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Emotional rescue

Emotional healing is becoming more popular than ever. Jane Kitchen finds out how spas are digging deep to offer guests real transformation

Ananda offers its guests a reflective emotional wellbeing programme photo: ANANDA

Long before COVID-19, the idea of emotional healing was gaining traction in serious wellness destinations and in the wake of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and fears about climate change, demand has skyrocketed.

The World Health Organization reports nearly 40 per cent of people are facing a wide range of emotional stresses, with the pandemic triggering a 25 per cent increase in levels of anxiety and depression globally.

Spas are a natural place for people to turn to for help, and last year, the Global Wellness Summit identified emotional healing as a trend to watch. “People are in pain and seeking mental healing and a deeper meaning in life,” said GWS CEO, Susie Ellis. “The future lies in more intensive, comprehensive emotional wellness solutions.”

Luxury travel advisor, Jill Taylor, says she’s noticed a change in demand. “I’m seeing more of a need to recharge, connect with nature and focus on making positive changes and not keep to the status quo,” she says. “Clients are looking for creative ideas on how to travel more consciously.”

Some of the biggest names in spa and wellness have identified this change and are offering new programmes and treatments to help guests do more than relax – by looking at ways to help them heal from past traumas and make a meaningful change in their lives.

We take a more in-depth look at how wellness properties around the world are addressing this growing need.

Uttarakhand, India
Mahesh Natarajan / photo: ANANDA

Ayurveda, yoga and meditation, healthy cuisine and spiritual inquiry rooted in the Vedantas (one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy) have always formed the foundational pillars of Ananda’s approach, but now the wellness retreat has added a new focus on emotional healing.

Spearheaded by resident experts Dr Roma Singh and Chandana Ganguly, individual emotional wellbeing coaching sessions are now incorporated in all Ananda’s offerings.

“Everyone who comes for a wellness programme goes through this emotional wellbeing session,” says Mahesh Natarajan, COO at Ananda. “It’s been the single most transformative step we’ve taken. It will change what guests get out of a wellness retreat.”

A 90-minute cognitive assessment looks at personal challenges and blockages and includes deep subconscious work. Dr Singh works with clinical hypnotherapy and reiki, combining both modalities to create a powerful healing technique and address issues which are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

“My sessions offer a chance to go deep into the recesses of the subconscious mind, identifying the source of traumas and providing emotional release. This kind of inner work promises true transformation,” says Dr Singh.

Ananda’s 2,323sq m spa has also added a range of traditional therapies to its menu, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, Tibetan Kuu Nye, Kundalini and Japanese Shiatsu.

Used to address health issues including chronic pain and migraines, immune enhancement, disease prevention, anxiety and depression, these therapies are designed to work on a deep energetic level to provide powerful healing and enhance the effectiveness of Ananda’s wellbeing programmes.

“After the last two years, wellbeing also involves delving deep into our emotions, blockages, beliefs, and values,” says Natarajan.

“After the last two years, wellbeing also involves delving deep into our emotions, blockages, beliefs, and values”
People are now seeking optimal mental healing and deeper meaning in life / photo: ANANDA
photo: ANANDA
South Tyrol, Italy
Patrizia Bortolin / photo: marina italy segreta

A leader in holistic, preventative and medical health, the 71-bedroom Preidlhof in South Tyrol, Italy, has launched a Transformational Journey Retreat under the guidance of wellness project manager, Patrizia Bortolin. With more than 5,000sq m of wellness space and a six-floor Sauna Tower, the five-star resort and spa boasts a remarkable setting in the Italian Alps where guests spend time connecting with the natural world.

Based on new research into synaesthesia, the retreat is designed to facilitate inner transformation through the engagement of the senses, opening new emotional and neurological pathways and enabling people to find fresh perspectives.

Bortolin, who studied psychosomatic naturopathy, dedicated her research to finding innovative ways to deliver meaningful and enjoyable wellness programmes.

The retreats were introduced in February 2022, and she says they’ve already become the top activity at the spa – making up 50 per cent of revenues. Bookings for retreats are up 80 per cent from last year.

“My aim is to create an inner transformation that comes as a surprise, through unexpected experiences and perspectives that come together by the end of the retreat,” she says. “The last two years have transformed this vision from a niche, pioneering approach to it being our most requested offering.”

