Lying in the bath at ONEWORLD Reteat in Bali, swathed in rose and frangipani petals, sipping honey ginger tea, I don’t want to move. A giant floral pink and purple love heart is floating above me. It’s such a work of art I can’t bear to swish it away.
But just like a Buddhist mandala, all too quickly the heart dissolves, as I reach too vigorously for another sip of tea (even the teacup is surrounded by pink and yellow flowers.)
Minutes earlier, Ari, a sweet Balinese masseuse with the strength of a Sumo wrestler, had pummeled me to oblivion, gently scrubbed me with rice, tumeric and sandalwood , then sloshed warm yoghurt all over me, transforming me into a giant yellow jelly. Delicious!The essential oil-infused bath is the ideal way to end 90 minutes of pampering and lose the tumeric tones.I’m at ONEWORLD retreats Kumara, just a gecko’s chirp from the centre of Ubud.
Perched on a clifftop, surrounded by jungle and rice fields, this peaceful 14-room holistic retreat is the ideal location for yoga devotees and those seeking a little more silence and pampering in their busy lives.
Offering individual and group packages, the resort offers yoga, meditation and other health-and-culture themed week-long retreats throughout the year, hosted by yoga and holistic health experts from around the world. Checking in, my partner, Peter, and I are quickly won over by the warm smiles at reception, along with the fragrant jasmine cold towel and a refreshing lemon drink.
We’re escorted down the hill, past a seductive swimming pool, yoga pavilion and six room spa centre, to our room. With large balcony and glass windows looking out to coconut trees, ferns, and bougainvillia, our very private (air conditioned) room sports a comfortable king-sized bed, and a watercooler decked with messages like “Give love, gratefulness and Thankfulness.” With separate bath and shower, the ensuite bathroom includes natural lavendar, frangipani and avocado soaps.
There are coloured pencils and paints on hand, should you be seized by a burst of creativity while gazing out the jungle. An affirmation saying “You create your future. You create your destiny and your build your character through your thoughts,” has me nodding emphatically as I light up one of the incense sticks on the balcony and watch two dragonflies dancing in the day’s fading light.
It would be easy to laze in the room listening to chirpy crickets, gazing out at jungle and birds, but much enjoyment awaits beyond these walls. It generally takes a lot to get Peter, a rigid desk-type chap whose rugby-battered torso has seen better days, on to a yoga mat. But even he is seduced by the open-air yoga pavilion looking out to jungle which we head to the following morning.
As the sun rises over the valley, our impressive yoga instructor, Wayan Partawan, guides us through the moves. Occasionally, we look beyond him to see squirrels darting up coconut trees, and verdant tropical vines seemingly growing before our eyes. Our session ends with Wayan chanting “Ohm” on his wooden accordion. Already Peter has more of a “warrior pose” and less of a slouch about him, and I’m feeling firmer and healthier.
Returning to our room, we tuck into an organic breakfast of fresh farm eggs, yoghurt and tropical fruits. Then its time for me to visit Dr Arpana, a specialist in the ancient Indian holistic healing practice, Ayurveda, for a private consultation. I tentatively knock on her door, and am greeted by a beautiful batik-clad Indian woman with sparkling eyes. “Sit down,” she gestures.
She feels my pulse, gazes into my irises, then questions me about health and lifestyle habits. I admit to her that I’m easily stressed and hormones are not always my best friends. She nods knowingly, takes notes then pronounces me a “Pitta,” type, with something of an imbalance.
I’m given a list of foods to avoid and thankfully many of my favourites (mangos, sweet things, potatoes any oats) are still on the list. “We don’t say not to have certain foods, but just to be aware of ones to take in moderate amounts,” she says gently.
Dr Arpana, from a family of Ayurvedic specialists who operate a hospital back in her home town in India, Kerala, gives a lecture at the resort every week (guests then have the option to book a private consultation with her) and regularly hosts special retreats there. “She’s a very inspiring person,” says Claude Chouinard, a charming Canadian who co-founded the resort with partner Iyan Yaspriyana in 2003.
He’s currently working with her to establish an Ayurvedic healing centre in Ubud.Dr Arpana is just one of a number of international health experts who regularly visit ONEWORLD. While some guests simply check in for the shorter “spa vacation package” which covers spa pampering, rice field strolls, healthy meals and two nights accommodation, (costing just US $285 per person, twin share or $360 for one person), others are drawn to week-long programmes. These include Breathe And Rejuvenate in Bali, hosted by US yoga leaders Jennifer Prugh and Rebecca Bara, and Pure Iyenga Yoga, hosted by Victoria’s Vivienne O’Brien. These retreats typically feature daily yoga and meditation classes, inspiring lectures, all meals, bicycle excursions and rice field walks, lectures and guidance from the experts, with perhaps a local treat like a visit to a traditional Balinese healer.
“I’ve seen so many people transformed after a stay here,” nods Claude, who has lived in Bali for decades.
“They arrive stressed out from their busy jobs, and lives, and five days later, they’re glowing!”
“Most of our guests are women – though of course men are just as welcome!” he beams, “and 70 per cent are Australian. The rest are mostly English and European.”
While some come primarily for the yoga, others are drawn to the immersion in nature and “me-time” which comes from being at such a nurturing and harmonious environment.
Says Claude “our guests tell us they love that once they check in here, everything is inclusive, the yoga, meditation meals, the treatments, and activities. They don’t have to worry about anything.”
As we talk, I hear laughter, and look over the balcony to see a small group of Canadian women, learning how to make Balinese bamboo and flower spiritual offerings. “Those women have been here for a few days and are having the time of their life,” says Claude.
“I think there’s a kind of mystical magic about the property. People love the feel of this place. I love being responsible for helping people to find more balance and joy in their lives.”
In my room later, I thumb through the guest book, and previous visitors have been effusive in their phrase. “I learned more about myself than I have in years,” says one message. “This place helped me grow up and find my inner strength. Totally a gift you should give yourself,” says another. Some have even painted sunny, happy pictures to illustrate their joy. I hope I get to come back for longer next time.
For more info: www.oneworldretreats.com
Claudes’ top 5 places to eat in Ubud:
Jl Jembawan #1 Ubud,
Restaurant Locavore: An elegant restaurant with a tasty menu, and locally sourced products. Try their delicious seafood bisque.
Jalan Dewisita No. 10, Ubud
Bridges restaurant. Relatively high-end dining for Ubud . Delicious food, and wonderful service from friendly staff. Bridges boasts a wide-ranging cellar.
Jl. Campuhan, Ubud.
Alchemy Bali: This restaurant proudly boasts it’s Bali’s first 100 per cent raw vegan café and juice bar. “It has a fabulous salad bar and terrific smoothies,” says Claude.
Jl. Penestanan Klod No.75, Ubud