In the world of self-improvement, it can be challenging to keep up with the latest trends and techniques, the new diets and cleanses, some of which turn out to be fleeting fads dressed up in deliberately mystifying language. And yet, with the ongoing spread of COVID-19, global levels of stress, grief, depression, and anxiety have made the question of personal mental health nearly as critical as public health.
Helping us sift through the hype was The Wellness Retreat, a half-day of wellness experiences designed to help us make mindful decisions about the best healing practices. Held in partnership with W Kuala Lumpur and V Integrated Wellness on 8 April, this event kickstarted MYND’s series of wellness retreats aimed at “community connection, conscious living, and greater enlightenment,” said Natasha Kraal, editor-in-chief and co-founder of MYND, in her welcome note.
Our setting: W Kuala Lumpur, a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Twin Towers in the city’s golden triangle. Our morning began out on the hotel’s Wet Deck, which, in the halcyon pre-pandemic days, used to be a popular party spot for KL’s fashion cognoscenti. On this blissful morning with the iconic towers as the panorama, our guests had the deck all to themselves. Phones on silent, the pool and sky both still and blue, the twelve stories added a physical dimension to the illusion of being far, far away from the urgencies of everyday life and international newsflashes. At least for this moment. The sun’s rays casted an opalescent sheen on the facade of the Twin Towers, altogether making the scene a picture-perfect backdrop for an urban getaway.
A short welcome speech from Christian Metzner, General Manager of W Kuala Lumpur, kicked off the morning’s Hatha flow yoga, guided by Esther Lee of the Malaysian Association of Yoga Instructors (MAYI). The stretches were gentle and non-strenuous—allowing for the many of us there who had only just woken up—focusing more on breath work, awakening cramped lockdown limbs, and emptying the mind of the familiar onset of start-of-the-day stress.
Testifying to the mood-changing effects of a spot of morning yoga, was former fashion professional Peng Lee. “The yoga was definitely a highlight for me. It was just so great to be doing this session out in the sun!”
The morning then flowed into a series of healing sessions at Away Spa, the luxurious trademark of W Hotels internationally. Upon entering the Spa, the buzzing energy of the sun-dripped morning yoga transitioned into an atmosphere of zen calmness. The spa was lit with soft, warm lighting, as doors opened to beautiful plush interiors with the gentle touch of a button—everything felt seamless and languid.
The second half of the retreat started off with a short Reiki prayer by Komathy Ganesan-Mogan of White Lotus Gallery in Bangsar. Previously a lecturer at University Malaya, she practised healing under different masters in India for 30 years before devoting herself to the journey of Reiki mastership. Reiki healing, practised internationally for over a century now, is a Japanese energy healing technique that involves the channelling of qi, the body’s vital life force, through a healer’s palms. The technique is also known as the “laying of hands”, where the healer guides and channels the participant’s qi flow to help them achieve a more harmonious balance of mind, body, and spirit.
The mums among us seemed to be particularly receptive to Reiki. Shermaine Wong, co-founder of Cult Creative and Tish events, working mum of two, and now six months pregnant, was amazed at how the session revealed things about herself that she hadn’t been aware of.
“I went into the Reiki session with Komathy thinking that everything was okay with me. But she identified all the pains in my body, like my back and joint pains, but also my emotional pains,” Shermaine shares. “She told me, ‘You have a lot of emotional pain that you need to process. You need to be able to forgive yourself as a working mother, and realise that things don’t always go according to plan.’ It was really eye-opening for me. My baby was kicking the whole time!”
“It was wonderful to be able to connect with someone so deeply,” agreed Azura Rahman, a former producer and presenter with BFM and current full-time mum of three.
“I’d tried Reiki before, but it didn’t do anything for me, to be honest,” said digital content manager and creator Tengku Zai, who experienced Reiki healing under the hands of Komathy’s healing apprentice, Joshua Fitton, otherwise creative director of Atelier Fitton. “But this short session with Joshua was different. Being a mum and working full-time hardly leaves me any time for myself, so this retreat was so needed—even if it was for just half a day.”
Also up on the schedule was one-on-one hypnotherapy with Sheela Chandran, a corporate management trainer and certified hypnotherapist. “Today, I’m going to help you unlock your superpowers,” she boldly announced at her introductory speech. With her confident, breezy tone, Sheela used a combination of vocal, hypnotic, and linguistic techniques to lead her subjects into a relaxed and suggestive state, where they’re capable of releasing mental blockages and are more receptive to seeing things in new light. In some cases, hypnotherapy can also be used to treat trauma, by guiding the participant into a trance-like headspace in which they can safely confront and explore painful, repressed memories. “I wish Sheela could put me to sleep every night,” reflects Zai wistfully of her session with Sheela.
Conducting the sound healing session was Stephanie Looi, who trained with masters in India for her certification in Tibetan Sound Healing. The sound-bathing room was a picture of perfect stillness through which echoed the hypnotic vibrations of the singing bowls. We laid down on the floor or sprawled casually across sofa beds, eyes closed as we were transported by Stephanie’s mystical ambient sounds. “Be open to receive whatever you will receive today. Just go in, let go, and open yourself to healing,” she said, while cleansing the aura of each person in the room before starting the sound bath ceremony.
“The retreat introduced me to some alternative ways of healing and de-stressing, which was great,” says Shireen Kandiah, a director in strategy and communications, whose wellness routine includes Pilates and forest-bathing, but hadn’t yet experienced the forms of healing at this retreat. “I was ready and happy to let go and take it all in.”
Indeed, it was an eye-opening experience even for seasoned explorers of spiritual healing methods. “The experience was grounding,” says Aisha Hassan, the co-founder of sustainable artisan brand, Dia. “I’ve tried all sorts of therapies and I meditate a lot, but this reminded me of why I embarked on my spiritual journey in the first place.”
Rosie Rozain, a lawyer for 22 years and mother to two teens, came to realise that she had been prioritising physical fitness while neglecting her heart and mind. “New doors were opened to healing, adding soulful width and depth to my wellness.”
A Superfoods brunch packed with green goodness was spread out by Chef Haz Of W Kuala Lumpur and team for guests to enjoy in between sessions. By noon, the half-day retreat was already wrapping up, leaving guests with a suffusion of positive energy to spread across the rest of the day. Each guest took home our special piece of merch—a MYND tote bag with a copy of Mindfulness and Compassion: Embracing Life with Loving-Kindness by The Happy Buddha—organic skincare and products from V Integrated Wellness, a spa treat from the award-winning Away Spa at W Kuala Lumpur. Also included in the gift bags: Korr probiotics, ChaCha kombucha, and Jane’s Booster Shots.
And so our diverse community of CEOs, lawyers, directors, creatives, entrepreneurs, and super-mums got to hang up their capes for the day and take a moment to focus on themselves, amid luxe five-star comforts and the company of long-missed and new friends. Descending down the neon-lit W elevators, back into our everyday routines, reality rushed back in, but at least now we left with a lighter heart and greater clarity, ready and recharged for whatever the day, month, or year has in store for us.