Two Canyon Ranches, One Abiding Promise

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Published on April 18, 2022 3:25:17 PM PDT April 18, 2022 3:25:17 PM PDTth, April 18, 2022 3:25:17 PM PDT

After 40 years at the forefront of the health and holistic wellness realm, the words Canyon Ranch® have become synonymous with stunningly beautiful exurban retreats that offer a chance to get healthy -- and stay healthy -- in an atmosphere of casual elegance.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit four Ranches in the United States, and I am now more than convinced that this brand excels in what they do. Whether it’s a guided walk through the California redwoods (forest bathing), highly tailored nutritional programs, or sessions offered by guest lecturers on how to breathe with purpose, the Canyon Ranch quality is exalted. Yet, the vibe is chill, the results lingering.

On a cool morning last autumn, I set off with my friend Rosemary for Canyon Ranch Woodside, its newest iteration, located in a remote, forested region about 35 miles from San Francisco. The volume of traffic dwindled as we neared our destination; soon there were no other cars on the road except ours. We already felt calmer.

At its entrance, we were met by an arresting, eight-foot-tall sculpture carved from old growth redwood. Titled, The Void, it was created by artist Bruce Johnson and available for sale with a price tag of $55,000. We were to become quite familiar with this landmark that represents the kind of transformative experience you can expect here. It also serves as a handy meeting point for many of the nature hikes at Woodside.

One such hike, Explore the Redwoods, was a guided walk through the property’s thick grove of magnificent trees beyond our treehouse guestroom. Among them, we were encouraged to s-l-o-w down and savor the sights and smells of nature. Along the way, we learned a lot about native plants such as nettle, bay laurel and clover. We picked, sniffed and tasted a few leaves.

Redwoods at Canyon Ranch Woodside

Post-hike, we found a culinary “pop-up” on property and restored ourselves with a trio of crispy toasts: one doused with McEvoy olive oil from Petaluma, one with a schmear of fig jam, and a third with tomato jam topped with a sprig of fresh-picked sorrel.

Fun fact: Canyon Ranch Woodside is the only brand property that serves alcohol. Each farm-to-table meal we enjoyed there came with the option of ordering local wine by the bottle.

Later, I sat in on a class with on-site expert Sandy Abrams, author of Breathe to Succeed, whose simple techniques for accessing energy and managing emotions through breathing left me mellow. And a class on gratitude taught me how to focus on positivity in life, which can benefit the physical (lowered blood pressure), the psychological (resilience to stress), and the social (decreased loneliness).

Life-altering changes are Canyon Ranch’s stock in trade, and in my case, their life and career coaches helped me recognize possibilities I never considered.

Early this year, I made the decision to leave my five-year home in Napa Valley and head east for better career opportunities. I packed up my belongings, and with my dog Freddie as my companion, drove toward Arizona to visit family friends.

Feeling I deserved a restorative break and hearing that Canyon Ranch Tucson was extremely pet-friendly, I was able to arrange a visit to this sprawling property in the Sonoran Desert. This Canyon Ranch is its flagship property set in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Canyon Ranch Tucson

My itinerary was tailored to boost my immune system (perfect for one traveling cross country during a pandemic), create an on-the-road fitness plan, and build an arsenal of tips on how to eat healthy while driving five to seven hours a day. I also took advantage of the signature Canyon Ranch massage; my cramped up back and hips said Thank You.

On Day One, a workshop that claimed to help one “create a life you love,” was offered by Sheila Sornsin, who is known as The Grateful Goddess. She raised my consciousness of wellbeing and gave me newfound inspiration to update my “vision boards” by starting a nightly routine of visualizations and affirmations.

Her parting advice to me was: “If you don’t have time to meditate, meditate twice a day.” OK, but meditation makes me hungry, so I indulged in a lunch of salmon tacos, which enlightened me almost as much as my “lifestyle reset pathway.”

Salmon tacos at Conyon Ranch Tucson

Canyon Ranch Tucson, Lenox and Woodside locations offer seven new pathways, depending on one’s specific needs and goals, including one on attaining optimal health in body and mind and another focused on outdoor activities. For anyone healing from trauma, there’s a pathway for that, too.

On my final night, I attended a seminar by Richard Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General who also previously served as CEO of Canyon Ranch. Carmona is now retired but acts as a consultant to the brand’s new owners.

His talk on “30 days to a better brain” had me literally on the edge of my seat and eager to buy his next book, titled The Dress Code, which examines neuroplasticity. What’s that? It’s the ability of the brain to adapt to changes in its environment, like learning new skills, storing memories or recovering after trauma.

As I departed Canyon Ranch Tucson, in a much-improved state of mind, it was suggested I take a listen to Think Like a Monk, an audiobook by Jay Shetty, as I continued to drive eastward. I did just that, and I can strongly recommend it for anyone seeking to find inner calm and overcome negative thoughts and habits.