5 Priceless Lessons I Took Away from 24 Hours at a Balinese Health Retreat
Written by Lolita Walters
Being someone who is constantly on the go, occupied with commitments, and regularly travelling around the globe, I often have the sensation that I am always jumping from one thing to the next. Some days this happens from the moment I wake up to when my head hits the pillow. Whilst I love being busy, I also realise I rarely take time out. Rest, of course, is an essential aspect of wellbeing that I noticed my otherwise healthy lifestyle was lacking.
Feeling a little burnt out, I found myself in Ubud, the spiritual and healing mecca of the ‘Island of the Gods,’ AKA Bali. Fivelements Retreat Bali, a world-class wellness destination, beaconed me to its sultry jungle oasis, perched on the banks of the sacred Ayung River.
From the moment I entered the lush green precinct, I could feel the special energy that this healing sanctuary embodies. And so my much needed segue from the chaos of modern life began, rosella Kombucha in hand.
While I was curious to see the immediate results of what just a 24-hour wellness sojourn could do for me, what I took away from the experience was much more than the über Zen state I left in. What I really gained were invaluable practices that can continuously help me (and you!) to achieve balance every single day, no matter where you are.
Here are five priceless lessons I learned during my quick stay at a Balinese health retreat:
Immerse Yourself in Nature
Humans are like batteries and the earth is our energy source. Spending time in nature is literally like plugging in and recharging!
I was taken on a tour of the Fivelements eco-wellness retreat just as it had just finished raining. The vegetation was glistening with diamond-like droplets, the fresh earthy scent of the ground rushed up to greet me, and the Ayung River flowed invigoratingly alongside us, as my guide and I made our way through the innovative architectural designs woven seamlessly into the beautiful natural surrounds. The majority of the structures at Fivelements are built with traditional Balinese materials and techniques, where intricate bamboo complexes reign supreme.
Checking into my private villa was incredible, featuring a private pool with jungle backdrop and a luxurious outdoor shower nestled amongst palms and orchids, with the sky for a ceiling. At the front side was a private patio area complete with a huge open air stone bathtub that looks right onto the river. The natural elements, solitude and tranquillity of the space instantly relaxed me.
Aim to spend some time in nature every day. It can be as simple as sitting mindfully in a garden for 15 minutes, going for a walk in a reserve or diving into the ocean for a swim. Regularly connecting with the natural world helps release stress and will leave you feeling rejuvenated and balanced.
Eat the Rainbow at Every Meal
The more colourful and diverse your meals, the wider array of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients you are fuelling your body with. Eating plenty of fresh produce such as berries, leafy greens and other beautifully hued fruits and vegetables at each meal is an effective way to boost your beauty and health.
The Sakti Dining Room at Fivelements serves guests an innovative plant-based menu, with each dish carefully curated for nutritional benefit and sensory delight. There is certainly no feeling hungry on this retreat, just plenty of cleansing wholefoods (desert included!).
One of the sublime 3 course meals I was treated to commenced with their signature light and healing Superfood Salad, filled with greens grown in Fivelements’ own organic garden, vegetables, sprouts, avocado, cacao cashews and spirulina crisps. Next up, ‘sushi’ rolls made with jicama root instead of rice and filled with an array of colourful vegetables, Japanese pickles and tempeh. Finally, a raw vegan “cheesecake” made its way delightfully onto my plate. Created with a silky cashew coconut base and finished with local pink dragon fruit, strawberries, mint and raw Moringa granola crumble. I love this way of eating, as you can enjoy plenty of delicious food whilst still feeling light and energised.
When making your own meals, aim for 80% of your plate to be plants and incorporate a mixture of raw and lightly cooked vegetables, select local and seasonal produce (organic where possible), and include plenty of good fats, wholegrains and quality protein. A superfood supplement such as Native Plant Based Collagen is a wonderful way to bolster your nutrient intake. You will be glowing from within.
Indulge in Natural Beauty & Wellness Rituals
Self-care can take many different forms and, thankfully, pampering ourselves is one of them! Indulging in beauty and wellness rituals offers a way to express self-love, destress and enjoy some essential time to yourself.
