SPIRITUAL EXPLORATION classes at destination spas hold a special appeal for young professionals seeking a healthier approach to life. These busy men and women have learned that internally focused exercises, such as yoga and chi gong, lead to a sense of well- being beyond that attained from a workout routine.
Concentration, controlled breathing and different postures help the mind and body integrate to reach an inner spiritual core. Body awareness increases, and thinking patterns change. Energy begins to flow freely, relieving tension and strain.
"Balance comes into hectic lives as stress, pain and emotional blockages disappear," explains Dan Howard, an instructor of the ancient healing arts.
Long-term benefits range from lower blood pressure and increased strength and flexibility to coping better in daily life. Practitioners often report more patience with their children, spouses and colleagues or a longer attention span for absorbing information beyond sound bites.
Rave reviews in the media have enticed many young people in fit condition to practice astranga, a power yoga from India. Embraced by Madonna and other celebrities, astranga features a series of interconnected yoga postures, intense enough to take the heart to aerobic training range. Masters of this technique combine a steady heart rate with highly efficient breathing so the body relaxes and performs more effectively.
Those who prefer a gentler activity often enroll in chi gong. This Chinese approach to yoga focuses on emotional and spiritual restoration rather than gymnastic-level intensity. Pupils use slow, flowing movements and regulated breath to energize, oxygenate and calm the nervous system. One class provides enough instruction for 20 minutes of daily exercise at home.
Regardless of the method used, mental and physical health improves. "Spiritual exploration really works," says Howard. "That's why it's been around for centuries."