The rosy fingered dawn illuminates the snow capped mountain peaks beyond my villa window. The crisp morning air bristles the back of my neck as I hustle along the marigold lined pathway to the panoramic yoga room for the first of two ninety minute yoga practice sessions each day. As the spring sun burns off the overnight cloud that drapes the mountain range, our internal hara ignites through yogic breath work and asana unpacking busy minds and releasing tight hamstrings and constricted tendons earned from hours of hiking around the jaw dropping trails that weave through the south isle of NZ. Breath, stretch, hike, laugh, eat, silence, meditate, observe, stillness in action. This is Aro Hā.
Over the weeklong Wellness Adventure intensive I attended my body, mind and heart underwent a transformation. This is not a program for the faint hearted, nor is it a retreat full of woo-woo wellness or pseudo-spirituality. It is an immensely challenging and gloriously rewarding adventure in wellbeing. You will not be up-sold esoteric spa treatments that you never knew you needed, there are no goopy collagen martinis, nor are there chakra-shifting seminars.
The program is pure health and vitality coupled with some of the best health retreat food I have ever enjoyed. Now that’s a big call I know, having been in the spa food business for over a decade and the wellness trade for nearly two. The set menu is entirely plant-based, mostly raw, with some dishes served warm served on cooler days. The cuisine is nourishing, energising and restorative with meal size options available for those who want to lose weight and for those who want to gain or stay the same.
During my stay there were two cooking workshops focusing on food as medicine, ferments and a sneak peak into the menu highlights, all delivered by the delightfully disarming cooks who simply love their job. No ego, damn fine tucker and so much laughter I thought my cheeks might burst with joy!
Even Black Betty Bam made her trans Tasman debut! Over the past year or so I have been teaching food and happiness, a place beyond wellness where laughter is the key fuelled by great food, made with love and local produce. At Aro Hā so much of the menu is handpicked from the extensive organic gardens and hothouses that populate the retreat.
According to the just published paper entitled The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review, ‘health retreats have emerged from a history of travel to foreign destinations such as spas, hot springs, sacred sites, and pilgrimage locations that have been used as places of rest and rejuvenation for countless generations. Such locations have given rise to a booming wellness tourism industry that is estimated to have generated US$563.2 billion in revenues in 2015, with growth projections that are nearly 50% faster than for overall global tourism.’ Source
Happiness is the new wellness
With those statistics in mind, it is my recommendation to seek out a health retreat that suits your needs. Our innate desire to heal is so entrenched within in our cells, so too is the pursuit of happiness, a well documented pathway that some modalities of the wellness industry can help to steer your journey. If you want to amp up your fitness, reconnect to your yoga practice and maybe even drop a few kilos as a happy side effect, then Aro Hā is your place to meet your very best self and be in the presence of divine breath.
Phone: +64 3 442 7011
Disclaimer: I was a guest at Aro Hā and finally made the journey after nearly three years of temptation and my life is richer for the experience.
Images: A mix of mine and Aro Hā’s, not for reproduction without consent.