For my fortieth birthday, I spent 5 days at one of America's premiere health spas, Canyon Ranch. My intentions were to spend some time with myself, discover some new ideas for healthy living and how I can incorporate those ideas into my life back home, and to reintroduce myself to parts of myself that have been slumbering for several years. Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona is an ideal venue for this kind of introspection.

Canyon Ranch is located in the Sonoran desert and coming from the East Coast, the view from the facilities looking out to the Santa CatalinaMountains was inspirational in and of itself. Canyon Ranch Tucson is landscaped with many desert plants, various cacti, sculptures, bridges, streams, and waterfalls throughout. Rooms are unassuming from the outside, giving a simple bungalow feel. Inside, no detail has been overlooked from spacious accommodations, luxurious robes, sundries, a refrigerator with water bottles replenished daily, flat screen TVs with DVD players, a stereo system, vault, and plush, comfortable beds. Reading material such as novels and current magazines are provided as well. Worse case scenarios were clearly thought through. Even if it rained, there was no excuse not to venture out and explore. Large umbrellas were provided in each room and outside the clubhouse and spa.

It took a bit for me to settle into a rhythm at the ranch. I felt like I needed to "hurry up and relax"! With so much to offer, it was a bit overwhelming to figure out what to do next. My coworker joined me, and while our interests did not always coincide, there was plenty of opportunity for us to enjoy common activities (we just loved the pottery class!) and also to pursue our personal agendas.

The spa complex had much to offer by way of a state-of-the-art fitness center with cardio and strength training machines, fitness classes that ranged from dance aerobics to stretch, yoga, Pilates, and boxing, which was one of my favorite classes. In truth, you could have spent an entire day just hanging around in the women's locker room, which offered a personal locker for your entire stay, a cool dip pool, 2 hot tubs, and an abundance of fluffy robes, slippers, sauna, inhalation room, steam room, and a relaxation room. Minor details make the difference: cold icy towels when you needed to cool off, fresh juice and flavored water available, and aromatherapy sprays for your washcloth as you rest your cucumbered-covered eyes.

The pool areas were relaxing with every last detail considered. Sun lotion was available as well as chair towels with the back flap to hug the chair, cushion safety guards on the hot metal hand rails, flotation devices, and even fresh fruit ice pops in the little freezer by the towel station.

Canyon Ranch is well-known for its organic, wholesome, and novel spa cuisine. An ample variety is available at the main dining room, poolside Double U café, and at the demonstration kitchen as well where you will be entertained, taught, and fed. All provide nutritional content information about the foods offered, which helps to raise consciousness for healthy eating habits. One negative was that everything really tasted so good, and it was tough not to try many things. So much for portion control! Healthy snacks, such as hummus, cheese, yogurt, and fruit were available to bring back to the rooms.

We attended several lectures such as Yoga for Stress Management, Clairvoyance, Weight Management, and Taking Yoga Home.

The treatments were how I ended my evenings by indulging in a message or facial before bedtime. Again, there was a wide array of choices, and Program Advising was very helpful in narrowing down the options. Services are broken down into the following categories:

* Bodywork

* Exercise/Movement

* Finishing Touches

* Healing Energy

* Healing Waters

* Healthy Skin

* Life Management

* Metaphysical

* Nutrition & Food

* Preventive & Integrative Medicine

My personal treatments ranged from the basic Deep Cleansing Facial, Canyon Ranch Deep Tissue Massage, Head, Neck and Shoulder Massages, to Ashiatsu - Deep Barefoot Massage.

"From the Japanese words 'ashi,' meaning feet, and 'shiatsu,' meaning pressure, this is the ultimate deep massage therapy. In this deep compression massage, the therapist holds on to overhead bars for balance and exerts varying pressure with his or her feet to provide deep relaxation. Ashiatsu can be an effective technique for the relief of persistent back and neck pain."

Thai Massage

"Harmonize your vital life energy with graceful, nurturing bodywork that promotes physical flexibility and ease. Using slow, focused movements and compressions to guide the body through stretches, Thai massage encourages a serene yet buoyant state of mind. Given on a traditional floor mat."

The Ashiatsu and Thai massages were truly different and well worth the experimentation.

So, what will I be taking home? Some breathing techniques to help control daily stress, an awareness of posture and how it can affect the breath, searching for Pilates reformer classes and maybe a yoga class, a nutritional guide to assist in weight management, as well as some medical issues to explore such as the possibility of food allergies and/or mineral/vitamin deficiencies. Lastly a goal to find my way back within the next couple of years.

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