31 October 2019
All the ‘retreats’ I have been on, in the name of research for Luxury London, have involved travelling somewhere by plane, and then of course there would have been a transfer, as retreating near an airport is not conducive to proper relaxation. Even when the team at my destination did an exceptional job at relaxing me upon arrival, I still had to face up to the fact that a plane journey home - with the possibilities of delay and its inevitable stresses - would eventually be required.
So the idea of getting the benefits of a retreat but remaining in my home city, where only a comfortable – and brief – spell in a car would be required, was most appealing. If I’m going to retreat from real life, I decide, I might as well do it in style. As I am shown around the enormous, subterranean space that is the Lanesborough Hotel’s Club & Spa, I feel like a Roman emperor (although the charming concierge who showed me to the spa lift said he feels like he’s going to Narnia). The palatial space is immaculate – all gleaming cream marble, sleek dark wood panelling and huge floor-to-ceiling mirrors – and, at 18,000 square feet (the same size as Stage A at Pinewood Studios) it’s easy to get lost. It’s also easy to be found, thanks to the service bells at every turn.
My retreat programme has been designed by the Bodhimaya team, who I will meet in due course, in conjunction with the Lanesborough - you'll have a call before your retreat, and a lengthy wellness questionnaire to fill in. The Bodhimaya retreats launched here in September so it's early days, but I do manage to get a good feel for it. My first appointment is with Cornelius, the founder of Bodhimaya who has decades of mind, meditation and Eastern philosophy studies under his belt. He describes Bodhimaya as “an experience that gives people time and space to rest and relax while a team of highly experienced experts nurtures them back to optimal health”.
So here goes. Expect to start with an appointment with Cornelius himself – and this will be all about you. I’m pleased to learn my ‘presentation’ is generally good, and as such, Cornelius’ advice centres on how to stay in a good place, which will then make handling more stressful times easier. He drops into the conversation the fact he came to this way of thinking after a ten-year nervous breakdown, so he’s certainly speaking from the heart, and he's passionate about his calling.
We meditate for half an hour. I focus not on doing it ‘right’ but on simply listening and trying to focus on Cornelius’ voice, and I feel deeply relaxed by the end of 30 minutes, which fly by. Equally relaxing are my massage courtesy of Aneta, in a super-stylish treatment room with black ceiling, cream walls and a decadent vintage glass shower cubicle at the back – a private yoga class and a second meditation session. We aim, Cornelius reminds me, not to remove all thoughts but to remove the positive or negative associations of our thoughts and let them go. And breathe...
Lunch is a highlight of both days I spend at the Lanesborough. The delicious chicken dish I choose on day one is so healthy it comes without carbs, so I balance it out by ordering American pancakes with maple syrup too. I should point out I am eight months pregnant, and carbs absolutely are on the menu for me. The delightful Max is faultlessly attentive and doesn’t raise so much of an eyebrow at my order. Day two: Asian chicken salad which I could happily have eaten every day for a week.
My consultation with Bodhimaya's Nutritional Therapist Olga kicks off my second morning. She is immaculately put-together and her presentation, to borrow Cornelius' turn of phrase, is excellent! She is extremely nice and extremely knowledgeable; we have a long conversation and she offers plenty of sound advice, as well as explanation about how Bodhimaya can revolutionise lives in terms of what we eat. I'd estimate that the vast majority of us don't eat as well as we could, or should, and Olga just might be the person to kick-start a genuinely life-changing sequence of events, if you do follow her advice. She's very persuasive, and has the stats and facts to explain everything.
The rest of the retreat includes a reformer Pilates session (which I enjoy but I would have preferred more yoga, as pregnant as I am), reflexology and not, as I expect, a reiki session - specified on my schedule - but sound therapy. Watsu remains in pole position in terms of treatments I have not taken to over my years of retreating, but sound therapy is up there. I am aware this is a deeply personal reaction though – it might be total bliss for you. I'd have loved to have ended the retreat with one more meditation session, to reinstate that chilled-out vibe and keep it going all the way home.
Bodhimaya’s one-night Restorative Retreats at The Lanesborough, from £1,795 per person, including overnight hotel stay. Meditation & Nutrition Retreats from £1,499 per person, including overnight hotel stay. Day Retreats from £750 per person. For more information visit www.lanesboroughclubandspa.com or call 020 7333 7064.