Mahasukha Spa, Phoenicia, NY


Owned by Tibet House and founded at the behest of the Dalai Lama, the Menla Mountain Retreat Center has an exalted parentage and an extraordinary gravitational field. Spread across 325 wooded acres atop Panther Mountain in the Catskills, it’s the site of a four-million-yearold meteorite crater. “Because of its unique geology, we all weigh .2 percent less here,” says Nena Thurman, the retreat’s managing director. Her husband Robert is the spiritual director.

The Esopus, Mahican, and other native peoples recognized the land’s sanctity and its power to spiritually nourish. “We have artisanal waters, we’re a registered Audubon bird sanctuary, and wild animals practically eat out of our hands,” says Thurman. Yoga teachers like Baron Baptiste and Rodney Yee, who come seasonally, say the mountain’s energy and atmosphere deepens their practice and increases their students’ receptivity. The center offers healing arts from Ayurvedic medicine to various types of massage.


The Mahasukha Spa (Sanskrit for “great bliss”) occupies the mountain’s peak. Designed by Manhattan architect Duke Beeson in collaboration with Thurman, its interior utilizes strong primaries and muted pastels as focal points of color. Vivid reproductions of a venerated 17th-century Tibetan medical treatise hang in each of the 11 healing rooms.

Many others collaborated on the spa. Tibetan master artist Rabkar Wangchuk carved the vibrant threshold. Local woodworker Geoff Baer crafted furniture from a felled maple tree. Fashion designer Donna Karan gave advice on feng shui, famed spa designer Clodagh chose materials and fixtures, and master stonemason John Kahn built paths and walls around some of the outdoor spaces.

Before developing the spa’s list of treatments, Thurman consulted with a number of prominent integrative practitioners, including Drs. Frank Lipman and Alejandro Junger, who see detoxification as the foundation of good health. With Tibetan medicine at its core, the current menu blends Eastern and Western modalities, including Swedish, deep tissue, hot-stone, aromatherapy, and Ayurvedic massages. Cranial-sacral work, reiki, and jin shin do acupressure, shiatsu, acupuncture, and moxabustion are also available, and guests can choose between a traditional steam room or an infrared or Finnish sauna. Tibetan medicine diagnostician Dr. Tashi Rabten prescribes Himalayan herbs after reading the body’s 12 different pulses.


The center’s general programming attracts large gatherings and includes such diverse offerings as Sufi dance, martial arts, kirtan, and meditation. Customized for individuals, a weekend package includes a spa treatment of choice, access to numerous rugged hiking trails, and use of the on-site meditation room, tennis court, and swimming pool; it also leaves ample time for participants to take advantage of local skiing, inner tubing, fishing, and horseback riding facilities.

“I feel as if we’re stewarding the land and giving people access to a wonderful escape from their stressful lives,” says Thurman. “We’re blessed to be of service to nature, and to the well-being of the people who make their way here.”

Next: Mohonk Spa, New Paltz, NY

Join the Conversation