Spas: Lotus Blossoms

Ten years ago, when John Cancro worked as a commercial leasing broker in his native New York City, he was a self-described “meaner, nastier person.” Moving out of the city to Taos, N.M., helped to improve his disposition, he says, but his discovery of yoga completed his transition to the kinder, more reflective soul that he is today.
 
Like most devotees, Cancro initially discovered yoga through Asana, the practice of yoga positions, which offers the physical benefits of increased strength and flexibility. But with an underlying philosophy that incorporates ethics, altruism, and other virtues, yoga is intended to enhance the entire person—mind, spirit, and body. “Yoga is very grounding,” says Cancro, who still works in the real estate business, as a broker, but also serves as a yoga instructor at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa in Taos. “The more grounded you are, the more calm, centered, peaceful, and successful you are—in all aspects of your life.”
 
Through programs that are customized for each guest, Cancro and fellow El Monte Sagrado instructor Ed Moffett present both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. “There is no right or wrong yoga style,” says spa director Amy McDonald. “The perfect practice is what gets you out of your head—and into your heart.”

Prior to guests’ arrival, McDonald queries them about their goals and then creates suitable yoga programs—often complementing the sessions with Cancro and Moffett with spa treatments. “For a lot of men, it’s intimidating even to take a yoga class,” says Moffett, a master yogi who trained in India with the renowned B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of the Iyengar method of yoga, which stresses the precise execution of postures. “Men have so much armor to get through,” he adds. “They either beat up on themselves for being stiff and out of shape, or they are very aggressive and competitive, trying to hold postures longer than anyone else in the room, and are totally in their heads.”

The differences between the teaching styles of the two instructors indicate the breadth of programs offered by El Monte Sagrado. Cancro uses yoga mats and blocks, emphasizes alignment and technique, and matches personalities to yoga disciplines—from the intense Ashtanga form to the more flowing Vinyasa. Moffett incorporates the resort’s natural surroundings into his classes and encourages individual expression, despite his Iyengar training. In his free-form “jazz yoga” program, Moffett leads a guest on a hike into the mountains and stops at any one of many remote scenic spots, where he moves and twists into yogalike postures. “Go with what your body feels,” he says and then is silent, offering no further instructions. Following the session, Moffett gives an in-room, two- to four-hour Applied Yoga Bone Cleaning massage. The treatment stimulates deep-pressure points as he selects and works on individual muscles where he senses tension; he may spend an hour on one muscle before moving to the next one. “[The massage] opens the body in a way similar to physical yoga,” says Moffett, “but on the deepest cellular level.”

El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, 800.828.8267, www.elmontesagrado.com

Photo by Oli Tennent
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