13/02/2007 - 22:00

Looking inward, and out, with active retreat programs

13/02/2007 - 22:00

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Health retreats have typically evoked images of preening and pampering, with cucumber facial treatments, mud wraps and massages that last for hours.

Looking inward, and out, with active retreat programs

Health retreats have typically evoked images of preening and pampering, with cucumber facial treatments, mud wraps and massages that last for hours.

And, while there is a market for this brand of relaxation, Western Australians are being offered a range of more active ways to wind down in their down time.

Consistent with WA’s reputation as an active, outdoors destination, retreats are steering away from the cosmetic side of things in favour of promoting physical and mental wellbeing. 

Helping to set this trend is Quay West Resort Bunker Bay, which will host its first retreat in March, exclusively for women.

Using the services of the Cottesloe-based Beach Lifestyle Club, the five-day, four-night retreat will be based on the principles of the club’s 10-day ‘kick start’ detox program.

Beach Lifestyle Club director Katie Stewart says the five-day retreat, priced at $1,700, will offer a local alternative for the company’s clients, who usually travel to the eastern states for their retreats, with Bunker Bay’s private beach providing an ideal venue.

“We’ve just got such fantastic locations here…there’s nowhere else in Australia where you can get that sort of scenery and go through the rigours of a retreat,” Ms Stewart said.

Designed to maximise the ‘personal potential’ of its attendees, the retreat will start with a time trial adventure to the lighthouse, covering part of the Bibbulmun Track, followed by a massage and post-exercise recovery session.

After morning tea, guests will complete a cardio session and recovery, followed by lunch, while the afternoon is devoted to a motivational workshop and a shallow water walk.

Self-development workshops, conducted by sports psychologists and physiotherapists, will involve goal-setting and re-evaluation of goals, aiming to instill a sense of inner peace and control in participants.

After dinner, guests may enjoy massages on the half-hour, before reading and sleeping, while beach circuits, pilates classes and ocean sessions will be available at various times during the retreat.

Ms Stewart said the program was designed to challenge its participants.

“My personal philosophy is rest is best enjoyed when deserved,” she told WA Business News.

“A lot of people go to retreats and get these pampering packages and treatments, which are great in the short-term, but they’re a bit like a band-aid. I think if you’re going to do these things, sacrifice breeds reward – the more you put in, the more you get out.”

While there is an emphasis on physically demanding activities, pampering is still permitted and a range of spa treatments will be available.

Intended to be the first of many single sex retreats, Quay West has nearly filled the 20 openings available for the March program, with plans for a retreat exclusively for men in the pipeline.

Ms Stewart says there is a niche for male self-development retreats.

“The whole thing is refocusing the emphasis on who can be the last man standing at lunch into the fittest, strongest, healthiest person oozing the power,” she said.

Ms Stewart said the Beach Lifestyle Club had secured three new corporate clients in the past seven months, in line with the trend towards greater valuing of health and fitness in the workplace.

She said the company would consider a retreat catering for corporate clients in the future.

“We’d like to be able to open up to individual larger companies, whether it be senior executives or top-three tier areas of business, to come in-house for an intensive retreat,” Ms Stewart said.

Also operating in the South West is Samudra Yoga & Surf Retreats, the brainchild of Sheridan Hammond and his partner, Lisa Archer. 

Established in 2004, the company offers active retreats for individuals and groups in Yallingup and Byron Bay.

Samudra’s first event in WA was a corporate retreat, held in November 2005. The company hosted a total of eight retreats last year and a number of private bookings for groups.

Retreats are held at the heritage-listed, recently renovated Caves House, and cater for all levels of experience in surfing and yoga.

The daily program begins with Ashtanga yoga practice, followed by breakfast and a surfing session, either a lesson for beginners and intermediates, or a surf mission to find the best waves of the day for advanced participants.

Guests have free time after lunch before an afternoon yoga session or other specific activity.

For corporate retreats, groups often choose to work or brainstorm ideas during this time.

Dinner is followed by an evening activity, such as a slideshow, DVD or presentation.

The menu is vegetarian, prepared by the resident chef at Caves House, or by an Ayurvedic chef at specialised retreats.

Guests are invited to learn about the foods that suit their individual constitutions and how to prepare healthy meals.

The six-day retreats are priced at $1,600, for four-star accommodation, while an additional $300 will secure an upgrade to five-star quarters.

Group size is restricted to 14, with the average group comprising around eight to 10 people.

Samudra is also in the process of planning a purpose-built venue in Gracetown, intended for completion in 2008.

The new facility will include its own yoga shala and permanent chef, offering a more exclusive service, while Yallingup will be retained as a venue for some retreats.

The company is also considering a retreat in WA’s north west region and is looking to expand next year to Indonesia and the Maldives.

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