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Leisure Media - Sonu Shivdasani

HCM People

Sonu Shivdasani

Soneva Soul is guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’. Experts work with guests to help them reach their potential through rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as detoxification, movement and optimisation

Shivdasani has developed the Soneva Soul concept to integrate movement and wellness Guardian of the culture/ Soneva
Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, the visionaries behind Soneva photo: Richard Waite/Soneva
Gentle movement, balance, mindfulness and self-care are key wellness principles photo: SONEVA/Ishan@seefromthesky
Advanced medical diagnostics are available photo: SONEVA
Soneva’s gyms are part of the company’s overall wellness offering photo: SONEVA
IV drips are one of the interventions on offer photo: SONEVA
A sandbank dinner, enjoying a spectacular Maldives sunset at sister property, Soneva Fushi photo: soneva fushi
Rest, recovery and regeneration are a key focus at Soneva photo: soneva fushi
photo: soneva jani
Soneva Soul at Soneva Jani in the Maldives photo: soneva fushi
Flying Sauces is the resort’s zipwire treetop fine dining experience photo: soneva soul
The Shivdasanis will host wellness events in Europe in 2022 photo: sonu and eva shivdasani

You’ve launched Soneva Soul. What was the inspiration behind the new brand?
Soneva Soul is the culmination of everything we’ve learned since we launched our spa at Soneva Fushi in 1995 – the very first resort spa in the Maldives. Along Soneva’s journey at the forefront of the wellness and hospitality sectors, we’ve gathered knowledge and wisdom from the latest in medical science and pioneering technology, along with ancient healing practices.

We’re pioneering an approach that combines apparent opposites, to offer our guests a transformative and personalised wellbeing experience in inspiring surroundings that reconnects their mind, body and soul.

Much of the design work for Soneva Soul took place when my wife Eva and I were staying in Istanbul while I was undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 cancer.

Soneva Soul is at Soneva Jani on the Island of Medhufaru in the Maldives. I chose an area on the island’s east coast for the development, high above the mangroves, because it’s such an incredible setting.

I believe 60 per cent of healing and wellness comes from one’s mind. During our stay in Istanbul, I was reading Dr Kelly Turner’s book, Radical Remission – it features nine chapters that talk about a particular action one needs to take in order to achieve radical remission, and six of these focus on mental wellbeing.

How is Soneva Soul different?
We offer each guest a personalised pathway to health, happiness, and fulfilment – which means no two Soneva Soul journeys will look the same.

Each person’s journey can start at any point – whether an individual is looking to kick-start a healthier lifestyle, heal following an illness or injury, improve their physical or mental performance, or simply relax and indulge.

Working in partnership with each guest, our wellness experts curate a tailored journey that supports every aspect of their life. This includes rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as movement and optimisation and detoxification, following principles such as balance, mindful living and self-care.

Led by master fitness trainers and bodywork experts, the Soneva Soul Movement Programme balances functional gym-based fitness with natural free movement techniques and experiential fitness, surrounded by nature – such as jungle gyms and deep-water aquatic fitness sessions.

Yoga, Pranayama Breathing and Meditation Programmes reinforce the link between mind, body and soul, with one-on-one and group sessions with resident yoga masters and visiting experts, while an expert-led sleep programme creates a personalised intervention for healthier long-term sleeping habits.

Based on outcomes that target guests’ specific needs, the treatment menu at each Soneva Soul unites traditional wellness philosophies, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbalism and medicinal mushrooms, with innovative treatment methodologies, which can include heart rate variability testing, platelet-rich plasma (PRP therapy), nutrient IV therapy, cryotherapy and ozone therapy.

What makes the concept unique?
We offer a depth of wellness not typically found in a resort spa, as we include traditional wellness philosophies and practices, combining these with cutting edge diagnostic technologies and pioneering treatment methodologies such as stem cell injections, biomodulation – hyperbaric oxygen therapy – biophotonic therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy.

Soneva Soul is guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’, with experts across a spectrum of wellness disciplines working in partnership with guests to help them achieve their wellness goals and reach their full potential – this includes rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as detoxification, movement, and optimisation, following principles such as balance, mindful living and self-care.

Each Soneva Soul wellness centre is built in perfect harmony with its breathtaking surroundings, elevating guests’ wellness experience.

What practitioners deliver these high-end services?
Over the coming months, each Soneva Soul will establish a permanent team that includes an Ayurvedic doctor, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, integrative medicine doctor and highly trained therapists.

On the healing side, our experts also draw on their own knowledge and healing heritage to offer specialist treatments that are unique to them. These include rituals such as the Tok Sen massage by Piyada – an energising, traditional northern Thai massage that uses wooden mallets and pegs to hammer tension away. The rhythmic tapping of the tools uses vibration to work deeply into muscle and fascia beneath the surface while providing a hypnotic relaxation effect. This massage stimulates the circulation, soft tissue and tendons, as well as acupressure points.

Throughout the year, our resident wellness team at Soneva Soul is also complemented by a calendar of visiting wellness specialists, chosen for their eminence across a full spectrum of wellness disciplines, fitness, healing and spirituality.

How will the concept develop?
The next step is the evolution of wellness at Soneva. The concept has always been intrinsically linked with our Slow Life philosophy and has informed the way we design and operate our resorts since the very beginning.

We firmly believe in the healing and restorative power of nature for our bodies and minds. Our resorts offer our guests many opportunities to reconnect with the natural world. Our island villas are surrounded by lush private gardens; our over-water villas have panoramic views across the ocean and portholes looking into the marine world below.

Our Rare experiences celebrate nature in all its glory – whether snorkelling with manta rays and dolphins or ziplining through our jungle at Flying Sauces, our latest dining experience up in the treetops. These are the kinds of activities our guests are unlikely to experience during their busy everyday lives.

We’re privileged to have a high return rate among guests, so want to ensure every visit offers them something new and memorable. One way that we achieve this is through our Soneva Stars calendar, which welcomes acclaimed experts throughout the year: athletes, Michelin-starred chefs, astronomers, artists and authors; as well as Soneva Soul wellness residencies by health and wellbeing specialists across a full spectrum of wellness practices, healing modalities, spirituality and fitness.

The design of our resorts encourages our guests to move and explore – each of our villas come with complimentary bicycles and tricycles, and our paths and boardwalks are rarely straight, their curves and bends invite guests to be mindful of every moment.

We offer cross-functional gyms, equipped with the latest fitness technology and our experiential fitness and movement programmes take place within nature, whether morning yoga sessions on the beach or training at the jungle gym.

Our culinary offering across our dining destinations reflects the famous quote by Hippocrates: ‘Let thy food by thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food’. Our skilled chefs craft dishes that are deliciously healthy and nutritious for our guests, while also being sustainable and organic.

What's next for Soneva Soul?
Wellness remains a strong focus for the next stage of our Soneva journey.

We’ve recently opened the Soneva Soul resort wellness centre at Soneva Fushi, and are introducing the concept to Soneva Kiri in Thailand.

In the longer term, we’ll work with like-minded partners to launch one-of-a-kind wellness destinations across the world.

In addition to the Soneva Soul wellness centres across our resorts, we’ll also be hosting a series of Soneva Soul wellness events and workshops in Autumn 2022 across destinations in Europe and India, to showcase our wellness offerings and introduce our management to our key customers in these markets.

Originally published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 2
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