Posts tagged #health retreat

LIFESTYLE MEDICINE

Integrative Medicine is an approach that puts the patient at the centre of care and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect one's health and wellbeing. It utilises conventional western medicine diagnostics and treats with evidence-based complementary functional medicine and alternative therapies.

Functional Medicine views the body as one integrated system and addresses the underlying causes of ill health, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both you and your team of practitioners in a therapeutic partnership. It is a personalised approach to preventative care and wellbeing with an understanding that every individual is different; genetically and biochemically unique. 

Through the lens of functional scientifically based medicine the question posed is: “What is the cause of this health challenge?” and “What can be done to restore function?

Lifestyle Medicine is a new branch of evidence based medicine in which comprehensive lifestyle changes (including nutrition, physical activity, stress management, social support and environmental exposures) are used to prevent, treat and reverse the progression of chronic diseases by addressing their underlying causes. The underlying cause of disease can stem from a variety of imbalances. 

The importance of healthy lifestyles in preventing and treating chronic disease is undisputed. Retreat environments provide a unique living laboratory where all aspects of lifestyle can be controlled and studied. Retreat experiences provide a unique opportunity for people to escape from unhealthy routines and engage in healthy practices and activities that lead to immediate and sustained health benefits. 

A health retreat creates an environment with a daily schedule of habits that support optimal wellness. Guided by experts from various modalities, guests are holistically supported towards harmony and homeostasis on all levels - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. 

The body is intelligent and has the capacity for healing and immense vitality when given the right care - this is what a health retreat can provide.

A health retreat or wellness centre provides a holistic living laboratory that supports; 

Gut Health : Emotional Wellbeing : Detoxification : Nutrition : Exercise : Mental Health : Brain Health : Sleep & Rest : Relationships : Spiritual Wellbeing : Social Connection & Community : Digital Detox : Clarity of Purpose

Specific therapies, treatments and consultations address; 

Stress & Anxiety : Inflammation : Digestive Dysfunction : Hormonal Imbalance : Structural Imbalance : Physical Toxicity : Cognitive Health : Toxic Emotions : Trauma : Immune System Imbalance 

I have been an advocate for health retreats since my early 20s and I have witnessed the power and transformation that can take place when staying on retreat. There is no better investment than that of your health, and as one wise yogi said - “health is wealth and peace of mind is happiness”.

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VANA RETREAT, INDIA

Three years ago I was contacted about a role, for a soon to be opened retreat in India, called Vana. It was an interesting offer, but alas my gypsy soul was well settled back in Australia so moving to another continent was not an option. However, my curiosity was piqued and I was keen to follow this wellness newcomer to see what it would offer when opened. Cut to October 2017 and I find myself touching down at Dehra Dun airport prepared and ready for 7 days of contemporary ashram living. 

A friendly and humble Indian driver was waiting to collect me at the gate and then we drove through villages and countryside for an hour before arriving through the gates of Vana. A welcome bracelet (red thread) was wrapped and tied around my wrist upon arrival, which is traditional when entering temple ceremonies and rituals.

I was inducted into the Vana way and shown to my room before I made my way back to the Tibetan Healing Centre for a Sowa Rigpa therapy, which followed with dinner and bed. The next morning I began my day with a classical hatha yoga class, which included pranayama and yoga nidra to close the class. Something the yoga classes in the west have lost. After breakfast I made my way to the wellness centre with 'spa wish list' in hand. My initial wellness consultation was with an Ayurvedic Doctor and based upon the discussion I was asked to surrender to the prescribed plan that was seen to be best for my dosha and current imbalance. By lunch time I had received my spa itinerary for the entire week, which includes a daily Ayurvedic massage, tibetan healing, a consultation with the Tibetan Doctor and a number of other treatments. 

This is a contemporary ashram in every sense. Vana Retreat offers inspiration as to the power of simplicity, spirituality and silence. This retreat model was appropriate given the location and design of the property as it is not an expansive property and by way of its very design causes one to go on a journey of inner reflection. No mobile phones are allowed in public spaces and this causes further 'present moment awareness' and makes me realise how attached I have become to my device. I enjoy this digital detox. A set of white kurta pajamas are delivered to the room every day and not having to think about what to wear is one less decision each day and has a way of removing the egoic need we typically have to be 'special'.

Currently Vana offers a minimum 7 day retreat and soon this will be a minimum of 10 days as they strive to preserve a purist philosophy and maximise the healing result for guests. I met quite a number of guests who have already been to Vana 5 to 7 times in the 3 years it has been open. Certainly testament to Vana doing something very right. There is certainly a purity to the Vana way that is expressed through the ecological approach of the building, the spa and healing therapies, and the approach to food. The Dalai Lama has been to visit and bless Vana, and quite honestly the strong intention that belies this business can be felt in the ether. Spiritual and cultural traditions are honoured and as a guest I have the opportunity to touch the authentic essence of India without the usual dirt and noise of the country. 

