If you’re craving a life overhaul, spas and hotels all over the world offer packages that tackle your psyche
The wellness world is changing. Post-pandemic, we’re looking for far more than a fasting regime and the odd yoga class when we go to a spa or retreat. Many of us are crying out for an ‘emotional overhaul’, too.
Spas and hotels all over the world are scrambling to offer packages that tackle your psyche as well as your cellulite. You could choose stylish spirituality in Spain or Italy. But here in the UK we already have a solid tranche of retreats that are the antithesis of fluffy towels and endless smoothies. These are programmes that pack a hefty therapeutic punch.
They certainly aren’t for everyone, but if you feel the call for a life overhaul, here’s where to start…
MINDFUL IN ITALY
Guests at Mandali, pictured above, practice meditation, breathwork and mindful movement – though nothing is obligatory
Mandali opened in 2017 and is making waves with its dynamic retreat programmes.
The setting is beautiful with views over Italy’s Lake Orta to the Alps, and there are spa treatments available.
Yet this isn’t just another spa experience with a bit of emotional wellness tacked on.
The signature Mandali Experience offers a gentle, yet profound, exploration of your emotional well-being with meditation, breathwork, workshops, group sessions and mindful movement.
The retreat centre, which opened in 2017, offers beautiful views over Italy’s Lake Orta to the Alps
The Mandali Experience is ideal for ‘those who want to dip a toe into emotional healing’
Unlike the UK offerings listed here, nothing is obligatory — if it all gets too much, you can slip away to the pool.
Best for: Those who want to dip a (nicely pedicured) toe into emotional healing.
Details: Five-day Mandali Experience from £564 pp (mandali.org).
Soothe the soul and body: Relaxation and delicious food at MasQi – or the Energy House – in Spain
Voted Best Holistic Hideaway in the Conde Nast Traveller Spa Awards 2020, MasQi (or the Energy House) is a 19th-century farmhouse turned boutique hotel in Spain’s Sierra de Mariola. It’s both stylish and spiritual (a hard trick to pull off) and hosts a series of heartfelt emotional wellness retreats.
The four-day Reset programme is an intimate (for just eight people) immersion to help cure pandemic fatigue, the ill-effects of stress and emotional blocks. It’s a mix of meditation, movement, mentoring and group sessions.
Meanwhile, Transforma provides a six-night holistic programme that helps you put your life into perspective and move forward more confidently.
Best for: Retreat newbies who want a holistic reset in a stylish setting.
Details: Reset retreat from £2,439 pp; Transforma from £2,005 pp (masqi.es).
GO ECO IN DEVON
Most emotional wellness retreats just explore our relationships with ourselves and with the people around us.
But Embercombe near Exeter goes further and examines our relationship with the wild. Nature is as much a teacher as the leaders in this beautiful valley in Devon.
Learn about yourself by sleeping under the stars (or in yurts deep in the woods), wild swimming in the lake, and getting up close and personal with trees, brambles and mud.
Sitting around a campfire sharing feelings offers a gentle healing all of its own.
Embercombe runs various retreats, but its flagship is The Journey, a five-day immersion that helps you become ‘passionate about making the most of what life gives you every day’.
The Catalyst, also over five days, is a dedicated programme designed for those aged 18 to 29.
Best for: Eco-conscious people hunting for meaning and aiming to give back to the wider world.
Details: The Journey from £997 pp with accommodation in a shared yurt; The Catalyst from £550 pp. Some bursary places are available (embercombe.org).
One of the venues for the Path of Love retreat is Broughton Hall (pictured), which sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park
The ‘Path of Love’ was established 26 years ago and tends to attract a younger crowd (mainly in their 20s to 40s). There are venues offering its personal growth retreats across the globe, including at Broughton Hall on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
There is a fun feel with a resident DJ and there’s a festival-like atmosphere at times. But the tough love can be exhausting — some sessions stretch over hours.
As a counterbalance, there are regular meetings in smaller groups to confront deep, personal fears and guilty secrets.
Pictured is the Avalon Wellness Centre at Broughton Hall, where guests take part in personal growth retreats
By the end of the week, the group will probably know more about you than your family and friends. Lifelong friendships are forged and guests generally leave feeling in love with the world.
Best for: Those who want to feel more open-hearted and connected (with a side order of club culture).
Details: Week stays from £2,377 pp (pathretreats.com).
Florence House, pictured, in East Sussex is one of the venues for the not-for-the-faint-hearted Hoffman Process
The Hoffman Process was created in 1967, making it the venerable grandparent of all emotional healing retreats. Pop star Katy Perry loved it; Justin Bieber allegedly walked out.
‘Hoffman is not a pampering spa retreat,’ warns the organisation’s website. ‘There will be times of intense emotional and physical experience.’
The process works on the understanding that, as children, we will do anything to be loved — meaning that we pick up a raft of unhelpful belief systems and behaviours.
The Hoffman course sets out to tackle this – but it’s not for the faint-hearted and there’s an intense screening process to go through before being accepted on the course.
There are venues around the world, including Florence House in East Sussex.
Best for: Angst-ridden high-flyers who feel that childhood traumas may lie behind their problems.
Details: £3,500 pp for a seven-day retreat (hoffmaninstitute.co.uk).
The Penninghame Process is included in a week-long retreat held at a fabulous estate in Dumfriesshire. You are taught practical ways to change the way you think and feel. Devotees claim it has helped them kiss goodbye to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Days start with an intense meditation session designed to release pent-up emotions, and the entire week is carefully curated.
It’s not all gloomy introspection — some parts plug you into a childlike sense of fun. To say you’ll go on a journey is cliched, but rings true: you learn how to ‘become the hero of your own life’. Most walk out feeling calmer and more confident.
Best for: Anyone open-minded to change, yet new to therapy.
Details: From £1,595 pp for seven nights’ all-inclusive accommodation (penninghame.org).