Fat bumblebees hum as they dip in and out of violet trumpet flowers languidly swaying over the verandah. Tiny yellow-bellied warblers dart in between sucking nectar as they sing. Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa is only 50 minutes from Bali’s international airport but stepping through its ornately carved wooden door is like entering the land of the lotus eaters, Homer’s mythical isle of honey-sweet fruit, which once tasted banishes any desire to leave.
On the first day I meet a young woman who wails that there is no gym, no pump classes, indeed ‘NOTHING’ to do —- she speaks like President Trump tweets, in capitals. “But that’s perfect,” I reply. “That’s what I want to do — nothing — and where better to do it.” She looks astonished. In fact, we do quite a lot but slowly, peacefully, to the music of an invisible orchestra of insects, not a blaring soundtrack of hip hop, blasting into the eardrums.
The day begins at 6:30 with a walk through the rice paddies. This is the timeless Bali that I remember from 35 years ago, sunlight glinting on emerald shoots, clouds reflected in shards of water, a Bali dog wandering up to greet us.
Yoga is at 7am in an open-air pavilion facing the jungle. Butterflies flutter as we stretch our way through the asanas. The positions can be as simple or as challenging as you wish. The teachers melt into sideways splits as they lay their chests flat on the floor and beam like Cheshire cats.
“Never forget to smile,” says Mr. Nana. “It always allows you to stretch a little further.” At the end of the class, after chanting ‘Om Shanti’ and bowing to the divine in each other, we finish with laughing yoga, a sort of alchemy in which practice laughter turns into contagious chuckling.
Breakfast is in the spa pavilion by the stream at the bottom of the valley. There is fresh mango, papaya, dragon fruit, mangosteen, idli or dosas with mint chutney, dozens of juices to cleanse, soothe, boost, stimulate, regulate and exotic teas including special Ayurvedic brews.
Ayurveda is the ancient Hindu science of life and longevity that has evolved over more than two millennia. Each guest has a 45-minute consultation with the doctor, when they arrive to diagnose ailments and prescribe a personalised diet and treatments with herbal oils to eliminate toxins and re-establish balance, administered by highly trained, gentle practitioners, two per guest.
From the spa pavilion to my villa there are 95 steps – who needs a gym, I think as I climb them slowly, admiring the smiling Buddha carved into the rockface and then plunging into my private pool to cool off. There are only eight villas creating a sense of both intimacy and escape, with 37 staff, catering to every need, hence the blissful feeling of not having to do a thing.
At the end of a week I don’t want to leave — I’d like to go on eating lotuses for a lifetime. I have lost only 0.1 kilos but I am so relaxed that I don’t care. I look at the voluptuous stone goddess in the garden, with the swaying hips and think who wants to be thin anyway? I’d rather be fat and happy. Time for a little laughing yoga which quickly turns into the real thing.
At Sukhavati Spa, 7 Day Refresh program including meals and treatments in a one-bedroom villa with private pool USD $4,155 for a single or USD $6,270 for a couple plus 15 percent government taxes and service.
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