I am at SHA Wellness, the renowned Spanish clinic just outside Alicante for a three-day immersion at this world-famous health retreat.
The first thing to strike me is the calm atmosphere, which is what you would expect at a top-notch health resort but, believe me, it’s not always achieved. The hotel is incredibly cleverly-designed with very few solid walls and masses of greenery so you feel you’re walking through a beautiful, many-tiered garden whether inside or out. The fact that this has been designed by a Feng Shui expert is evident.
With hospital status, SHA has the appropriate clinical feel but also a great sense of warmth which comes mainly from the staff, who are all (whether doctor or waiter) charming to a fault and ever-smiling.
My first day begins with a volley of consultations and tests, starting with lovely nurse Jorge, who asks me to step on the scales. These are not mere weighing scales though and after about 60 seconds balancing on some metal pads while holding a paddle in each hand I am presented with a very thorough (bioelectrical impedance) analysis of my body composition. To my surprise I have just the right levels of fat, muscle and water and Jorge seems impressed.
Next up is Dr Mera, who tells me I should live at least another 40 years but that I need to lose some belly fat (no surprise there) and finally, the beautiful Yolanda, one of SHA’s nutritionists and a walking advert for their macrobiotic diet. Yolanda and I discuss which of the three diets she should prescribe for me and, as I am only here for a few days, we decide on moderate weight loss.
Later I have a BDR (Beauty Defect Repair) facial, designed to treat imperfections and wrinkles, brighten my skin and give a ‘lifting’ effect. Buffing and micro-perforation culminate in my face being covered in a vibrating rubber mask. The result is fantastic and I say that as someone who has had a few facials. My skin is glowing and dewy and I just wish I had a date tonight.
Day two sees me up and out at 7.30am for a bracing and beautiful walk to the lighthouse followed by Chi Qong meditation with a visiting master. Then, after a quick breakfast of fruit, miso soup, juice and quinoa porridge, it’s off to the chef’s studio for a cooking class. The nutritional philosophy espoused by SHA is one of macrobiotics so the first thing we prepare is miso soup, apparently the king of foods that should be consumed daily for its healing and appetite-suppressing qualities. We also create delicious buckwheat pancakes stuffed with iziki seaweed and veggies.
Before lunch (for someone in a health clinic I seem to be eating a lot) I am given a cranial-cervical massage. I am not sure what to expect but, without asking me one question or saying a word, my therapist finds exactly where the tightness in my right shoulder is and eases it painlessly. Even when I tense up she relaxes my shoulder with gentle, guiding movements. Utter bliss.
In the afternoon I visit the hair clinic for a quick bit of analysis to check there’s nothing going awry. Although I have fine hair the therapist tells me there’s plenty of it and if I want to make it thicker I could either have a course of their vitamin injections or take a supplement, which is also good for nails, collagen and the immune system apparently.
Then I am off for an energy consultation. Another beautiful practitioner attaches me to a computer and uses a metal pencil to press specific points on my fingertips before announcing that my meridians are all functioning well except for my large intestine. More exercise, aloe vera and linseeds are recommended.
Later in the afternoon, I meet Dr Bruno, a cheerful neuro-scientist and professor at the local university. Cognitive testing reveals I have very high levels of concentration and fast reaction times “for my age” (I almost choke on my green juice). Then we go to the private cinema for some neuro-feedback, which involves strapping sensors to my head and ear. A picture of a barrel appears on the big screen with sparks coming out of it. I am asked to concentrate hard, which I do, and the barrel rapidly bursts into flames. This shows I can switch on focus quickly and effectively – it’s also the most fun video game I have ever played. However, I apparently find it hard to relax deeply and Dr Bruno says I need more Omega 3 and mindfulness in my life.
My final day starts with an hour’s power walk followed by a Hydro-energetic Detox Cure. This involves a 15-minute session in a hydro massage tub, followed by a seaweed wrap and finally a slightly embarrassing hosing down in my paper pants and boob tube! I do feel refreshed and energised afterwards though, if mildly humiliated.
Then for my most painful treatment, the SHA Detox Massage. This effects lymphatic drainage via the use of glass cups with controlled suction while a therapist massages you, working on the body’s energy meridians to stimulate the metabolism and boost detoxification. It certainly felt as if it was doing something but as with all these things you probably need to wait a few days to see an effect.
Before I leave for my flight there’s a spare moment to hit the gym, which is very well equipped and a surprisingly peaceful space. There are plenty of trainers on hand to assist you and state-of-the-art equipment that makes training a pleasure.
All in all, SHA offers a wonderfully comprehensive health overhaul, whichever area of your mind or body you want to focus on. The joy is that, because it’s only a short flight away, you can check in just for a long weekend but I would highly recommend a week (at the very least) to start making progress and seeing results.