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Reflect | February 27 2024


7 Ways To Honor Your Group’s Wellbeing At Miraval Austin

By Araxe Hajian

When was the last time your team gathered outside the usual spaces? Meaning, outside the water cooler, the video conference screen, or the windowless corporate retreats of rubber-chicken dinners and microphoned motivational speakers.

There’s a different kind of group retreat out there. It’s surrounded by nature and nurtures your highest intentions.

Miraval Austin, nestled into the sloping sides of Texas Hill Country, takes group retreats to a new level. It elevates your team to inhabit a space where authenticity, clarity of purpose, and mindfulness converge. It creates a unique experience outside the box of traditional team-building machines.

You might partner with a horse, learn to hurl an axe, belay your teammates 50 feet high on a ropes course, or drop into the deep, meditative tones of Himalayan singing bowls. Farm-fresh food and hand-blended smoothies sustain you between nurturing spa treatments and activities that get you moving, laughing, and learning together. As a team, you get to choose how you will co-curate an experience that will stay with each participant long after departure.

Read below to learn how one group rediscovered themselves, each other, and a sense of wonder and awe after attending the three-day Elevation Retreat at Miraval Austin last fall. The retreat was hosted by Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, a pioneering psychologist, scientist, author, mental health correspondent, Miraval Resorts collaborator, and the founder of the million-dollar non-profit, The AAKOMA Project.

“It was the first time some of our attendees were in a space like this, which can be awe-inspiring. It was so great to have the opportunity to invite them in and confidently say: This is a space for you.” – Psychologist, Mental Health Correspondent and Founder Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble

1. Being Seen & Heard

You are never a nameless guest at Miraval Austin. Our specialists and staff go out of their way to see every face and hear every voice to help you create an unforgettable experience. It’s a place where everyone can feel comfortable in their skin and body and share their vulnerabilities—from food choices to personal fears. One participant, Afton Bloom Analyst Isana Singh, noted that “A deep trust in myself came through in this retreat. A trust that I am opening and closing the right doors for myself on my path forward.”

The retreat’s founder, Dr. Alfiee, reported that “every attendee said it was one of the few times they felt so seen and empowered. Miraval colleagues would stop and ask how we were doing and listen to our responses. I felt that I was sharing something valuable with them. They weren’t just asking.”


2. Feeling Safe, Nourished & Supported

Everyone needs to start their journey from a platform of safety and support before leaping through our challenge courses or hanging upside-down in our aerial silks. Miraval Austin gives you the base you need, from nourishing food to spaces for rest and sleep—and shows you how to recreate that base when you go home.

Senior Executive Liaison at The AAKOMA Project Lexy Fields noted that “our attendees who had autoimmune issues or food allergies never had a question about what was in the food or how it was being handled. The staff listened to their needs and kept them feeling supported and safe. Inclusivity is about tending to invisible needs as well as visible ones.”

Dr. Alfiee remembers every detail about the chefs and the remarkable dinners they hosted for the team. She even remembers the giant pot of simmering cauliflower soup. “I’m not a cauliflower person,” she recalls, ”but the soup was phenomenal. They walked us through what they did at each course at our dinners. I will never forget the focaccia—I wish I could take a pan of it home with me.”


3. Learning New Skills for Daily Life

Elevation Retreat attendees have already reported that they have made and instituted significant changes in their lives when they returned from Miraval Austin.

“It’s so beautiful to see that we get to play a small part in someone bettering their lives, taking control, setting boundaries, and asking for what they want and deserve,” says Lexy. “The environment at Miraval Austin supported them, and they learned new life skills. When it’s done right, it makes a big difference.”

