WELL BEING & OTHER STORIES

Recipes, rituals and other stories to realign the body and mind

Well being around the world

Why You Need to Visit Mumbai During Monsoon Season ~ For Ecoage

Around the World, Commisions, Lifestyle, Mindfulness & Meditation, Natural Living, Review, Rituals, Summer, Travel, Wellbeingdanielle coppermanComment
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Last month I had the last minute pleasure of visiting India, somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting but just never quite gotten around to planning. It always seemed a bit daunting and something that would require a lot of meticulous organization and prior preparations. So, when I was invited to visit one of India’s “most magical wellness destinations” Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa, I jumped at the chance of experiencing India by following someone else’s lead and itinerary. 

Tucked almost untouchably high up in the serene mountains of the Western Ghats, Shillim Retreat Estate and Spa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognised as one of the world’s top biological diversity hotspots. Just a few hours from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, arriving the other side of the hectic traffic and manic energy of the city, Shillim is a majestic paradise that feels like another world. Surrounded by forests, valleys, rice fields, bamboo plantations and nature like you’ve never seen before (especially during monsoon season), I felt immediately grounded and centred by the surroundings even before exploring the resorts amenities or wellness packages.

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Pre-arrival

Ahead of my visit, I was asked to fill out an in-depth questionnaire by the team behind the resort’s life science wellness program, known as Dharana. The questionnaire explored a range of physical, mental and emotional topics, and I felt instantly more connected to myself and aware of how I was feeling and what I wanted to get out of my visit. Aside from that, the questionnaire is a chance for the Dharana team to decipher each guest’s unique current state of wellbeing ahead of their arrival, ensuring they can put together an appropriate and entirely personalised programme tailored to each guest.

Upon arrival

Upon arrival I was greeted by the entire Dharana team and introduced to everyone who would be taking care of me throughout the week, from my dieticians and doctors to the chefs and therapists. Our arrival ceremony then commenced, with a selection of welcome rituals, starting with energy clearing (using burning sage and a Tibetan singing bowl), followed by a detoxifying footbath of lemongrass, ginger and Himalayan pink salt. The entire experience was incredibly grounding and really helped me to ‘arrive’ and feel settled and present after the long journey, transitioning into a much slower and calmer state of mind and pace of living. 

During my stay

Visiting Shillim, guests have the chance to decide exactly what kind of experience they want, or need. The resort is separated, with the Dharana wellness program and accommodation sitting slightly apart from the main resort where the majority of the apartments, spas and restaurants are located for guests not enrolled in Dharana programs. This gives a sense of ease to the resort, in a way that health and wellness is not imposed upon anyone. But for those who are keen to heal, cleanse and detox, to work on self-development or to achieve weightloss goals, there are plenty of options for everyone. The main pillars of their programmes are preventative medicine, exercise physiology, nutrition and dietetics, conflict resolution and spiritual wellbeing. 

I was on a more wellness-oriented journey which started with some incredibly interesting and insightful tests and assessments looking at my physical and mental health, including traditional Ayurvedic and naturopathic analysis combined with advanced diagnostics technology, such as gene testing and Oligo scanning which help to establish what’s going on internally on a physiological level (for example, revealing nutrient, mineral and vitamin levels, as well as levels of metals and plastics found in the body). After these tests, the team curated a more detailed program specific to my needs and requirements, and the week's activities were focused around getting me physically and mentally back into balance with my natural state, whilst using preventative medicine and other natural remedies to cleanse and detoxify.

After our morning movement, we sat down to personalised breakfasts, created with our individual Ayurvedic types and dietary requirements in mind. Each morning began with a juice and the food was often a mixture of sweet and savoury dishes, all relatively small portions but with a lot of variety. It felt satisfying and filling but was at the same time light and incredibly nourishing.  

Throughout the day, myself and the other guests went about our own schedules, which involved a combination of movement classes, pranayama sessions, meditation sessions, hikes, nature workshops, foraging, crafts, pottery and clay therapy, sound therapy, local village tours, volunteering on local plantations and more - all accompanied by an abundance of on-site spa treatments and therapies everyday. We enjoyed a combination of treatments, from deep tissue massage, Ayurvedic herbal oil massages, synchronised abhyanga massage, Indian third-eye head massage and much more, all carried out using seeds, flowers, roots and oils grown and produced locally. The benefits of each treatment vary, and a combination of several treatments was key to overall wellbeing, to bring the body and mind back into balance.

