Participating in a late morning yoga class was how I decided to begin my day at The Standard Spa (www.standardhotels.com) in South Beach, Florida. What I didn't realize is I'd signed up for Ashtanga yoga - apparently the most kick-ass form of the practice. I'm no yoga neophyte but I could tell from the first Sun Salute that I was out of my league. There is some serious yoga going on here.
Of the forty or more classes a week offered daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ashtanga is "one of the most advanced styles," explains instructor Loren Russo. It includes "very precise movements and asanas." Russo studied Ashtango in India and has spent the last 17 years practicing and the last seven teaching. She is one of a handful of excellent instructors who are part of the yoga and other program offered here. By the end of the 90-minute class, I am thrilled to melt into the Corpse Pose.
The only hotel on the residential island of Belle Isle (on the quieter side South Beach) the 105-room Standard is more spa than hotel. With fitness and lifestyle classes, an extensive menu of treatments, a significant wet area and a healthy cuisine philosophy (find out more here) inspired by spa chef Mark Zeitouni, it falls into the category of healthy and wellness spa. Or, as their extensive spa menu reads: "a holistic and hydrotherapy oriented spa hotel inspired by global bathing cultures, self-teaching and healing." Operations manager, Dennis Stovall, says they see themselves as a "spa with hotel rooms."
The centerpiece of The Standard is the co-ed hammam, perhaps the largest authentic hammam in the region. Inside, it's cooler than I'd expected. Stovall calls it a "soft heat." He says, "you feel cozy, not overheated and you can easily fall sleep here." As tempting as napping sounds, I opt for one of the signature (and most popular) treatments - the Hammam Rub and Scrub (30 minutes for $75 U.S.) administered by a therapist as I lay on one of the tiered marble steps.
For those who prefer more privacy for their scrubs, there are treatment rooms inside the hammam. Other features include a cedar sauna, a steam room (with steam as thick as asparagus soup) a bank of showers-in-the-round, ice cold rain showers and several steel soaker tubs large enough for two. In the centre of the hammam, towels, lemon water and apples are set out for guests to help themselves. Beyond the wet area, you'll find ten treatment rooms including three spa suites for twosomes, a mani-pedi area and a small hair salon.
Outside, a café, swimming pool, cold plunge, a Roman waterfall hot tub and comfortable lounge chairs allow guests to relax while gazing out across Biscayne Bay and the Miami Design District in the distance.
One of the more distinctive ways the spa encourages guests to explore the do-it-yourself, curative effects of water and mud is with the open-air Mud Lounge. Here, in a semi-private area just steps from the swimming pool, guests can self-apply one of several therapeutic muds, let it dry as they bask in the sun, then wash it off with a high-pressure Scott hose or in an outdoor soaker tub.
Like other health and fitness spas, The Standard offers an extensive list of treatments, classes, workshops and consultations. Programming topics touch on everything from spirituality to sexuality, art to science and everything in between. It's also the site of many health, wellness and yoga-themed retreats.
The environment isn't ritzy. Think vintage Art Deco furniture and funky pieces such as a front lobby desk fashioned from a mega piece of driftwood. It's a homey environment where guests feel comfy walking around in white waffle spa robes and slippers - even in the lobby.
For more on the Standard Spa in Miami, go to: www.standardhotels.com.
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Anne DimonTravel to Wellness is a website dedicated to spa + wellness-minded travel around the world. Go to TravelToWellness.com for more great spa + wellness articles.
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