Inhaling with the whole self the tender hues of moist air, indulge in a rejuvenating journey at SHA, where you will daily learn how to balance yourself for an enhanced well-being. If it is just for the Mediterranean bliss and the calm in your bones, come for the healthy balm over your heart, the mind and the changing body in need for a treat. Next to physical, plenty of energetic therapies and experiences await for your immersion nesting between the best European beaches and dramatic mountainscapes. Who would not want to wake up at this peach-hued sunrise?
SHA is a holistic wellness clinic at the foothills of a protected park along the radiantly rocky Costa Blanca in Spain. Less than an hour from Alicante and about 80 minutes drive from the larger Valencia airport, the balmy Mediterranean microclimate over this blessed strip of lush land lures in health and balance seeking well-off. With over 300 days of sunshine, the curving Albir beach backed by the rolling hills of L’Alfas del Pi feels like Menton on the border of France with Italy, yet lower and more open to the sea.
Wealthy Egyptians, hard working Germans, European royalty, models, professional athletes, creative elite and Middle Eastern nouveau riche mingle in their efforts to improve whatever is needed physically, mentally, even spiritually. You can even tie the knot at the SHApel. Often, I wandered to this dimly-lit art meets nature chapel to savor chamber music. The tunes calm my mind more than the occasional mass there would.
Therapies, treatments and experiences offered at SHA wellness
The medical clinic meets a holistic retreat concept has been growing steadily in and beyond Europe (Middle Eastern branches of established European brands are on the rise). With help of professionals you get a chance to implement healthier habits into your regular lifestyle. For me that meant more mindful exercise and gentle stretching to better balance my strong large muscles with the small muscular groups necessary for balanced posture and to prevent incurring pain. As my physiotherapist disclosed, next to the sedentary work malware, many yoga injuries need attention these days. Some remedies, like the electric current dry needling I underwent are quite painful, but immediately improved the condition. An attentive osteopath first cracked some vertebrae, then on another visit gently pulled the fascia, thus releasing accumulated tension. After the week I left equipped with advice, taylored exercise, and most importantly without pain in my back and neck.
While there are excellent doctors at hand, from a dentist, GP to heart experts, I would not advise the overpriced testing at SHA. Even in the world’s most expensive cities, you can get these done more affordably. Also, do not fall into the SHA VIP genetic test trap as I did. When I received the results weeks later, myself and my own doctor could only lift eyebrows at the nonsense. Much of it did not reflect my health condition and the rest was just the general lifestyle advice one can give to anyone. Breathe mindfully, eat less sugar and processed foods, move enough and rest effectively.
Eastern practices like acupuncture and energy balancing (reflexology, energy field measuring) complement your healing process (the intravenous ozone therapy had questionable effects, but the Hydroenergetic detox cure of oil jet bath, warm wrap and cold jet shower energizing effect cannot be underestimated). Group meditation sessions should have been included daily as they used to be, but added mindfulness body and mind release class balanced me. Private yoga sessions additionally to the twice to three times weekly hatha and yin yoga are popular. Underwater manual massages are praised by many guests.
Enhance your beauty
I have checked-in twice at SHA. I needed a mid-winter reset and no other European escape sounded better to my body and my sun-seeking soul than flying to the Southern coast of Spain. My first stay was brief, a welcome into the contemporary-built facility and its stunning surroundings. The discovery program included many consultations to lure you into more pricey high tech improvements of your aging body. A dermatologist will likely suggest overpriced face and body lifts and non-surgical shape-ups, but also listens to your personal limits. In my initial package was included the pleasant radiofrequency with Indiba, which stimulates your own bodily collagen production. I tried it for both body and face and felt only great. Of course one needs a few sessions for lasting visible effects. For facials you have choice with more pampering or painful results-driven techniques. I was not keen on the skin drying BDR which after a strong glycolic peel vibrated in a collagen mask, but I enjoyed the massage-focused signature SHA facial. I am not at the point yet to suffer for beauty. I prefer joy in enhancing my natural bliss.
In and out bliss in fresh room, on the coast or in the hills
The rooms are all spacious suites (four levels). Some partially face the sea and the sunrise and the rest close to the privately owned SHA residences (part of the architectural complex built as hanging terraces) offer stunning sunsets and mountain views. A sizeable cityscape in the background mysteriously calms, while being away in a residential area guarantees low level of motorised noise. I love the proximity of the mountains and the beach town of Albir as they offer diverse walking and hiking opportunities, particularly off the summer heat and crowds flooding in for holidays.
In fact, there are more memorable outdoor activities in the area, even a horse riding center. I joined the group walks, but once I learned where to go, I savored solitude and more mindfully focused on the surrounding nature during the intense hike up to Alt del Governador. The stunning cliffs only seen from the mountaintop reward your effort, unmissable and a perfect spot for meditation (see photos bellow). In the seaside Parc Natural de Serra Gelada, I prefered to run back from the mildly inclining lighthouse. Maximising my sunrise beach walk through Altea (on the scheduled days a bus conveniently drops you off and picks you up saving about an hour walk down and up to SHA) I sped up ahead the group with my analog Leica. Snapping mind-catching photographs in the white-washed old village where only local residents woke their presence as early as I did. Check my photo story. Returning another day later in the afternoon to a very different scene, seeing the touristy, buzzing hilltop church square, I realised how much more memorable and worthwhile my earlier visit was.
