Journey within

Published in Sawubona, January 2014:


Imagine a sanctuary where the only rules are recommendations and the only goal is to achieve greater mental, emotional and physical wellbeing… By Debbie Hathway


The tranquil garden pavilion at the One&Only Le Saint Géran is the new centre of the Harmonia universe, a wellbeing programme created exclusively for the Mauritian resort by Chinese medicine practitioner and physiotherapist Francesc Miralles.

Set within landscaped tropical foliage, above a waterway that’s home to several ducks, fish and vibrant birdlife, this is the starting point for a “journey through the mandala”, a therapy ritual that helps you rediscover your self.

“When I was researching comparative offerings around the world, I made the differentiation between wellness and wellbeing. My product is not just about achieving physical wellness through conventional spa pampering; we take a more holistic view,” says Miralles. “Each place has its own USP and I wanted to introduce something that nobody else has.”

His thinking is in line with the global trend towards wellness tourism, which sees travellers seeking solutions for the long-term prevention of disease rather than a temporary quick fix. Depending on your location, and your zest and capacity for travel, you can visit Austria’s Viva Mayr Clinic for a customised organic food diet, combined with health diagnostics and applied kinesiology. Or try the Sha Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain, which is famous for its macrobiotic gastronomy. They also offer a range of natural therapies, anti-ageing and aesthetic medicine treatments.

Miralles says at Chiva-Som in Thailand, you can sign up for anything from a three- to 28-night series. “They offer great treatments and food, but the programme is not that personalised,” he adds.

For raw foodists, the COMO Shambala Hotel and Resort in Bali offers a great juice detox. After a three-, five- or seven-night programme, clients will feel energised from the cleansing but their bodies will may have been weakened, Miralles says.

While India is another popular destination for health fundis, because it’s cheap, Miralles is excited about the quality of the fresh food and herbs accessible to the chefs at the One&Only Le Saint Géran. Proper nutrition, rest and relaxation are the main ingredients of his Harmonia programme. In addition, the “journey through the mandala” encompasses his hands-on treatments designed for relaxing or rebalancing, depending on the guest’s health and wellbeing goals. “You get a lot of information about food, exercise and lifestyle in general, and learn a lot about yourself too. It can become a spiritual journey,” says Miralles.

He may request some medical history in your initial consultation and even consult x-rays if necessary, but ultimately his treatment will be guided by his measurement of your pulse rate and the sensitivity of pressure points along the meridians. The body doesn’t lie and neither does he. There are some things Miralles can’t treat – like acute sciatica, for which the only prescription is rest, or diabetes, for which he can only offer dietary advice.

Once he’s determined whether you need relaxing or detoxing therapies, Miralles consults with chefs Vikash Coonjan and Vineet Bhatia to prepare a carefully constructed menu for the duration of the programme. Some guests opt for a one-day introduction, while others may prefer a three-day intensive or a more gradual seven-day detox. Miralles credits Coonjan and Bhatia as alchemist and genie respectively for their ability to cook up mouth-watering, healthy food recipes designed to counter temperature and climate variables, spiced with specially selected herbs, and washed down with herbal teas prepared according to Chinese medicine principles and Ayurvedic remedies.

There is a hidden challenge though. Part of One&Only Le Saint Géran’s service ethic is to anticipate what you want before you know you want it. So while the diet is designed to prevent you from getting hungry, temptation is everywhere. Indulge at your peril. Sugar and alcohol are the forbidden fruits – a Swiss chocolate on day two to satisfy a craving quickly created a post-nasal drip for this writer and a cocktail to celebrate the end of the treatment resulted in a raging headache. It’s just not worth it!

Essentially, Harmonia is not your average detox or weight-loss programme traditionally offered by health spas and it’s not accompanied by a rabbit-food diet. “Like a computer, everybody needs to reboot,” says One&Only Le Saint Géran general manager Charles de Foucault. “Harmonia is designed to nurture and nourish for overall wellbeing.”

De Foucault first discovered Miralles at his highly successful clinic in Bali. After 15 years of clinical practice and studies that gave him professorial status in his knowledge of Chinese medicine, Miralles had embarked on his own journey through the Silk Road, South-East Asia, China and Tibet. At his final stop in Bali, where he was able to relieve suffering for scores of locals daily using Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, he realised he’d found his true calling. “Harmonia’s about developing the skills to feel better or to feel more… to bring focus, discipline and balance to your life,” says Miralles.sawubona_cover

And while women might buy into that philosophy easier than men, and therefore be more willing patients, it’s the testimonials from their partners that speak volumes. One reluctant client, who was given a one-day treatment as a gift, couldn’t remember when last he felt so relaxed, while another gentleman was amazed by the physical release Miralles achieved with painless acupuncture. The debilitating back pain he’d suffered for 10 years was gone. Everybody’s reactions are different, depending on their condition, but the result is almost always the same – success!

Exercise in the form of daily tai chi and chi kung is incorporated to complete the restoration cycle by helping the mind to relax and cultivate self-healing energy. “It’s an ancient practice – a lesson in patience that takes a long time to master, but it’s possible to learn the basics fairly quickly.” The benefits are lifelong.

With its pristine beaches, turquoise water and coconut palms lining its private peninsula, The One&Only Le Saint Géran is a world-renowned sanctuary in its own right, but the Harmonia programme takes it to another level. On my last day, there was a waiting list of guests requesting treatments. Enough said.
Way to go


Global retreats

For more top wellness programmes around the world, visit:

  • Chiva-Som, Thailand − Regularly ranked among the world’s best destination spas, Chiva-Som offers 150 treatments for relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation.
  • Sha Wellness Clinic, Spain − This award-winning medical spa is located in Albir Beach, which boasts one of the best climates on the planet. They focus on improving health by combining Eastern insights with Western techniques.
  • Viva Mayr Clinic, Austria− Viva, the Centre for Modern Mayr Medicine, is built on the shores of Lake Wörth. Their treatments are designed to strengthen the functioning of the digestive system through a balanced diet, natural healing and scientific therapies.
  • COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali and other locations − COMO Shambhala’s healthy living philosophy is rooted in Buddhism. They guide guests towards achieving inner tranquility without relying on an external location.


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