Soak in nature
Some believe the sense of peace here is due to the spiritual energy of the natural springs at the bottom of the river, others think the lush greenery alone is enough to instil calm. Either way, the serenity at Como Shambhala Estate is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. Nature plays an overarching role in putting you at ease with the hushed rumble of the river, trees seemingly never-ending and unforgettable sunsets.
Situated in Ubud, whose name in Balinese fittingly means ‘medicine’, it’s an ideal spot for anyone seeking wellness, its verdant surrounds a natural sedative. Unsurprisingly it’s a popular choice for those facing challenging times, whether corporate burnout, divorce or addiction struggles. Fittingly wellness programmes are a highlight at the group’s flagship property, with the options Cleanse, Be Active, Ayurveda and Bespoke. Mine is a combination of the last two.
Rather than pulse reading which seems to be more common in similar retreats, resident Ayurvedic doctor Dr Prasanth favours marma diagnosis when examining dosha, or body composition levels. Marmas are junctures in the body where two types of tissue meet. Those offering more resistance when pressure is applied indicate where tension is, which for me in the neck and shoulders.
As food is such a highlight here, instead of prescribing a specific diet, Dr Prasanth provides basic guidelines to bring down my vata (air) and pitta (fire) elements for more balance. He advises against chilled food and drink, refined grains, sugar and red meat, and drinking water or coffee with meals.
Delicious things I ate included mushroom, truffle and pesto on black rice bread, vegetable dumplings, buckwheat crepes with ricotta, sultanas and orange, and a vegan Caesar salad. Not all in one sitting, but let’s just say deprivation isn’t even a consideration.
Finally, the Como Shambhala Massage is known as the signature treatment for good reason, the perfect blend of nurturing and rebalancing. If you are comfortable with a male therapist, Sudiana is excellent. Using the brand’s custom blend of oils to knead away every last knot, I could feel my stress levels plummet, as if my body was thanking me for such kindness.
A 7am Estate Walk takes place daily, a guided tour of the property and its history while you drink in the picturesque expanse. It takes roughly 45 minutes and trainers are a good idea as there’s a fair bit of climbing hefty stairs, ending up at the Kedara pool which is worth the 300 steps to be in a secluded spot with nothing but waterfalls and the Ayung River before you.
Breakfast in Kudus House, a 150-year-old former Javanese residence boasts a spectacular view of the Ayung Valley, which you can admire while tucking into local specialities like black sticky and coconut rice porridge, or better versions of your favourites, such as gluten-free banana French toast. Thankfully the Pilates mat class to follow was gentle and suitable for beginners allowing ample time for the generous spread I consumed to settle. Aside from the core, it focuses on opening the hips and groin, and strengthening the inner thighs with ‘clams’ and leg raises targeting muscles we didn’t even know were there.
More feasting ensues with a brief interlude of flaked salmon with cauliflower, quinoa and babaganoush, before Marma Point Therapy with Dr Prasanth. I mistakenly expect it to be massage working on the 107 energy points, and initially it seems like an extended version of marma diagnosis in our initial consultation, but as it turns out, is more akin to reflexology or acupressure. The after effects of relaxation are the same and composure washes over me.
The afternoon continues in the same bucolic vein. Hatha yoga with Dr Prasanth is again perfect for those without a regular practice, although its relatively slower pace means holding poses for longer, which is no less challenging. A pranayama and meditation session takes places immediately after, just when you think it’s impossible to feel any mellower.
This isn’t the case at all. While the three rounds of bellows breath in yoga was invigorating, this session slows things back down with ujjayi, full yogic breath and alternate nostril techniques combined with visualisation. As someone anxiety prone, a moment without ruminating is rare, even the ability to stay present for a mere hour was hugely beneficial.
Spending the best part of the afternoon in a shaded yoga bale overlooking rice terraces as the sun sets, filling the space with streams of gold makes it pretty difficult to feel anything but content. Particularly when the only thing left to do all day is indulge in gado gado, chicken satays and coconut crepes.