THE NEW R&R

Well­ness re­treats are the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to kick-start health­ier at­ti­tudes and prac­tices for daily life

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

There was a time when “well­ness” and “mind­ful­ness” were part of a lex­i­con used only by ve­gan hip­pies and spir­i­tual ecow­ar­riors. In the last decade, how­ever, th­ese terms have bull­dozed their way into main­stream think­ing as peo­ple wake up to the ben­e­fits of in­cor­po­rat­ing healthy prac­tices for mind, body and soul into their daily lives.

Ac­cord­ing to well­ness con­sul­tant Ekraj Ga­jurel, this in­creased aware­ness is a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to the stresses of mod­ern life: “Our work­ing life has changed a lot. Ev­ery­body is so busy, es­pe­cially now, af­ter global re­ces­sion and times of eco­nomic hard­ship. Com­pa­nies don’t want to hire more peo­ple, they want to cost­con­trol, so they give you more work, and higher ex­pec­ta­tions, and this in­evitably causes men­tal stress.”

Of course, while we may em­brace the idea that a kale smoothie and Ash­tanga yoga ses­sion is the best start to the day, the re­al­i­ties of a hec­tic work sched­ule leave many of our health am­bi­tions as, well, just that – am­bi­tions. For busi­ness trav­ellers in par­tic­u­lar, crazy timeta­bles play havoc with the abil­ity to hold down a reg­u­lar ex­er­cise rou­tine, long pe­ri­ods away from home can be de­press­ing, and let’s not get started on di­etary habits on the road. Cue the “well­ness re­treat”.

This vogu­ish term cov­ers all man­ner of of­fer­ings, from in­tense re­treats that com­bine hard­core detoxes with mil­i­tary-style boot camps, to lux­ury re­sorts with ded­i­cated spa fa­cil­i­ties and healthy cui­sine.“It’s no longer enough to es­cape the de­mands of life; peo­ple are look­ing for mean­ing­ful hol­i­days that can sup­port them to im­prove the way they ex­pe­ri­ence life,” says Ka­rina Ste­wart, co-founder of Ka­malaya Koh Sa­mui.

For my de­but into the world of well­ness, I headed to The An­daman, A Lux­ury Col­lec­tion Re­sort, Langkawi, which has part­nered with V In­te­grated Well­ness to of­fer guests a com­plete so­lu­tion.

FORCE OF NA­TURE

I thought I knew what to ex­pect: essen­tially a bit of R&R with a side or­der of healthy liv­ing that would let me es­cape the drudgery of real life for a while. And to be sure, this was de­liv­ered in spades thanks to an

idyl­lic lo­ca­tion on a sweep of golden sand sur­rounded by jun­gle and five-star fa­cil­i­ties. But there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween a lux­ury holiday and a well­ness re­treat.

For starters, I’d com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated the heal­ing power of na­ture. The first day of my tai­lored well­ness ex­pe­ri­ence be­gan with a rain­for­est awak­en­ing – a guided tour of the jun­gle en­vi­rons, spy­ing on lo­cal wildlife such as rare glid­ing lemurs and learn­ing about lo­cal herbal reme­dies. We also vis­ited the unique on­site marine lab and co­ral nurs­ery where guests can help to re­build the reef that was dec­i­mated by the 2004 tsunami. Even when left to one’s own de­vices, the spec­tac­u­lar beauty of the nat­u­ral world was al­len­com­pass­ing. At break­fast, I watched a wa­ter mon­i­tor lizard haul its fishy catch onto the beach, while at lunch I shared some fruit with a fam­ily of mon­keys who came to in­ves­ti­gate my bal­cony. Sur­rounded by such de­lights it was easy to for­get the pres­sures of mod­ern life and be lulled by the un­hur­ried pace of na­ture, the sim­plic­ity of it all putting things in per­spec­tive and of­fer­ing a healthy re­al­ity check: is it re­ally worth wor­ry­ing about that one email in the grand scheme of things?

