By Nina Gass and Tricia Snell
IN-DEPTH NEWS FEATURE:
The Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat is changing the lives of Australians, one guest at a time. Tucked away in the mountains above the Gold Coast in the Tallebudgera Valley, this lifestyle retreat aims to reduce stress, which according to Lifeline Australia affects 91 percent of Australians in at least one important area of their lives while almost 50 percent feel very stressed.
This level of stress is not only impacting the social lives of Australians, but it is also creating an adverse effect on the economy. Medibank reported that Australian employees are absent an average of 3.2 working days each year due to stress, which costs the country’s economy approximately $14.2 billion.
Gwinganna is focused on minimising this impact. The retreat sends its guests on a journey of discovery that leads them to a way to restore their health and vitality while de-stressing and unwinding. Not far from Brisbane, the retreat truly feels like it is situated a world away from the hectic pace of current Australian life. From detoxification and wellness techniques to organic cuisine and nutritional counselling to exercise and relaxation, this retreat delivers a comprehensive, holistic approach that has changed the lives of its guests.
The Gwinganna Team are Relaxation Focused
Behind Gwinganna, which is situated on a plateau and spans over 500 acres, is a team of experienced health retreat, lifestyle and culinary professionals. This includes Tony de Leede, owner and founder; Sharon Kolkka, general manager and lifestyle specialist; Hermann Schafellner, resident organic chef; and Carolina Rossi, nutritionist. All share a philosophy of helping people to add balance and ignite their passion for personal health and wellness.
Surrounded by ocean and valley views, Gwinganna, which means ‘lookout’ gains its name from the Australian Aboriginal people who were the original custodians of the land. With a vision of creating a full-service health retreat that embraces its heritage, successful Australian Body Works developer and owner de Leede has spent a number of years renovating the Gwinganna property. Additions include more accommodation, a gymnasium, another pool and training studios. Then, there are the custom-designed spa facilities and professionally trained staff.
“The focus is on the guest experience,” said de Leede. “Our staff members’ ability to understand and impact upon the retreat experience consistently makes Gwinganna a ‘must visit’ location and helps fulfil our objective of helping people alleviate their stress,” he said.
Gwinganna Strives to Deliver Lifelong Changes
The retreat is not your traditional health and wellness getaway. Instead, it aims to turn the guest experience into lifelong lifestyle changes. This means that focus is placed on the guest experience, says Kolkka the retreat’s general manager, which is an evolutionary process that serves as a support network for busy, exhausted people who are seeking to improve the quality of their lives.
“Each year, we review our programs,” said Kolkka. “This ensures that we are delivering the skills and support that people need to thrive and enjoy satisfying lives full of vitality,” she said.
“The structure of each day is unique and custom-designed to work with the body’s natural circadian rhythm,” said Kolkka. “The concept of afternoon Dreamtime is unique to our retreat and allows guests to rest, recover and enjoy the spa on their schedule,” she said. “Physical activities are divided into Yin and Yang, and guests learn how to understand their bodies’ needs.”
“Beyond the extensive service menu of health and wellness options, our location provides a way for guests to get up-close and personal with wallabies, koalas and native birds,” said Kolkka.
Additionally, Gwinganna is committed to sustainability. Currently, it is the only Australian wellness retreat to be eco-certified. This commitment extends to every aspect of the retreat – from its purchasing policy and organic food and skin care to a full-time organic gardener who teaches guests how to grow their own food, along with an organic chef who prepares all of the guest meals.
Organic and Biodynamic Foods Add to the Gwinganna Experience
Speaking of food, Gwinganna provides a bountiful culinary experience to show guests how delicious and fulfilling it can be to focus on organic, biodynamic food. The menu may also may make it easier for guest’s to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and foods that are not allowed at the retreat while they undergo detoxification.
“Gwinganna’s food philosophy is to use low human intervention when preparing food,” said Rossi. “This increases the nutritional value and helps the body absorb more nutrients,” she said. “Having an organic diet dramatically reduces pesticide levels in the body, decreasing the body’s toxicity. Finally, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and fats can help with various body functions, optimizing health.”
The onsite organic chef could not agree more with this philosophy. Chef Schafellner creates the retreat’s menu with the help of de Leede and Rossi, ensuring suitability and nutritional content.
“Real food is energising for the body and adds vitality,” said Schafellner. “In turn, this helps motivate people to be more physically active,” he said.
“Focusing on organic, clean food that minimizes toxins in the body can also improve one’s mental and emotional state,” said Schafellner. “I’ve watched guests change over the week that they are here,” he said. “It’s amazing and rewarding.”
Gwinganna Guests Feel Empowered to Live Healthier
Many Gwinganna guests have experienced significant changes, including a sense of calmness, vibrancy and contentment. They are implementing Gwinganna principles, which have helped change their outlook and reduce or eliminate stress.
Guests, such as Angela Egan, entrepreneur, and Kirby Leitch, a nurse placement supervisor, who have spent time at Gwinganna cannot speak highly enough of the retreat and its positive impact on their lives.
Egan, who holds a bachelor of commerce degree in human resource management and marketing, visited the Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on three occasions. Her first visit was in February of 2009, her second in January of 2010, and her last was in October of 2012.
“The first time I experienced Gwinganna I was suffering from chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation,” said Egan. “Since participating, I have significantly changed my life for the better,” she said.
“The best thing about all of the programs at Gwinganna is that they are a combination of physical, emotional, spiritual and nutritional wellbeing,” said Egan. “They are a holistic program that ensure participants can share as little or as much as they want,” she said. “They also always have yin (slower more nurturing) and yang (faster more action based) activities so that it provides a balance and caters for everyone on the program.”
“Above all though the food is absolutely amazing,” said Egan. “It is 100 percent organic and about 25 percent of it is grown on site,” she said. “It is delicious and nutritious and you feel as though you are dinning in a 5-star restaurant for every meal – well you kind of are.”
Leitch, who holds a bachelor of nursing degree and a graduate diploma in psychological studies, visited the Gwinganna Retreat in December of 2012 on a 7-day detox package.
“It was a health reset button for my body,” said Leitch. “I detoxed off caffeine, dairy, gluten, sugar and alcohol,” she said. “I exercised every day and the spa treatments were amazing.”
Leitch, says that at-first the package was testing, especially as her body adjusted to a lack of the everyday stimulants it had been used to consuming.
“It was challenging for the first 3 days, in the sense that I experienced headaches and nausea at times,” said Leitch. “Once this past, I experienced better quality sleep, increased energy levels and a general feeling of happiness within myself,” she said. “I could feel myself improving every day.”
“The spa sanctuary is absolutely beautiful,” said Leitch. “The treatments are aimed at making you feel calm, relaxed and pampered,” she said. “There are many options to choose from. It’s hard to pick.”
“It [the retreat] allowed me to take a break from my life,” said Leitch. “After partaking in the seven-day detoxification program, I felt healthier on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level,”she said. “As a registered nurse, I learned a lot about illness and diseases as well as prevention through a holistic approach. I have been able to incorporate in my life and those of my patients.”
For more information about the Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, please visit www.gwinganna.com.