Health Havens

Fernwood

September/October 2014


Keeping fit and eating well should be on everyone’s agenda, but sometimes we all need a push. Shack up at a health retreat for a philosophical, spiritual and educational experience, writes Tatyana Leonov.

Regular exercise, a well-balanced diet and sufficient rest are all pivotal for long-term health, but sometimes our bodies and minds need a bigger push. Offering a chance to escape the daily grind (at least for a while) to focus solely on your health, fitness and wellbeing, you will reap rewards from even a quick stay at a health retreat. If only attendance was compulsory!

There are plenty around, but the serious ones offer a variety of activities that are designed to get your body moving in ways it hasn’t for a while (or maybe ever), get you eating the right food, and – most importantly – have you reflecting on what it is to be healthy, both physically and mentally.

Australia is home to some of the best health retreats around, and although a stay often doesn’t come cheap, health is ultimately priceless – which really makes attending a bargain when you think about it ..Although programs can be tough, these detoxifying retreats enjoy stunning surroundings which helps to soften the blow. Somehow abstaining from coffee, chocolate and alcohol is easier amidst lush green trees with waves lapping against your freshly manicured (and probably exfoliated) feet.

We’ve picked five of the best retreats designed to make you sweat, think and reevaluate your health. They’re all close to home – three in Australia and two just a hop and a skip away in Asia – so there really is no excuse anymore.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Queensland 

Even if you’ve never researched health retreats you’ve probably heard of Gwinganna. Situated in the luscious Gold Coast hinterland, the impressive retreat blends into the natural bush surrounds thanks to the refurbished weatherboard and natural timber used throughout the build (the property is eco certified too). The approach to health here is a little different to many other retreats. Although you can choose to be pushed physically, you will also unwind (and challenge your mind, whether you planned to or not): the only compulsory activity is doing nothing for a whole five hours each day. The thing is, nothing can be hard when you’ve got no television, coffee or access to wifi. Although the range of activities is optional (everything from body play movement classes to meditating to bush walking and Qigong is offered), most people find themselves wanting to participate in just about everything. The spa is popular and only open in the afternoons – perhaps at first to minimise boredom, but eventually to detox the body and soul. gwinganna.com

Packages start from $980 per person, double share, for a two-night Wellness Weekend.

Golden Door Elysia, New South Wales

Eating healthy food is all well and good if you know how much and when. At the Golden Door Elysia guests are treated (yep, treated, you read right) to delicious food that is free of toxic carcinogens and made using only the good fats. Executive chef David Hunter follows the philosophy “let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food”, and a stay at the retreat gives guests’ bodies a rest from red meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar and saturated fats.

Meals are spread out and portioned (too much of a good thing is still too much) so guests can apply what they learn when they return to their everyday lives. Exercise comes in many forms, including holistic activities such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates and meditation, as well as workouts that are designed to make you sweat some more – deep water running, tennis, water polo and salsa. On top of a varied fitness and nutrition schedule, visitors are encouraged to disconnect from electronic devices during their stay. This simple action is a substantial step towards detoxification on another level, and perhaps one that can at least be partially applied once back in the real world. goldendoor.com.au

Packages start from $1130 per person, twin-share in a one-bedroom villa for a two-night program.

Kalyaana Spa & Wellness Retreat, Western Australia

At KalyaaNa, customisation is key. If you have your own, specific goals in mind you can check in any day and stay for up to 10 days – you just need to be committed to improving your health and willing to work with the specialist staff to achieve your goals.

For those who do require guidance with how best to approach the retreat experience (and let’s face it, most of us do) the retreat offers structured health and wellness programs. The health-focused option has a range of activities depending on how long you stay, including nutritional consultations, cooking demonstrations, yoga classes, personal training sessions and therapeutic massages. In the wellness program there is greater focus on detoxing the mind with guided meditation, art, sound healing and reiki. Whatever treatment style you go for, phone consultations before attendance are free and recommended so you can customise whichever treatment plan you choose – the philosophy here is that none of us is the same, so treatments shouldn’t be either. kalyaanawellnessretreat.com.au

Custom-designed retreats start at $1000, and are dependant on length of stay and treatments selected.

Conrad Bali, Bali

Nutrition and exercise are fundamental in whatever treatment you select, and at the Conrad Bali resort, located on the coast of Nusa Dua, homegrown local fruits are harnessed as part of the new “Just on Juice” regime. The seven- day program begins with a consultation with a nutritionist who designs a personalised dietary program to reduce weight and improve overall health. Activities incorporated into the program include yoga, swimming and water exercise as well as restorative spa therapy treatments, the approach being one of holistic wellbeing.

Guests are served organic cuisine during their stay, but central to the program are the juices. All of the tasty blends are made in-house and come with a list of health benefits. Heart Beet, a mix of organic beetroot, organic cucumber and pineapple, is high in antioxidants and beneficial for energy, clear skin and cellular nutrition, while Bedugul Booster (a blend of small Chiquita bananas, Granny Smith apples, organic mango, carrots, blanched spinach and celery stalks) is designed to pack an energy punch, protect against muscle cramps, strengthen blood and increase serotonin. “Drink up!” is certainly not a forbidden saying here. conradbali.com

A three-day package starts at approximately $1200 and includes all juices and a one-hour massage for two people.

Chiva-Som, Thailand

“Haven of Life” is the meaning of Chiva-Som, a tranquil retreat located in Hua Hin on the gulf of Thailand. With 11 treatment plans to choose from, including options such as Yoga for Life, The Art of Detox and Natural Healing, this is one sanctuary where options play a pivotal role.

For those who want to sweat it out, Chiva- Som’s newly launched Optimal Performance program is designed for exercise enthusiasts looking to improve their fitness and learn about their body in a tranquil environment. Guests are treated to spa cuisine and daily treatments, but pampering is not the goal. Instead, a series of intense workouts are undertaken with the aim of getting guests fitter, stronger and faster, including inner core exercise, kinesthetic assessment, hypoxic training and radial shock wave therapy. Although physical fitness is a priority, emotional and spiritual performance is also worked on as part of the overall goal to ultimate health. chivasom.com

A three-night retreat package starts at approximately $1600.