HOLIS­TIC AP­PROACH

Feel­ing re­laxed and peace­ful, I en­tered the sec­ond phase of my re­treat: a Holis­tic Life­style As­sess­ment with on­site well­ness guru Ekraj Ga­jurel. We be­gan with a Bi­o­lo­gi­cial Impedance Anal­y­sis at the V Fit­ness stu­dio, a pain­less ma­chine (bar­ring the re­sults) that as­sesses bio­met­rics such as body fat, wa­ter re­ten­tion, mus­cle mass and cell vi­tal­ity. I was also hooked up to the sen­sors of an emWave ma­chine that mea­sured my stress lev­els, vis­ually de­noted ei­ther by smooth curves (zen) or sharp, jerky lines (fraz­zled). De­spite my new­found sense of calm, the dis­play of er­ratic lines re­vealed I had a long way to go to achieve true seren­ity.

Next was a se­ri­ously in-depth con­sul­ta­tion on fac­tors that could be af­fect­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal health, from sleep pat­terns and wa­ter con­sump­tion to re­cur­ring dreams and sex life. Such top­ics wouldn’t nor­mally be up for dis­cus­sion with a stranger, but Ga­jurel’s friendly, ther­a­pist-like ap­proach en­cour­aged the de­tails to come tum­bling out, al­low­ing him to hone in on prob­lem ar­eas and be­gin to tai­lor a per­son­alised plan.

Like 95 per cent of the peo­ple Ga­jurel sees, neck, back and shoul­der pain is a re­cur­ring gripe. Dur­ing a one-on-one mas­ter­class, Ga­jurel demon­strated a se­ries of 10 sim­ple yoga ex­er­cises, eas­ily repli­ca­ble at home, to al­le­vi­ate the symp­toms. To ad­dress my ap­par­ent in­ner tur­moil, we prac­tised deep breath­ing ex­er­cises – which made an im­me­di­ate dif­fer­ence – while Ga­jurel gen­tly chat­tered away, let­ting his life­long learn­ings wash over me with hard-to-defy wis­dom: “Peo­ple al­ways think they can con­trol ev­ery­thing, but it’s not like that. Don’t try to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion, just do your part as well as pos­si­ble; the re­sult is not in your hands, but do­ing your best is. So don’t divert your en­ergy to­wards wor­ry­ing about the re­sult and you will re­lease the stress.”

MENUS AND MASSAGES

Clients come to Ga­jurel for help with all kinds of ail­ments, and though he can’t quan­tify suc­cess with sci­en­tific re­sults, he claims to have helped peo­ple with all man­ner of things, from diet to quit­ting smok­ing and bat­tling can­cer. He is well versed in nutri­tion, lam­bast­ing the ef­fects of soft drinks while cham­pi­oning the ben­e­fits of bal­anced pH lev­els, and his fo­cus on a healthy diet is re­flected through­out the re­sort.

All-day din­ing Tepian Laut restau­rant, for ex­am­ple, of­fers a V In­te­grated Well­ness health cui­sine menu. Rather than hav­ing one or two healthy dishes added as a foot­note, the en­tire menu in­cor­po­rates gluten-free, mac­ro­bi­otic, veg­e­tar­ian and sus­tain­able op­tions for de­li­cious, guilt­free din­ing. Over at the beach­front restau­rant Jala mean­while, the fo­cus is on sus­tain­abil­ity, where fresh “catch of the day” is pro­vided by lo­cal fish­er­men.

Mas­sage and spa are also key el­e­ments of most well­ness ex­pe­ri­ences, with treat­ments cus­tomised to achieve dif­fer­ent re­sults. At the open-air V Botan­i­cal Spa, which of­fered breath­tak­ing views of the bay from its clifftop po­si­tion, I in­dulged in the three-hour V Sig­na­ture “Song of the Malay Rain­for­est” Ri­tual treat­ment. This in­volved a foot scrub, body wrap, cleans­ing bath, tra­di­tional Malay mas­sage, hair treat­ment and a sooth­ing fa­cial that left me in a bliss­ful, med­i­ta­tive state.

From left: Beach­front yoga at The Westin Langkawi; and an open-air V Botan­i­cal Spa villa at The An­daman

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Above: A co­ral nurs­ery at The An­daman; an aerial view of The Westin Langkawi; and grilled salmon with pomelo herb quinoa and av­o­cado soymilk sauce from the V In­te­grated Well­ness healthy cui­sine menu

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