Sarah Morris was recently invited to attend a two-day wellness retreat, held at the Westin Doha Hotel & Spa for the media. Here is her account of the amazing time she had!
The Westin group of hotels has long prided itself on its ethos of wellness and balance for guests staying at their resorts. The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa is no exception, although I must admit, Bin Mahmoud is not the first place that springs to mind when I think of escaping the madding crowd in Doha.
Nestled as it is among office buildings, a busy main traffic intersection and shopping complexes, the hotel proved that behind its tall façade and green lawns it could easily be located anywhere you choose to imagine.
And so I entered the two-day wellness retreat.
Along with a small, all-female group consisting of bloggers, magazine editors, TV make-up artists and clothes designers, it didn’t take long for us to start sharing our personal stories and reasons for attending. This transpired to be a range of tough medical histories, demanding work schedules, being relatively new to Qatar and or just feeling the need to stop and gather one’s purpose and focus. Either way, an opportunity to meet a diverse group of such interesting women was a bonus that I walked away with, along with a yoga mat (a gracious parting gift, honestly!).
The stay was intended to be an uplifting experience with positive energy and introspective calming downtime, and an opportunity to explore and experience the various facilities of the property.
I hope this focus will be a welcome addition to the usual brunches, beaches and bars currently on offer by hotels – and experience tells me it will be welcome in the new year with its accompanying ruefulness over festive indulgences. A hotel break offering you the opportunity to just stop and focus on your psyche for a day or two is a rarity, particularly here in Doha.
After checking in at noon to our spacious and well appointed Executive Rooms, we proceeded straight to an afternoon of fitness and pampering spa treatments. The massage, aptly named ‘Detox & Jet Lag Therapy’, was professionally executed with the therapist explaining how after a body brush, the slightly uncomfortable cupping technique was good for cellulite. It really did seem to revive the circulation that normal massage pressure doesn’t get to.
Next up: Full Body Combat! Instructor Libouv was enthusiastic as gym staff often are, living proof of the mantra they espouse, encouraging me to take personal training with her. The session with Libouv highlighted the decline of my physical fitness and a renewed determination to do something about it. These sessions don’t come with the usual ‘membership required’ terms and conditions and how I had an assurance I would ‘see a difference in just one month’. I smiled inwardly thinking of the many personal training sessions I have had over the last few years. It would take an additional change in mindset to sustain this newly awakened commitment.
It was then on to dinner in the private dining room in The Hunter’s Grill restaurant, where we were to be introduced to the more holistic side of the retreat and the importance of mental, not just physical, balance in our lives.
The food I already knew was delicious here, and we had the added bonus of listening to the evening’s guest speaker. She had graciously listened to me, after being introduced as ‘Liz’, whining about my dislike of and inability to run in our pre-dinner drinks discussion of fitness and well-being. Then she informed me that her name was Liz McColgan, a Team GB Olympic long-distance champion and winner of a number of marathons…
We moved on, figuratively and physically, as Liz sat down to dinner recanting her story and the importance of controlling the mind in overcoming mental challenges. I will look further into her insights to see if it can help with my own attitudes to getting up to walk the dog let alone a 10 km run.
After the first day had focused on fitness and challenging us all to think about improving our current activity levels, the second day was a time to focus on our nutrition and psychological well-being.
We rose early for yoga time on the lawn. This was a totally new experience for some in the group, and the session was just challenging enough to gently wake us up with a routine of mainly stretching and meditation before enjoying a healthy breakfast prepared in one of the hotel’s popular private villas. Again, I was surprised to find them hidden here. They are a perfect location for a private birthday party or celebration and enhanced our small group bonding vibe.
A second contemplative session of talks came from Evolve, a Doha based company focusing on nutrition and wellbeing. Farah Ahmed, a trained pharmacist, explained her approach to holistic treatment, and I made sure to take a business card to explore her advice on a personal level at a later time. Having someone who has a pharmaceutical and biochemical understanding of our body’s reactions to foods and treatments is definitely worth exploring. She also talked about the importance of reducing stress as being the root cause of a lot of illnesses. Most of us are aware of this but too often take little action to address it practically. She discussed treating root causes of diseases with lifestyle changes rather than just treating the symptoms – nothing to disagree with there, having had my own experiences with a life-threatening illness.
Mikyung Kim delivered a pragmatic session on mindfulness giving us all some useful quick and easy exercises that could even be done in our cars. It was a wonderful taster to how mindfulness techniques could impact our psychology, introducing me to how mindfulness has usefulness in corporations and workplaces. I discussed this later with another retreat participant. The lady explained to me that there were cultural mind-shifts necessary before it could be fully embraced but agreed that again its exploration would be worthwhile.
Sabai Thai allowed us to ruminate over the morning sessions at a sumptuous lunch. We were even invited to participate in a cooking demonstration and a member of our group prepared a delicious papaya salad under the watchful eyes of the resident Thai chef. The ingredients were fresh, delicious, and the restaurant is my new favourite for its authentic taste and quality.
The remainder of our time we used to mull over and explore the sessions we had experienced. I chose to visit the sauna and steam area before we gathered to say farewell in the Executive Suite. I think this was chosen to reintroduce us to the rest of the world slowly, as the expansive balcony overlooked Salwa Road and the Mix bar, so the sounds of traffic and the hotel’s surprisingly good singer gently pulled us back into the world we would soon re-enter.
Before doing so, we shared contacts, discussed our highlights of the retreat and of course, ate cake! No, this did not mean we had forgotten all our new advice, as it was a courgette cake, cut ceremonially in Westin Style with a traditional sword.
The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa has now been exposed, so now when I drive past the mall and offices on Salwa Road I will be sure to remember the green oasis that waits down the short driveway.
Get in touch with The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa at 4492 1555 if you would like to book a treatment at the Heavenly Spa, enjoy a royal Thai style brunch at Sabai Thai, or feast on a steak and seafood treat at Hunter’s Room & Grill.
Author: Sarah Morris
Click here for more hospitality reviews.