Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent some time at the Miraval Resort (https://www.miravalresorts.com) in Austin, Texas and was blown away by the facilities, classes—everything from yoga to meditation to line dancing to Texas two-step– and the mindfulness philosophy that imbued everything from the food selections, rooms, and device rules.
I arrived home ready to revamp my life with a commitment to attending daily yoga classes, trying to find affordable massage, and moving way, way outside my comfort zone to sign up for dance classes. Also, I planned to keep my phone on do not disturb for most of the day. Like everyone else, my plans were upended. Studios shut down, everyday life ground to a halt, suffocating anxiety replaced my calm, and I ended up glued to my phone for every terrifying update.
Not ready to give up on the life-changing experience, I am working on bringing “Miraval Mode” home, and while it is more challenging to get up and meditate when I know the dishwasher has to be unloaded and I can hear my kids home from college setting up their Zoom lectures, I am trying to do at least two activities every day and I always feels a little more grounded after I am done.
So here is my best-of-Miraval quick start guide…everything (except the wonderful buffet of fresh, healthy food and chef-created entrees) that I loved and that I’m re-creating at home.
Find a morning meditation online, many are as short as 10 minutes. Get comfortable, light a candle, and give yourself up to the NOW. Something that I learned is that you do not have to be uncomfortable to meditate—Miraval offered nifty seats that had a back or cushions, I’ve macguyver’d my own seat with a cushion against the sofa for my back support.
Follow along to a Youtube yoga practice. I love that I can search for a specific level or area of concern and find a video. If for some reason, you don’t gel with your first selection, try another. There are many talented yoga instructors, and it’s worth finding one who speaks to you. Many studios are uploading videos to Facebook or making classes available on Zoom, too. Find a studio or teacher that you like? Consider buying an online gift card or, if available, making an online donation.
Update: If you follow aspirational wellness sites like Goop or Poosh, you can get emails that alert you to free virtual wellness classes they are sponsoring. I found Love yoga, based in Venice, CA (https://www.loveyogaspace.com) and followed the studio; their virtual class passes are extremely reasonable at $6 a class and I get emails directly from the studio about free classes they are offering. Following studios or practitioners on Instagram will not only give you daily inspiration, but often free Instagram Live classes!
Create a labyrinth, inside or out. The purpose of a labyrinth is for mindful wandering. Start with an intention (or mantra) and keep your mind focused on that as you walk the path. Searching “labyrinths near me” may give you access to formal labyrinths, but it’s really the mindfulness that makes the exercise purposeful, so try these suggestions for in-home models.
If you have access to an uncrowded path through a forest, you can apply the same intention and enjoy Shinrin Yoku (or forest bathing). For an indoor labyrinth, you can use throw pillows or couch cushions (or stuffed animals for the wee ones). Outside you can use rocks or sticks lying around the yard or outdoor cushions. Indoors or out, the path should create a spiral with a center. Whether it’s a lack of room, bad weather, or you don’t want the neighbors watching you, when it’s not possible to create a physical labyrinth, you can trace a world-famous labyrinth with your finger.( https://zdi1.zd-cms.com/cms/res/files/382/ClassicalLabyrinth.pdf) Walk (or trace) the path and observe how your mind turns over the thoughts about your intention or mantra
Try a sound bath! There are many varieties available on Youtube, and you can choose from crystal bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, and some include the human voice. Lie down comfortably, a bolster or pillow under your knees can relieve some lower back pain, and listen. Our bodies are mostly water and we know that sound waves can move water, so lie back and observe its affect on you. Maybe you’re profoundly moved, or you think it’s a bunch of nonsense, but it’s a very relaxing way to spend some time.
Remember Eat, Pray, Love ? I began to read the book when it first came out in 2006, and can still remember putting it away in disgust (or jealousy) because I wanted to be a centered, joyful being, but with 4 kids aged three to ten, disappearing for a year was not in my grasp or even what I wanted. I wished I had stuck with it, or maybe it’s that those kids are mostly grown now and I can have a moment to myself to think, but re-reading (and finishing it) resonated with me on my trip to Miraval. I rewatched the movie, too, so if you only have an afternoon, enjoy it, but the book delves into the spiritual side more deeply and, I think, a little more gracefully. Come to think of it, re-reading the Pray section from her time in India would be a great way to snag some drive-by spirituality.
Massages are amazing, but in the #stayathome lifestyle, probably not professionally available. The internet to the rescue, of course, because you can Google articles and Youtube videos for massage tutorials (both for yourself and for others.) I wouldn’t get hung up on deep tissue massage techniques. The most amazing Ayurvedic treatment I’ve enjoyed was a heated oil massage that employed nothing more technical than firm strokes. I’d leave trigger point releases to the professionals.
Baths are an old standby for self-care and relaxation. If you are out of bath bombs, don’t fret. Epsom salt baths are known for their relaxation and relief of muscle soreness, and, best of all, available at the grocery store or pharmacy (and I don’t think they have been on the hoarders’ panic-buying list!) I’m not a fan of adding oil to the bath because I think it makes the bathtub hard to clean, but as long as I don’t have to clean your tub, add a few drops if you’d like. To dial in the retreat experience, make sure you have a big, fluffy towel within easy reach, lay out the lotion or body oil, dim or turn off the overhead lights, light some candles, pour a glass of wine (or non-alcoholic tonic—try cooled mint tea, lemon water, or sparkling water with a splash of juice), and cue some “spa music” or “relaxing music” on your Spotify search or maybe play a sound bath video on Youtube.
Floating in the water with the flickering candlelight and the relaxing sounds in the background so wholly absorbs the senses that it easy to slip into mindfulness and enjoy the present without worry about what is going on outside the bathroom door for a few minutes. Then my new favorite thing to do after a warm bath is to jump into a cool shower for just a minute or two before I dry off and apply lotion.
Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleeping, is a great way to wind down, but it’s not really sleeping. It’s a very relaxing guided meditation and I find it a great way to close the cabinet drawers of my mind before bed—for the paperless generation, it’s a way to close all the tabs that are open and get that music to shut off. Again, there are many Youtube practices that will guide you, in addition to Apps for yoga or meditation that will have a Nidra component. You simply lie on the floor (a bolster or pillow under your knees is great to release your lower back) and follow the guided meditation and work on your breath—And can I tell you how much I love closing my eyes and breathing with the virtuous halo of, “I’m not vegging out, I’m practicing yoga!”
Let’s stay sane, let’s stay kind to ourselves and others, and let’s stay home!