For Miraval Life in Balance Spa, Mindfulness is an opportunity to connect, de-stress, be playful and stay curious
Mindfulness is more than a buzzword at the five-star resort property Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort. The entire team has been committed to the importance of mindfulness in everyday life since before the word was on the cover of Time Magazine. Their dedication is evident in everything from the programming, to the way staff are selected and trained, to the intentional design, to the invitation for guests to pause and connect.
The flagship Miraval property outside of Tucson, Arizona, has been welcoming guests with the mission to offer tools that bring a greater degree of balance to their everyday lives since 1995. Through the innovative programming, Miraval guides participants to set aside their cell phones to reconnect with their self in three-, four-, or seven-day immersive programs that include workshops, classes, spa treatments, and more.
Miraval is a popular brand with Southern California travelers, many of whom have traveled over the years to the flagship Arizona location. Now, with Miraval Life in Balance’s spa location at the Monarch Beach Resort in Orange County up and running, both regulars and people new to the Miraval experience can drop in to recharge their mindfulness batteries. Simply take a yoga or other mindful movement class, indulge in a meditation session or multi-week mindfulness program, surrender to a spa treatment, or even check in to the resort for a luxurious experience focused on letting go.
This recharge is super-powered by the emphasis on mindfulness. According to Assistant Spa Director MacKenzie MacDonald, “We incorporate a thread of mindfulness in everything that we do. People can go to any spa and get a massage or a treatment, but the treatments here focus on giving permission to let go of everyday life and just focus on that treatment and themselves for that period of time. Our therapists are good at giving people those cues to keep themselves in the moment.”
One of the ways in which visitors are encouraged to stay in the moment is through an intentional relationship with a sense of place. The Orange County Miraval Life in Balance Spa incorporates some of the same elements as the desert-based Arizona flagship through gorgeous crystals and stones, calming earth tone themed design, and signature treatments and classes. The additional infusion of the energetic qualities of water-based imagery of the beach, sand, and ocean are important components of the design and programming at Miraval Life in Balance Spa’s beach setting.
Connecting to the ocean is intentional. MacKenzie describes classes like beach yoga, where students can feel the breeze in their hair and the sand under their feet while they practice. In the popular Zen Bootcamp and Blue Mindfulness sessions, guests engage with the healing powers of the ocean. The Wave Meditation (part of the Zen Bootcamp) includes a hike to the beach and then a meditation focusing on the breath and the movement of the water. To round out the experience, participants gather a stone, hold it while setting an intention, and release both stone and intention back into the water. These classes are held at the resort’s private beach club; guests can meander on walking paths through the golf course or hop on the free tram to access the secluded stretch of coastline. Guests can linger in the Adirondack chairs overlooking the waves, sunbathe on the sand, or dine at the Monarch Bay Club.
If you want to take your mindfulness experience into the air, the Kite Flying Program (part of the resort’s kids program) is also offered as a special, all-ages workshop. MacKenzie says, “In the kite flying experience, you can literally let go of everything that causes stress in order to focus on flying a kite. It seems a simple thing but it allows you to stay mindful, because you’re paying attention to the way the wind is blowing and letting go of everything else. It’s fun to watch adults do what we think of as kids’ experiences because it is an immediate connection to mindfulness.”
The oceanside experiences are not the only opportunity to be outdoors; even the indoor fitness and yoga spaces feature expansive windows letting in lots of natural light and open out to the spa’s private pool area. In this area, classes in the resort pool allow students to experience fitness in the water.
For those who want to integrate mindfulness into their time on a bike, consider the outdoor mindful cycling class with a view. MacKenzie says, “People are used to a stationary cycling class where they’re beating their body up and working as hard as they possibly can for an hour. Our class is really about paying attention to your body and paying attention to the setting. We don’t have loud music, we’re out at sunrise behind the resort on one of the big balconies, and the focus is on enjoying the sunrise, enjoying where you are, and paying attention to your breath.”
Just as the outdoor mindful cycling offers a fresh spin on a familiar workout, the Indo Board classes are yoga sequences done on dry land using balance boards to mimic the feeling of a stand-up paddleboard yoga experience to build and maintain core strength.
