Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand

[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]yurveda. Mindfulness meditation. Hypnotherapy. Words that may have once raised eyebrows have since become part of the wellness industry’s trendy jargon, and are now also de rigueur offerings at any destination spa that wants to be taken seriously. Owing to the plenitude of research linking general wellness with disease prevention and longevity, there is an increasing interest in alternative healing sciences, and consumers are escalating demand for such unconventional treatments.

Silent Meditation
AT EQUILIBRIUM Alternative therapies offered at resorts include silent meditation, and sound therapy with Tibetan singing bowls.

As a result of this wellness revolution, resorts endeavouring to improve their customers’ sense of well-being have evolved from spaces to relax in and perhaps enjoy a massage or two, to lifestyle hubs that bridge the gap between Western medicine and New Age therapies.


This tectonic shift stems from a renewed understanding that wellness is more than just physical fitness; it is an inner vitality that also takes into account one’s emotional and mental health. The theory that positive mind-body connection is the key to well-being has led to well-researched techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique, which uses finger-tapping to release blockages caused by negative emotions in the body’s energy pathways.

Punakha Lodge Courtyard Terrace in Amankora, Bhutan
A NEW HIGH The wellness approach of Amankora in Bhutan is to combine ancient healing therapies with spa-inspired treatments.

“You cannot heal what is happening in your body if you do not heal the cause of the emotion,” says Nichola Roche, group director of spa at luxury hotel group Aman, where the approach to wellness combines spa-inspired treatments with ancient healing therapies like ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. As part of its integrative wellness offerings, the group will be hosting hypnotherapist Tim Stoneman at Amankora, Bhutan, later this year.

Stoneman will lead the resort’s Energetic Emotional Pain Release experience, an interactive talking therapy that aims to dispose of negative attachments that guests have to other people.

Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, Nepal
LUXE RESORT Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel in Nepal combines experiences grounded in traditional Himalayan knowledge with space for contemplation. | Photo credit: The Dwarika’s Group of Hotels & Resorts

“When we have an unhealthy connection to another person, we hold and carry a little piece of them with us. This exercise allows us to release those pieces of others’ energy so that we can be whole again, free from the other person’s negative influence on our mental, emotional and, therefore, also physical, well-being,” he shares. He goes on to explain that hypnotherapy works with the subconscious mind and has profound influence on a person’s ability to overcome a host of issues, including food intolerances and phobias.

The result is often empowering and transformative, enabling guests to live their lives with more joy and freedom, which ultimately leads to sustainable well-being. This perspective on well-being is echoed by wellness destinations around the world. “We recognise that optimal wellness comes from embracing and respecting the body, mind and spirit, where health and self- realisation are reflections of the love,  authenticity and harmony within,” says Lahra Tatriele, co-founder of Fivelements, the integrative wellness-hospitality management company behind boutique eco-wellness retreat Fivelements Puri Ahimsa in Bali, and the recently launched urban retreat Fivelements Hong Kong. At Fivelements properties, alternative healing therapies come together with gourmet plant-based cuisine and practices like yoga and aikido, in a bid to help guests reconnect with a balanced, joyful way of being.

Organic Environment
OUT-OF-OFFICE Beyond a pampering weekend at the spa, wellness resorts need to offer opportunities to rebalance and recalibrate.

(RELATED: Wellness is the new luxury for rich baby boomers.)

Sangita Shrestha Einhaus, managing director of the Dwarika’s Group of Hotels and Resorts, concurs. “Well-being is harmony between mind, body and spirit.”

At Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel in Nepal, treatments stem from a deep understanding of ancient Hindu scriptures and traditional Himalayan knowledge, and the aim is to address the pancha kosha, the ayurvedic belief that there are five layers that make up one’s being. The in-house ayurvedic doctor plays the vital role in administering therapies such as shirodhara, which sees warm oil poured in a continuous stream onto the forehead to calm and settle the nervous system, alongside the provision of fresh organic meals and activities like yoga and meditation. The combination reflects the ayurvedic belief that body, mind and spirit are not separate; all are equally important aspects of the self when it comes to achieving well-being.


Time away is a common challenge for busy C-suite executives and entrepreneurs, which is why wellness holidays now need to be more than an indulgent weekend at the spa; they must also offer opportunities to rebalance and recalibrate.

“My intention for going away is to reset the mind, refocus and recharge, after an extended period of work,” says Henry Loh, vice-president of IT at a global financial firm. “It is important to take a step back, from time to time, to look at things from a higher or different perspective.” The avid yoga practitioner, who is also a trained yoga teacher, has experienced a range of alternative healing modalities including silent meditation, and sound therapy with Tibetan singing bowls. He goes on a wellness holiday at least once yearly, and has plans to enter a detoxification retreat at a Malaysian resort.

Chiva-Som Pool - Beach View
KEY TO QUIETUDE A holistic approach to wellness at Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand, aims to help guests sustain positive changes in their lives.

Sheila McCann, general manager of Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand, says: “Time is such a precious commodity for so many people today that there is an increasing trend towards spending holiday time to help one improve or transform.” Since its inception 22 years ago, the luxury health resort has incorporated trending therapies like ayurveda and hydrotherapy in its wellness offerings. These services complement a holistic approach towards well-being, all while inspiring and empowering guests to maintain positive changes as part of their lifestyle, upon checkout.


Indeed, the new role that wellness resorts play means that discerning clientele expect more than just temporary benefits during their stay; lasting positive change is the new aim of the game. In short, even the most comprehensive treatment menu will not guarantee establishments a slice of the wellness pie, especially when competition is progressively intensifying. The key to business sustainability, therefore, is to create a truly memorable wellness hospitality experience, so as to cultivate a community of returning guests, as in the case of Aditi Madhok-Naarden.

Produce from Chiva-Som’s organic farm
Produce from Chiva-Som’s organic farm is incorporated into spa treatments.

Last November, the Asia-Pacific human resources director of The Body Shop went on a seven-night detoxification experience at The Farm At San Benito, a luxury wellness resort in the Philippines. After a week of juice fasting and undergoing treatments such as reiki, a Japanese tradition of energy healing, she returned home almost 4kg lighter, with glowing skin and a positive shift in her perspective. Following this affirmative experience, she made plans to return to the resort this year.

While regular spas and yoga centres can provide temporary relief, the benefits are oftentimes short-term, says Samantha Manuel, marketing communications manager at The Farm At San Benito. “We aim for preventive healing and to foster a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that can transform lives and bring about well-being. Guests often experience a lifestyle change and an opportunity to commune with their mind, body and spirit, and that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, Nepal
ANCIENT WISDOM A roster of visiting practitioners allows resorts to bolster their wellness menu with complementary treatments. | Photo credit: The Dwarika’s Group of Hotels & Resorts

(RELATED: 6 Wellness Tips for the Jetsetter.)

At the end of the day, Tatriele says that “alternative therapies alone are simply therapies”. She adds: “It is in the carefully integrated programmes and experiences where the impact is actually felt.” Rather than constantly evolving wellness offerings to keep up with trends, the heart of wellness hospitality lies in personalising every guest’s wellness itinerary, supporting each of them in their goals with suitable treatments, and ultimately equipping them with the tools to make better lifestyle changes. This way, the journey towards holistic well-being continues long after a guest has checked out.


Luxury resorts with more than sunrise yoga sessions on the wellness menu.