Zen Arcade is suddenly bursting with new activities, services

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Tara Darrell of Zen Arcade tries to keep up with all the developments on the chalkboard posted out front.
Tara Darrall of Zen Arcade tries to keep up with all the developments on the chalkboard posted out front.

Scooped by my own wife.  Can you imagine that?

Well, the word is out, Rose will be teaching a Pilates course at Zen Arcade starting Monday, June 2.

Those of you who know Rose from her own studio in California know this is a wonderful thing for her. She is a born teacher – full of knowledge, love and enthusiasm. She needs an outlet like this to express her true personality.

Jeff from Rojo Beach Bar and his staff are operating Chaya Cafe inside Zen Arcade with many items straight off the Rojo menu. They recently added an all-weather  canopy over the outside seating.
Chef/owner Jeff  Spiegel (right)  and Danny Choc from Rojo Beach Bar and his staff are operating Chaya Cafe inside Zen Arcade with many items straight off the Rojo menu. They recently added an all-weather canopy over the outside seating.

Those of you who know me also know this is a wonderful thing for Rose. Well, for anyone who would have to spend 24/7 with me … nobody should ever have to spend 24/7 with me. Nobody. Ever.

But I jest. (I think. I hope.)

This is really so exciting and the culmination of a chance-meeting and friendship with the Zen Arcade owners, NoeLe McLain and Tara Darrall, that began last fall when we first visited Ambergris Caye. Back then, Tara and NoeLe were teaching yoga at another studio and Rose joined their classes every morning.

For them, Zen Arcade was still a distant dream.

Now that dream is an exciting reality. Zen Arcade is a three-story lifestyle department store being filled with healthy physical, mental and spiritual goodies. I’ve been an enthusiastic believer in their vision since I first heard about it.

Yoga is the tent pole at the three-level building one block west of Island Academy under which many other health-and-wellness-oriented services are offered.

Both NoeLe and Tara teach yoga, and as one who currently takes as many as six yoga classes a week, I can attest to the benefits. I haven’t felt this good since my marathon days (and those were many many years ago).  Of course, Rose has been taking yoga classes too – usually two a day and on Wednesdays she’ll take three, plus Zuzana’s  hyper-energetic dance fitness class.

Rose goes for either sunrise yoga at 6:30 a.m. or the demanding  intermediate/advanced at 7:30 a.m.  Some days she will do both. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays I take rejuvenate/beginners yoga, which is just right for a guy my age. Rose will join me for that class because “the couple that does yoga together, stays together.” Or is it, “what happens in yoga class, stays in yoga class”?

Tree Top Studio opens to glimpses of the reef and Caribbean Sea and is now used for yoga, Pilates, dance, martial arts sessions.
Tree Top Studio opens to glimpses of the reef and Caribbean Sea and is now used for yoga, Pilates, dance, martial arts sessions.

Hmmm.

Well, it is fun to do classes together. Plus “restorative yoga” has attracted a really nice group of people, many of whom we now consider to be friends as well as classmates. Although, our two “live wires,” Chunky and Ruthie, recently left for the States for six months so there is void that needs filling. They kept us smiling when the going got tough.

We also like to do the 6 p.m. Wednesday candlelight yoga class. The air is cooler, the breezes pick up, the scent of flowers from nearby trees is in the air and the stars and moon are often out. At the end of the session, in savasana, Rose and I will quietly hold hands and share the energy of that peaceful moment.

And it is not all yoga. A lot of things are happening at Zen Arcade. After what seemed like a long quiet period of construction, preparation, planning and waiting for the right equipment, Zen Arcade is bursting with activity.

Recently, as I waited in the lobby for Rose’s yoga class with Tara to finish, NoeLe and I talked about Zen Arcade and its limitless potential.

“Massage, acupuncture, child care, Pilates, dance-fitness, yoga, martial arts, health and wellness programs, lectures, seminars, retreats, a hotel, café, swimming pool, botox, physical therapist, salsa lessons, meditation, self-defense, holistic/local product marketplace, drumming circles, cooking lessons, belly dance classes …” NoeLe was on a roll, listing all of the things Zen Arcade is and could be.

The swimming pool and relaxation area at the back of Zen Arcade is a nice attraction after a hot day's yoga session.
The swimming pool and relaxation area at the back of Zen Arcade is a nice attraction after a hot day’s yoga session.

Tara’s husband, Adam, a major contributor to the creation of the Arcade, walked into the lobby and quickly summarized it: “Pretty much anything.”

NoeLe chuckled. “That’s it. Zen Arcade is open to any idea” — any teacher with a health, wellness, fitness lifestyle, spiritual orientation.

Just today, interest was expressed in meditation classes. If a qualified instructor can be found, NoeLe said, Zen Arcade will find the time and space.

