SPA LEARNING HOLIDAYS AND VOLUNTEER VACATIONS
by Judy Chapman
Want to learn how to give a Balinese massage while on vacation? What about returning home from your spa holiday with a certificate in Thai massage? Learning holidays are gaining in popularity as is a practice known as “voluntourism” or “responsible tourism.” Voluntourism experiences range from helping to build schools and temples to teaching English, to spending time in orphanages and reforestation projects. Predictions are that travel of the future will depend more and more on these significant extras . And why not? With a host of wellness therapies and world-class facilities set in beautiful backdrops – well, who wouldn’t be motivated to step outside their comfort zone and try something new?
Here’s a sampling of what’s available at spas and wellness resorts:
Learn Everything Balinese at Spa Village Resort Tembok
Learn About the Local Culture of Bali at Charka Spa, Karma Kandra Resort, Bali
Learn the Art of Thai Massage at Six Senses Erawan, Thailand
Learn About a Chinese Medicine Detoxification Massage at Tao Garden Health Resort, Thailand
Learn Thai Massage at Spa Samui, Thailand
Learn About Your Inner Artist at Rancho La Puerta Fitness & Spa, Mexico
Learn About Sustainability and the Environment at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Australia
Learn About Permaculture (a sustainable form of agriculture) at Shreyas in Bangalore, India
Learn About the Ancient Life Acience of Ayurveda at Ulpotha, Sri Lanka
SPA VILLAGE RESORT TEMBOK BALI
Learn from the elders at this newly opened-sanctuary located on the eastern side of the lush island of Bali. What’s special here is the on-site Spa Village Academy catering to vacationing guests who seek a deeper understanding of Balinese culture. What better way to learn about Balinese philosophy, its practices and the extraordinary healing techniques than through the wisdom shared by a local 75-year old healer? Even better, guests who stay for seven days can partake in a five days instruction that culminates in a Spa Village Academy certificate. Also on offer, daily classes on the Theory of Balinese Healing, Balinese Massage Techniques, Lulur and Jamu Therapy as well as Lifestyle Cuisine. There are also courses for guests who want to learn the art of the Balinese massage for professional use.
CHARKA SPA, KARMA KANDRA RESORT, BALI
Opening in December, Charka Spa Karma Kandra will be the forth in the collection of Karma Resorts’ growing spa portfolio. Set on dramatic cliffs at Ungasana at Uluwatu, the property overlooks a white beach private cove. What’s special here is they are integrating spa and wellness with the local culture. For example, there will be healing sessions given inside traditional Balinese home by a local Chief who upon learning your name and birth date will consult ancient scrolls to give you a reading followed by a meditative healing session. The resort is also planting a seaweed farm in one of the island’s only coral reefs. Plans are to use the fresh seaweed in spa treatments. Each of the resort’s generous sized villas also has its very own dedicated area for spa – where therapists come to you. Families are welcome.
SIX SENSES ERAWAN, THAILAND
The December, 2007 opening of this new destination spa is symbolic of the times. Along with offering a menu of world class spa treatments, Six Senses Erawan and their on-site Thai massage school will offer guests the option of learning the art of massage. There will also be an interactive kitchen where guests will be invited to wonder in and spend time with the resort’s raw food chef and learn first-hand the benefits of healthful cuisine. Along with a variety of preventative medicine disciplines, diagnostics and wellness retreats, distinguished speakers from around the world lead lectures. www.sixsenses.com
TAO GARDEN HEALTH RESORT, THAILAND
Gain a certificate in Chi Nei Tsang, a Chinese medical detoxification abdominal massage while staying at this simple health resort located in the Northern part of Thailand. Founder is Mantak Chia who has set up a Tao Mastery school in these natural surrounds and what better way to obtain a qualification in this health modality than surrounded by all the trappings of a quality health resort. The seven-day course includes morning Chi Kung classes, meditation, all meals and accommodation as well as use of all facilities including herbal steam room, fitness and spa. Other unique offerings include an on-site holistic dentist, a range of diagnostic therapies and an integrative medical clinic.
SPA SAMUI, THAILAND
Other affordable options are the Thai massage courses available at Spa Samui, a good quality but rustic health resort located on Koh Samui in Thailand. Select from various accommodation including jungle and beachside villas while taking advantage of a learning experience. The Thai massage course is held two hours a day over seven days. Also popular are their 3-seven day fasting programs that include daily lectures on the benefits of detox as well as herbal supplements juices and detoxifying treatments. Another interactive experience here is their Tea Ceremony sessions where you can learn the art of tea pouring. www.spasamui.com
RANCHO LA PUERTA FITNESS & SPA MEXICO
Express your inner artist at one of the world's best known wellness retreats. Founded by pioneers Edmond and Deborah Szekely back in 1940, Rancho La Puerta is located on 3,000 acres near San Diego, just over the border in Mexico. The backdrop is divine for unlocking your creativity in-between your fitness, spa and yoga sessions. Courses on offer inside their Art Studio include art classes, jewelry making, sculpting, photography workshops, Spanish lessons and lectures on the history of Mexico. There are also regular discussions – delivered by leading thinkers of our time - on subjects such as nutrition for those who want a deeper understanding of how the body works. As spa-wise as they are innovative, Rancho La Puerta has three large wellness areas on site including a Men's Health Center. www.rancholapuerta.com
GWINGANNA LIFESTYLE RETREAT, AUSTRALIA
Learn first-hand about sustainability and the environment on the 160 hectare property
that is Australia’s only 100% organic retreat destination. The weekly ‘Nature’s Way’ is facilitated by the remarkable John Palmer who is the resident botanist and social ecologist. This is an inspiring 1.5 hour exploration through the orchids and organic gardens while you learn about sustainable living in the modern world. Additionally, John often leads guests on morning hikes through one of the 16 bushwalks while explaining passionately about plants, ecology and recycling. Other educational workshops at Gwinganna include lifestyle classes, organic cooking demos and Mandala art classes. However it’s their new spa that opens in December that will delight the senses. It includes two Signatures Spa Suites set around a billabong and a menu bursting with certified organic treatments. www.gwinganna.com
SHREYAS – BANGALORE, INDIA
Eco-chic meets voluntourism at this newly-opened retreat that is already considered one of India’s more luxurious yoga destinations. Stay in well-appointed cottages or camp out in one of their eight elegant tents (all with broadband connection), book a wellness consultation with herbal remedies and treatments, indulge in organic cuisine, and get involved with the local community through their various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. You can enjoy cooking and serving food to the local kids or get your hands dirty in the organic garden and learn about permaculture, a sustainable form of agriculture (and the future of growing food). Every effort has been made to preserve the natural resources with initiatives including solar heating, rainwater harvesting, organic food and medicinal herb plantations. Year-round yoga retreats involve daily Hatha and Asthanga yoga, meditation and chanting.
ULPOTHA, SRI LANKA
Assist doctors and health practitioners in the free Ayurvedic clinic while at one of the world’s coolest yoga destinations. Twice a week qualified practitioners are encouraged to dispense Ayurvedic medicines to villagers while learning about Ayurveda (the ancient science of life) while on the job. Ulpotha also welcomes trained health practitioners to be of service and there are various workshops happening where guests can aid with speech and language therapy with the local people. Ulpotha also sponsor a school for handicapped children nearby and again, guests are encouraged to help out here in whatever way they can. Accommodations are rustic abodes made from natural materials with candles lamps and flares replacing electricity, so it’s eco-chic all the way. www.ulpotha.com