Are you ready to rethink your self-care in the New Year? Consider a resolution to pack your bags and head to Sensei Porcupine Creek, an expansive, adults only, luxury retreat located in Rancho Mirage, just over a two-hour drive from San Diego. The beautifully landscaped property was once the private estate of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, but with input from his friend Dr. David Agus, Sensei opened about a year ago as a unique wellness resort. In addition to groves of stately palms and hundreds of barrel cacti, the 230-acre spread includes a large freeform swimming pool, three tennis courts (one clay), an 18-hole golf course and an additional practice hole, an avenue lined with whimsical, larger-than-life sculptures, and dramatic views of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Lodging is offered in ten Estate House rooms, eight villas with multiple bedrooms and full kitchens, and four spacious Casitas that come with private patios, hot pools, and gorgeous views. Access to the property is limited to registered guests.
Sensei aims to help guests live longer, healthier lives through activities and experiences tailored to individual wellbeing journeys. To accomplish this, customized programs are offered to all guests. My first encounter with this process was the data-seeking questionnaire I received before my recent visit. Deep tissue or four-hand massage? Food preferences? And then a follow up query: Did I really not like all sushi or was it raw fish I objected to?
And then, my Whoop wristband arrived. Tech isn’t my forte, but I was intrigued by this easy way to track data on my sleep, exercise, and recovery performance. The Whoop is included with the Rest and Recovery Program and also with the Optimal Wellbeing Program, which focuses on performance and sports — specifically golf and tennis. OWP is also the best choice for anyone preparing for a marathon.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the kind staff and then headed to the first item on my agenda: a mellow restorative yoga class, one of the many activities for which there is no charge. Other comp options include tennis basics, wall yoga, open sky meditation, cardio tennis, and mat Pilates.
Sensei programs range from the introductory two-night Discover Sensei to the five-night or more Rest and Recovery Program that I chose. Guides — all with advanced degrees — facilitate the programs and help move participants toward their stated goals. Tegan, who has a PhD in psychology, told me about the guest who was frustrated with his putting performance until they met on a green and talked through his self-defeating behavior. Kaleo offers Thermal Body Mapping and massage, which starts with a thermographic scan that’s followed by a targeted treatment to address the most inflamed areas. Trevor, who has a master’s degree in sports psychology, showed me how to use the Whoop to my best advantage, which is to hold myself accountable to my goal of getting the right amount of quality sleep. Per, a wonderful yoga practitioner and a somatic therapist, taught me some subtle ways to reduce anxiety that can be done even when privacy isn’t possible. Stopher used a combination of myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, stretching, and a percussive device in a therapeutic sports recovery massage. Briana gave me a tour of the art collection in the Estate House and then golf-carted me around the charming assemblage of Robert Indiana’s multi-story colorful numerals One Through Zero. However, my favorite piece in this area is the oversized shiny white puppy Your Dog by Yoshitomo Nara.
I enjoyed my meals at the resort’s Nobu restaurant, where the menu features a range of fresh, seasonal ingredients and the wine list includes an array of attractive choices. At breakfast, I was positively smitten with bao eggs — poached eggs on a soft bun with black sesame seeds, bacon, and sautéed greens — and enjoyed a salad of crispy shiitake mushrooms and field greens for lunch. And dinner? My favorite was grilled salmon with Meyer lemon and Maldon salt served on a bed of al dente vegetables, but one night, I popped in to take photos of the sushi bar and met Head Sushi Chef Takahiro Masuno. I was fascinated by his deft handling of knives and delicate ingredients and soon found myself trying a vegetable hand roll with a soy paper wrapper. Then one piece of sushi, then another, and another, and finally some amazing shrimp sashimi. In retrospect, Chef Taka’s samples altered my ideas about sushi the way Tegan and the others helped me see a healthier path forward. A marathon may not be on my horizon, but post-Sensei, I do feel better prepared to welcome the New Year and commit to the long-term challenge of taking better care of myself.