- The SHA sits on Spain’s Costa Blanca and overlooks the Bay of Altea
- Stay consists of early nights and early mornings with no alcohol or coffee
- It offers lectures, cooking courses, yoga and even stress management
Sometimes you wonder what these spas (sorry, ‘wellness clinics’) will dream up next.
I’m about to have a cryotherapy sauna, which means standing in a stainless steel cylinder with just my head sticking out the top and my feet protected in woolly socks. The temperature drops to 150c below zero and I endure it for three shivering minutes.
‘This shifts the brain into a state of alert and gives rise to the production of what are known as the hormones of happiness,’ says the blurb.
SHA looks like a five-star Ibiza hotel, with white marble and water trickling from internal and external fountains
SHA has done the business for, among others, Kylie Minogue (pictured) Donna Karan and Barbra Streisand
Tell the truth, my brain has been in a state of alert ever since walking through the doors of SHA, on Spain’s Costa Blanca, overlooking the Bay of Altea.
Because it’s immediately obvious that for 51 weeks of the year my life is diametrically opposite to what’s going on here, where I am surviving on 700 calories a day.
Early to bed, early to rise. Lectures, cooking courses, yoga, Pilates, meditation, stress management, Chinese medicine, every possible kind of massage (there are more than 80 treatment rooms), cognitive therapy, nutrition consultations, radical detox, acupuncture, mindfulness and a list of specialist treatments (yes, plenty of colonic irrigation) that takes up 30 pages in the welcome pack.
No booze, no coffee, no snacking and no excuses.
Of course, no one is suggesting that you can adopt the same routine in the comfort of your own home (although Cristiano Ronaldo apparently has a cryotherapy sauna in his pad in Madrid), but it does get you thinking.
Most of us return from holiday having put on half a stone. By the time you check out of SHA and notice that your belt has gone down a couple of notches, you’re quite excited about getting back into the groove.
The SHA Wellness Clinic sits on Spain’s Costa Blanca and overlooks the mesmerising Bay of Altea
We’re here with Natalie Massenet, the founder of designer fashion website Net-a-Porter. Well, not with her exactly, but she sits (you are allocated a table and must be at it for lunch and dinner) in our eye-view, and this place has done the business for, among others, Donna Karan, Barbra Streisand and Kylie Minogue.
What’s clever is that it looks like a five-star hotel in Ibiza, with acres of white marble, trickling water from internal and external fountains and a ‘Zen Terrace’ on the top floor with cabanas and sun-loungers dotted around a large outdoor pool and several smaller ones from which you can watch the sun go down with a cup of brown rice tea.
A stay at the SHA can include yoga, pilates, cooking courses, meditation and acupuncture (file image)
The rooms either look out over the Sierra Helada mountains or the bay.
But it’s also true that Benidorm looms large to the north, its incongruous high-rise buildings contributing to a sense of other-worldliness.
Certainly, you’ll feel disorientated around day two or three, as cold turkey kicks in: headache, listlessness, feeling famished.
But there’s not much time to think about deprivations. You are given a timetable based on your aims (and on the result of various blood tests), then it’s a case of checking your schedule and making sure you’re at the right place at the right time — starting with Nordic walking at 7am.
There are three levels of macrobiotic diet: Kushi, Biolight and SHA. Kushi gives you 700 calories a day; Biolight 1,200 and SHA 1,800.
All consist only of organically grown whole foods: oats and buckwheat, soy foods such as miso (lots of it), tofu and kombu; raw or partially cooked vegetables; soup and endless teas.
Amazingly, each dish is a work of art, with intense flavours of which your whole system will approve.
And there you have it. SHA gets to work on the entire caboodle: mind, body and spirit.
For example, when I tell the doctor how it takes me ten minutes to find my glasses in the morning, I’m offered a cognitive assessment consultation followed by ‘neuro feedback’.
This involves a simple memory game played on screen and then watching a David Attenborough wildlife programme with a monitor strapped to my head, picking up on what’s happening in my brain.
Every time I lose concentration the film stops, and only starts again once I’m truly focused. Thankfully, it didn’t stop every 30 seconds.
The monitor also picks up on reactions to things the animals do. I tell the doc that I no longer like getting into lifts and worry about encroaching claustrophobia.
But he reassures me by noting that when I see a baby polar bear crawling into a tiny hole in the snow, my brain displays nothing in the way of panic.
There’s a back story to all this. Alfredo Parietti was chronically sick up until eight years ago. Conventional medicine wasn’t helping. Then he was introduced to a doctor who specialised in macrobiotic foods — and within eight months his cancer was gone. SHA is the result.
A week here is not always easy. But as you pack your bags in preparation for the journey home, the better part of your mind and the whole of your body will be mighty pleased that you made the effort.
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