Gaia Retreat & Spa is nestled peacefully in Brooklet in the lush Byron Bay hinterland, located in Bundjalung Country, also known as Australia’s beautiful Northern Rivers. I recently had the opportunity to experience a 24 hour escape at this healing sanctuary and I could quickly see why it is one of Australia’s most awarded boutique lifestyle and wellness retreats.
Upon setting foot on the grounds, I was greeted by tranquil birdsong, fresh country air, abundant natural beauty and a deeply grounding energy to the place. The journey that followed was full of mind, body and soul nourishment. From the rainforest cocooned spa precinct and treatments, to the wholesome culinary delights, everything was a sensory pleasure that brought me back to one key wellness foundation: embracing balance.
This philosophy is at the heart of JSHealth too, and I felt a real synergy between both of our holistic principles for vibrant health and wellbeing. Here are 5 ways I embraced balance during my magical stay at Gaia, that you can harness in your life, too!
Nourish your body
At Gaia, you eat like kings and queens at every meal, enjoying an abundance of fresh produce (including that grown hillside in their very own organic vegetable and herb garden), wholefood carbohydrate and protein sources, plus quality fats (think fish, avocado, nuts and seeds), prepared in creative ways. From my superfood packed chia pudding for breakfast and my harissa roast chickpea and sweet potato nourish bowl lunch (which also included figs, macadamia creme, broccolini and more), to the three course slow dinner experience, all the food was so full of flavour and texture.
I truly savoured every mouthful, and felt satiated yet light and energised after dining. There is certainly no feeling of restriction here! It’s all about focusing on enjoying foods that fuel you and are a pleasure to eat.
View joy as a nutrient
When considering your overall state of wellbeing, joy is an essential nutrient. This means allowing yourself to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine and indulge in dessert, free from guilt, if this makes you feel good. Gaia perfectly embodies this sentiment, offering a curated wine list including many organic options, which you can optionally order from at dinnertime.
Dessert is also definitely on the menu, created using minimal processed sugars. Lunch is followed by wholesome gluten free muffins or cacao-spiked bliss balls, whilst dinner ends with an exquisite sweet creation from the chef, which changes daily and reflects seasonal produce. As we have just moved into Autumn, I enjoyed a delicate mandarin sorbet with pepita slice and a medley of other elements that brought it all together – literally heaven in a mouthful. So, if it brings you joy, it is nourishing you on the soul level… say yes!
Revel in self-care rituals
The importance of self-care has really come into the spotlight in the last couple of years during the pandemic, with the recognition that acts of self-care can have a profound impact on emotional wellbeing. Afterall, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Self-care can take many forms, such as taking time to simply be by yourself and recharge, treating yourself to a massage, or giving yourself a luxe DIY facial complete with a gua sha beauty tool for lymphatic drainage (I love the JSHealth 4-Step Vitamin Skincare System for this).
I think of Gaia Retreat & Spa as a mecca for self-care. I headed to the day spa area, complete with a Balinese-inspired pool, traditional wood and coal sauna and spa bath, along beautiful treatment building and rooms situated amidst jungle-like vegetation and peaceful water features. I really blissed out during a 90 minute Kahuna massage, which is a Hawaiian healing technique that combines movement, rhythm, breath, energy and massage. The therapist used long, flowing movements to release, energise and balance my body in what was a truly magical experience.
When it comes to self-care in all situations, tune into what your body and mind are asking for, and honour that. The more you show up for yourself like this, the more you will reap the benefits of self-care such as lowered stress, positive mood and more energy.
Engage in mindful movement
Moving your body is proven to boost everything from physical to mental wellbeing. Choosing forms of exercise that also facilitate mindfulness is a wonderful way to bring balance to your state of being. Each morning at Gaia begins with a 60 minute yoga class and alternating afternoons also feature various fitness activities. During my stay, I also headed to the 5.30pm pilates class, which was the ideal combination of fitness and stretching suited perfectly to a Friday evening. Note: I then headed straight from pilates to a candlelit dinner and my glass of organic pinot noir – see, balance!
The stunning grounds of Gaia are ripe for walking anytime of day, though sunrise and sunset are particularly visually pleasing from the higher ground vantage point. I did the walk to the lookout graced by a majestic large stone Buddha statue a few times because it was so special. Green hills roll into the distance, punctuated by the ocean and horizon.
Connect with nature
Think of us human beings as batteries and the earth as our charger. Spending time in nature is shown to provide a plethora of benefits, including increased feelings of calmness, a boost in endorphin levels and dopamine production (which promotes happiness), restored capacity for concentration, and even reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Gaia is a nature-rich wonderland, full of beautiful flora and fauna, with greenery that stretches on as far as the eye can see. From the Komala Villas, the view is a sea of treetops. It’s the perfect setting to submerge yourself in the energy of the natural world and reconnect to this source that calms and grounds us.
To try a nature mindfulness exercise wherever you are, find a beautiful garden or reserve and simply go and sit in it or walk through it, noticing the different scents, textures and sounds.
WIN 1 of 3 GAIA RETREAT PACKAGES
To raise much needed funds for the Northern Rivers flood relief, Gaia is hosting a raffle with over $50k worth of prizes. Enter here for your chance to experience the Gaia magic while supporting a great cause. Open to NSW residents only.
We acknowledge the people of the Bundjalung Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land. We recognise their continuing connection and thank them for protecting this country since time immemorial. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations people today.
Words: Lolita Walters, Head of Copy & Editorial at JSHealth