Mii amo Spa: Say aah to spa and health and wellness in Sedona, Arizona
By Kathy Chin Leong

In 1998, Mark Grenoble, CEO of the Enchantment Resort, and his staff envisioned a destination spa to take advantage of the scenic views of the red rocks of Sedona at the base of Boynton Canyon, a legendary site for healing and restoration according to the Yavapai-Apache Native Americans.

It would be the first of its kind in the country nested within a resort where spa guests would be invigorated and inspired while being coddled and cared for. By the time the architects were hired, permits okayed,  and the building materialized, it was 2001, and The Mii amo Spa at Enchantment was finally brought into being at a price tag of $16 million. 

In the 13 years since its inception, Mii Amo (which means passage or journey in Yavapai) has gained a reputation as one of the top destination spas in the world.  At a beatific 24,000 square feet, the size of many city museums, the spa features 16 elegant 16 guest quarters, 22 treatment rooms, a meditation grotto, library, restaurant, juice bar, fitness room, one indoor pool, one outdoor pool, organic garden, and gift shop. And while it is voluminous, the pillowed niches within and without encourage each participant to partake in her personal journey, free from noise and distraction.  

Mii amo is an all-inclusive resort requiring 3, 4, or 7-day stays called Journeys, in fact.  This includes three meals, two spa services daily, lodging, classes, and access to the services and facilities of the Enchantment Resort up the hill. Tips are not expected, except for spa treatments.  For double occupancy, a three-day package starts at $2,265, four-day beginning at $2,780, and a seven-day splurge runs a minimum of $4,655. Those rates can easily double, based on the type of room you want and whether you want to go solo. People who can spare only one or two days can stay at the Enchantment Resort and pay for a la carte spa services while attending the group spa programs free of charge.

Who, exactly are the Mii amo guests? First, the majority are women from their 40s to 60s. Many come from California, Arizona, and the East Coast, especially during the winter and spring. Some arrive solo, others with friends or spouses. I met an attorney from Palo Alto, Calif. in the women's Jacuzzi, who came for a girlfriend's getaway.  I met an overly stressed female CEO from Walnut Creek, California, happily admitting she was treating herself to a full seven-day journey. The 60-something grandmas from the morning hike came from Philadelphia. At the pool, I spied a couple in their 50s with their adult son, an exception, for sure.  At the cooking demo was a pair of mid-west newly weds who were having a tiff of some sort.  I knew this because he was looking very apologetic, fled to the bar, and came back with a cocktail for her which made Mrs. Newlywed smile.    

With only 14 rooms and two suites, Mii amo hosts a limited number of people so you are not heeding a cattle call when your name comes up for your massage. And, by the way, the treatments are pretty darn great, especially the signature Prickly Pear Butter Wrap which utilizes the local prickly pear in its massage oil.  I got giddy when the therapist brought me to a room with a wall of windows facing the red rocks and bluebird sky, again a reminder of how lucky I was to be in this visually arresting canyon.  

After a few hours here, I realized this is a place that satiates a sojourner's need for serenity and privacy, and if you are as gregarious as I am, you should keep your outgoing nature in check.   Overall, guests prefer to stick to themselves. Whenever I initiated a conversation with potential spa buddies, people and were willing to exchange a couple of pleasantries, but that was about it. A few times, I must have appeared like the girl desperate for friends because I got the leave-me-alone message when they whispered, "Well, it was nice meeting you."  Guests pay thousands to seek seclusion, including celebrities and politicians, and I guess I should have known most folks will not want to be disturbed.     

Here at Mii amo, the decor vibe is airy and modern with simple lines and curves, integrating a reddish clay color palette throughout.  The many windows reveal the star of the show, the orange red rocks of the Boynton Canyon that loom so large and seem so close you feel as though their giant arms are hugging the property. In fact, the entrance to the spa is ominous, in a good way. As my daughter walked up the steps, the towering, gray blue curved wall, flanked by a series of angular adobe walls of different depths, dwarfed her five-foot frame by more than three times. The facility matches the color of the sandstone canyon walls, variegated in orange reddish streaks, as if a giant child dragged his hand across a monolithic chalkboard.  

Once you go inside and check in with the desk staff, your eyes turn left, following the length of the spa down a single corridor broken up by a sculptured trio of giant black balls. A glass window at the end of the alleyway pays homage to the canyon walls outside.  Bisecting the corridor are doors that lead to spa treatment rooms, the path to the pools, the restaurant, and other services. Of course, the high ceilings are all about letting in the sunshine which intensifies the glory of the rock colors as the afternoon shifts to dusk.  

