Thursday, 19 April 2012

Our latest Wellbeing Recruit, Mike, tries Yoga for the first time

Recently one night, when speaking to my girlfriend over the phone, I confessed to her I had attempted some yoga that same afternoon. Hearing the news, she burst in laughter. Surprised and slightly annoyed by her reaction, I kept my calm and asked her what was it that she found so funny.
'Haha! Please don't be offended. I'm not laughing at the fact that you did it. I just can't picture you doing it'!
Now, I was confused. What couldn't she picture? The fact that I had tried some yoga poses out, in the comfort of my own room, or that I had made an attempt at yoga? Not investigating any further, I finally convinced myself that the reason why she laughed must have been for hearing out, from her own boyfriend, that he had (secretly) downloaded some fancy, yoga app on his lap top and, following on-screen, step-by-step instructions, ‘indulged’ in some solitary yoga.
Well now, I see…! If you put it that way, I thought, can't really blame the woman for laughing, can I?

Yoga had been an appealing subject to me for quite a while. After extensive visualising and wondering how it would feel coming out of a class, and after many turned down invitations to attend one, I finally put some courage together. So, just little over a week ago I came out of my first yoga class! Dazzled and left thinking 'wow. Oh WOW. That was great!’ I realised what a big idiot I have been for avoiding yoga this long!
On a side note, the same girl who two weeks earlier had laughed at me for telling her I did DIY yoga, was now dragging me to my first class. Ahh... What irony.

A nice and sunny Sunday morning, we walked to the gym where the class was taught. There was a dance class going on before us, and when the music inside finally stopped, the doors opened. Sweaty girls in leggings came out of the room, and blended with other not-yet-so sweaty, girls in leggings, I entered the room. Something then hit me, almost immediately. Was there anything specific that I should do, once inside? Realising it would have been helpful to know who the teacher was and where she would be sitting during class, I knew it was too late to ask now, so I panicked a little and felt completely lost for the next thirty seconds or so.
Relying on my natural human instincts, I saw what the others did and so I did the same. It looked clear that all I had to do was pick a mat in the corner and quickly rush to a ‘favourite’ spot. Having noticed that my girlfriend had already picked hers and bearing in mind our previous agreement of having to sit as far away as possible from one to another, to avoid making each other giggle, I immediately picked a spot on the other end. Total silence reigned across the room until the teacher started the class.

My heart beating slightly faster than normal for the first few minutes, I could feel the nervous excitement in my body. As we were instructed to lie down, back and feet on the floor and been told to relax and breathe, I realized we were already going through the first pose. Then as we went from one pose to another, I realised my body had been gradually relaxing and my heart slowing down. Always concentrating on my deep breaths and the teacher's soothing voice, I would look at her and peek around from time to time, just to make sure I was getting those Asanas right. Downward-facing dog, cobra pose, back bends, forward bends, high lunges, low lunges, staff pose, shoulder stand, inversions, all in a mixed succession… Hell, I certainly had not seen that coming!
I realised we were about to reach the end when, sitting down, we were told to rub our hands together and place them wherever we wanted on our bodies. 'Thank you for coming today' said the teacher, and for some reason I began smiling uncontrollably, and a few people in the class even clapped.
The class was about ninety minutes long, which I thought was the perfect amount of time.
Now with my socks and shoes back on, still smiling, foolishly thinking I was succeeding at being very discreet, I then tried approaching the teacher (whose name, I had learnt, was Emma), thinking I should say something to her. A flattering 'wow Emma. You're amazingly fit! Ah yes, I also really enjoyed your class by the way', or perhaps a more conservative line, maybe expressing what a great teacher I thought she really was? I was confused. So I walked away, only to approach her again and walk away, and approach her again for a third time. Finally glancing at me for a good amount of seconds, as she was getting her things, I am sure I was now coming across as a big weirdo. Not really caring whether I looked like one to her or not, in the end I was too shy to say anything at all, so decided to leave. My self-esteem slightly lowered, I launched a smile at my girlfriend, who too was smiling and had witnessed to the whole scene. Walking out of the room and outside the building with sunrays hitting my face, I noticed I could not yet stop smiling.

Unlike before, I now don’t see yoga as daunting. However, I can assure you I was mistaken on a few things.
Prejudice number one: yoga is a women’s thing, not so much for men. False!
There is no denying that you see more women than men around doing it. And in reference to my experience, I won’t hide that making one of the three males, out of the twenty-five students in the whole class did make me feel kind of proud, perhaps even special. But yoga certainly isn’t a women’s thing and that’s the wrong thing to assume. The male attendees are clearly on the rise. So speaking to you males out there, don’t be afraid if you make only ‘that’ very small percentage. Go enjoy being surrounded by women.
Prejudice two: yoga is a light activity and can be done by anyone. Truth is, that is not entirely the case!
Yes, I do believe yoga can be done by anyone, male of female, young or old, but consider what level your body is at, before putting yourself out there.
I attended an intermediate-advanced class and it wasn’t as easy as I had expected or even imagined. I felt my body could cope, though. Speaking as a reasonably fit male in his early twenties, who does fitness, jogging and cycling regularly, I can confidently say that my current level of fitness has certainly helped. I am not sure how convenient it would be for someone who hasn’t exercised in a while, to go straight to an intermediate-advanced class. So if you belong to the ‘couch potato’ category and think you can start by attending any class level, re-think. I suggest a beginners’ class would be a smarter choice. If, on the other hand, you are already fit enough and believe that your body can handle it, then certainly go for it! Should you be into fitness and the subject of ‘balancing mind, body and spirit’, and feel like you might need to stretch and gain some flexibility like me, then I believe yoga might just be the thing for you!
It’s fun. It’s challenging. It’s liberating. And ultimately brings important benefits to your overall health.

