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This New Retreat Near Palm Springs Is an Indulgent Way to Wellness

Larry Ellison’s Sensei Porcupine Creek arrives in California’s Santa Rosa Mountains with cutting-edge treatments and cosseting comforts.

Sensei Porcupine Creek Tanveer Badal

I was roughly 10 minutes into an all-out sprint on a futuristic treadmill when Nick Russo, Sensei Porcupine Creek’s exercise science and sports performance guide, notched the machine up another half-grade of incline. At this point I was running seven-plus miles an hour at a fairly steep gradient, wearing an oxygen-measuring mask and, well, trying not to die. 

This is luxury, you might ask? In point of fact: very much so. The VO2 max test I was participating in was just one of a suite of such exams administered by Sensei’s incredibly attentive, highly qualified and unfailingly polite staff as part of its Guided Wellness Experience. Sensei Porcupine Creek, the second addition to the Sensei portfolio—the first was Sensei Lanai in Hawaii—opened last month as a sort of wellness retreat on steroids. It comes complete with the type of five-star amenities one typically expects to find at a Four Seasons straddling the Bosphorus, or a Peninsula overlooking an opera house—not at a facility whose approach to holistic health integrates reams of empirical, scientific research and cutting-edge technologies into a program involving yoga, sports medicine, personal training and more. This is wellness meets Nobu.

Sensei Porcupine Creek
Sensei Porcupine Creek Tanveer Badal

Quite literally, as a matter of fact. In a secluded corner of California’s Santa Rosa Mountains in Rancho Mirage, spread across 230 beautifully manicured acres dotted with sculptures by the likes of Keith Haring, you’ll find some of the finest private golf courses in the state, multiple tennis courts with a first-class lodge, 22 handsomely appointed rooms and villas and two restaurants from other than chef Nobu Matsuhisa himself. (Over a two-day stay, I was fed so much fresh, delicious sushi that I will never be able to dine on Sugarfish again without pangs of longing.)

While I’m fairly new to the wellness space, I do consider myself a dedicated “worker-outer”—I won’t say “athlete” because this would imply a competence in ball sports that I distinctly lack—and I was curious to test the full complement of Sensei’s programming. The Guided Wellness experience promised “the ideal setting to identify your personal goals and develop practices that benefit you for a lifetime,” complete with a pre-arrival specialist, a Sensei Guide and wellness practitioners “to improve your practices around the paths of Move, Nourish and Rest.” Uh oh, I thought — a mantra. Scary things have mantras — like state religions, political parties, and world-dominating tech conglomerates. 

But I was quickly put at ease by the staff: Nick, who helped me choose my wellness objectives and evaluated my stay on the last morning, has an alphabet’s soup of sports medicine and physical therapy licenses. Alex Lugani, who led my guided one-one-one meditation, spent several years in the Marine Corps, is a licensed pilot, lived in South America and boxes. He is most definitely not the type of dude one wants to mess with, but—much to my amazement—here he was, eyes closed, calm as a monk, convincing me that meditation does indeed deserve a place in an active person’s lifestyle.

Stopher Wong, who stretched my every muscle on a secluded massage table as part of something called “Table Thai” that I most definitely recommend, has been practicing bodywork for 30 years—and it shows. Meanwhile, Resaleen Maurer, who took thermal images of my body with what looked like a giant’s webcam before administering a deep tissue massage, comes from a family of bodyworkers—both of her parents practice the art.

“All of our guides and practitioners come from such different backgrounds and bring an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to the table, which the guests all get to benefit from greatly,” said the aforementioned Nick, who guided me through my stay. “As impressive as they all are at their practice, I think the most special thing isn’t just the knowledge they have, but how much they love sharing it.”

A room at Sensei Porcupine Creek
A room at Sensei Porcupine Creek Tanveer Badal

Of course, such an intensive regimen of physical activity and sports medicine—interspersed as it may be with yoga and meditation—necessitates some balance with serene surroundings. The Estate Room I stayed in was almost laughably luxurious, with a rain shower and soaking tub, one of those fancy Japanese smart toilets, a Crestron-type system to control lighting and blinds and much more square footage than my one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. 

Despite having been open for just a few weeks prior to my stay, there was very little that could have been improved upon. If you’re in search of a wellness experience — and you’re truly willing to work for results—that goes above and beyond what’s typical of such retreats and offers true luxury service and amenities, then look no further. You could, of course, simply come here to play one hell of a round of golf, and no one would blame you…

But I think that would be missing the point.

Sensei Porcupine Creek’s Guided Wellness Experience offers doubles from $1,475 per person per night, three-night minimum, including an assortment of wellbeing classes, an orientation session with a Sensei Guide, two 90-minute spa treatments and more.

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