Bliss and tell

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 April, 2010, 12:00am

IF YOUR stress levels match the city's pollution index and your hip handles are tipping the scales into 'bikini unfriendly' territory then inhale deeply and, as you exhale, say two words: well--ness re--treat. Yes, office-dwellers left flat and fat by the city's frenetically paced lifestyle can find comfort in the knowledge that Asia has some of the best wellness retreats in the world.

If you want to stretch your limbs but not the budget then a pilates and yoga holiday in a lush environment might be for you. Hong Kong-based Mareile Paley was hooked from the moment she first tried pilates in 2004. Now she's heading a seven-day retreat, with California-based yogi Kishan Shah, in the bamboo and ricefield haven of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali. Running from June 19-26, 2010, the retreat aims to build a bridge between the mind, body and creativity with a programme that includes 20 hours of yoga and pilates, lectures on ayurvedic lifestyle and plenty of extra perks, such as massages, excursions and private consultations to help get you in the zone. 'It's about finding a connection between pilates and yoga ... about getting to your core,' says Paley. For more details, visit

Thailand is brimming with wellness retreats and one of the best is Kamalaya ( Built around a cave that once served Buddhist monks as a place of meditation, its programmes range from detox, yoga, stress and burnout, to fitness and weight control as well as packages that can be tailor-made from a range of holistic medicine, spa and healing therapies.

The Himalayas are a popular spot for some mind, body and spirit cleansing and Australian yoga teacher Louisa Sear has chosen Bhutan for her six-day yoga retreat. To be held at the luxurious Uma Paro resort from August 13 to 19, 2010, and entitled 'Freedom ... Inquiry into Self', the experience combines visits to sacred Buddhist sites with picnics, meditation and pranayama, including sessions in and around active temples and monasteries. At Uma Paro you can enrich your stay with organic, healthy cuisine and treatments such as one of the Ayurvedic therapies or a Bhutanese traditional hot-stone bath and massage. Tempted? Visit for more.

A favourite retreat of model and yoga junkie Christy Turlington, Shreyas Retreat (, in India, is a world away from the dusty hustle and bustle of nearby Bangalore. This boutique retreat houses a maximum of 25 people and there's a healthy menu of activities such as yoga, meditation, chanting and breathing-awareness classes - all soaked up in super-luxe surrounds. There are specialised packages, ranging from weight-loss to silence retreats, but if you prefer to be more hands-on you can exercise your green fingers in the organic vegetable garden, or give your conscience a workout with some voluntary work at the local schools.

In Queensland's lush hinterland can be found Gwinganna (www., a place to immerse yourself in deep relaxation, healing, restoration and rejuvenation all while taking in stunning valley and ocean views. Gwinganna (it means 'lookout') was the name given to the land by the Kombumberri clan of Aborigines and the retreat's philosophy encourages guests to listen to what their body craves. Each day starts with Qi Gong meditation, watching the sun rise out of the ocean, and afterwards you can restore balance through inwardly focused 'yin' activities such as yoga, pilates or dance - or a little 'yang' action such as boxing or belly-dancing - designed to get your blood pumping.

Still in Australia, the Gaia Retreat & Spa, in Byron Bay, is ideal for stressed-out city folk looking to restore the spirit. Pamper yourself all the way with a body polish, therapeutic wrap and massage ... OK, now exhale.