First coined in the 1950s, ‘wellness’ has worked its way into our everyday lives. We often hear it used, but trying to define the word is as slippery as you may feel after a wellness-inspired detox wrap.
The World Health Organization description of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Most people associate wellness with a specific stream of health; emotional, physical, spiritual, perhaps even social.
On our travels the Spa Spies have dipped our toes in most types of wellness from fitness retreats to gut health to a native-American inspired Soul Journey. But at home, the movement towards wellness seems to be gentler, it’s much less about the juice cleanses and more about Pilates classes with a view.
If you want to step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, or make a serious change to your lifestyle, you may find a wellness retreat will start you on your way. There are some benefits to removing yourself from the every day.
Wellness retreats are often held in stunning locations, a mountain hike in the Alps might just distract you from obsessively counting your steps.
Work, children, family, mortgages, partners, everyday stresses can have you reaching for everyday comforts. A wellness retreat should stop you reaching for your daily temptations, we just can’t guarantee you won’t find new ones.
If you’re unsure of the best path to your goals, have questions or worries, a wellness retreats will have a team of experts on hand to offer advice and support; choose the bits that work for you.
A 2011 study published in the BMJ found that people who lost weight in groups (such as weight watchers and slimming world) lost just over three times the amount of weight compared to those going it alone. Sharing your journey with likeminded individuals might just help you reach your goals.
Arriving at Song Saa Private Island by speed boat makes you feel special. Located 45 minutes from the south coast of Cambodia, the resort occupies two small islands and is exclusive and laid-back in equal measure. Guests and staff may walk around barefoot but cutting-edge luxury is at your fingertips.
Many guests retreat to the privacy of their villas and stay put; others indulge in spa treatments or fitness sessions. You can even embrace your spiritual side and participate in a monk blessing by the sea.
Sustainability is at the heart of Song Saa Private Island. All the buildings have been crafted from local materials, including recycled and reclaimed wood.
Ananda is a renowned Ayurvedic retreat in the Himalayan foothills in Northern India. The spa is isolated (it’ll take two flights and a car journey along twisty mountain road) but there aren’t many places where you can spa with views over the River Ganges and the holy town of Rishikesh. For many visitors a journey to the Himalayas has the feel of a pilgrimage: you are taking yourself to where everything is clean and pure. There’s a host of programmes from detox to stress management, many with traditional Ayurdvedic and holistic therapies. But if you’re looking to harmonise your mind and untap your higher conciousness, the Dhyana retreat includes daily meditation classes, one-to-one yoga and pranayama sessions, and abhyanga and kundalini massage.
Choose to develop your own sense of spirituality with the help of a sisterhood that’s been doing it for over 400 years. In 2014, the Monastère des Augustines opened to the public as a place to “unwind and reaffirm your humanity and personhood in a place of calm and serenity.” Run by Augustine nuns since 1639, the now secular space in Quebec has a museum and archives but also a holistic health centre where you can participate in wellness activities such as yoga and Pilates, movement, breathing and postural sessions, mindful eating, and massage and relaxation therapies. The five-night Renewal Stay includes all of the above plus a holistic health consultation on arrival and departure. Accommodation is, of course, simple but good quality.
In the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, Canyon Ranch has been loved by Americans for decades (Julia Roberts, January Jones and Jane Seymour are said to be fans). The huge wellness resort opened 35 years ago and has extended from the original ranch to a campus with centres dedicated to spa, aquatic (therapy and pools), health and healing, spiritual wellness, and life enhancement. The wellness programmes and services cover all bases; you can sign up for fitness, medical, nutritional, spiritual or mind and body streams or pick and choose the classes, exercises and treatment sessions that suit you. Evening seminars range from weight management to art classes to a session on cognitive vitality.
The Mayr Cure, created by Austrian Franz Xavier Mayr in the early 1900s, is based on the principles of resting and cleansing your digestive system. It’s a limited detox diet that tends to polarise opinions, but proponents absolutely swear by it. Many people leave the hotel having lost four to five kilos in one week. The Original FX Mayr Health Centre on Lake Wörthersee in Austria tailors each programme to the individual client but most will involve rest (reducing food intake), cleansing (through digestive treatments and infusions) and training (slow, conscious chewing of food). As well as the idyllic lake-side surrounding, there’s a well-equipped spa, relaxing and beautifying treatments, and supportive expert staff.