“Use the energy of the dolphins,” the yoga instructor said as I wheeled my right arm over my head, an elbow wedged into my bent knee and my legs in warrior stance.
Normally the phrase might evoke a laugh but here on this quiet beach, where a dolphin popped above the waves at the start of the early-morning class, it fits. “Let your breath flow like the waves, in and out, back and forth,” continued the instructor.
I’ve practiced yoga for nearly a decade and yet a beachside yoga class at Longboat Key Club & Resort – on a barrier island near Sarasota, Florida – brought new meaning to familiar poses. Think powder-white sand kicking into the air, the booms of thunder rumbling in the distance, seagulls shrieking. When we slipped into Vrksasana, or tree pose, I joined a circle with the other women, taking the knowledge of the pose with me – and a new sense of belonging – as we clung to each other’s shoulders. At that moment I fell in love with yoga even more.
The resort is not just about yoga. It centers on the whole person. This is a beachfront resort in Florida that follows through on a wellness promise, and wouldn’t dream of letting go of good-quality, good-tasting food. For breakfast one day I dug into quinoa granola topped with cinnamon-flavored ricotta. Even the gelato is organic.
Much of the produce, meat and fish are sourced locally for its four restaurants, including the romantic Portofino, channeling Italy with hand-cut pastas and brick-oven pizzas, mine a cracker-thin crust topped with arugula and sundried tomatoes.
At Sands Pointe, organic salmon is cooked on a plank and served on a bed of pearl quinoa. This meal, the night of my arrival, set the tone for a few days of fantastic cuisine. Even the blackened-grouper tacos – a Florida staple, and not difficult to find – for lunch one day were a delicacy due to the sweet and sour sauces.
A year ago the spa – tucked into a Plantation-style building – completed a top-to-bottom renovation, now more glam than serenity, but still a calming environment. A crystal chandelier hangs in the relaxation room and cornflower-blue textured wallpaper covers the walls. Each treatment room is named for a Caribbean island, with atomic décor such as a backsplash of shimmery bronze circles and chocolate-brown towels and linens.
Three signature treatments are the Clear Mind (just like it sounds: unpacking a cluttered head), Enlightenment (designed to soothe difficult times) and Sleep Well (lulls you to sleep), each lasting 100 minutes ($295). Also offered is an 80-minute Island Signature Perfect Massage ($230), which is all about customization and based on the body’s need for healing and restoration in that moment. Yet I opted for a 50-minute traditional Swedish massage ($100), and my attendant loosened the kinks in my neck and shoulders from excessive time spent at the computer. I left the spa with a floating sensation, no more tight spots.
New for resort guests is a 75-minute one-on-one session with Bonni London, a dietician who adopts a whole-foods mantra but realizes life is meant to be lived (she doesn’t hesitate to tell clients to “pig out” on Thanksgiving Day). Guests can also tack on a three-, five- or week-long detox package with programming – fitness classes and consultations, and diet-specific meals – to support it.
Beyond the yoga, spa treatments and exceptional meals, there is plenty to fill the day, such as one-on-one coaching at the 20-court-strong tennis complex. Sammy, my instructor, yelled out encouraging tips as I volleyed balls back to him on a hot afternoon, and didn’t hesitate to name-drop the pros he’d worked with over the years. Bicycles can be rented for a solo ride up the coast, past mansions and palm trees. Kayaks are available for rent, too.
As spa director Nancy Thielman says, the focus is on the take-away aspect of self-care. What good is a fantastic spa trip if you don’t have the tools to continue the vibe once you’re back home?
Naturally, each person’s resort experience is unique. I was so invigorated by my stay that on my first day back home I popped over to the local tennis courts, working on my serve and backhand, determined to put into practice the tips that Sammy taught me.
Healing Lifestyles & Spas content focuses on integrating healing remedies, alternative medicine, natural living, spa wisdom, and nature into our lives, providing tools and inspiration to lead a more healthy and healing lifestyle. We all need to slow down, press pause, and nurture this absolute need to give back to ourselves. Remember to Live Mindfully, Eat Joyfully, Travel Consciously. Sign up and get your your daily dose of spa-living in an easy, bite-size tip, right in your inbox! We provide a wide range of experiences to enrich your mind, stretch your imagination, feed your psyche, move your body, and give you spa delights!