Understanding the mind-body connection, more spas are offering therapies to heal the body and soul by guiding clients in the serene art of meditation.
Although learning to meditate seems like it should be easy; meditation is difficult to master even with good intentions. According to the experts, it’s all about being rather than doing.
Benefits of Meditation
While the health benefits of meditation have been demonstrated for many years, several recent studies have reinforced these findings. In particular, a study recently conducted by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona found that Kirtan Kriya meditation increased cerebral blood flow and improved memory. A 2002 study at the University of Wisconsin showed that short periods of meditation improved both cognition and immune function. These findings, which have also been supported by studies showing cerebral benefits in monks who meditate daily have led to heightened interest and further studies. Recent findings from the University of Massachusetts indicate that as little as 8 weeks of daily meditation can cause structural changes in brain density associated with improved memory, empathy and sense of self.
Other reported benefits of meditation include: stress reduction, alertness, increased creativity, reduction in blood pressure, improved relationships, improved sleep quality and increased energy.
Where Spas Come In
Many people have tried to meditate and failed. Distractions top the list of reasons for the monkey-mind-like inability to focus, but most of the distractions cited lie within the self. Simply to be is not easy when there’s so much to do.
Recognizing the need for instruction, an increasing number of American spas and holistic retreat centers have introduced meditation programs. According to the International Spa Association’s 2007 Spa Industry Study, nearly 20 percent of American spas offer mind-body programs, primarily meditation and yoga.
Spa meditation programs vary considerably, ranging from meditative chants introduced into nature walks or yoga classes to guided meditation sessions in garden settings or heated pools. Spa meditation programs are available for clients of all ages and abilities, including beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. Some holistic spas also offer certification programs for clients who desire to work as meditation instructors.
Top American Meditation Spas
The Chopra Center at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California
Founded by the physicians Deepak Chopra and David Simon, the first class Chopra Center has an extensive meditation program as well as training courses for meditation instructors. Chopra also travels across the nation hosting Seduction of Spirit Meditation Retreats. Retreats scheduled for 2011 include: March 20–26, 2011: Atlanta, Georgia; July 3–9, 2011: Whistler, BC, Canada and October 23–29 , 2011: La Jolla, California
The Westin Inn’s Kierland Resort Spa, Agave Retreat, Scottsdale, AZ
The Kierland Resort Spa Agave works together with the Vaughn Center, headed by former NFL player Damian Vaughn to offer meditation programs designed for the rejuvenation and harmony of the mind, body and spirit. Vaughn has a deep understanding of the athletic benefits provided by meditation and has created programs that combine Eastern healing traditions with modern spa techniques. Programs include Primordial Sound Meditation; Calm Quest Immersion Weekend Retreat; and Meditation CalmQuest (2-hr program).
Lake Austin Spa, Austin Texas
The internationally acclaimed Lake Austin Spa has a variety of meditative programs to help balance the chakras, soothe the soul, and rejuvenate the body. Programs include Yoga; 5 Tibetan Rites; Meditative Walk with Quigong; Balancing the Chakras Through Yoga and Meditation; Garden Meditation; The Healing Power of Sound; Breath and Meditation; and Meditative Yoga.
Menla Mountain Retreat, Phoenicia, New York
Founded by Columbia University’s eminent Buddhist scholar Dr. Robert Thurman, the Menia offers meditation retreats. Located in the Catskills, the Menia is staffed by psychotherapists as well as meditation teachers that make their programs life-changing events. Most programs run for three days and two nights.
Raj Ayurveda, Fairfield, Iowa
Exclusively featuring transcendental meditation, the Raj offers several different instructional programs to help balance and heal the mind and body.
Gethsamani Abbey Retreat Center, Trappist, Kentucky
The holistic retreat center at Gethsamani, former home of the Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton, offers weekend retreats and sessions on mindfulness and meditation. A minimum two-day stay is required for a nominal donation.
Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, MA
One of the first retreat centers to teach mind-body healing techniques, the nonprofit Kripalu Center offers a wealth of experiential programs. Located in the Berkshires, the Kripalu hosts training programs and meditation sessions that attract clients worldwide.
The Chopra Center offers a free DVD with programs on mantras and meditation for a $5 shipping fee. The programs are easy to follow and especially helpful for those who prefer private instructions.
Organic Spa Magazine’s Meditation Room also offers private instructional settings and an encouraging environment. Choose from one of 8 natural harmonious settings.