When the 9-to-5 grind goes from invigorating to wearying, and the buzz of a cellphone notification feels more like an electric shock than a cheerful buzz, where does one turn? Well, if one is on the central coast of California (or fancies themselves a West-coast traveler), there is an abundance of options. From yoga retreats to wellness centers, both Santa Barbara and Big Sur are landmark locations for getting away from the trials of our hectic modern world and turning the dial up on a little well-deserved “me time.” So, if you are interested in turning an “ugh” to an “ohm” or just having an excuse to turn your cellphone off for a few days, look no further than these choice destinations.
It’s fitting that The Esalen Institute tops our list of wellness retreats, because in its over fifty year history, Esalen has become the closest possible thing to a household name in the wellness center world. With its hard hitting role in the Human Potential Movement, which itself is synonymous with the type of hippie-dippy, Earth and wellness focused living that have come to encapsulate the late 1960s and innovative teaching style, Esalen has been alluded to everywhere. From 1960s films, to True Detective and the famous scene of an all-white clad Don Draper meditating on the center’s grassy hilltop in the finale of Mad Men, it’s hard to underestimate the center’s influence on pop culture. More than that, Esalen boasts a truly wide variety of classes and workshops focused on a myriad of different wellness encompassing techniques, from yoga and meditation to Gestalt Practice, 250 hour meditation courses, painting workshops and mindfulness seminars, all with an aim to, “forge new understandings of self and society; and pioneer new paths for change.” Besides the workshops, you have to love the location, there’s nothing like hanging on the Big Sur coast.
Esalen is perfect for the would-be retreater who doesn’t know exactly what he’s looking for, or conversely, someone who wants a more-is-more approach to tackling the idea of wellness.
Located Just outside Santa Barbara proper, with stunning vistas overlooking the proud Pacific Ocean, The White Lotus Foundation is a non-profit yoga and wellness retreat, dedicated to bringing the art of yoga (and the high quality of life its proprietor’s believe come with it), to the world. Originally founded in 1967 with a location in Los Angeles, and based in the spiritual learnings of its founders atSivananda Ashram in India, the Santa Barbara location provides guests with weekend, weeklong and holiday yoga retreats, as well as general yoga coursework and teacher training programs. They feature several amenities such as sandstone swimming holes and steep canyon overlooks and offer a wide variety of accommodations including yurts and outdoor campsites, all to encourage participants in connecting to nature as well as their bodies.
And now for something completely different. Not all those looking to relax are interested in curling themselves into a pretzel shape for the sake of unwinding. If you’re the type that would rather be found at the ski lodge than hitting the slopes, or on a tanning bed than in an Olympic pool, you may be a good fit for Salt Cave, Santa Barbara. This center, founded in 2000 and officially known as a “holistic wellness center,” is essentially exactly what it sounds like: a series of underground caves, filled wall to wall, with salt. Pink Himalayan Salt Crystals imported from Pakistan, to be more specific. This particular type of salt has long been associated with health and wellness in crystal healing circles, and Salt Caves hosts a wealth of treatments, from classic spa services to extended wellness and holistic healing courses, all with the aim at improving overall health set to the backdrop of some breathtaking pink crystals. This is where wellness retreat meets ocean salt caves.
For those more luxury-minded wellness seekers, Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn may be just what the doctor ordered. Featuring packages including daily morning yoga, afternoon nature rambles and stargazing by night, Post Ranch is designed to let you, whether alone or along with someone you love, unwind with an irresistible mixture of nature and nurture. And by nurture, we mean luxury dining, beautiful grounds and deluxe modern accommodation, most of which feature truly spectacular views of mountains, oceans or seaside cliffs. Throw in a couple of world class swimming pools and use of the inn’s fleet of Lexus vehicles and you have yourself the height of sophistication in a wellness retreat package.