“Sometimes, you need someone to tell you to do less,” coos Bamford’s Jasmine St Cliere to an intimate group of journalists, including myself. We’re somewhere in the Indian Ocean, safely ensconced in The Ritz-Carlton Maldives’ spa suite, lying on mattresses in her group breathwork class. This, including intimate yin yoga sessions alongside gua sha and sound bath workshops are all par for the course at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives’ Essence of Balance wellness programme.
The conscious breathwork class led by St Cliere, a London-based movement, breath and sound specialist, is an invitation to shift and release repressed emotions that are stuck in the body. If anything is going to lovingly nudge me out of this torpor, it’s peer pressure of the gentlest kind—there is something to be said about the accountability and present-mindedness that group work brings. Time to put the phone on airplane mode and connect with myself instead.
As we allow the debris of life to wash over us, curious sensations take hold: my body feels as if it’s been set alight and sedated all at once. An editor to my left weeps softly, while a few bodies down, someone is snoring with blissful abandon. In this safe space, there is no ‘right or wrong’ reaction as the conscious breath rebirths and brings us to a place of drive or relaxation.
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Breathwork can take place in any location, but when it’s in the ultra-luxe Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, the body is extra motivated to heal. So if half the ‘work’ is showing up—even in a frazzled, burnt-out state—consider it a win.
Jewel of the Maldives
Located on a clutch of islands and counting Patina and the upcoming Capella hotel as neighbours, The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands is the newest jewel of the Maldives. In this 13.5-hectare resort with 100 elegantly designed villas created by Kerry Hill Architects, the vast ombré waterscape trumps any high-definition iPhone wallpaper. Inspired by the sun and sea, curvilinear overwater villas and beach domains glisten against a backdrop of crystalline waters.
As boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces blur, its inhabitants are coaxed out of their cocoon-like spaces by their appointed Aris Meehas or refined island butlers, who can curate meaningful moments from sunset to sunrise. Indeed, the resort is invariably all the adjectives of paradise that make your Insta-friends go green with envy. But it’s not about that because you’re on a new, enlightened path here. One that calls on a rebirthed self that’s far too at peace to care about the world beyond these shores.
Vibrance as a way of life
If anyone can sense the dip in our post-pandemic energies, it’s Walailuck Kongsawat. As the director of spa at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, Kongsawat and her team are primed to nurse their world-beaten guests to life.
“Energies have definitely shifted for everyone.”
“People are exhausted, burnt out, some have trouble sleeping or have lost focus, perhaps from the stress of the last two years and now, they want to take care of themselves more. They’re prioritising themselves more.”
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This permission to rest also translates to an uptick in demand for yin yoga and sound healing, St Cliere echoes. “Emotion is energy in motion, and when it is unable to be felt or expressed, it can get stored in the body, resulting in dis-ease,” says St Cliere. “Showing up as either emotional distress impacting our mental health or structural problems affecting our physical health, this can then be seen with episodes of anxiety or depression, and physical pain, tension or postural problems.”
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By helping guests switch to a more activated state, the Essence of Balance retreat, powered by Bamford, aims at improving our tolerance to stress, boosting our respiratory health and making the blood more alkaline. From gua sha to lymphatic-focused massages, activities in this curated programme aim to move stuck emotions and qi throughout the body—often in the gentlest and most restorative way possible.
As we learn to cultivate consciousness in these safe, albeit luxe surroundings, it becomes apparent how linked the breath is to our emotions. Consider the last frustrated sigh you gave in a bid to self-regulate your body.
“Our body communicates to us all the time. Burnout is an urgent cry for help, for rest and recovery,” says St Cliere, who recommends reducing physical and emotional stressors, from high-intensity interval training to hectic schedules, in favour of restorative movements, meditation, sleep, reconnecting with nature and eating nurturing whole foods which help replenish and heal the body.
St Cliere’s tender guidance helps us to marinate in vulnerability. In contrast to the majesty and sometimes mercurial nature of the ocean, I am reminded of a stagnant pond. One with no inflow or means of release soon grows toxic. The lesson of this retreat finally lands: many of us are still, stagnant, forgotten ponds. In this state where energy is stuck and unable to renew itself, decay sets in.
