There I was standing amongst eight female rockstars. All of them drumming for their life, all of them smiling broadly from the sheer fun of it all as they continued to build the rhythm up to a crescendo of crazy beats.
None of us noticed that we were burning calories, engaging our core, toning and strengthening our muscles, improving mental clarity and clocking up a mighty 4,000 steps from just one hour-long work out. Rockstar work out that is.
These women had music running through their veins. In a Woodstock style revelry, they didn’t miss a beat as they struck their drum sticks high above their head and then pounded them on the front and side of their big blue ball. I followed their lead. My slow gangly arms didn’t always keep up, but nor did it matter. It was hard to imagine so much enjoyment could come from one ball and two sticks.
Drumming exercise was just one of many activities that transported us all to a different place during our seven-day detox at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Gwinganna, situated in picturesque Tallebudgera Valley, Queensland, is a place where you can let go of everyday mundanities and start to move to the beat of a more mindful way of life.
No waking up to check my phone. No mindlessly scrolling down bottomless feeds of other people’s social media lives before my first coffee of the day. No reading click-bait articles that never prove to be worthy of attention.
Rather than a digital diet of junk pulling me in the wrong direction, Gwinganna nourishes your mind and body with healthy organic gluten-free cuisine straight from the garden. It’s a place where you truly appreciate how much pleasure is gained from being immersed in nature.
Reconnecting with your sense of self is a wonderful thing. For me, the beauty of returning to Gwinganna is that it reminds me that it’s only me living in this body; and only me that can truly look after it. We all put serious time into our work, so why not do the same for our state of wellness? This is one of the realisations you get from being away from the shiny distractions of everyday life.
It’s also much easier to stop and recalibrate what is important in life when you are away from it all.
On my drive to Gwinganna, I listen to audiobook Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. It’s the perfect prelude for a retreat because it focuses your mind on the importance of wellbeing. The narrator explains that the simple act of inhaling and exhaling can be done… well, better.
Given we do this 25,000 times a day, you’d think we would have had enough practice by now to get it right. Apparently, not.
During the orientation, I respond to a questionnaire about my goals. ‘I want to breathe, breathe properly,’ I say. This is when I meet the softly spoken but ever so wise, Meagan, who says: ‘I’m so glad you put that down. I will work with you on this.’ And so, she did.
It began early each morning with the ancient Chinese practice of Qigong. This is a daily ritual at Gwinganna and a superb way to awaken your senses. Standing in a semi-circle on the green mound overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the distance, we take in the crisp, clean air. The sound of our deep breathing is met with the dawn chorus of birdsongs and the odd squawk. Meagan leads the way, reciting a poem. The poem was created by Sharon Kolkka, Gwinganna’s former MD, and goes like this:
In the beginning there was Heaven and Earth,
Along came man and women and they opened up their heart to heaven and earth.
He painted a rainbow across the sky,
And as he reached up through the clouds, the clouds parted, the rain fell, and the man drank.
An abundance rained down upon the earth,
And two swallows travelled,
And as the male swallow dived to greet the female and the female swallow dived to greet the male,
Together they formed a union,
And they embraced all the power within this Universe, and they brought it down and into themselves.
Later, I learn that one of the instructors specialises in breath classes. His name is Andy and he explains how to use your breath more effectively. “You don’t want to be a mouth breather,” he says.
Lying down on a mat, we’re all told to breathe using our diaphragm and to hold our stomach to feel the breath filling our body. Andy helps guide my breathing. “I can see we have a bit of work to do with you,” he chuckles. He makes me breathe in and out again. This time, I do it correctly. Taking in a deep breath into my belly, I suddenly feel the difference. Ellice is another highly motivational instructor at Gwinganna. She takes us through the movements of each and every one of our joints both in the gym and the swimming pool. Her energy is contagious and I vow to follow her classes online after I leave.
Every morning after Qigong you can choose a strenuous or slow-paced walk through the trails. I always do the gentle walk which sometimes includes a silent walk through the tall gum trees or labyrinth. Apart from the kangaroos and wallabies, there’s an astonishing variety of birds. In fact, the Tallebudgera-Curummbin area is home to 358 species of birds including the wonderfully named nutmeg mannikin, plum-head finch, welcome swallow, mistltoebird, flame robin, triller, red wattlebird and dusky honeyeater. Personally, I love the brilliantly coloured lorikeets, rosellas, cockatoos and king parrots which can be seen in abundance.
The eco-tourism certified 200 hectare retreat is also home to echidnas and koalas including some relocated from fire-stricken areas after being rescued by Wildcare Australia. If you are lucky, you’ll spot them.
You can also visit the horses which are used for therapy and there are several organic gardens and an orchard too. It’s from here that the kitchen receives its daily supply of vegetables, herbs and some fruits including sapote which we learn at our cooking demonstration is related to a persimmon but tastes like chocolate. And, yes that suddenly got our attention.
Apart from the wellness seminars by health experts including nutritionists and naturopaths, there is much to be learned from Gwinganna’s chef Darren Bonhomme.
