On my eternal quest to rejuvenate I headed to the renowned Sha Wellness Clinic on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Perched on a mountainside overlooking Albir Beach and the Mediterranean, the luxurious retreat looks like a chic upscale resort with its rooftop pools, waterfalls, white curtained cabanas and panoramic vistas.
Sleek, modern suites beautifully decorated in neutral tones with floor to ceiling windows offer spacious terraces overlooking the azure-blue sea. And the newly expanded state of the art spa with over 80 treatment rooms dazzles.
Make no mistake: it is as serious as it is glamorous. The award winning retreat’s very existence is a testament to its ethos. Founder Alfredo Bataller Parietti launched it after he was cured of a serious illness by a combination of holistic medicine and a macrobiotic diet, when all else failed. Many consider Sha the world’s top wellness retreat, attracting visitors from around the globe including A-list celebs Naomi Campbell and Kylie Minogue, to name a few.
What sets Sha apart is its approach to wellness by merging ancient Eastern therapies with cutting edge Western technology and gathering master practitioners that are experts in their field.
The multilevel ultra-stylish wellness area contains myriad treatment rooms, a couples treatment suite, consult salons, facilities for medical procedures, a hydrotherapy circuit with two indoor swimming pools and relaxation spaces.
A profusion of programs runs the gamut from rejuvenation, weight loss, anti–stress, holistic disciplines for body and mind, to preventive, detox, smoking cessation, sleep improvement, fitness, brain function enhancement, innovative cosmetic surgery, regenerative medicine with stem cell units, and more.
My program began shortly after arrival. A nurse checked my vitals including BMI, muscle strength and dehydration levels. Next up, Dr. Sanders gave me a physical exam and medical consultation. Uncharacteristic of your typical physical, he also felt my shoulders and neck for stress points and spoke about the mind/body connection. I was impressed.
Onto nutritionist Melanie Waxman, who selected the appropriate meal plan for my stay and advised me about foods to aid digestion and boost my metabolism. She also prescribed shitake mushroom and daikon teas to accompany meals at Sha. (More on their all-important cuisine below.)
Then I met with the agenda planner. Coordinating with the onsite team, she customized an itinerary to my specific needs using Sha’s comprehensive menu of treatments and therapies. I’ve never been anyplace so thorough, so exacting and with such a variety of noteworthy options.
I embarked on the four day Discovery program to relax, clear my mind and cleanse my body. They recommend a seven to 14 day stay for the full Sha experience. Truth be told, I was so taken with the place I could have stayed for a month.
My program included: Hydroenergetic Detox Cure, a detoxifying seaweed wrap followed a purifying hydromassage bath spiked with essential oils, topped off with pressurized water jets to restore energy and vitality; Indaba, a radio frequency treatment placed on my stomach to reactivate and balance digestion; Reflexology; Thai and Shiatsu massages with exceptional Eduardo who showed me how to target pressure points on my face and legs; Acupuncture with amazing Arturo, a true healer who transported me to a blissful state; plus a session with a personal fitness trainer.
There’s plenty of first rate pampering as well. Sha offers the latest in both anti-aging treatments and aesthetic medicine along with personalized body treatments and beauty services. My BDR Facial, considered a revolutionary treatment, left my skin so soft – it took years off.
Guests receive a list of daily activities they can schedule between treatments such as walks, meditation, macrobiotic cooking classes, Pilates and yoga. Did I mention the tennis courts, putting green, tropical gardens, library, art exhibitions, indoor aqua area, posh boutique for those seeking retail therapy and rooftop infinity pool surrounded by inviting daybeds?
As for the food: It’s all about macrobiotic cuisine, consisting of whole grains, vegetables, beans, fish, some fruit and excluding animal protein, dairy and sugar. A main tenet of Sha’s philosophy is that nutritious food is essential to good health. Elegant Shamadi Restaurant with views to the Bay of Altea and live piano and guitar music in the evening, offers three menu options – the standard menu and two lighter ones. These are determined by your nutrition consult and your goal, especially if it’s weight loss or detox.
The dishes were artfully presented and delicious in addition to being nutritious and filling. Juicy red mullet with root vegetables, monkfish tataki coated in spices and coconut meringue milk, squid ravioli with dried tuna dashi and sea bass with pil pil seafood sauce were some of the culinary delights on my ‘standard’ menu. I was amazed that food this healthy could taste this good. And those yummy desserts – I still can’t believe they didn’t use sugar. Best of all, Sha’s macrobiotic menu altered my eating habits and that’s pretty amazing in itself.
The highlight of my stay was my session with Conceicao Espada, stress management practitioner extraordinaire, director of the mind and body department and new addition to the Sha team. She specializes in female stress and her approach is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Conceicao believes that women today spend so much time in the workplace, a typically masculine environment, they have disconnected from their inherent female energy, their innate creativity and natural feminine instincts. And this is the root of stress so many women experience.
Ms. Espada studied inner sound meditation with Deepak Chopra and Buddhist meditation with the Dalai Lama. This modern day medicine woman utilizes breathing techniques, mindfulness, relaxation tapes, a system of chi-kung she designed, energetic healing, Jungian archetypes and painting to help women reconnect to their life force and creative energy.
She has an uncanny ability to diagnose and communicate using images. During my session I felt as if my heart opened and she was speaking to a place deep within my being. Her enlightening insights and exercises that I practice at home opened a life changing healing pathway for me.