Righting the Ship

Miraval Resort, the luxe wellness retreat near the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona, empowers its guests with the tools for total balance.

By Caylee Matthews

June 19, 2019 10:00 AM

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The notion that even the most robust coat of armor can occasionally benefit from some reinforcement was what brought me to Miraval Resort near the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Although I was initially skeptical about what I would get out of the experience, the timing of my stay coincided with a number of significant life changes, and in short order I was crying, laughing and high-fiving perfect strangers, all of whom came here, to this safe and beautiful place, seeking clarity, comfort, and self-care. Over three days, I discovered that the ability to open myself to share raw emotional experiences with others is both humbling and empowering.

A wellness retreat trailblazer, the 400-acre resort marked its 20th anniversary in 2016 with a multi-million-dollar renovation of its 118 casually elegant casita-style guest accommodations, a new state-of-the-art fitness center, redesigned retail space, a new juice bar, a re-imagined welcome experience, and revamped Brave Bill lounge. The expansive Life in Balance Spa debuted in 2012.

Miraval Arizona was founded under the premise that life is more meaningful and enjoyable when physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual components are in balance. Whereas other wellness retreats with similar intents may require guests to adhere to a prescribed agenda, at Miraval, guests are free to choose their own path to wellbeing. I fully embraced this concept by selecting fitness-related activities that fell well within my comfort zone, along with a host of classes that fell far outside of it, such as Forgiveness Meditation, Dance of Gratitude, and Native American drumming. I literally didn’t have enough hours in each day to participate in all of the activities that appealed to me.

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Miraval Resort is situated near the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona.

Arriving late in the afternoon, I had a hot second to appreciate both the lushly landscaped grounds, and the amenities of my 800-square-foot Miraval Suite (gas fireplace, mountain-view terrace, cloudlike bed, and soaking tub in the bathroom), before my first scheduled activity: a two-hour evening challenge course experience led by guest instructor Matt Walker, a life coach who utilizes adventure experiences to facilitate self-improvement.  

Our group of ten women paired off and took turns climbing a wobbly 35-foot pole. Standing together on a small platform at the top in a shared moment of terror, we tossed off pieces of paper inscribed with something we wanted to “let go,” before literally letting go and stepping into thin air before our freefall was safely interrupted by a cable attached to the back of our harnesses. It’s amazing how fast friends can be made from a shared experience, and most of our group met up later that evening for pre-dinner cocktails to celebrate our accomplishment.  

Rates at Miraval include three meals daily and non-alcoholic beverages. Meals are definitely health-conscious but don’t suffer for lack of flavor or variety. Inspired by the cuisine of the Southwest, fresh seasonal ingredients are paramount. The buffet-style lunch was my favorite meal of the day; loading up on a healthy selection of salads and soups only felt indulgent.

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Rates at Miraval include three meals daily and non-alcoholic beverages.

The property recently unveiled a new Life in Balance Culinary Kitchen in partnership with Williams Sonoma. Outfitted with top-of-the-line products from the renowned kitchen retailer, the expansive space will be host to several new healthy cooking classes and workshops.  

The remainder of my trip was focused on striking a balance between my physical and mental wellbeing. While the back-and-forth transition from a “relax and let go” mindset during a meditation exercise to shouts of “push harder” from the instructor during spin class was extreme at times, the dichotomy mirrored real-life, and served as a reminder to take time out of each day to do things that make me feel good both mentally and physically.  

I interspersed intense bursts of activity with downtime at the spa, the highlight of which was a Vasudhara massage, a new Miraval exclusive treatment. I was given an eye mask and flotation device to wear for the Thai-style massage, which was carried out in a heated pool. The feeling of weightlessness in the darkness was such an alien sensation at first, but once I gave myself over to the experience, it was absolutely amazing; the buoyancy allowed for a greater range-of-motion to benefit from the Thai stretching techniques.

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The 400-acre resort marked its 20th anniversary in 2016 with a multi-million-dollar renovation.

The 30,000 square-foot spa is a temple to self-care with 23 indoor and six outdoor treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms, an outdoor sea salt pool and hot tub, a café, a quiet relaxation room, and indoor and outdoor lounge spaces. A comprehensive menu of face and body treatments meld current technology with ancient healing rituals.

Miraval’s most famous life coach and creator of the Miraval Equine Experience is Wyatt Webb, who has been leading equine-focused therapeutic workshops for people of all ages for nearly three decades. His “It’s Not About the Horse” session left me in awe of his miraculous ability to read someone’s mind through their body language. Engaging, real, and sometimes raw, Webb doesn’t mince words when doling out insight and advice.  

I came to Miraval as a newbie to the whole self-care thing, and I left wishing I would have discovered it a decade ago.  

Nightly rates at Miraval Arizona start at $529/person. For more information and reservations visit miravalarizona.com.

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The recently revamped Brave Bill lounge
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Wyatt Webb, Miraval’s most famous life coach and creator of the Miraval Equine Experience
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Miraval’s spa pool at sunrise
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If your path to wellbeing includes physical pursuits, then opt for time on the hiking trails.