Well-established in the world of wellness, Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and Co-Founder Soneva, is always looking for ways to break new ground. Ahead of the launch of his latest transformative wellness brand, Soneva Soul, the wellness expert delves into his ideas of wellness travel, the future of the industry, and more. By Bayar Jain
Travel + Leisure India: What is Soneva Soul?
Sonu Shivdasani: Soneva Soul is a new, transformative wellness brand from Soneva that combines ancient healing with modern science to reconnect mind, body and soul.
The new Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani elevates guests’ wellness experience far beyond the pampering treatments and massages found at a typical wellness centre or resort spa. Linked by raised walkways that wind among the trees, the three-level spa is designed in perfect harmony with its stunning setting on the eastern side of the island. Complementing the existing Over-water Spa at The Gathering, it includes open-air treatment rooms, consultation suites, therapeutic biomodulation rooms, a state-of-the-art gym and juice bar. A yoga pavilion and meditation platform sit high above the tree line, offering 360-degree views across the turquoise private lagoon.
Travel + Leisure India: How did it come into being?
Sonu Shivdasani: It is the culmination of everything we have learned since we launched our spa at Soneva Fushi in 1995, the Maldives’ very first resort spa. Both Eva [Shivdasani’s wife] and I have put a lot of thought into the overall design of Soneva Soul.
In terms of design features and the overall philosophy around the buildings, the reception and meditation room are deliberately at heights where one can see the sea and the beautiful lagoon. There are open-air treatment rooms, and—because of the height—there’s beautiful breeze. The roofs deliberately have very long overhangs and a tall hat, so that they shade the person inside and the heat rises well above the height of the massage table.
I designed some other air-conditioned treatments, which are the exact opposite. The tiles of the building are placed in a way that it looks similar to the scale of a lizard. The shapes are soft and undulating as I strongly believe that harsh lines undermine wellness. The treatment room’s door has a special hinge, where the door almost is pulled out from the building and then rotates. This is because when the door is closed, one cannot see the opening, which creates mystery. The walls are thick, the external sound is completely blocked out, and the actual treatment space is designed to represent an embryo.
Travel + Leisure India: What are some wellness experiences one can expect to find at Soneva Soul?
Sonu Shivdasani: Soneva Soul is guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’, tailoring personalised care plans to help guests realise their utmost potential and achieve their long-term wellness goals.
Working in partnership with each guest, Soneva Soul’s wellness experts co-curate a wellness journey that includes exercise and movement, rest and recovery, eating well, mindful living, being in nature, self-care, relationships and community, work-life balance, spirituality, and posture and ergonomics. The outcome-based treatment menu here unites apparent opposites to offer a profound level of wellbeing and healing. Traditional wellness philosophies, such as Ayurveda, herbalism, and medicinal mushrooms, will sit alongside advanced treatment methodologies, such as ozone therapy and vitamin IV therapy, and therapeutic biomodulation, including cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen.
Each of our expert therapists offer a selection of special treatments, therapies and rituals, that draw upon their own healing heritage. It includes Energy Restoration Therapy with Himalayan Singing Bowls and energy work, and a Natural Facial using Vietnamese pressure point techniques.
Travel + Leisure India: The pandemic has shifted the focus back on wellbeing. What are some upcoming wellness trends you predict will take centre-stage?
Sonu Shivdasani: In a post COVID-19 world, consumers will be more conscious of the impact that they will have on nature and the communities, which they visit. It is my hope that moving forward we will become more sensitive to nature’s innovations. We will try to work in harmony with nature rather than against it.
Travel + Leisure India: How can one curb travel-induced anxieties?
Sonu Shivdasani: There are many meditation apps that can help release any anxiety or stress—whether on a daily basis or for nervous travellers. I highly recommend Bihar Yoga. I use it to carry out yoga nidra. I believe very strongly that before one starts the day, one must either meditate, do yoga nidra or some other exercise to ground oneself and put everything into perspective.
Travel + Leisure India: Three wellness must-haves when on a vacation?
Sonu Shivdasani: I never travel without a magnet that helps me overcome jet-lag, a bottle of Aconite (a homeopathic remedy that assists with sleep), and Andrographis Paniculata (an anti-viral).
Travel + Leisure India: What’s your idea of an ideal wellness holiday?
Sonu Shivdasani: In terms of food, the menu should comprise delicious but healthy meals that avoid dairy, white flour, sugar, beef, and is generally plant-based. The food should be rich in herbs and minerals that boost your immune system. The food should also have a lot of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in it. The best source of this is nuts. It should also support the gut bacteria. Sprouting vegetables are good for gut health.
There should be varied and great options for exercise. A retreat should have a strong focus on meditation and yoga. There should also be fantastic alternative healing options, like traditional health such as Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine, energy healing, osteopathy and healers that have an intuitive sense as to what is needed to resolve chronic challenges.