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How to have your own wellness retreat
Or how to create your own wellness programme, according to Ramon Imper of Vietnam's TIA Wellness Resort
I know that wellness (or the idea of wellness) may seem inaccessible and unattainable to some. It may come off as something that’s only reserved for the privileged, even.
But for this post, there’s no need to put a label on how you want to – or are able to – take care of yourself. You can choose to call it a wellness retreat, a break, a vacation, or an activity that makes you feel good and allows you to set aside your worries. You don’t have to look at it as the type of pursuit or all-or-nothing lifestyle that’s being promoted online. (Unless that’s what you’re actually aiming for.)
What is wellness, anyway? You’ll find a couple of definitions, but let’s start with one.
“Wellness is a lifestyle choice that focuses on balance and good health of the body, mind and soul,” says Ramon Imper, general manager of TIA Wellness Resort in Da Nang, Vietnam.
“Everything is connected – if I don’t treat my body well, my mind and soul will suffer. If my soul is hurt, my body will start to ache, and my mind will not be clear.
“There is not one formula that fits everyone. Finding personal wellness is a journey that never ends, but which in its core is very simple.”
How to experience wellness
If that sounds good to you and you want to hear more, we present you with two options:
Option #1: Go to a wellness resort
… if you have the time and the budget, that is. Here’s a sample of what you can expect from TIA: 87 private villas, each with a plunge pool. A 22-treatment room spa. An oceanfront pool. Indoor and outdoor yoga spaces. Relaxation areas. Breathwork and tai chi. Wellness-based menus and plant-based meals. An organic and biodynamic wine list, the only one of its kind in Vietnam. Basically, everything you need to de-stress and focus on yourself is in one place.
Ramon knows how beneficial a wellness retreat could be. He recalls his most memorable wellness experiences, and why they’re special.
“There are two which stand out and which have helped me on my personal wellness path,” he says.
• A seven-day spiritual healing retreat in Cambodia
“It focused on the seven chakras, with meditations, chanting, energy healing and personal coaching.
“The decision to go to this retreat happened during a difficult time, and I didn’t know what to expect. But immediately upon arrival, I knew that I needed to be there.
“I learnt a lot about energy work and how we can help ourselves with simple but effective practices. I still practise some of the meditations and mantras to this day.”
• A course on nutrition
“The second experience, which might not sound like a wellness experience, was a nutrition science certification I completed with a well-known university,” he continues.
“Having already had a good knowledge of nutrition, this intense and in-depth study over months extended my personal and professional horizon concerning nutrition. I was able to make a positive impact not only for myself, but for the people around me through advising and implementing changes within our resort for guests and all employees.
“The experience also opened a hunger for more learning, not limited to nutrition but health and science, and learning what I consider as a part of wellness.”
Option #2: Go the DIY route
… with tips from Ramon as well – because you don’t necessarily have to be in a new place to experience wellness.
If you can’t leave or travel, you can incorporate these into your daily routine.
• Use elements of a wellness experience as a guide
“A wellness experience is different for everybody, and it might look very different from one person to another. But I think I can use our resort’s philosophy and wellness pillars as a good example,” he says.
Interpret these in your own way and as you will, depending on your situation, wants and needs.
“It’s important to give the body what it needs, such as healthy and delicious food, but to also nourish the mind, like with reading and learning.”
“No matter a person’s age or physical fitness, we need to move daily and ensure our body is kept active. This can range from walks on the beach to yoga or a full-body massage.”
“This can also be considered as meditation. We take our breath as something automatic, but if we know how to breathe and use it as a tool, we can create stillness in our minds, which can help us heal and focus.”
“We all need to be able to create, to do something we like, to see the results from what we’re doing. It can be anything that you’ve made, from artwork and poems to cooking and your job to planning a holiday. We all need a purpose to be happy,” he concludes.
“If we follow these simple elements, we can be on an ongoing wellness experience every day of our lives. We at TIA Wellness Resort are here to help our guests implement these simple steps.”
• Cook a wellness-based meal
What is a fulfilling wellness-based meal like?
“I’d like to quote Michael Pollan, one of my favourite food authors: ‘Eat real food, not too much and mostly plants’,” says Ramon.
“If we look at a meal, it will consist of lots of green leafy vegetables and some red tomatoes and peppers, carbs such as brown rice or quinoa, healthy protein from lentils, beans or fish for non-vegans, and healthy fats from nuts or a bit of quality olive oil.
“This is just a simple example and I strongly recommend that everybody eat what they enjoy, as long as we balance healthy food well. We can also have salami pizza occasionally.”
And what does he think a wellness-based menu should include? (Use this for reference too.)
50% – fruits and vegetables
25% – carbs (not processed)
20% – healthy protein (plant-based, fish or seafood)
5% – healthy fats
If you need examples, we have Ramon’s favourites to go by:
• A green smoothie bowl
“I love the smoothie bowl because it’s so easy and quick to prepare. It’s just so sweet and delicious, and at the same time super rich in nutrients.
“I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or even dinner (during hot summer days). It consists of avocado, spinach, banana and papaya (or add any fruits you like), topped with chia seeds and mixed nuts.”
“I love it because of the rich flavours and different textures, from crispy to soft, when all is mixed in. And of course, it’s very filling without taking your energy.
“It comes with brown rice noodles (at our resort), pickled veggies, salads, herbs and grilled mushrooms with a plant-based fish sauce, topped with rice crackers.”
It’s a start.
If you do decide to go with Option #1, and book a wellness retreat
Ramon advises first-timers to consider a few things.
“It’s important to understand what a person is looking for and what experience they have with retreats,” he says.
#1 Don’t overdo it
“Somebody who has no experience with wellness and retreats shouldn’t book a seven-day fasting or detox retreat – because it will probably be overwhelming and scary, and the body might react in ways the person doesn’t know.”
#2 Start slow
“For the inexperienced, I would suggest starting with a plant-based retreat and some basic introduction to mindfulness and movement – for example, a yoga retreat for beginners.”
#3 Think of it as a process
“It’s also important to understand that a retreat will only be beneficial if people learn from the experience and take back home practices and habits,” he says.
“If somebody does a seven-day detox and goes back home to eat fast food daily, thinking that they can just do another detox when needed, it’s a waste of money.
“Therefore, a wellness experience or retreat should be a learning experience and not just a week of massages and green juices.”
#4 Don’t look it as a cure
“People need to understand that miracles or a complete change in body, mind and behaviour can’t be accomplished in one week, no matter how much it’s been advertised and how high the price tag.”
Another definition of wellness
What does Ramon think people misunderstand or get wrong about wellness?
“One main misunderstanding about wellness would be ‘one hat fits all’. We’re all different and our bodies, minds and souls react in different ways. What works for your friend might not be beneficial for you,” he says.
“Wellness is also misunderstood by many as not fun, or a boring lifestyle, because it supposedly preaches to strictly not drink alcohol or never enjoy a sugary cake, and just work out daily. But wellness is all about balance, and if we like to have a glass of wine with a nice steak, we should have it and enjoy it.
“If we achieve a balance and not do it daily, we should enjoy the things that make us happy (in moderation), even if they’re not part of the wellness bible.”
Think you can now give your idea of wellness – and your own wellness retreat – a go?