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(2012 - Fall/Winter Issue)


8 a.m. St. Lucia time. My four-poster bed with the thigh-high mattress was so comfortable I’d slept in and missed Tai Chi class.

Opening my balcony door to yet another blue-sky day framed by ocean and green hills, the last of the early-morning keeners jogged by, heading for squats and push-ups on the beach. No worries, I could still grab breakfast and catch Calixta’s stretch class before surrendering to my first Ayurvedic massage. It was a typical day at BodyHoliday, the recently-renovated all-inclusive resort that combines a full-body tune-up with a blissful tropical vacation.

About 25 of us, mostly Brits, Irish and New Yorkers, stretched under the cooling fans of the mirrored exercise room. It’s bright and lovely, a welcome change from my regular dark and smelly gym. No fancy gym togs here, just aging boomers (mostly female) in shorts and T-shirts wondering how we ever got so stiff as hands meant to reach over and touch feet hang impotently in the air.

Finding Balance

Outside again in the blazing sun, I crossed the courtyard of the Moorish-inspired wellness centre to the shaded veranda of the Ayurveda Centre, run by a doctor from India. Therapist Gina emerged from the cool, dark interior with a questionnaire to determine my mind and body type, or dosha, which would influence her choice of massage oils. Was I Vata (air), Pitta (fire), or Kapha (earth)? I scored seven on the Vata scale, which apparently makes me slender and unfocused with quick movements.

The point isn’t to be one type, Gina explained, but a balance of all three. To lower my Vata, she recommended going easy on nuts and baked goods, eating more hot and spicy food and practising meditation. She ushered me into the dim massage room, where light filtered through hand-carved sandstone jali, and warmed two different oils, one for my skin and one for my hair, applying both liberally with long, smooth strokes. I emerged sleek as a seal, smelling of sesame, coconut and licorice.

Rather than letting me rush off, like a good Vata, Gina invited me to rest in a wooden lounger on the porch and sip some tea. As I relaxed, the muffled beat of the 10 a.m. aerobics class floated across the courtyard. I was glad I wasn’t there.

By now, the wellness centre was swarming with guests, each clutching his or her personalized daily schedule, arranged in advance after a phone or email consultation with wellness specialist Emilie Haldane. Whatever your body needs, from diet coaching to tips on how to de-stress your life, BodyHoliday has an expert to help. Schedules also allow couples with different interests—say he’s a marathon runner and she’s a book-loving beach bum—to schedule relaxation time together at the bar or beach.

In the air-conditioned gym, Felix the personal trainer prepared to put me through my paces, another BodyHoliday perk. He immediately zeroed in on my jelly-like inner thighs. “I knew it!” he crowed, when I could barely move my legs on the first machine. Weak adductors, he pronounced, requiring deep pliés and something called sumo squats. I fared slightly better on the other machines. To end the half-hour session, he took my arms as if to waltz, and commanded me to keep my chest up and out and my rib cage high. I now think of Felix daily as I glide through the streets of Toronto.

Ellie the osteopath found my off-kilter hips and legs fascinating, then offered to balance my sacrum. Um, sure! As I lay on my back, knees up, she slipped one hand under the base of my spine and held it there for a while, shifting her hand occasionally with the merest of movements. Though I didn’t feel anything at the time, I awoke pain-free for several weeks afterward.

I also returned home with glowing skin thanks to the Sea & Senses massage and facial. One moment the lovely young woman was massaging my back with her hands, the next she was tracing the same route with smooth heated stones. At one point I opened one eye to see her lifting a rubbery khaki-coloured seaweed mask from my face. What can I say . . . it works!

Beyond the Spa

Friday is sunset cruise night. About 150 of us piled on buses to nearby Rodney Bay and boarded a giant catamaran. Though I’ve never been a fan of booze cruises, after one rum punch I was singing the Black Eyed Peas’ anthem—I Gotta Feeling—at the top of my lungs and swaying on the dance floor to the DJ’s soca and reggae hits while female fitness instructors took turns shaking their taut little booties. The energizing night ended back at the resort with a torch-lit Caribbean barbecue on the beach featuring ribs and local mahi mahi.

The next morning, cruise mates nodded and smiled at one another in the bright Cariblue restaurant as we filled our plates at the buffet with fresh eggs and tropical fruit. The food here is fresh, healthy and varied, no precious “spa” fare. An award-winning pastry chef creates delectable desserts, and there’s a garden under construction. For a special treat, reserve a table overlooking the ocean at TAO, where east meets west in creative dishes like teriyaki flank steak with coriander gnocchi.

When it’s time to say goodbye, sip one last coconut juice on the beach and grab a chicken wrap at the open-air deli to eat on the flight home. South African general manager Mark Lyttleton-Frances promises Wi-Fi in the rooms soon (but no TV, ever!), and Canadian Club at the bar. He also notes that 65 per cent of BodyHoliday guests are repeat customers. Make that 65 plus one.

Insider’s tip:

Most Canadians visit in March and April when rates are lower, or look for last-minute deals throughout the year.

Travel Planner

For more information, visit thebodyholiday.com. Air Canada and WestJet offer non-stop service between Toronto and St. Lucia. It’s a 1.5-hour drive to the resort from the airport however helicopter service is also available. The minimum age for guests for most of the year is 16, dropping to 12 during the summer and holidays. Prices include a daily spa treatment (except on arrival and departure days), a sunset cruise and much more!

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