Nina Smiley wearing blue vest standing outside at Mohonk Mountain house


Mohonk Mountain House: A Wellness Destination in the Hudson Valley

Located in the Hudson Valley just 90 minutes north of New York City and surrounded by thousands of acres of woodlands and miles of hiking trails, Mohonk Mountain House is a Victoria Castel resort that has been owned by the Smiley family for 150 plus years.

We spoke with Nina Smiley, Director of Mindfulness Programming to find out more about what this famous and unique resort offers and how she works elements of wellness into her own life.

How long have you been with Mohonk Mountain House, and what do you do with this property?

I have been with Mohonk Mountain House for 32 years, and I am the Director of Mindfulness Programming. Mindfulness Meditation at Mohonk Mountain House is all about sharing “modern mindfulness” with guests, coaching them in how to bring the benefits of a meditation practice into real-life.

Our classes at Mohonk are based on a book I wrote, The Three Minute Meditator, and which teaches guests how to work with mindfulness so that it will be available in real-time, as needed. I teach classes, private sessions, and lead weekend programs several times each year.

Our mindful eating program, Never Diet Again, is an immersion into a new relationship to food.

In a recent addition to our offerings, I lead “Forest Bathing” walks where I integrate mindfulness with nature in our inspirational setting. These forest bathing experiences are a guided opportunity to be fully present in the moment exploring the nuances of sensory awareness on trails that lead us through the woods alongside timeless cliffs around a pristine mountain lake.

Classes on Mindfulness and Relationships are offered at our Couples Weekends for an experience where partners can learn and share a new perspective.

There are so many hotels, resorts, retreats and tour operators offering wellness programs and packages – tell us a bit about Mohonk Mountain House, and what are the main points of distinction?

Mohonk Mountain House is a Victorian Castle Resort that combines the charm of an old-world aesthetic with modern amenities. It has been family-owned and operated by the Smiley family for 153 years, and we greet guests with a warm “Welcome to our House.”

Our mission has always been to offer re-creation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful natural setting. Mohonk is set on 40,000 acres of woodland in the Shawangunk Mountains with 85 miles of hiking trails on our doorstep. The setting is an invitation to step outdoors and be nurtured by nature. A main point of distinction is the way Mohonk uses the outdoors for well-being, offering complimentary walks with our naturalist, guided hikes, and a spa that delights in wellness-without-walls.

Our award-winning spa just opened the Lakeview Summerhouse where guests enjoy treatments outdoors overlooking the lake in a cliff-top area where mindfulness and massage services invite guests to relax into the moment in a very special way. A new outdoor Lakeside Immersion fall activity features contrast therapy: a cold plunge into Lake Mohonk to invigorate, followed by yoga nestled in a warm room.

Another point of distinction is that our rates are inclusive of meals and complimentary activities where guests can create their own well-being “sampler” experience.

Ariel view of castle resort Mohank Mountain House

What pandemic-inspired policies and procedures has (Mohonk) implemented to keep travelers healthy and safe?

Our protocols for cleanliness have always been at the highest level and remain at the highest level as we keep our travelers healthy and safe in these challenging times.

What does Mohonk offer that might attract a potential visitor like the readers of LA Yoga?

Mohonk Mountain House is an iconic Hudson Valley resort, where there are so many things to do. We have daily classes that include yoga, meditation, singing bowls, and fitness modalities.

Our yoga and mindfulness weekends are full immersion. As rates include meals, many of the daily activities, and evening entertainment, guests are able to relax without having to think about the details that go into planning the logistics of a vacation. It’s a seamless integration of wonderful, healthy food prepared by award-winning chefs, a wide range of activities that include seasonal lake swimming, boating, archery, tomahawk throwing, disc golf and tennis, with horseback riding, golf and the full-service newly refreshed 30,000-square foot spa.

Winter features 35 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, ice-skating and snowshoeing. Many of our rooms have wood-burning fireplaces perfect for snuggling on a winter night.

We like to say that Mohonk is about “options” and that you can be as busy or relaxed as you want to be. This means enjoying a sense of spaciousness where you can relax, renew, and refresh in your own way in your own time.

How do you incorporate wellness into your own daily life?

I go outdoors to be in nature as often as I can and I call upon my senses one at a time.

I begin by closing my eyes and experiencing the sense of touch as I notice the fresh air on my skin. Then I become aware of the sense of smell, and take in the sounds that surround me. When I open my eyes, I invite myself to “see with new eyes”, without a filter of thought. I notice the colors, shapes, and textures of the natural world and it’s almost as if the channel has changed and colors are brighter, shapes are more distinct, textures are more visible.

This process of deepening awareness takes me outside of myself as I connect with the natural world in a deeper way. I feel a sense of spaciousness that nurtures me.

What are some of the top wellness trends you are seeing at Mohonk Mountain House?

People are very interested in being outdoors and are increasingly understanding the value of being nurtured by nature. There’s also an interest in learning more about things that can be brought home and practiced, including yoga, mindfulness and tips from our massage therapists and fitness instructors. There’s a trend towards understanding the value of self-care and a commitment to practicing it.

Do you feel technology is important as it pertains to wellness, and if yes, how and why?

I think technology can be helpful as an entry point to wellness. I also think that it’s not the whole story because technology can be a distraction from the actual practicing of wellness activities. I would prefer to see tech as an opportunity for a beginning, that then becomes an opportunity to customize well-being for oneself and take “self-care” wherever it needs to go.

Wellness is an ongoing process that needs to be dynamic based on changing needs, changing circumstances, changing seasons. Learning to tune in to one’s own body is nuanced, and it’s important to remember that you are the expert on yourself, without relying overly on technology.

Do you and, if yes, how do you incorporate the local community or culture into the programming at Mohonk?

We work with local farms and incorporate farm-to-table best practices into our cuisine. We have an active relationship with our local art community and hold artists’ events and programming at the Mountain House throughout the year. On property, we have remarkable gardens and invite local colleges to have their students work on sculptures that go into our gardens to incorporate young people’s excitement and creativity for our guests to enjoy.

We host an annual Gingerbread Competition during the holiday season and donate proceeds from this event to our local food bank.

What is your final note of advice for living your best life?

It’s very simple. Remember to breathe! We get so busy at times that we forget the calmness and joy that can come with a full gentle breath in, and a full gentle breath out. Also, remember to recognize and enjoy small moments of happiness and nurture this awareness. Creating an inclusive sense of satisfaction and well-being within the fabric of life is an on-going opportunity for self-care, rather than waiting for “something big” to feel good about.

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