Mind & Body Overhaul - A Personal Experience by Ms Gaye Gerard
Atmanjai Wellness Spa in the southern part of Phuket Island is a detox, wellness and yoga centre designed for those ready to embark on a new beginning of healthy living. Gaye Gerard checks in for the seven-day Ultra Cleanse
It’s late afternoon in Phuket, the sun is blazing brightly and the sand is warm. I have found a comfortable lounge under a thatched-roof hut by the pool with a panoramic view of the sea. I came here in search of a way to reconnect with myself and embark on a new detox challenge to improve my health and well-being, which had been lost in the pressures of work and my life at home. I needed a break from the noise of the city and the pace of life, which has me awake every morning before sunrise while the time spent editing after a long day of shooting can have me working late into the night.
A friendly voice greeted me. “Welcome to Atmanjai,” said Izzy, general manager of the wellness, detox and yoga centre. Izzy invited me on a tour of the property and explained they cater to 18 participants detoxing at one time. It became evident that Izzy is an integral part of the programmes run by the centre. His enthusiasm is infectious and his support unending. Atmanjai Wellness Spa is set amidst a tropical haven called Friendship Beach Resort located at the quiet, southern end of Phuket Island at Chalong Bay, on a breathtakingly beautiful palm-fringed white sand beach.
The central feature of the resort is the large pool and restaurant, which are in a tranquil setting. The restaurant serves a mouth-watering array of delicious healthy juices and divine raw food dishes, a favourite with guests and the locals. The Friendship Beach Hotel is designed to embrace the feel of a traditional Thai village amidst lush gardens with comfortable accommodation. Some rooms have outdoor bathrooms and balconies that open directly onto the beach. Alternatively, you can choose to stay in a more modern setting at Serenity Resort where the rooms are elegantly designed with plush decor, a large private terrace and spacious bathrooms.
As Izzy and I entered the Wellness Centre, the soft flowing sound of water invoked a calming mood. There is a generous lounge area featuring a community table. The traditional Thai textiles and yellow interior give a warm, homey feeling. This place is renowned for its three styles of wellbeing programmes that promise a body and mind overhaul: Ultra Cleanse, Eat Well Cleanse and Balance Fitness Cleanse.
The Fitness Cleanse is for anyone who wants to challenge themselves with four hours of exercise every day. The average programme runs for seven days, however, each one caters to a different level of intensity and can be personalised to include a mix of all three programmes. All the cleansing programmes have been expertly designed to provide a complete holistic approach to well-being based on a programme created by world-renowned doctor Bernard Jensen.
I experienced the seven-day, all-inclusive Ultra Cleanse package, which includes infrared saunas, daily yoga, fitness activities, colonics and holistic spa treatments, as well as daily detox shakes, nutritional supplements, wheatgrass shots, veggie broth and refreshing coconut water. Izzy expressed his enthusiasm and support while assuring me that “by day two or three you will cross over the bridge where you feel emotionally safe and are able to start to trust the process and the people here”.
The morning of day three, I woke up early to catch a glimpse of the sunrise from the beach, a gentle breeze off the water had the palm leaves swaying. The sky erupted into shades of burnt orange and golden yellow as the sun began to rise. I stood in awe of the beauty and serenity of this place. I wasn’t the only guest to experience this spectacular vision of colour; it became a daily routine for some. I walked to the wellness centre where my group met daily at 7.00am for the first detox shake, consisting of psyllium husk and bentonite clay with water. This was followed by a mug of hot water with apple cider vinegar, plus a handful of nutritional supplements to keep us nourished throughout the day.
The Yoga Sala opens at 7.30am for morning practice. The practice is enhanced by gentle background music. Ocean, our Canadian born yoga instructor, offered each of us the opportunity to inhale the scent of her aroma oil to heighten our senses and enhance our individual experience. As I breathed in the geranium and lavender oil, the sun began to pour through the palm trees surrounding the centre. The sun lit up our mats and I leaned down into my first Child’s Pose, gently stretching my lower back, hips and ankles and my body began to relax into the class.
Ocean teaches a combination of Hatha and Power yoga, and tailors her classes to suit all levels from beginners, with specific sequences of detox poses to flush blood to our organs and to stimulate our digestive systems enabling relaxation, rejuvenation and recovery. Her mantra is: “Live and move with passion and joy, the only limits we have are the ones we create ourselves.” This was a really great reminder as I moved through the flow series, the tension slowly started to leave my spine and I melted into the mat.
