A Retreat For Change In Bali

went to Bali hoping for a spiritual makeover. Instead, I discovered my spine was stiff, my doshas needed rebalancing and my whole body tilted to the left. It obviously was not just my spirit in need of help. Luckily, I had come to the right place: The COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali, Indonesia.

Set in 23 acres of lush, tropical landscape a few miles from Ubud, The COMO Shambhala Estate calls itself a “Retreat for Change.” COMO is a well-known hotel brand, with luxury resorts all over the world. Sure, some guests come to the Bali property purely for the beautiful location, the five-star service, the delicious food, and the luxurious suites and villas. But most are here – with partners, friends or on their own – to improve their wellbeing and, like me, had signed up for one of the resort’s array of dedicated programs.

I had opted for a four-night Wellness Escape. First, I had a consultation with Dr. Deepak Deginal, the resort’s dedicated Ayurvedic doctor, who customized my program. We decided – or rather, I decided – against a detox (I was determined not to miss out on the resort’s famously delicious healthy cuisine). Instead, Dr. Deepak put me on a “diet” that would balance those doshas and help heal the damage stress had done to my body. Coffee was permitted as long as I had it with a little bit of dairy. Who knew that the macchiato was Ayurvedic?

Dr. Deepak also prescribed two sessions of osteopathy, massage, yoga, Pilates, t’ai chi and meditation. I already practiced yoga and Pilates but had never attempted t’ai chi before.  To my surprise, I found I loved it. And, the classes – which took place in a breeze-cooled bale – turned out to be the highlight of my stay, not least because our slow, inexpert movements let to a lot of giggling in the ranks.

Accommodation at the Shambhala Estate is a mix of rooms, suites, a pool, private villas and residences dotted about the resort. I had a garden room with a secluded terrace big enough to practice my head stands on, though I spent most of what little down time I had lying on a sun lounger drinking ginger tea and listening to the birds. One morning I took the half-hour guided estate walk, without which I might not have discovered the delightful, sun-dappled natural pool that lies directly below the resort.

The atmosphere at the Shambhala Estate is relaxed and low key; guests are here to heal and revitalize, not to show off their designer resort wear. To begin with, I changed out of my exercise kit for breakfast and lunch but soon realized that nobody else did. A physiotherapist from Sydney and a lawyer from New York and I were soon swapping life experiences and email addresses. And we all had nothing but praise for the army of therapists, teachers and coaches who were valiantly coaxing us down our individual roads to wellness.

Did I feel the benefit? Most definitely, though the truth is, it would be hard to find anywhere more likely to promote wellness than here. Bali itself has a long tradition of healing, with a philosophy based on maintaining harmony between the gods, the environment and the community, while the estate’s location, just above a river where three sacred springs converge, is particularly auspicious.

And a funny thing – while I was concentrating on my physical wellbeing, I noticed a lightness of spirit and a feeling of contentment that I hadn’t experienced in years. Alas, I still tilt slightly to the left!

Words by Maggie O’Sullivan

Maggie O’Sullivan is a freelance journalist based in the UK, specializing in luxury travel.