I’ve never done a wellness retreat before, but the opportunity to join the luxury wellness retreat run by Peak Health Switzerland at the five star spa hotel The Capra in Saas Fee in the Swiss Alps came at just the right time.
After letting stress get the better of me the last few months, I had abandoned my usual fitness routine, engaged in a fair bit of comfort eating and put on enough weight that my clothes don’t quite fit any more. I needed something to shake me out of my stress-eating funk and get me back on the path to healthy living.
So off I went to the breathtakingly beautiful Swiss Alps – the alpine town of Saas Fee to be precise. It’s just over two hours’ train journey from Zurich or Geneva (both very scenic train journeys at that). But as soon as you arrive, you can feel the difference in the air. It’s clean and clear, and feels good to breathe it in. And everywhere you look are snow capped mountains, which dazzle with their sheer size and beauty every damn time you glance upwards.
The Peak Health retreat is based at the chic, elegant and cosy five star spa hotel, the Capra. The Capra somehow manages to make an alpine hotel feel as welcoming as a chalet. And the interiors are sophisticated enough to work equally well as a gemütlich winter ski trip bolt hole as a luxurious summer retreat.
As for the retreat, Peak Health take an holistic approach to help you re-set your habits. The focuses are on nutrition, sleep, water, movement, detoxification, mindfulness and supplementation. And all these bases are covered in the daily schedule of activity and workshops.
For me, the highlight was the daily hikes. Each hike was different in its scenery, terrain and technical level. Led by experts mountain guides, we went from alpine hiking up on a glacier, to strolling along treelined mountain paths, to scrambling up the mountain-side through forest and scrub. As someone who struggles with meditation, I found these hikes to be my daily meditation. Only when I was in that flow of focussing on putting one foot in front of the other (and not slipping down the mountain) did my mind completely empty and I found myself to be 100% in the moment. Heaven.
We ended a couple of our hikes at the “kneipp” which is a kind of water therapy of German origin that involves walking barefoot over different textured paths, starting and ending with walking knee-deep in an ice-cold pool, and submerging your arms into troughs that contain icy spring water. Sounds weird, but at the end of a long hike it revived the legs as well as the spirits in a way I never would have expected.
In addition to hiking, we had daily yoga in the very zen and chic yoga studio located in the spa at the Capra.
Speaking of which, the spa at the Capra was beyond divine. Its design immediately put me into a relaxed state, as I floated from salt cave to sauna to pool like I’d been born to hang out in spas all my life. I was in danger of getting a little too used to the luxury of it all. But the experience was one of total relaxation and stress release.
We each had an infrared wrap treatment, which is where you are zipped into what looks like a large, technical sleeping bag which heats up and causes you to sweat. A lot. The result is that you emerge after fifty minutes feeling lighter, refreshed, de-toxified and with the softest, glowiest skin all over. I also partook of the “Capra” treatment, which involved a shorter infrared sweat with a body wrap followed by what was one of the best deep tissue massages I have ever had. Magic.
Another highlight was the food. We had a special menu designed by Peak Health experts, based on nutritious ingredients and delicious recipes. So while each meal was incredibly tasty and filling, it was super healthy. And as it was a detox retreat, I developed a new-found appreciation for teas as something to sip and savour languidly after dinner (instead of reaching for a glass of wine or digestif).
Each day we had a one hour workshop which focussed on a different aspect of the Peak Health pillars. A lot of interesting discussions were had as everyone shared their own experience and and ways of dealing with problems in each area of stress management, fitness, sleep and nutrition. And we were all sent home with written guides to help us in each area.
For me, the retreat really acted as a true re-set. I re-discovered how good it feels to exercise every day, eat healthily and avoid alcohol. I returned to London and have kept up with the healthy habits we started to form on the retreat. The thought of eating sugar doesn’t appeal to me as much as it did pre-retreat. I crave healthy food, and have adapted the mindful eating habits that we talked about in Saas Fee. I’ve been working out almost every day. I feel less stressed by the things that were playing my mind and causing me to worry unnecessarily before the retreat. This was the true benefit of the retreat – I’ve been able to start again with a clean slate and re-establish healthy habits that last.