Wellness Retreats on the Rise

Vivienne Tang


As stressed-out urbanites are struggling to find the right work – life balance, wellness travel is becoming a popular option for people to refocus and to reconnect with themselves

As our lives are becoming increasingly more stressful with extended working hours, improved technology that forces us to be available at all times, as well as constant distraction through social media, it is becoming significantly harder to carve out down-time, and time spent with ourselves. Advertising and social media persistently push their views on us, telling us what to buy, how to look, and how to live, and the divide between reality and expectation continues to dig a gaping hole into our lives.

Due to the pressure and the stresses of daily life, people feel disconnected from themselves. Burnouts, depression and mental illness are at a record high at the moment, as people can’t seem to get that work - life balance right.

It is no wonder then that so many people are flocking to wellness retreats, seeking time out from their day-to-day grind, in the hopes to return and bring some of that wellbeing back into their daily lives.

Wellness is booming everywhere, as we strive to make healthier and more conscious choice, be it through exercise, food or travel. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the industry is now worth USD 4.2 trillion, and wellness trips make up 6.5% of all tourism trips, reaching a whopping 830 million trips a year.

Often reaching a breaking point in their lives, many city-dwellers are left with no other choice but to treat themselves to a wellness holiday, and many urbanites have already factored preventative wellness retreats into their wellbeing regime, which they now plan months in advance.

Retreating solo, reflecting and reconnecting with oneself has become such a sought-after concept, especially among women who used to go on juice fasts and yoga weekends in their 20s. They have now moved on to integrated health retreats and are travelling alone or with their girlfriends. In Bali, for instance, where the eat pray love movement is still going strong, many women-only retreats have popped up. They have expanded to include empowerment holidays, such as the popular surf retreats run by Goddess Retreats. COMO Hotels has also recognized this trend and therefore launched an all-female Surf and Wellness Retreat with surf champion Sally Fitzgibbons, which will take place from November 2 to 9 at COMO Uma Canggu (for the surf part) and COMO Shambhala Estate (for the relaxation part).

Another great solo traveller favourite is Absolute Sanctuary on Koh Samui island. There, many females are attracted by the vast offering of Pilates reformer classes that will have you chiselled and toned by the end of your retreat. But there’s also great emphasis on self-reflection with daily meditations, supplemented with healthy food that uses natural and organic ingredients.

Just a short 30-minute car ride away is the luxe and uber popular Kamalaya. With a very hands-on approach, it guides its guests (males and females, but predominantly solo travellers) through its wellness programmes with regular consultations and catch-ups with a dedicated person such as the nutritionist, meditation teacher and so on. Choose from their vast array of programmes, including Detox, Stress & Burnout, Yoga, Emotional Balance, Ideal Weight, Optimal Fitness and Sleep Enhancement (which we highly recommend). Kamalaya founder, Karina Stewart, is now also offering timely group retreats.

Chosen Experiences

And even though solo retreats have become hugely desired over the last decade, there’s also a new movement for group retreats, where attendees gather with like-minded people and overcome physical and mental hurdles together as a community. Retreat organizer, Chosen Experiences, has made it their focus point and main attraction to get retreat-goers out of their comfort zone (think cliff jumping and waterfall abseiling) which will enable them to experience breakthroughs in their personal lives too. Targeting type A personalities who are normally isolated in their management roles, these attendees find refuge in this group setting and are stimulated by great conversation and community spirit. Chosen Experiences runs regular week-long programmes in Bali, but also offers Living with Impact retreats around the world.

Over the last five years, wellness has become such an intrinsic part of our daily lives, that our vacations have also become more demanding, in that we want to upkeep our daily workout routine and our healthy diets. And even though most of us would love to escape on a wellness retreat, chances are that we have family and work commitments that won’t allow us to simply get away from it all. But nonetheless, this shouldn’t keep us from experiencing wellness travel, as most hotels are now responding to our needs and are incorporating wellness within their normal hotel offerings. So you can still vacay with your family but also enjoy shorter wellness retreat tasters. Furthermore, hotels are also responding to special dietary requirements, so you can continue to enjoy your almond milk cappuccino, avocado toast and Impossible Burgers while on holiday.

Anantara Kihavah (which was also voted most Instagrammable hotel by numerous publications) offers wellness programmes even though it is predominantly a family hotel. Making it the perfect holiday spot for parents and kids, it offers something for everyone, activities above and below the sea, including a range of three-day Recovery and five-day Wellbeing programmes, as well as three- to seven-day Ayurvedic Retreats. Furthermore, Anantara Kihavah also boasts the Maldives only medi-spa, allowing beauty aficionados to be pampered in between dive and snorkel sessions. This place allows you to get away from your day-to-day chores without having to give up your favourite wellness and fitness activities.

But what good are all these retreats, if we return home to our hectic lives without actually being able to implement some of the tools or activities we’ve picked up during our getaway? Luckily, wellness is moving into cities with more and more centres offering integrated wellness. Fivelements for example, which pioneered spiritual wellness and plant-based living with Fivelements Retreat Bali on the island of the Gods, has now launched its first Fivelements Habitat in Hong Kong, offering a well-rounded support system, complete with sound baths, yoga, Pillates, tea ceremonies, healing sessions, bodywork and plant-based cuisine, for stressed-out urbanites, as well as retreat-goers who are returning from a blissed-out holiday and are now seeking that focus and newfound enthusiasm for life in an urban setting. Fivelements Habitats has plans to come to a city near you, so watch this space.

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