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Mansion Spa
The Spa at Mansion House offers, among other services, facials and massages in downtown Vineyard Haven. (Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe)

At Vineyard inns, a variety of workouts and spa services

Email|Print| Text size + By Stephen Jermanok
Globe Correspondent / June 27, 2007

EDGARTOWN -- "Be a surfer and ride the waves of your breath," says Emily in a soothing tone. "Drink in the freshness of the morning, smell the scents of the garden, listen to the birdsong, and feel the breeze," she continues.

A good pupil, I do exactly as I'm told in this rise-and-shine yoga class on the grassy shores of a pond at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort . Who needs coffee when you can wake up and slowly rise to consciousness through the poetic prose of a gifted instructor? "Let your feet be planted in the ground and your arms reach the sky, and feel the sunrise of glowing colors spread out from your heart," Emily says during the tree pose. I'm feeling rooted all right, not wanting to leave this spot or state of mind anytime soon.

Yoga is just one of the options being offered at the Winnetu's Island Adventure and Workout Center , which opened last summer. Along with indigenous spa treatments featured across the island at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard's upscale accommodations are becoming salubrious retreats in hopes of luring the increasingly popular fitness traveler. Surely, the Vineyard's natural assets have always attracted the walker, biker, angler, and paddler. But now you have the opportunity to take a yoga or Pilates class, or venture on guided strolls, bike rides, and sea kayaking jaunts.

"We want people to try something new, be it yoga or a challenging all-day bike trip to Menemsha and the Gay Head Cliffs . It makes their vacation that much more memorable," says Mark Snider, Winnetu's owner.

Your legs certainly won't forget the 46-mile (round-trip) journey on rolling roads to Gay Head. A more reasonable choice being offered this summer is an 18-mile round-trip on bike trails along Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach to the gingerbread cottages of Oak Bluffs. This is ideally suited for young bikers, who can earn their carousel ride at Flying Horses. Obviously, you could do these trips on your own and pocket the money, but the guides offer a chance to learn island lore from a local.

"The reason our daily morning walk to Edgartown is so popular is not simply the exercise, but the chance to hear about this former whaling town from a knowledgeable insider," Snider says.

New this summer is the opportunity to sea kayak with a naturalist through Poucha Pond and the remote Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge on Chappaquiddick. This prime bird-watching spot is home to endangered piping plovers, ospreys, and the occasional bald eagle.

After burning all this energy, one needs pampering. Mud is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of spa treatments -- a deep-tissue massage is more my style -- but the special clay exclusively used in the Mansion House's Moshup Mud Wrap is harvested legally by a Wampanoag tribal member near those celebrated Gay Head Cliffs. The clay is then sweetened with wildflower honey from the Vineyard's Katama Farm.

Yvonne Dennis-Stewart, the spa's manager, who spends her winters working at the Strawberry Hill Resort in Jamaica, applies the special goo on my exfoliated body, and then wraps me in cellophane for 20 minutes. When I'm released from this cocoon, I'm rinsed off in a multi-head Vichy shower and lathered with a peppermint lotion, my skin smoother than it's been since that last mud bath in Calistoga, Calif.

The spa also features the usual lineup of massages, facials, and manicures, and a sybaritic three-hour session, the Vineyard Haven Retreat, which combines the finer treatments. Mansion House is also popular with locals who come to the hotel to use the fitness facility. The health club offers daily yoga, Pilates, and cardio classes, a large weight room with elliptical machines and treadmills, and a 75-foot indoor pool for swimming laps. Whether you want to play outside or indoors, the Vineyard and its mud have you covered.

Winnetu Oceanside Resort 31 Dunes Road, Edgartown 508-310-1733 winnetu.com
Mansion House 9 Main St., Vineyard Haven 508-693-2200 mvmansionhouse.com

Stephen Jermanok, a freelance writer in Newton and author of "New England Seacoast Adventures" (Countryman, 2002), can be reached at farandaway@ comcast.net.

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