“It’s so much easier to cook healthy food than I realised,” exclaims one of the guests as Darren shows us how to whip up fresh soups and salads in a jiffy. This included a recipe for avocado and black sapote mousse.
Avocado and black sapote mousse
Avocado soft – 1 each
Black sapote (ripe andsoft) – 1 each
Pitted dates soaked infilter water –she 4 each
Cacao powder – ¼ cups
Cashew nut milk 32 grams
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend till smooth. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes.
Sapote, Darren explains, is a healthy substitute for chocolate because that’s what it tastes like, especially in the avocado and black sapote mousse. You can swap it out for sweet potato if needs be, but if you fancy a treat then it’s worth trying to source this delicious tropical fruit.
Being a detox week, there is no caffeine or alcohol. A few days in, I was aware that my body was craving my usual coffee intake, but it soon passed. Instead, I developed a love for the Gwinganna Signature tea which is made from lemon myrtle and aniseed myrtle. Another wonderful drink is the Chai Golden Milk made with turmeric.
Detoxing for one full week allows your body time to rest and repair as it flushes out harmful toxins. It’s really like giving your body a holiday and you feel the benefits of increased energy levels immediately. Rather than feeling sluggish, I was full of vitality and my skin was glowing and less dehydrated.
Resting time at Gwinganna takes place in the afternoons. Mostly, I fill this time by enjoying my spacious open plan accommodation. My home for the week was the Boorabee Villa which is a private retreat within a retreat. All of the accommodation at Gwinganna is well-appointed but this villa is on another level in terms of space and luxuriousness.
The Boorabee Villa sits at the top of a hill and there’s even a laundry and buggy available. The floor to ceiling windows overlook the surrounding bushland and from inside the villa you feel enveloped by nature. It also has a private balcony with a day bed and plunge pool. I found most of my afternoons were easily soaked up enjoying the serenity of those moments. I did absolutely nothing and at the same time absorbed absolutely everything.
The other joy is the Spa Sanctuary – the biggest spa in the Southern Hemisphere. The circular building has 33 treatment rooms, crystal steam room, and a whisper lounge to enjoy the tranquil views of the internal garden which resembles a mini rainforest. There’s so many therapies and treatments to choose from it’s hard to decide how to spoil yourself.
First, you get to don your white fluffy dressing gown and drink herbal tea before being ushered into a treatment room. It’s here that I have enjoyed the best facials and massages that I’ve ever experienced.
Recently and for the first time an Australian owned and made facial range has been introduced to the Spa.
Vanessa Megan Naturaceuticals is an award-winning organic cruelty free luxury skincare range and I love the fact that it is a home-grown product. The other brand at the spa which I love is Subtle Energies. The enriching oils which I now use at home always remind me of Gwinganna.
One of my treatments is the 80 minute Abyong Fusion. It’s a holistic treatment that includes hot compresses for your face and feet and a full body massage. The Intuitive massage is equally blissful and also runs for a glorious 80 minutes. Unlike the Fusion, the treatment is bespoke and changes depending on your needs. Mine includes remedial and hot stones therapy.
The other must when you visit Gwinganna is spending time with Shelley, the organic gardener. Shelley is a beautiful soul and her knowledge of home grown remedies to support your health and wellbeing is unparalleled. She’ll even show you how to use herbs to whiten your teeth, heal wounds, reduce infections or give you an energy boost.
By the end of the week, our group – unusually there were only 12 of us – have bonded like family. Since leaving the retreat, I’m regularly reminded of my Gwinganna stay through our group chats.
Another wonderful reminder is my Aloe Vera plant which came from a cutting prepared by Shelly.
In amongst her bag of plant tricks, she showed us how to prepare infused Aloe Vera water. You simply peel off the skin and and place the flesh of the plant in your water bottle. Keep filling the bottle up as soon as it half empties and you’ll continue to benefit from the plant’s natural goodness.
Time spent at Gwinganna is always life-changing. It may be small changes like drinking more herbal tea or simply learning that there’s more to life than always being in a hurry.
On the return trip home, I chose my audiobook wisely. It’s The Alchemist by Paul Coelho and Jeremy Irons is the narrator. One of the quotes reads:
The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
The quote reinforces everything I’ve taken away from my week at Gwinganna. Treasure the simple things and learn to live mindfully.
About Gwinganna Detox
This package has more inclusions than any other stay at Gwinganna and focuses on adrenal restoration, gut health and liver function.
Key wellness seminars provide a clearer understanding of your body’s needs and guide you toward improved health and wellness. The delicious organic meals include seafood, chicken and vegetarian choices to inspire your taste buds and satisfy healthy appetites.
- 7 nights accommodation
- 2 classic massages
- 1 essential facial
- $100 wellness therapy credit
- All organic meals, snacks and beverages
- 6 key wellness seminars
- 3 bonus specialty presentations
- Cooking demonstration
- Evening meditation sessions
- Access to all facilities and scheduled activities
- Bonus activities such as labyrinth walk
Click below to find out more.
Robyn Foyster was a guest at Gwinganna. Her story and experience is entirely her own.