Successful but stressed? Follow a path to greater happiness. ESPA Life at Corinthia is the first UK spa to launch a suite of six unique mindfulness therapies. Amelia Walker checks in
To many, ‘mindfulness’ is nothing but a buzzword and has something to do with sitting on a rock in yoga pants chanting ‘om’. Put simply, it means living one’s life in the here and now. The simplicity of mindfulness suggests that a sunset or slice of chocolate cake should be enjoyed rather than Instagrammed. The concept is not new nor of the moment – it is a mystical trend that has come back around and is gaining momentum.
“We, as a society, are clearly not happy with our technologies and our busy schedules; otherwise we wouldn’t be looking for mindfulness. It’s become trendy and accessible. There is much more education nowadays about what it entails and how it helps us to enhance our resilience and performance. It’s about trying to shut off the distractions that impede us from getting to where we want to ultimately be,” says ESPA Spa Director, Laura Vallati.
Juggling everything life has to throw at you can be physically and emotionally challenging. The world is getting faster; we’re more connected than ever and our minds are often drowning in content. The rise of social media has led to a decrease in mindfulness. We are all bad at stepping away from technology and constantly rushing around, without stopping to simply stand still and take a moment. We sleep with our phones under the pillow and check our emails at 2am. Is it any wonder we’re stressed? Unplugging is so incredibly important.
You can informally practice mindfulness through little things; listening to relaxing music or bringing simplicity into your days by practising choice reduction, for example. Alternatively, ESPA’s revolutionary lifestyle programmes are a really wonderful way to introduce yourself to a deeper approach of this ancient weapon against stress and depression. Studies have shown it’s a marvellous tonic for improving confidence, creativity, productivity and performance in the workplace as well as breaking habits, driving positive life changes and combating jet lag, exhaustion and improving digestion.
I’m scheduled for 90 minutes of mindful breathing and meditation with Tandeka, drawing on the ancient practices of Pranayama and Yoga Nidra blended with massage and visualisation. “It is a very authentic, pure practice; it hasn’t been diluted or changed,” says Laura.
The experience aims to help you to calm down and train your mind to master conscious relaxation. If achieved, one can prevent physical, mental and emotional tensions, resulting in a highly restorative effect on your entire being. Sounds dubious, I grant you.
To begin with, Tandeka asks me to list what comes to mind when she says the word ‘relaxation’. I state the obvious. Beach. Sun. Sea. Margaritas. Time to myself. No technology. Home. This is then followed by a resolve, which is my ‘positive intention’ summed up in a short sentence that I’m to mentally repeat at various times throughout the session. I chose ‘stop saying and start doing’. A mantra I really need to start living by. “You should say it to yourself every morning and every evening as you get up and go to bed. Start and end the day with a positive thought,” she advises as she begins the first part of my treatment – a half hour back massage in order to connect with me physically. We move onto stretching and joint mobilisation, then mindful breathing techniques, which is closely linked with our emotions. Laura puts great emphasis on this.
“If we just become a bit better at even learning how to breath – something that seems so small in comparison to other things going on in everyday life – but one that is an essential vital function if learned correctly, can help you keep calm when your mind feels scattered. If you’re about to go into an important meeting or when you’ve just got off a long-haul flight for example.”
I struggle to clear my thoughts but slowly feel myself starting to doze, my consciousness functioning at a deeper level of awareness. In this state of deep relaxation, the mind becomes receptive to positive suggestions and intentions, Tandeka informs me.
Skeptical? You should be. I was. Just as you wouldn’t expect to emerge from a couple of sessions at the gym with the body of an athlete, you cannot expect to materialise from a one-off session of meditation practice with all the peace and serenity of the Dalai Lama.
This isn’t a fast fix. The aim is to bring about long-term change in day-to-day mood and happiness, offer a greater clarity of mind, a benevolent and less judgmental philosophy towards others and oneself, and a greater sense of contentment. Such a thoughtful approach to everyday actions can pay dividends in the corporate world. If the only thing it did was impel you to sit quietly with your eyes closed, this would reduce stress in your life. How can it be a bad thing? One session would open your eyes; a course could be the key to opening Pandora’s box.
Price £160; espalifeatcorinthia.com/mindfulness