I can finally say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my first yoga class and am now planning on making this a habitual routine, which is why I have booked my second class for next week. Thumbs up!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Day 4 - Stella's Travel Diary - COMO Shambhala Estate

Today was a jam packed day with so many different activities! 
It was an early start at 7.30 to take part in the 2 hour rice paddy field trek which is part of the regular activity schedule. I highly recommend this, not only because the trek is fun and interesting as you learn about local life through the brilliant estate guides, but also because you get to meet other guests staying here and can connect with them.

After a late breakfast I was driven to see the local healer and had to wait in line with other women in their 30s and 40s that had either read or seen Eat, Pray, Love. I felt like a bit of a cliché, but still went out of curiosity. I had mixed feelings about my session with the healer - but I can say that he wasn't a fraud. It's definitely worth the experience if you are quite spiritual.

We asked Widi, our assistant, if he could arrange a picnic lunch by the river followed by a treatment and even with only a couple of hours notice they pulled it off seamlessly!  Our lunch was served on a bale and we chilled out there and had a dip in the rock pools until we had our treatments at the riverside treatment areas; I'm not talking about a massage bed placed on the ground by the river, but full on treatment cabins with a bath, outdoor shower and toilet - all the creature comforts all tuned in with the natural surrounds -unbelievable! I was so blissed out by this that I felt seriously drowsy!  I thought about how I would feel if I was on my own and concluded that this whole place is a 'must do' experience, with or without your partner.

Highlight of the day for me - take a guess. Yes, the whole riverside afternoon. For Mr P, the rice paddy trek. He was fascinated with the engineering of the irrigation systems and loves to trek. We all have our passions!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Day 3 - Stella's Travel Diary - COMO Shambhala Estate

Today we experienced the first daylight thunderstorm since we arrived in Bali a week ago. Pretty good for the supposedly rainy season! There was something quite therapeutic and calming  about it and the staff looked at me like I was a weirdo while I stood in the heavy rain and then went for a swim in the pool. The official estate walk was cancelled but after the rain stopped we made our own way down the 300 steps to the river and its sacred water source. On the way down the views were spectacular and we kept discovering hidden treatment areas, bales, and rock pools with decked floor and lounges! This is where John, the General Manager, must have meant when he said that we HAD to have a treatment by the river and simply hang out relaxing there. Note to self - have to do something about that tomorrow!

Our PA , Widi. Who arranges everything for us very efficiently.
The climb back up all those steps was a good workout initself and my private yoga lesson afterwards a welcome treat to stretch out my stiff muscles.  Taking in the view and all these moments, I feel very pampered and privileged to be here!

My highlight of the day. Can't decide between the hot river stone massage (yes I am a treatment junkie) and the morning meditation class. Mr P's highlight - getting to the end of another jungle gym session and also the walk down to the river. He says if I get two choices, so does he!

Day 2 - Stella's Travel Diary - COMO Shambhala Estate

This place is so stylish, but in an understated way, it doesn't intimidate you into feeling not beautiful enough to be here.

Today I had my consultation with Eve,  the resident nutritionist and a very interesting lady, and planned out my programme. Eve is a top nutritionist with serious clinical experience and an impressive holistic approach to nutrition. She left LA at the top of her game to come here and is loving it! It shows through her excitement in helping me plan my activities and treatments. 

For this Spa Holiday I have chosen the rejuvenation programme which is a mixture of rejuvenating private yoga and treatments plus some extra activities that complement the programme. It seems to be a good fit with the resort's very peaceful and nurturing atmosphere.

I was vey naughty with Mr Photi on the other hand who didnt know that he was booked in on a fitness programme until he got here as he is seriously resisting the need for more self care as he moves through middle age. He had his first jungle gym session today and his nutrition consultation.  I was both proud and amused this morning as he ordered poached eggs instead of fried. Every small step is good.

The food is spectacular. I am dreaming about abducting their chef! My  bloated belly is flattening despite having a three course meal for lunch and dinner.

