All posts filed under: Travel

Watsu – water shiatsu that takes you back to childhood

Watsu is a deep, powerful and curious form of bodywork.  A long, intense, intimate session of massage and manipulation techniques, carried out while you float in (or even under) a warm pool, watsu promises to heal you in mind, body and spirit.  Fans claim it has remarkable regenerative qualities; that it can release stress, muscle tension and pain like no other treatment.  They also say that it can equally release emotional anguish, giving you back a sense of childhood innocence and joy. Watsu was the brainchild of Harold Dull, an American poet who became fascinated with shiatsu, the Japanese acupressure massage and stretching therapy.  Having studied in San Francisco and Japan in the 70s he wanted to combine the therapeutic effects of shiatsu with the healing properties of water.  At first he tried giving massage on a padded board set up in a hot tub but when he moved to Harbin Hot Springs in California he soon realised that he could achieve far better, far deeper effects by floating his client in water, working on …

The Body Retreat: smart and supportive de-stress and weight-loss

The Body Retreat’s Stress Re-Set retreat is a four-night retreat that aims to balance body, mind and emotions through an immaculately thought-out programme of diet, exercise, mindfulness and behaviour modification.  Plus oodles of fun and tons of big warm-hearted bonding. It’s such a smart concept.  You’re kept pleasantly busy all through the day (so you don’t have the chance to start worrying about anything) and, come night, you’re so blissfully tired, you can’t help but fall into a good sleep pattern.  Days start early: there’s a gentle knock on your bedroom door at 7am, accompanied by a cheery ‘Good Morning’ (no need for stressy alarm clocks) and you toddle out in your bath-robe to pick up a glass of hot lemon.  Our bedrooms are grouped around a central sitting area so it has the feel of a grown-up boarding school (of the nicest kind) as we all emerge, tousle-headed, mutter greetings and then retreat back to our rooms  to sip our juice and do some skin brushing.  Then it’s downstairs for a quick burst of …

Ti Sana – detoxing with a dose of science in Italy

Ti Sana has the ambiance of a monastery: an ancient but very smart monastery. Set in the heart of a small Italian village, midway between Milan and Lake Como, the spa has been created from an eighteenth century noble’s house and is intimate, a cluster of buildings looking inwards on itself – all soft stone and thick rustic beams.  It’s on a firm mission – to bring you to awareness about your health; to encourage you to make conscious choices about your diet, exercise and general lifestyle – and they’re taking no prisoners.  The owner, Erica d’Angelo, and her team are young and highly committed – they walk their talk every step of the way.  But there’s nothing flakey about this place – everything they do is based on the firmest science they can find. First stop for any of their detox retreats is a series of tests at the medical spa, followed by a consultation with the spa doctor.  There’s no hiding, no fudging the issue – if you fib on your questionnaire about …

Kaliyoga: sociable accessible yoga in Spain (and France)

A warm breeze is caressing my skin and I’m almost drunk on the sweet heady fragrance of orange blossom and jasmine. Lying in a hammock at Kaliyoga in the foothills of the Alpujarras in Southern Spain is so supremely relaxing that I keep reading the same page of my book over and over again. The soft hum of bees is replaced by a burst of laughter from the pool and I lift my head.  More giggles ensue and curiosity wins the day.  I slowly stir myself to wander over and, perching on the end of a sun lounger, join the fun. If I had only one word to describe Kaliyoga I’d say ‘sociable’.  Swiftly followed by ‘laughter’ and ‘warmth’.  I don’t think I have ever talked or laughed so much as during my week with a bunch of people who started off as complete strangers. Maybe we were just incredibly lucky, maybe our group just happened to gel, but I also reckon it has something to do with the spirit and soul of Kaliyoga itself. Our …

Ayurvedic healing at Austria’s Schloss Pichlarn

I love ayurveda, the 5,000 year old system of Indian mind-body spirit medicine.  In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire book about it.  Yet I hadn’t had a dose of ayurvedic cleansing for many years and was yearning for some of its deep pampering treatments.  Would I have to trek over to India or Sri Lanka to get my abhyanga and shirodhara fix?  It seemed not.  I could fly to Saltzburg and be at Schloss Pichlarn less than two hours later.  No jet lag,  no sirree.   Saltzburg?  The Austrian mountains seem an unlikely venue for exotic ayurveda but, in fact, it’s not as strange as it sounds.  Ayurveda became very popular in Germany and Austria in the 90s and there is a wide choice of ayurvedic spas in these most firmly western countries.  Schloss Pichlarn has been developed around an old castle (complete with turrets) with a vast slab of mountain behind.  It’s big and grand (but not remotely stuffy) with all you’d expect from a large luxury hotel (there’s a …

Juice fasting – yes or no?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity nowadays who isn’t sipping freshly pressed juice.  Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall, Demi Moore, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Nichole Ritchie, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Silverstone, Colin Farrell…the list goes on and on.  It’s not hard to see why – juicing is touted as the elixir of youth, a magic bullet for preventing or curing disease and the holy grail of weight loss all squeezed into one glass.  In Hollywood juice cafes are virtually considered temples. You can simply incorporate the odd glass of juice into your daily diet or, as many of the A-listers do, give yourself the occasional juice ‘detox’, drinking nothing but juice for a few days or even a few weeks. ‘Juicing is great because you can take concentrated nutrients from a whole lot of fruits and vegetables,’ says Erica D’Angelo, who runs juice retreats at the Ti Sana spa in northern Italy.  ‘Normally you simply wouldn’t be able to eat that amount at once. You’re consuming a substantial quantity of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help …

The rise and rise of the serious medical spa

Spas have become so commonplace now that it’s unusual to find a smart hotel that doesn’t have one.  The word spa has become synonymous with pampering, with elaborate ‘rituals’ and esoteric beauty treatments.  But it wasn’t always so. The original spas were built with serious healing in mind.  They were usually sited in places with natural springs where people would ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing in water rich in minerals, or being daubed with its mud.   Far from being ‘feelgood’ places, they were often quite draconian in their treatments. I clearly remember enduring all kinds of torture (including freezing showers and being wrapped in wet bandages) at Tyringham Hall, an erstwhile naturopathic spa.  There was no concept of picking and choosing your treatments – you were given what the doctor thought you needed, no more, no less. Now we’re seeing a move back to this more focused therapeutic function with some spas building up impressive reputations for treating specific problems.  People flock to them, not for sybaritic pampering but to get to the …

Moor mud – celebrity beauty starts at home

Sometimes the oldest and simplest products are the best.  Mud from the lowland moorland of Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia has been used for wellbeing for at least two thousand years – the Romans prized it for its health and strength promoting qualities and the Celts dunked themselves into the odd mud bath too.  Now ‘Moor mud’ has become the latest ‘must try’ treatment for celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Trinny and Susannah, Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Palmer. It’s thick and black (though odour free) and my first impression was one of mild distaste.  I was introduced to the Moor at the (now sadly defunct) Tyringham Hall naturopathic clinic around 15 years ago.  ‘Climb in and relax for twenty minutes,’ said the therapist, pointing at a bath full of murky black water.  ‘Honestly, it’s lovely.  Just make sure you have a little rest afterwards.’  I’m not really the mid-afternoon nap type but I obediently lay down in my room for the ‘little rest’ and didn’t wake up until sixteen hours later.  I felt fabulous – …