The final stop on my road trip before returning to home base in Colorado was Santa Fe, NM. Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at an elevation of just over 7000 feet, the area has been inhabited by First Nations people for thousands of years. The Spaniards founded a mission in the late 1500’s and used the growing city as a launching point for the Camino Real, the route that paved their religious and colonial expansion into the Americas. The city is renowned for its pueblo style adobe buildings and a thriving art scene, permeated with Native American spirituality and culture.
The central plaza is ringed by world-class art galleries, Michelin – starred restaurants and the oldest state capital in the United States, dating from the early 1600’s. Santa Fe is one of my favorite cities, with its distinctive architecture, unique blend of native and colonial culture and stunning geography. It’s also a deeply spiritual place that has inspired artisans and mystics for many years. Not surprisingly, there’s a plethora of yoga available.
Still sluggish from the gastronomic hedonism associated with the holiday, I made my way to the Santa Fe Community Yoga Center. For over twenty years, SFCYC has been providing affordable classes to the community. Middle and high school students can attend studio classes for free and there’s a program in place that sends teachers into local schools to teach asana and meditation. Based on the vision of its late founder Michael Maytrea Hopp, SFCYC promotes itself as a holistic health and wellness center available to all. There are over 35 classes per week, in a myriad of styles, many of them donation based.
I thought it might be a good idea to move and sweat a bit and chose a late afternoon Vinyasa 1/2 class. I was secretly pleased when the woman at the front desk told me she that she would be subbing for the regular teacher and asked if I would I mind a more Yin style flow. The class turned out to be really apt; it was slow with long holds of poses and mindful breathwork. I appreciated her calming presence and was inspired by her flexibility in spite of her advanced years.
The only thing I like more than a good meal after yoga, is a good soak, and when the two combine, I’m ecstatic. I was invited to Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese style hot tub resort located about ten miles outside of town, for dinner and a late night soak (www.tenthousandwaves.com).
Sitting crossed legged on a tatami mat, we feasted on tart pickled lotus root and radish, fresh tofu swimming in a umami broth and rice delightfully packaged into triangles, surrounded by seaweed and topped with sesame seeds.
I washed it all down with a flight of artisanal microbrew sake, one of the specialities of the on – site restaurant, Izanami. As a guest of one of the employees of the spa, the entire meal was deeply discounted, and entrance to the spa was free! We were given a key to a private outdoor tub, replete with its own changing room. For several hours under the brilliant night sky, I sat in the illuminated pool and let the rush of steaming water sooth my body and spirit. I sweated out all alcohol in the delicious heat of the Swedish style sauna and marveled at my good karma.
I spent the next day hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest and the evening running around the fantastical interactive nonsense that is Meow Wolf (www.meowwolf.com). Located in a former bowling alley, Meow Wolf is an immersive art installation that is part children’s playground, part adult wonderland and a whole barrel of laughs. It’s strange and beautiful and a testament to the visionary tenacity of the local arts/Burning Man community. I was fortunate enough that a well known production company was putting on an electronica show that night. Two separate dance spaces kept the sea of freaks gyrating until the early morning. In the main venue, surrounded by bizarre and wondrous expressions of creative madness, Desert Hearts pumped out thumping dance tracks. Inside the living room of the interactive house where hidden passages lurk behind doors, Team Everything threw a ‘house party’ truly like no other.
Cracked out from lack of sleep and party treats, I begrudgingly forced myself to go to a yoga class the following afternoon. Voted Santa Fe’s favorite studio, YogaSource with its two locations, had a profusion of options for me to choose from. I decided upon an Iyengar class in their San Mateo location. The studio itself was warm and welcoming, with adobe walls and a smooth polished wooden floor. An open back door let in a gentle breeze and permeated the air with the scent of sunshine.
The class was taught by a very experienced older woman, who brought precise understanding of anatomy and alignment to the practice. I happen to really like Iyengar, with its emphasis on extensive use of props and long holds. We spent much of the class suspended from the belts attached to the wall, using gravity as a means of getting deeper into each posture. It was the perfect panacea for my tired feet and sore muscles. A welcome respite for my monkey mind still spinning with visions of whimsical creatures, trap doors and trick ponies.
Ravenously hungry and needing to power up before the drive back to Colorado, I met my friend for all – you – can – eat buffet at India House (2501 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 875). For $12.95 I gorged myself on samosas and pakora dunked in yoghurt sauce and mint chutney. I piled my plate high with saffron rice, dal (lentils), curried vegetables and naan. I went back for a helping of saag paneer (spinach and cheese) and aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), and shamelessly grabbed a second serving of khir – rosewater and cardamom flavored rice pudding – before they shut the buffet.
Emotional from parting with good company and gastronomic delights, I fired up the van and set a course for home, wondering where the winds would next take me…..
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