I spent 6 days at Ubud Sari resort in Bali, in June this year. Ubud Sari resort is a health and wellness spa, and provides 4 different wellness programs. I took the mind and body relaxation program. I have to say, this program was very beneficial for me and was a giant first step towards a balanced, healthier lifestyle change.
This program approaches wellness through four principles –
1. Walks, yoga and meditation: every morning, we were taken for a one hour walk through the rice fields from 6AM to 7AM. From 7:30AM, until 9AM, there was a yoga and meditation class. So each day began with atleast two hours of physical activity. I went for the rice field walk only once, found it a little monotonous and instead explored Ubud by changing my route every day.
Ubud is the most authentic and greenest part of Bali, with ancient temples and houses made in the old style everywhere. Stone pillars topped with idols of Hindu Gods line every street corner, I was reminded of how integral religion is to the Balinese life. Even as early as 6AM, fresh prayer offering baskets, woven from banana leaves, with some flowers and incense sticks were to be found at the feet of every diety, the gentle aroma of the incense fills the air, converting entire ubud into a fragrant verdant little pocket of heaven.
I did not find the yoga sessions useful. Maybe because I am Indian and I already have an exposure to the basics of yoga. My expectation from the session was to build on what I knew and to get a structured list of yogasanas I could practice daily and incorporate into the new health and wellness lifestyle I was trying to ease myself into. I found the yoga instructions lacking even the most basic rules, for example, we were taken through the entire practice absent any instruction on the inhale-exhale rules that should accompany every asana. Yoga practice without the right breathing is not very beneficial, if not downright harmful. I had taken a 5-day art of living class right before I had come away to Bali and I found the meditation techniques taught there more useful than the meditation taught here.
So I skipped all the yoga and meditation sessions, preferring to practice on my own. I don’t know if the instructor was unable to impart the right knowledge because he is unable to communicate very well in english or because he lacks the deep knowledge base of the principles of yoga and meditation. I suspect it is the latter. He seemed to have very superficial knowledge base of the science of yoga and his only strength is a flexible body, hours of yoga practice and a menu of yogasnas. I doubt he even knows what organ each yogasana works for.
I would recommend that you download some good videos of yoga from youtube, and practice on your own while you are there. There is free wifi at the resort, if you wish to stream videos for your practice, or you can use this link to download videos as mpegs onto your hard disk and so you can access them everywhere, without interruptions of buffering caused by slow connections. For beginners, I would recommend Shilpa Shetty’s video, these asanas are simple and effective, the benefit of each asana is explained and you can slowly build your practice with this and move onto more difficult asanas like Ashtanga Yoga. I would recommend the entire series of Ashtanga Yoga by David Swensen. I like to mix it up and follow a combination of both Shilpa Shetty and David Swensen’s asanas.
2. Strict diet regimentation: Diet control is 80% of detox, and this was the best part of the program for me. We had to cut out all processed and artificial foods, fats and stimulants like caffeine. We are allowed only a fiber rich liquid diet of juices, smoothies, and soup three times a day. The juices range from the sweet orange based to the ‘green’ tasting vegetable (mostly spinach) based juices. The smoothies are delicious and more filling, with wellness names like ‘build your body’ or ‘balance your body’. Smoothies combined organic fruits like bananas, strawberries, or my favorite, natural cocoa sweetened with honey, with wellness ingredients like spirulina and flax seeds. The tomato soup was one of the best I have ever had! It was thick with the fiber of tomatoes, and a hint of roasted garlic. I did not even have to add salt to it. All the fruits and vegetables used are organic and pesticide free.
They have some delicious herbal teas like ginger-honey or lemongrass-ginger-mint-lemon. They woke us up at 5:30AM everyday with the herbal tea. The combination of all these spices is refreshing and I resolved to make this for myself when get back home. I would although, add some honey to it, to add some sweetness. Whenever I would feel peckish I would ask for herbal tea or coconut water and this kept me from cheating on my diet. Cheating on the diet is easy, as we were free to wander outside. It takes real commitment and dedication to your own health to not stray and try out the Balinese delicacies that are available less than 500 meters from Ubud Sari.
The café serves only raw food. The food was delicious, of high quality and the servings were adequate. I got to try raw food based pizza and even pasta on my last day. This was a revelation to me, as I had never imagined even unhealthy foods like pizza could be made healthier by using raw ingredients.
