Lingering on Longboat Key

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“Use the energy of the dolphins,” the yoga instructor said as I wheeled my right arm over my head, an elbow wedged into my bent knee and my legs in warrior stance.

Normally the phrase might evoke a laugh but here on this quiet beach, where a dolphin popped above the waves at the start of the early-morning class, it fits. “Let your breath flow like the waves, in and out, back and forth,” continued the instructor.

I’ve practiced yoga for nearly a decade and yet a beachside yoga class at Longboat Key Club & Resort – on a barrier island near Sarasota, Florida – brought new meaning to familiar poses. Think powder-white sand kicking into the air, the booms of thunder rumbling in the distance, seagulls shrieking. When we slipped into Vrksasana, or tree pose, I joined a circle with the other women, taking the knowledge of the pose with me – and a new sense of belonging – as we clung to each other’s shoulders. At that moment I fell in love with yoga even more.

The resort is not just about yoga. It centers on the whole person. This is a beachfront resort in Florida that follows through on a wellness promise, and wouldn’t dream of letting go of good-quality, good-tasting food. For breakfast one day I dug into quinoa granola topped with cinnamon-flavored ricotta. Even the gelato is organic.

Much of the produce, meat and fish are sourced locally for its four restaurants, including the romantic Portofino, channeling Italy with hand-cut pastas and brick-oven pizzas, mine a cracker-thin crust topped with arugula and sundried tomatoes.

At Sands Pointe, organic salmon is cooked on a plank and served on a bed of pearl quinoa. This meal, the night of my arrival, set the tone for a few days of fantastic cuisine. Even the blackened-grouper tacos – a Florida staple, and not difficult to find – for lunch one day were a delicacy due to the sweet and sour sauces.

A year ago the spa – tucked into a Plantation-style building – completed a top-to-bottom renovation, now more glam than serenity, but still a calming environment. A crystal chandelier hangs in the relaxation room and cornflower-blue textured wallpaper covers the walls. Each treatment room is named for a Caribbean island, with atomic décor such as a backsplash of shimmery bronze circles and chocolate-brown towels and linens.

Three signature treatments are the Clear Mind (just like it sounds: unpacking a cluttered head), Enlightenment (designed to soothe difficult times) and Sleep Well (lulls you to sleep), each lasting 100 minutes ($295). Also offered is an 80-minute Island Signature Perfect Massage ($230), which is all about customization and based on the body’s need for healing and restoration in that moment. Yet I opted for a 50-minute traditional Swedish massage ($100), and my attendant loosened the kinks in my neck and shoulders from excessive time spent at the computer. I left the spa with a floating sensation, no more tight spots.

New for resort guests is a 75-minute one-on-one session with Bonni London, a dietician who adopts a whole-foods mantra but realizes life is meant to be lived (she doesn’t hesitate to tell clients to “pig out” on Thanksgiving Day). Guests can also tack on a three-, five- or week-long detox package with programming – fitness classes and consultations, and diet-specific meals – to support it.

Beyond the yoga, spa treatments and exceptional meals, there is plenty to fill the day, such as one-on-one coaching at the 20-court-strong tennis complex. Sammy, my instructor, yelled out encouraging tips as I volleyed balls back to him on a hot afternoon, and didn’t hesitate to name-drop the pros he’d worked with over the years. Bicycles can be rented for a solo ride up the coast, past mansions and palm trees. Kayaks are available for rent, too.

As spa director Nancy Thielman says, the focus is on the take-away aspect of self-care. What good is a fantastic spa trip if you don’t have the tools to continue the vibe once you’re back home?

Naturally, each person’s resort experience is unique. I was so invigorated by my stay that on my first day back home I popped over to the local tennis courts, working on my serve and backhand, determined to put into practice the tips that Sammy taught me.

By Kristine Hansen

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