The spa’s robust class schedule also includes some of the desert Miraval favorites, including the signature floating meditation. In this aerial yoga class, developed in Tucson, students recline in one of the suspended silks in a restorative pose providing gentle traction and a comfortable swinging motion. Eye pillows and aromatherapy add to the experience while the instructor leads a chakra meditation and rocks the meditators. Another signature fave exported from the desert is the invigorating and stress-reducing cardio drumming class held in the fitness studio.
Miraval’s dedicated meditation room is across the hall from the yoga and fitness studios. With an earth-tone, cave-like feel, the comforting space makes meditation easy with backjacks, chairs, and multiple cushions.
When you first walk into the welcoming lobby staffed by friendly spa staff, you are greeted by enormous energetic crystals and a soothing fountain, offering the visible magic of the energy of the earth. From here, you can make an appointment at the adjacent Drybar. The dedicated Deborah Lippmann nail salon offers a soothing polish within the sanctuary setting.
Just down the hall from the front desk is Miraval Life in Balance Spa’s outdoor cafe area with light fare that includes fruit, salads, fresh dips, sandwiches, and the magically refreshing prickly pear cactus tea. In bathrobes or street clothes, guests can linger in the outdoor garden seating among succulent arrangements and potted kumquat trees. Beginning in May, an afternoon tea service with sandwiches and signature blend teas will be offered each weekend and special cafe/spa events include creative mixology classes paired with light bites. For an infusion of the health-conscious, mindful lifestyle throughout the Monarch Beach Resort, all of the restaurants (and in-room dining) offer curated Life in Balance Menu items.
Between the lobby and cafe, on the way to the cavernous yet intimate treatment room area, you walk by a collection of smooth rock cairns. Reminiscent of the trail markers on hiking paths, visitors are invited to touch the stones mindfully making their mark with a tower of their own creation. It is a way of saying “I am here,” “I am present,” “I am focused.” – silently, yet allowing the path to be embodied. MacKenzie says that this is a way for people to mark their place on their journey.
The wave meditation, stone intention-setting, and rock cairns are not the only ways in which stones cement a person’s mindful journey. According to MacKenzie, “We have a bowl in each of the treatment rooms filled with stones engraved with intentions. Guests can select an intention rock and work with their therapist to integrate that mindful idea into their treatment.”
One of the spa’s most popular menu items is the Sea Salt Serenity Treatment; it also brings in the energy of stones with a massage and scrub that uses Himalayan salt stones. The Himalayan salt releases positive ions when heated. MacKenzie says, “The feeling those stones give you is the same calming effect that you experience from the positive ions in moving water or the sea. It’s what attracts people to this location. Combining that salt scrub with the massage gives you a true sense of place here.”
Throughout the spa, the organic connection with the earth is evident. Even in lounge areas, intentionally designed custom wood and stone tables provide an organic natural setting that support mindful unplugging from our techno-urban lives. Some of the treatment rooms have cozy fireplaces to provide warmth, and the luxurious men’s and women’s rooms feature relaxing steam and sauna for release and rejuvenation.
Everything is integrated, which is a concept MacKenzie reflects upon, “People expect to come to a five-star resort and just experience a massage. But, we want them to take a piece of what we’re offering back into their everyday life by pairing massage with a class or with a mindful eating experience here in the café.” Miraval may be many people’s introduction to concepts of mindfulness. For those who already have a practice, Miraval provides a fully immersive experience that allows a spa treatment to be more than a spa treatment, but a way to unite body, mind, heart, and spirit. Wherever you are on the journey, MacKenzie says, “We encourage people to stay curious around those things. This is a window into the many worlds of mindfulness, meditation, Ayurveda, and more. Just stay curious about those topics and see how you can incorporate them into your life.”
Miraval’s OC outpost at the Monarch Beach Resort is set up to allow people to stay at the resort and enjoy packages bundling the Miraval Life in Balance Spa experience. Resort guests can try out the spa for a treatment, a class, or a day, and people can simply drop in for a mindful day spa experience for one, for couples, or for groups. Every day some classes are offered at no charge for the curious. People who are committed to ongoing programs can sign up for the eight-week Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs. For the dedicated, membership programs are available. For more information, visit miravalspamonarchbeach.com
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.