How to take a virtual wellness retreat from your living room (April 2020)
Companies are finding creative ways to offer wellness classes, services and products during lockdown.
Trish Whelan, who normally runs five-day, £1,250 yoga retreats out of her villa in Ibiza, has launched a 40-day online programme that people can do at home for £70 (free to NHS and other front-line workers).
“For years I hated the idea of an online course, because I believed that the energy in the room and a beautiful environment is a big part of the retreat experience,” says Whelan. “But if we’re learning anything from this crisis, it is that a home is something to treasure, and, right now, we all need to invest in habits and practices that help us reflect, re-evaluate and heal.”
Having to cancel scheduled retreats and return deposits is no dream scenario, but there’s hope that the wellness sector might weather this storm, by offering delivery services, online classes, one-on-one online sessions and communal events via Instagram Stories or Facebook Live.
“We’re all having to learn new skills very fast, and adapt to this changing landscape,” says therapist Donna Lancaster, who runs The Bridge Retreat from a farmhouse in East Sussex. She has cancelled all retreats in April and May, but hopes to be able to run the June retreat.
“In the meantime, this gives myself and the other facilitators the opportunity to offer affordable online one-on-one sessions, something we’d never normally have time for,” she adds.
Lancaster has also delivered mass meditation via Instagram Stories (@thebridgeretreat), a technological first for her. A six-day retreat at The Bridge starts from £2,950, although bursaries are offered. “It’s heartbreaking to cancel retreats at a time when we’ll all need emotional support more than ever, but on the plus side, I’m reaching all sorts of new people digitally,” she says.
Of course, there are very few of us who are looking at the lockdown as an extended period of time off. However positive we try to remain, and however many Instagram posts we see about new crochet skills or sourdough loaves, for most the coronavirus crisis presents a physical and psychological challenge beyond anything we’d ever imagined.
“It’s important that we really pay attention to what is going on, and don’t use digital technology as a distraction,” says Whelan. “But it’s also important to invest time in habits and practices that will sustain us in coming weeks and months, so there’s a balance.”
And with many of the world’s top wellness gurus and retreat centres now offering services online, this is an oddly opportune time for would-be wellness travellers to try different retreats for size, without wasting time, money and energy on a retreat that doesn’t quite click.
As well as the likes of virtual one-on-one reiki sessions, online yoga courses, instastories, mass meditations and Zoom Pilates classes, stay-at-home health retreaters have been investing hard in delivery services. Elle Macpherson’s superboost tonics (£85 for a 14-day supply) have sold out, with a spokesman saying: “As soon as we get new stock, the online orders flood in and it’s gone.”
London-based juice and macrobiotic delivery service purearth.co.uk has seen an enormous spike in demand. “Sales have increased drastically, for our wellness shots, vegan broths and juice cleanses,” says co-founder Tenna Anette. “We’ve seen a huge increase in customers ordering our five to seven-day juice cleanses, and an increase in sales with our online distributors like Abel & Cole and Ocado. And health shot sales are up by 40 per cent.”
Mitch Minton, who runs Presscription juice cleanses has also been busy catering for DIY health retreaters. “During the lockdown a lot of people are doing yoga or Pilates retreats with their chosen practitioners online, so we’re experiencing an increase in sales as people build their own bespoke detoxes at home,” he says.
Obviously, the lockdown is no holiday. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be a time for healing. And until we’re able to book meditation weekends away in the Lake District, yoga retreats in Ibiza and juice cleanses in Portugal, we’re doing our best to look after our bodies and minds in our living rooms – with a little help from worldwide experts.
By Anna Hart, as published in The Telegraph on 28th April 2020