Massages stimulate the sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing; the Colour Massage uses a visual-intuitive test to identify which colour the guest needs, and then the therapist selects corresponding massage oils, while the Sound Experience – performed on Gharieni’s MLX Quartz bed – uses Tibetan bells, gongs and voice to engage guests with their sense of sound and touch.

The Water Awake Massage is a floatation treatment using elements of watsu, and is offered in the saline pool at sunrise or sunset, or in the indoor thermal pool – where guests can see themselves in the reflective ceiling – to either stimulate the senses in the morning, or to enhance intuition in the evening.

These massage treatments are combined with wellness experiences outside the spa. An Apple Journey combines sensory analysis and mindful eating, and guests learn how to taste, observe and develop their senses while enjoying the region’s famous apples. Forest bathing immerses guests in the healing properties of nature, accompanied by the resort’s 79-year-old mountain guide, Irmgard Mossmair, who brings spiritual wisdom and decades of experience in natural remedies, aromatherapy and Chinese medicine.

The Retreats include a session with Dr Alexander Angerer, who specialises in complementary medicine. A simple heart rate variability test offers a glimpse into overall health, and he’s able to prescribe and provide supplements to help with issues such as sleep problems. The programme also makes use of Preidlhof’s Deep Sea Relaxation room, a chamber where guests absorb vibrations and the energy of colour and Yoga Nidra sessions which help guests explore the moments between sleep and wakefulness.

It is perhaps the promise of a session with internationally-renowned master therapist Stefano Battaglia that has attracted guests from across the globe. Specialising in Trauma Touch, Battaglia’s healing sessions are unique to each person and combine a mixture of physical therapy, massage, reiki and other energy work, all designed to release blocked emotions.

“Spas with a serious and consistent team of healers and therapists can make a massive difference,” says Bortolin. “We’re seeing people experience wonders thanks to the trauma healing sessions of Stefano Battaglia, while his work as coordinator for all of our holistic experts has really enhanced all the staff’s skills, intuition and healing touch, allowing the team to offer life-changing experiences.

“People really need this kind of deeper healing now – they want to go beyond passive wellness and trends.”

“My aim is to create an inner transformation through unexpected experiences and perspectives”
Guests spend time in the natural surrounding of the Italian Alps / photo: arminhuber
The retreats include a session with Dr Alexander Angerer / photo: wisthaler.com
Master therapist Stefano Battaglia’s healing sessions are unique to each person / photo: Preidlhof
Guests enjoy forest bathing walks with Ingard Moosmair / photo: arminhuber
Euphoria Retreat
Mystras, Greece
Marina Efraimoglou, founder / photo: Euphoria

O n the Greek Peloponnese, Euphoria Retreat has created a Feel Alive Again programme, specifically designed to bring guests fresh energy and vigour. The four-night programme is described as “perfect for anyone feeling exhausted, lethargic, bored, confused, lost or numb” and offers “an opportunity to process and purge the effects of the pandemic”.

The group retreats run for three hours each morning, leaving the afternoons free for guests to explore the resort’s extensive spa, enjoy the natural and historical surroundings, or find quiet time alone. The programme can either be booked by itself and customised with additional treatments, or added to one of Euphoria’s other programmes. Hosted by founder Marina Efraimoglou along with Euphoria’s spiritual mentor, Mary Vandorou, the retreat is limited to nine participants to foster a sense of group connection and trust.

Meditation, breathwork, expressive dance, journaling, personal mandala making and even treasure hunts all are incorporated to help guests reconnect and re-energise. Performance work, rooted in the Greek myths and tragedies, includes a session using traditional masks from Greek theatre to explore feelings and emotions.

Euphoria has built its philosophy around the five elements and the retreats make use of this, helping guests identify and connect with elements they’re drawn to and offering ways to balance the elements they need more of in their lives.

Euphoria has a wealth of other holistic programmes offering personal journeys of transformation. The Odysseus Journey helps guests learn about themselves through the story of Homer’s Odyssey. Incorporating group discussion and the five elements, the retreat is designed to be a fun, engaging way for guests to reflect on life decisions and where they’re leading them.

The Emotional and Physical Transformation retreat offers an intensive seven-day programme, combining group sessions with solo treatments, while a two-day Self Awareness Through the Five Elements is designed as a mini-retreat to give a taste of Euphoria’s core philosophy of joyful transformation.

