Its 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 wellbeing, which had been lost in the pressures of work of 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 and the time spent editing after a long day shooting can have me working late into the night.
A friendly voice greets me “Welcome to Atmanjai” says Izzy, the General Manager of the Wellness, Detox and Yoga Center. Izzy invited me on a tour of the property and explains they cater for 18 participants detoxing at one time, it became evident that Izzy is an integral part of the programs run by the center, his enthusiasm is infectious and his support unending.
Atmanjai is set amongst 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, air conditioning and some rooms have outdoor bathrooms and balconies that open directly to the beach. Or 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 enter the Wellness Centre, the soft flowing sound of water invokes a calming mood. There is a generous lounge area featuring a community table, traditional Thai textiles and the yellow interior gives a warm homey feeling.
Renowned for its 3 styles of wellbeing programs which promise a body and mind overhaul: The Ultra Cleanse, The Eat Well Cleanse and The Balance Fitness Cleanse. The Fitness cleanse is for anyone who wants to challenge themselves with 4 hours of exercise every day.
The average program runs for 7 days, however each one caters for a different level of intensity and can be personalised to include a mix of all 3 programs. The cleanses have been expertly designed to provide you a complete holistic approach to wellbeing based on a program created by world renowned Doctor Bernard Jensen.
I experienced the 7 day all-inclusive Ultra Cleanse package, which includes in-fared saunas, daily yoga, fitness activities, colonics and holistic spa treatments, as well as daily detox shakes, nutritional supplements, wheatgrass shots, veggie broth and a refreshing coconut water. Izzy expressing his enthusiasm and support assured me that “by day 2 or 3 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 3, I woke 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 7am for the first detox shake, consisting of psyllium husk and bentonite clay with water. 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 730am for morning practice. The practice is enhanced by gentle background music, Ocean our Canadian born Yoga Instructor offers each of 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 Childs 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 was moving 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 and arrangements all spa treatments and offsite activities. It was a beautiful day, a small group of us were keen explore the outer islands so she organized 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 with plenty of options available there is no shortage of tours.
At night a beautifully set community cleansers table is lit up with fairy lights creating the space for enriching conversations. Our cleanse involves a serving of clear vegetable broth with ginger and chilli to cater for various tastes, following which we are able to retreat to the privacy of our rooms.
All activities are focused on creating community, empowering us with knowledge of enhanced wellbeing and personal fitness. Activities 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 4th 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 paddle boarding; 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 can’t help but be filled with gratitude for this incredible experience we are all sharing.
On my return to the Wellness Centre, it was time for my massage. Lying on the table in the dimly lit spa I can feel my body opening up, as any last traces of tension leave me. My muscles have clearly responded well to this deep detoxification program. I feel a sense of lightness as if the energy in my body has shifted and with the toxins gone, I emerge feeling completely rejuvenated, the perfect way to finish my day.
After yoga this morning, I experienced a couple of treatments which enhance and deepen the detox process. Starting with an in-fared sauna infused with oxygen that got me sweating up a storm which further invigorated me. After the in-fared 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 feeling in my stomach as the treatment progressed. It’s an innovative treatment part of Atmanjai’s holistic program.
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 which 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 overcoming 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 day, the 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 learned to make vitamin packed low calorie raw lasagne, zucchini pasta with nutty vegan raw smoky cheese, healthy nori rolls and a chocolate mousse, we were exposed to food so delicious that exploded our tastebuds and everyone in the group wanted more.
Coming to the end of my cleanse I realised that the outcome of this program 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. Weightless became a mere side effect of this experience!
Atmanjai is a community with soul, at the core of my experience was the kindness and support of the staff and other guests, where the staff genuinely cares about your wellbeing. 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.
Ultimately it’s the people that make it so special; it was an unforgettable journey that ignited my spirit.
Fact File: Atmanjai Detox and Wellbeing Programs run year round, the writer recommends a stay of 8 nights, 7 full days to properly experience the Cleanse Programs and reap the total benefits. Programs are all inclusive however you can add additional holistic spa treatments Massages, Day trips and activities can be arranged onsite by the Spa Manager – Tang in particular the Stand Up Paddle boarding and the Raw Food Workshop are highly recommended. Go to http://www.atmanjai.com/ for more information.
Getting there: Fly direct to Bangkok International Airport from most capital cities with Thai Airways, who offer outstanding service and plenty of healthy meal options, I opted for the raw vegan meal selection on my return home and it was fresh, delicious especially after a cleanse it was vital to fill my body with a light vegan nutritious meal. http://www.thaiairways.com.au/ Flying from Phuket to Koh Samui – I flew direct with Bangkok Air, with comfortable seating and excellent service. http://www.bangkokair.com/eng
Article & Photos by Gaye Gerard.
Atmanjai Guest May 2015.