First up: I had never visited any kind of health retreat until my recent stay at Gwinganna
Time, children, career, life had always stood in the way.
I’m actually glad because when I embarked on this seven day physical, emotional and digital detox I was VERY ready for the experience.
No coffee, no dairy, no wheat, no alcohol, no technology…let’s do this.
I went with an open mind and realistic goals. With the intention to re-set rather than rebuild.
Small steps. Small Changes. Doable.
I arrived as most do. Very stressed, rushed, a little overweight, alot puffy, digitally reliant, emotionally sticky and so very, very tired.
Seven days later I was changed. More balanced. A happier, lighter (heart and body) person.
Calm (and clean) on day six.
It was a week was full of lessons. These are just some of the emotional and practical wisdom I packed into my suitcase:
I put others needs before my own all the time. It’s habitual and needs fixing.
My can-have-anything-goal is a steam room in my house.
My body is stronger and happier with less dairy and less gluten.
Exercise is the key to everything for everyone.
Detoxing is actually just discipline.
I’m a morning person and don’t function properly if I miss it.
Paula you really, really need to drink more water.
Also you need to remember to remind yourself to drink water.
Sugar really is pretty bad. Limiting it is probably the single best thing you can do for your help.
Forgiving yourself is hard. Moving passed your past is even harder.
I can do things I never thought I could.
Your skin looks amazing when you get proper sleep and crap when you don’t.
It really is not hard to eat healthily more of the time. That excuse you just made in your head when you read this is just an excuse.
Everyone is capable of change. Everyone needs it. You deserve it.
It’s okay to put fresh chilli on everything and drink good coffee. Cause yolo.
I’ve genuinely struggled with how to best encapsulate my experience and shall break it down as follows: what to expect, what (I feel) you must try and my video journal which I recorded at the end of each day during my stay.
I truly adored my stay at Gwinganna – if you have a Wish List then put this special place on it.
What To Expect.
You will find Gwinganna at the end of a very steep driveway (one you will become intimately acquainted with when you climb it on foot later in the week). Nestled in the Queensland Hinterland the property is perched high on a mountain that looks out toward the ocean.
It is an epically lovely place.
Ecotourism certified, all the buildings have been designed to blend with the bush. There are peacocks, kangaroos, baby ducks…you are one degree of separation from Mother Nature at all times.
Gwinganna offers a series of specialised retreats which run cyclically throughout the year. They range from a two day relaxation weekend to a three day sugar, sleep and stress buster – all the way through to my seven day total detox program.
There is base price for each retreat which includes all your organic food and snacks, eduction seminars, spa credits and unlimited use of the beautiful facilities which include two infinity pools, tennis court, gym, spa and sauna.
The final retreat price depends on two things: the level of accomodation that you choose and the wellness treatments you book.
This is one of the things that I love most about Gwinganna. The ability to custom your stay. You can choose from a shared room in one of the dorm cottages to a private rock-star pavilion with plunge pools and steam rooms.
It opens this luxury program to all budgets and as such attracts people from all parts of the world.
I stayed in two types of accommodation while I was there: a single private room in the Orchard Suites (new and lovely) and one of the special Billabong Villas (incredible and actually had its own steam room!!).
One thing worth mentioning is that you don’t spend a lot of time in your room while you’re on retreat. So if budget is paramount then feel totally comfortable with one of the more affordable options because you’ll find that most of your day is spent outdoors or in the incredible spa.
Each day is structured and repeated.
Guests are woken at 5.30am (by a human not an alarm clock) and begin by practising Qigong – a holistic system of coordinated body movement, breathing and meditation – as the sunrises on the mountain.
Next up is a hike (gentle or challenging) through the surrounding bushland. This is followed by a delicious breakfast. After your meal, you choose your physical activity program which is divided into “yin” (slower, softer) to “yang” (energetic, fat burning) and follow that for the next two hours.
Before lunch there is a seminar. I cannot overstate how amazingly fantastic they are. My knowledge on wellness and health is strong because I’ve spent twenty years in this industry but I learned so much from everyone of the incredible teachers and speakers at Gwinganna.
Even when you have a coffee withdrawal headache and feel sleepy force yourself to go – they are gifts.
Then it’s time for more delicious organic, beautifully presented food at lunch before what is referred to as Dreamtime.
In reality this means five hours spent in a beauty or body treatment, in the steam room, by the pool, asleep…it’s five hours a day devoted to rest, relaxation and dreaming.
It’s an extraordinary luxury.
