Getting Away From It All: No Need to Travel Far for RejuvenationJul 03, 2022 09:07AM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” —Mahatma Gandhi.
If you desire to recenter, refocus, or rejuvenate, you don’t have to look far. Florida offers a wealth of great places where one can enjoy rest, relaxation, and self-care. Wellness retreats can improve emotional well-being, lower stress, provide opportunities to get inspired, improve one’s outlook on life, boost eating and exercise habits, provide the chance to relax and reboot—all while destressing, disconnecting, and winding down.
We found a few places in or near Southwest Florida where you can enjoy a wellness retreat for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks.
Ayurveda Health Retreat
In Alachua, Florida, just north of Gainesville, the Ayurveda Health Retreat was established in 2001 by Richard A. Masla, an Ayurvedic practitioner. The retreat uses a holistic approach to achieve and maintain wellness. Ayurveda is a healing tradition from India that dates back some 5,000 years. The term derives from the Sanskrit words ayur, meaning life, and veda, meaning knowledge, so it translates to “knowledge of life” and relates to knowing oneself and learning to live in harmony with nature. Ayurveda embraces the whole person rather than treating symptoms.
Ayurveda Health Retreat offers a choice of Panchakarma treatments—the two-therapist Traditional Panchakarma and the one-therapist Royal Spa Panchakarma. Panchakarma is a gentle cleansing process that works to remove toxins from the body and rejuvenates energy to help boost a body’s natural defenses through the lymph, circulatory, and immune systems. The Traditional Panchakarma treatment consists of five procedures: massage (abhyanga), aromatherapy (swedhana), nasal therapy (nasya), warm oil drip on one’s forehead (shirodhara), and therapeutic herbal and oil enemas (bhasti), an optional treatment for those who do at least five days of Panchakarma.
Guests at Ayurveda Health Retreat enjoy a private room and are treated to three delicious Ayurvedic vegetarian meals and yoga classes daily. Breathwork, Ayurvedic talks, cooking classes, and yoga nidra (yogic sleep) are also included. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated when mentioned at booking.
A wellness retreat at the Alachua facility can include à la carte services such as facials, health consultations, cranial touch therapy, meditation sessions, and yoga. Workshops are also available, including Ayurvedic Nutrition and Cooking Weekends and Ayurveda Wellness Weekends.
Alachua is located in Central Florida near Gainesville. Visitors can enjoy wading or swimming in warm water springs, canoeing or kayaking in rivers, or walking or hiking trails that are less than a 30-minute drive. O’Leno State Park offers hiking trails, including one across a wooden suspension bridge; Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park allows for walking through rich rainforest; San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park has hiking and off-road biking opportunities; and Ichetucknee Springs State Park has warm-water tubing, kayaking, and canoeing on the six-mile Ichetucknee River. For more information, check out floridastateparks.org.
Pyramids in Florida
In Fort Myers, ancient wisdom can be found in the modern world—thanks to the Pyramids in Florida. The property near San Carlos Park in south Fort Myers consists of 26 pyramid villas, created in 1997 by two Austrians—Gerti Höntzsch and her partner, the late Will Freller. The hurricane- and earthquake-proof pyramids have a sacred geometric design with healing frequencies, and Freller’s patented design promotes reduced energy usage. All-natural cleaning products are used to maintain the pyramids and wash the linens, which are hung to dry outside.
“Connecting to healing earth energies is our human birthright and desire, and is very beneficial for our bodies,” says Höntzsch, an energy guide, nutritionist, and healing practitioner, who also has a practice in Salzburg, Austria.
The pyramids are set in a 10-acre village with a shallow warm thermal lake where guests can swim, wade, or take a swim class. The property also features herb gardens, medicinal plants, and fruiting trees. Tropical birds and other creatures abound in the chemical-free environment. Groomed trails make for a meditative walking or jogging experience. Jungle yoga (coming soon), soccer, beach volleyball, and basketball are available.
Guests can also walk along a barefoot path. “Our Kneipp barefoot path is the first in Florida,” says Höntzsch, who explains that walking barefoot on different kinds of rocks connects you with the earth’s natural energies. It is like a reflexology treatment, where pressure is applied at certain points on the feet to ease stress. The path reduces stress and offers a sense of well-being, and walking it is said to benefit blood circulation, the immune system, foot muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The barefoot treatment is popular in Germany and Austria.
Upon request, licensed physiotherapist (focus on movement) wellness massages and physiotherapeutic treatments can be performed in the privacy and convenience of a pyramid.
“We love to pamper our guests, and they love the daily activities like yoga, breathing, stretching, aqua-gym, barefoot path walking, muscle training, Nordic walking in the large park. It puts their soul in a good mood,” says Höntzsch.
Guests at Pyramids in Florida can take advantage of a variety of nearby restaurants and farmers markets, as well as swim, wade, or wander on nearby beaches. They can golf at Fort Myers Country Club or San Carlos Golf Club, play mini golf at nearby Castle Golf, check out sports events at Hertz Arena, visit the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, or head to Tampa/St. Pete to visit Busch Gardens or the Dali Museum.
Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs is a historic hotel built in 1921 by Harvie Heitman, who was regarded as a visionary of the area. He constructed the 25-room Heitman Hotel as a place for homebuyers to stay while their homes in the growing community were being built. The natural mineral spring, still flowing on the property today, is where the city gets its name.
The location consists of more than eight lush acres in the heart of Bonita Springs. In addition to the boutique hotel experience, guests can enjoy the on-site organic restaurant, Harvest and Wisdom, using farm-to-table produce from the USDA-certified garden on the property. House-made vegan burgers, green papaya salad, and wild hibiscus cheesecake are on the menu, as are locally sourced organic proteins and beverages—coffees, teas, juices, and smoothies.
Shangri-La also has a full-service spa, offering a variety of organic services such as massages using warm bamboo to knead the deep layer of muscle tissue; ancient Chinese cupping, using suction to stimulate the body; and a prenatal massage with the comfort of mother and baby in mind. The warm, spiced seaweed mud wrap is designed to detoxify, firm, and tone; the Springs Fountain of Youth facial boosts collagen and increases circulation; the Himalayan Salt Stone Enhancement helps detox; and the eucalyptus steam room provides an aromatic humid heat experience.
Weekly and monthly classes, workshops, retreats, and special events are also offered, as well as many forms of yoga and other practices. Shangri-La is also a popular venue for meetings, events, and destination weddings.
The international Blue Zones Project, which focuses on the well-being of individuals and communities, has recognized Shangri-La as meeting its criteria for promoting well-being. “Our Blue Zones Project-recognized property specializes in offering guests various beneficial practices, activities, and engagement opportunities, including wellness classes, art shows, and special programs,” says Shangri-La general manager Lee Bellamy.
Shangri-La Springs guests can explore nearby Koreshan State Park; kayak, swim, and spot manatees and dolphins at Lovers Key State Park; stroll through the botanical gardens and refuge at the Wonder Gardens; wander along Barefoot Beach Preserve; or golf at Bonita Fairways Golf Course.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
IF YOU GO
Ayurveda Health Retreat
14616 NW 140th Street, Alachua
Pyramids in Florida
7020 Constitution Loop, Fort Myers
27750 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs