It's been almost 9 months since I spent 7 days at the Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary - a retreat in Koh Samui, but it still feels like I have left a little piece of my heart there.
After I returned from my trip, I received lots of questions from friends on what my experience at the retreat was like. So today, I will be sharing with you my review and reflections of my time at Kamalaya.
It all started with me making a spur of the moment decision to spend a week at a retreat. Last year, I had started to follow my intuition gradually, trusting in the process and as a result, I allowed myself to follow my heart completely on this also. At the time, I was in need for a big dose of healing, so Kamalaya came along just at the right time.
Looking back, I know that going on this retreat was so perfect for me - it was everything that my soul was craving. Nowadays, each time I reflect on my days at Kamalaya, I still feel expansive, light and filled with energy.
Why I went on a retreat
In 2013, I set the intention to spend the year focused on nourishing myself - on a holistic level. I asked myself, What would happen if I poured loving energy into treating myself with kindness?
As a result, I experienced spiritual growth, perception shifts and started to explore my life purpose on a much deeper level. So when it came to deciding how I should spend my annual leave, I naturally welcomed the idea of going to a retreat, as way of moving further into this holistic journey.
Also read my blog post on How To Prepare For A Wellness Retreat for more information!
Why I chose Kamalaya
I was drawn to Kamalaya because its approach to wellness aligned strongly with my own. I loved the range of different wellness programs that you could choose from such as relieving stress, detox, yoga, burnout, fitness or weight control.
This prompted me to get clear on what I wanted from my experience before I signed up for the program. I knew that I didn't want my retreat experience to be only about relaxation.
Instead, it was my opportunity to dig deeper, push against limiting beliefs, and find clarity within myself.
From the various treatment options available, I selected the Asian Bliss program, which is a balanced immersion into holistic healing traditions from China, India, Japan and Thailand. I loved that this program also included one on one meditation, reiki, yoga and pranayama sessions.
Kamalaya is 30 minutes by car from the main city area of Koh Samui. It is located in a quiet and remote area along the coast, and nestled into a mini rainforest garden.
The location for Kamalaya was chosen because of a cave that was once used hundreds of years ago as a meditation spot by Buddhist monks. It is said that the island of Koh Samui and this monk's cave in particular, holds a special spiritual energy and sacred aura.
When I arrived in Kamalaya, I felt this energy immediately. There was a sense of peace, calm and heightened intuitive awareness in this place which makes the experience even more magical.
I loved the fact that Kamalaya was far away from the town. I loved the isolation of being in a sanctuary of wellness for a week - it allowed me to completely detach from the busy-ness of the outside world so that I could focus my healing inwards.
There are various accommodation options available at Kamalaya. They range from rooms to private villas with different views of the surroundings (sea, beach, rock top, garden). I chose to stay in a villa that had stunning views of the sea from one window.
The other side of the villa was cradled by the rocks. This natural beauty was brought to the inside of the villa where the rock face became a section of the wall.
Upon arrival, you are provided with a pair of the softest bamboo cotton pyjamas, a yoga mat, a carry tote and drink bottle. You are also asked to choose pillows from a pillow menu to make your stay even more comfortable.
I loved staying in this villa! I particularly loved the high ceilings and the fact that a portion of the bathroom opened up to the sky so that you could shower right under the stars. It was so easy to become completely absorbed by the natural surroundings everywhere you went.
I found it so comforting to be staying in such a calming, energetically cleansing space. At night, I would return back to my sanctuary to find gentle meditation music playing, candles lighting the way to my bed, and the oil burner releasing a soothing aroma.
It was just the perfect setting to sleep deeply, to let go of stress and to feel rejuvenated.
Kamalaya has its own private beach that is serviced by their staff. I loved spending my time here reading, soaking in the sun, outstretched on a hammock. For the first time in a long while, I was actually sitting and reading or doing very little.
This notion of slowing down, relaxing and putting away my to do list was so foreign to me that it took a few days before I fully came to appreciate this stillness.
The water around this part of Koh Samui stays shallow and clear for a long distance out. Beach booties are provided for those who wish to tread out and explore as the sand is rocky here.
Kamalaya caters for all dietary requirements and provides a myriad of options and menus to suit. As some guests will be on a detox program, they are limited to choosing foods from the detox menu only. However, the Asian Bliss program was not limited and I found myself wanting to try all the things on the menu.