The Feel Alive Again retreat is running every month as it’s so popular with guests, and Euphoria will soon reveal additional emotional healing retreats.

“The Feel Alive Again programme is designed to help people put everything into perspective, which is essential in these challenging times,” says Efraimoglou.

“The Feel Alive Again programme is designed to help people put everything into perspective”
Meditation, breathwork and yoga are incorporated in the retreat
/ Euphoria Retreat
Guests create theatre masks to explore feelings and emotions / Euphoria Retreat
The retreat is restricted to nine participants to foster connection and trust / Euphoria Retreat
Koh Samui, Thailand
John Stewart / photo: Kamalaya

Kamalaya’s Embracing Change programme focuses on enriching emotional wellbeing and addressing life circumstances. Designed for guests seeking support with change or challenging situations, the programme can benefit anyone navigating loss, anxiety and grief.

Through either five- or seven-night stays, the holistic programme helps guests learn to recognise and understand their habits to release, heal, rebuild, and strengthen emotional patterns before learning how to sustain a personal practice and establish healthier levels of balance.

While the programme has been on Kamalaya’s menu since before the pandemic, John Stewart, founder of the resort, says he’s seen a more interest since the start of the pandemic. “Many people are dealing with loss, isolation that results in feelings of loneliness, separation in long-term relationships, or simply anxiety,” he explains. “This programme has always been one of our most popular, but now that’s true more than ever.”

Guests work with naturopaths, TCM practitioners and a life enhancement mentor to embark on a journey of self-discovery, exploring their inner life and emotional patterns. Specially selected holistic massage therapy and TCM facilitate the rebalancing of the physical body to accompany guests’ renewed emotional stability.

Kamalaya has also introduced a Resilience and Immunity programme in response to the pandemic, which supports physical health, optimal immunity, and resilience of the mind. “Resilience and Immunity is highly beneficial for anyone with post-viral fatigue, auto-immune concerns, or simply wishing to feel more robust and fortified in the face of life’s uncertainties.

“The importance of health and mental resilience is paramount when dealing with challenges and unexpected hardships,” he says.

“The importance of health and mental resilience is paramount when dealing with challenges and unexpected hardships”
The programme benefits guests navigating loss, anxiety and grief / photo: Kamalaya
Specially-selected holistic massage therapy facilitates body rebalance / photo: Kamalaya
photo: Kamalaya
Healing Arts Center & Spa
Cavallo Point, California, US
Heather Stewart / photo: Cavallopoint

Nestled at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge within more than 75,000 acres of national parkland, Cavallo Point includes the 1,022sq m Healing Arts Center & Spa, which opened in 2010.

With its 11 treatment rooms and a heated outdoor meditation pool, the center integrates cultural healing practices from around the world, with services including energy work, meditation and reiki, chakra energy balancing, hypnotherapy and guided imagery, as well as applied kinesiology, herbal remedies and shamanic journeys. Also on offer are neuro-graphic art, cacao ceremonies, intuitive readings, sound baths and more – all designed to create positive changes in guests’ emotional, physical and mental wellbeing./p>

Since the pandemic, interest in these healing offerings has grown, says director, Heather Stewart. A monthly guided meditation session has seen a big increase in attendees, as well as the number of repeat guests, and sessions such as cranio-sacral work and reiki have also seen a substantial increase, she says. /p>

“Everyone is coming in with their own needs,” says Stewart. “I think people are wanting a way to connect to themselves and others. Finding that ‘space within’ through guided meditation or energy work can really open people up. /p>

“Spas can play a crucial role by creating a place for people to focus on emotional wellbeing, and by letting them know they’re not alone,” she explains./p>

Stewart has had an increase in bookings for 90-minute services, as well as multiple treatments in one day – a trend she thinks will continue as people want to pamper themselves, and also focus more on self-care.

“Spas can play a crucial role by letting people know they’re not alone”
Guests are becoming more focused on self care / photo: Cavallopoint
The centre has 11 treatment rooms and a heated outdoor meditation pool / photo: Cavallopoint
Therapies are designed to create positive changes in guests’ emotional, physical and mental wellbeing / photo: Cavallopoint

Originally published in Spa Business 2022 issue 3
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