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All about wellness with co-founder of Kamalaya Karina Stewart

All about wellness with co-founder of Kamalaya Karina Stewart

This year our Founder and Creative Director, Alice Asquith, was lucky enough to visit the incredibleKamalaya Retreat in Thailand. Alice absolutely loved her stay in this stunning hilltop resort and her visit was nothing short of amazing thanks to the concept and atmosphere created by the founders John and Karina Stewart. Every detail is carefully considered and their incredible retreat has gained recognition all over the world.

We wanted to find out a little more about Kamalaya so we sat down with Karina, co-founder and Concept Director of the multi-award-winning resort to tell us more…

Can you tell us briefly how and why you came to found Kamalaya?

Kamalaya is an expression of my husband’s John and my life experiences and our desire to serve and inspire others. Different from being a hospitality business that has added spa and wellness to its offering, the idea for Kamalaya was inspired by the 16 years John spent devoted to a life of service and spiritual studies in a Himalayan contemplative community and my 30+ years in the study and practice of diverse Asian healing and spiritual traditions, including my background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (MATCM).

What drew you to the site of the Kamalaya and why did you pick Thailand?

A regular visitor to Thailand since 1977, my husband John returned to Thailand in 2000 with health problems. He was drawn by the healing nature of Koh Samui and stayed here for four months to rest and regain his health with the help of local herbs. It was during this visit that he found the site for Kamalaya. The land, a densely forested landscape studded with ancient granite boulders, immediately captivated him. Walking the tropical jungle terrain reminded him of his years in northern India, a memory that became even more vivid and significant when he came upon a cave that was once used as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat for a lineage of Buddhist monks. Serendipity had provided the place for us to build our dream. Today, the cave is at the heart of Kamalaya, embraced in the centre of its accommodations and facilities. The tradition of these monks continues at Kamalaya thus enhancing the physical beauty of the land.

If you could recommend one programme at Kamalaya to our customers what would it be and why?

My recommendation would be grounded on the person’s unique wellness goals and health background. Guests whom I speak with have several goals in mind, from life change (change in jobs, etc.) to the need to re-establish better lifestyle habits, eliminate some unhealthy habits, and the need to stop and reset themselves, people may also be looking for increased energy, mental clarity, as well as fitness and weight loss goals. Generally, most guests see it as a time to clean out their closet so to speak, which means take a good look at themselves, review and evaluate what needs to be changed, including dietary habits and other daily rituals, and effortlessly incorporate healthy new lifestyle habits. In the last few years, we have witnessed more and more guests visiting because they are dealing with stress and stress-related symptoms due to their hectic lifestyles.


Our wellness programs are all results-driven and offer solutions for detox, stress and burnout, healthy lifestyle, yoga and emotional balance, but whatever the health goals are, our focus is on prevention and optimizing health through personal immersive experiences, inspiration and education, so that our guests are motivated and empowered to integrate healthier lifestyle habits into their daily routines.



If you were to describe Kamalaya in three words what would they be and why?

Feel Life’s Potential.

What does ‘wellness’ mean to you?

“Wellness” is a term that is widely used and used in different contexts, a term that requires some definition in order to ensure we use it in a context that is accurate and thus avoid the risk of diluting the term. For us at Kamalaya, ‘wellness’ is: “Living a life in which the physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual aspects of our lives are healthy and balanced such as to create positive health, quality of life, a sense of wellbeing and a positive contribution to our communities. It is a dynamic process of ongoing change and growth towards physical, mental and social wellbeing. It is a journey of increased awareness, active and engaged choices towards a healthy, fulfilling and meaningful and successful life for oneself and importantly, for our larger communities.” So in essence, we are speaking of a way of life, much more than the absence of disease. It is a shift in paradigm in which living and making choices and our daily actions reflect these values. It requires a willingness to increase our personal awareness of how we live every aspect of our lives in order to make better choices, and become the empowered authors of our lives.

“I always recommend having a good eight hours of restful sleep each night.”
Karina Stewart
What are three things all women should know to better their health?

When I think about wellbeing, my first consideration is to “slow down” and take time to pause. I do this regularly as it allows me to assess where I am in terms of stress, emotional balance, and mental calm and clarity. I also like to assess the consumption of sugar in our diet. Reducing or eliminating refined sugar as well as artificial sweeteners and high fructose syrups which are often added to processed foods, is one of the fundamental steps in establishing an overall health regime. Besides other adverse health consequences, sugar is one of the main agents causing inflammation in the body and we know that chronic inflammation is linked to a list of serious diseases. Exercise or regular movement is something that is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and doing that in nature is fundamental for my personal health and wellbeing as it has the power to affect my vitality and wellbeing physically, emotionally and mentally.

I also always recommend having a good eight hours of restful sleep each night..

At Asquith, we are all about sustainability and preserving the planet for future generations to come. What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you and how have you brought it into Kamalaya?

Kamalaya is committed to reducing the environmental and social impact of our activities. We are committed to preserving the environment through sustainable operations, guided by overarching goals and values.


Some of our environmental initiatives are that we educate all of our staff on environmental responsibility, we do not use any plastic on our property, we use solar energy and we use organic and local suppliers where possible. We also have a dedicated “Green Committee” lead by our health and safety manager for continued commitment to reducing waster and looking after mother nature.


Everyone practices yoga/Pilates for different reasons. When did you start and why?

I LOVE Yoga. Recently, I attended two very simple yoga classes from a beautiful yoga teacher by the name of Sylvia Olden Scholtenhui in Holland. She practices and teaches in a simple but deep style that is exactly the way like to practice for yoga and for Qi Gong. She re-inspired and re-invigorated my practice again. This style where our breath, our mind and our body are attuned and harmonized is my preferred style. It is much slower than the current power yoga styles that are so popular, but it is a style that is very powerful in its simplicity.



Where do you go to ground yourself?

In nature. I’m trying to get daily time in nature and walking outdoors as and when possible. Daily walking is a gentle and ideal form of exercise. Daily movement is essential for vibrant health in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as reconnecting with nature for our health and wellbeing. When I feel stressed, I consciously try to slow down and breathe. No matter what I’m doing, I take a mental note to consciously slow down. I take a pause for only one or two minutes and focus on 10 deep abdominal breaths. Inhale through the nose and breathe deeply and slowly into the abdomen then exhale through the mouth. It is proven that this practice lowers cortisol levels immediately and significantly. You will feel it! So my first effort is to stop and breathe. Next, I try to visually connect with nature. At Kamalaya, I am very fortunate that I can look out the window or step out the door of my office and I can immerse myself visually in verdant, lush gardens, beautiful ocean views, small islands in the horizon and big vast blues skies. This also helps me reduce my stress immediately. And sometimes I have to take a 5-10 minute break for longer breathing or walking to move the energy, clear my head and reset my nervous system.

Alice booked her trip through our friends at Wellbeing Escapes who offer a 10% discount for single travellers and free spa credit and treatments for double occupancy. Find out more and book your trip here.


You can find out more about Kamalaya and the incredible programmes offered here…


Shop our retreat ready, super soft yoga clothes here…


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