Karina Stewart of Kamalaya Koh Samui on detoxing and finding your true self

There’s no shortage of health retreats these days, and while many are aimed at weight loss, detox and much needed R&R, one luxury health resort in Koh Samui is promising to awaken your essential self.

But what exactly does that mean? We met with Kamalaya co-founder, Karina Stewart, on her recent trip to Hong Kong to learn more about the retreat, how often to detox and practical tips we can all use to de-stress from city life.

What does it mean to awaken your essential self?

Through Kamalaya, talking to guests and perhaps even my own life journey, it’s very easy for us to lose touch of our inner compass of what’s essential, of what [life’s] really all about—as we go through life and we’re given and taking on more responsibilities.

So, the idea of the program is—through taking care of the body and having a look at our emotional habits, emotional patterns and even our emotional hygiene—to remove some of the static in order to reconnect to our core values, to our inner-self, authentic self, our deepest, truest self.

See also: 10 Best Wellness Retreats In Southeast Asia

How exactly do you find it?

That’s to be seen in the retreat, but what I can tell you is, I wouldn’t call it that if I didn’t know that it works. It’s something that we all have, that essential self.

You see it in children—that light, that vitality and that unrestrained joy—just because. Not because they got a raise, not because their boss said something, not because their boyfriend did something—just because. That’s what we aim to re-access and reawaken.

Kamalaya is also well known for detox programs, but what about those who don't believe in detoxing?

Yes, it’s true that the body detoxifies really well or we wouldn’t be alive. That’s a fact, right? Every day our cells are cleansing, detoxifying, eliminating and that’s what keeps us alive and keeps our homeostasis.

However, the reality is that over the last 100 years, we’ve developed all kinds of chemicals that weren’t organically produced by nature. And as such, we started exposing our body to things that we didn’t evolve naturally to know, that the body didn’t have the time to develop how to process.

For that reason, finding ways in which we’re able to support the body, lighten the burden, for a period of time to allow the body to sort of catch up with itself, would be one way to think of it.

See also: 5 Easy Detox Tips For Better Health

How often should a person detox?

Ideally, once a year for seven to 10 days. If there’s history of inflammation or cancer, then I’d recommend detoxing either once a year for up to three to four weeks, or 10 to 14 days twice a year.

It really depends on your medical history. In my family, there is a lot of cancer so I try to do it twice a year for two weeks at a time—and it has a huge impact. I also find it much easier to stay on a healthier program for months. It’s like a reset, not just then, but for all of my habits.

Do people in Asia need to detox more than those in other parts of the world?

I think it’s a global phenomenon. There are a lot of the chemicals in the West too—houses are super well insulated and everything from the carpets to paint and wood is covered with chemicals from fire retardants that keep releasing toxins for months and years.

City life is worse for sure, especially in cities like Manhattan, Hong Kong and high-rise cities. That’s what really traps a lot of the pollutants, but people can put filters in their houses and rooms.

How does Kamalaya keep up with all the newer health retreats opening up?

As someone who by training has a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I’m also a researcher at heart who travels a lot and knows a lot of people in the health field—you know, medical doctors who run very successful clinics around the world.

Through them, we’re able to continuously incorporate everything that is happening research-wise into Kamalaya’s programs, cuisine and menus. We don’t follow trends just for the sake of following trends. We have a very strong philosophy and we stay true to that.


Lastly, what are your three tips for lowering stress levels in the city?

The first thing is to slow down by taking 10 deep, abdominal breaths—that drops cortisol levels by 30 percent. It works, everybody can do it, and it’s a good starting point.

Number two is to cut down on caffeine, especially coffee. I’m a strong believer in the Chinese way of drinking tea, where you wash the tea leaves. Not only is that hygienic but you’re reducing the caffeine content by 30 to 50 percent.

And the third would probably be the hardest for people in Hong Kong: to get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, the body is still going to have elevated cortisol levels.

And of course, don’t forget about exercise. You’re actually burning off the chemicals that are making us want to run away or fight when you do, otherwise it’s just circulating in there. That’s why it’s so important to exercise when we’re stressed.

“Awakening Your Inner Self” with Karina Stewart takes place at Kamalaya Koh Samui from February 24 to March 4, 2018 and September 22 to 30, 2018 (each are limited to a maximum of nine participants).