Lunch and dinner each day was similar to breakfast; a combination of small portions of different dishes with mostly curries, dhals, grains and vegetables. All of the food is made on site using local ingredients, such as rice from neighbouring plantations, to vegetables grown on-site and fish from the forest streams. Everything was incredibly fresh and pure, but without feeling restrictive or too healthy. You wont find juice cleansing, raw foods or other fad’s at Shillim, but instead warming, nourishing and grounding foods based on the five elements of Ayurveda (water, air, fire, ether and wind), aimed at bringing the body back into balance. Each menu outlines the nutritional values of each meal, which is helpful and useful to know, but not something they are too fixated on. It is all about the ritual of eating and fuelling the body with functional foods to help it thrive and function fully. 

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Development and transformation

During my visit, I must say I felt several small transformations, some physically but mostly mentally. During several treatments, for example, I would find deep relaxation and many inspirational ideas began to flood to me. Other times, I felt moments of enlightenment - or realisation – and felt clarity in certain aspects of my life.

Physically, I felt lighter, more energised and deeply cleansed from the food we were eating. My digestion was smoother, and despite early wake up calls, I had consistent energy throughout the day. 

Being in nature, especially with non-stop monsoon downpours, was deeply grounding and cleansing. The staff mentioned how monsoon season is one of the most detoxifying times to visit India and I really felt the benefits of this, as if the rain was washing away mental and physical blockages and encouraging flow. The energy and the nutrients of the rainfall also felt incredibly nourishing and powerful, and I believe it helped with things like water retention and dehydration.Leaving ceremony and departure

On our last day, the team carried out a Shanti Homa and Dhyani ritual ceremony to mark the attainment of mastering the lessons of Dharana and adopting them as a way of life. It was amazing to bring our time to an end, celebrating the week with the staff and other locals. The ceremony is intended to cleanse negative energy and to attract peace and positive energy into ones life, helping to move things along when they seem difficult or stagnant.

Post-visit

For our arrival back home, we were given detailed prescriptions of Ayurvedic tonics and herbal remedies, aimed to pacify our needs and help us reach our goals. We were given a structured daily plan, outlining what to take and when, as well as dietary guidance for life, outlining what we should eat in line with our Ayurvedic types to enhance digestion, energy and overall wellbeing, and to prevent discomfort and disease. Having these remedies and this advice, alongside the daily rituals I had learned throughout my stay, I felt fully equipped to keep the regime up when I arrived home.

The traditional Dharana teachings are not inaccessible, intimidating or unrealistic. The rituals we picked up were simple and short to practice, and the foods and meal plans are focused around everyday essentials and mostly fruits and vegetables that are accessible almost anywhere, and which require minimal cooking and uncomplicated preparation. This kind of retreat is key to overall wellbeing, as you adopt tools and genuinely become educated about yourself and life in general, meaning you leave feeling empowered and inspired to take control of your life and live more fully, using natural resources and remedies and becoming more mindful about yourself and your surroundings in the process. It really is a way of life we should be exploring more and taking inspiration from in order to slowly and consciously adapt our own daily lives.

Well Being Around the World Lisbon ~ For Ecoage

Around the World, Commisions, City guides, Lifestyle, Sustainability, Travel, Ritualsdanielle coppermanComment
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As part of her new series Well Being Around The World, Danielle Copperman, author of Well Being: Recipes and Rituals to Realign the Body and Mind, shares wellbeing rituals, resources and recipes from her travels to Lisbon.

I fell in love with Lisbon the first time I visited a couple of years ago, and so was super pleased to be invited to visit a newly opened hotel in the heart of one of my favourite cities. Situated on what used to be the main street into and out of the city, The One Palacio De Anunciada is a beautiful 16th century palace that has been restored and transformed into a beautiful hotel, perfect for short city breaks and for exploring all of the city in no time. Whilst exploring the local area, I picked up a few tips on Portugese daily rituals from the locals that contribute to the chilled and happy vibe of Lisbon, and they're all things you can try anytime, anywhere.

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Rituals

Long times over meals

One thing I really noticed during my time in Lisbon was how cherished the ritual of eating and sharing mealtimes was. Of course, with busy works schedules, it's not always possible to spend hours over lunch let alone 10 minutes to get take out, but I did feel inspired by how many people seemed to enjoy longer lunch breaks, even during the weekdays. I also noticed much fewer people eating on the go whilst walking or performing other daily tasks. People actually took their time over their food, and even enjoyed it, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. I think taking our full lunch break allowance is something that has slipped, and instead we end up eating take out at our desks whilst finishing work. reclaim your lunch break and see how positive an impact it might have on your mood and output for the rest of the day.