Highlight of the day for me was definitely the taksu massage - a local oil massage that incorporates Thai-style stretching manipulation. For Mr P, it was being able to get to the end of the jungle gym session and gaining a sense of achievement.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Day 1 - Stella's Travel Diary - COMO Shambhala Estate

It's been my lifelong dream to visit Bali, and I feel so lucky to be able to visit COMO Shambhala Estate. I arrived here a couple of hours ago and feel overwhelmed by how fantastic this place is! You get a sense when you are driving through the village that's next to the resort, and even before you enter the gates, that this place is going to be something special. But even then, it completely blew me away. 
Bear in mind, I was just coming from an Aman resort that was pretty amazing and a hard act to follow. I have been to some seriously luxurious places in my day but this place is something else. I realised we, and they, seriously undersell it - and for the price and offers we have it's a bargain.
I start my programme tomorrow. I am doing the rejuvenation programme so will keep you updated daily of how it goes. I am staying in the Tirta Ening residence in a COMO Shambhala suite. Just had a late lunch from the raw food menu that was delicious!
Signing off now, a very happy Stella x
View from my Suite!

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My living room!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Top Spa Trends for 2012

It’s All About the Food

Food has been proven to be a fantastic source of healing, and spas have really taken notice and upped their game in this department. In the UK, there has been a massive rise in awareness about how food can heal you.  With TV programmes like ‘The Food Hospital’ on Channel 4 showing the nation how they can cure some common ailments just through a change in diet and lifestyle. All of our spas now offer delicious and healthy food that can help restore and replenish the body and many also go one step further, with qualified nutritionists on staff,  explaining the ‘hows and whys’ of food being able to improve the skin and organ functions, plus they teach how to recreate spa menus at home. 

Legitimising wellness

It looks like the world of western medicine is finally catching up with many wellness principles of Eastern philosophies, and doctors who are more open to integrative medicine are busy gathering scientific data to prove their claims.  Check out  where results of studies have been posted.   Financial pressures always drive change and preventative health is front of mind as the  NHS looks to cut costs by prescribing therapies such as meditation for mental health problems and acupuncture for insomnia to back pain.  The world’s best spas are ahead of the game with experienced practitioners offering a wide range of therapies as part of their wellness  programmes.

Spa and local culture

Mixing up a bit of local discovery with deliciously relaxing treatments is the way forward. Why travel to a beautiful unique destination and not sample the delights of the local culture? There is a real trend towards holistic holidays that embrace indigenous treatments from the surrounding area and also include authentic excursions to delve under the skin of the destination.  Delights include local walks that end up in waterfall swims, sampling organic produce on farms and adding a bit of culture to complete a well-rounded wellness experience!  

Sleep Tight

Sleep is stepping into the spotlight as the reports on how depriving yourself of sleep can not only affect your mood but can also lead to other health problems down the line. Sleep is highly restorative, but it can be difficult in our busy lives to catch enough ‘zzzz’s’ to keep feeling in fine fettle. We’ll see more and more spas devising programmes that cater for the stressed out and sleep deprived as it becomes a greater need in our modern world.   

Education, Education, Education

Pampering simply isn’t enough for spa aficionados these days. People want to learn about how their wellness experience benefits them and what tools they can take home with them to apply in their day to day lives. It ties in with the trend of discovering why certain treatments make us feel good from a scientific point of view.  Spas are more geared up than ever before to impart their wellness wisdom on their guests through expanded activity schedules including lectures and wellness techniques.  Classes often take a wonderfully interactive approach so you can practice what they preach.

A Value Proposition

There is no denying the amount of economic uncertainty rife in today’s world. ‘Trying economic times’ are buzzwords on every politician’s lips. What we’ve found is that people are shunning the glitz and swank of uber luxurious spas in favour of a more authentic experience that caters towards true wellness.  The spa-going population is now even more sophisticated and, focusing more on value rather than the cheapest price. People are discovering that the cheapest spa will not necessarily bring them a return on investment in terms of measurable health benefits and long lasting results.

Healthy ageing

This continues to be a strong trend in 2012. The focus isn’t about reducing wrinkles but about disease prevention and health enhancement.  We like the idea ‘it’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years’ that count. Personal medical evaluations are followed by personalised health plans that include treatments, education and activities that will help achieve optimum health and boost vitality. Keeping an active mind is a key part of this trend – so activities like meditation and puzzles that keep the brain alert are recommended. People are also turning to more natural skincare solutions and again nutritious food to keep their outer body a beautiful reflection of inner health.

For where to find Spa Holiday hot on the trail of these spa trends visit 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Absolute Sanctuary Launches its first ever recipe book!

With constant requests from guests for recipes to take home with them to continue eating healthily at home and with a mission to spread the love for cooking healthy and tasty meals ABSOLUTE SANCTUARY has printed a cook book Food Made With Love from The love Kitchen for this dedicated purpose.The hard cover recipe book will feature enticing appetizers, vegetarian and non-vegetarian main courses, tempting guiltless desserts, as well as refreshing detox dishes in keeping with the spirit of the resort’s detox focus. A special feature of the book is the heart facts introduction to each recipe giving the nutritional benefits of the ingredients that go into the making of each dish.
Should you be interested in purchasing a cook book please email or