Insider's Guide to Spas
Shooting Down Stress

My Spa Experience

Shooting Down Stress

Mary Bemis

I few years ago, I booked a week at the legendary Golden Door destination spa. It wasn’t the best week to get away, as I had a huge deadline looming, but I thought I could have my cake and eat it too, by bringing my deadline along with me.

Yes, I honestly believed I could buck the spa system. Like so many women, I thought I could do it all — in this case, go to a fabulous spa where I would relax and unwind — and get all my work done.

That was dumb. Yes, you go to a spa to work — but on yourself, not necessarily on work! I divided my days in half. In the morning, I locked myself away in my beautiful Zen-inspired room and plugged into my phone and laptop. By 1:00 pm, I was ready to unwind, don a soft robe and slippers, and let the spa take me away.

But it wasn’t that easy. I was in one of the most relaxing environments one could hope for in one of the best spas in the States — but I learned that I couldn’t so easily switch myself on and off. During my downtime, I went to the fitness center and worked out my tension in ways that were familiar to me. I found a great personal trainer who showed me a new move or two.

Later, I meandered along beautifully manicured paths and ferociously tried to slow my mind down by focusing on the flowers and perfectly placed stones…to no avail. I was anxious and tense and could not unwind. Then I spied a number of large targets set up on the lawn. I soon discovered that archery lessons were offered here, something I had never experienced, but something I had always wanted to try.

As luck would have it, when I showed up at the appointed class time, I turned out to be the only student. And luck was most definitely with me, for the instructor, Rho Densmore, is not only founder and head coach of The Second Arrow in San Diego, but an incredible archer, having won a National title in 2004, and a World title in 2005.

As she helped me don an armguard and figure out which bow was a good length and weight for me, I felt a happy excitement. Maybe it was from standing underneath the trees on a beautiful and bright summer day and being outfitted with the perfect bow. I don’t know, but I began to feel a sense of calm that continued when I first grasped the elegant recurve bow.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of drawing and shooting that first arrow. It was exhilarating. It felt powerful and real and freeing. All of a sudden, everything made sense to me. The tension I had been feeling was gone. In its place was a giddiness that comes from the discovery that you can do something really, really well — in this case, hit the bulls-eye dead on.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of drawing and shooting that first arrow. It was exhilarating. It felt powerful and real and freeing.

Archery came naturally to me. I took to it like a bird to the sky. And I’ve kept in touch with Rho who strongly believes that archery speaks to a lost connection to the things we used to do that we needed for survival — things like hunting and gardening, even drawing or painting — that required hand-eye coordination.

If you’d like to give it a try, here are some of Rho’s pro tips to get you started:

•Check to see if there’s an archery store or club in your area and find out what kind of experience the teacher has. There are certified instructors through USA Archery, National Field Archery Association (NFAA) or National Archery in the School Program (NASP).

•To find a qualified coach, check out the USA Archery website:

•Average costs vary. Classes and group lessons are less expensive ($10 to $25) than private ones and equipment is provided. Private lessons from certified coaches can run from $35 to $95 per hour, depending on the level the coach is certified (levels are 1 through 5, 1 being the most basic).

•Equipment you’ll need: A basic recurve bow; arrows (the length of these needs to be sized and cut for each person); armguard, bow stringer, finger tab; quiver, and a simple bow stand.

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.