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This Wellness Retreat in Bali Could Change Your Life

In the hills of Nusa Dua, a new wellness retreat, Revivo, is a break from the race that is modern living, one where the focus is on your diet, and your physical, spiritual and mental health. The idea, writes Christopher Kucway, is to take the ideals away as souvenirs to last a lifetime.

Published on Aug 9, 2018


Nusa Dua Bali
At Revivo, the aim is to try new things to benefit your health.

Nutritionist Alethea Scaparros holds a moistened almond aloft, explaining how and why we’re going to savor eating this solitary nut for the next five minutes. It’s her unorthodox intro to what she calls “vital cuisine.” As a wellness consultant, this vivacious Spaniard who loves Bali and prefers to go by Aliwala, a name picked up along the way, she’s joined our intimate group for part of our three-day spell at Revivo, a 16-villa retreat in the quiet hills of Nusa Dua, well away from the massive resorts that line the coast here.

But more about that almond. “If you take your time with food,” Aliwala points out, “you will need less food.” Simple in theory, yet not always my most prominent thought. Each of us holds the almond in our mouths. We peel the skin off with our teeth. Noting the rippled texture on the outside of the nut, we crack it in half to compare it with the inside’s smooth sheen. Then, ever so slowly, we chew. I detect some bitterness, notice the fibrous nature of the nut, then fret that all our meals will be this… minimalist?

Nusa Dua Bali
vivid colors and textures of a “rolling root salad.”

Nusa Dua Bali
The resort’s yoga studio awaits.

Strictly speaking, this three-day retreat is meant to help us discover the power of the mind to create beneficial life changes. For most, that means finding work/life balances. Initially, it all sounds overly touchy-feely, but things quickly evolve to the practical.

That said, at first glance, my schedule reads like an itinerary in a foreign tongue. I’m not quite sure about any of the varied forms of yoga, some of which I can’t even pronounce, and Cadillac Pilates sounds like it will induce car-accident pains to muscles I never knew I had. As for the food, my knee-jerk reaction is that the portions will be miniscule, bland and otherwise unintelligible. What exactly is the difference between a “pure fulfillment salad” and a “rolling root salad?”

Yet, in part I’m here to avoid knee-jerk judgments and I’m well aware that one of the best things about my job is that I never stop learning. Taken one step at a time, it all starts to fall into place even if I’m not up to the more intricate moves in our Asthanga yoga session. Like Leonard Cohen, I ache in the places I used to play.

So, while I don’t realize it, during my stay I’ll learn, among other things, how to breathe and open my heart to let out the negative; why 
I really shouldn’t be eating pistachios even though I love them; and the obvious difference between a jamu and kombucha shot.

Nusa Dua Bali
Revivo’s intimate setting is dotted with tranquil corners.

“It’s always good to try new things that may benefit your health,” points out Kathy Cook, a Revivo health and wellness coach. “The truth is we all must come to health on our own.” Try, experiment, see the effects, is her advice at our one-on-one intro session.

We’re each given a detailed journal—with sections on face-mapping, as well as food and activities for the various blood types—to monitor our goals and progress. I go in knowing that, while active and younger than my age (some would say not acting my age), I could stand to lose some weight. The body- composition analyzer fills in specific details about my fat-, muscle- and bone mass; my basal metabolic rate—literally the amount of energy the body requires to function; and my metabolic age. I’m chuffed at that last one, coming in 16 years younger than my actual age, though fret about how I’m ever going to lose five or, shudder, even seven kilos.

Each day begins at 7.30 a.m., with a trio of shots from room service: warm water with lemon and a pinch of salt; kombucha; and jamu, a mix of ginger, turmeric and coconut oil. The first morning, it all goes down a bit weird. By the next, I’m thinking this is something I should do every day.

We’re all at different levels when it comes to yoga or Pilates, and after the shots I’m with a group of women who seemingly perform yoga poses while waiting in bank queues. They know their Vinyasa from their Asthanga, and that spurs my curiosity. Once we leave Bali, Kathy will put me in touch with a yoga studio in Bangkok and, as luck would have it, close to where I live. No excuses now.

Following an hour of Pranayama meditation, where I learn to breathe again, 
I head for an aromatherapy massage and am impressed that the masseuse notices tightness in my legs and, more specifically, at the backs of my ankles. I’ve just returned from a cycling break in France’s Maritime Alps and, with close to 6,000 meters of climbing in my legs, wish the hour-long session was twice that.

I’m late to that Cadillac Pilates class, so once it’s my go on what looks like a modern torture device, I’ve missed the instructions and end up doing 40 reps instead of the required 20, something I’ll feel in my in-need-of-work core two days later. Once our Pilates session is done, it’s off to something called Primordial Sound Meditation. This I have to experience. I’m not entirely sure I understand it all but the end game of inner calm is relatable. It reminds me of mornings when I wake, don’t switch on my phone or tablet, don’t slide Chopin, Muddy Waters or Springsteen onto the turntable, but simply enjoy the quiet for 15 minutes until daily life breaks loose like a slow green light in Bangkok traffic.

warm smiles and first names only, please.

If color is anything to go by, then any worries about dining well evaporate. My meal—each of us is offered a specially designed menu—consists of a root salad and plate of fish that is as tasty as it is vibrant. After a meal or two, Aliwala’s goal of showing how delicious and fulfilling healthy food can be to eat is reached. Each of the dishes isn’t overly complicated, and the biggest problem might be finding these exact ingredients at home. The idea is that there is something available for everyone, blending the ingredients and cooking methods from a variety of cultures. Overall, the tone of the menu is clean. “Our body is not designed to handle the chemicals that we are introduced to on a daily basis,” Aliwala points out. “Once we break from the constant input of toxins, our body will relax and start regenerating.”

Lunches and dinners are so filling, inevitably I forget about dessert—usually something like a cashew nut tempeh with an avocado and ginger almond milk—causing staff to hunt me down later with the dish.

“One of the benefits of our programs is you can come in at your level of wellness and from there take on new ideas and disciplines,” Kathy tells me. “We don’t force you to do anything, but do suggest, based on your goals, particular recommendations.” So even Aliwala, the nutritionist, she of the 90-percent plant-based diet, isn’t superhuman? She’s the first to shoot down that claim: “The day I drink a glass of wine is the day I really enjoy that glass of wine.”

Still, I can’t take everything about this break to heart. My blood type suggests Pilates, tai chi and walking as suitable activities—and not cycling! Turns out, there is no single road map for any of us. The retreat aims to have you learn more about yourself, about your body and mind, and to set your own goals, no matter how big or small. That much I can do.

Meet me by the pool.; Emotional Balance and Mind Training Retreat, from US$3,491 for five nights single occupancy.


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