Tranquil trip south of the border

Alejandro Maldonado strides fluidly across the outdoor stage, backlit by a crystal-clear November morning in Ensenada, 60 miles south of the border. About 120 people sit cross-legged on their brightly colored foam mats below the stage watching Mexico’s rock star of yoga.

“Respiro profundo (breathe deeply)!” Maldonado says in a soothing voice into his headset. “Inhale … exhale … ”
Clearly the crowd is mesmerized by this man, certainly one of the handsomest beings on the planet — and one of the most flexible. Maldonado’s body re-positions with

Gumby-like ease again and again as New Age music floats unobtrusively across the air.

In all honesty, I’m not a fan of yoga and do find it difficult, but I’m determined to try and I get to watch Maldonado, so why not? I’m both glad and grateful that for the next hour-plus, this yoga guru leads his faithful in mostly slow, gentle stretching. I peek around and thankfully see that I’m not the only novice. Plus the setting — Hotel Coral and Marina just north of downtown Ensenada — is more than lovely. This yoga summit is being staged under a huge open-air tent that sits on “the island,” actually a peninsula that creates the picturesque harbor across the water from the hotel.

This two-hour yoga workshop with Maldonado is the culmination of a new four-day wellness program that will be offered by the Hotel Coral several times in 2016. I was invited to experience the program, which accepts no more than 22 participants per session, and includes meditation; yoga; Feldenkrais movement classes; healthy gourmet meals (the chef can accommodate special dietary needs); walks along the water and a half-day excursion into Baja’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe (Guadalupe Valley).

The days start early — 6 a.m. — with smoothies, meditation and walks alongside the boulder barrier that separates our path from the water. The activities are led by La Jolla resident Logan Fisher, who has a perfect command of both Spanish and English. (“My mother is Costa Rican; my father is from Cleveland.”). His low-key demeanor and gentle voice have me drifting off into another stratosphere more than once. Fisher also leads sessions on the Feldenkrais Method. Named after the Russian-born scientist and educator who developed it, Feldenkrais “uses gentle movement, directed attention and guided touch to improve movement and enhance human functioning,” Fisher explains. “Through lessons … you can enjoy greater ease of movement, an increased sense of vitality, and feelings of peaceful relaxation.”

I may not excel at yoga, but I think I’m passing with flying colors on the relaxation thing.
Fisher, who developed the program’s activities and menu, relishes the role of teacher.
“I enjoy leading the program because … I believe learning is one of the most important things humans can do. Group learning also has a magical component I really enjoy. It’s an empowering context with many perspectives that will allow everyone to select what’s best for you.”

Also included in the four-day wellness-program package are a massage, facial and hair treatment in the hotel’s new spa, and use of the new gym, heated pool and jetted spa.

My hiatus from the real world ends too soon, and our shuttle is ready to take us north. I’m already dreading the long wait at the Otay Mesa border crossing. But when we arrive, there is no line. We can’t believe our luck — or karma, as someone suggests. Could we have had a more perfect ending to our idyllic weekend in Baja?

Certainly not, but I’ll be honest: Had a long queue at Otay materialized, the four days in Baja would’ve been worth the wait.

For information on the wellness program (price includes cross-border transportation) and other getaway packages, visit www.hotelcoral.com or call (800) 862-9020.
NEXT: Excursion to Baja’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe.

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