Two months before taking part in a very high profile wedding came the startling realization that A, my “body crisis” had reached a fever pitch; and B, time was running out to do something about it. So I did what any practical person would do and went into retreat.
More specifically, I took my elastic-waist shorts down to the Caribbean islands of Turks & Caicos for the first retreat created by Exhale, the noted New York mind/body spa. On the agenda was a Core Intensive Weekend geared towards all fitness levels, led by Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp, the husband and wife creators behind the Core Fusion classes so many hard-bodied New Yorkers swear by.
Exhale was founded in Manhattan in 2003 and now has five spa/studios across the city, one in the Hamptons and a handful across the country. Hearing it described by a dedicated follower as a new breed of spa merging mind and body wellbeing into a transformational experience set off a light bulb: maybe those love handles are the result of my mind and not my mouth. Running with that thought, I set off eager to take the holistic approach – and hopefully get a tan in the process.
Arriving at the Gansevoort Turks and Caicos, a Wymara Resort, for the start of the weekend is inspiring. Sleek, chic, and minimalist in proportion, home for the next three days embodies everything I aspire to become. An offshoot of the popular Meatpacking District hotel, this Caribbean counterpart sits on the western edge of Grace Bay Beach, with beachfront rooms along a reef-protected sea.
A delicious lunch is served al fresco at Bagatelle Bistrot, and there’s time to linger and review the program. The Core Intensive Weekend includes a full immersion in classes proprietary to Exhale: Core Fusion, Core Energy Flow, Core Fusion Sport and Body Enlightening, with two sessions per day in an outdoor pavilion with views of the sea.
For neophytes, Core Fusion turns out to be self-explanatory: it fuses the discipline of core conditioning with Pilates, yoga and orthopedic stretching to produce lean flexible muscles. Core Fusion Sport adds a combination of lateral and twisting movements to chisel the arms, shoulders, and legs. Core Energy Flow is designed to induce inner calm and balance through a combination of yoga poses, core training, and Qi Gong movements. In short, there will be sweat.
Now imagine this regime twice a day in 2 to 3-hour increments with breaks for meals and water. Sounds like a fitness Gitmo, no? Actually not. Certainly there is a lot of effort involved – so much for those love handles of the mind – but it’s also intensely relaxing. Approach it as you would a mountain hike and it’s not nearly as strenuous. The cool Caribbean breeze sure helps, as does the freedom of going at your own pace and comfort level. Meal breaks are leisurely, with time leftover to hit the beach, loll by the pool, or take to the spa for a massage that comes included. Plus, all those post-workout endorphins really do create a sense of inner calm. Perhaps that’s the mind body connection Exhale touts.
Day two is another story: it hurts. Everywhere. Muscles you never knew existed sharply remind you of their neglect. (Misery has lots of company on day two.) But if you can power through it, there’s a rainbow that appears on day three: a perkier bottom. No lie. All those stretches and poses have been lifting your derriere from the inside and the notably visible difference is cause for celebration.
The final half-day comes with a victory lap of positive reinforcement and affirmations. I’ve done it – well, mostly, but let’s not get into that. Energized, grounded, aching in the good way, this was more like a vacation than imagined. More importantly, my pants are a little bit roomier and the tan lines are divine. Crisis averted.