Vacations and days off are actually taken off

Similarly, vacations and holidays are sacred and they're actually taken off. Thing's completely close down, especially during summer months like August, meaning employees and inhabitants are encouraged to as well. We are so used to the lifestyle of having whatever we want, whenever we want it, but I almost envy this approach to accepting and dealing with a little down time every now and then, and not feeling like it is the end of the world.

Acceptably late

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule that being 10-15 minutes late is to be expected and almost normal. Speaking with locals, it was refreshing to pick up on their laid back approach and how they almost found it admirable. At the end of the day, it's not the end of the world, and if everyone is in on it, being a bit behind schedule won't mean keeping someone waiting, but will just mean allowing yourself a little extra time to get sorted and en route to where you need to be. Maybe this is what we need in order to reduce our stress levels, especially in big cities where transport is often unpredictable and just enhances our hurried and despairing natures.

Spending lots of time outside, wild swimming & surfing

Something else I loved was seeing so many people outside. People tended to walk a lot and rarely reply on getting around in Lisbon by car. Of course the streetcars are popular, but I noticed that, since the city is not overly vast, many people are out walking during the day, hiking briskly up the hilly areas to get in their exercise for the day. Outdoor activities, according to the team at the hotel, are popular all year around. There is a lot of nature surrounding Lisbon, and with local coastal towns and beaches, wild swimming and surfing are particularly popular, not just for tourists but as part of daily or weekly life for many locals. Nature is good for the soul, and keeps you physically and mentally fit, so I'm with them on that.

Secondhand

As someone who loves buying vintage, secondhand clothes and antiques, I love how much Lisbon has to offer in terms of flea markets, secondhand and antiques stores. Whilst the main streets and central areas offer designer and high street regulars, you won't find too many chains around the rest of the city. I love the boutique vibe meaning you can wander and explore for hours and find some really unique and characteristic gems. 

Restoration 

As far as their sustainability efforts are concerned, preserving history and restoring instead of building new is a solid foundation of the development of the city. Every little bit of building or design work needs to be approved by law, which is why as you wander around you'll notice such unique building work and architecture which has been rightfully preserved, giving the city its unique energy and vibrancy. This not only means the city remains authentic and traditional, but materials, structures and already-existing buildings are recycled, reused and refurbished, rather than being knocked down and started from scratch.

Food & recipes

The food in Lisbon is so unique, with influences from all parts of Europe and neighbouring countries. Aside from the infamous pastries, Lisbon has a strong fresh fish and seafood game, due to nearby coastal towns. It is apparent that growing your own and using local produce is commonplace, and even in the supermarkets, you will often find locally produced fare, and not much overly processed stuff at all. There is a lot of fresh meat and bread, even in small convenience stores, and what’s more, I enjoyed that their fresh fruit and vegetable aisle was mostly unpackaged. The produce they use is often local and seasonal, and homecoming is a big part of daily life and almost a tradition.

The hotel

The One Palacio de Anunciada has recently been completely restored, and so many of the original structures and features have been not only retained, but made the focal points of the building. They have recycled what was there originally, and have reused structures from around the palace to make use for them amidst modern updates. Around the hotel you will notice many of the floors are the originals, from ancient woods and natural materials to authentic, untouched tile work. Furthermore, all of the ceilings have been kept exposed and have been really enhances as focal points of the hotel, the details on which are staggeringly beautiful. Original doors also remain, one of the most interesting being what was once the entrance to the palace premises from the main road; a huge wooden door that holds so much history of guests, inhabitants and visitors who’ve come and gone before. In the gardens, you will notice the dragon tree; one of the most amazing tree’s I have ever seen. More than 200 years old, the tree is the focal point of the central communal area, and all renovations had to be arranged around the tree. The tree also produces components that are used in the hotels spa treatments.

The hotel is committed to using local ingredients in their restaurants and bars, as much as possible. They source from local producers and artisans, and the menus of course change slightly from season to season, offering whatever is available, whenever it is available, with an authentic Portuguese twist. They also have specific menus for specific dietary requests or requirements, making staying 'well' whilst abroad really, really easy, including gluten free, vegan, healthy, sweet or savoury.