With two different restaurants; one used only for lunch and the other for dinner and breakfast, Kamalaya brought joy and excitement to food. I was so impressed with the quality of their ingredients, meals and drinks.
The breakfast is a buffet style menu where you can create your own muesli, granola or yoghurt bowl with a variety of tropical fruits, seeds, nuts and super foods or opt for the traditional continental breakfast. The honey is local and so fresh that they bring out a tray from the hive each morning and you collect your own honey as it drips into your bowl.
At my initial wellness consultation with a naturopath, they recommended that I start each morning with a gotu kola shot, a wheat grass shot and a glass of green juice.
In addition to this, each room has a fruit bowl where I became accustomed to drinking a glass of warm water with a slice of lime to kick start the day prior to breakfast.
At lunch times, I made a habit of always ordering a fresh coconut or opting for juice to go with a light meal. I enjoyed spending the time to eat mindfully, slowly, and enjoying each bite. It was such a different way of living compared to my normal afternoons of eating my lunch at my desk, whilst staring at my computer screen, completely disconnected to the food before me.
Meeting New Friends
By the time dinner came around, I would typically be hungry from my afternoon yoga or pilates class. Dinners at Kamalaya were fun and lively. I would find a spot on the communal table, to meet up with new friends.
The friendships and connections that I made was one aspect that really surprised me about staying at a retreat. Most people go to retreats on their own, so I expected to be spending the majority of my trip in my own company. However, I was lucky enough to meet some very inspirational women during my stay, who also shared similar wellness goals.
Everyone was there because they wanted more for themselves, from a holistic wellness perspective. As a result, everyone just radiating positive and supportive energy for each other. People showed up as their true authentic selves which made the conversations flow and the connections created seem so natural.
The treatment part of Kamalaya is located on the cliffs and provides the best views in the sanctuary.
The retreat has two outdoor pools, a shatki fitness centre, ambient steam pools that are heated to different temperatures, two yoga pavilions as well as a steam cavern. The monk's cave is adorned with candles and incense, perfect for meditation. The treatments are conducted in huts which overlooks onto the sea and there are lounge areas to rest and sip herbal tea after a treatment is finished too.
On a typical day at Kamalaya, I would have 2 treatments each day in the form of massages, scrubs, acupuncture, reiki, steam sessions and soaks.
I particularly loved the Indian head massage, which included an oil treatment as well as steam treatment in the steam cavern. The steam helped the oil soak into the skin, whilst facilitating detoxification. When I came out of the steam cavern, I felt like I was walking on clouds, with renewed energy pulsing through me and completely revitalised.
Despite the fact that I was already practicing yoga before going to Kamalaya, the yoga, pilates and various fitness classes are suitable for all fitness levels and abilities.
Yoga classes are scheduled about 3 times each day and there is always a mixture of other fitness classes too. You have the choice to attend as many classes as you wish. I loved this part of the retreat because I ended up trying so many different fitness routines that I wouldn't have done if I was at home.
In addition to these classes, I also had a one-on-one yoga session and meditation session. Having a teacher guide me through this step by step was amazing - it helped me develop my yoga postures further and gain a deeper understanding of meditation.
The beautiful yoga pavilion is perched on the hillside and opens out to stunning sea views. There is just something amazingly peaceful about doing a vinyasa flow in a space that overlooks the sea.
I was blown away by the service from the staff. It really did make such a difference to my stay. From the moment I got picked up at the airport, until the moment I got dropped off at my next destination, the staff were just amazing - friendly, proactive, professional and helpful. Everyone was so genuinely happy to stop and have a chat or offer their help.
Overall, my stay at Kamalaya was transformative, energetic and powerful. It was such a wonderful experience. From a mindfulness perspective, it allowed me time to listen to my intuition, to sit with my feelings and to let things go that no longer served me.
And, from a health and wellness perspective, I learnt how amazing life is when I truly dedicate the time to looking after my body, my spirit and my mind.
9 months after and I am still on my own journey to holistic wellness. My memories of Kamalya are now a gentle reminder for me to spend time looking after myself.
And, yes it was a super indulgent holiday for me - quite different to my typical backpacking trips. Ongoing, I would love to carve out some time each year to do a smaller mini retreat at home for myself. But, eventually, in a few years time, I hope to return back to Kamalaya and recreate the full experience again!