3. Therapeutic massage: Ubud Sari offers a comprehensive menu of massages and beauty programs that help detox and relax you every day. Apart from a colonic daily, there were a minimum of 1 and maximum of 2 massages/beauty program pre scheduled for me. The masseuses are well trained and very very good. Most of them have been working at Ubud Sari for more than a decade! There were trained masseuses for the therapeutic massages like the Shiatsu, Bio Electric and Reflexology. All the massages were of top quality and very relaxing. I could see that each masseuse was skilled and well practiced in the massage she was trained in. Each massage can be followed up with a sauna, steam and a Jacuzzi soak. Here is my recommendation from my experiences:
There are a total of 5 kinds of oils that are used for the massages. We could choose any one we liked from the menu. Each oil had different properties, e.g. warming, refreshing, energizing or relaxing.
• Mandi Lulur: is generally the first massage of the program. A luxurious massage, followed by scrub followed by a flower bath in warm water. Sip a herbal tea while soaking in the flower bath. A blissful beginning, made me feel totally indulged, but a little guilty about all the flowers being ‘wasted’ on me!
• Aromatherapy: generally the last massage of the program. This is a gentle and luxurious massage, different aroma oils are used on different parts of the body. I left the massage room enveloped by a heady mix of all the different natural aromas – ginger, lemon grass, rose, tube rose, jasmine, sandalwood and lotus. Now I know what queens smelt like!
• Mani Kemiri and Facial: massage and scrub, followed by flower bath. But this time, accompanied by a facial. The products used for the facial were 100% organic and natural. A papaya cleanser, and an avocado, cucumber and papaya face mask felt very gentle yet effective on the skin.
• Hair Crème Bath: this was probably the only treatment that uses packaged products. As a loyal user and former employee of L’Oreal, I was pleasantly surprised that they used Elvive shampoo and the L’Oreal hair spa conditioner. However, as one who had been treated to natural and organic products al this time, I felt a little cheated because I was expecting a rich avocado based hair mask and an organic home made shampoo. Nevertheless, it did leave my hair clean and well conditioned.
• Manicure/Pedicure: I saw many women getting a manicure and pedicure, but I did not have time to get one.
These are specialized massages, administered by specialists
• Detox body wrap: a detox massage followed by a soak in the Jacuzzi with bath salts, then a sea weed wrap in a warm blanket for 15minutes. The sea weed combined with the heat of the blanket is supposed to sweat out the toxins from your body. I am sure it may have had some detox benefits, but the sea weed made me smell like a fish and a soapy shower was a must after this!
• Reflexology: a foot bath in a tub of warm water filled with flower petals to soften the feet, is followed by a reflexology massage. This is done only on the feet, where the pressure points for each organ are pressed very very hard. I must admit this is a painful massage. If it hurts like hell it means that particular organ is not in the pink of health. I did reflexology only once. I could not bear to go through that pain again!
• Shiatsu: this was the best therapeutic massage for me. Arri, the therapist, has been practicing Shiatsu massage for the last 16 years, and the experience showed. Very little oil is used, but a lot of pressure is applied all over the body and especially at the right pressure points along the spine. This hurts like hell, but relax through the pain and this really made me feel reenergized and very light. I resolved to find a good shiatsu masseuse in Delhi when I get back
• Abdominal massage: this is like reflexology, but on the abdomen. All the organs in the abdomen are massaged
• Deep tissue massage: they also offer the deep tissue massage, but the specialist was on leave during the week I was there.
4. Colon Cleansing: this was the highlight of the program for me and I think combined with the diet, this really helps step up the detox. From years of eating more processed carbohydrates and protein, and less of fiber, our body just does not excrete as much waste matter as it should. So our colon gets choked with years of waste matter. Remember the saying “gosh he is so anal retentive!”? Sometimes, high degrees of stress also cause us to retain gas or fecal matter. Colon hydratherapy hydrates the entire colon and large intestine, and pushes out the stuck fecal matter.
They recommend upto 6 colon cleansing sessions, one daily. The first session lasts for 30 min and builds upto 35-40 minutes per session. The session is given by a registered nurse, is clean and safe. A fresh tube is used for each person, so the risk of infection is minimized. There is minimum discomfort in insertion of the tube. I must admit, I was most afraid of that part, but that turned out to be easy. The nurses are professional and very gentle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need colon hydrotherapy because you are not constipated or are vegetarian. Our lifestyle ensure that every body needs it. But you may not have to go for all 6 sessions, the number of sessions really depends on how much cleansing your colon needs and how soon your waste matter comes out. I was clean in 3 sessions, my dad only had to do 2. I saw some people there, who were asked to go for all 6.