Finally where would a retreat be without its food? Well I can say the approach to food is not restrictive in terms of flavours and colours, but rather served in small portions so that the taste buds can enjoy a variety of ayurvedic foods in a contemporary sense. A cooking class is also presented twice a week. One of my favourite times is afternoon tea in the lounge with my book 'The Road Less Travelled' by Scott M Peck. Apparently when the student is ready the teacher appears, and it seems I am now ready to read this classic tale of personal growth and spiritual development, which lands deeply inside of me given the reflection time I have had on retreat.

Day 7 comes around all too soon, but what I can say is that I am well rested and ready for the final leg of this 5 week exploration holiday. Upon departure another red thread bracelet with a charm is wrapped and tied around my wrist with well wishes. I am also given a red thread (presented on a copper platter) and invited to make a wish whilst tying the thread around an installation on the wall in the welcome/farewell pavilion. I pause and think for a moment before tying my 'lucky' thread to the wall. 

Overall Vana Retreat offers something very unique. Bringing Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and healing together ensures that the Vana way offers a lot of wisdom, integrity and applicable philosophies for modern day life and psychological development.

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JAPANESE WELLNESS

Last month I had the delight of making my first ever visit to Japan to meet with a new client wanting to create a health retreat in the heart of snow country. My tour included a few days in Tokyo, Kyoto, Niseko and Shima-Shi so that I could understand the country, its culture, the Aman hotel group and of course the onsen tradition. 

I landed in Tokyo and absolutely loved this city. Fashion, food and beautiful hotels. Finding a yoga or fitness class was not so easy, and it seems that the wellness scene as we know it, has a long way to grow in Japan. However, the Japanese have long been revered and studied for their long life expectancy. They have a diet that is largely fresh and unprocessed, with very little refined foods or sugar. And the Japanese tend to have a healthy attitude to food and eating. They have a traditional saying, “hara hachi bu”, a Confucian teaching, which means to eat until you are 80% full, and Japanese parents start teaching this to their children from a young age. Its this mindful approach and the way they serve their food that is the key to their longevity. Rather than having one large plate, they often eat from a small bowl and several different dishes. The Japanese are also strong believers of ‘flexible restraint’ when it comes to treats and snacks, enjoying them from time to time but in smaller portions. 

My next stop was Amanemu in Shima-Shi and overlooking Ago Bay. Built around natural hot springs, called onsen in Japanese, the hotel has 30 private villas inspired by the classic style of a traditional ryokan. Designed by Kerry Hill Architects and using natural materials that harmonise with the surroundings, each villa offers a luxurious approach to zen minimalism. Soaking tubs offer taps for cold, hot and hot-springs water, so that a guest can enjoy a private onsen experience in their room. Surrounded by gardens, the water-inspired Aman Spa offers 2,000 square metres of relaxation, including two private pavilions, a watsu pool and four treatment suites. Designed around a large hot spring, the onsen experience here is of a more contemporary nature and I could barely wait to have a soak in the warm water. My afternoon of spa treatments began with a deeply relaxing watsu, followed by a energy healing with a visiting specialist. I was then escorted back to the spacious changing area that connects to the outdoor onsen. The water was heaven! Each mineral spring in Japan has its own unique properties and the Japanese will travel to various onsen based on the healing effects of the water and their wellness goals. In the case of Amanemu, the thermal water left my my skin feeling silky and soft. To finish the day I joined my travel companion for dinner in the restaurant, where a menu of local delicacies, including spiny lobster, marbled Wagyu beef and foraged herbs offer the best of Japan. A good nights sleep gave way to a beautiful sunny day so I hopped on a push bike and explored the property and then went to the fitness centre for some exercise before a final soak in the onsen, followed by a delicious degustation breakfast. 

Our next stop was the beautiful city of Kyoto. Due to its exceptional historic value, it escaped destruction in World War II, therefore countless shrines, temples, gardens and other priceless structures remain intact. As this visit was more of a cultural than a wellness visit I simply planned to wander, but I did stop for a shiatsu massage, which is a form of Japanese bodywork based on Traditional Chinese Medicine using finger pressure, along with assisted stretching, joint mobilisation and manipulation. After 4 hours of walking the renewed energy and lightness I felt from the shiatsu treatment was quite unbelievable and allowed me to continue sightseeing for another 3 or 4 hours. 