Isana spoke specifically about her experience with the equine program:

“The experience with the horses taught us about trust and empathy. To see other folks challenge or lean into their fear and share the experience created an ability to be vulnerable in that space. Many of us struggled with the instruction to pinch the horse to get them to lift their hoof. We didn’t want to do it, but we heard the message that asking for what you want is not unreasonable. To know that we were not hurting the horse but doing something it needed—cleaning its foot. We learned that it’s ok to ask for things and to be confident. Sometimes, applying a little pressure to ask for what you need is ok. In a post-trip conversation with my team, I kept reminding myself: This is not an unreasonable ask. So, tangibly, that message has stayed with me.”

Another participant got so much out of her equine session that she wants to shift into an equine-based career.

4. Forming Better Bonds: Communication & Community

Returning from a retreat with a renewed sense of purpose and connection can lead to improved communication, collaboration, and trust within any group. The bonds and friendships made over three days at the Elevation Retreat led to the group setting a regular call to check in and share their work and achievements.

Lexy recalls her time at Miraval Austin’s Cypress Creek Farm and sees the connection between tending to a garden and cultivating a community of people eager to thrive in their personal and professional lives: “We planted a seed that people want to germinate and grow and sustain.”


5. Having Permission to Pause & Unplug

Miraval Resorts has a device-free policy, which means all digital devices are off and out of sight (except in designated areas and your guest room). It lets you practice being away from your devices, even when there is nothing else to do. It helps guests tune into their state of mind and connect authentically and organically to other people and nature. It allows everyone to recognize that pauses don’t always need to be filled.

Isana recounts how she recognized “the immense value of the pause.” When booking her sessions and activities, she could only focus on optimizing her experience. “I booked activities from morning until night and gave myself no time to rest. Then, I reconnected with my intention for myself to be able to pause and made time to sit by the pool or swing in the hammocks. Miraval Austin does a great job at creating organic spaces for people to cluster without needing a class. I have also been leaning into the pause in many parts of life – before I react to something someone says or make a recommendation—to ask: Is this really what I think is right? How is this feeling in my system? Is this going to have the impact I want it to have?”

6. Gaining Clarity

One Miraval Austin specialist took the group on a nature walk, teaching them about native plants as they strolled on the paths winding through the surrounding Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. In addition to her vast knowledge of plant medicine and practices, she gave the group clarity. “She was crystal clear about who she was as an indigenous woman, about the land we were on, and healing practices; why she does this work and what it means for her people,” noted Dr. Alfiee. “She was like an oak tree: you will not move that woman from her principles. That, for me, crystallized part of what my goal was for the Elevation retreat. To be grounded in who you are and where you come from so you can have the opportunity to elevate. Otherwise, you’ll be pushed any which way. I feel like she lifted us up just because of who she is and how she showed up.”


7. Feeling Refreshed, Renewed & Rejuvenated

In a post-retreat survey, every guest responded that they felt rested and refreshed and would return if they had the opportunity. They even found that speaking with other Miraval Austin guests (retreat participants and non-participants) made them feel comfortable about who they were inside and out for the first time. Participants reported that each activity, from a gong-ringing meditation ceremony to forest bathing to a Kintsugi-based art class, reaffirmed they were in the right place to be vulnerable.

Overall, this group of women, who work tirelessly to elevate the lives of others, felt uplifted by having the opportunity to tend to their own needs. Being able to recharge helps us all become better leaders and partners in our daily lives. Techniques like mindful eating, breathwork, and mindfulness-based behaviors offer tools for creating more balance in a chaotic world.


The best retreats bring out the best in ourselves and urge us to connect and explore new spaces together with compassion and joy. Miraval Austin can help any group maximize their talents and feel motivated to foster a culture of curiosity and creativity. Whether your team is in your professional world or social sphere, you can gather with them meaningfully and purposefully at Miraval Austin.



Elevation Wellness Retreat at Miraval Austin

Dr. Alfiee and Miraval collaborated to host an inclusive mental health and wellbeing retreat for a curated group of diverse women from various non-profit organizations and thought leadership spaces. The goal was to create a safe space to support the attendees’ mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Dr. Alfiee’s ask in return is that each individual who attends promises to bring their Miraval learnings and experiences back to their communities and networks.