Turtle Bunbury

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Mision del Sol, Mexico: Quatro Manos Pleasure for Body & Soul

For several decades, the Western world has been gradually acquainting itself with the weird and wonderful therapies of the East - with yoga and tai-chi, with shiatsu and acupuncture, and so forth. The initial sceptism has died away amid a growing realisation that these ancient methods of relaxation actually work. Today, there is barely a town in Ireland that does not offer some form of new age meditation or massage therapy to the stressed and fatigued amongst us.

And now, I believe, the 21st century will bring to us a new age of hotels and spas dedicated to fighting off stress and enhancing human awareness. Among those hailed as the pioneer of this welcome new dawn is the Misión del Sol Resort & Spa, located some 50 miles south of smog-ridden Mexico City at Cuernavaca, "the City of Eternal Spring". Since it first opened in 1996, the Misión del Sol has been cleaning up when it comes to the International Health World's award ceremonies. And rightly so too.

The concept of a German lady named Renata, the Misión del Sol set out to be the leader of the pack from the outset. Taking as its cue the natural relationship between man and his environment, the resort was designed with the local ecology in mind. The buildings were created using bio-degradable products such as wood, stone and adobe. State-of-the-art water purification and recycling systems were incorporated into the structure.

Indeed, the concept is taken so far as to encourage all visitors to wear light-hued clothes of natural fibres "to contribute to the harmonious flow of energy" in the resort.

In many ways, the Resort's architectural prowess plays second fiddle to the Spa's spiritual aims. The emphasis is not so much on the comfort of the bedrooms (even though they are exceptional) but on the range of services, exercises and treatments on offer from the Spa to help guests relax, improve their health and generally experience a sense of well-being.

The Misión del Sol has every intention of alternatively pampering and beating you up so that you will leave with a spring in your stride, a song in your heart and a healthy determination to get all your coughing, spluttering, stressed out amigos to check in asap.

Basically what you get is a menu offering, as a starter, a chance to understand what the Mision del Sol and its ilk are aiming at. This involves several workshops, conferences and exhibitions on art, science, healthcare and human affairs.

The main course includes numerous different types of massage, body wraps, facial treatments and scrubs, as well as special services like the Temazcal (a prehispanic sweat bath), Janzu (a stress-relieving Japanese water treatment) and photo-therapy.

For pudding one is given a further list of possible head and body cleaners: principally meditation sessions, yoga and tai-chi, complimented by a well equipped gym, aerobics, aquaerobics, and outdoor activities such as tennis, paddle tennis and intriguing walks.

And, if you're not full by that stage, you should proceed to the Misión del Sol highly acclaimed restaurant where the principally vegetarian food is designed to impress even the most die-hard of carnivores, while simultaneously following the stated aims of purifying the body and improving the energy and vitality of the mind.

The resort offers numerous packages for visitors, although one would be advised to stay at least three nights if one is to feel any of the benefits. My personal feeling is that if you're not feeling utterly relaxed within a couple of days, you're never ever going to be able to chill. But in the unlikely event that you're feeling itchy of foot or claustrophobic, the resort does offer excursions beyond the confines of its 7-acre enclave. The more energetic may wish to try their navigational skills on a kayak or climb to see the pyramid atop Tepozotec mountain; others might prefer tango-dancing on the deck of the Tequesquitengo Fiesta Boat or touring the celebrated silver mining town of Taxco.

At the moment, the Mision del Sol has no equivalent in Ireland. Which, I reckon, is just as well. Because it means you have to go to Mexico. And you should. Mexico is a vast and beautiful country, peppered with ancient Aztec and Mayan ruins, lined on either side by thousands of miles of sumptuous coastline, a nation of man-eating emperors, callous conquistadors and revolutionary martyrs, of tortillas and Trotsky, of avocado orchards and Jennifer Lopez. If you can combine a trip to Mexico with a visit to a Spa that guarantees to leave you with skin smooth as velvet, an abdomen flat as a surfboard and a head merry as a marriage bell, then … well, why wouldn't you?

Misión del Sol offers upwards of 40 different methods of improving your state of physical and mental well being. Facial treatments, massages, body treatments, exfoliating treatments, miscellaneous therapies, manicures, pedicures, hair-cuts, you name it. A short synopsis of some of these follows:

This technique, also known as acupressure, uses the traditional points of Chinese acupuncture. Instead of needles, pressure is applied with the thumb and the palm of the hand. Massage is applied to reinforce articulations and muscles, and to improve the energy flow through the meridians and nervous system of the body.

Temazcal Sweat Bath
Therapeutic and healing sweat bath stemming from traditional Aztec medicine, aimed at purifying body and soul. People seat inside a chamber where heat is created by sprinkling hot volcanic stones with water and herbs such as rosemary, rue and basil. Sweating helps in detoxifying the body, cleans the respiratory system and induces total relaxation. Not recommended for persons with heart ailments, low blood pressure or claustrophobia.

Fangoterapia Reafirmante
The whole body is covered in volcanic mud to restore tissue firmness.

Quatro Manos Stimulating Massage
Two therapists use different stimulating and relaxing techniques in a synchronised manner to enhance the nervous and lymphatic system. That's one way of putting it. Another is that it'll give you a hard on that won't subsume till Wednesday week.

Misión Del Sol Resort & Spa - Un Espacio De Luz, Av. Gral. Diego Diaz Gonzalez 31,
Col. Parres 62550, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
Tel: (+52-7) 321 0999
Fax: (+52-7) 321 1195