special, this is your place. This month, the spa menu at Cranwell encourages you to grab a partner, a paintbrush or opt for a pina colada pedi. Check the website for added events.

Couples Night at the Spa
Friday, January 16, 3-9 p.m.
Bring a partner and get 30 percent off with a booking of two spa services. Relax together poolside or in the co-ed quiet room, take a yoga class and sample a variety of spirits at a complimentary tasting. Candlelight dinner buffet in the spa café option, $21.

Paint and Sip Party
Sunday, January 25, 3-6 p.m. in the Spa Cafe
Cranwell Spa partners with The Dirty Brush for the first of the “Paint and Sip Party” series, which includes paint, canvas and instruction, plus a glass of wine, snacks and 20 percent discount on spa services before or after the painting party. $45 per person.

Happy Hour at the Salon
Wednesday, January 28, 5-9 p.m.
Manicures and pedicures named after popular libations (margarita mani, anyone?) are offered at special prices, and include a beverage. The Happy Hour Buffet (robe attire encouraged) is $18.50 per person.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/05/15 at 06:11 PM • Permalink

The Grand Treatment At The Mayflower Inn and Spa

By Don Rosendale

“Ten fifty” the desk clerk says nonchalantly, announcing the tariff for a 21-hour mid-week spa package at the Mayflower Inn and Spa in Washington, CT, a five-star country-house hotel of impressive proportions and gorgeous design.

By “ten fifty,” he means one thousand and fifty bucks for one night. Indeed, while the Inn and Spa are definitely not for the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” set, it’s not out of line with the destinations for the G5/One57 crowd that flocks to resorts of Mayflower caliber. For example, the Hotel du Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera, which is the gold standard of this crowd, currently offers you a single room in the off season for €830 or a tad over $1,150 at this week’s exchange rate. And while du Cap may have movie stars and the Mediterranean, it doesn’t have a 20,000-square-foot spa where the staff-to-client ratio usually is around 5 to 1. (Yoga studio pictured at right.)

The Inn changed hands in August, from individual owners in a hotel chain (albeit a very upscale British group), and the question is—has their standard slipped? The answer: Not one millimeter. The dictionary says a spa is a place people go to “take the waters,” and the Mayflower Spa is perhaps symbolically placed because it’s on the spot where Chief Waramaug of the Wyanoke Indians would visit for its healing waters. While the concept of a spa brings to mind rows of patrons on StairMasters attacking those extra pounds that make a size 6 vintage Halston snug, Helen Brown, the spa’s manager, says the goal there is not 110 pounds, but a blood pressure of 110/80, relieving the stresses of 60-hour work weeks and detoxing the body from too many Havana cigars and single malt scotches.

The Inn and the spa, 100 yards away from each other, are totally different environments. The Inn has four-poster beds in its 30-odd rooms, what looks to be Colefax and Fowler fabrics, a vest-pocket library with a roaring fireplace, leather armchairs no doubt rescued from some gentleman’s club, and shelves of books guests actually might read arranged alphabetically, plus a tasteful bar and dining room. There’s talk of major improvements in 2014, though there doesn’t seem to be much improvement needed.

Trek up the hill to the spa where Brown presides, and it’s all mute in sight and sound. Peaceful. Pristine but soothing contemporary white in decor. Bleached pickled-oak floors. “I want people to purify their bodies,” says Brown, with only the slightest hint of her English heritage and clear skin that is no double a tribute to her genes as well as the spa treatments. Born in Kent and educated in Wales, she says the gentle music played in the spa area are “healing sounds”; the ambiance of the place feels altogether very healing indeed.

As testimony to this, we have the firsthand notes of the spa experience by my friend Joe (not his real name). Joe considers 60 hours a short work week and strives to keep the internet at a major investment bank functioning; he took the Mayflower waters this fall. The following are some excerpts: “The Garmin satellite GPS got me from the UES to Washington, but then missed the Mayflower driveway. BMW right at home with a parking lot of Range Rovers, Bentleys, and Audi A6’s…For dinner was more than satisfied by the recommended fava bean risotto, tomato Carpaccio, pork tenderloin with apple sauce. Morning skipped the offer of chauffeured drive from the inn to the spa, trudged up 100 yards of steep steps. Got the pulse going.

“At spa. No shoes, no Diet Coke, no fizzy waters, took spring water with lemon. Pre-packaged handful of trail mix or energy bar. No WSJ, no IBD; The New York Times had its business section removed. Sound of muted Vivaldi. Couches, walls, floor white, cushions with pale blue trim. (At these prices, wouldn’t Tiffany Blue be more appropriate?) Lucky to have Helen Brown as personal guide. Place seemed very Japanese to me but Helen explains it is more Moroccan-inspired.”

