Thanks to the expedited vaccine rollout, travel is on the horizon. In the meantime, however, virtual experiences and retreats are proving to be an engaging alternative for those who want to benefit from wellness-oriented programming from the comfort of their own homes.
Caroline Sylger Jones, founder of Queen of Retreats, a guide to both in-person and virtual retreats, believes that some virtual retreats that have debuted as a result of the pandemic will continue long after people resume traveling. “Proper retreats, with a live element, rather than pre-recorded ones, are the best ones to go for, so you are personally hand-held through the process by an expert and can experience proper, tailored advice and the support of a community if you want it,” says Sylger. “Look, too, for schedules that include off-screen activities and outside time in nature.”
One prime example is the Basecamp Weekend Retreat ($450 per individual/$600 per couple) at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa (Ainsworth) in Canada’s British Columbia. Check out our story on its innovative virtual retreat. Here are some other options if you’re looking for a virtual experience that feels like a true getaway.
Virtual Access to Wellness Offerings
While stress and burnout are nothing new, the pandemic has shed new light on the toll they’re taking as the lines between work and life continue to blur. “I was suffering from chronic, debilitating migraines,” says Camrin Agin, founder of ALTYR, an online concierge booking platform for personalized, in-home, or virtual access to bespoke healing experiences. “Every few weeks, I’d have a throbbing pain in my back, neck, and head. I went to several doctors, but regardless of their diagnosis or treatment, the symptoms persisted.”
Agin finally met with an acupuncturist who shared that the pain was her body’s way of communicating with her, and it was telling her she needed to change her mental state if she wanted to fix her physical state. “That led me to reiki, breathwork, sound baths, and a love of crystals,” says Agin. “The result was fewer migraines, less back pain, and the ability to be conscious of prioritizing and balancing the various aspects of my life.”
It also led to the birth of ALTYR, which provides people with a host of wellness services, such as meditation, intuitive readings, energy healing, and more, that they can experience virtually. Although in-person sessions are available in the Los Angeles area, remote sessions bring the various wellness sessions to your home. “The general idea is that we need our minds and bodies to slow down,” says Agin. “But that doesn’t mean stop. It means consciously taking a pause, repeatedly. Everyone’s lives are so overloaded—constant information, constant connection, constant need for an immediate response—it’s easy to lose sight of you.” The idea behind ALTYR is to help people refocus on what is important.
According to Agin, some of the most popular virtual services are Breathwork, Sound Baths, Intuitive Readings Energy Work, and the Signature Service, which is a personalized combination treatment that incorporates a variety of modalities. While some may still miss in-person sessions, others are finding virtual sessions to be as fulfilling. “Some people actually prefer to ‘distance,’ because the treatments can feel intimate,” says Agin. “And of course, there is the whole not having to go anywhere thing.”
A Virtual Passport to India
Of course, if you’re looking to be transported, then you may want to consider a virtual visit to Ananda in the Himalayas. Located in a Maharaja’s palace estate in the foothills of the Himalayas and overlooking the ancient Ganges river valley, the famed destination spa and wellness retreat is a pioneer in Ayurveda and yoga-focused health and wellness. Temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the spa launched its first-ever online wellbeing services in an effort to provide its expertise and signature programs to those seeking wellness from home.
“We wanted to stay connected with our guests during this phase and help them continue their wellness journeys from the comfort of their homes,” says Mahesh Natarajan, senior vice president of marketing, sales, and business development for Ananda in the Himalayas. “This is when we decided to do online yoga and meditation sessions. But the response we got was really encouraging and that gave us the idea to open these sessions up to everyone and also expand our online offerings.” As a result, the spa is offering six of its programs available online. The Ananda Wellness Bliss package (approximately $580) features three Ayurvedic consultations, one set of signature Ananda recipes customized to your body type, one yoga consultation and introductory session, and 12 60-minute personal sessions of yoga, pranayama breathing, or meditation. Daily group Yoga & Meditations sessions are also available.
Initially embraced by former guests, it wasn’t long before the virtual programming began attracting new followers. As a result, the spa continues to expand its online offerings, which are conducted via Zoom. “We have people who have been doing regular sessions with us now for 10 months,” says Natarajan. “And this makes us realize the potential and potency of our online wellbeing services. We have just added sessions on emotional wellness, as well, to our portfolio to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic issues among others.” The shift to online programming has been so successful, the spa plans to continue it beyond the pandemic.
A Virtual Women’s Circle
Disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, women can find healing and connection through the many virtual offerings from Fiona Arrigo, founder of The Arrigo Programme. A globally renowned intuitive healer, psychotherapist, mentor, and life teacher, Arrigo launched her program to treat burnout and exhaustion; depression, grief, and addiction; relationship and family issues; and more. Wanting to provide support, community, inspiration, joy, and laughter, Arrigo will be debuting two new virtual programs for 2021: New Codes for Living Annual Membership (approximately $46 a month) and Women Together Weekend Retreats (approximately $332). The annual membership circle will discuss and deliberate the values upon which we build our lives, such as trust, resilience, courage, self-awareness, grace, authenticity, beauty, discernment, loyalty and spaciousness. “As we circle together, we discover the glue that binds us, and we are able to dream a new story, a new way of being,” says Arrigo.
It includes a monthly three-hour circle hosted by Arrigo; a daily prompt and reminder through the group’s What’s App to bring focus and intention to a 6pm meditation that is practiced individually; weekly Wednesday evening support groups; weekly Friday Night Groove, which involves 30-minutes of dance, music, and movement; and recommended reading and courses. These virtual options give you the option to connect and enact positive transformative change.
The Women Together Weekend Retreats, which take place once every two months, offer a more focused and immersive experience. Recordings are also available for those who can’t join for the entire weekend. “These times are beautiful and full of love and promise,” says Arrigo. “We are not in trouble; we are in transition. Sometimes the call is to put life down in order to let life happen.”