Mind-Body Makeovers—Montage-Style

The view from Spa Montage Laguna Beach's yoga studio, where E-volve workshops take place (photo: Montage Laguna Beach)

Spa-goers flock from far and wide to experience the marine-inspired treatments, lavish outdoor amenities and oceanfront pools at Southern California’s Spa Montage Laguna Beach, a resort haven perched high on coastal cliffs. But last year, spa director Julie Raistrick hatched an idea to help attract more regular, local guests, and also make better use out of a relatively underused corner of the 20,000-square-foot facility: a glass-walled yoga studio facing the stunning Pacific coastline.

At the time, they already offered a few yoga classes, but when Spa Montage unveiled its Surrender Program (2 hrs./from $455) in late 2010—in which guests consult with therapists to discuss lifestyle, health and personal issues so that specialists may recommend the ideal treatment or series of treatments to heal and address individual needs—Raistrick was struck by the power of continual, holistic programming to bolster mindful living.

“Spa is really about completing the whole wellness circle,” she says. “So we started asking ourselves how we could nourish the spirit and mind more completely, to expand opportunities for our guests in other ways, too.”

In researching this pursuit, a Spa Montage staff member stumbled across Ashley Turner, a veteran yoga instructor who also runs a mind-body psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. Turner’s specialty is Yoga Psychology, a synthesis of spirituality, psychology and modern science.

“Her holistic philosophy coincided perfectly with ours,” Raistrick says. So the spa reached out to Turner, hoping to expand the scope of its mind and body fulfillment mission by breathing new life into its yoga program.

Though already busy with teaching, therapy and her private yoga practice, Turner was impressed with Montage’s unique wellness offerings, as well as its breathtaking setting—ideal for leading reflective meditation sessions. “Our brands were really in alignment,” Turner says, “and I knew they were serious about taking their approach to achieving mindfulness to the next level.”

So Turner sat down to design Montage’s E-volve Program, a yearlong curriculum featuring monthly yoga workshops and quarterly retreats. It kicked off in January with two 120-minute-long Saturday workshops called “Start by Stopping.” Through group work, meditation and quiet time, guests determined their own habits that needed tweaking in the new year, and set clear goals for 2011. These resolution initiatives were physically explored through detoxifying Vinyasa practices, as well as balancing, restorative poses.

In fact, each of Turner's monthly sessions is themed in alignment with the natural cycles of the solar calendar to target and address common mind-body issues for that time of the year. February’s “Reconnect and Renew” session addressed balance and fulfillment in relationships—through a discussion of masculine and feminine energy forces and an introduction to Tantra—and “Plant The Seeds of Change” invited March workshop-goers to explore the direct relationship between habits in body and mind to create lasting change through meditative breathing.

E-volve's seasonally-themed programming was no chance circumstance. As Turner explains, “To parallel our lives to the natural rhythms of the environment causes us to live in balance with Earth and other elements. It fine-tunes our elemental rhythms, and helps us heal ourselves.”

The sequential nature of the programming also means that many guests who attend one session immediately sign up for the next to carry their newfound sense of heightened awareness into the coming month. “We’re seeing a lot more locals in the spa because of it,” Raistrick says. “Not only for workshops, but also in our regular, weekday classes. And some are now planning to attend the retreats—two-day intensive yoga camps with full moon hikes and juice purification—and stay at Montage overnight.”

Since E-volve has been publicized through Turner’s email blast lists; Facebook and Twitter pages; public relations campaigns and ties within Southern California’s yoga community; as well as all of Spa Montage’s channels, the spa is now targeting a whole new audience. “Lots of curious yoga fans and students of Ashley's come down from Los Angeles to make a daylong vacation out of the workshops,” Raistrick says.

The workshops are priced from $65 and include a full day at Spa Montage with access to all amenities and the pool, as well as post-class refreshments. “E-volve has been a great way for us to show more people our facility and publicize our offerings,” Raistrick says. “Plus, we’ve shown the wellness community that we’re willing to break through that barrier and really achieve something different.”

Does your spa call on wellness experts to attract new clients? We’d love to hear your ideas. Write about them to koreilly@creativeage.com.—Katie O'Reilly

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