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A few weekends ago I was treated to a fantastic stay at the luxurious Meadowbrook Estate. A beautiful 18-room, 8,000 square foot property perfectly located in Marlborough, CT., the estate is just a short 20-minute ride from the Hartford train station and is nestled between Boston and New York, about two hours drive from each city. It was the perfect escape from the city and a wonderful opportunity to explore all of what New England has to offer.
Full disclosure, the stay was provided in exchange for this post. I took advantage of the offer to assess this place as a possible space for a wellness retreat, and what better way to determine if it would work for me and my clients than to actually try it out on my own. Better yet, I invited my friend and long-time client Marje to come along.
We were welcomed by Marybeth Keener, the owner of this wonderful estate. Her commitment to wellness and comfort is quite palpable throughout the estate. In addition to being a great space to hold a wellness retreat, the beautifully decorated mansion is a great spot for weddings and special events.
I fell in love with the estate the moment I walked up a staircase illuminated by a stunning Swarovski crystal chandelier. I felt like I was a character in an Audrey Hepburn film. The classic elegance of this space made me feel truly special.
We were then shown to our rooms; the Etruscan suite. A master suite with two separate bedrooms and bathrooms which makes a perfect setup for two people traveling together who wish to have separate sleeping quarters. The bedrooms are decorated to perfection. Large and ample windows allow for natural sunlight, and the all-white bedding makes the already large rooms feel even more spacious. Each room and bathroom is also decorated with perfectly sized Swarovski chandeliers; adding a touch of elegance to an already exquisite space.
We spent the early part of our stay in the grandiose kitchen decorated in thick marble counters and of course, more chandeliers. A few weeks prior to traveling I provided the staff with a list of all of my food allergies and sensitivities; some of which many chefs find difficult to follow while still making a tasty dish. I was pleasantly surprised that the farm-to-table style meal prepared for us by their in-house chef, Drew, not only met every requirement of my strict list, it was also incredibly delicious!
The best part of our stay was definitely the kindness with which we were treated by the team managing this beautiful estate. Drew, an energetic, bubbly and awfully friendly in-house Chef and Property Manager, offered to take us Salsa dancing after dinner, and we eagerly jumped on the dancing boat. We had a fabulous time dancing the night away at La Casona, a local spot playing two different types of music in each of its large dancing rooms. Each room felt like its own independent space, and we jumped from room to room, dancing different type of styles without missing a beat. It was truly a fantastic night!
After a fun night out, I enjoyed a restful night in one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. I am one of those people who needs absolute silence in order to get a good night’s sleep, so I am happy to report that this place checks that box too. When the sun came out, I was awoken by a sound I quickly recognized, but one that I have not heard in a long time; birds singing. It’s incredible how a place only a few minutes away from the highway and a 10-minute drive to the closest Whole Foods feels so wonderfully secluded and private.
The Estate has a Yoga studio on site and we enjoyed a complimentary slow paced Yoga class taught by a local instructor. The class was a bit too slow for my taste but it was a welcome pace after the night we had had. The Yoga studio accommodates about 8-10 people comfortably. However, there is an adjacent ballroom-style space next to it, and the studio can be made larger by just opening the door that connects the rooms together. Better yet, the studio has this cool mirror resembling a disco-ball like effect on the ceiling and I can already envision a fun Hip-Hop Yoga class taking place there. It also has a barre, so in addition to hosting a retreat there, I am also exploring the possibility of doing Barre Teaching Trainings there.
After breakfast, we headed out to discover the town of Glastonbury, (a short 10 minute drive from the Estate) where the large Whole Foods majestically sits in the middle of an outdoor shopping plaza surrounded by spas, hair studios, nail salons, wine shops, restaurants, a few boutiques and a large Yoga studio, among other things. It was unfortunate that we did not have too much time as we discovered places where manicures were priced for a mere $13 and full pedicures for $30 -prices unheard of in Boston-. On my next visit, I for sure plan to explore these places at such fantastic prices.
After a morning of shopping and exploring the town, our energetic companion, Drew, took us on yet another wonderful adventure. This time he gave us a tour of Priam Vineyards, a beautiful place where wine lovers (red, white and rose alike) will find a special treat. I fell in love with, among other wines, the St. Croix; a bold red aged in Bourbon barrels. If you are in the area, this vineyard is a must see and this wine; it’s a definite must have. The vineyard offers light snacks for purchase while you enjoy your wine selections, and you can also bring a picnic basket.
We truly had a wonderful time at Meadowbrook Estate. Even though we were there for about 24 hours, we felt as if we had spent the entire weekend away. The estate provides enough relaxation that I soon forgot the city and immersed myself in the beautiful and calm surroundings of the countryside. At the same time, I was happy to know that I was only a few minutes away from all the benefits that a city has to offer.
When looking for a place to host a wellness retreat, I look for more than price and location. I need to have the type of experience that totally blows me away. And more than just a luxurious and comfortable place to stay, I need to be in a place where people are kind, welcoming and understanding of the basic principles of wellness and all that it encompasses. Meadowbrook Estate checked this box big time! Marybeth and Drew are absolutely wonderful. They are not only knowledgeable and experienced in the wellness and event industries; they are also truly fantastic hosts. They made us feel at home. I am confident that every single one of my guests joining me there for a retreat will feel just as welcomed. So stay tuned for some dates!
In the meantime, you can participate in one of their local events and workshops so visit their website and find out what’s going on in the next few months. Or contact Marybeth or Drew directly; they truly are the friendliest and warmest team you will find.