Fivelements Beauty Sanctuary epitomises the magic of harnessing the healing and beautifying power of plants and pure ingredients from nature. The treatment menu, from body care rituals to superfood facials is inspired by traditional Balinese practices and local village recipes. I revelled in my experience of the ‘Sakti Ritual,’ a two hour experience specially designed to purify at both cellular and emotional levels to boost your beauty. The journey began with a deep muscle Balinese massage, followed by a re-mineralising crystal sea salt exfoliation infused with holy basil and lemongrass. Finally, I sunk my relaxed and smooth body into a restorative and detoxifying bath filled with fresh lemongrass, orange slices, lime, pandan leaves, and ginger.
We all have small rituals we perform every day and your skincare routine is one of them, so make this a mindful, indulgent practice. Don’t just “do it” out of habit - make it a delightful experience. Really take time to nurture your skin by cleansing, toning and adding serums and moisturisers using massaging movements. This is extremely relaxing and nourishing. The Edible Beauty Core Four is your foundation to an at-home botanical beauty protocol.
Switch Off from Technology
Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles to mindful downtime is our hyper-connected world. While it’s fantastic to be able to see what our friends are doing across the globe or catch up on the latest distant family news, technology is also damaging our ability to relax. From the internet and social media, to television and our smartphones, we are constantly bombarded with messages, information and the need to be ‘switched on’. Aside from this constant onslaught of data paving the way for jittery thought patterns, as we mentally jump from one thing to the next, electronic devices also emit large quantities of blue light, which is particularly stimulating for the brain.
During my stay at Fivelements, I took a much need technology detox. At first it was hard to ignore my natural impulse to check my iPhone, yet I was amazed at how quickly (and gratefully) my brain took to being sans Instagram and Gmail. It was a freeing sensation to eventually find myself completely unaware of my gadgets, simply lying on the daybed by my pool… just being.
A practical way to reduce your use of technology in your everyday life is to set a time block from evening until morning where you stay offline and be vigilant. Switch it off when it’s past 7or 8pm and chill out with your loved ones, read a book, or simply let your mind focus on what’s around you rather than what’s happening inside the mindtrap of your own private, digital world. Break the habit of checking your phone as soon as you wake up too – perhaps replacing this with practising gratitude by naming 3 things you are grateful for. There are settings and apps you can use on your smartphone to help keep you in check, such as Screen-time, while will lock you out at a set curfew for your chosen time duration.
Quality Sleep is Key
Our bodies rely on slumber time to perform a whole range of vital processes, from cell renewal and repair, to detoxification and maintaining balanced hormone levels. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, almost six out of ten people report having insomnia or sleep problems at least a few nights a week.
When I woke up in the morning at Fivelements, I was surprised to see I had slept for a delicious eight and a half hours. Usually I run on less than this and find it difficult to get the recommended seven to eight hours of shut eye each night. I was astounded at how energetic yet calm I felt upon rising. This immediate result was enough to really drive home just how important quality sleep is and I vowed to replicate the aspects I believe enabled this for me at the retreat.
Firstly, ensure your bedroom is a sanctuary and your pillow and mattress are comfortable. At Fivelements, I felt like I was in a cloud, really helping my body and mind to relax from the moment I nestled into bed. Next, just follow the other lessons I’ve shared above. In summary: nourish your body with wholefoods (and ditch stimulants like caffeine and sugar), engage in mindful self-care and stress release techniques (pampering and spending time in nature), and switch off from technology at least two hours before bed. Looking at screens in the evening hours can trick your body clock into thinking it’s daytime, reducing the production of hormones such as melatonin, which are crucial for helping you fall into a deep sleep. If you really need to use a device, install an app that blocks out blue light or get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses. A soothing cup of sleep tea is also a great way to support your beauty sleep.
Improving your sleep will have a positive ripple effect on many areas of your health and life, such as weight, mood, memory, energy, longevity and skin!
I checked out of Fivelements feeling rested, happy and ready to take on the week ahead with creativity and a schedule decluttered by my promise to prioritise time out. And the perk that comes with looking after your body and mind? I received lots of compliments on my skin in the following days. So it turns out beauty food, beauty sleep and pampering yourself definitely do show up as that coveted inside-out radiance – yes please!
Most images provided by Fivelements Bali. For more Balinese wellness inspiration, visit their Instagram.