Each day at the spa offers up to 23 back-to-back classes with tracks for fitness, culinary, art, and cultural understanding. Together, these workshops and services and facilities addresses provide a relaxing atmosphere to unpack your worries.

The fascination I had with its healthy culinary focus is how my adult daughter, Gwen, and I  wound up here at Mii amo, two thousand miles away from home in the Bay Area.  On the culinary track are one-hour introductory courses on organic gardening, tea, and juicing. Guests can also attend cooking demos and wine tasting. While I'm not a junk food junkie, I know I could still get better when it comes to eating fewer calories and cooking with a nutritious purpose. 

If you have a penchant for art, sign up for vision board collage, watercolor, or photography. Those curious about the indigenous peoples can watch the Native American documentary or try playing the Native American flute. 

Being in Sedona, I was not surprised that there is a definite New Age thread to Mii Amo that weaves through many of the classes.  In the vision board course, we were to cut out and paste positive words and magazine photos to illustrate our life goals and desires. When each page was completed, the group outstretches hands over the artwork while the instructor had students repeat a blessing over it to have the themes manifested into being.

Meanwhile, Gwen stepped into her dance class thinking that they would learn a ballroom or jazz routine. She was soon surprised that the instructor had everyone spontaneously leap around to become elements of fire, wind, earth, and water.  "Mom, good thing you weren't there to see me," she joked.  "I would have been too embarrassed.  I'm glad I had dance background so I kind of knew what to do with my body." 

For those there primarily to boost physical health and well being, Mii Amo doesn't disappoint. The spa has recently hired a new director to build up the physical activity program so you can work up a hard sweat with higher intensity classes.  

Daily hikes with only up to six people can be rigorous and take participants off property to a nearby national forest.  Aqua aerobics, cardio tennis, and back exercises also draw folks who are taking time to work on themselves.

The culinary aspect of the program features cooking demos several times a week where you can learn some pretty cool techniques and shopping tips. The day I attended, Chef Cory demonstrated how to make avocado salsa, and I learned that an avocado is ripe the little divot on top is greenish in color.  And when he zested his limes for the aromatic  tequila lime shrimp recipe, he told us if you massage limes before you juice them, you will extract more liquid out of them.  

Attending a cooking demo requires early signups. I found it most advantageous to be in a class with less than ten other people, so we could ask all the questions we needed to and get an up close at the counter in front of the open kitchen.  

Since the spa does not use refined sugar or table salt, I discovered a myriad of ways to cook in a healthier manner. The spa also sells its cookbook Journey of Tastes in the gift shop. If you need personal attention, you can request  60 or 90 minutes with personal nutrition consultant. 

In fact, the spa's health and wellness department features experts who can offer other one-on-ones so you have all the privacy you need.  Want to burn more calories? An exercise physiologist is on hand to suggest how you can take fitness up to the next level. Need to cope better? Get advice on a women's cycle of life and obtain information on how herbs, nutrition, and an improved lifestyle can aid during natural changes in emotion and physique. 

Mii amo is one place that leads by healthy example. On the tables at the restaurant, not a speck of Morton's table salt is evident. Instead you'll find a 3-tiered oak box with natural salts such as Himalayan sea salt. On the menus are dishes such as seared salmon over organic greens and house made sorbets with calorie counts so you can keep track of your intake.  The chefs cook with olive oil using a sprayer instead of pouring from a bottle. Ten sprays, says Chef Cory, and is equivalent to a tablespoon. And they use only two sprays to coat a pan.   

And in the spa, the women's and men's lounge feature fruit infused waters and custom blended loose leaf teas. A fruit bowl is always replenished with fresh apples and oranges, which suited me just fine, as I grabbed apples to munch on while lounging poolside.

After my two day spa adventure here, I realized that tempering my eager beaver personality out of sheer necessity made my journey richer. I initially believed listening to the chefs and their cooking tips would make me healthier,  but I left learning that going inward, getting quiet, and listening to my own thoughts can get me on a path of self-understanding balance to make me a healthier person overall.     

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INFO:

Mii amo at Enchantment
525 Boynton Canyon Rd.,
Sedona, Arizona
888.749.2137; www.miiamo.com 


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