These Wellness Retreats In Asia Offer The Best In Science And Spirituality
Whenever your spiritually inclined friends comment that their energy feels “off”, don’t roll your eyes. While medical professionals and aspiring gurus have debated the significance of spirituality in the realm of wellness for decades, Covid-19 has given many people reason to reconsider to what degree health and energy are affected by treatments commonly considered to be “alternative”. And they’re looking for new places to explore that connection, as shown by a spate of new resorts that promote programmes that sound as complicated as advanced calculus, only served with green tea.
"Healing" one’s energy, and the transfer of that energy, is of particular interest, sparking a movement that has become widely known as quantum wellness, loosely defined as a comprehensive approach to wellbeing that incorporates physical health, mindful living and a sense of happiness. “Quantum wellness is, as discovered through quantum science, realising that everything, humans included, are pure energy— and energy is potential,” says Jamie Waring, managing director of wellness at Sangha Retreat by Octave Institute in Suzhou, China.
Founded by billionaire Frederick Chavalit Tsao, who is the chairman of regional conglomerate IMC Pan Asia Alliance, Sangha Retreat is a wellness sanctuary that goes beyond your basic spa offerings—a futuristic Zen lair where people undergo full mind and body optimisation via programmes that combine ancient healing techniques with modern science. Meditation domes and medical clinics sit and operate side by side. It’s all very James Bond meets-Doctor Strange.
Sangha Retreat by Octave Institue, Suzhou, China
“For the first time, you’re touching a population of left-brain, objective scientists who are realising there’s truth to sometimes questionable modalities and practices like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and meditation,” says Waring. “From a wellness perspective, this opens up new frontiers because you’re bringing real data points to spiritual experiences. The potential to unify and go deeper is profound and exciting.”
Although rooted in TCM, the team at Sangha also includes leading physicians, Ayurvedic practitioners, energy healers, nutritionists, physiotherapists and mindfulness professionals. “Our programmes are designed to help guests take control of how they move, eat, sleep and interact so that they can live a life of purpose, joy and gratitude,” says COO John Reed. “If you are in optimal health and wellbeing, your career, and the people around you, will be positively impacted by that as well.”
People understand that being well is no longer just about your physical health, but that everything is connected— Khun Dusadee
RakXa, Bangkok, Thailand
With more people willing to invest time and money on such endeavours, we’re seeing more sanctuaries like Sangha that merge science with spirituality throughout Asia. On Bang Krachao, a lush island on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River that has been nicknamed the city’s “green lung” is integrative medical wellness retreat, RakXa.
“People understand that being well is no longer just about your physical health, but that everything is connected,” says Khun Dusadee, managing director of RakXa. “It’s about unearthing a true picture of your current state of health, to know yourself completely, so you can start your wellness journey with a clear understanding and defined goals.”
Similar to Sangha, RakXa is a wellness utopia where doctors and alternative practitioners come together to form treatment plans tailored to each guest. “They work side by side to create programmes that heal from inside and out. This collaboration ensures that guests get a holistic approach to wellness,” says Dusadee, adding that she believes that combining science with spirituality “is possible when there is mutual respect”.
RakXa opened in December 2020, when the world had been battling a global health crisis for just under a year. “People want to stop and breathe—they understand that being more aware of yourself and your surroundings is vital in wellness, especially in an age when we are so distracted with our phones, technology, and looking at what other people are doing all the time,” says Dusadee.
As formerly fringe practices such as yoga and meditation become mainstream, people are looking for ways to deepen, and even challenge, their understanding of the human body. As a result, energy-focused treatments such as sound healing and reiki, which have long been scoffed at as “woo-woo”, are increasingly in demand.
“Using singing bowls as a form of sound therapy, their vibrations can support both mental and physical health,” says Dusadee, adding that studies have shown that the vibrations created when playing a singing bowl are similar to the frequencies of alpha waves produced by the brain, promoting deep relaxation and relief from stress.
“A lot of where we are today is coming back around to ancient systems such as Taoism or Ayurveda,” says Reed. “The information has been there for thousands of years, but it’s only recently that we’re focusing more on these as effective ways to complement or enhance modern practices. We are finally realising the impact it has on our wellbeing to quiet the mind and allow the soul to flourish.”
Asaya Wellness, Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, Asaya Wellness offers treatments that address modern life and the concerns that come with it, and is built around five pillars: emotional balance, fitness and nutrition, physical therapies, skin health, and community.
“The goal is to give you the tools you need to maintain a sense of balance in the long-run,” says Saimaa Miller, resident naturopath at Asaya who also penned the book Aussie Body Diet & Detox Plan. At Asaya, Miller works alongside a team of experts in areas such as movement coaching and body work, meditation and expressive arts therapy.
Taking up more than 40,000 sq ft of the Rosewood Hong Kong, Asaya was designed to feel like a wellness ecosystem separate from the hotel. While guests can pop by for a massage or a manicure, Asaya hopes to shift perceptions that a comprehensive wellness retreat is something that can only be attained in a faraway place.
Arguably, the most impressive part of Asaya is its Asaya Lodges, two standalone villas accessed by private elevator, and built with wellness in mind. Each includes its own massage room and a huge shower that can operate as a steam room at the touch of a button.
They serve as a home base for guests investing in more long-term programmes, such as the recently launched Journey to Resilience, which includes a wellness and lifestyle assessment, body composition testing, sound therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy.
“Your wellbeing is an ecosystem and if one aspect of your lifestyle is out of sync, then it has an impact on your overall state of wellbeing,” says Niamh O’Connell, group vice president of wellness and brand experience at Rosewood Hotel Group. “This is why our programmes are designed to relate across all dimensions of your wellbeing to enhance all aspects as your journey unfolds.”
Rumour has it Rosewood is looking to introduce Asaya Wellness to its other properties.