Rejuvenation Holiday at The Oaks by Bonnie and Bill Neely

The Oaks at Ojai, (pronounced O-Hi) is one of the oldest and most experienced spas in the United States and listed in the 26 top spas in the world. The Oaks was the brain-child of Sheila, who was a fitness trainer in the 1960’s. After nearly a decade of teaching enthusiasts how to perfect their appearance and their optimum body strength and flexibility, she decided to start a spa.
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Sheila visited famous spas in Europe, but she realized those provided retreat and massage treatments and emphasized restorative relaxation, beauty and skin treatments, but none featured total health through healthy habits. She returned to California and decided to create a spa which would combine the retreat and pampering aspects of European spas with a happy holiday for people to experience healthy lifestyles. She purchased the beautiful, historical property in Ojai, in the mountains near Ventura. She and her daughter now own and manage The Oaks together.
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The lovely Spanish mission style property built in 1917 was the center of this little mountain town, a perfect location less than an hour from the ocean and close to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. She had the old buildings gutted and restyled to create the most comfortable and beautiful get-away anyone could want. The floral landscaped grounds further create the perfect, serene setting for re-creation for her guests. The popularity of this famous spa has grown ever since.
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We stayed in one of the lovely bungalow cottage suites. With our living room comfortably furnished as well as having a cozy fireplace (which lighted with the flip of a switch), refrigerator, WiFi, TV and lots of room. Our spacious bedroom had two perfect queen beds, TV and a large private bathroom with a whirlpool tub, a large tile shower, and vanity with two sinks. Our wide porch was furnished with chairs and table and gorgeous flowers in our private garden behind the wall. We felt like we had moved to California… a perfect home away from home. You can also stay in the lovely guestrooms in the hotel proper.
People come to The Oaks for many different reasons, and most of the ones we talked to have been here many times, saying they always feel like they are returning to a family of friends. Since meals are family style and classes are varied, you simply introduce yourself to many different people in a day and easily make new friends in this relaxed atmosphere where everyone is learning and practicing together. The largest percentage of The Oaks clients are professional women. Others are all ages, shapes, sizes, married, widowed, and single. Not as many men stay here, but they are missing some great opportunities, as Bill will testify. Anyone can learn how to live healthier and enjoy the classes and delicious meals here, feeling pampered and welcome 24/7. Fathers’ Day week is the time of year to introduce your man to The Oaks, since it is popular then for men, who often follow their retreat here with an extended golf, fishing, and tennis holiday in or near Ojai.
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Guests at The Oaks can choose just to relax, sleep late, hike, bicycle, skate, swim, kayak, or you can use this as your make-over lifestyle vacation to learn how to create great new habits for body and mind while being pampered with all kinds of recreation, massages, reiki or acupuncture therapy, sauna, steam room, hot tub, and facial treatments. A variety of packages include different options. We started our days early with either a brisk hike or a leisurely stroll for up to an hour. The scenery of the surrounding area is California beautiful, and you can select steep climbs or flatlands. Breakfast is wholesome, healthy, and delicious with many different choices. The daily meal plan is designed to train our bodies to enjoy eating small, nutritious meals seven times a day (to keep the right blood-sugar level, so you don’t have the starving cravings when you cannot resist high calory junk food.)
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Each hour of the day you choose from many kinds of fitness classes, burning unwanted fat while toning muscles and having fun. The excellent teachers know how to make exercise enjoyable for even those who thought they did not like to move their bodies! You can select yoga, weight machines, pool activities, stretching, pilates, balance balls, and many more indoor or outdoor fitness classes. I especially loved the simple but quite unique classes geared for movements to do on an airplane or in a desk chair to keep circulation going and prevent brain and body fatigue. Always practically minded, Sheila even showed us how to devise equipment anyone can afford: elastic straps and weights made from empty plastic bottles filled with rocks.
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Many teachers come here to care for themselves while they learn unique and clever, inexpensive teaching tools to help students grow up with healthy lifestyles. Nancy teaches everyone how to “Enjoy It Here and Take It Home!” Her great tips make it easy to incorporate small changes into anyone’s life to make huge differences in health, energy, and appearance.
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After several morning classes you can enjoy the mid-morning snack and then a mid-day delicious meal with soup, salad, protein and dessert. Then you are filled with energy to continue your convivial fitness classes and a healthy snack for the afternoon, or simply take a nap…whatever you choose because opportunities abound, but never does anyone question or pressure you about your choices. Dinner time is delightful with excellent menus. Food presentation is noticably elegant and appealing and the the cuisine is absolutely delicious and satisfying. We completely forgot that we had only about 1,000 calories in a day and we never even missed salt or sugar or unhealthy fat in the tasty recipes. The experienced chef is a master in creating fabulous food with only healthy and natural ingredients, every bite was as good as it is good for you! We shopped at The Nest, the shop in The Oaks, to bring home some of the spices and cookbooks to continue what we enjoyed here.

Evening brings intriguing entertainment in the form of well-chosen movies and popcorn or a program with other types of activities. Everyone says their favorite is with artist Lena Rivkin, who comes from Los Angeles, where she teaches art. She usually comes to The Oaks once a month. She designs and leads various art activities on one evening and presents a fascinating lecture/demonstration as a Graphologist on another evening. Lena is known worldwide for her handwriting analysis skills, and she makes this available to visitors here.

Before you leave Ojai, be SURE to enjoy a lunch or dinner in the beautiful Suzanne’s Cuisine, the favorite of locals and visitors alike. The food is fabulous and the ambience delightful!
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