Art of Living Wellness Retreat. Boone, NC.
Expectations Prior to Arrival:
Upon booking the retreat I imagined a weekend of peace, quiet and relaxation. I was a little unsure about meditation but I am always open to new experiences. It was a split decision to book the retreat. I have been selling health and wellness travel but I had never actually experienced it for myself. On the drive to the resort, my travel mates informed me that this was an air conditioning free, elevator free, smoke free, meat free and mostly sugar free retreat. If you have ever spent time in the south, the notion of no a/c in the middle of summer is daunting. Still yet, I vowed to keep an open mind.
Upon arrival at the resort I was amazed by the majestic beauty of the mountain top. The resort literally sits on the top of a mountain and the views are breath taking. The weather was about twenty degrees cooler than our hometown (only two hours away in Charlotte). The cool breeze and majestic vistas immediately began to relieve stress. We were greeted with welcoming smiles and given a quick but detailed overview of the resort. Away we went!
Our rooms were located in the Spa Building. The scent of eucalyptus and lavender filled the lobby of our building and permeated into our rooms. Note: There are no elevators or air conditioning in the building. If you are unable to go up and down stairs, you will need to request a room on the first floor. Entering my room I was a little taken back by how warm it was. Not to worry! Tall windows stretch across the length of the room and open wide to allow the cool mountain breeze to come in. Within a matter of minutes the room cooled off. The sound of the wind blowing through the trees and the birds singing in the woods seemed surreal compared to the city life I am used to.
The room was comfortable and well appointed. The large king bed was plush and had five pillows of different firmness. The room also came with a spa robe, additional fan, comfortable spa shoes and a flat screen tv. All buildings also have wi-fi access. The bathroom lead to new discoveries including a large rain shower head and full size spa amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and liquid hand soaps. The towels were large and plush and I could not wait to enjoy them!
Did You Receive Assistance With Your Luggage?
Yes and no. When we realized we were going to have to carry our luggage up the stairs to the second floor we all wished that we had packed a little lighter. I suppose we had all become a little spoiled with modern hotels. The staff at the front desk in our building did offer to help us carry our luggage up but we opted to go at it ourselves.
Overall, the staff at this resort is amazing. They all seem to be in a great/calm mood all the time. They literally practice what they preach as many of them live on site. You could always count on a friendly smile and the willingness to help with any question or concern you may have.
There is one main dining hall at the resort and an additional small kitchen in the spa area. The spa area kitchen is specific for guests who are taking part in the detox, cleanse and weight loss retreats. The food in the main dining hall is buffet style but the food is always fresh, hot and delicious! This resort is also vegetarian (which I am not) but the food was wonderful. One of my favorite dishes was a squash burger we had on the first night. Delicious! I was also impressed that the vegetables, herbs and some spices used in every dish are grown on the property in their garden. Every meal was fresh and delicious. Note: My least favorite meal of the day was probably breakfast. I am not a big breakfast person to begin with but one morning I was surprised by a dish that replaced eggs with tofu. It was well cooked and was sautéed with vegetables and aromatic spices but I was not a fan of the texture of the tofu.
The main dining hall has the most amazing views on the entire property. You can see the Blue Ridge Mountains for miles and miles.
This is also an alcohol, soda and sweet tea free resort. If you are not participating in the detox or other special retreats you are allowed to bring your own in but you are encouraged to refrain from them if possible and they are not allowed in public areas.
Our schedule for the weekend included a resort tour, yoga, meditation, spa treatment, pottery class and a light hike. My favorite part of the treat by far was yoga and meditation. Focusing on your breath and positive motions was so relaxing. It allowed me to get out of my head and not worry for a while. In the beginning of the article I stated that I was a little unsure about meditation. I severely underestimated the power of meditation. Following the instructions of the teacher, I was able to become comfortable with all of my thoughts (positive and negative), I was able to tune into the sounds that were surrounding me and enjoy the god given beauty that surrounded me. I found true joy and happiness within myself that I didn’t know existed anymore. I appreciate the experience and I am very glad that I kept an open mind. It is truly something I will never forget.
The spa treatments here are a little different. The Shankara Ayurveda Spa offers a variety of treatments that focus on the body, mind and soul. The spa treatment we received was called Abhyanga This treatment is a twist on the traditional Swedish massage. Note: Typically during a massage, I like to leave my panties on even though you are always covered by a sheet. It’s just my personal preference. This particular treatment involves a LOT of oil so I do not recommend keeping any of your own clothes on and go ahead and use the paper panties provided by the spa. As you can see from the picture above, my hair is even covered in oil. (It felt great though!) The masseuse had pre-warmed a large bottle of sesame oil and explained that the movements of this massage were quicker than a Swedish massage and that the warm oil (probably a liter or two) would be poured directly onto the skin. Note: The spa staff is very professional and appropriate but I must let you know if you decide to have this particular massage, the modesty towels cover all the essentials but you may feel a little more exposed than the typical massage experience. Part of this feeling may have come from the fact that I am also used to a very dim room. Keep in mind that there is no a/c at the resort and my massage was at 2:30pm. It was very bright outside and the windows were wide open to let the breeze in. The treatment room was on the third floor and faced the woods so there is no way a peeping tom could see in but my point here being is that it was very bright in the room. The massage itself was great. The warm oil being poured on almost in excess was relaxing to the muscles and the hand movements were quick but precise and melted the built up stress away.
I was so relaxed after my massage that I took a nap and actually slept through dinner that evening! I hate that I missed dinner that day but it felt so good to not have a worry in the world and actually be able to take a nap. No complaints!
Activities Day 3:
On Day two I took a spill in some gravel and cut up my knees pretty badly. The fall aggravated an old back injury as well so on Day 3 I was physically a little uncomfortable. The morning started with breakfast and then the light hike with a nature guide. I decided against participating in this activity because I was hurting a little and didn’t want to slow down the group. The ladies (and gentleman) that took the hike said it was absolutely beautiful and the guide was very knowledgeable. This is an activity I would want to participate in on my next visit!
After hiking was our pottery class. During a longer stay you would have the opportunity to use the pottery wheel but since we were checking out right after this class we worked with flat and rolled clay. The instructor was kind and made you feel comfortable about using your imagination and creating anything that came to mind. There is no such thing as messing up or making an ugly piece. We worked with the clay for about an hour using different techniques she had taught us. At the end the hour we were able to decide if we wanted to have what we made placed in the kiln or if we wanted to have the clay melted back down and reused in the future. As you can see, my little bowl probably won’t hold water but I wanted to keep my creation as a memento of this beautiful weekend getaway.
The resort does offer programs and summer camps for children. These are specific weeks/weekends and there are plenty of kid friendly activities planned. Note: This is the perfect retreat for putting the technology down and spending time together as a family. There is no water park or character breakfast but there is a playground, pottery for kids and plenty of other activities to do as a family that will keep everyone happy and relaxed.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience at the Art of Living Wellness Retreat. This is a place I would go with a significant other, girls getaway or even on my own. Those of you who do visit, I encourage you to try as many activities as possible and allow yourself to relax. There isn’t a better location in all of North Carolina to do so! I would suggest this resort to anyone who may already enjoy things like yoga and the spa. I would also suggest this to those who have a hard time relaxing or find it difficult to escape stress. By the end of the retreat I remembered that we only have one life to live and I wanted to live more in the moment and less in the past or future. Taking a moment to “stop and smell the roses” never killed anyone (unless they had an allergy).
Below are more photos from our trip!