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New Age Health Spa

Fusion of fitness and spirituality

Cayuga Yoga and Meditation Center
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

If you are a Gothamite, the grounds at New Age Health Spa might remind you of yesteryear when city folk drove up to the Catskill Mountains in New York State to summer. The complex of white clapboard houses nestled close together on 280 acres off a suburban road reminds one of a farm, a not uncommon place to vacation two generations ago. In fact, as far back as the 1800s and into the 1920s the land where the spa sits was a large family farm.

Speculation has it that Henry Hudson on a trip to trade with the Indians named the rolling hills "Catskills.” In a bid to link with the past the separate buildings at New Age were named after tribes who lived here, geographical markers and historical events—Cayuga, Minisink, Unami, Seneca, Delaware, Mahican, Neversink, Lenape and Catskill.

The property having served as a resort and later as a juice fasting retreat was purchased 19 years ago by Stephanie Powers and her husband, escapees from the city, who transformed it for its present use. Despite its name the facility does not cater to practitioners of astrology, numerology, palmistry and channeling nor to crystal gazers, but to health and fitness buffs.

New Age is somewhat like a camp for adults. Bonding and easy comradery among a maximum of 72 guests happens quickly. Like all spas most guests are women. However, the lone man and the several husbands are comfortable in the environment and participate as much as their partners. In fact, throughout the year on special weekends, like Valentine"s Day, programs are set up for couples. An en suite treatment room allows husbands and wives to be massaged or partake of any of the restorative services at the same time.

Powers took her spa a step beyond by adding a strong core of classes focusing on the spiritual—yoga, mediation, tai chi and chi kung. She recognized that people needed to elevate their vacation experiences into something meanful so that they could return home not only changed and detoxed, but with more spiritual awareness.

Catskill Dining Room
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

The newest addition on the grounds is the airy redwood-lined Cayuga Yoga and Meditation Center. A magnificent structure with a triangular ceiling, heated floors, a golden Buddha, a grand stone hearth and tall windows, guests are invited to meditate and practice yoga on their own when class is not in session.

Five or six sessions incorporating Eastern healing practices might appear on a day"s schedule. Monthly weekend workshops are devoted to yoga and are staffed by visiting instructors as well as regular teachers.

Native American practices figure in the offerings, too. Native Sun Purification, a therapeutic treatment, is based Indian cleansing traditions. From April through November on nights when the moon is full the Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony, a practice usually found in the West, is conducted to cleanse the mind, body and spirit.

Days begin bright and early with 50-minute segments of silent meditation and aerobic walking followed by Hatha, Vini, or Kripalu yoga. Guest instructors might teach specialty yoga—Sivananda, Kundalini, Anusara, Vinyasa and Astanga. Breathing techniques are stressed in each form Teachers move around to help participants with the postures.
Following breakfast guests hustle back and forth all day among a variety of classes including stretch, boxing, aerobics, body conditioning, interval training, toning and pilates. Some of the best fitness instruction takes place in the pool and includes aerobics, pilates and ai chi, water exercise and relaxation techniques developed in Japan.

Anna Walsemann, Yoga Instructor
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

It was disappointing to find that during a yoga weekend, some of the post lunch hours were unscheduled or filled with a lectures about nutrition, juice preparation and tea brewing.

Outdoor winter adventure programs are on the schedule when snow conditions permit. Snowshoe hikes, a sport requiring no special skill, take place on the grounds. Cross country skiers glide on groomed forest and field trails. Equipment is provided for both. We were not aware of the activities and came ill prepared for snowshoeing. However, the instructor said that cross country boots could be substituted for our own waterproof boots.

In summer you can clamor up the 50-foot Alpine Tower, an adult jungle gym, using logs, rope ladders and handholds. Or you can go for the high-elements challenge course where the tasks include a zip line ride and jumping at the 30 feet up to catch a trapeze. Eco-Adventures are staged with full-day hikes to Minnewaska State Park and half-day ones to explore trails near the spa. Early morning bald eagle watches take place twice a week.

The pre-dinner day ends with guided mediation or Pranayama and deep relaxation or perhaps walking meditation in the outdoor maze. In the evening lecturers talk about wellness in the Sequoia lounge. The topics might be ridding the body of tension by using the Alexander Technique, or re-establishing balance in the body with NeuroEmotional Techniques.

Snowshoeing at New Age Spa
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

Personal restorative treatments range from several types of massages to facials, wraps and ayurveda. Introduced last year was Paradise Mountain Rain, combining a scrub and a mud bath. Mountain Rain products, a line that was custom developed for New Age, are used in the spa.

Simple and nutritious food is served in the rustic dining room. Both the food and the room have a farmhouse quality. The trend in spa dining is to allow the guest to decide for themselves how much they would like to eat. Breakfast is buffet-style. A large salad bar is offered at lunch and dinner. It"s your choice to select an entrée and to add bread, sweet potatoes, tofu, fruit and more if you wish. Many of the vegetables and herbs grow in a greenhouse on the grounds. The spa developed six blends of herbal teas by combining several flavorful essences in each. They are available to take home.

Six-day seasonal juice fasts are an option for quick weight loss. A juice fast weekend has been added for June. While guests are free to undertake the fast on their own at any time, the support from like-minded guests and staff is helpful to the program"s success. A five-night program for healthy weight loss takes place in August, 2005.

Just as in the dining room, the other spaces--lounges, living rooms and library--are country-style with simple furnishings. Collections of Native American and Eastern artifacts—drawings, paintings, weaving, masks, framed coins, Buddahs, a totem pole and photographs decorate every room.

There are four categories of rooms. Some are merely small, serviceable, and motelike with narrow showers. The better rooms are larger and have whirlpool tubs.

Despite the modest environment, New Age Spa has won several awards from Spa Finder magazine—best small spa, best value and best yoga and spiritual programs. New Age is one of only four members located in the Northeast who belong to the Destination Spa Group. Most guests are from New York City, a two- and one-half hour drive.

New Age Health Spa, PO Box 658, Route 55, Neversink, NY 12765. Tel. 800-682-4348. http://www.newagehealthspa.com

Spring, 2005