An Alternative High
How do you describe the art of well-being? What does it mean? How do you truly “be well”? Is it merely a case of doing Dry July or does it require something more?
“Nothing will change, without change. Change is only change during the change, then it becomes habit,” says Damien Chaparro, part Californian yogi and part mentor to retreat goers at Aro Hā Wellness Retreat, which he co-owns.
Meaning “love, compassion and empathy” in the native Maori tongue, this new purpose-built luxury wellness retreat is set amongst New Zealand’s towering Southern Alps and only a short drive from the bustling, year-round resort hub of Queenstown.
Since opening in January of this year, Aro Hā has promoted conscious, communal living through the practice of yoga, meditation, hiking, massage and that all-important “cleansing, paleo-based, enzymatically active, whole, raw, sprouted, fermented veganism” – with a modern technological bent.
Catering to a maximum of 20 guests – the optimal group size is 10 to 14 – there are nine architecturally designed eco-buildings nestled perfectly amongst the tussock (and that’s excluding the $8 million staff complex down the driveway). There’s the shared yet luxuriously simplistic single and double accommodations, the Zen-like spa complex, the main dining, lounge and reception area and the Aro Hā room where the hard yoga takes place. Couple this with impeccable service, divine healthy food and genuinely passionate staff and what you are left with is Australasia’s foremost wellbeing experience.
Damian Chaparro’s business partner Chris Madison made his fortune in hedge fund management in New York. Deciding to go on a wellness retreat himself, Chris crossed paths with Damian at the legendary wellness retreat The Ashram, in California. Post-retreat and another few meetings later, Damian’s vision of a “transition space for those interested in nature, adventure, self-development, alternative health and results-oriented fitness” became a $30-million reality — provided he found the perfect location. Let’s just say Damien did good.
Roll forward two and a half years and the charismatic “co-creating” pair of Damian and ever-talented local lass Paula, form the obvious driving force behind Aro Hā. Rani and Toni head up the kitchen team, whipping up endless smorgasbords of energy-rich, purposeful and beautifully presented foods while Sarah and her knowledgeable gardeners, with their green-fingered touch, make it all possible. There’s also Hafa, the Brazilian yoga teacher who gracefully worked us through our morning classes, Kiwi Adam who had us dancing wildly around the Aro Hā room during his mix-of-everything, fitness-heavy Dynamic Playground class and Bruce the Masseuse, who worked his magic hands over our sore and tired muscles.
So, what really is well-being? The dictionary defines well-being as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.” If the dictionary is to be believed, then having just completed Aro Hā’s five-day mindfulness retreat, I can say with confidence that I am very well indeed.