Switching Off

Running Asquith is hugely rewarding but also very challenging. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I’d had a very busy 2018, with some key personal challenges including a serious health issue, turning 50 and the death of my father, and I wanted to ‘recalibrate’, is the only word I can think of, and start 2019 in the right way and feeling stronger.

I decided to book a retreat to clear my head. I decided on a complete digital detox. I contacted my friend Stella Photi, who owns the wonderful travel company Wellbeing Escapes, and with her fine advice, booked myself and my friend Anna, for 10 days into Kamalaya, a place I’d always wanted to visit. Condé Nast Traveller recently awarded Kamalaya the Spa Award for “Best Destination Spa” and it’s won numerous awards.

Space to Breathe and Be in Nature

Kamalaya is situated amid a lush, tropical landscape on the southern coast of Koh Samui, Thailand. Founded by John and Karina Stewart in 2005, the resort offers a holistic wellness experience that integrates healing therapies from East and West.

Kamalaya is also a sustainable resort, which appealed to me. It has a Green Committee and, like Asquith, continually strives to improve it’s Green credentials. The staff are encouraged to work on eco projects such as beach cleaning, and as much as possible resources are re-used and recycled and food waste is composted for the gardens and waste water is used on the gardens. The retreat also uses biodegradable straws and cleaning products, and environmentally friendly mosquito coils and sprays. There are absolutely no plastic bottles either.

What also drew me to Kamalaya, other than a breathtakingly beautiful, natural environment, was a place to unwind and completely detox, in mind and body. They have a strict Digital Detox policy; no phones, laptops anywhere except your room and intermittent wi-fi. Heaven.

Yoga, Pilates and Just Being

Kamalaya offers delicious and inspired healthy cuisine, holistic fitness practices and customised wellness programmes ranging from Detoxification to Stress & Burnout, as well as Healthy Lifestyle, Yoga Synergy and Emotional Balance. Perfect!

However, I decided not to take a programme because I wanted time and space to myself. I took out the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, which I’d always wanted to read, and a tired mind and body. My goal was to finish the book, to reflect on the recent changes I’d experienced, and to return to London feeling fresh and revitalised.

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Mind And Body

Meditation has been a big part of my life for the last 9 years. A way to still and calm my mind. I learnt Vedic meditation after my mother died. It helped me cope with the grief. I meditate twice daily. Never miss it. It gives me space to just ‘be’, helps with my creativity, focus and relationships.

I was, however, keen to experience other forms of relaxation. I’d come to the right place! One of the many benefits to Kamalaya are the number of activities you can participate in, if you choose to. The teachers are all excellent and have been teaching there for years. I tried as many classes as I could; yoga, walking meditation, Thai Chi, Mindfulness, mind and body awareness and breath-work.

I found myself one afternoon, early on in my holiday, doing what I absolutely love to do on holiday and that’s floating. I was floating in one of their (stunning) outdoor pools…but thinking about the production for the new season. I caught myself in time. I’d just taken a mindfulness course! I quietly encouraged my mind to be in the present, in the here and now, to think of how the water felt against my body, the sun against my skin, the sounds of the birds in the trees. To be still. Sometimes it’s so hard to switch off and just ‘be’. But it’s so important otherwise you miss what’s going on around you. Because I have to plan so much for the business I’m always thinking into the future. With my breathing and ‘Power of Now’ thinking, I made a determined effort to be ‘in the now.

Food. Oh my…

I adore food. To me, each of the 3 meals I eat every day are equally important. I’ve always eaten healthily and well, so the idea of a healthy detox retreat was very appealing. But…I didn’t want to starve myself that’s for sure. I’m happy not to drink alcohol or eat meat but I don’t want to deprive myself of delicious food…life’s too short. I had heard from various people I knew, who’d visited Kamalaya, that the food was delicious. They weren’t wrong.

We started each morning with an hour’s meditation then our yoga practice, followed by a late morning 3 course breakfast; 4 fresh detox juice shots to kick off and get the digestive juices going, a plate of fresh fruit, a bircher muesli and seeds bowl, then some eggs and raw vegetables, oh, and a freshly made seed loaf (gluten free). Washed down with plenty of green tea (they blend their own teas).

Lunch was something like grilled squid and salad with that lovely spicy Thai dressing by the poolside restaurant, served with delicious fresh coconut water, in the shell. And dinner was a more formal 3 course affair of mainly vegetables with grilled fish and vegetables or a Thai Curry, followed by a healthy desert. The food is plentiful, frequently raw, very tasty, but very healthy. And absolutely delicious. All accompanied by their own teas or freshly squeezed juices. My favourite was Soothing Ruby (cucumber, apple and pomegranate seeds).

Everything’s organic and absolutely fresh.

The hardest part of the holiday was leaving. We both left refreshed, revitalised and rejuvenated. I couldn’t fault a thing. It was, for me, the exact Digital Detox I wanted and needed. To switch off from the demands of daily life was an absolute treat. I returned with a completely refreshed mind and body.

It reminded me that although I exercise daily, I need to focus on a more regular yoga practice, even if it’s just at home. I also wanted to give more time to my spiritual side (I immediately returned to London and booked myself for a Kirtan at the Life Centre with the beautiful Sivani Mata, who’d I’d met and listened to her performance at Kamalaya. And it reminded me that it’s okay to just be. It’s good to switch off from our daily digital demands. I don’t always have to be ‘doing’.