The $6.5 million spa—the largest in the Southern Hemisphere— has 33 treatment rooms and features a huge Crystal Steam Room, an outdoor rain shower and a lounge area complete with comfy daybeds and silence.
You’re given a personal locker when you arrive complete with fluffy robe and slippers and the spa will become like a second home.
Dinner is at seven. Bed is at 8.30. Then you do it all over again.
And the best part is that you’ll want too.
To make a reservation, change your life or just enquire call 1800 219 272 or head to www.gwinganna.com
My Video Diary.
What You Must (Try To) Do.
Find Your Tribe: My biggest surprise was that other people were on the retreat with me. I appreciate how ridiculously naive that sounds but in my head, I was headed off on my own.
Not the case. Within a few hours of arrival I worked out that the next week would be about me and a group of 60 other women and a few top blokes.
Over the week we would do a lot of things together. Get to know each other instantly and intimately. Cry, laugh and confide.
Once I got over myself I embraced my new found tribe like the coffee I had hugged goodbye to at the airport.
The people who share the journey will make your experience richer. Find them and embrace it.
Give Into The Process: I never thought I would write that sentence, let alone practice it. But this bumper sticker wisdom is actually what you need to do while you’re there.
I was resistant to the whole idea for the first 24 hours. Overwhelmed by the detoxing and also just being told what to do. My alpha resisted the notion of letting go.
However, following the pack was exactly what I needed to do and once I did I was able to get so much more out of each day.
Check your ego, take off your make-up, walk around in your oldest gym gear and give into the process.
Spend Time By Yourself: Gosh this is hard to do! Or at least it is for me.
Which is totally converse to my first point on groups. Anyway…one of my friends refers to time spent alone as walking in the hall of mirrors. And she’s right. It can be tricky to spend time with your thoughts and fears.
Turns out I needed to spend some time with my plans. You forget that to truly move forward and make changes you need to have internal conversations about how you will affect them.
At Gwinganna this kind of reflection – both good and hard – is forced.
Accept it and give in – there results are fantastic.
Try Something New: Gwinganna is known for its wide and varied wellness treatments.
From straight up naturopathy consults and colonics to chakra clearing and tribal dreaming, there are alternative treatments on the menu that make other alternative treatments look pedestrian.
But who if not you? And when if not now?
Perhaps the signature experience is something called ‘The Journey’ which is a three hour regression based therapy session. It has changed lives and if you need to work on emotional health this is an extraordinary experience which is unique to the facility.
My girlfriend whom I met on retreat had the tribal dreaming therapy and said it was like nothing she’d ever experienced. Completely unparalleled in its power.
For me, it was equine therapy that stole my heart. I was so cynical at the beginning of the session. I honestly thought that I would walk away being able to lead horses around a paddock and then the most remarkable things began to happen.
In an hour and a half the horses taught me a lot about myself, answered questions that were pressing and left me with the most out-of-body feeling of peace.
I also highly recommend the following: Hawaiian Bodywork, Male Mayi, Spirit of Sound and a little bit of heaven called Rockupuncture.
Take Notice and Take Notes: The best thing you can do while you’re at Gwinganna is be present.
You will be surrounded by information and given the opportunity to do things like make you’re own aloe vera juice.
Everyday, every minute there is stuff you don’t want to miss.
I carried a notebook with me because there were lots of moments when either a teacher or a fellow guest taught me something that I didn’t want to forget.
Jot stuff down as you hear it and as stuff comes up for you.
Be Real About The End Game: My life does not allow the space or time for me to grow my own medicine, meditate daily and exercise for the first half of everyday.
Few people can overhaul absolutely everything in their lives.
My biggest achievement post the detox was making a deal to try my best at making sixty per cent of it stick in the real world. Sixty per cent of the time.
And it has. Largely. I’m exercising regularly, have limited dairy to my coffee and the occasional piece of cheese. Limited my gluten to the occasional piece of amazing sourdough. My phone goes off at night. And I even make my own aloe vera juice. From a plant I am growing. Gwyneth would be proud.
If you can change just one thing in your life it is significant. Be realistic about what you want to take home and work hard on it.
And Then Daily.
Take a steam for at least twenty minutes each day.
Walk around the property in the afternoon before dinner. It’s good alone time before you rejoin the group for dinner.
Have a conversation that isn’t about yourself with one of your fellow retreaters.
Read. I took self-help (Raising Strong), genius writer (Wishful Drinking), easy reading (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) and magazines. You will feel like different things.
Give in to the digital detox. Don’t hide in your room with an iPad. It’s a gift. Take it.
Don’t wear make-up. Enjoy the break.