“First stop indoor pool. Radiant floor, air and water temp all precise 86 degrees. No chlorine smell. Helen turned on heat in ‘thermal sanctuary,’ like a sauna with marble slabs that can be heated to 104. Steam available. No musty smell like the club.”

“Decided to pass on Pilates, thermal wrap, and zumba for now, opted for a walk. Helen offered choice of a labyrinth (modeled of course from the famous one at Chartres Cathedral in France) or a maze, and explained the difference between the two. Both good for silent contemplation of things other than hackers and Windows 8. Took a hike in the woods behind spa. Massage. Whole time only saw one other guest in the spa. In earlobe to toenail robe (white). NOTE TO SELF: Come back with Clarissa for Valentine’s Day.”

The Mayflower Inn and Spa
118 Woodbury Road, Route 47, Washington, CT

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 12/17/13 at 01:20 PM • Permalink

At Hudson Wellness Collective, Health As Human Right

Rural Intelligence StyleSarah Falkner, Masha Schmidt, Caroline Ruderman; Photo credit Nicholas Kahn

There’s nothing clinical about walking into the Hudson Wellness Collective, a center for healing arts that opened on Hudson’s bustling Warren Street last fall. Strings of tiny white lights and a paper lamp cast a warm glow over the lobby’s hardwood floors; flickering candles line the windowsill. Across the room is an antique desk stuffed with elderberry syrup, nettles, lemon verbena, and other tonics from the Good Fight Herb Company. Nearby, a bird’s nest rests beneath a glass dome. Depending on the day, the thick shag carpet and pillows scattered across the floor might be occupied by a workshop on pediatric wellness or a Black Friday free store offering up clothes and toys, or cleared away for a twice-weekly mat pilates class.

Notable as the Collective’s attention to aesthetics is, its sense of social purpose is what makes it truly unique. Massage therapist Sarah Falkner and acupuncturist Masha Schmidt founded the center because they wanted to make healing arts accessible to everyone, regardless of budget or schedule. “We want wellness to be not just a luxury,” Falkner says, “but a human right.”

Rural Intelligence Style Photo credit Nicholas Kahn

To that end, the independent practitioners teamed up with reiki healer Caroline Ruderman, herbalist Lauren Giambrone, and pilates teacher Cheryl Symister-Masterson to offer wellness services at affordable rates and sliding scale fees. Appointments are available seven days a week. The collective also offers programs like a collaborative healing arts clinic each Monday from 3 to 7 pm. Clients file in for acupuncture, massage therapy, and reiki treatments at just $35 a pop — or $30 a session for two back-to-back appointments. “You don’t need to have to be fixed to seek care,” Schmidt says. “We all need care, and we all need to be touched.”

This expansive approach to health makes the Collective an excellent fit for Hudson’s progressive population. Like-minded businesses abound on Warren Street — including Bodhi, a holistic spa which recently moved to the same block. “Businesses are very special here,” Falkner notes. “There are so many creative and talented people.”

All treatments at the Collective are tailored to individual mind-body needs. Practitioners take into account not only workaday problems like anxiety, back injuries, and carpel-tunnel syndrome, but also sensory preferences. One client might prefer to listen to classical music during a heated stone massage, while another would opt for Tibetan singing bowls recorded in an echo chamber; a reiki patient seeking tranquility can opt for the woodsy blend of vetiver and oak essential oils over a delicate rose scent.

“There’s a capacity for ambient environments to be part and parcel of the healing process,” Falkner says. Her own background as an artist and writer — her debut novel, Animal Sanctuary, won the Starcheone Books Prize for Innovative Fiction in 2010 — helps explain her unique approach to wellness.

“When I was in college as an art student,” she says, “someone gave me a gift certificate for a massage, and it changed my life. I hadn’t been very healthy before that — I had asthma, pains, ulcers.” Falkner began studying herbs as a hobby; in 1998, she returned to school at New York City’s Swedish Institute to get a degree in massage therapy. Her work has operated at the intersection of healing and art ever since.

Take, for example, the shrines sold at the Collective’s in-store apothecary — small wood boxes that contain a candle, scented oil, and a gris-gris bag (a voodoo charm meant to ward off evil and bring good luck). The shrines evolved out of Falkner’s recent performance art project, Rewilderment. “There’s a ritual component to wellness and self-care,” Falkner explains, that ties directly to performance art.

Going forward, the Collective plans to offer workshops and classes that will help people establish restorative rituals in their own lives. Schmidt, a Ukranian-born writer and mother of two who moved to Hudson last February, says that rituals like mindfulness meditation classes and yoga groups “help people come together in a way that is practical and useful and affordable, without having to sign onto any dogma.”

Other plans for the coming year include reading groups, nutritionist consultations, and a listening party that will combine acupuncture, aromatherapy, and live music. With that kind of diverse, community-oriented programming, health hopefuls looking to get a fresh start in 2013 may find that wellness is well within reach. —Sarah Todd

Hudson Wellness Collective
514 Warren St.
Hudson, NY 12534
(347) 436-6725
Open 7 days a week; evening appointments available. For class times or to schedule an appointment, click here.

