by Anne Dimon
Participating in a late morning yoga class was how I decided to begin my day at the Standard Spa in South Beach, Florida. What I didn’t realize is I’d signed up for Ashtanga yoga – apparently the most kick-ass form of the practice. I’m no yoga neophyte but I could tell from the first Sun Salute that I was out of my league. There is some serious yoga going on here.
Of the forty or more classes a week offered daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ashtanga is ‘one of the most advanced styles,’ explains instructor Loren Russo. It includes ‘very precise movements and asanas.’ Russo studied Ashtango in India and has spent the last 17 years practicing and the last seven teaching. She is one of a handful of excellent instructors who are part of the yoga and other program offered here. By the end of the 90-minute class, I am thrilled to melt into the Corpse Pose.
The only hotel on the residential island of Belle Isle (on the quieter side South Beach) the 10-room Standard is more spa than hotel. With fitness and lifestyle classes, an extensive menu of treatments, a significant wet area and a healthy cuisine philosophy, it falls into the category of healthy and wellness spas. Or, as their extensive spa menu reads: ‘a holistic and hydrotherapy oriented spa hotel inspired by global bathing cultures, self-teaching and healing.’ Assistant Spa Director, Dennis Stovall, says they see themselves as a ‘spa with hotel rooms.’
The centerpiece of The Standard is the co-ed hammam, perhaps the largest authentic hammam in the region. Inside, it’s cooler than I’d expected. Stovall calls it a ‘soft heat.’ He says, ‘you feel cozy, not overheated and you can easily fall sleep here.’ As tempting as napping sounds, I opt for one of the signature (and most popular) treatments – the Hammam Rub and Scrub administered by a therapist as I lay on one of the tiered marble steps.
For those who prefer more privacy for their scrubs, there are treatment rooms inside the hammam. Other features include a cedar sauna, a steam room (with steam as thick as asparagus soup) a bank of showers-in-the-round, ice cold rain showers and several steel soaker tubs large enough for two. In the centre of the hammam, towels, lemon water and apples are set out for guests to help themselves. Beyond the wet area, you’ll find ten treatment rooms including three spa suites for twosomes, a mani-pedi area and a small hair salon.
Outside, a café, swimming pool, cold plunge, a Roman waterfall hot tub and comfortable lounge chairs allow guests to relax while gazing out across Biscayne Bay and the Miami Design District in the distance.
One of the more distinctive ways the spa encourages guests to explore the do-it-yourself, curative effects of water and mud is with the open-air Mud Lounge. Here, in a semi-private area just steps from the swimming pool, guests can self-apply one of several therapeutic muds, let it dry as they bask in the sun, then wash it off with a high-pressure Scott hose or in an outdoor soaker tub.
Like other health and fitness spas, The Standard offers an extensive list of treatments, classes, workshops and consultations. Programming topics touch on everything from spirituality to sexuality, art to science and everything in between. It’s also the site of many health, wellness and yoga-themed retreats.
The environment isn’t ritzy. Think vintage Art Deco furniture and funky pieces such as a front lobby desk fashioned from a mega piece of driftwood. It’s a homey environment where guests feel comfy walking around in white waffle spa robes and slippers – even in the lobby.
Indicative of any good health and wellness spa, the theme carries through to the food with menu highlights including ‘living foods’ and by that term they means anything that hasn’t been heated over 113 degrees, as that, I’m told, is the temperature at which enzymes die. The Standard food philosophy is that 50 per cent of what we eat should fall into the category of ‘living.’
I tried the restaurant’s famous living salad of Sprouted Grains & Organic Greens – fresh, colorful, generously portioned and with just the right amount of crunch. Lunch menu offers a varied selection including soups, wraps, panini, grilled turkey burgers, tuna tartar, Mediterranean grilled flatbread and a lasagna vegetarian terrine. The dinner menu is also packed with healthy choices – think Asian sensibility applied to Western ingredients. Healthy yes, but if someone wants a burger and fries, well that’s on the menu as well.
The Standard is extremely popular with locals many of whom have memberships, the healthy and youthful-minded and anyone looking for serious yoga classes. Watch out for the Ashtanga. Read more on The Standard Miami