“Being human is to be in a constant state of flow and to live in alignment with our internal rhythms and with the cyclical flow of nature,” says St Cliere. “When we feel off-course, connection to self and to the seasons is often what we need to find balance.”
Bamford beauty: from the Cotswolds to the Maldives
When you think about it, a facial that begins with a stomach massage makes perfect sense. With the gut-brain axis in mind, Bamford’s 90-minute Wellness Facial first activates the liver and colon with a hot stone massage across the solar plexus chakra. After all, better digestion means glowier, healthier skin. And so, the facial begins not at the face but at the stomach, where the healing hands of the therapist activate essential organs.
Following an intensive double cleanse, a facial steam with exfoliating fruit enzymes then sets the stage for a detoxifying clay mask and relaxing shoulder and neck massage. By undoing tension in the trapezius, blood circulates with ease as lymph is released from the body. A nourishing sleeping mask is then applied as the face and jaw are massaged using deep, gliding movements with the forearms. The hands-on experience is heaven for anyone looking to de-puff, lift and sculpt jowly features. Other highlights of this transcendent treatment include facial and scalp gua sha for truly luminous, reawakened skin.
If you’re all about getting your body on island time, Kongsawat recommends the 150-minute Bamford Signature Journey. Exclusively designed for The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, it is “a healing journey of Japanese shiatsu and Swedish motions using Maldivian coconut oil to release tension and balance meridians. Wave-like massages mimic the rhythm of the ocean, while relaxing breathwork using Maldivian seashells and a warm fragrant bath to soak away impurities complete this ritual.”
The main point is you’ll be steamed, exfoliated, massaged, bathed in citrus and milk, sip champagne and emerge as the most radiant, unburdened version of yourself.
Count stars, not calories
Ritz-Carlton Maldives’ dynamic culinary scene features seven restaurants and bars, strategically located on the resort’s Culinary Island. At La Locanda, in the spirit of ‘balance’ and replenishing rather than depriving the body, the truffle risotto and kukulhu riha or Maldivian chicken curry, are the menu’s runaway stars. Summer Pavilion offers sumptuous Cantonese fare should you miss Asian delights.
If you’re up for daytripping, Fari Marina Village, accessible via boat, boasts Tum Tum which is inspired by Asian street fare, Farine, a serene island bakery, and Arabesque for modern Middle Eastern cuisine. Whether you’re up with the rising sun or chasing sunsets at Eau Bar, where The Ritz-Carlton’s Defining Moment sundowner rituals are held nightly, the truest healers are still time in nature and listening to our bodies. Essence of Balance is a reminder that in place of regimented boot camps and torturous detoxes, mojitos and meditation can co-exist. In fact, if you’re under the impression that it’s all about green juices and clear broths, the programme even includes a Maldivian cooking class—a rewarding for all skill and spice levels.
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“A lot of us have been taught to ignore our body because our mind knows best. Maybe we drink our fifth coffee when we are tired, perhaps we don’t eat enough or we eat too much despite hunger and satiety cues, or we say stay out in the sun when our skin starts turning pink,” says St Cliere. “Movement and the ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset falls into that category too. The confusion here is that high-intensity exercises produce stress hormones—adrenaline, cortisol and endorphins can temporarily up regulate the nervous system, giving us that ‘exercise high.’
“These hormones are healthy to some degree if our body is able to tolerate them. If we are already exhausted, we go into an even deeper deficit when we recover, starting the cycle all over again.”
Moving from ennui to enlivened
“There is always so much pressure to do more, be more, try harder, and I see it as my role to be that person to tell you it’s okay to do less sometimes,” says St Cliere.
“True relaxation goes beyond the physical, tapping into the energies and emotions that both drive us and hold us back,” adds Kongsawat.
Here, the intention is to “clear a path for holistic well-being by focusing both above and below the surface. Utilising traditions and ingredients native to the Maldives, our story of transformation and healing is rooted in the belief that no two journeys are alike.” At The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, wellness is indeed a way of life.
Book a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands here.