After yoga we formed a circle for a tea ceremony led by Ocean and Chris, our fitness leaders. They began by serving us a delicious Thai ginger tea and passed around a deck of angel cards. It is their ritual to finish every yoga class with an inspiring and uplifting exchange of what each participant is grateful for. One by one we began sharing our positive intention for the day. This gathering was a heart opening experience, it allowed us to be vulnerable and connect to each other in a more meaningful and authentic way.
The wellness lounge is the hub of community where we are able to chill out and relax in between spa treatments. The spa is managed by Tang, who is like a mother to the guests. She spreads her caring positive energy to all arrangements, spa treatments and offsite activities. It was a beautiful day, and a small group of us were keen explore the outer islands so she organised a long tail boat tour for us that afternoon. I felt excited as we made our way through the azure waters to discover the remote island called “Ko He”. The island is perfect for snorkeling and we swam among the brightly coloured coral fish. There was time to relax and soak up the sun on the beach. Phuket, often referred to as a scenic wonderland, offers plenty of options and there is no shortage of tours. At Atmanjai all activities are focussed on creating community, empowering us with knowledge of enhanced well-being and personal fitness.
Options include kite surfing, meditation, SUP and a trip to the Big Buddha at sunset with a yoga class led by Ocean and Chris. They also offer group fitness, Muay Thai and boot camp style training sessions to push you beyond your comfort zone and maximise your transformation. A few hours with this duo will completely reset your expectations of what you thought you could achieve. On the fourth day of my cleanse Chris took a group of us to a nearby temple, where we walked at a decent pace around a lake.
A most welcome sight was the beautiful emerald clear waters of the renowned Nai Harn Beach. Our walk had worked up a sweat and we couldn’t wait to jump into the waves at the beach. My new friends Jane and Liz agreed that we felt completely alive and invigorated; this was a truly sublime way to start the day. Later that afternoon, it was time for a group lesson in stand up paddleboarding (SUP). Could this day get any better? With Izzy’s encouragement and guidance we all paddled out into the calm waters to explore a newly shipwrecked catamaran. One could’t help but be filled with gratitude for this incredible experience we all were sharing.
On my return to the Wellness Centre, it was time for my massage. Lying on the table in the dimly lit spa I could feel my body opening up, as the last traces of tension left me. My muscles had clearly responded well to this deep detoxification programme. I felt a sense of lightness as if the energy in my body had shifted, and with the toxins gone I emerged feeling completely rejuvenated – the perfect way to finish my day. After yoga the next morning, I experienced a couple of treatments that enhanced and deepened the detox process. I started with an infra-red sauna infused with oxygen that got me sweating up a storm and further invigorated me.
After the sauna I tried a 30-minute session with the frequency zapper device which is designed to help eradicate viruses or bacteria in the body. During the treatment I felt a slight tingling in my stomach as the treatment progressed. It’s an innovative treatment and is a part of Atmanjai’s holistic programme. Later that day during my progress meeting with Chris, he informed me that there is a wealth of knowledge contained in the books and DVDs in the wellness library and are available to the guests at any time. He encouraged me to continue my own personal research by using the library. It became my favourite retreat where I would escape the heat in the middle of the day. This meeting was highly insightful as Chris shared part of his personal story. He has overcome huge obstacles and challenges in his own life to experience a massive health transformation. He now dedicates his life to give back, inspire and motivate others.
The following morning was taken up with our regular yoga practice and detox treatments. In the afternoon, to enhance our experience and broaden our knowledge of food preparation, a small group of us signed up for a raw food workshop with the Head Chef, Charlie. We learnt to make vitamin-packed low-calorie raw lasagna, zucchini pasta with nutty vegan raw smoky cheese, healthy nori rolls and a chocolate mousse. We were exposed to food so delicious it exploded our tastebuds and everyone in the group wanted more.
Coming to the end of my cleanse I realised that the outcome of this programme for me was the creation of a deep internal cleansing, which gave me a new sense of clarity – emotionally, spiritually and physically – and I left feeling happier within. I have gained a new knowledge of myself and discovered a new level of vitality and mental strength, which was beyond my expectation. Weight loss became a mere side effect of this experience! Atmanjai is a community with a soul. At the core of my experience was the kindness and support of the staff and other guests. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming and unexpected surprise of encouragement, support and deep connection that I now understand is the reason why past guests return.