Getting the colon hydrotherapy really gives tangibility to the entire detox program. It strengthened my resolve to change my lifestyle in two ways. One the one hand, when I saw with my own two eyes, all the debris that came out of my body, I had no choice but to accept unequivocally that I had been leading a less than ideal lifestyle. I could deny it no longer. Secondly, when I saw years of accumulated waste matter getting washed away in the tube, I felt light and cleansed; and I wanted to keep it that way. So it made me promise to myself to be good to my body. I will now always always always think twice before binging on processed carbs and proteins.
The body takes between 2 to 3 days to adjust to the lack of solid food, so you will suffer headaches and a general feeling of weakness. How bad your withdrawal symptoms are is really a sign of how rich your diet has been before the program. Some people may suffer extreme symptoms and even throw up. This is a symptom of acid reflex. Your body is programmed to secrete a larger amount of digestive juices for the solid foods you intake, and as you may know, disgestive juices are acidic in nature. These excess digestive juices may cause vomiting and acidity in the stomach. You could ask for alkaline shots (these are not on the menu) to counter the acidity for the first 2-3 days, after which your body adjusts to the liquid diet and reduces the secretions accordingly. A headache is a definite sign that your body is going through detox. During my second colon hydroscopy, as the waste matter was flowing out of my body, I developed a slight headache, this is a headache I happily welcomed!
I realized on hindsight, that the fifth and equally important ingredient of this entire wellness program is nature! The Ubud Sari property is surrounded by lush greenery and there is a stream running right through. Our room was on the riverside and waking up each morning to the soothing sound of the river was calming. The verdant surroundings, sounds of birds, ponds with fish interspersed all through the property leave you feeling at one with nature and energized.
We stayed in the riverside rooms, because the zen cottages were unavailable. But definitely try make a booking 3-4 months in advance so that you can get the cottage. The cottage is roomier, with a sit out by the pond or river and has an open bathroom, surrounded by trees.
What worked for me
• Try and sleep or rest as much as you can. This will heal your body and help it adjust to the detox. You will not really have much of a choice anyway, because dinner is at 6PM and in the absence of television, there is nothing else to do but to turn in early.
• The staff is meticulous, compassionate and very friendly. They succeeded in creating a family feeling and I have to say, I felt withdrawal symptoms once I left. I missed the warm smiles and the faces that had become so familiar in just a few days.
• The organic liquid diet (don’t cheat!), the massages and the colonics
• Despite being surrounded by trees and a river, the resort was very well maintained, clean and free from nuisances of rodents or God forbid, reptiles!
• Last, but certainly not the least. Yannick is the shining glory of Ubud Sari. He was friendly, and so caring when we were there. He again and again went out of his way to make sure we were comfortable and eating right. My mother suffered a bad bout of headache and vomiting on her first day itself and he took very good care of her, thinking through her meals very carefully and even giving her his personal herbal oil for her headache. He was the one who recommended the off menu alkaline shots to us. He was up way before 5:30AM and he was present to serve us dinner at 6PM.he was consistently putting in more than 12 hour work days and yet keeping his charm and good humor intact!
What did not work for me
• I avoided the swimming pool. It is nestled in picturesque surroundings, but is small, and did not seem to be very well maintained, the water looks translucent because the bottom of the pool looks like it needs a hard scrubbing
• There is no medical knowledge base which is guiding the program. I would have liked to have a customized diet and massage menu for my needs. We insisted that we get a consultation with the doctor.
• Yoga and meditation class, like I said, was very basic and unstructured
• The place is a little bit run down. The common showers in the massage area are not dirty, but the tiles are very old, so get slimy very quickly. They just need a good hard scrub down with industrial strength detergent and bleach. Ditto for the commodes in the rooms.
In sum, I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for some time out, simple detox and some indulgence. The nature rich surroundings, relaxed 6 days, liquid diet, luxurious massages and colon cleansing are a failsafe combination for some much needed self love and retreat from the stressful lives we lead.
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- Also Known As:
- Ubud Sari Health Hotel Ubud
- Ubud Sari Health Spa
- Ubud Sari Health Resort Bali