As the sun rises over the Santa Catalina Mountains, and I stretch out into different yoga poses, I’m encouraged to ‘focus on the present moment’ – something I tend to struggle with. Yet after a few days, I feel myself switching off. Aside from fitness and relaxing Western, Asian and Ayurvedic treatments, activities here at Canyon Ranch include fire-making, animal- tracking and painting the Sonoran Desert, plus lectures on health and holistic healing.
But what interests me the most is the Equine Inspirations workshop, created and run by Allan Hamilton, Harvard-trained brain surgeon and author of award-winning book Zen Mind, Zen Horse (Storey Publishing, £16.99). Working with horses, we’re encouraged to use the right (intuitive) half of our brains – which, in the West, often goes underused – instead of the (analytical) left half. I was asked to point a whip at Pepper’s flank and make her move just using body language. I initially resisted, thinking that I’d distress her if I was too aggressive, but was advised by Dr Hamilton that I need only focus on my overarching objective – to get her to move – and to leave my emotions out of it.
This struck a chord with me, as I am often reluctant to assert myself when dealing with difficult people, for fear of coming across negatively. The workshop provides a fascinating insight into how we communicate using body language and how our emotions can hold sway over our actions if we let them.
I followed this with the Rite of Passage, which focuses on relinquishing the past and embracing the future. After a brief consultation, I’m led to a circle of cards, arranged like spokes on a wheel, each bearing abstract, fantastical images. I’m told to walk around the circle a few times and select a card I feel most drawn to. Some symbolise what I want to let go of, others, things I want to embrace. The one I pick has a quote from the Sufi poet Rumi: ‘The more you strive to reach the place of splendour, the more the invisible angels will help you.’
‘You have a lot of spiritual support, remember to always use it,’ my guide Julie advises. Her words stay with me several months after I have left the ranch, as does my intention to be more assertive and more mindful.
Healing Holidays (healingholidays.co.uk) has 4 nights at Canyon Ranch (canyonranch.com) from £3,165 pp sharing a deluxe room, including accommodation, flights, transfers, full board, £392 spa credit, daily activities, talks and classes. Equine Inspirations costs £225 for 1 hour and the Rite of Passage is £130 for 50 minutes.
Words: Viola Levy