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Twenty-five thin needles pierced various points of my body. I lay still, careful not to disturb the nascent holistic healing of not only my physical self, but also my anatomy. A mineral heat lamp warmed my exposed abdomen.
It had taken roughly 1,082 miles of travel from my home base of Los Angeles — which has become one of the world’s veritable wellness meccas — for me to try acupuncture for the first time.
Maybe it was something in the stream-fed tap water of Colorado Springs, Colo., or perhaps I could blame it on the region’s high altitude. But whatever the reason, I had decided that checking into Garden of the Gods Resort & Club also meant checking in with myself — and that included addressing certain aches, pains and other items by means of healthful practices such as acupuncture.
Fortunately, the AAA Four Diamond, 56-room property is known as a beacon in the wellness community that extends beyond its Centennial State backyard. And it has more than enough tools to fully equip such good intentions. At the forefront is Garden of the Gods’ Strata Integrated Wellness Spa, which prides itself in an integrative approach to health, healing and balance. (Note: Strata Integrated Wellness Spa is open to the public, as well.)
“Balance” was also the response that Strata’s acupuncturist, Kelli Miller, gave when I asked about the goal of acupuncture. She had customized my treatment for me, explaining it would help to soothe my liver and improve its blood flow. Afterward, she used a ceramic soup spoon to perform “gua sha” — which literally translates to “scraping sand” in Chinese — by rubbing against my back’s skin and muscles to increase circulation and help with tightness.
Under the same roof where Miller routinely employs these ancient Chinese traditions are many other forms of medicine. The East and West coexist in harmony here: Across one hallway, guests will find everything from bioenergetic healing and meditation — with healing crystals, naturally — to a state-of-the-art Bod Pod, an air displacement plethysmography machine that uses whole body densitometry to determine body fat and lean body mass. (I only needed about three minutes in the egg-shaped screening device before staff member Angie Barber, who has more than 30 years of nursing experience, could share my results.)
Dr. Michael Barber — a board-certified cardiologist, internist and electrophysiologist — leads Strata’s clinical team. During a private tour of the facilities, Barber explained that he often provides “wellness cocktails” to his patients, who are either resort guests or Colorado Springs locals. There’s no booze to be found in the cocktails, though — only a highly nutritional dose of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, fed through an IV.
If downing a wellness cocktail isn’t enough, there are many other methods to achieve well-being. For starters, the resort’s picturesque environs are a nature lover’s dream: Garden of the Gods sits atop a mesa, with many of its public spaces and guestrooms facing the nearby Garden of the Gods Park’s soaring terra-cotta-red sandstone rock geology. Twenty-one trails weave through the registered National Natural Monument, and I only had to drive 10 minutes from the resort before hopping out of my rental car and hiking in the thick of formations shaped over millennia.
For those who feel best after working up a sweat, the resort’s decked-out fitness center offers cardio and weight rooms, as well as an impressive group exercise schedule packed with complimentary classes. From Monday through Friday, guests can choose from six to eight options offered before 1 p.m., followed by one late afternoon class; weekends feature a leaner schedule with four classes total each day. Possibilities include indoor cycling, TRX suspension training, yoga, Zumba, water aerobics, bootcamp and more.
Ignoring my own travel-size mat that I had squeezed into my carry-on luggage, I joined the 6:30 a.m. sunrise yoga class held at the fitness center. While working through asanas (body postures), I set my intentions for the days ahead, keeping gratitude top of mind. (Afterward, the staff was graciously receptive to my suggestion to hold the next early-morning class outside, featuring a panoramic sunrise over sandstone formations.)
Indeed, I was awash in gratitude many times during my time at Garden of the Gods. I experienced it during an extensive facial with Rebecca Johnston, the resort’s executive spa director and lead esthetician. In her treatments, in addition to her own personal routine, she exclusively uses products from Biologique Recherche. Johnston is one of four American brand ambassadors for the coveted French brand, which has earned cult status among skincare enthusiasts around the globe.
With her expertise highly in demand, the charismatic Johntson is only available by special appointment and at a higher fee. Luckily for me, we were able to spend nearly three hours together, which included a thorough rundown of my current regimen; a customized application of more than a dozen products to fit my skin’s needs; and even the use of the brand’s trademarked Remodeling Face Machine, which uses bio-electrotherapy combining four types of electric currents.
Another necessary component of wellness is, of course, a nutritious diet — enter the healthy, delicious options at Garden of the Gods’ dining outlets. The Grand View Dining Room’s lunch menu, for example, features two components: Wellness and Comfort, as well as a section that lists Wellness additions, such as hydrated chia seeds, turmeric oil and organic living apple cider vinegar. Best enjoyed alfresco and in view of the park across the way, a Wellness section highlight is a vegetarian pita wrap with chickpea- and herb-crisped falafel balls, harissa-spiked hummus, marinated cucumbers, red onion, Meyer lemon tzatziki and sprouts.
However, during dinnertime at Grand View Dining Room, I always said yes to dessert. I savored every tasty morsel of a gluten-free caramel coconut flan, topped with diced mango, pomegranate arils, a coconut tuile cookie and fresh mixed berries. And there may have been a few bites of a Chambord chocolate cake and chilled raspberry sorbet, too — because, you know, balance.
The DetailsGarden of the Gods Resort & Clubwww.gardenofthegodsclub.com
Strata Integrated Wellness Spawww.strataiws.com