Onwards to Niseko for a discovery tour of the region and its hotels, traditional ryokans and hot springs. A ryokan is a Japanese style inn found throughout the country, but especially in hot spring areas. More than just a place to sleep, a ryokan is an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine. I loved experiencing this side of Japan along with the traditional onsens. I finished both evenings soaking in an outdoor onsen that was under the stars and surrounded by forest. The perfect pathway to a good nights sleep. 

On return to Tokyo for my final 2 night stay, I checked into Aman Tokyo and soon thereafter went to the spa for an afternoon of treatments. I began, as you do in Japan, with a warm soak overlooking the city skyline. Then I succumbed to a 3 hour ritual. The entire journey was faultless with every last detail considered and the pace of the therapist unhurried and attentive. If visiting Tokyo please visit the Aman. Designed by none other than the iconic Australian architect Kerry Hill, this city hotel is absolutely exquisite in its approach to zen luxury. The aesthetic is both refined and a little 'wabi sabi', which is a concept derived from Buddhism with the characteristics including asymetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. Its this approach that makes the Aman Tokyo feel right in every way. In addition service excellence delivered with Japanese perfection ensures the stay is second to none. Upon checking out, I was driven to the train station with two hotel porters purchasing my train ticket and carrying my luggage to the correct platform and train carriage. What more could a travelling spa consultant ask for? 

In any case I look forward to returning to Japan as the Aman Moiwa Health Retreat continues to be developed. Its an exciting project on so many levels and I look forward to bringing the concept of Japanese wellness to wellness travellers and ski enthusiasts visiting Niseko. 

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KAMALAYA, KOH SAMUI

I have been visiting health retreats all over the world for 20 years now and Kamalaya had been on my wish list for well over 6 years, so you can imagine my delight when I was asked to fly to Thailand and visit Kamalaya as a mystery judge for the World Spa & Wellness Awards. 

The island of Koh Samui in Thailand has been health retreat central for over 20 years. In fact it was here that I went through my first 7 day fasting program back in 2000. It was also at this retreat that I attended my first yoga class and met my yoga teacher. Some years later I returned to the island for a second retreat and so when I landed at the airport I felt like I was coming home. 

The transfer to Kamalaya was smooth and within 50 minutes I was greeted into the lovely reception area for check-in. I was feeling wonderful already! I had booked a 7 night stay and after a busy year of moving interstate, studying interior design and work I was certainly ready to get my glow back on, and be an advocate for spa wellness. It was truly the perfect end to the year. 

My initial wellness consultation was thorough and my wellness advisor was exceptionally helpful with explaining certain speciality therapies on the spa menu. From there a plan was made and soon thereafter I arrived to the spa reception for my first treatment, which was an Ayurvedic Marma Point Massage, ideal for grounding and balancing. I had now arrived into my body and could already feel this was going to be an amazing week. 

Perched on a steep hillside that drops down to the sea and a private beach, I found myself feeling expanded and yet still. Whichever way I walked required some incidental exercise, along with some detoxification due to the sweating that naturally happens in the humidity of Thailand. In addition there was a daily schedule of classes that included yoga, meditation, pilates, aqua aerobics and some other things. I loved using the fitness centre and running on the treadmill with its spectacular view over the water and I also loved dancing freely in the yoga pavilion that sat on top of the hill. I hold this in my memory as 'my special place'. 

The food philosophy was absolutely perfect and I could not fault a single item. It has been carefully planned from all angles and whether one follows a vegan, raw, ayuvedic, TCM or paleo diet the menu and breakfast buffet had it all. The food was always beautifully presented, full of life, vitality and colour and of course delicious. It was such an inspiring culinary experience that I would return for this alone. The restaurant featured private tables along with a communal dining experience which is fabulous when travelling alone or if you are wanting to meet other wellness travellers. 

The spa and wellness menu is amongst the most comprehensive you will find anywhere. The approach to healing for mind, body and soul is available via a myriad of treatments to choose from. In addition, Kamalaya hosts some of the worlds best healing practitioners who offer their own specialty therapies, which ensures this spa menu will never be boring, and nor will your journey back to self. 

Finally what I most loved about Kamalaya is the pure intention that it was built upon. Created by John and Karina Stewart, this is a tale of love. They met at the feet of their Guru in India and from there became good friends. John was living in a Himalayan ashram at this time, and Karina was living in the USA and a practicing Chinese Doctor amongst other things. Some 11 years later John was told that it was time for him to leave the ashram and go into the world. He called Karina and with a shared vision they soon married and began the task of finding the perfect location for the retreat they imagined. During this time they met Marc Cornaz, who brought his exceptional experience as a hotelier to the development of the retreat so that today Kamalaya offers a luxury 5 star experience that rivals any other luxury resort.

Kamalaya offers an experience that touches mind, body and soul. I absolutely loved my week here and hope to return some day in the not too distant future.

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