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Posted by Sarah Todd on 12/28/12 at 02:09 PM • Permalink

Destination Detox: Hudson, NY

Rural Intelligence Style Hudson has gone through a number of transformations as a destination spot since being chartered as a city in 1785. In its earliest days, it was the port of call for whaling and merchant ships returning from the ends of the earth laden with exotic goods, barrels of whale oil, and tons of whale bone. A century or so later, it became a hotspot for those seeking the illicit delights of the city’s notorious red light district, Diamond Street. After bottoming out in the 1970s, Hudson has, throughout the past couple of decades, become a mecca for devotees of historic architecture, collectors of antiques and fine art, foodies, and young musicians.

But its most recent appellation is Destination Detox: Hudson, NY, the newest program offered by Escape to Shape, a traveling spa that takes its guests to exotic places to immerse in local history and culture while cleansing and toning the body and “expanding the mind.” Past Escape to Shape excursions have journeyed to faraway places: Russia, to view the architecture of St. Petersburg from a private canal boat; Uruguay, to trek through the vineyards of Colonia on horseback;  Marrakech, to experience an authentic Berber meal high on Mt. Atlas. Wherever they go, Escape guests partake in luxurious accommodations and food along with the rigors of yoga and fitness classes, eased with daily massages. Having gone to the farthest reaches of the earth, Escape to Shape now offers a domestic excursion to a destination closer at hand: right here.

Rural Intelligence Road TripsThe concept began three years ago, when Nicole Meadors of Pilates Hudson met Erica Gragg of Escape to Shape through one of Meadors’ clients. Gragg invited Meadors to teach and travel with her luxury fitness caravan, and Meadors brought several of her Hudson clients with her on trips to such places as Morocco, Bali, Cartagena, and Puglia. A year or so ago, Gragg and Meadors started talking about doing a program in the Hudson Valley. Destination Detox is the result. “It was a dream project to connect Erica with all of my favorite people in Hudson who are doing what they love in our community,” says Meadors.

Base camp for the week-long spa outing is Hudson Merchant House (above), a chic and cozy boutique inn near the river, in a building that is at least as old as the city itself. Innkeepers Roy Ardizzone and Mike Webber spent months working with Gragg and Meadors to fine-tune the program. “This program creates so many opportunities for employment to so many in Hudson,” says Ardizzone, “from the farmers’ market to yoga teachers to hikers, juicers, and kitchen help.” 

The week starts out with a personal assessment of needs and goals, which are reassessed and refined throughout the week. The daily regimen includes yoga and meditation, taught by Sondra Loring at the Sadhana Center for Yoga and Meditation, and, of course, Pilates at Pilates Hudson. There is also a daily hike—to view Hudson’s historic architecture, the Hudson-Athens lighthouse and the house and landscapes of Olana, Frederic Church’s home and culminating work. Farther afield, there are hikes in the Catskill Mountains to view the natural beauty and breathtaking vistas that have been inspiring people for centuries.

Rural Intelligence Road TripsWith all the physical challenge, there is a softer side—full body massages at Bodhi Holistic Spa and evenings devoted to “mindfulness, transformation, and long-term effectiveness.” To this end, life coach Nicole Vidor provides group sessions. And then there’s that favorite indulgence: food. For the first two and a half days, guests experience a raw food and juice cleanse, with concoctions created by Max McLeary “to rebalance the body and cleanse the palate.” For the rest of the week, they enjoy, in controlled portions, the seasonal and sustainable bounty of the surrounding region. No alcohol or coffee is permitted, but plenty of green and herbal tea is served throughout the day. To ensure that guests continue to pursue an enlightened, healthful diet, there are nutritional talks by Erica Laurion, the nutritionist for Destination Detox, and cooking classes taught by Nicole Gimmillaro, the chef.

Rural Intelligence Road TripsThe first retreat in Hudson took place in July. From an innkeeper’s perspective, Ardizzone could see firsthand that it would be a success. “The transformation we saw was remarkable. The ten people who did the program in July collectively lost 60 pounds. They came as strangers and left as friends. There were actual tears at the end.”

The price of finding your personal best is not cheap, from $4,500 to $6,000. But if you live close by and don’t require accommodations, you can do the whole week-long program as a day camper for $1,500. Day campers enjoy all the same experiences — the only differences being that they get only one massage a day instead of three and go home at night to sleep in their own beds.  The next event is scheduled for November 4 -11. If you miss this one,  there won’t be another until May 2013—one each month through August, two in September, and one in October. Better later than never, whichever date you might want to chose.  —  Carole Osterink

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Posted by Fiona Breslin on 10/06/12 at 10:11 AM • Permalink