Escape The Daily Grind in 2015

Australian Nautral Health

December 2014


Increasing numbers of Australians are swapping margaritas for meditation, sunbaking for soul searching, and parties for pampering. For the wellness traveller, retreats offer the ultimate in not just escaping the everyday, but a chance to experience the extraordinary. Tatyana Leonov shares her top 10 wellness retreats.

We all need a little push sometimes when it comes to our health. Following regular fitness routines, nourishing our bodies with optimum foods, finding time to meditate, and seeking respite from the everyday; it’s a full-time job if you don’t know where to start. This is where wellness retreats come in. Whether seeking to transform your body, re-establish balance, lift your spirit, or simply start a journey to a better you, there are plenty of wellness escapes to choose from.

Byron Yoga Centre: Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Byron Yoga Centre is one of the longest running yoga schools in Australia (it was established in 1988) and holds dedicated yoga retreats throughout the year – in both beautiful Byron Bay as well as in overseas destinations such as Bali. The retreats have an emphasis (for example on wellness, meditation or renewal) and give attendees flexibility in terms of schedules and activities. The focal point of the classes and retreats is purna yoga, a holistic style of yoga that means complete. The teachers at Byron Yoga Centre apply this philosophy to life beyond yoga – meditation, pranayama breathing techniques and even social ethics. Visitors are able to renew and restore energy levels as they advance through the program, with plenty of time to relax and partake in therapeutic treatments, too. byronyoga.com

Bliss Sanctuary for Women: Badung, Bali, Indonesia

When Australian founder Zoë Watson opened this women’s- only sanctuary in 2011, she tapped into the growing solo women travel demographic. There are no couples or families, just women (travelling alone or as a group) all seeking the same thing – bliss. Programs are customised (because everyone has different needs) and activities optional, with the ethos of relaxation – whether it’s by the pool with a book or indulging in a spa treatment – taking centre stage.

An array of packages is available, ranging from food-themed to surfing and even CrossFit. Everyone is teamed with a personal driver and hostess which really does make for a blissful stay. blisssanctuaryforwomen.com

Gawler: Yarra Valley Victoria

Take time out from the busy-ness of modern life to relax, de- stress and learn practical ways to improve your wellbeing. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Yarra valley, The Gawler Foundation’s harmonising wellness retreats give you a chance to slow down and bring your mind, body, emotions and spirit back into balance. Choose from a selection of weekend, three and five day retreats where you can explore meditation, yoga, and effective emotional management techniques to help you let go of old habits that no longer serve you, and integrate new healthy strategies to transform your daily life. gawler.org

Gwinnganna Lifestyle Retreat: Tallebudgera Valley, Queensland, Australia

Perched on a mountain in the luscious Gold Coast hinterland, the eco-certified Gwinganna refuge is the bee’s knees of wellness retreats in Australia. Guests don’t have access to television, radio, wifi or even newspapers. Instead they are encouraged to simply let go. Days are divided between non-compulsory activities such as yoga, meditation, Qigong and traversing the beautiful rainforest surroundings, and dreamtime – five hours every afternoon to do nothing (most people visit the lavish spa). Organically prepared meals, stunning surroundings and early nights combine for the ultimate wellness escapade. gwinganna.com

Samadhi Health and Wellness Retreat & Spa: Daylesford, Victoria, Australia

Samadhi means inner peace and the packages at this East- meets-West wellness resort – which is located in Victoria’s famed spa country – offer guests the chance to find and reinstate the meaningful link between body, mind and soul. Specific retreat programs focus on elements like fatigue, relationship renewal and bouncing back, and there are plenty of services on offer (including sound healing, reiki, colour therapy, meditation, healings, massage treatments, crystal therapy and many more) to cater to whatever customers need to drive the self-help journey. samadhiretreat.com.au

Aro Ha: Glenorchy, South Island, New Zealand

Escape to sophisticated Zen-inspired luxury at New Zealand’s hottest health retreat. Aro Ha, which opened in early 2014, was recently ranked number eight in the top 100 hotels and resorts in the world and number one in Australasia in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Not bad for a newcomer! The wellness programs here embrace yoga, meditation and massage therapy, and hiking. Walks are typically scheduled in the mornings so guests can return to the retreat for lunch and then have the afternoon to explore (or indulge in spa treatments and reflection time). The Aro Hā ethos is to fuse nature and adventure with self- development and transformation. It works. aro-ha.com

The Farm at San Benito: Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines

Just one-and-a-half hours drive from chaotic Manila, amidst a stunning jungle oasis, The Farm at San Benito, is targeted to those looking to change their lives for the better. The approach at The Farm is both holistic and medicinal and all treatments are designed to be transformative in their individual ways. Guests can opt to focus on weight loss, stress reduction, detox, or medicinal emphases such as diabetes management and cancer care, with doctors on-site to take care of guests’ restorative needs. The chefs at the restaurant only serve organic and vegan fare, and those with specific dietary needs can opt for anything from gluten-free meals to raw food only. thefarmatsanbenito.com

Chiva-Som: Hua Hin, Thailand

A renowned leader, the beachfront Chiva-Som sanctuary has been leading the way in the wellness retreats sector since its opening in 1995, and everyone from Kate Moss to the Beckhams have unwound here at some stage or another over the years. Nowadays Thailand is home to hundreds of health resorts; however, Chiva-Som is still a frontrunner. Guests have 10 programs to choose from, all designed to target specific needs – detox, yoga, weight management, fitness, personal discovery and more – and international experts visit Chiva-Som regularly (at least two a month), bringing repeat retreat-goers even more variability in offerings and teachings. chivasom.com

Golden Door Health Retreat & Spa Elysia: Pokolbin, New South Wales, Australia

Executive chef David Hunter follows the philosophy ‘let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food’ at Golden Door, and understandably so. All the zingingly tasty meals are designed to nurture the body, with no alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats, sugar or red meat served during stays. Guests are advised to switch off electric devices and immerse themselves in the program – which is extensive and varied with activities such as deep-water running, water polo, tennis and even salsa on offer to occupy the most active of minds. For guests who want something a little more relaxing, Spa Elysia is the largest day spa in the country, fitted with opulent treatment rooms and private gardens. goldendoor.com.au

Kamalaya Koh Samui: Koh Samui, Thailand

Soul searching comes easy when the location is in a lush tree-filled gorge that spills onto a private once used by Buddhist monks. Kamalaya offers guests a holistic wellness experience that combines healing treatments from the East and West, taking inspiration from the nature surrounding it, healthy cuisine and programs that encompass yoga, detox, self-esteem, self-love, emotional balance, stress, fitness and weight management, to name a few. There is a weekly program timetable that includes everything from Thai language classes and night market excursions to cultural tours and cooking classes – a fitting linkage between finding oneself and losing oneself in a new culture and land. kamalaya.com

Ananda Spa: Narendranagar, Uttaranchal, India

There is something calming about being in the Himalayas, and the 100-acre mountain estate of Ananda, set in the foothills of the majestic mountain range truly captures that ambience. Located close to the city of Rishikesh (the birthplace of yoga), the philosophy of the award-winning resort reiterates the meaning

of yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta. All guests are introduced to these ancient values – sometimes teamed with international wellness approaches, to help disentangle from the every day. Food comprises of modified traditional Ayurvedic cuisine as well as international fare, and the programs span rejuvenation, healing weight management, and – of course – yoga. anandaspa.com