SHA diet at the core of the change
The alkaline macrobiotic cuisine steps up from the smallest Kushi, balanced Biolight to the energizing SHA diet. The most restrictive is the intense cleanse of Kushi, when the most pronounced weight loss is guaranteed. Based on seaweed, broths and vegetable soups, this diet is only prescribed by the in-house nutritionist. Supervised fasting can also be followed, yet this would be a loss of joy since the food by the Shamadi restaurant team is very good and of the highest quality locally available. For fasting rather try the by decades-tested Lanserhof or if sunshine helps than the Andalusian branch of Buchinger Wilhelmi.
Flexibility is my halo, so I followed the healthful, with lunch dessert (artificial and blood sugar rising sweeteners are taboo here) including medium path. This Biolight menu includes more local fish and pasta, and more generous breakfast. Starting with a choice from there juices, miso soup (for amino acids, enzymes, protein and wholesome energy all in one bowl), and daily changing trio of a chia pudding, fruits (in a Buddha bowl or with porridge) and hummus or avocado dip with crudites just feels so joyful. An afternoon snack of a fruit puree or non-dairy pudding keep your blood sugar in check so you do not doze off before the dinner is served in either 7 or 8:30pm slots (the later Spanish dinner time is suitable for UK travellers sticking to local timezone). Some evenings live music accompanies the meal. I very much enjoyed the Spanish guitar and the jazzy singer duo.
My goal was an inflammation-reducing alcohol and caffeine break with balanced energy intake for the wonderful outdoor activities. Therefore, I was able to switch to the more gourmet SHA menu when the daily offer did not meet my taste buds or dietary restrictions (winter is pear season and they seemed to crop up too frequently to my belly’s unhappy squeals). Here, low GI dessert follows the two course lunch as well as dinner. My favourite sweet treats were the GF hot chocolate fondant and a vanilla tapioca pudding (with rice milk). Animal protein (meet, dairy and fat) and gluten are excluded. Instead, whole foods including seeds are added. Next to daily activities, cooking classes in superbly equipped studio are the pillar of the SHA wellness concept. If you have a sweet tooth, I highly advise the healthy pastry class. Bellow, I share a recipe for easy cookies a fellow, kind guest showed me after my vain attempts to lure the fondant secrete from the chef.
Any change in diet, may induce some unwelcome sensations such as bloating (from whole grains and pulses, so chew slowly and do not drink while eating, a friend who stayed at SHA complained about such discomfort so beware) and mild headaches (due to elimination of caffeine and sugar) can arise, yet the nursing station has a remedy daily from 7:30am.
Medicinal tisanes complement you daily intake. The nutritionist (without seeing your blood work!?) after a necessary paid consultation assigns you these brews either before, after or/and between your meals. The nutrients from these liquid foods more easily absorb into the body than supplements in pills. Before larger meals apple cider vinegar may be served to ease digestion, for headache and pain ume plum with kuzu root starch, adzuki or barley infusions for iron and B-vitamins, the less tasty shiitake mushroom or kombu seaweed broths enhance detox, but many of the guests’ favourite is the warm apple juice thickened with kuzu after dinner that soothes any sweet cravings before bed. The 10 herbs and spices Mu macrobiotic blend reinstates harmony in your body and mind by its sweet ginseng, licorice and blood sugar lowering cinnamon bark, while orange peel, ginger and cloves bring calming warmth. You can buy most of these as well as healthy snack for the road and home cooking at the boutique. Beware, most of the doctors and estheticians at SHA will prey by their “efficient” supplements, all in abundance sold at the store, but this contradicts the nutritionist claiming that you best get all from whole foods.
State of the art facilities at SHA wellness
The indoor water and saunas facilities with women-only daily afternoon slot are sublime. Stunning mountain and garden views relax the mind, but also lure you in for the aqua gym class there times per week. Some guests find the free workout classes offer limited, yet the focus here is not to overburden but rather taylor to your personal needs. Therefore, the gym is busy with personal training, the morning walks hive with early birds and the wet indoor circuit is being used as you consider suitable.
There is a luxurious cinema screening documentaries and blockbusters in two nightly sessions, yet the small second hand multilingual library diverts from solitude or nurtures your intellectual cravings without the burden of the screen. Time to read that Breakfast at Tiffany’s!
Some rumour that singles won’t find social engagement at SHA (a Russian London-based guest confessed her concern), but I felt that the collective activities, the dining setup and the architecture encourage interpersonal encounters more than at any other health spa in Europe. I met a French architect, Egyptian real estate magnate, German businesswoman and a female Russian film director. The meals at the Shamadi restaurant are a rainbow of shapes – from super-skinny models and ladies in ripe age, chunky businessmen, fit athletes to healthy lifestyle addicts.
On your first visit I advise the SHA discovery program which allows you trying various activities and therapies. Note, what you liked, and what was not worthwhile for your next stay as I did and then choose a la carte the treatments most beneficial to you.
I did a digital detox during my stay, but the efficiency of the SHA app turned my phone on. At least I ignored any social media and emails for the whole week, my mind felt weighless! Such reduction of unnecessary distractions I recommend regularly.
SHA is not some sort of a bootcamp or weight-sweating programme, neither it is a meditation and yoga zone off. Instead, the clinically equipped offers it all, including medical fasting. Yet, what SHA is best is in offering a holistic retreat to balance a stressful period of your life. Currently, a minimum of one week is required for the stay and that is all that some of us busy minds could afford. Do something good for you soon.