In sum, Zen Arcade has the potential to be the Grand Mall for a community of health, fitness, spiritual oriented people.  And the timing couldn’t be better. People seem to be moving toward healthier lifestyles here. Recently I spoke with a long-time resident of San Pedro who recalled the early days, when people came here for the adventure – the reef, the fishing, the mainland rivers and trails and Mayan ruins.

“You wouldn’t see anyone during the day. People were out doing things,” he said. “Then we had this explosion of bars and restaurants and resorts and it seemed like people started coming here just to party.”

Well, that and the snorkeling, hiking, fishing …

But it just seemed out of balance.

Now, you can’t help but wonder if there is another shift going on, perhaps one that reflects the growing orientation back in the states toward healthier lifestyles. The emergence of several yoga studios, a couple of crossfitness training centers, organic/local-sourced restaurants – are these the harbingers of an Ambergris Caye health-fitness boom?

Certainly, there are some in Belize government and tourism who are trying to develop a health tourism initiative in the country to capture the Baby Boomer aging/retirement demographic. You know: “Visit Belize and have that operation at a tenth of the cost in the States. Let your savings pay for your vacation.”

Rose practicing Pilates on a dock just north of our home during our Monday bicycle ride north.
Rose practicing Pilates on a dock just north of our home during our Monday bicycle ride north.

Well, that is still a ways off. But you can see the health-boom glimmer on the horizon.

Meanwhile, here is what is – or is about to be is – at Zen Arcade:

  • Yoga and dance. They occupy the third-floor Tree Top Studio right now. (And soon, Pilates!) The schedule is also filling up with dance/exercise, salsa lessons, Muay Tai for youths, and kick boxing for teens. Check out the Tree Top schedule here.
  • The swimming pool, with a huge deck and chairs and a palapa. I jumped in after yoga on a recent Monday – soooooo refreshing.
  • Day care. NoeLe and Tara are both mothers of baby boys and they have built first-rate facilities. Going snorkeling? NoeLe says their nanny-certified aide can watch your kids.
  • Acupuncture and massage – here now. Website has all the details.
  • Open now: Chaya Café with healthy and tasty dishes provided by Chef Jeff and his Rojo Beach Bar staff. I had their signature Green Juice smoothie this morning —  fresh chaya, lime juice, fresh pineapple, ginger, and honey. Sooooo good.
  • Beauty Bar for hair, nails and skin tretments? Check.
  • Zen Arcade is also a boutique inn with several vacation suites, each suitable for two adults or a family of four. Guests enjoy access to all Zen Arcade offerings, said NoeLe.

What did I miss? Probably a lot. Like I said, Zen Arcade is only limited by the imaginations of those who choose to participate.  Big thinkers, dreamers and believers need only apply.

Pretty cool concept, I’d say.

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Zen Arcade is suddenly bursting with new activities, services

    Katerina said:
    June 1, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I agree that this island has become more health conscious with time. At least an increasing percentage of residents are tending in that direction. And it’s great to have a healthy place to congregate and meet like minded people. When we opened the San Pedro Club in April of 2003, there were no yoga studios, no personal trainers, no spas with masseuses, and no physical therapists on the island. The only other gym was Oscars, which is now D.J.’s, by the bridge.

    It’s wonderful to see this island attract so many new healthy options. And I’ve been paying attention and have noticed that most other areas of the country where expats live now have some type of yoga studio or classes.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      See what you started? 🙂 It is nice to have healthy options. Seriously, very cool that you were thinking of fitness here in 2003. I have a friend who is thinking of writing an article for an ex-pat magazine on yoga/fitness studios in Belize. Should get the two of you together. Thanks for the message!

      Like

    Ruthie and Chunk said:
    June 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Awww Bobby, we miss you, too!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 1, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      Aw. We enjoy keeping up with your exploits through Facebook, Ruthie. Keep posting!

      Like

    Rebecca Coutant said:
    June 2, 2014 at 5:00 am

    Now THAT’S the scoop! Woo hoo! So glad you posted this but so sad I’m missing the opening of Chaya Cafe. Can’t wait for a Wednesday of dance, yoga and a kale salad. Through in Botox and I’ll be one HAPPY person.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      As if you’d ever need Botox! Watched them make a kale salad for someone today. So wished it were for me.

      Like

    Karen Kelly said:
    June 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I’m on my way! Save me a spot Rose and Bob!

    Like

    Kathy said:
    June 10, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Thanks for all this, I was trying to find this place the other day when we were just driving around getting to know our new home. Now I know where it is and plan on stopping in and checking it out! Hopefully meet some great people and friends!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      That’s great Kathy. If you see us, grab me or Rose when you come in and we’ll introduce you around! How is everything going so far?
      Bob

      Like

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