Beer Yoga; to drink or not to drink?
I have gotten some funny looks and some negative comments in response to my upcoming Beer Yoga event at District Hall this coming Saturday. I get it. It’s definitely not for everyone. In fact, at some point, I did not think it was for me either.
Beer Yoga, a concept born in Germany and made popular in London, is a fun way to incorporate enjoying a beer into a Yoga practice. Most people who are drawn to these classes are new yogis who are curious about the practice and who ordinarily would not participate in a Yoga class because they fear that they are not flexible enough or because they are too shy to participate in such a group activity. However, Beer Yoga allows them to experience Yoga in a relaxed and non-threatening environment, making that first experience an extraordinary introduction to a practice that they otherwise would not have tried. It is also a great place for experienced Yogis to engage all of their senses in a completely different and fun practice.
If you have attended any of my classes, you know that I am not your typical Yoga Instructor. Just the fact that I prepare each class with the same thoroughness as I plan the outfit to teach the class in (and the makeup & shoes to go with it of course –yes, the shoes come off right before stepping onto he mat-) is an indication of what sets me apart from other instructors. I have never been shy about combining or expressing my love for fashion with my love for Yoga, or fitness in general, while at the same time highlighting my passion for music and social interaction. I don’t believe that this makes me better or worse than other instructors out there. I simply believe that it just makes me different and perhaps a bit quirky. And I am totally ok with that.
Yoga has evolved from being a forbidden practice, especially for women in particular who were not allowed to participate in the practice, to a female dominated field and one that allows each and every one of us to express our true selves. Each Yoga Instructor decides what’s important to share with their students. And for me, it’s about creating a unique experience each and every class. Whether I focus on building strength or flexibility –or both- I believe that it is important to add a bit of fun to a practice that is otherwise considered rather serious and intimidating while creating an atmosphere of comradery and while of course, respecting and following the main principles of the practice, including guided meditation.
I have never laughed so much preparing a class as I have since I started practicing my Beer Yoga class. I have had some laugh out loud moments that I wish I could have captured and share with all of you. And that is my goal for this coming Saturday. To see each and every participant getting a bit lose on the mat. While I will cue the participants to engage all of their senses during the practice, smell, touch and even taste. Much like any other practice, this is truly a personal experience. It is up to each individual to assess how they feel during each stage of the class and to decide whether they want to take a sip while holding Tree Pose, or whether they want to wait until after Savasana to enjoy their drink.
We all know that stress is probably one the biggest silent killers out there. To manage it, we exercise, socialize and from time to time, just plain ignore it or even worse; we learn to live with it.
Meditation is a FREE tool, available to all of us, and unlike any form of common coping mechanism, it can be done pretty much anytime, almost everywhere and just about by everybody.
Meditation, does for your mind what physical exercise does for your body; it transforms it. But just like physical exercise, Meditation is something that you need to practice as often as possible and understand that just like physical exercise, it will take some time for your mind to get used to taking some time just to try and relax the tension away.
If you are someone who does mainly high energy sports or have a tendency to avoid sitting still, Meditation may not come easy to you. When I first started practicing Yoga daily, as a result of a long distance running injury that kept me from running and other high energy work outs, I used to get up and leave right after the physical part of the class and before the Meditation. The idea of sitting still was not appealing for me at all. One day, my Yoga Instructor, David Magone, and the person who many years later trained me to become a Yoga Instructor, asked me why I did not participate in the Meditation portion of the class. I was completely honest and explained that sitting still felt like “a waste of time”. I cannot believe that those words came out of me!
He then asked me to take one of his most advanced classes, I followed his recommendation and I was shocked to see that just like that, after just one session of an invigorating & challenging practice, my body was too tired to move and I allowed myself the opportunity to rest.
At first, that’s was it, giving myself 10-15 minutes after a transformative class to allow my body to rest. But with time, I started to pay attention to his instructions and to follow them closely. I felt great after each class, not only for the physical challenge that I put my body through, but also because I gave my mind a break from its busy chatter.
And that is exactly what Meditation does for you; it gives your mind an opportunity to take a break from the daily chatter that goes on in your mind. And while Meditation brings many health benefits into your life, I also believe that is widely misinterpreted and that is extremely hard to practice. However, the below 5 tips should help you to get familiarized with the practice and the concept of sitting still. I hope that soon, you’ll start to enjoy the benefits of a quiet and clear mind.
1. Find a comfortable place to sit. While sitting on a Meditative pose (cross legged) on a Yoga mat or on a Mediation pillow or on a Yoga block is ideal, that is not always very practical, so know that you can sit on any chair that you have at your disposal or that is comfortable enough for you.
2. Find a quiet place practice. I highly recommend staying away from any area that has too many distractions, like the TV. If that is all the space you have, then make sure that the TV is turned off before you begin your practice.
3. Sit down and try and find your most comfortable seated position. Place your right hand over the left, palms facing up, and thumbs lightly touching. Let your shoulders relax away from your ears and bring your chin towards your chest.
4. Close your eyes
5. Breath. At first, all your thoughts will fly to your mind so try and not engage with them, rather, redirect your attention to the sound of your breath. It will not be as easy at first, but if you want to experiment the benefits of a Meditation practice, you must invest the time to do it a few times a day, a few minutes each time, until your mind accepts the challenge.
So there you have it; comfortable place to sit, quiet space, sit, close your eyes and breath. Try and create a routine and come to this space as often as possible with the goal to Meditate until it becomes a daily habit.
Happy Practice friends!