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    Explore New England | Berkshires

    For R&R, take a deep breath and head for the hills

    Canyon Ranch
    A yoga class at Canyon Ranch Lenox.

    People have long looked to the Berkshires to relax - delighting in its natural beauty, cultural offerings, inns, and farm-fresh food. More recently, this bucolic region has attracted those interested in healing and wellness and area spas have reacted accordingly. Some focus on yoga, others on medical issues, still others on luxury.


    Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club, a 380-acre resort with 114 guest rooms and three restaurants (two casual), offers a bounty of restorative activities and body treatments for both sexes. In addition to an 18-hole championship golf course, there is a 60-foot, glass-enclosed indoor pool and fitness center with cardio and strength training equipment and daily fitness classes ranging from morning stretch to Latin-inspired Zumba dance. The spa has 16 treatment rooms and more than 50 services, including the signature Grand Mosaic that includes exfoliation, hydration, and massage, along with a rest in the dry flotation bed, a warm water-filled plastic “blanket’’ that slightly suspends you, as if in a hammock. For men, body treatments include the Man-icure and man’s facial, which revitalizes the skin with essential oils. Couples can enjoy the Duet Massage, set in one double-treatment room to accommodate you and a significant other along with two therapists, or the Couples Instructional Massage, basically a take-home lesson in massage technique. The Couple’s Retreat includes a couple’s massage, man’s facial, Decleor Facial (using specific essential oils tailored to the person’s skin), and lunch for two at the Spa Café, while the Romance & Relaxation Package offers one night’s stay, dining credit, and complementary access to the spa, romantic music CD, homemade chocolates, and a complementary bottle of wine with dinner. A salon offers body waxing, hair and make-up treatments. 55 Lee Road, Lenox, 800-272-6935, 413-637-1364,


    Unique among area spas, Canyon Ranch Lenox offers services to prevent illness and treat chronic health conditions. Through its Canyon Ranch Medicine center, you can meet with a board-certified physician for a compete evaluation, including diagnostic services for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic disorders, sleep disorders, sexuality and intimacy issues, and more. (There are labs on the premises.) Then, working with your physician back home, the Canyon Ranch doctor will suggest ways to deal with specific problems, practice preventive care, and promote wellness. A fleet of other specialists can also help: nurses, a naturopathic doctor, licensed Chinese medicine practitioner, acupuncturist, mental health specialist, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, movement and aquatic therapist, and healing touch practitioner.


    The resort has a life management team to help with such issues as anger management, alcohol and health, and grief and loss. Certified and licensed specialists can offer insights, along with tools and strategies such as biofeedback and hypnotherapy, for coping with problems. There is a metaphysical component, too, offering consultations in astrology, numerology, and tarot reading. It’s all based on the premise that everyone solves problems differently, and Canyon Ranch Lenox wants to offer as many options as possible.

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    For every guest, the two-night minimum includes 30-40 daily activities and lectures - such as chair yoga, Pilates for osteoporosis, watercolor painting in nature, and how to live in a toxic world - along with three gourmet spa meals in the dining room, housed in the property’s original 1897 Bellefontaine Mansion. 165 Kemble St., Lenox, 800-742-9000, www.canyon


    With its freezer full of Dove Bars available for its guests, the Potting Shed Spa at Blantyre is the place to pamper yourself. You can lounge in the heated, 75-by-25-foot outdoor swimming pool (until it’s too cold outside) or relax in the spa’s soaking tub in the spacious, cedar-ceilinged room with windows overlooking that pool and the woods. Should you wish to sweat a bit, you can exercise on a small number of machines, including treadmills designed to simulate jogging on pine needles.

    The spa offers eight massages incorporating aromatic oils, stones, and strokes to dissolve tension and promote relaxation. Among the many facials is the Powerful Anti-wrinkle Facial, which promises “Botox-like action without the worry’’ through special handwork and compounds such as Retinol.The seasonal Organic Scrub and Wrap is an hourlong treatment featuring a raw sugar scrub enhanced with cranberry and pomegranate puree and a pumpkin soufflé body mask to hydrate your skin, while your neck and head are massaged.

    If you spend the night, the pampering continues starting with the eight luxurious rooms in the main house, four private cottages (two joined), and 10 guest rooms in The Carriage House, connected to the spa. Dinners in the main house feature champagne with canapés in the music room or great hall, followed by dinner on antique china in the dining room. A full breakfast in the airy, plant-filled porch provides the final indulgent touch. 16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, 413-637-3556,



    For kick-starting a yoga practice in a no-frills atmosphere, consider Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, which also offers spa treatments. As its name suggests, the center’s primary focus is yoga, offered for first-timers to advanced yogis in single classes, multi-day workshops, and longer retreats. Some classes focus strictly on yoga, others incorporate the positions to aid weight loss or explore Buddhism.

    One of Kripalu’s most flexible programs, aside from getting a day pass, is the R&R Retreat, where you decide how many days you want to stay (two-night minimum) and what you want to do. Most days include numerous yoga classes and a variety of activities, such as an escorted hike, a workshop on guided meditation, a talk on cooking with whole foods, and a class on learning to chant. Three buffet meals in a central dining hall come with your stay, along with a simple room, either in the main building or Bauhaus-style annex.


    Then there are the spa treatments organized under the umbrella of Healing Arts. The Kripalu Restorative Massage is the most popular of the 35 treatments. You also can explore various Asian and European therapies, along with Ayurvedic treatments, which draw on the ancient Indian practice of bringing one’s specific body type into alliance with nature through diet, exercise, and body work using healing oils imported from India. West Street at Richmond Mountain Road, Stockbridge, 866-200-5203, Mepal Manor & Spa, a renovated 1906 stone manor house and spa, won’t show up on your GPS. Secluded, intimate, and surrounded by Trustees of Reservations properties Questing and Dry Hill, it’s the spa to visit when you feel like unplugging from the world and reconnecting with nature. The main house has 12 elegantly appointed rooms, each of which comes with afternoon tea and a generous, fireside breakfast. The 6,000-square-foot spa has four treatment rooms, a small lounging area, and a select number of treatments, including eight facials, such as the Absolute Pearl Facial (with real pearl powder) and a men’s facial with purifying treatments. Among the eight massages is one using hot stones to relieve sore muscles. Four body treatments polish and nourish the skin with organic ingredients such as oils, mud, and botanical extracts.

    Besides a hair and makeup salon, the spa houses a yoga studio with a back wall of windows. The ultimate spot, however, is the outdoor hot tub, perched on a wooden deck overlooking a valley with nary a house or telephone pole in site. 100 Stone Manor Drive, New Marlborough, 800-286-3139,

    Victoria Abbott Riccardi can be reached at