If your mind is like mine, it is constantly at work, making decisions and to-do lists, planning, thinking, and dreaming. It’s even hard to turn off my mind in order to get a restful night’s sleep. I realize that I am most often looking back or ahead rather than concentrating on the now. So, when I had an opportunity to tour and experience the new Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara at the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Carlsbad, I was all in.
The 15,000-square-foot retreat for resort guests and locals alike offers signature spa treatments, wellness experiences, and culinary workshops. For those of us who have been watching the resort’s transformation in recent years, the spa marks the final phase of a $60 million resort-wide renovation, with General Manager Chad Eding now at the helm.
This fourth Miraval spa in the United States is “designed as a sanctuary for respite, reflection, and rejuvenation” says Susan Santiago, who heads up Miraval operations. The first was established in 1995 at a Tucson, Arizona ranch followed by properties in Austin, Texas, and Lennox, Massachusetts. According to the book Miraval: Mindful by Design, the resorts are dedicated to creating a life in balance, fostering positivity, and cultivating mindfulness. But what is mindfulness? How do we achieve it? And why do we need it?
“Mindfulness allows one to be present and take a personal inventory of where they are at that moment,” explains Angee Smithee, spa director at Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara. “It gives your mind a moment to reset and give way to allowing you to be fully present. We curate personal journeys that align with your intention. Setting an intention is often overlooked so we invite you to just breathe and think about why you are here. Our purpose is to listen, understand, and create that journey.”
Each Miraval spa draws from its local roots. So, the spa offers various experiences that connect guests to its coastal location overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Batiquitos Lagoon, a natural wetland preserve. During my visit, I joined a group of guests on a “Gratitude Hike,” a guided walk on trails that wind along the lagoon. The group leader urged us to be silent and “in the moment,” to listen to birds chirping all around us, to hear leaves rustling in the breeze. We looked skyward as birds circled above. At one point, a bird suddenly nose-dived into the lagoon, snatching an unsuspecting fish for a fresh seafood lunch. Mindfulness? I am beginning to understand what that is.
Back at Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara, we indulged in curated treatments, experiences, and rituals specifically designed for Carlsbad’s seaside location including “Ocean Song,” a rosemary and sea salt exfoliation followed by a soothing soak and massage. I opted for “Warrior’s Recovery,” a warm poultice of turmeric, lemongrass, and kaffir lime applied to sore muscles followed by stretching and a deep tissue massage. The treatment is perfect for an avid golfer or tennis or pickleball player, but in my case, it relieved neck and back pain from hours spent at the computer. The spa also offers globally-inspired energy and Eastern services including “Vasudhara,” a sensory water experience, and “Naga,” a Thai deep tissue massage.
The “Singing Bowls Floating Meditation” was a new experience for me: wrapping myself in a silky, brightly colored “cocoon” hanging (securely) from the ceiling while listening to the soothing sounds and vibrations coaxed from crystal bowls. Swaying gently in my hammock, I heard ethereal “music” that sounded like rushing water, a howling wind, and more. I felt a bit like a baby nestled in the womb. “It’s recreating a new birth,” said Smithee. “Let go of the past, set your intention, and embrace and manifest your future.”
The spa’s fitness center offers such classes as “Breathe & Stretch Mindfully” and “Bungee Fitness,” a high-intensity, low-impact workout that uses resistance to improve endurance and tone the body. The center includes studios for Pilates, meditation,
Miraval’s Culinary Kitchen, with Chef Stephanie Roston, offers interactive experiences that take advantage of the region’s bounty, whether making salsa and ceviche, blending a healthy smoothie, or concocting a creative cocktail. According to Miraval’s philosophy, living well isn’t just about eating the right foods, but also creating community and fostering relationships.
Individuals and groups can book three- or five-day sample itineraries designed for balance, serenity, and relaxation, or create a personalized itinerary depending on their goals. Miraval also offers group itineraries for those attending meetings at the resort, designed to encourage mindful communication and living in the present moment.
Coming soon, a membership program for community members will include access to spa amenities, the fitness center, classes, and more. I look forward to returning to Miraval to continue my own personal wellness and mindfulness journey.