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For nearly a decade, Angela Needham and Deanna Duffek have been working together to find a way to create a better wellness retreat. Their culmination of their efforts, Replenish, launched this past May in Laguna Beach.
“Deanna and I traveled a lot for work, and we asked each other, ‘what would we be doing if we could be doing anything?’” said Needham. “Well, this is it.”
Both women have experienced a number of similar programs over the years, so they know what works and what left something to be desired. They took the best of their experiences and combined them, then elevated the whole idea up a notch by infusing a modern luxury vibe.
Their creation is a fresh concept in the world of detoxifying and wellness escapes. Whether participants are seeking a small adjustment to their lifestyle, or a creative awakening or a complete self-healing, Replenish provides a “spirit betterment” program in a relaxed retreat format.
"This is not about achieving perfection," said Needham. "It’s about progress. Things don’t change unless we change."
In May, Replenish welcomed its inaugural group of 25 attendees and facilitators to the new eco-friendly Seven4One Hotel in Laguna Beach, Calif.
The general consensus among participants seemed to be overwhelmingly positive. Many guests said Replenish was the best retreat that they had experienced to date.
One of the retreat’s biggest successes was attributed to its gourmet menu designed by experts, including a nutrition specialist and an organic food director, and prepared by Florida-based chef, Eric Tochterman, who everyone affectionately referred to as “Chef E.”
As someone who is not a vegetarian, the idea of seven days on a restricted diet of vegetables and fruits, largely raw, including two days of juicing, made me a bit nervous at first. But it had been a while since I had unplugged from my busy life, which often skews to unhealthy eating habits, so I knew that a week like this could only be good news for my body — especially since multiple massages were also on the slate.
Breakfast was a simple dish of local organic berries, a watermelon mint salad or banana smoothie — a sweet treat after 45-minutes of endorphin-enhancing laughter yoga.
This fairly new sect of Yoga features universal chants of “ho-ho, ha-ha-ha” (while clapping) and “very good, very good, yay” (while clapping, then raising arms above the head). Try doing that without laughing or smiling. The benefits of laughter yoga include stress reduction, increased serotonin levels, enhanced immune system, improved respiratory and cardiovascular and a boost in confidence. Generating the natural chemistry of happiness is not a bad way to start the day.
Lunches and dinners consisted of incredible combinations of naturally intoxicating flavors. From dishes such as fennel salad and vegetable stir fry to butternut squash soup or quinoa stuffed red pepper with asparagus salad, I did not feel like a deprived meat eater. Instead, I felt satisfied and invigorated.
The two days of juicing were a bit intense, but it was worth it. The round-the-clock wheatgrass bar was also an added bonus. After three days at Replenish, I was definitely feeling leaner and more energized. I also won’t forget the raw banana and date ice cream.
A new adventure for the mind, body and spirit was unveiled each day of the retreat.
Memorable experiences included a wellness cruise onboard the Curlew. Our group shouted “heave-ho” as we helped the sailors hoist the sails of the historic 82-foot schooner during the cruise from Dana Point, Calif. Integrative medicine specialist and author, Dr. Edward A. Taub, spoke about tools for managing stress in our lives. An impromptu dolphin swim also came about when Needham and another guest jumped into the water after a dolphin pod visited our morning laughter yoga session.
The daily schedule included walks on the beach, guided meditations, light stretching and yoga. There were also “playshops” during which we journaled, wrote poetry and drew our creative visualizations. Experts were also on hand to teach us about Eastern and Western nutritional philosophy and alternative medicine. A renowned relationship counselor addressed the group about healthy self-esteem. My personal favorite was a live acoustic musical performance by Steven Ybarra during which we sang along and played drums, tambourines, maracas and even a cow bell.
It wasn’t just the fun adventures and informative classes that made this experience so worthwhile, however. It was the beautiful sense of community that Needham and Duffek created during the retreat. Whether it was a couple needing a week to recharge from the demands of raising children to a woman recovering from cancer or a writer who was tired of the daily grind, we got to be kids again for a week.
We had a team of highly conscious professionals who are at the top of their fields guiding us as we explored ourselves. We played, we relaxed, we shared, we supported each other, we laughed and, yes, some of us even cried. Detoxifying is such a cleansing experience, and it seemed that we all left Replenish — albeit reluctantly — as renewed human beings, ready to face the world with a new and inspired outlook on life.
Upcoming retreats in Laguna Beach are slated for Nov. 6 -12; Jan. 8 -14, 2012; and April 29-May 5, 2012. There was also talk of future Replenish retreats on Sanibel Island, Fla. and Aspen, Colo.
A single reservation starts at $2,800 per person, per week; a shared room (1 luxe king bed) starts at $2,400 per person, per week. Discounts are available to travel agents.