Wellness Retreats at their Core

When I decided to create Heirloom Springs, a wellness retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, I did it intending to have profound effects on our guests and my family. When asked to write an article about the mental health benefits of wellness retreats, I thought about why I chose to uproot my family from Texas after years of owning and operating Pilates studios and move cross country to the Virginia countryside in 2020.

I had a vision of what I wanted for my life and what I thought I could offer others in creating that life. I set my sights on building a wellness retreat focused on farming, food, and Pilates. I had work to do through the physical process of creating a welcoming place and designing an experience that would be more to my guests than “just” a good time.

Location is important. When choosing a wellness retreat, I recommend choosing one in a rural countryside or other remote area. Research says that resting in dark, quiet places profoundly affects your sleep. We also know that eating nutrient-dense food made from scratch (i.e., nothing processed) using seasonal ingredients can reduce inflammation and a laundry list of diseases and chronic conditions. Stress reduction is the reason we retreat! We know that stress reduction has profound effects on mental and physical well-being. One of the simplest ways to lower stress is to reduce the noise of everyday life by immersing yourself in nature.

Put all those ingredients together, and you will have lasting effects on your stress level and mental health. Plus, it just might also result in positive life-changing decisions when you actually have the time to reflect. Having a guide take you through exercises that explore setting your intentions, allowing space to take a deep dive into what brings you joy, and unveiling your truth allows you to manifest your best life. But a good retreat is just as much about the community of those you experience it with as the guide. Being in a community with support and camaraderie can lift your spirits and open the door to a new tribe to cheer you on. You might even find the clarity and bravery to make life-altering changes of your own!

After the last few crazy years, many people were left in a Covid slumber. But, as we reawaken, people are deciding whether they want a different career or a significant lifestyle change, like moving to a place they’ve always imagined experiencing. A wellness retreat can be a great place to explore what life can look like, as it helps adjust your vision by relaxing, resting, and rejuvenating. When nature takes a front seat, and you take a guided digital detox, the reset button gets hit, and you create lasting effects to take home with you. When you can truly immerse yourself and let go of the outside world, you might be pleased to find clarity, direction, and purpose. The hope is you start down a path filled with joy.


Rachael Lieck Bryce is an international educator and a Teacher Trainer for Real Pilates. With over 20 years in the industry, her passion for preserving the legacy of Pilates’ work has only gotten stronger. After selling her third studio in 2020, she opened Heirloom Springs, a wellness retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

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