Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 20, 2021
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Desert Healer

Canyon Ranch -- a spa where the doctors doctor the doctors?

Excuses for breaking New Year's resolutions run rampant this time of the year, especially when our physical well-being is concerned. Too busy. Too many obligations. No time. No energy.

So we continue sitting at our desks at work, on couches at home and in cars, planes and trains while in transit. The less we move, the less attentive we are to our body's needs. This vicious cycle traps us -- the less we do for our body, the less energy we have. If only we could walk into a place that could break this cycle within a few days, look at all the facets of our lives, offer suggestions for improvement and send us off, body strengthened, mind challenged, spirit nourished.

Look no further than Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Tucked into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains is a resort that monitors your health and looks after you for a change.

I first visited Canyon Ranch three years ago and was returning for the functional medicine package. I brought with me a list of persistent joint weaknesses and some proactive concerns about my frenetic work schedule. After seven days I was sent home with all the necessary tools: corrective work for my knees, an in-depth functional medicine assessment and a strengthening/cardio routine tailored to my varied work environments.

I started treatment by breathing into my knee. This joint grows painful during strenuous activity because the patella sits out of its groove. Breathing helps to focus on the pain and move beyond it. As simple as opening up the lungs, the internal process of breathing is the link between mind and body.

From the inside out
Rated the number one North American spa, Canyon Ranch sells more than facials, massages and fitness classes. Seven departments of health and healing, all overseen by a doctor, offer unique approaches to whatever situation guests want to focus on, be it a physical difficulty or a time-restrained schedule. From nutrition and exercise physiology to movement therapy and spiritual awareness, these departments work together to design a program that gives you options. It's an integrated approach with alternative and Western medicine combined in one centre.

A program coordinator will book your private sessions before you arrive. This helps plan your visit, gives you a kick-start on your first day and ensures a space for the services you want to try. Certain instructors are in demand and their schedules fill up fast. The same goes for spa services. I was fortunate to secure an evening time slot for Watsu and Wassertanzen, treatments that use water support to take weight off the vertebrae and relax the spine in ways not possible on land. Using stretching, bending, pressure-point work and massage, the therapist moves you through water creating a free, relaxed state. Wassertanzen, performed underwater, is the ultimate experience.

Canyon Ranch is not only technique-oriented. Restorative yoga, meditation and breathing classes are geared toward relaxation. The spirit walk and birding walks are both quiet strolls through the serene desert. Spa services include Swedish massage, Parisian body polish and desert-meets-ocean potion.

To round out the educational component, Canyon Ranch offers workshops and lectures throughout the day. There are also healthful cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen, hands-on craft workshops in the creative arts centre and indoor and outdoor fitness activities.

Canyon Ranch is a place where you can relax and feel at home. A selection of teas and fruit baskets is available throughout the buildings. The rooms are spread out in the peaceful Sonoran desert landscape. You can walk the grounds in your housecoat and slippers, order a takeout lunch to eat in one of the rock or sculpture gardens and take your evening tea in front of the fireplace during an evening concert. If you enjoyed a meal in the dining room, the recipe will be sent to you.

There are so many classes to try and lectures to attend; you can spend the entire day going from one to another. It all depends on the experience you want. If you don't have a specific area of interest, there are a variety of options to choose from. There are special health packages (optimal aging, menopause management, smoking cessation), medical, alternative and diagnostic services (24-hour blood pressure monitoring, osteoporosis and bone density evaluation, neuromuscular therapy) and behavioural health strategies (memory assessment and enhancement, sleep disorders, music and sound therapy). I suggest meeting with professionals in the different departments, areas you may not have considered before, just to see if something new might appeal to you and suit your lifestyle requirements and time constraints.

Although Canyon Ranch offers weekend packages, if you can, spend more time here on your first visit. It takes a few days to integrate all the suggestions and a few more before they become your own. Once you reach that stage, they're easier to implement when you return to your regular schedule. Then you'll better hear your body calling and taking care of yourself will come more naturally.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.